All articles in the Africa In Business Section:

Business Journalist Toyin Akinosho is up… – Sahara Reporters

Journalist Toyin Akinosho On NNPC Audit Report – YouTube
Business Journalist Toyin Akinosho
is up next to discuss the recently released audit/report of Nigeria’s oil ministry by Price Waterhouse Coopers.

FDI Dries Up In South Africa

Foreign direct investment (FDI) to South Africa slumped 87% to $1,3-billion in 2010, according to a United Nations report. Some of the country’s economists believe that the decline could be linked to South Africa’s sluggish productivity, owing to the degradation of the country’s education and training system, together with the threatening monopolistic-like union movement. One key argument is that a large concentration of business was in corporate hands and that not enough small businesses and entrepreneurs were being encouraged to thrive. By some estimates, South Africa only shows entrepreneurial activity of about 5%.

Isreali Expelled For Zim Blood Diamonds

Israel’s Diamond Exchange says it has expelled a long-time member for attempting to smuggle illegal Zimbabwe blood diamonds into the country.

Spokesman Assaf Levin said Tuesday that the bourse expelled David Vardi after he was arrested at Israel’s airport last week with about $200,000 worth of illegal Zimbabwe stones. Levin said his organization “will not tolerate dealing in blood diamonds.”

Zimbabwe is banned from exporting diamonds under the Kimberley Process, the 75-nation regulatory group that seeks to end the trade of so-called blood diamonds which fund violence in Africa.

The Israeli Tax Authority said customs officials randomly selected Vardi for inspection at the airport and found his pockets full of diamonds.

Israel currently chairs the Kimberley Process.

Mali Hopes For Surge In Gold Production

West Africa’s third largest producer of Gold has gotten more ambitious. Mali, the brown desert country, expects its production to rise from 50 tonnes in 2010 to 60 tonnes in 2011. Gold became Mali’s leading export in 1999 and helped the country mitigate some of the impact of the cotton crises.

Multilinks Implicated In Telkom Graft Report

A whistle-blowing report on alleged breaches of corporate governance at Telkom, the South African telecoms company, include a list of contraventions of the company’s processes and the country’s Public Finance Management Act, along with nepotism, bribery and corruption.

A key highlight was wasteful spending at Multi-Links, Telkom’s loss-making Nigerian subsidiary, such as the use of a third party to buy a SAP licence despite Telkom holding a universal contract with SAP, which entitled it to a discount. International tax, assurance, transaction and advisory services firm Ernst & Young is also mentioned in the report.

Among the other allegations are that several large contracts, which include those of Blue Label Telecoms and Altech West Africa, were not reviewed and approved by Telkom’s legal services in line with its governing structures, delegation of authority and procurement processes.

Most of the contracts were allegedly initiated and concluded under former chief executive Reuben September without the knowledge of the management at Multi-Links, except for its chief executive at the time, Thami Msimang, and its chief financial officer, Hasnain Motlekar. They allegedly allowed the payments to go through knowingly. The South government holds  a 39.7 percent stake in Telkom.

Tunisian Turnaround

By Toyin Akinosho

Why an uprising in Tunis, of all places?

Tunisia, under the ousted president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, was the most competitive economy on the African continent. In the World Economic Forum 200812009 Global Cornpetitiveness -Report, the country ranked first in Africa and 36th globally for economic competitiveness, well ahead of Portugal (43), Italy (49) and Greece (67).

Ben Ali’s country had been one of the three which had jostled for that Number 1 position for the past 10 years, The others are Botswana and Mauritius.

The irony is that Africa’s high achieving states are some of its least populated. Which means that however prosperous the country is, the wealth doesn’t translate into huge economic engines as noticeable as South Africa, Egypt or Nigeria. Botswana hosts two million people. Mauritians are fewer; they are 1.2Million. Tunisia’s population is much larger than these two, combined, but even with 10 million people, it is still les populated than many countries in Africa.

It is however, the one country where significant value is added to raw materials and turned to competitive exports.

By 2000, Tunisia had averaged 6% growth rate for eight years and become, perhaps, the most rapidly industrializing nation in Africa. As the 21st century arrived, Tunisia was boasting of mechanical and electrical industries expanding at 7% per annum, textiles at 6%. “There is one scientific technician per 2,000 inhabitants of the country”, declared one government report, released in 2000, “a rate comparable more with an Asian tiger like Malaysia than any African country, with per capita income leapfrogging from $30 in 1956 to $3000 in 1998”. The report claimed that poverty levels had been crunched from 33% in 1967 to 6.2% in 1997. Life expectancy had risen from 50years in 1956 to 73years at the end of 2000. Infant mortality dropped from 60 to 30 per thousand in the same space of time, the report claimed.

The former president, who escaped to exile after angry crowds took over the capital, was working, in his own words, ‘to move Tunisia up from “emerging economy” status to “developed nation” status by 2008’.

It didn’t happen. The global economic crisis, among others, slammed the brakes on his ambition. At the end of 2009, GDP growth had slowed down to 3%. Tunisia had 13% of the work- force unemployed. Yet, in comparison with the rest of the continent, this percentage of people out of work wasn’t a dramatically high rate. Afterall, South Africa, the continent’s  engine room, has 25% of its workforce unemployed.

Tunisia’s inflation was also a modest 3.5% in 2009 and the population below poverty line by 2005, the latest that the World Bank could come up with, was 3.8%, a good figure, by African standards.  Despite the 3% GDP growth in 2009, Tunisia’s growth rate for the ten years between 1999 to 2009  averaged 5% per annum and its GNP/capita level was the third highest in Africa.

 “Tunisia is the best organized country in the Mahgreb’ the Swedish export trade council proclaimed in 2009, using data from the IMF and the CIA fact book. “It had the region’s highest development index”.

The biggest export industry is the mechanical sector, especially automotive components, which maintained a strong and steady growth averaging 20 % between 2004 and 2009. The textile and clothing industry sector is the largest employer of the manufacturing industries employing more than 200,000 persons. Tunisia is the 5th supplier of clothing of Europe, exporting trousers, jeans, business trousers, women lingerie, and work clothing, The food industry’s share of value added remained constant over the period between 2004 and 2009, representing 27% of the production. Exports of agro-food sector increased from 1 227 million dinars in 2004 to 1, 592 million dinars in 2008. Still, it was a tidal wave of angry youths, protesting rising food prices,  that forced Ali to resign and flee.

The overall media analysis of the crisis, which had left a hundred people dead, had expectedly focused, not on the economy, but on the politics, with the perception of corruption of Ben Ali’s immediate family being shown as one of the triggers of the mass riot that forced the president out of the palace.

Ben Ali came to power in 1987 after ousting Bourguiba, then president- for- life, in a coup. He installed himself as prime minister. He was elected president with 99% of the vote in the elections he conducted in 1989, two years after coming to power. Six opposition parties participate on this occasion. His party, the RCD, wins all 141 seats in the national assembly In 1994, Ben Ali again called for elections. He polled 99.9% of the vote in an election in which he was the only presidential candidate, drawing international condemnation. Five years later, in 1999, he again received 99.44% of the votes in the general election to win a third spell as the country’s most powerful person.

Three years later Ali amended Tunisia’s constitution to allow a president to stay in power until the age of 75 and be re-elected unlimited times. Two years after that he was re-elected once more, again receiving an unlikely 94.5% of the votes. Opposition party the Democratic Progressives withdrew two days before the vote) branding Tunisia’s political system “a masquerade of democracy”.

Mr Ben Ali has delivered one of Africa’s most robust economies in his twenty three year rule, but has been less than sensitive in handling the politics of his country. Tunisia has not been immune from the hardline Islamist influence threatening to sweep the Maghreb. Attacks from groups allied with Al Queda have grazed the security infrastructure in the last four years. In 2006 a dozen hardline lslamists were killed in shoot-outs with security forces in the capital, Tunis.

Yet the anger on the streets in the Tunis, with everything about the ousted president, including his economic achievements considered trash-able, allows the possibility of the emergence of a far right Islamic group which may not necessarily continue the progressive economic development.

Western Europe has been keen on trading with Tunisia, Europe’s northernmost neighbour, because of its openness to investors and, more crucially, its ability to rein in terrorist groups. As Tunisia expands the space for democracy, will its economic fortunes turn around?

Yanbu-Cairo Flights Won’t Compete With Ferry Service

It takes $240 to fly from Yanbu, in Saudi Arabia and Cairo in Egypt, on the Almasria Universal Airlines. The new route, approved by aviation authorities in the two countries, target mainly Egyptian expatriate workers in the Kingdom and Saudi tourists intending to visit Egyptian resorts.  The “one-flight daily”, launched in late December 2009, is clearly a very minor competition to the waterway traffic between Safarga and Dhuba ports in  Egypt and Saudi Arabia respectively. The latest ferry services between these  two ports was launched in July, with each ship capable of carrying 1,220 passengers. They are expected to reduce travel time between the two ports from eight hours to two hours and 15 minutes.  In contrast, the (current) total passenger capability of the Yanbu-Cairo flight is 158. Authorities say that the flights can be increased to four; as the number of passengers on the route is expected to increase during Hejj and Umrah seasons as well as in the summer.

NATIONHOOD: Sudanese Priest Accuses China Of Selfishness

An influential Sudanese priest has accused China of pursuing a damaging policy of economic gain in Sudan, at the expense of optimum quality of life in the large central African country.

“China is looking only for minerals, they are looking for economic benefit. That is all”, Archbishop Daniel Deng, leader of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan said during a visit to Lambeth Palace in London in mid January 2010. “That is damaging the country”, he said. “They are not even making peace.”

Deng said that the Chinese  “are not interested in whether Sudan goes to war or not. That is not their mission, that is not their problem,”

Deng was joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, who recommended a single high level figure to act as a mediator between the feuding parties and called on China to play a “positive” role in peace efforts. The Archbishops later expressed their concerns in a meeting with the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

S.A Faces “The Worst Drought” In 130 Years

AGRICULTURE: Dire water shortages from rivers running dry in South Africa’s Eastern Cape and the central and southern part of the Western Cape, in what AgriSA terms the “worst drought in 130 years”, have focused attention on the lack of regional infrastructure plans and a regulating authority to oversee water pricing, according_ to Business Report.

South Africa’s leading business daily says that emergency measures have had to be taken, including trucking in water and a planned desalination plant at Knysna to avert a disaster facing mainly dairy and vegetable farmers, who have dedicated supply lines to retail outlets but have cut back on their production. AgriSA Western Cape chief executive Carl Opperman said:“This will have a ripple effect down the supply chain ultimately.”

AgriSA predicted that countless farmers were facing insolvency in the coming year. It blamed this on years of neglect of infrastructure with no significant dams being built for lean times, as well as departmental dilly-dallying on allowing farmers to raise farm dam capacity.

At present, the country’s Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica determines water prices after negotiating with water boards, which sell water to municipalities. The argument is that an independent water regulator would provide the platform for realistic prices. Opperman said a number of southern Cape rivers running from the Outeniqua Mountains ran into the sea within six hours of rain falling in the catchment area. This water could otherwise be stored.

For example, the Ernest Robertson Dam on the Groot Brak River near George in the southern Cape is 90 percent full but its capacity is just 0.4 million cubic metres. The Wolwedans Dam on the same river, with a capacity of 25 million cubic metres, is 39 percent full, down from more than 90 percent a year ago.

The Garden Route Dam on the Swart River has a capacity of 9 million cubic metres but is now only 30 percent full, down from 92 percent a year ago, according to the Department of Water Affairs.

Water is reportedly being pumped from the Orange River from a tunnel at Gariep Dam in the Free State into the Fish River to ensure appropriate supply for the Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and other cities in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropole in the Eastern Cape.

Orascom Appeals Against Algerian Tax Charge

Egyptian Telecom company Orascom has filed an appeal against Algerian tax authorities for allegedly overcharging it. The company says it has paid about $120 million (against back taxes that Algeria says it owes), in order for the appeal to go through.

The Algerian tax authority alleged, in November 2009, that the mobile telephone operator owed $596.6Million in back taxes and penalties for 2005-2007. “In order to file its appeal… Algerian law requires OTA (Orascom Telecom Algerie) to pay 20% of the taxes and penalties alleged to be owing,”, Orascom said in a statement. It said it had made the payment.

Orascom shareholders agreed to an $800Million rights issue to make up for lost dividends from its Algeria unit, which operates under the brand name Djezzy, until the tax issue is resolved.

Djezzy, which had revenue of $1.8 billion in 2007, provides Orascom with more than 50 percent of its cash flow.

Orascom runs mobile phone operations from North Africa to North Korea, and earlier this month won approval in Canada to go ahead with a start-up wireless operation called Glob alive, in which it owns an indirect stake.

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