Month: January 2012

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visits Djibouti

U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, visited Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti . Since 2002, Djibouti – a former French colony – has played host to the only permanent U.S. military base on the African continent. Camp Lemonnier has grown steadily from a small outpost to an operation with more than 3,500 military personnel, most of them dedicated to combating terrorism in Somalia, Yemen and other countries in the region.

Panetta gave his best holiday wishes to the troops dressed in desert-camouflage but then got right to his point about Djibouti’s geographic significance: its location sandwiched between Yemen and Somalia, both of which are home to al-Qaeda networks.

Djibouti is known as a base from which the military has used drones to conduct airstrikes against terrorist targets in Yemen and Somalia. More recently, the military has also expanded drone operations from bases in Ethiopia, the Seychelles, and a secret location in the Arabian Peninsula.

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China recognizes Libyan National Transitional Council

China has recognized the Libyan National Transitional Council, following the such countries as Germany, Turkey, France, U.K, U.S., Russia and institutions like the United Nations.

China has officially recognised the National Transitional Council as Libya’s ruling authority, the foreign ministry in Beijing has announced. It is the last permanent member of the United Nations security council to do so. China’s relations with the NTC were strained last week when it emerged Chinese arms firms had talked to Muammar Gaddafi’s representatives about weapons sales. The statement, released late on Monday – a public holiday in China – added that Beijing respected the choice of the Libyan people. Spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said China hoped all signed treaties and deals would remain in force and be “implemented seriously”. It cited an unnamed NTC representative as saying: “Libya welcomes China to engage in the country’s reconstruction and jointly push forward the steady and sustained development of bilateral ties”. China had already held talks with the NTC and said it valued its “important role”, but had held off full recognition. “They have taken their time in recognising the rebels,” said Steve Tsang, professor of contemporary Chinese studies at Nottingham University. “I would have thought they really should have done this much earlier. I suspect the timing was simply determined by the practical issues of negotiations with the National Transitional Council and that now they have something they think will be satisfactory from their perspective.” But he added China’s behaviour would affect how it was seen by the rest of the world. “You will have quite a lot of people concluding China is much more interested in protecting its own national interests than performing its duties as a leading power in the international scene. As [one of the] P5 [permanent members of the UN national security council] there are certain expectations and moral responsibilities … The way the post-Gaddafi situation has been handled, [people] have not been giving China a particularly high mark,” he said. Chris Zambelis, a researcher at US consultancy Helios Global who focuses on the Middle East, added: “They saw the writing on the wall … Some countries are still holding out, but one by one they are lining up [behind the NTC].” He said while China’s energy interests in Libya were not as great as those elsewhere, it wanted to protect them. An official with a rebel oil firm suggested last month it might freeze out countries that had not supported it. There was embarrassment when it emerged that Chinese state-owned arms firms met Gaddafi’s representatives in July – despite a UN weapons embargo. Beijing’s foreign ministry said the government did not know of the meetings and that no contracts had been signed or weapons delivered. But Zambelis added: “Whatever rebel government emerges, China already has a place in the country business-wise. It wouldn’t make sense to start shutting it out … We will still see China in Libya.” China surprised some by supporting the UN arms embargo and abstaining on the vote on Nato airstrikes – though it later condemned the bombing. Its investments in Libya are thought to be worth about $20bn (£13bn).

China has been reluctant to recognize the NTC since it would go against its “non-interference” policy.  The changing regional dynamics and winds of change have made China grudgingly change its stance. Like Russia, China had business interests in Libya that it wanted to protect, hence its timidness in supporting the Libyan uprising against Qaddafi.

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Ghana seeking to increase trade with Sweden

Ghana is looking to increase trade with Sweden.

Swedish Minister for Trade Ewa Björling received a trade delegation from Ghana, headed by Minister for Trade and Industry Hanna Tetteh. Their meeting focused on potential ways of increasing trade between Sweden and Ghana.

Ghana is Sweden’s third largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2010, exports to Ghana were worth over SEK 1.3 billion (1 Swedish krona = 0.14713 U.S. dollars). At present, Swedish business interests are mainly concentrated on ICT and mining, but smaller companies in other industries have also set up operations in the country. One such example is Viasat, which is attempting to break into the Ghanaian television market.

Over 20 Swedish companies currently have offices in the country. There is a great deal of interest in Swedish environmental expertise, as is evident, for example, in the project that the Raw Materials Group is running together with Ghana s Environmental Protection Agency on recycling of electronic waste.

Ghana is Sweden’s third largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa. Currently Swedish business interests are mainly concentrated on ICT and mining, but smaller companies in other industries have also set up operations in the country. One such example is Viasat, which is attempting to break into the Ghanaian television market. Over 20 Swedish companies currently have offices in the country. There is a great deal of interest in Swedish environmental expertise, as is evident, for example, in the project that the Raw Materials Group is running together with Ghanas Environmental Protection Agency on recycling of electronic waste.

The business climate in Ghana is good for a developing country, and very good compared with most African countries. Over the past decade, Ghanaian governments have maintained a consistently high level of ambition and pace of reforms with regard to industrial policy. Ghanas political stability is probably the factor that is most appealing, particularly in a region that has been known for its turbulence but where many companies want to set up operations to take advantage of good business opportunities.

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Egyptian Air Force Orders Lockheed Martin’s Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod For F-16’s

Lockheed Martin’s Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod

Egyptian Air Force (EAF) has confirmed the purchase of Lockheed Martin’s Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP) to equip its F-16 aircraft purchased under the Peace Vector program.  Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP) offers precision targeting and non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (NTISR) in a single lightweight system.

Egypt has become the 13th international customer for Lockheed Martin’s Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod, the company announced.

The system provides precision targeting and non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in a single light-weight system.

The Egyptian air force selected Sniper to equip its F-16 aircraft purchased under the Peace Vector program.

“The Egyptian air force is a well-established customer of Lockheed Martin targeting systems, having flown LANTIRN targeting pods since the early 1990s,” said Hugh Woods, international program manager in Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control business.

“We are eager to ensure that EAF pilots have access to advanced targeting and NTISR capabilities by outfitting Peace Vector aircraft with Sniper.”

Sniper ATP provides critical long-range, positive target identification, enhancing an aircrew’s ability to detect and analyze ground targets while dramatically decreasing risks posed by enemy air defenses.

The system’s stable, automatic tracking and laser designation of targets, along with a video datalink with metadata, ensure pilots can visually identify threats in day/night conditions and share imagery with ground troops.

With this order, the EAF joins the U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard and 12 international allies in fielding Sniper ATP’s.

Egyptian Air Force is already using LANTIRN targeting pods with its F-16 fighter jets.  Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP) offers ability of long range detection, automatic tracking and laser designation of targets through its a multi-spectral sensor high-resolution, mid-wave third-generation FLIR, CCD-TV, laser spot tracker and a laser marker.
Here is a video promo by Lockheed Martin about the Pods
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Power for Europe from Africa

Sketch of possible infrastructure for a sustainable supply of power to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (EU-MENA) (Euro-Supergrid with a EU-MENA-Connection proposed by TREC)

The DESERTEC concept aims at promoting the generation of electricity in Northern Africa, the Middle East and Europe using Solar power plants, wind parks and the transmission of this electricity to the consumption centres, promoted by the non-profit DESERTEC Foundation. The concept has been talked about here.

Under the DESERTEC proposal, concentrating solar power systems, photovoltaic systems and wind parks would be spread over the desert regions in Northern Africa like the Sahara desert. Produced electricity would be transmitted to European and African countries by a super grid of high-voltage direct current cables. It would provide a considerable part of the

Extent of Sahara Desert ecoregion

electricity demand of the MENA countries and furthermore provide continental Europe with 15% of its electricity needs. By 2050, investments into solar plants and transmission lines would be total €400 billion. The exact plan, including technical and financial requirements, will be designed by 2012.

From vision to reality – by 2050 Europe is scheduled to get around 15 percent of its power supply from the Sahara and other desert regions. Aglaia Wieland is head strategist at the Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii), and Paul von Son chief executive.  They are two of the key minds behind the implementation of the Desertec international energy project.The energy will be supplied by gigantic solar power generators and wind farms. Wieland and von Son are due to have a business plan completed by the end of this year.

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Guinness to expand presence and investments in Africa

Guinness is Diageo’s best selling beer in Africa. That hasn’t gone unnoticed. Guinness is planning on expanding its operations throughout Africa.

Sales at alcohol giant Diageo have doubled to £1.3 billion in the past five years, prompting the company to invest a further £230 million in expanding its capacity in Nigeria in 2011. The company has already spent £400m in its African business in recent years to lure the fast-growing consumer market with high class brands such as Johnnie Walker and Bell’s. Beer however remains the flagship product for Diageo and is the biggest seller across the 40 African nations in which the firm operates, making up 75 per cent of sales, in contrast to elsewhere in the world where spirits sell most. Irish tipple Guinness, which was first shipped to African shores in 1827, is the most popular of Diageo’s beverages in Africa. The Guinness brewery opened in Nigeria in 1936 was the company’s first outside of the UK and Ireland. Nick Blazquez, President of Diageo Africa, also identified whisky as a key area for growth, with the company currently shifting around 2.5 million cases of whisky a year. “South Africa is very significant for us, but actually growth in West Africa – Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana – is even faster,” said Blazquez. “More consumers have got disposable income and we see this rapidly evolving middle class. I expect Scotch sales to accelerate in Africa.” Diaego’s African operations are the most automated in the group worldwide and Blazquez said using technology to market products was also a big factor in its success, with sales in the continent accounting for 13 percent of the group’s global sales. Diageo Africa employs 6,000 people, about a quarter of the group’s total workforce around the world. Blazquez said that as one of the fastest emerging markets in the world, Africa often presents difficulties but added that the group overcomes them. “In any emerging market there are challenges. Africa has additional challenges around infrastructure – water, power, road transport. But there are ways round it. It costs you more – it costs more to brew a pint of Guinness in Nigeria than it does in Ireland. But it doesn’t stifle us.”

The African beer market is poised for growth.  Consolidation and modernization of the supply change needs to take place.  With a vide variety of beers country to country, choice isn’t limited to one particular brand. This works in the consumers favor.  What doesn’t is the standardized beer bottle sizes, which consumers, in this case, drinkers must pay a deposit on the bottle on top of the beer price when buying beer. None the less, the beer market is growing alongside the expanding consumer base.

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Yahoo! planning to launch in South Africa

U.S. internet portal site Yahoo, getting ready to enter South African internet market.

Yahoo!, one of the largest Internet companies globally, is planning to launch a search and news portal in South Africa.

The company announced on Twitter that “Yahoo! South Africa brings you in-depth coverage of news from South Africa and around the world including finance, sport, entertainment and breaking news”.

On 27 October the company tweeted “1 month till launch. Stay tuned! #Yahoo!SouthAfrica.”

Technology blog Techcentral reported that a Yahoo! spokesperson confirmed that they will be launching a service in South Africa soon, ‘but declined to provide any further information’.

Google currently has a dominant position in the South African search market, and through their local presence has established a strong foothold in the local online advertising arena.

From the information available, and unlike Google, it looks as if Yahoo will not rely mainly on search for traffic, but rather on news. It will therefore take on news portals like News24,Howzit.MSN and IOL.

The URL currently redirects to the Yahoo! UK website, and it is assumed that this will become the home of the local Yahoo! website in future.

Yahoo!’s competitors, Microsoft and Google have established a presence in Africa.  Yahoo is trying to catch up to to them by entering the South African internet market.  The more competition, the greater choices people will have.  When it comes to online businesses, web portals, there is only room to grow since the market is starting from a relatively low point compared to other regions around the world like IN Europe and the U.S.. Yahoo!’s addition will greatly enhance the internet landscape and create more opportunities for local growth and development.

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Nigeria to have strong economic growth

Nigeria’s economic outlook for the year looks positive.  Solid growth is forecast for the year.

Nigeria’s economy is expected to grow around 7 per cent this year and next thanks to solid performance in industries outside of its bedrock oil sector, a Reuters poll showed last Thursday. The forecasts, based on a poll of 11 analysts, paint a strikingly positive outlook for Africa’s most populous nation of 140 million people, which has started 2012 on a decidedly shaky footing.

President Goodluck Jonathan was forced to row back on the removal of costly fuel subsidies after a wave of strikes and protests, and Islamist group, Boko Haram has dramatically stepped up a three-year insurgency. The group, whose name means “Western education is sinful” in northern Nigeria’s Hausa language, has killed nearly 1,000 people since 2009, including at least 178 this week in a series of gun and bomb attacks in Kano, Nigeria’s second biggest city.

“The political battle to end the petrol price subsidy in January is in many ways a microcosm of the wider political battle within the political elite over the reform process,” Citibank said in a note.

“Its eventual outcome will be a clear indication of the potential speed with which the current government can implement structural reforms in 2012.” GDP growth in Africa’s most populous nation dipped to 7.4 per cent in the third quarter of 2011, a year earlier, from 7.7 per cent in the second quarter. The government’s forecast for 7.0 per cent in 2011 is in line with  Reuters consensus. Despite the political instability, analysts said the allure of such a huge consumer market will continue to attract investment.

“We expect to see strong growth in Nigeria, bolstered by robust expansion in the non-oil sectors, particularly retail, telecoms and construction,” said Gregan Anderson of London-based risk consultancy, Business Monitor International.

Nigeria has under performed economically last few years.  It has yet to reach its full potential economically given its size and demographics, all which are good solid foundations for growth. Political instability and region tensions among its states, provinces have held back growth and development..  Until Nigeria gets a handle on this, robust growth year after year will be hard to come by.

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Africa losing billions in tax evasion by corporations

Billions are being lost, not collected in taxes due to corporate tax evasion throughout Africa. A Study by a Swedish agency, Forum Syd suggests that Money taken illegally from the developing world is worth 10 times annual global aid budgets, according to a recent study.Tax evasions by multinational companies in Africa is so vast that tax analysts believe that if the money were paid, most of the continent would be “developed” by now. But, lacking a sophisticated tax code, or the people qualified to enforce tax laws, many African countries continue to lose money that could solve most of its financial problems.

This all goes back to weak governing, the state not having competent officials to handle the work in enforcing the tax laws. Just blaming corporations shouldn’t be enough. Some blame has to be directed toward government officials who in many cases allow this to take place.  We all know that nothing talks louder than money and bribery is common towards government officials.  Another aspect that has to be looked at is modernizing, updating the tax codes that nations have to match one that fits into a globalized world. Money has no borders in this age. What is local is not just national but international. Money has to be looked at in the same way. A more streamlined, less bureaucratic tax code is crucial to be economically competitive. Money will always follow where there is business to be made. In order for this to happen, a business friendly environment has to developed.

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Trade between South Africa and Russia increases

Two way trade between Russia and South Africa has increased over the past few years.

South Africa and Russia could double their trade this year in comparison to last year, indicated Russian Natural Resources and Ecology Minister Yuri Trutnev. He was speaking in Pretoria on Thursday during the second and last day of the tenth meeting of the bilateral Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation (Itec).

In parallel with Itec, there was a meeting of the South Africa-Russia Business Council. “When the Business Council was formed [in 2006], it undertook the responsibility of making trade between our two countries [reach] $1-billion,” said Trutnev. “At the moment it is $300-million. “[By the end of] This year it could come to $600-million to $700-million.”

This year’s meeting of the Business Council was attended, he reported, by about 30 Russian and 70 South African companies. “The work of the Business Council has become very active,” he affirmed. “Our economic projects and the success of these projects creates trust and cooperation between our countries.”

“Congratulations to the joint Business Council for finally coming to the party and accelerating our trade and economic ties,” asserted South Africa International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

The Business Council is now headed, on the South African side, by Robert Gumede(executive chairperson of GijimaAST) and, on the Russian, by Vladimir Kremer (MD of Renova).

Nkoana-Mashabane reported that she and Trutnev had agreed that there should be “frequent interaction through the Business Council in order to enhance knowledge of commercial opportunities and potential business opportunities; to prioritise capacity building and skills transfers, particularly in strategic and high technology areas. [And] To facilitate good cooperation between the South African and Russian Business Council chapters.”

The Business Council ranks as one of Itec’s ten technical joint subcommittees. The other nine are – justice, trade and investment and banking, minerals resources, energy, aviation and maritime transport, education, agriculture and forestry, water affairs, and science and technology.

“Itec has done a great job,” said Trutnev. “Itec remains a critical instrument for deepening the relations between our two countries,” avered Nkoana-Mashabane. “We had a very successful tenth session of Itec. Our silver jubilee meeting.”

Both ministers also highlighted the further opportunities for deepening cooperation between the two countries through the forum of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group.

Expect trade volume to increase both ways in the coming years. This is further enhanced with South Africa’s ambition to be included as one of the BRIC (Brasil, Russia, India, China) nations. Russia has made it clearly that it values doing business in Africa for economic and political reasons.

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