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Wednesday, 17 May 2017

South Africa to sign more transparent nuclear power agreements with five foreign countries

  • South Africa signed intergovernmental agreements with Russia, France, China, South Korea and the United States in 2014 as part of plans to build a fleet of nuclear power plants at a cost of between $30 billion and $70 billion.

Many investors view the scale of the nuclear plan as unaffordable and a major risk to South Africa’s financial stability, while opponents of President Jacob Zuma say the deal will be used as a conduit for corruption.
However, Zuma denies allegations of wrongdoing.
The Western Cape High Court last month said it found that the agreement with Russia lacked transparency and offered Moscow favorable tax rules while placing heavy financial obligations on South Africa.State energy firm Eskom says nuclear power should play a role in South Africa’s energy mix and will help reduce reliance on coal.
The energy ministry said it had “major concerns” about the court judgment but would not appeal the ruling. It will continue with nuclear energy plans adhering to stricter procedural guidelines, including consulting parliament.
“There is no intention to table the current agreements but (we) will embark to sign new agreements with all five countries and table them within reasonable time to parliament,” the ministry said in a statement.
Eskom on Friday reinstated its former chief executive Brian Molefe, a Zuma ally who has supported the nuclear power plan.
Molefe stepped down five months ago after being implicated in a report by the country’s anti-graft watchdog into alleged influence-peddling. He denied any wrongdoing.
Some analysts say former finance minister Pravin Gordhan was fired partly because he resisted pressures from a political faction allied to Zuma to back nuclear expansion.
New Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has said the nuclear expansion will only be pursued if it is affordable.
Source: Africa News

Thursday, 11 May 2017

E-commerce: A globe cracking revolution

E-commerce has showcased vast growth in the last few years. Sources forecast that retail e-commerce sales across the globe would grow from 7.4% in 2015 to 12.8% in the year 2019. Its vast reach being primarily the reason behind its wide popularity and success, along with other reasons such as leverage to shop anywhere at any-time, availability of wide variety of options, product comparison and reviews. From the business viewpoint, e-commerce is much more cost effective as compared to traditional commerce method. The essence of time can’t be denied behind the celebrated fame of e-commerce globally. It’s a frequent saying “time saved is equivalent to money saved”. In the commercial markets time has its own significance. It’s one of the most critical aspect in the business. From the perspective of a business, the amount of time saved is directly proportional to increase in the numbers of transactions. Similarly for a consumer as well a quick transaction saves a lot of time.
In global market context, the emergence of e-commerce as a pioneer has opened up various windows of opportunities for a variety of other companies and investors. For example, due to the booming of e-commerce, more and more resources are being directed into electronic securities, internet facilities, business plans and new technologies. Subsequently, a variety of new markets have sprouted up from e-commerce itself giving a boost to the global market.
African scenario
The future of e-commerce in Africa is surely a vibrant one. It’s forecasted to grow and expand rapidly in the coming years. In order to strengthen these projections, the account of the two leading e-commerce startups in Nigeria Jumia and Konga would be sufficient enough to portray the secured and growth-oriented future of e-commerce in Africa. Jumia made a revenue worth of $85 million & Konga made a revenue worth of $28 million respectively last year. These companies have predicted their annual revenues to grow continuously. E-commerce has also found its way in countries such as Ghana, South Africa, Kenya & Egypt, and is doing exceptionally well. McKinsey predicts that by 2025 Africans could be buying seventyfive billion dollars worth of goods and services online annually, which suggests promise for e-commerce markets. The scope of e-commerce is global, all products and service are sold all over the world. Whether it is Kenya or other country, people have now turned to buying almost everything ranging from lifestyle accessories, electronic equipment, beauty products and even household items from the online shopping website. E-commerce is the tool which big business of the globe are using to conduct their business. It’s said that necessity is the mother of innovation. The possibility of rapid and widespread expansion and adoption of e-commerce is the need of developing local innovation in order to overcome the structural deficiencies. For instance in Kenya, mobile-money services like M-Pesa have emerged in response to the absence of consumer banks, giving millions of Africans access to digital finance. E-commerce might at present seem an expensive model to work upon, but it surely has a secure and rewarding future.
Being a seller, most of them want to sell their products and services to as much people as possible and that too in a short span of time. Over the period, local sellers have realized the potential of e-commerce and thus, are getting themselves registered on the e-commerce stores to sell their products. Doing this not only cuts down the cost, but apparently it provides them a large customer base. Though there’s indeed a huge customer base, but the key to succeed and make one’s brand to stand out amongst all is to meet customers’ expectations and fulfill their needs and purpose in time. Muyiwa Saka, a verified seller on one of Africa’s leading e-commerce store says “The key to succeed and provide a steady growth to your business is to comprehend the essence of customer’s time”. If quality and punctual services are the pillars of your business then your business shall not take a look back and subsequently your customers reviews page will be as illustrative and catchy as a beautiful landscape painted with vibrant colors This huge leapfrog of traditional commerce to e-commerce is a ‘golden change’ in the global economy. E-commerce solves the purpose and interests of not only customers, but also of businesses. More and more numbers of sellers have realized that missing out on this opportunity won’t bring favorable returns to their business. The acceptance of e-commerce globally is a driving force, making it almost a mandatory situation for sellers and traders to register themselves online.
How could you reap the benefits from e-commerce being an investor? The answer to this complicated question isn’t a twisted mystery. If you’re a seller, looking to increase the visibility of your business and want the access to gigantic customer base, then pull your socks up and get your business registered online. If you are interested in playing a big game, then a startup in the e-commerce could also be considered. Though there is still much to be done in Africa; some of the challenges which would be obvious to be encountered are pathetic roads and delayed transportations. One of the largest problems restricting e-commerce growth in many areas of Africa is the lack of a cost efficient and reliable product delivery systems. If customers cannot get reliable delivery of their orders at a reasonable price then this ordeal creates mess and they often lose their faith in online business, no matter how large the product selection is and how attractive the price may be. Before setting up a startup of e-commerce it’s critically significant to examine the logistics and a distributing network. Involving into this startup obviously demands huge investment, but with right strategies and thorough research you could do wonders. It requires time and dedication. Africa is surely the next biggest e-commerce market with promising returns. Dream big and start small could possibly the best strategy here. With the launch of a new e-commerce store one may provide limited services in terms of product categories, and thus could be further increased and diversified with the increase in numbers of customers.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Siemens signs agreements with Uganda and Sudan

Memoranda of Understanding to cooperate in the areas of power supply, industry, transportation and healthcare
  • Focus on infrastructure investments and partnerships between public and private sectors
  • Participation in “Make IT Alliance” to promote start-ups and technology companies in Africa
Siemens (www.Siemens.com) will work more closely with the African countries Uganda and Sudan in the areas of power supply, industry, transportation and healthcare. The African states signed the corresponding Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) at the World Economic Forum 2017 in the South African city of Durban. The documents were signed in the presence of Brigitte Zypries, German Federal Minister for Economics and Energy, Joe Kaeser, President and Chief Executive Officer of Siemens AG and further high-ranking personalities.
“Africa’s economies are gaining ground and can develop their full potential with the right partner. Siemens wants to support their sustainable development – with solutions and projects in Africa, for Africa. The agreements with our African partners are important steps along this path,” said Joe Kaeser, President and CEO of Siemens AG. “Our goal is to double our order intake in Africa to more than €3 billion by the year 2020.”

“Siemens is a company that invests for the long term, and we are interested in the long-term fundamentals of these markets and the diversification of their economies,” said Sabine Dall’Omo, CEO of Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa. “The opportunity for industrialization in Africa is now. It is estimated that Africa imports one-third of the food, beverages and other similar processed goods it consumers. The potential exists for Africa-based companies to meet this domestic demand and in so doing create sustainable revenue streams and opportunities for job creation.”Brigitte Zypries, German Federal Minister for Economics and Energy, said: “Africa is a continent with economic opportunities and the German industry is an outstanding partner for the countries of Africa to realize these opportunities. I am very pleased that with the agreements signed today, good progress is being made towards the goal of better infrastructure and thus more growth and employment. I particularly welcome the training program because well-trained skilled workers are a key pillar of prosperity and development. And it is precisely these elements that I also support with the ‘Pro! Africa’ plan.”
Under these agreements, Siemens and its partners will develop solutions in the areas of power supply, transportation, industry and healthcare. Another key point in the agreements relates to continuing training programs for various technical fields in order to create a pool of well-trained local workers. Furthermore, Siemens is joining the “Make IT Alliance” of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development to promote start-ups and technology companies across the African continent. The agreement was signed in the presence of Guenter Nooke, German Chancellor’s Personal Representative for Africa in the ministry.
Africa possesses vast economic potential with forecasted growth rates of up to five percent. Spending on African infrastructure has more than doubled to $80 billion over the last 15 years, and the aspiring urban centers offer growth opportunities for the entire continent. More than a billion people worldwide have no access to electric power, and half of those people live in Africa. In Uganda and Sudan, Siemens’ primary goal is to increase national power generating capacities and to connect the local population to the power grids. A reliable and extensive power supply system is the fundamental prerequisite for economic growth.
African countries need infrastructure and industrial projects that generate sustained income streams to fully exploit their own economic potential. New financing concepts and long-term investment guidelines that will remain in effect for 30 years will create a stable investment climate for international investors and help to implement planned infrastructure projects.
Siemens has already developed financing solutions for its megaproject in Egypt and power plant projects in Nigeria and is supporting its African partners’ efforts to implement these major infrastructure projects. Siemens promotes economic growth in Africa through far-reaching partnerships in the competence fields of power generation, transportation and healthcare, as well as the digitalization of industry.
Siemens has been active in Africa for more than 157 years. Today, with more than 3,600 employees based in a total of 15 African countries, the company contributes decisively to the continent’s economic development. In addition, Siemens is investing an average of €10 million per year for training programs and is promoting programs to increase integrity in politics and society. In the spirit of Germany’s current presidency of the G20 group and the recently published Marshall Plan for Africa, Siemens is developing new projects for the continent, with the long-term goal of promoting the African economy and creating local jobs.
Distributed by APO

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Rail and transit trade bolstering blue economy

Ongoing expansion works at the Tema and Takoradi ports; a well embraced single window regime and auxiliary innovations from the landlord Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) and other private sector actors are plausible investments to maximise the gains from sea trade activities in the country. However, the new government’s promise of industry specific tax cuts on the back of a robust rail transport system have primed the sector for greater times ahead, writes Patrick PAINTSIL.
The country’s sea trade business sector has seen some landmark interventions over the recent few years during the reins of the immediate-past National Democratic Congress (NDC) government; notably among them being the US$1.5 billion five-phased expansion works at the Tema Port with similar works at the Takoradi Port and the gradual push towards seamless documentation and transactions process leveraging the National Single Window regime.
Operator of the country’s two seaports, Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), has also embarked on an aggressive port automation drive as it moves closer to an e-port status. The port operator has currently installed electronic gates at the entry and exit points of the Tema Port as part of efforts to improve security within the port community. The electronic port management system will protect the ports’ stakeholders from the issues of corruption, extortion, petty thievery as well as other unethical practices that dent the image of the port industry in the public eye. Sister industry associations including the Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA), the Ship-owners and Agents Association of Ghana (SOAAG), the Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana, and the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) are all actively engaged in one form of activity that seeks to shore up the economic gains from sector.
The strong cooperation that exists among the various private sector stakeholders is commendable as it will go a long way to bolster productivity and business growth. This is the kind of bond that the maritime guru and board chair of Meridian Port Services (MPS), Alhaji Asuma Banda, has tasked the various stakeholders in the maritime industry to hold on as they collectively work towards seamless and conducive transactions at the country’s ports.
He said at a recently held New Year cocktail event organised by the Shipowners and Agents Association of Ghana (SOAAG) of which he is the president: “My advice to shipping lines, clearing agents and other industry actors is for them to work as a team; there should be no need for competition between the port operators and shipping lines. Every one engaged in the port business must be part of that team, and there should be no segregations in the sector. By doing the right thing, we can position the port industry for higher gains to drive national and socio-economic growth.” It is all bright for the blue economy and it is without a doubt that the change of government to the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) has come with its own breeze of hope and growth for the dominant sea trade sector. The promise of tax cuts and the abolishment of industry-specific duties such as the Special Import Levy, import duties on raw materials and machinery and spare parts have kept industry actors upbeat about the industry.
The icing on the cake that has got the various maritime stakeholders highly optimistic is the creation of a dedicated ministry for railway development headed by the astute lawyer and former Attorney- General, Joe Ghartey. The fact remains that the economic potency of a robust rail transport system are enormous; from saving cost to shippers and opening up the rural economy to enticing more business through our ports. Significantly also, the cargo haulage business has entered into the multimodal era, where you do not need only one mode of transport handling the carriage of goods while rail is cheaper and could haul large volumes at a go. Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA), Sylvia Asana Owu, told the B&FT in an interview: “An efficient rail system will open up our corridors for effective transit business; this will attract other countries to do business through our ports and that will create jobs for the people and open up the economy.
When transit cargo is moved through our ports, people will be engaged to work on the cargo, truckers will be involved to cart the goods along the transit routes; they will buy fuel and sleep in hotels. All these activities will generate incomes to the service providers and open up the economy as money will come into the system.” Figures from the Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA) indicate that total transit and transshipment figures, as at the third quarter of 2016, stood at 772,744 metric tonnes, which is a 12.23 percent rise over the 2015 figure of 688,565 metric tonnes, within the same period. These figures give a fair reflection of renewed confidence in Ghana’s economy by its landlocked neighbours of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, coupled with improved security along trade corridors, has steadily pushed up transit trade figures over the last few years after a long period of decline.
Currently, the haulage sector provides an average of 97,000 trucking jobs — drivers and mates — per year for the northbound transportation of transit cargo destined for the Sahelian countries, generating a yearly income in the range of US$81 million for local haulage companies. With this huge prospect, it is less surprising that importers and exporters are exceedingly jubilant over government’s decision to rebuild and operate a robust rail transport network that will link the southern and northern parts of the country. Captains of the industry opine that an efficient rail transport network, similar to that of Cote d’Ivoire and Benin, will reduce cost for businesses in the landlocked countries of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.
To her, a properly linked rail network to the Boankra Inland Port will boost trade on our corridor, making rail a laudable initiative that government is right to focus on. The GSA deputy boss added: “We have always believed that the Boankra Inland Port is a very good project that is why we have not given up on it; and it is equally significant that the Transport Ministry has not given up on it.” The Boankra Inland Port operating on running rail connectivity could fast track the gains from transit trade as the chunk of cargo throughput to the Tema and Takoradi ports are moved to the Ashanti Region for onward carting to the hinterlands and transit destinations. It is heartwarming that government has hit the ground running with developing the rail sector, going by the words of the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, when he presented the maiden budget in Parliament. He said: “This government believes that rail will be a major catalyst to drive the growth that we envisage in the coming years as rail transportation provides safer, cheaper and faster way of moving goods and people to facilitate trade and support economic activity. Our vision is to open up the country and provide new opportunities to our people to do business and trade among themselves.” Approximately 133.6 kilometres (km) representing 14.1% of the entire rail network of 947 kilometres that is currently operational is faced with an obsolete network and poor track infrastructure, resulting in the closure of greater part of the Western and Eastern lines and the entire Central line — leading to a high incidence of derailments that lead to loss of operational hours and damage to rolling stock.
Available data show that the rail sector commanded an over-70% market share of freight and passenger transport in the country during colonial days until the 1970s, and carried over 2 million tonnes of freight and 8 million passengers annually in the 1960s and 1970s. However, due to inadequate funding for maintenance, the rail network started to deteriorate; leading to the diversion of freight traffic onto roads, exacerbating deterioration of the roads. The Eastern Railway Line which covers a distance of 330km and starts from Accra to Kumasi with a branch line from Achimota to Tema; the Western Line which starts from Takoradi and terminates at Kumasi having two branch lines namely, Dunkwa to Awaso and Kojokrom to Sekondi, covering a distance of 340km; and the Central Spine which stretches from Kumasi to Paga covering a distance of 700km to be developed in sections: from Kumasi to Buipe and Buipe to Paga; have all been captured in the 2017 budget.
Government will also complete the Sekondi to Takoradi via Kojokrom section and continue with the section from Kojokrom to Tarkwa through Nsuta. This, according to the finance minister, will help improve the operational performance and revenue of the Ghana Railway Company Limited (GRCL) to better position the company to wean itself from government support. Railway Development Minister Joe Ghartey has indicated that investors are already trooping in to partner government in the expansion of the country’s rail network from the south to Paga in the Upper East. The project is estimated to cost about US$5 billion and according to him, government will consider a cocktail of Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) and other several examples. He told the Appointments Committee of Parliament: “Due to the government’s pro-business policies, investors have shown interest to partner government. It is estimated that the cost of road haulage is 50 percent more than the alternative of using railway lines. This affects the bottom line businesses that rely solely on road transport to cart their goods.

Making Ghana's education work again

There is no doubt that education is one of the pillars of development in any country. Over the years, successive governments have implemented policies aimed at developing the country’s education system, but there still remains a lot to be done. Some experts have argued that the country’s education system is not delivering what its citizens expect and industry needs. There are issues of corruption, low examination performance and the lack of accessibility bedeviling the country’s education sector. The educational sector has been heavily politicized by various political interest groups. It seems the country is over-doing its party politics since the opposition finds everything wrong in what the party in government does in the education sector.
Notable among them is the increase in the duration of Senior High School (SHS) education from three to four years; the initiative was short-lived as it was reversed back to three years when a new government came into power. Though most people have said the 4-year system is better, the government of the day found every reason to bring it back to 3 years, simply because it had promised in its manifesto that it will do so when voted into power.
Again, the previous government criticized the free SHS policy when the New Patriotic Party used it as a campaign message. But when the Mahama-led government retained power, it decided to introduce something that it had criticized previously. It did well to introduce what it termed as ‘progressive free SHS’ which covered selected day students across the country. When the NDC administration began building community day Senior High Schools (SHS) across the country, the then opposition NPP criticized the initiative. However, now in power, the NPP government is seeking to rollout comprehensive free SHS policy across the country, which is expected to benefit about 1.6million students. There is no doubt that these community schools will be of great help and ensure that the government’s free SHS project succeeds.
Basic education
It is everybody’s wish that their children will attend a private school at the basic level. Why? This is because there is quality tuition at private basic schools. Parents see the training at private basic schools to be better than that of public schools, otherwise known as ‘syto’–meaning it is nothing to write home about. Ironically, at the secondary level, all those who went to private schools finally come back to the public SHS to continue their education. So, the question that begs answers is: ’what have we not got right at the public basic schools that people don’t attach respect, but the same government schools, at the secondary level, attract large numbers. But successive governments have neglected basic education. Head teachers now struggle to acquire learning materials to aid teaching and learning in their various schools. There is also the lack of effective supervision in most of the basic schools. Teachers go to classroom and do little for the pupils in terms of teaching. Public school buildings don’t look appealing; some have huge cracks and best described as death traps.
Secondary education
The current issue with the secondary school level is the free SHS policy, which has generated a national discourse on how the government intends to implement it. The free SHS will also include technical and vocational institutes. SHS level of education consumed the largest proportion of government expenditure on education within the 2014/15 academic year. The 2015 Education Sector Performance report revealed that the subsector accounted for 22.2 funds budgeted for the entire education sector, followed closely by primary education with 22%. The Education Ministry said the increase in secondary education budget is a result of a number of policies it took within the period. The Progressively Free SHS programme, introduced in September last year, for example, saw the release of 12.1 million Ghanian Cedi by government for same. Additionally, the Community Senior High Schools Project (CSHSP), meant to increase Secondary school enrolment, and to decongest existing schools, has also seen a lot of capital injection over the period under review.
If successful, the free SHS policy is arguably going to be the major policies any government has embarked in the country’s education sector in ensuring that no student is left out in the education sector. There are several opinions as to how government should go about it. While a section Ghanaians believe that the country has what it takes to implement the policy which is enshrined in the 1992 constitution others believe we have not gotten there yet. Imani Ghana, a policy think tank, in its State of Education Report argued that government has a non-negotiable primary responsibility to ensure that it provides accessible and quality public education for all Ghanaian youth. However, the issue of parental contribution to the cost of education, even within the public sector, must be a subject of critical analysis. According to the policy think tank, there is never ‘free education’, even within the public sector. The question, therefore, is whether we will fund it fully, and collectively do it via a tax system or through a combination of state funding and parental contribution. In a report titled: “Free SHS Education: Should the Debate Only Be About Feasibility?” Dr. Yaw Ohemeng, an educationist, argues that Free SHS needs not necessarily translate into abolition of the BECE or the absorption of boarding fees. Rather, he recommended, free SHS should mean the free availability of a school place for all who are qualified and willing to take up such a place.
He said the introduction of free post- JHS education should, therefore, be accompanied by reforms and additional investment to improve the quality of basic school education whilst also expanding access to tertiary institutions. “With these, eventually the BECE could be replaced by national assessments (conducted by WAEC but without issuing certificates) to be able to measure quality improvements at the basic level. Such assessments could also be used to measure equity in opportunities by monitoring performance in all regions of the country (both rural and urban) and amongst girls and boys and to stream children into the different types of post-JHS institutions,” he added. I think since the government was able to do it at the secondary level and even tertiary level, where it is a ‘prestige’ to gain admission a public secondary school or a public university, it should be able to do it at the basic level too, because it seems we are collapsing our basic education year-in and year-out.