Month: July 2011

Renewable energy in South Africa: Staying cool with natural gas

When used as refrigerants, flourocarbons can cause severe damage to the Earth’s ozone layer. That’s why a South African supermarket chain is changing direction to use natural and eco-friendly refrigerant technologies and saving money and energy as a result.

Natural gas has numerous benefits compared to other types of renewable energy. Natural gas is an extremely important source of energy for reducing pollution and maintaining a clean and healthy environment. The use of natural gas also offers a number of environmental benefits over other sources of energy, particularly other fossil fuels.

  • It’s clean: Natural gas is the cleanest of all fossil fuels and is simply the best energy choice for the environment inside and outside your home.
  • It’s economical: Natural gas appliances are virtually maintenance-free and that means additional savings.
  • It’s efficient: When the entire cycle of producing, processing, transporting and using energy is considered, natural gas is delivered to you with a “total energy efficiency” of about 90%. Moreover, gas appliances and equipment are extremely efficient.
  • It’s multi-purpose: can heat your entire home, make your hot water, dry your clothes and help you cook your meals in the oven or on the barbecue grill. New residential uses range from fireplaces and air conditioners to microturbines and fuel cells.You never have to worry about weather, delivery schedules or running out.  It’s dependable.

Natural gas is the cleanest of the fossil fuels, and thus its many applications can serve to decrease harmful pollution levels from all sectors, particularly when used together with or replacing other fossil fuels.

Bookmark and Share

Britain will recognize Libya’s Transitional National Council as the Libya’s legitimate government

Britain will formally recognize Libya’s Transitional National Council as the country’s legitimate government. The British Foreign Secretary announced that envoys from the rebels’ National Transitional Council will now replace current embassy staff in London. More than 30 countries have recognized the NTC including the US, Germany, France, and Turkey.

Bookmark and Share

Group Five has announced plans for a solar plant in South Africa

Relying on dirty coal energy rather than renewable sources is anything but fashionable in 2011, not to mention the damage to the environment.  However, South African construction firm Group Five has announced plans to construct a solar plant to produce solar energy across the country.

South Africa’s fourth-largest construction firm, Group Five announced this week that it plans to build a R5bn solar power plant in the Northern Cape to supply power to Eskom within two years.

Physics professor at the University of Johannesburg Hartmut Winkler believes that Northern Cape is the most suitable province in the country for solar power stations.

“On average it enjoys more sunshine hours than other parts of the country, and is fairly cloud-free throughout the year,” he said. “Furthermore, the arid nature of much of the province means that land there is both cheaper and unsuitable for intensive agriculture.”

The country’s renewable energy strategy has set a target of 10 000 gigawatt hours of energy to come from renewable resources by the year 2013.

Professor Wikus van Niekerk of Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES) believes the target is reasonable, citing the fact that it is only 4% of energy consumption in SA.

In addition, by 2012, SA could be generating 5 000 megawatts of power from another proposed R150bn solar park, announced last year.

“The reason [the target] will not be reached is because the government is tardy in implementing its own targets,” said Van Niekerk.

Group Five’s proposal could function in support of the 49Million (49M) initiative to reduce coal-generated electricity consumption, endorsed by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe as “the biggest energy saving movement ever seen in this country”.

On the sidelines of an African refinery conference, Group Five’s director of engineering and construction, Greg Heale told Reuters that the group’s solar project would go ahead only if it was selected as part of Department of Energy’s renewable energy procurement process.

He also said that the company expected to conclude all contractual arrangements, including off- take agreements, within the next nine months.

Constructing large solar generating plants has a significant short term economic benefit in producing construction jobs, but once the plant is completed its employment advantage drops. A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the U.S. predicted that building a single 1,000 megawatt solar power plant in Nevada would generate over 2,000 jobs for three years as it was being built. After building, however, the job benefits dropped precipitously for the next four years, before slowly climbing to just over 200 new jobs. Given the high rate of unemployment in certain locations throughout South Africa, the benefit of short-medium term jobs is beneficial no matter what the long term trends might be.

Big solar power plants are only a small part of the story. Solar power is a distributed energy: it is available everywhere and can be easily harvested by placing small batteries of solar cells on large numbers of local buildings, saving land that would otherwise be needed to operate big solar plants. Locally installing solar cells creates jobs installing those cells on houses, businesses and other buildings, stimulating local economies. If solar cells were manufactured locally in small factories as the solar movement occurs, it would provide another boost to the economy in the form of manufacturing jobs

Bookmark and Share

Alvarion 4G network coming to Uganda

Alvarion’s 4G network is being rolled out across Uganda.

Ugandan local reports said that Alvarion and Foris Telecom Global launched 4G networks in Uganda and Mozambique. The result could be a renewed push to move the new mobile technology into Africa as a whole.

When contacted, both companies said they could not immediately speak to the media about the 4G contracts, but one official did confirm that the companies are planning to make a joint statement this week to reveal the full nature of the 4G networks in both countries.

According to one technology reporter in Kampala, the new network will enable broadband service to both businesses and personal homes. Also, the reporter said that according to their sources, both countries’ local governments are looking at using the new 4G network.

Alvarion president and CEO Eran Gorev noted that the company has over 70 commercial 4G deployments in Africa in a press statement, but did not elaborate.

This development will transform the region and increase economic development. Having access to information and internet access is crucial in today’s globally connected world.

The benefits of 4G have yet to completely blossom, for the implications of a 4G network may be larger than we currently understand. Remember what cell phones did for the telecommunications industry; globally, there are now more than five billion cell phone subscriptions, and more people are expected to own cell phones by 2011 – making land line phones practically obsolete.

If developed successfully, 4G wireless Internet service may set a similar pattern, forcing wired Internet providers to expand their value and services if they want to stay relevant. More importantly, with the Internet potentially available to everyone everywhere, barriers are removed, collaboration is improved, and the market may feature a wider assortment of novel applications and tools to make use of this ubiquitous connection.

4G represents an evolution in the way we use the Internet, and the future certainly looks bright.

Bookmark and Share

United Nations welcomes South Sudan as 193rd member


The UN General Assembly has admitted South Sudan as the 193rd member of the United Nations. The vote followed the African country’s achievement of independence last Saturday, breaking away from Sudan after more than 50 years of on-and-off war.

Bookmark and Share

United States recognises Libyan rebel council as legitimate government of Libya

U.S Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reacts with Mahmud Jibril, Chairman of the Libyan Interim National Transitional Council, during the fourth Libya Contact Group Meeting in Istanbul, Friday, July 15, 2011.

The United States has formally recognized Libya’s Transitional National Council as the country’s legitimate government.  The US is the latest country to officially do this after such nations like Turkey, France and Germany. More than 30 countries from around the world have recognized the Transitional National Council as the only legitimate representative government for the people of Libya.

Diplomatic recognition means that the U.S. will soon be able to fund the opposition with some of the more than $30 billion in Gahdafi-regime assets that are frozen in American banks. Other countries holding billions more in such assets will be able to do the same.

Contact Group representatives broke into spontaneous applause when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her nation’s recognition of the NTC, according to U.S. officials.

Rebel spokesman Mahmoud Shammam welcomed the NTC’s recognition and called on other nations to deliver on a promise to release hundreds of millions of dollars in funds to the opposition. “Funds, funds, funds,” Shammam said, in order to stress the opposition’s demand. It remained unclear Friday whether the unfrozen assets could be used to purchase arms, or if some restrictions would still apply. More than 30 countries have recognized the NTC much to Gahdafi’s opposition.

Clinton said the council won international recognition after giving assurances it would respect human rights and presenting a plan on how to pave the way to a truly democratic Libyan government.

She said the assurances included upholding the group’s international obligations, pursuing a democratic reform process that is both geographically and politically inclusive, and dispersing funds for the benefit of the Libyan people.

The recognition does not mean that the U.S. diplomatic mission in the rebel-held city of Benghazi, Libya, is now an embassy. Titles of staff and names of offices will be decided in the coming days, the officials said.

Bookmark and Share

Chicago Bulls Forward Luol Deng hosts first Hoops summit in South Sudan

Chicago Bulls Forward Luol Deng

Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng is a former South Sudanese refugee, and he was in his new nation to celebrate its freedom  and host it’s first-ever hoops clinic for the youth.  A day before the historical event, Deng joins a practice game with young members of the NBA Africa basketball camp in Juba.

He also had a sit-down interview with John Prendergast of the enough project. Deng talked about what this all meant to him in a video interview. Watch it and you’ll understand why Deng is so well respected by his peers around the league.

Luol Deng can be followed on twitter @LuolDeng9

Bookmark and Share

South Sudan celebrates independence as world’s newest nation

Southern Sudan became  the world’s newest country on July 9. After more than 20 years of civil war, followed by a half decade of uncertain peace, the new country is starting virtually from scratch. The challenges are many, but the level of optimism is high enough to match.

It is a dramatic shift in mentality from short-term survival to long-term planning. South Sudan faces some challenges; the first being  setting up the apparatus of the state: the security; the police; the military; and all that. The most important task a state is supposed to do is enforce and protect the rule of law. South Sudan needs to defend the peace and security of its citizens. With the exception of the Abyei and South Kordofan border areas, the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement put an end to wide-scale fighting between north and south. But cattle raiding and other crimes persist.

The lack of roads and other infrastructure compound the problem. The country has only about 4,000 kilometers of all-weather roads. Few crops and other goods make it to market centers.  Shortages of basic goods are also common.

Setting up diplomatic relationship with the world and the new administration that was never there will be a challenge. International donors provided aid to besieged communities during the civil war. Now the government is trying to break that dependency. South Sudan must address its revenue problem since the majority of the money will come from oil exports which are dependent on being shipped through the north.

Despite the challenges, there is a sense of optimism among many in Southern Sudan. That resilience is what the people of Southern Sudan will need in the coming months and years.

Bookmark and Share

Turkey recognizes Libyan rebel opposition government

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu shakes hands with Libyan rebels

Turkey following in the foot steps of other countries like France, and Germany, has officially recognized the Libyan rebel opposition as the legitimate representative government of Libya.

Turkey’s foreign minister recognized Libya’s rebel leaders as the country’s legitimate representatives and promised them an additional $200-million in aid during a visit Sunday.

The visit by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu signalled a further policy shift for Ankara. Turkey, a key regional power, had initially balked at the idea of military action in Libya, but as a NATO member is now supporting the alliance’s air strikes there. Turkish companies were involved in construction projects worth billions of dollars in Libya before the February outbreak of a Libyan anti-government uprising that has evolved into a protracted armed conflict.

Mr. Davutoglu met with Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, chairman of the rebels’ National Transitional Council, in a heavily guarded government building in the city of Benghazi, the rebel’s main stronghold in eastern Libya. He later addressed a news conference with Ali al-Essawi, who serves as the rebels’ foreign minister.

The Turkish visitor said his country recognizes the rebel leaders as the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people. Several other countries, including France, Qatar and Italy, have previously recognized the rebels.

Mr. al-Essawi noted that “Turkey has given us political as well as financial support and humanitarian aid.”

Turkey has already granted the Libyan opposition $100-million in aid and promised an additional $200-million. Some of the money is to be used to improve the infrastructure of Benghazi and rehabilitate its airport.

Temel Kotil, chief executive officer of the Turkish Airlines, said his company would resume flights to Benghazi as soon as the security situation improves. Mahmoud Jibril, one of the rebel leaders, will pay a two-day visit to Turkey on Tuesday to discuss the promised aid in more detail.

“For us, the destiny of Libya is the same as the destiny of Turkey,” said Mr. Davutoglu. “I expressed our solidarity and commitment.”

Mr. Davutoglu’s trip to Benghazi on Sunday is the most powerful signal that Turkey, which has vast trade interests in Libya, is throwing its weight behind the Libyan opposition despite its long-time relations with Col. Gadhafi.

The foreign minister said he hopes the Libya crisis can be solved peacefully this month, before the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan at the beginning of August. The fighting has split Libya into a rebel-controlled east and a Gadhafi-run west.

Here is video of Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu trip to Libya.

This was the only rational move for Turkey to make if it wanted any chance of taking part in the reconstruction in Libya post Gadhafi. Turkey knows that any business contracts signed under Gadhafi  will be no longer good once the rebel opposition fully gains power.  It is only a matter of time when that happens. Turkey does not want to be in a position where it is trying to bid for government projects, contracts with people who were part of the rebel movement fighting against Gadhafi. Turkey might not be looked upon positively by the new Libyan government, especially since it would be made up of people who fought to bring down Gadhafi.  As stated above, Turkey has much to lose especially in the construction area.  This trip by Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister was meant to build some good will amongst the  National Transitional Council members and Libyans in opposition of the Gadhafi regime.

Bookmark and Share

Luanda is the most expensive city in the world

Luanda, Angola

The world’s most expensive city isn’t Paris or London or even New York City. It’s Luanda. Angola’s oil-rich capital city is the priciest city for the second year in the row, according to a yearly study by the Mercer Group.  Tokyo is the second priciest city in the world, while the city of N’Djamena in Chad came in in third place. Moscow is in fourth position with Geneva in fifth and Osaka in sixth. New York City placed a relatively distant 32nd. Karachi, Pakistan was deemed the least expensive city.

The report, which is published annually to help companies assess compensation allowances for expatriate workers, compared the cost of over 200 items including housing, food and transport in 214 cities, using New York as a reference.

Luanda is ridiculously expensive. The city was designed for a couple hundred thousand inhabitants but today the population is somewhere around five million people. Limited infrastructure and inflation mean that the cost of food is high (fuel is cheaper than water) and the rent on a small two-bedroom apartment in Luanda can cost $7,000 a month. The infrastructure is in dire need of an overhaul.

The end of the war in 2002 led to an investment boom by China and some Western nations which helped turn Angola into one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

Costs will remain exorbitant in Luanda because oil companies, and the teeny percentage of Angolans who are profiting from them, can afford it. Angola has tons of potential outside of oil, but like in most countries in Africa, proper management and competent leaders are needed for this to happen.

Bookmark and Share