Month: June 2010

United Nations Security Council expands mandate of UN force in Cote d’Ivoire/Ivory Coast

The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a resolution to expand the mandate of the United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI), and the French forces supporting it, in an effort to strengthen its capacity to consolidate stability in the West African country, and renewed the term of the mission until the end of this year.

In the new resolution, the 15-nation Security Council gave UNOCI and the French forces the mandate to monitor armed groups in Cote d’Ivoire, protect civilians, monitor the arms embargo, promote the peace process, protect human rights, particularly those of children and women, and support humanitarian assistance.

The mission was also mandated to help in the organization of free and fair elections, which have been repeatedly delayed, and contribute towards the process of providing identification to the population.

UNOCI was also tasked to continue contributing to the implementation of the peace process by supporting the disarmament, demobilization, storage of weapons and the reintegration of former combatants of the two parties, as well as supporting the integrated command centre in the disarmament effort.

The mission will also support the redeployment of the Ivorian state administration and justice throughout the country, and help reform of the security sector. UNOCI’s other tasks include supporting the facilitator of the Cote d’Ivoire peace process and his representative and the protection of UN personnel, installations and equipment in the country.

The Council “authorizes UNOCI to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment,” said the resolution, which also called on all parties to fully cooperate with the mission and French forces that support it.

It decided that UNOCI will comprise a maximum of 7,392 authorized military personnel, maintaining the current combined strength of 8,650 personnel, including 7,200 troops and staff officers and a maximum of just over 1,250 police and customs officers.

The Council expressed its intention to consider raising, for a limited time, prior and after the elections, the levels of authorized military and police personnel up to a total of not more than 500. It also welcomed the secretary-general’s intention to reconfigure UNOCI to increase its presence in the identified high- risk areas and to strengthen the capabilities of its force reserve.

UNOCI was established in 2004 by the Council to facilitate the peace process in the West African nation, which became split by civil war in 2002 into a rebel-held north and Government- controlled south.

The mission has been providing logistical and technical assistance for the preparations for the country’s presidential elections, which were supposed to have been held as far back as 2005, but have been repeatedly postponed, most recently from March.

While preparations for the polls were on track up until late last year, they were interrupted in January. Political tensions began to mount after voter registration was suspended due to violence and President Laurent Gbagbo dissolved the Government and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in February.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had in his latest report on UNOCI recommended an adjustment of the mission’s mandate to allow it to focus on helping the parties to implement the remaining priority tasks in the peace process, including those related to elections, disarmament and all aspects of the reunification of the country.

The council has authorized the new operation to stay in the DRC until June 30, 2011.

In view of the new phase that has been reached in the country, the mandate of MONUSCO includes help to the DRC government in the protection of the civilian population and support in efforts aimed at stabilizing the situation and consolidating peace in the country.

The resolution envisions that any future reconfiguration of MONUSCO will be based on the evolution of the situation on the ground, particularly as regards security, an improved capacity of the DRC government to effectively protect the civilian population, and the consolidation of state authority across the territory.

Full link.

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Did Buying Your Gaming Console Help Fund War Atrocities in the Congo?

GOMA, DR CONGO: Congolese army soldiers sit with their weapons on the frontline on November 09, 2008 just outside the town of Goma, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over 250,000 people have been displaced after fighting erupted between the rebel CNDP and the army in the last several weeks.

A story reminiscent of “Blood diamonds“, this time it is about gaming consoles.

Do you own a video game console? Then you might have more to do with the bloody, brutal war in the Congo than you realize.While the availability of blood diamonds, those rare minerals mined in war zones and sold to build armies, has begun to dwindle under international scrutiny, a new set of conflict minerals is rising to take its place.

Minerals like tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, some of which are found in an array of electronics including video game consoles, are being mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and used to fuel what has become the deadliest conflict since World War II.

I was reminded of this by an excellent Op-Ed piece by New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof this weekend. In Death by Gadget he talks about his own experiences reporting on the Congo’s barbaric war and why electronics companies need to take more responsibility for where they get their supplies.

The link between gaming consoles and these blood minerals are so close that some refer to the decades-long conflict in Congo as the Playstation War.

As with blood diamonds, a number of international activist groups are asking companies to track where the minerals they buy come from to ensure it’s not the Congo. While most of these companies seem to get that buying Congolese conflict minerals is a bad thing, not all of them do much to ensure they don’t.

We contacted Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony to get their current thinking on conflict minerals and what they do to avoid using them in the DS, Playstation 3, Playstation Portable, Wii and Xbox 360.

While all three companies have been repeatedly singled-out by activists for their use of conflict minerals, only Microsoft responded to our request, saying that a “conflict mineral free supply chain is a priority” for the company.

“A conflict mineral free supply chain is a priority for us in our supply chain management policies and practices,” according to the statement provided to Kotaku by Microsoft. “Unfortunately, it’s very hard to reliably trace metals to mine of origin and verify that they are conflict mineral free. We are working with our industry partners, specifically the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, to develop solutions that better monitor and incent the local mining companies, suppliers and governments to help drive responsible business practices.”

Earlier this year, Nintendo did respond to Raise Hope for Congo about the issue, sort of dodging the question by telling the group that the company doesn’t purchase any raw minerals themselves.

“On behalf of Nintendo I appreciate the opportunity to respond and thank you for your patience. Nintendo does not purchase any metals as raw materials. As a remote purchaser that buys finished components made from many materials, Nintendo requires its suppliers to comply with its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Procurement Guidelines, which stipulate suppliers comply with applicable laws, have respect for human rights and conduct their business in an appropriate and fair manner.”

Sony, the company behind the console most closely tied to the Congo war by activists, has not yet provided a statement. When they do we will update this article.

While corporate responsibility is important in global issues like this, not everyone is convinced that the best way to deal with conflict minerals is to ban them. Others argue that legitimatizing the mining of these minerals in conflict areas will help to bring stability to the area.

Your take on these issues as a gamer is, of course important. The biggest impact on the blood diamond trade likely came from the decision some consumers made to not buy those diamonds. Would you ever make the same decision about a “blood console”?

The Playstation War was debunked years ago. It’s not impossible that a percent or two of the minerals (I’ve heard mainly tantalum, niobium, gallium in past “reports” of this) may have come from the Congo, but it’s vastly more likely from Australia, Brazil, Canada, or China.

As for ANY amount being a crime? Prove to me that nothing you own has in any part fuelled any injustice anywhere… the game companies already do what they can to buy from reputable sources, and this isn’t about consoles – it’s electronics as a whole. That includes your car, your thermostat, your doorbell, etc.

This is an issue that is only loosely tied to the wars in the Congo, and only singles out video games to gain publicity. It’s sad, but if you’re not processing the raw materials into components to sell on to manufacturers, there’s little more you can do about it.

Even though Microsoft’s response sounds like canned PR-speak, at least it means that to actually have that, there have been discussions about the issue … serious discussions. It doesn’t mean they’ve done anything about it, but at least it’s on their radar.

US-based companies are usually under far more scrutiny for these things, though — I would add that I believe the additional scrutiny is warranted. As a nation, we often speak up about what we find immoral in other countries, so we should hold our companies accountable — it’s that whole thing about actions following words.

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Angola & Brazil deepen ties

Readers Comment  on STRATFOR Reports
Stratfor notices trend first reported on here previously before.

With the announcement of an additional $1 billion line of credit, Brazil has advanced the lead it holds as the largest foreign investor in rebuilding Angola’s civil war-ravaged infrastructure. But from Brazil’s perspective, there is more to it than simply gaining construction contracts in Angola. The biggest motivation is likely linked to Brazil’s desire for Petroleo Brasileiro to increase its foothold in the oil deposits waiting to be tapped off Angolan shores.

Analysis

Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos made a state visit to Brazil June 22-24, meeting with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and coming away with an additional $1 billion line of credit from Brasilia, which is the leading foreign founder of reconstruction projects in Angola. The money will likely be used to hire Brazilian firms to carry out reconstruction projects in Angola. It could also allow Brazil’s state-controlled oil company Petroleo Brasileiro (Petrobras) to strengthen its foothold in Angola’s offshore oil industry and gain valuable experience for developing Brazil’s massive pre-salt offshore reserves.

Reconstruction is a major industry in Angola, a country only seven years removed from a 27-year civil war that left much of its infrastructure in tatters. Luanda, Angola’s capital, finances these projects predominantly with oil revenues, but it also taps some external sources of financing. With the announcement of the additional $1 billion credit line, Brazil has advanced the lead it holds as the largest foreign investor in Angolan reconstruction. Even before dos Santos’ visit, Brazil had already committed a total of $1.6 billion to projects currently under way, recently completed or already planned. (Most of these projects are being built in and around Luanda.) Only China, a country that has shown no hesitancy to throw money at any African country with significant amounts of natural resources, comes even close to Brazil in this category.

Brazilian credit for Angola benefits both countries because of the unspoken understanding that the Angolan government will hire Brazilian companies to do the actual work on any given project. But from Brazil’s perspective, there is more to it than simply gaining construction contracts in Angola. The biggest motivation for being willing to invest a total of $2.6 billion in Angolan construction projects is likely linked to increasing Petrobras’ foothold in the oil deposits offshore. To this end, offering an extra $1 billion credit line is seen as a down payment toward obtaining new offshore concessions. And $1 billion itself is not an extraordinary amount; the Chinese are rumored to have paid $1.4 billion in signature bonuses in Angola’s 2006 licensing round.

Petrobras is no stranger to the Angolan oil industry, having obtained its first stake in 1979. The company currently maintains stakes in six Angolan offshore blocks and is the operator of half of them. None of the blocks operated by Petrobras, however, are actually producing any oil at the moment. In fact, of all the blocks in which Petrobras is a partner, five are in the exploration phase and only one is producing anything at all (a paltry 6,200 barrels per day at that).

Nevertheless, Petrobras sees the geological formations off Angola’s shores as being extremely similar to Brazil’s pre-salt deposits, which are on the verge of making the country a rising oil power. Indeed, Petrobras officials regularly express their interest in playing a larger role in developing offshore fields the Angolans are incapable of operating, and have recently stated that the company plans to invest more than $3 billion in the Angolan oil sector through 2012.

STRATFOR sources in Angola say that the Angolan government could offer an oil-licensing round at the end of 2010. It all depends on when Angola calculates it is most advantageous to hold a licensing round. Whenever that day comes, the Chinese are expected to make a major push to win fresh blocks. Not wanting to lose out, Brazil likely sees its new credit line as a way to line the pockets of decision makers in the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, led by dos Santos, in hopes that it will spur Luanda to call for another oil-block licensing auction that will give the Brazilians (and not the Chinese) a leg up.

This is simply a continuation of Brazilian investment in Africa not just for strategic reasons but also long term return of investments that pay off.

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East Africa getting ready for internet revolution

East Africa is one of the last major regions in the world to not have true international broadband (aka: “fat pipes”).  The recent deployment of the SEACOM broadband cable off the coast of east Africa has sparked “the dawn of a new era” in Internet communications in the region.

A June 28–29 symposium in Uganda organized by the U.S. telecom firm Verizon Communications and other planning partners is an effort to help improve East Africa’s Internet links with the rest of the world and thus stimulate enhanced educational opportunities and economic growth and development across the region, the executive said.

Kathryn C. Brown, senior vice president of public policy development and corporate responsibility at Verizon, spoke with America.gov June 21 and previewed the event, which is expected to attract some 120 government, business and education representatives from the target countries of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. The symposium seeks to improve Internet access and applications for the region’s institutions of higher education.

“There was no [easy] connectivity to East Africa prior to the installation of that underwater cable,” Brown explained. “You would either have to come up from South Africa or you needed to go all the way up to Egypt in order to reach the rest of the world. Now Internet connectivity is sitting on the shores of East Africa — and for that connectivity to be deployed for folks to start to see the potential for this infrastructure development, it is going to be a real eye-opener.”

Brown, who will travel to Uganda for the symposium, said that, historically, East Africa has been “one of the least-connected regions” of sub-Saharan Africa. “The Internet connectivity there is largely poor, particularly when you get outside the international conference areas. Many African nations were forced to rely on limited, expensive satellite services alone for their international connectivity needs. This is now changing, due to the arrival of undersea cables. There is an opportunity now and a willingness on the part of the [telecom] carriers there to build out a national backbone infrastructure. The governments are very interested, the large stakeholders are very interested in having this connectivity, and Verizon, while not in East Africa right now, has had a real interest in seeing that the entire world is connected to the Internet.”

If the region becomes fully integrated into the World Wide Web, Brown predicted that “the changes, frankly, will be far-reaching. As we have seen around the world, once a region becomes connected to the rest of the world, the amount of economic development is staggering. So the construction of a stable, reliable, trusted [Internet] infrastructure in the region will no doubt stimulate investment and competition in Africa” and increase foreign investment. “Fostering the innovation and expansion of the Internet allows the region to fully participate in the 21st century.”

The major universities in East Africa are “hungry for connectivity,” Brown said. Recalling how Verizon got involved in promoting the symposium, she said Uganda Martyrs University wanted to do “distance learning” (using the Internet to teach people remotely) throughout Uganda and East Africa.

The focus at the symposium, she explained, will be “the kinds of education gains that could be made if the connectivity was more robust and how that whole network of more than 50 universities all across East Africa could become the basis for network expansion all across the region.”

Asked what gains could be achieved, she said: “If one looks at the program for the conference, you can see that there will be lots of deep thinking about getting ready for deeper and broader higher education in East Africa. … Bringing students to the universities” across East Africa to access information they would not already have had access to will be “huge. You can tap all the great libraries of the world — all of the medical schools … the law schools, the international schools. It is a phenomenal access that one gains.”

Second, she said, the symposium is trying to address distance learning all over Africa so that students can be reached wherever they are.

Third, she said, professional schools such as medical and law schools want to be able to use the Internet to reach out to local clinics and law practices across the region.

“As connectivity becomes more robust, the network becomes more robust and the things that one can do on the network just multiply. We have seen that in the United States, we have seen it in Europe. And, frankly, one only needs to look at India to see what happens when a country that was considered a developing country opens its borders to the Net. There, of course, we know that there is a huge middle class that never existed before and an opening to the world that I think has been an incredible story and one we would like to see all over the world and the developing world.”

Overall, the conference hopes to connect education, communication and government and spur a dialogue to move forward and use the Internet to promote greater economic growth and development across East Africa, she said.

Attendees will include the vice chancellor of Uganda Martyrs University, faculty members from Makerere University, the rector of the Islamic University of Uganda and representatives from some 25 universities from across East Africa. The chancellor of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will be there to speak on the link between Internet connectivity and education, and senior government officials from the region will be in attendance, along with representatives from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which coordinates global telecom operations.

Additionally, she said, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith A. McHale will address the group. “We are just so pleased that she is going to come to speak at the conference,” Brown said. Additionally, major service providers like AT&T, Google, Motorola, Qualcomm, Ericsson and Intelsat will join local operators to lend their voices and expertise to the conversation.

More on the expansion of broadband and the internet in Africa in previous post.

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Why South Africa hosting World Cup has, will change perceptions about Africa

Many people questioned the reasons why FIFA was awarding South Africa the 2010 World Cup. To me, the vast array of questions, especially among those opposed were not relevant when fully looked at.  One of the main reasons why so many people were support was the winds of change it would bring to the host country and Africa in general. Ask yourself if people who had never been to South Africa would know what a Vuvuzela was or meant? YouTube even got a Vuvuzela button. It even has invaded America’s pastime, Baseball.

But on a more serious note, the world cup taking place on the African continent has been a positive force.  As many have noted, including myself, It highlights a:

dramatic change driven by forces more powerful than football.While the competition may help change Africa’s image in the minds of any outsiders still fixated on cliches of bloodshed and famine, those in the know long ago spotted Africa’s emergence from no-go zone to frontier market and are seeing the returns.

If you had put $1,000 in Nigerian or Kenyan stock markets at the start of the year, you would have made a profit of around $150. If you had done the same with the U.S. benchmark S&P 500 index, you would be nursing a loss.

Global fund trackers EPFR reported a 40th consecutive week of inflows to African equity funds this week. India’s Bharti Airtel completed a $9 billion purchase of Zain’s African operations in another vote of confidence in the continent.

“It’s not to denigrate the World Cup for a moment, but it’s not what defines Africa in 2010. What should really be defining Africa is Zain buying Bharti’s assets,” said African affairs commentator Joel Kibazo.

“I think there is still a false image of Africa even in South Africa, never mind the rest of the world, about the rest of the continent. The fact is, it has really been getting ahead and there are more people with money to spend.”

Half of the world’s 10 fastest growing countries will be in Africa in 2011 according to the International Monetary Fund.

Better economic management, increased political stability, debt relief, higher production and prices for export commodities and technology — mobile phones in particular — have all helped improvement.

Africa’s fate these days is also less linked to handouts from former colonial powers, themselves struggling under debt burdens proportionally bigger than Africa’s. It is more closely tied to Asian and other more dynamic economies.

“We need to wipe out that smug Western view of more risk in Africa,” said David Murrin, chief investment officer at UK-based Emergent Asset Management.

“As Western belts tighten and we start to deal with fiscal situations, the political risk differential is closing rapidly.”

Although Africa is seen in a much more positive light than for decades, however, its growth is from a low base and countries face challenges from bogus democracy to shambolic services to ethnic division.

No other African country appears to have the capability to host the World Cup yet and it is hard to forecast when that might be the case.

Infrastructure such as power and roads are dire and Africa needs an estimated $93 billion a year to improve it. South Africa has appalling crime levels, but its police and justice system are efficient compared to those in much of the continent.

Egypt lost out to South Africa for the 2010 contest, but some Egyptians doubted it was really ready for such a challenge.

“I don’t think we had the capabilities,” said student Mohamed Nabil in Cairo. “It’s good for South Africa. They’re way ahead of us. But it’s nice that the World Cup is held in Africa in general. That is progress in itself.

The more interesting Point is how South Africa have provided a great service to the Continent by hosting the World Cup which has triggered an upswell in Africa Commentary, most of it rational and logical and hence Positive. The World Cup might prove to be the Tipping Point with regard to Perception of the Continent. For that, I am grateful.

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Where is African iphone?

One would think that Apple would try at least investing in growing emerging markets world-wide, especially in Africa.  Apparently it seems there isn’t an app for that.  One can argue that the reason why Apple hasn’t made the leap in various African  countries is lack of communication infrastructure even though Africa is rapidly investing in broadband and high speed connections, but still that aspect doesn’t fully answer the question.

The folks over at Foreign Policy ask and answer the question that i have been asking myself.

The best-kept secret about Africa in the last decade is the continent’s rapid and creative adoption of modern technology. African countries have for the most part leapfrogged the technologies of the late 20th century to adopt those of the early 21st en masse. There are now 10 times as many cell phones as land lines in sub-Saharan Africa, and since 2004, the region’s year-over-year growth has been the highest in the world. When Nokia’s billionth handset was sold in 2000, it was in Nigeria

Africa is a multimillion-dollar mobile market, and plenty of the major technology companies, Western and otherwise, are there already. Multinational telecoms like MTN, Safaricom, and Zain are competing to cover a continent of 500 million mobile consumers, improving connectivity and dropping prices. Low-tech Chinese imports and no-contract, prepaid plans have made the technology easily accessible; Belle-Vista alone sells 500 phones a month. Nokia, which established its first African research center in Nairobi in 2008, has just unveiled a telephone that will allow consumers used to toggling between two or three devices to use multiple SIM cards in the same phone. BlackBerry has likewise responded to explosive demand by opening an office in Nigeria this year. Google, whose Android operating system is the strongest competitor to the iPhone, has had a presence on the continent since 2007 and now operates in 45 African countries, hiring and training African developers to convert its well-known suite of Web applications (Maps, News, Finance) for local use — often over mobile devices.

These companies and their technologies are opening a line into the flattening world we’ve heard so much about, creating markets, enabling information access, and building relationships in ways that have changed poor countries from the bottom up. But it’s hardly philanthropic work — market leader Nokia’s regional revenues were 1 billion euros in 2009, and Research In Motion, named Fortune‘s fastest-growing global firm in 2010, sold 1 million BlackBerries last year in South Africa alone.

Why is Apple missing in this growing and expanding market even though they had an earlier iphone model?

The earlier-generation iPhones are, ostensibly, available on the continent — Vodacom, a subsidiary of British Vodafone, signed a 10-country distribution deal with Apple in 2008 that included South Africa and Egypt, and the phones do work on local networks. Vodacom has also announced that it will distribute and service the iPhone4 in Africa in the near future. But for the vast majority of Africans, Apple effectively doesn’t exist. The iTunes store’s music offerings have never been available on the continent; African IP addresses are blocked. The iPhone goes for $1,000 at local retailers — 10 times the current U.S. price for the same model, a big-enough markup that most iPhones on the continent are purchased  abroad instead — and because of limited bandwidth and apps availability, owning one is “like having a Maserati in traffic,” according to Tayo Oviosu, CEO of Pagatech, a mobile banking firm in Nigeria.

This is a shame, considering what even inexpensive, basic cell phones have done for Africa. In poor countries, cell-phone penetration has been linked to positive economic and developmental outcomes. A 2006 study of emerging markets suggests that a 10 percent increase in mobile penetration correlates with a 0.6 percentage point increase in economic growth rates. In Africa, the trend is lifting all boats: A fisherwoman without refrigeration in the Democratic Republic of the Congo can keep her catch on the line in the water, waiting for customers to call; selling access to a mobile phone in poor or rural areas of Uganda has become a viable business model. Professionals stuck in Johannesburg traffic make deals on their BlackBerries; demand for skilled labor in the information and communication technology sector has created 400,000 jobs in Nigeria since 2000.

There is so much potential that can happen once Apple decides to embrace and market the iphone  like in Asia and Europe. We have seen what itunes has done to the TV-Music-Movie industries and especially in software programming, creating a new and ever growing niche markets in apps.  The same growth and dynamism can happen in Africa. The iphone is the perfect vehicle to drive this change.

The iPhone4 may serve these developmental functions better than anything else on the market, if its features are as described. The new FaceTime feature, for instance, which allows videoconferencing directly from a mobile device, could do much to support the distance education projects being pioneered at the University of South Africa and Makerere University in Uganda. In addition to GPS and access to the mobile Web, geotargeted applications could help traders find market prices, businesses find customers, and make news delivery and political organizing easier. All-in-one video shooting and editing software makes the iPhone4 a powerful media tool that competing smartphones like the BlackBerry or Nokia Nseries just can’t duplicate. Even the longer battery life will add value in places where electricity is unreliable.Most importantly, the iPhone’s application development ecosystem would engage the talented, tech-savvy demographic on the planet’s youngest continent. According to a paper from the Institute for Development Policy and Management at the University of Manchester, software production is an industry “essential for the growth of the economies of developing countries”; the $1.43 billion iPhone application market, with its low barriers to entry and friendliness to entrepreneurs, is ideal for Africa’s burgeoning class of small-scale software programmers. In Kenya — a country where software tinkering is popular enough to warrant a prime-time cable TV show — some eager programmers created applications for the first iPhone well before it was even available in the country. “We’re going to see people developing applications that solve specific challenges in the African context,” says Oviosu. “If the iPhone comes here and catches on, of course we’ll build [one].”

It isn’t just Africans who are losing out from Apple’s disinterest in the continent. As mobile data usage comes to replace traditional computing in Africa, the new unit of engagement for business, government relations, and humanitarian work may be the smartphone — and it stands to reason that the company with the best local presence will reap the benefits of rising incomes and demand on a continent of nearly 1 billion.

Apple needs to fully embrace the growing and emerging markets of Africa. The upside of growth is staggering. Google seems to have taken notice of this while Apple hasn’t.

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Ford invests in South Africa

In an effort to beef up its presence against its competitors in growing emerging markets, Ford will invest in South Africa as an export hub.

Ford Motor Co. is making multi-million-dollar investments in two major export hubs in Asia and Africa, as part of an effort to beef up its presence in fast-growing emerging markets. On Thursday, Ford announced a $450 million outlay to build a new passenger car plant in Thailand. The plant is expected to provide a boost to the Thai auto industry and help an economy racked by months of political turmoil.

Next week, Ford will unveil plans to increase production capacity at a plant in South Africa, enabling the company to export more Ford Ranger trucks to Europe and other markets. The company has no plans to import the global version of the popular truck to the U.S. market, a Ford executive said.

“Frankly we’re maxed out. We have more sales potential than we can build,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president for Asia-Pacific and Africa, said of Ranger production. “The next generation Ranger will be also built in South Africa and will be a great opportunity for us to expand our capacity for Ranger globally.”

The investments follow Ford’s strong earnings in the first quarter, when it reported $2 billion in net income. Despite its improved bottom line, the auto maker still faces a number of challenges, including $31.3 billion in debt and sluggish auto markets in the U.S. and Europe.

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U.S. Marines Provide Counter Improvised Explosive Device Training to Ugandan Soldiers

SIGO TRAINING SCHOOL, Uganda - Soldiers with the Uganda Battle Group 6 (UGABAG 6) participate in a counter improvised explosive device (C-IED) mission planning exercise led by U.S. Marine Master Sergeant Brian Ivers, May 2010. The training was geared to improve the Battle Group's ability to conduct peace support operations by providing them with the latest C-IED tactics, techniques and procedures in advance of their scheduled AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) deployment to Mogadishu

Full link.

IGO TRAINING SCHOOL, Uganda,

Jun 4, 2010 — Soldiers with the Uganda Battle Group 6 (UGABAG 6) participated in a counter improvised explosive device (C-IED) mission planning exercise led by Marines from U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa (MARFORAF), May 17-28, 2010.

The training was part of a joint effort by the U.S. Departments of State and Defense and U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) to assist the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) in its commitment to improve regional peace and stability.

Master Sergeant Timothy Graves, MARFORAF Security Cooperation Team Intelligence Chief and IED subject matter expert, designed and supervised the “Attack the Network” training package in coordination with the Marine Corps Combat Development Command and the Joint IED Defeat Organization, which is the U.S. Department of Defense’s C-IED brain trust.

The training was administered by the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program (ACOTA) and took place at Sigo Training School 80 km north of Kampala.
In total, 110 UPDF soldiers were issued training completion certificates, including 45 junior officers and 65 enlisted men.

Lieutenant Colonel Jeffery Miller of the Marine Corps Engineer Center led the mission and said that the Ugandans are quick learners and are attentive and energetic. He also said that Colonel Ondogu, the UGABAG 6 Commander, thanked the United States for the valuable training.

According to Major Christopher Crimi, MARFORAF South and East Africa Regional Plans Officer, the training will improve the Battle Group’s ability to conduct peace support operations by providing them with the latest C-IED tactics, techniques and procedures in advance of their scheduled AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) deployment to Mogadishu.

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17th Air Force Engages with Ugandan Air Force Leaders

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Brigadier General Michael Callan, 17th Air Force vice commander, reviews a formation of the Ugandan People's Defence Force in Entebbe, Uganda, May 25, 2010. Members of U.S. Africa Command's (AFRICOM) air component Air Forces Africa met with senior embassy and Ugandan officials to discuss current and future engagement activities between Uganda and the United States

Full link.

ENTEBBE, Uganda, Jun 10, 2010 — As President Barack Obama was signing the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act on May 24, 2010, members of U.S. Africa Command’s air component, Air Forces Africa, were enroute to Uganda for a senior leader engagement event.
Led by Brigadier General Mike Callan, vice commander, the delegation met with senior embassy and Ugandan officials to discuss current and future engagement activities between the Ugandan People’s Defence Force and Ugandan People’s Defence Air Force and Air Forces Africa.

“While the timing of this [signing of the law] was completely coincidental to our visit, it did underscore our purpose in meeting with the country team and Ugandan officials,” Callan said. “We’ve already established a good partnership with Ugandan forces in military-to-military engagement. As we look down the road, discussions at the senior level will better guide the nature, scope and timing for future events.”

Accompanied by key staff members from the Plans and Programs Directorate as well as the unit’s command chief master sergeant and public affairs officer, Callan began the visit with a tour of the airfield and logistics hangars at Entebbe Air Force Base. During the tour, the team met with a representative of the U.S. State Department-contracted DynCorp which supports the UPDF with aerial resupply and troop movements of Ugandan, Burundian, and Somali forces in and out of Mogadishu supporting the United Nations-African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

“Uganda is one of only two countries supporting the UN’s AMISOM mission currently,” Callan said. “Though the airlift is contracted, it is good to have the understanding of those ground-based missions and capabilities of the UPDF as we pursue future air force and joint initiatives.”

While the UPDF boasts a professional, well-trained army, their air forces are in essence only five years old and looking to build capacity. “We’ve been working with their army forces for some time, providing great training opportunities through the Department of State-funded International Military Education and Training, or IMET program, and multi-national peacekeeping operations. Now they would like for us to do that with their air forces,” said U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Greg Joachim, Defense and Army Attache, U.S. Embassy Kampala.

Members of the 17th Air Force Plans and Programs Directorate are looking closely at just such opportunities as they develop long-range plans with Uganda. IMET can cover courses ranging from leadership development to undergraduate pilot training and maintenance and logistics, explained Lt Colonel Joachim. As the air component for U.S. Africa Command, “17th Air Force brings focus to those much needed air force activities, which we really need,” he said.

U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Jerry Lanier, echoed these comments during an office call with the Air Forces Africa team. Highlighting the LRA issue, as well as Somalia and Sudan as on-going priorities requiring a multi-year process, he praised the current security relationship. “We’re very glad you’re here working with the Ugandans,” he said. “The military is a dominant institution in this country and this is a key relationship. The Ugandans are ready to move forward in building capacity for their air force, and when they say they will do something, they will do it.”

Major General JB Owoyesigire, commander of Ugandan People’s Defence Air Forces, said his nation welcomes the concern of Barack Obama and signing of the new law to assist with the defeat of the LRA.

“You supported us in our fight against HIV and now the LRA,” he said. “Joseph Kony is a son of Uganda, and therefore our responsibility and we will take care of that.”

In building the capacity of his nation’s air force, the general highlighted his desire for expanded training and engagement opportunities in areas ranging from military education courses such as Air War College and Squadron Officers School, to technical fields such as pilot training, aircraft maintenance, flight medicine, aerial intelligence and accident investigation. His dream for the future is to build a Ugandan academy for air force officers that will take them through military education from cadet to general.

When discussing the potential for not only Uganda, but other African nations, General Owoyesigire is very direct.

“African nations do not need to wait for others to come in to help them,” he said. “African nations need to do things for themselves. We are building our Air Force, and we would like your support in doing that,” he said.

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High speed internet access in Africa takes off

French giant, France Telecom and a consortium of 20 members of the telecommunications industry, signed an agreement to build an underwater cable between Europe and South Africa. The fiber optic cable is expected to provide broadband internet access to 19 African countries by 2012.

West Africa will be plugged into a 17 000 km fiber optic cable that is to link 23 countries from France to South Africa in 2012. Though the construction approval has been signed and the cable built, “deep-sea exploration for implantation in (both) unprotected and authorized zones will take a year and a half,” says Didier Duriez, Director of International and Backbone Network, with France Telecom-Orange. “The cable laying will last one year after which it will be connected to the already

existing cable system,” he adds.

The ACE system (Africa Coast to Europe) will be the first under-water cable to serve 23 African and European countries. Gambia, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe and Sierra Leone are among the first to be connected to this under-water cable. Other countries include South Africa, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Spain, France, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Portugal, Senegal. Landlocked Mali and Niger will be connected via a terrestrial cable.

Didier Duriez admits that although this might “not directly change the lives of low income earners”, African operators will be able to offer their services at a “lower cost.”

Lower prices expected

The $700 million (587 million euros) investment, out of which France Telecom-Orange is to shoulder 250 million, will eventually see the lowering of broadband access rates. “The cost depends mainly on domestic connectivity. The international segment accounts for only 20-25%. In this area, however, prices will certainly be lowered: the lowering of the unit cost will eventually be set at 50% in the least,” said Didier Duriez.

Equatorial Guinea is the only country where the state itself took part in the investment program. Funding in the other countries is indirect as most governments own substantial shares in telecommunications companies.

While the cable could see a throughput of up to 5 terabytes, “the quality will depend on the country’s infrastructure” says Didier Duriez. And for the cable to function at its best, wireless infrastructure must be developed.

This comes off from March 22 report which has the European Union approving a broadband network to link Europe and Africa together.

Funding for the first phase of an initiative to connect African research centres and link them to an existing European network has been approved by the European Commission. The approval follows a report that identified sufficient IT infrastructure in Africa to support the AfricaConnect Initiative, which aims to improve research collaborations and access to information.  The report, released last month (March 22), is based on a one-year Feasibility Study for African-European Research and Education Network Interconnection (FEAST), funded by the European Commission and carried out by the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden.   Most national research and education networks (NRENs) in Africa are now near, or will soon be near, one of several recently-landed undersea fibre optic cables, the report said.   This may enable them to join GÉANT, an existing pan-European research and

education network.   Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a technology research company in South Africa, said that the new undersea cables bring unprecedented opportunity as well as challenges to the continent’s research community.

“At an academic level there is tremendous interest in collaboration and cooperation, and the progress made in South Africa … in connecting up universities while bypassing the one-time monopoly provider has been an object lesson in what is possible,” said Goldstuck.

The first to benefit from the new collaborations are likely to be NRENs already connected to the emerging regional network – UbuntuNet, based in Malawi. To reinforce this network and encourage collaboration on a larger scale, UbuntuNet should join AfricaConnect Initiative, as partners or subcontractors, together with European NRENs, the report said.

But Martin Belcher, director of programmes at the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications, Sweden, warned that “getting cables ashore is one thing, increased connectivity to an individual in a research project something else”.

The terrestrial connections necessary to take advantage of the new undersea cables are still “way behind” in many African countries and this could reduce the availability of bandwidth for research and collaboration, agreed Spiwe Chireka, an information and communication technologies analyst at Frost & Sullivan, a global business research and consulting firm. She expects that coastal regions will benefit from the new cables sooner than inland regions.

The FEAST report also found that high bandwidth costs and under-developed or poorly enforced telecommunication regulations are also likely to delay implementation of the project.

It might take another three to four years before bandwidth prices in the region come down, said Chireka.

Belcher said the biggest challenges facing the project now are human capacity issues and policy frameworks within individual universities and research institutes in East and Southern Africa.

Link to final FEAST report.

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