Month: July 2012

West African, European and US navies and coast guards plan exercise Saharan Express

Navies and militaries from Europe, the U.S. and West African nations have finalized naval training exercises.

Military and civilian maritime professionals from West Africa, Europe, and the United States have finalized a challenging training agenda for exercise Saharan Express 2012.

Last week’s final planning conference at the Counternarcotics and Maritime Security (COSMAR) interagency operations center culminates previous months of close coordination to plan complex maritime interdiction operation (MIO) scenarios to be executed during the exercise.

“We live in a world that is confronted with many problems like piracy, drug trafficking, terrorism, organized crime,” said Colonel Alberto Ferdandes, chief of staff, Cape Verde armed forces. “It’s necessary for each of us to find a solution to respond to these problems in an efficient manner, we need to have a communal response and it is important that we are all prepared so we can produce a unified action.”

Colonel Fernandes continued to say that he hopes exercise Saharan Express will offer each partner nation the opportunity to work together and establish interoperability in the region.

Finalized last week for the MIO scenarios are visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) drills; search and rescue scenarios; medical casualty drills; radio communication drills; and information management practice techniques. These scenarios are scheduled to be executed off the coasts of Cape Verde, Mauritania, Senegal, and Gambia and will be monitored and controlled by multiple Maritime Operations Centers (MOCs) in the region.

The aim of exercise Saharan Express is to develop participant nations’ capabilities to monitor and enforce their own territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. Should these participants meet in the future to conduct combined peacekeeping or humanitarian operations, or to counter trafficking in drugs, people, or weapons in the Atlantic Ocean, they will be better able to respond and work together.

“The collaboration of West African and European nations coming together to share information is encouraging to see as Saharan Express grows each year,” said US Navy Lieutenant Commander Eric Moyer, lead exercise planner. “We’re looking forward to another great year.”

Exercise Saharan Express, scheduled to enter its second year later this year, is a continuation of West African, European, and U.S. navies and maritime agencies working to build maritime security in order to face common challenges.

This a continuation of military exchanges and training exercises between all sides mentioned in the article.  Military to military contacts are growing more in importance as various African nations become strategically important. The current events in Somalia and Gulf of Aden with regards to terrorism and piracy have shown this to be the case. The number of foreign navies in the region is an indication of the increased attempt to tackle the security issue. Such exercises and exchanges will only increase as events unfold in the region.

In partnership with government of Rwanda, VISA seeks to expand presence

Joining with the government of Rwanda, VISA will try to increase its business interactionthroughout Rwanda.

Visa Inc., seeking to spread cashless commerce in Africa, will unveil Monday a partnership with the government of Rwanda to expand its business in the country.Under the agreement, a partnership with Rwanda’s central bank and a new office in Kigali will allow Visa to process transactions in Rwandan francs. Visa will also expand its network of ATMs and businesses that accept Visa’s cards in Rwanda. In addition, it will train Rwandan officials in financial management, with an eye toward handling payments between the government and its vendors and employees. The government is helping Visa open its office, and invited it to test new services in the country. The agreement aims to get Visa’s cards into the hands of average Rwandans, many of whom don’t have bank accounts. The pact will also help test appetite in the last largely untapped financial services markets in the world: Africa. “We’re doing it in Rwanda in hope of being able to export whatever works to other African countries,” Elizabeth Buse, Visa’s group president for the Asia-Pacific region, Central Europe, the Middle East and Africa said in an interview. Consumer-product companies are stepping up business in Africa, eager to access a budding middle class. Given the continent’s fast growing population, Africa’s middle class could exceed one billion people by 2060, according to the African Development Bank. Visa has partnerships with major hotels and tour operators across sub-Saharan Africa and offices in Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria. Visa says most of its business in emerging markets like Rwanda is in debit and prepaid transactions, rather than credit, forgoing the need for a credit check to access its services. Meanwhile, MasterCard Inc. has offices in the same three regional powerhouses. MasterCard also allows customers of Airtel Kenya to make payments over their mobile phones without a physical credit card or a bank account. And last month MasterCard struck a deal with the Togo-based Ecobank Group to offer its cards and payment services at the bank’s branches in more than 30 sub-Saharan African countries. “We see the growth potential in these markets for many years,” said Michael Miebach, MasterCard’s president for the Middle East and Africa. Rwanda lost nearly a million lives in a genocidal conflict in 1994, but it is now among Africa’s most dynamic economies. The landlocked country of 11 million people is set to grow 7% this year, well ahead of the 5% growth projected for sub-Saharan Africa, according to a forecast from the International Monetary Fund. The Rwandan government has worked at cutting red-tape for business and attracting foreign investors. “We’re looking for every possible partnership with the private sector,” said John Gara, head of the Rwanda Development Board, a government agency set up to ease foreign investors’ entry into the country.

Traveled to Rwanda and from my first hand experience(s), the number of consumers is definitely growing. With such growth of consumers, credit card companies like Visa have clearly noticed this African emerging market.

Africa Is the next big hot spot for Internet growth, according to Google

The African continent is the next big frontier in internet growth according to Google executives.

Less than 20 percent of the people living in Africa are online, yet the region is considered one of the next big hot spots for Internet growth, according to two Google executives who visited U.S. Africa Command on March 29, 2012.

“Google has a huge interest in Africa,” said Tom Wojszynski, a senior enterprise account manager for Google who deals with military issues. “Africa by far has the smallest percentage of Internet users in the world but it’s also the fastest growing.”

Google, with 33,000 employees worldwide, had almost $40 billion in revenue last year. Seventy percent of Internet searches worldwide are on Google. Products such as Google Earth and Google Maps are widely used throughout the Department of Defense, including at U.S. AFRICOM.

Wojszynski and Michelle R. Weslander Quaid, Google’s chief technology officer for the federal government, were at AFRICOM to highlight the company’s work in Africa and to talk about how Google services might be further used by the command.

They met with General Carter F. Ham, AFRICOM’s commander, and held a roundtable discussion with senior officers from the command’s directorates.

Of specific focus at the roundtable was cloud technology, which allows multiple users to store and access the same information on a remote server. That, in turn, allows the information to be accessed from anywhere with multiple types of devices, including laptops, tablets and smart phones.

The challenge of cloud technology for military uses, as several attendees at the round table discussion pointed out, is that much of the information users need to share is housed in classified documents.

Quaid acknowledged that hurdle and said some commands are working to make sure information is more accessible, but that the military culture can be difficult to change.

In Africa, Google has employees in Accra, Ghana, Johannesburg, South Africa, Nairobi, Kenya and Dakar, Senegal. Wojszynski said that more than 50 percent of access to Google products worldwide is via mobile devices such as smart phones. But since smart phones are not widely used in Africa, Google and other companies are developing apps that can be used on more basic devices.

This is not new or surprising. It has been previously talked about on here.  Google has been very proactive in expanding throughout Africa. From Kenya, to South Africa, Google has been focused in increasing access to the internet and software development. By focusing on its Africa programs on getting more Africans online, the company is betting that by developing an accessible, vibrant and self sufficient Internet ecosystem on the continent many more Africans would come online. Key among its strategies to develop the continent’s Internet ecosystem is to increase the amount of local African content online. One such example has been putting Nelson Mandela memorabilia online to wider audience.

To do this effectively, the company has launched initiatives such as the Get African Business Online (GABO) initiative last year as a pilot to a select number of businesses in Nigeria. The initiative targeted small and medium scale enterprises and empowered them to set up an online presence for themselves to promote their goods and services.

In addition, the company is working with Universities across Sub-Saharan Africa to help expand their bandwidth capacity through its University Programs providing much needed Internet access to student populations across the continent. For instance, last year, the company launched its university access initiative at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where Nigeria’s Vice President Namadi Sambo launched the campus’ new wireless network, intra-campus fibre and trans-national fibre connection to MainOne, an under sea cable system in West Africa. Similar access launches have since occurred at other universities in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria among others where in addition to bandwidth capacity, participating universities get free deployments of Google Apps for Education on campus. Africa is ripe for an internet growth expansion.

Netherlands to increase anti-piracy forces

Netherlands had decided to increase the number of anti-piracy forces participating in the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

The Netherlands will boost its military contribution to the NATO force fighting piracy in Somali waters after the country’s Parliament approved funding.

The Dutch Parliament voted last week to spend $16.5 million to provide extra personnel, two Cougar helicopters and an unmanned aerial vehicle to join Operation Ocean Shield, in which NATO warships and aircraft have been patrolling the waters off the Horn of Africa.

Also part of the new deployment will be an additional submarine to join the mission in the second half of 2012, Radio Netherlands reported.

The Netherlands has committed two vessels to Operation Ocean Shield as part of the expansion of forces. They include the helicopter-carrying frigate Evertsen, which is on its way to the region, and the amphibious transport ship Rotterdam, which will carry the two Cougar helicopters as well as the drone, the national broadcaster said.
Meanwhile, the multipurpose frigate Van Amstel, which has been deployed as part of the EU’s Operation Atalanta, will return to the Netherlands this month.

The mission of Operation Ocean Shield is to counter maritime piracy and build policing capacity with governments in the Horn of Africa region. It operates in conjunction with other naval forces including U.S.-led maritime forces, Operation Atalanta and national actors operating against the threat of piracy in the region.

The North Atlantic Council in March extended Operation Ocean Shield’s mandate until the end of 2014.

NATO in May released new statistics on piracy in the region showing a marked decline in the number of hijacking attempts.

Officials said a five pirate hijackings were recorded over the first four months of 2012, which would put the region on a pace for 20 for the year. That’s compared with 24 in 2011 and 45 each in 2010 and 2009.

But significantly, only 15 unsuccessful pirate attacks were seen between January and April — a pace of 60 for the year — while last year 129 such unsuccessful attacks by were recorded on shipping in the Somali Basin, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.

As of May 11, pirates were holding eight ships with an estimated 235 hostages, NATO said.

A Dutch officer this month assumed command of Operation Ocean Shield. Commodore Ben Bekkering of the Dutch navy said the effort has been bearing fruit under the previous commander, Rear Adm. Sinan Azmi Tosun of the Turkish navy.

“On Admiral Tosun’s 6-month watch, the success rate of pirates has seen a sharp decline,” Bekkering said. “Pirates find it increasingly difficult to deploy from the coast and hunt at sea.

“But the many incidents over the last few months, including attacks and hijackings, make it absolutely clear that we can’t let our guard down,” he added. “I see it as my absolute task to ensure the trend continues and engage with all partners in the region to maximize our combined effect.”

The Dutch Parliament at the same time, however, turned down an appeal from ship-owners to allow merchant ships to hire private protection forces.

Defense Minister Hans Hillen said he understood the ship-owners’ position but said the government needed to retain control of armed forces at sea.

“All armed organizations have to fall under the state’s responsibility to ensure accuracy and proportional measures,” he told lawmakers.

The Netherlands, like a handful of European nations, NATO  itself and the U.S., are expanding anti-piracy missions to the Gulf of Aden. While geographically not close to the region, many European nations have growing Somali immigrants-population(s) and what happens in and off the coast off Somali directly and indirectly has an impact on them. The U.S. for example has had a number of its citizens of Somali background go to Somalia to train and wage Jihad. The idea of U.S. citizens going to terrorist training camps in Somalia is certainly troubling, hence it’s increased focus in the region.

Russian Pacific Fleet holds joint exercise in Seychelles

Pacific Fleet ship Admiral Tributs

Russia and Seychelles conclude joint naval exercises.

Russian sailors have conducted a joint anti-piracy exercise with their counterparts in the Seychelles during the visit of the Pacific Fleet ship Admiral Tributs, which is on counter-piracy duties in the Indian Ocean.

“Our troopers have demonstrated their anti-piracy skills to the Coast Guard colleagues,” said Russian Navy Captain First Rank Ildar Akhmerov, commander of the Pacific Fleet (PF) anti-piracy task force.

The exercise was organised by the Seychelles Coast Guard and Russian marines last week.

It involved the Seychelles Coast Guard ‘pirating’ a passenger vessel and kidnapping its crew. Russian marines then ‘captured’ the vessel using their speedboats and boarding rope ladders and neutralised the ‘pirates’, RIA Novosti reports.

High-ranking officials of Seychelles Coast Guard and Russian diplomats observed the exercise.

The Admiral Tribut’s visit was the second such goodwill expedition to the Seychelles since October 2009. The Udaloy class destroyer departed the archipelago on March 5.

The Admiral Tributs, together with the Pechenega tanker and a rescue tugboat, arrived in the Gulf of Aden on January 12 to escort convoys of commercial ships. The seventh task force replaced a previous flotilla that had been stationed in the area since September 28 last year. This included the Admiral Penteleyev destroyer, a supply vessel and rescue tugboat, as well as a unit of marines.

Russian warships have taken part in anti-piracy patrols since October 2008 and successfully escorted a total of 130 commercial vessels from various countries through the pirate-infested waters off the Somali coast.

The international community runs several seaborne anti-piracy missions off North Africa, with the European Naval Forces Operation Atalanta, NATO-led Operation Ocean Shield and Combined Taskforce 151 led by Americans. Atalanta was originally set up to safeguard the United Nation’s World Food Programme aid deliveries to Somalia but has expanded to take on a general anti-piracy role. Other nations like South Korea, China, Japan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and India also have ships off the East African coast.

With the growing issue of piracy in the Gulf of Aden, Russia like other nations is taking an increased interest in the region for security reasons.  This opportunity has allowed the Russian navy to train and gain real world experience operating in a part of the world that it doesn’t usually patrol in.

Toyota opens assembly plant in South Africa

Toyota has opened a taxi manufacturing plant in Durban, South Africa.

Toyota South Africa has opened the R70-million Toyota Ses’fikile minibus taxi assembly line at its manufacturing plant at Prospecton in Durban, creating 300 new jobs, and the government is keen for other manufacturers to follow suit.

The plant has begun semi knockdown (SKD) production of the popular 16-seater Quantum Ses’fikile, which has one seat more than the imported 15-seater variant.

Ninety new jobs were created in the assembly line’s start-up phase, as well as 210 new positions in up- and downstream suppliers and service providers support the line.

The Ses’fikile joins Toyota South Africa’s local production of the Hilux, Fortuner and Corolla model ranges, which are locallty manufactured, and its entire range of Hino trucks, which are locally assembled, strengthening the company’s position as South Africa’s largest vehicle manufacturer and exporter.

Toyota’s made-in-South Africa models are currently exported to 57 countries, and the Ses’fikile and Hino-ranges are exported to neighbouring Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland.

Once the first phase of localisation has been completed, Toyota will have the ability to deliver up to 15 000 Ses’fikile units to the southern African market. Initial production volumes are estimated at 10 000 units.

Good increased manufacturing capacity for South Africa with the addition of the plant.  Further cementing a manufacturing base in South Africa, which is Africa’s leader. Past few years manufacturing  capacity has grown in South Africa. Past few years Mercedes-Benz opened a plant in East London. With such investments, the South African manufacturing sector, especially in cars and trucks is on a fast track for long term success.