Piracy drill off Africa larger than ever

As piracy in the Gulf of Guinea off west Africa soars, professionals from over 20 nations are taking part in Obangame Express, a naval-exercise aimed at improving maritime safety and security in the region.

The issue of piracy and enforcement is one that needs to be tackled due to the fact that it’s a growing problem. This is mainly due to lack of ships and trained personnel which is required since large areas of water need to be patrolled and watched over. The more training done with various nations and navies, only helps in curbing the problem. More cooperation and training is needed, and such exercises will only help.

Big Men: The Story Of Oil In Africa

A new documentary highlighting African oil corruption in the Niger Delta is set to open across the U.S. this week in theaters.  It was filmed by Rachel Boyton in late 2006 as she was trekking through the oil-rich Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria and tells her chronicle of the petroleum-fueled pursuit of wealth and status in Africa. Below is the trailer to the film.

The central narrative of the film is that it takes place in Ghana, some 200 miles to the west. Boynton somehow convinced Dallas oilman James Musselman and his British-born colleague Brian Maxted–the chief executive officer and chief operating officer, respectively, of a privately held exploration company called Kosmos Energy–to let her shadow them with cameras and microphones as they drilled their way through layers of Ghanaian politics and bureaucracy, and the white-hot core of Wall Street, in order to reap the financial rewards of an amazing discovery. Kosmos had raised $825 million in private equity investment from Warburg Pincus and the Blackstone Group and located the country’s first known oil reserves: a multi-billion barrel, deep-sea deposit, 40 miles off the Ghanaian coast in the Atlantic Ocean and dubbed the Jubilee Field.

As to why oil executives would have a documentary film maker follow them around, Musselman explains that “Rachel is very persuasive, She was passionate about the story. I thought it was a good story that just got better, frankly, as time went on. We don’t enjoy great reputations a lot of the time. I thought this was a good story to show how in Ghana, we could transform the lives of a whole lot of people for the better. And I thought her contrast back to Nigeria was really good. I’d seen some of her previous work and I thought she’s gonna do a good job. It wouldn’t be any kind of expose’ or anything bad. I trusted her.”

I look forward to seeing this film myself.

Nigeria next economic giant according to U.S. President Barack Obama

Presidents Goodluck Jonathan and Barack Obama shake hands at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in 2010.

Nigeria is the next economic giant American President Barack Obama recently said.

United States President Barack Obama has declared Nigeria as the world’s next economic success story, stressing that this was one of the major reasons why his government was committed to helping the country build strong democratic institutions and remove constraints to trade and investment through the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

Making this declaration at the ongoing US-Nigeria Trade and Investment Forum, an event organised by the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDOA) in Washington DC, yesterday, Obama who was represented by Ambassador Eunice Reddick, said that his country expanded opportunities for Nigeria to effectively access markets and diversify its economy beyond a narrow reliance on natural resources.

“As we support these efforts, the Diaspora can play an important role in contributing to a strong, vibrant and economically prosperous Nigeria” he noted.

Obama said his country was investing in Nigeria’s success because it recognises her as a strategic center of gravity, whose success would as well be Africa’s success.

The US leader also made it known that his government would encourage Nigeria in the area of private investment in the power sector as well as other sectors to help seal the promise of growth and opportunity for all Nigerians.

He added that the US government would also work to strengthen Nigeria’s agriculture sector, which employs nearly 70 per cent of the country’s population, by encouraging improvements in infrastructure that would facilitate agricultural growth.

America would help to liberalise Nigeria’s trade policies to foster regional trade, reform the customs system to bring it in line with global best practices, and also encourage policy reforms to enable private investment in agriculture.

Speaking on the US-Nigeria Bi-national agreement, Obama said that the joint Commission has grown into a forum for frank, high-level conversations in which both nations have seen substantial reforms and mutually reinforcing initiatives implemented in Nigeria.

His words: “Some key outcomes of the Bi-national Commission so far have been successful integration of civil society into the electoral process prior to the 2011 elections, sustained and elevated dialogue with energy sector officials on energy policy, reforms to increase investment, and agreement to support the development of a civil affairs training centre in the coming year.”

“Energy and Investment, the subject of one of the four working groups of the Binational Commission, is critical to Nigeria-s present and future”.

I agree that the potential is actually there, the only problem Nigeria has to live up to that potential.  That starts by improving the country’s infrastructure from roads, telecommunications, solving the Niger delta problem and simmering down ethnic and tribal differences among the provinces throughout the nation. The formula is there for great economic success with the right leadership.

Nigeria to build new power plants to meet growing energy demand

General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) and Nigeria signed an agreement for the U.S. company to build power plants as Africa’s most populous nation continues to privatize and expand its power generation capacity, Reuters said Monday. Nigeria, which has Africa’s second-largest economy, aims to increase its electricity generating capacity by 10 gigawatts, and GE will potentially invest 10 percent to 15 percent in individual projects.

The memorandum of understanding between Nigeria and the Fairfield, Conn., company is part of an effort to increase the number of Nigeria’s natural gas-fueled power stations, though the company has yet to confirm either the type or number of plants to be built.

Nigeria, which has the world’s seventh-largest natural gas reserves, hasn’t been able to build up capacity for its 162 million citizens. The nation produces one-tenth of the 40,000 megawatts need to provide the populace with power.
Nigeria’s lack of capacity has left much of the useful natural gas trapped underground.

President Goodluck Jonathan unveiled plans 18 months ago to privatize the nation’s electric industry, with state-owned generation and distribution assets sold off; however, strife in Nigeria’s northern sections caused by a violent Islamist insurgency and political disputes put other plans on hold.

The nation’s 7.68 percent growth in gross domestic product was mostly fueled by non-oil sectors, according to Reuters.

Given Nigeria’s population size and growing energy needs this makes sense. Another reason why this makes sense is that Nigeria has, produces, exports lots of gas and oil. Several African nations are looking at using nuclear energy as the best and most practical way to meet their growing energy demands. Nigeria has to look down that road as a way to diversify and not be just reliant on one energy source.

Bookmark and Share

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.

Bookmark and Share

Finland and Nigeria to boost relations

Both Finland and Nigeria have agreed to deepen and expand relations between both nations.

The Federal Government and its Finnish counterpart are determined to explore economic potentials towards trade and investments in both countries.

Though the volume of trade and investment portfolios have, in recent times, been abysmally low, the Finnish ambassador to Nigeria, Anneli Vuorinen, said at the weekend in Abuja that discussions are currently ongoing at the highest level of governments in Nigeria and Finland to ensure that their bilateral trade relations improve by tapping each country’s areas of comparative socio-economic advantages for their mutual benefits.

To create the needed forum for prospective investors to interact and share ideas and evolve strategies on realising the broad objectives of the new bilateral agenda, the Nigeria-Finland Trade Association, through its business networking platform, Nigerian-Finnish Business Group, has unveiled plans to host two business fora this week, to share information about Finland to Nigerian businesses and stakeholders.

This will precede a high powered trade delegation from Nigeria, which would be led by the minister of commerce and industry, along with some investors, businessmen, stakeholders and authorities, to visit Finland for the purposes of exploring opportunities in energy, environmental technology, mining and construction.

Briefing reporters about the proposed fora, scheduled for Abuja and Lagos between June 1 and 3 respectively, Mrs Vuorinen highlighted the potentials for improved Nigeria-Finnish bilateral relations in the years ahead, saying the events were planned as follow-up to recent exchange of visits by the leaders of governments of both countries.

She listed some of the visits as the March 2009 visit by the honorary president of Finland, Mrs Tarja Halonen, which was reciprocated by President Goodluck Jonathan (then as vice president) in May 2009.

Global leadership Ambassador Vuorinen, who identified Nigeria as a big economy with potentials for global leadership if the problems of corruption and insecurity are tackled head on, listed areas where Finnish companies could help in adding value to the Nigerian economy as climate change and the application of Finnish technologies in renewable energy and clean power production and of the sustainable products, processes and other services on offer by Finnish companies.

According to her, three Finnish companies are already helping to improve the power, mining, and clean environment situations of Nigeria.

Specifically, she listed the companies to include the power company – Wartsila- which currently has more than 15 sites in Nigeria and making up to 340 megawatts (MW) of electricity and the Geological Survey Agency of Finland, which “was involved in making the first geochemical mapping in Nigeria (and all of Sub-Saharan Africa).

On the clean environment technologies, the envoy said Nigeria could also benefit from the Cleantech-Industry of Finland, which could be relevant in the drive toward cleaner environment with the application of the Finnish Waste-to-energy technology in cities like Abuja or Lagos.

Finland has one of the world’s most dynamic and most developed economies.  They have well known global brands such as Nokia the consumer electronics company, and Linux the operating system.  Nigeria should definitely expand trade relations with the Fins given that they have world class companies. Finland benefits as it taps into one of Africa’s largest markets, especially in the growing cell and smart phone sector.  Something which Nokia i’m sure has noticed with great interest and delight.

Bookmark and Share

Pfizer to begin work on $30 million dollar state-of-the-art medical facility in Kano, Nigeria.

Pfizer new health centre to benefit Nigerians, says Kano State Governor

Pfizer has begun work on a state of the art facility in Kano, Nigeria.

Multinational drug firm Pfizer has begun work on a state-of-the-art medical facility in Kano, Nigeria. The hospital, which will cost about $30 million, follows a 1996 Trovan drug test out of court settlement between the government of Kano State and Pfizer Incorporated.

Laying the foundation of the new facility, State Governor Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau said the move by the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, will boost the health care delivery in the state and also conveyed the company’s commitment to ensuring the wellbeing of Nigerians.

Shekarau also passingly touched on the tragedy that unfolded when hundreds of people died or took ill in Kano after being administered by the drug in a surreptitious test conducted by Pfizer undertaken to test the drug’s efficacy and effects. The company, which was later sued by the state and the federal government, had then reached an out-of-court settlement with the two parties.

Pfizer initiative
Speaking on the new facility construction, Chris Loder, spokesperson for Pfizer, said: “The construction of a new state of the art medical centre in Kano is proof positive that Pfizer continues to fulfil its commitments to Nigeria and its people. This event allows the company to further its work on what really matters – improving the healthcare for all Nigerians.”

Equipped with a centre for disease control, a public health laboratory, a diagnostic centre, a micro-biological reference laboratory and residence staff quarters, Pfizer’s new effort has come as some relief for many local people, particularly victims of the 1996 test.

This is a good investment both for Pfizer and Nigeria.  Pfizer gets to develop, build it’s brand in Africa’s most populus nation, which economically has yet to reach its apex and Nigeria gets the upside of foreign direct investment with a state of the art facility.

Bookmark and Share

Nigerian Cement Manufacturer Dangote DANGCEM.LG to Invest $100 Million in Cameron

One of Nigeria’s top companies, Dangote DANGCEM.LG plans on making a substantial investment in Cameroon.

Nigerian cement manufacturer Dangote DANGCEM.LG plans to invest $100 million to build a cement factory in Cameroon, local media cited the group as saying on Monday.

“We have reached an agreement with Cameroonian,” Dangote general manager Aliko Dangote told the official daily Cameroon Tribune. “If the cement business succeeds our group will move into other domains of the Cameroonian industry,” he said.

Cameroon has only one cement producing company, CIMENCAM, with annual output of about a million tonnes from two plants.

While the country has reached other deals with South Korean and Chinese firms to build cement factories, the projects have yet to be launched.

More proof that African companies are leaving home and spreading their wings in-across Africa.  For long term economic stability and growth, Africa needs more MA’s (Mergers and Acquisitions).

Bookmark and Share

Nigerian Named World’s Top Banker

Mallam Lamido Aminu Sanusi, Head of Bank of Nigeria

Lately the news coming from or about Nigeria hasn’t been that positive.  This might change things for the time being in the short-term and give something that the country’s populus might rally around.  Nigeria’s top banker, Mallam Lamido Aminu Sanusi has been named as the Central Bank Governor of 2010 for both the African continent and the entire world, by the prestigious Banker Magazine.

Nigeria is frequently cited as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, but its central banker has won two international banking awards.

Mallam Lamido Aminu Sanusi has been named as the Central Bank Governor of 2010 for both the African continent and the entire world, by the prestigious Banker Magazine.

The editor of the magazine, Brian Caplen, says that few candidate names generate an overall consensus on judging panels, and yet, when it came to finding the best global central bank governor of the year, Mr Sanusi was chosen unanimously.

The 49-year-old was appointed head of the Bank of Nigeria in June 2009.

He has been praised for salvaging a crumbling Nigerian financial sector, including implementing reforms that have put Africa’s most promising market back on the map for global investors.

The magazine’s country representative, Kunle Ogedengbe, stresses that Mr Sanusi embarked on a radical anti-corruption campaign aimed at saving 24 banks on the brink of collapse.

He also pressed for the managers involved in the most blatant cases of corruption to be charged, and, in the case of two senior bankers, convicted.

“The reforms initiated by Mr Sanusi have been necessary to sanitise the banking industry,” Mr Ogedengbe says.

“Had these reforms not been initiated, Nigeria would have entered into another round of banking distress.”

Extensive reformsDespite the political challenge of facing up to powerful people who held considerable sway in the country, Mr Sanusi never swerved from his approach, and won the support of the public as they were made aware of the scale of corruption.

Mallam Lamido Aminu SanusiComing from the north, Mr Sanusi bucked the established trend of appointing southerners

“He has carried out the sort of reforms that most of the central bankers in the world would like to have carried out in their territories,” Lagos journalist Anthony Osae-Brown told BBC World Service’s World Business News.

Two months into his governorship, Mr Sanusi embarked on the bailout of Afribank, Intercontinental Bank, Union Bank, Oceanic Bank and Finbank.

He dismissed their chief executives in a move designed to show that banking is no longer business as usual, but institutions that must serve the economy as a whole.

Another key reform of the banking sector enforced by Mr Sanusi has been to limit the tenure of bank bosses to a maximum of 10 years.

The chief executives will have to leave office at the end of their term regardless of their record.

The implementation of a stricter disclosure policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria has also led to a culture of greater transparency in the sector.

Career pathMr Sanusi began his banking career in 1985 by joining the merchant bankers Icon Limited, a subsidiary of Baring Brothers of London and Morgan Guaranty Trust Bank of New York.

After becoming the head of the central bank, some people dubbed his extensive reforms as the “Sanusi tsunami”.

He defended his actions, saying there was no choice but to attack the many powerful and interrelated vested interests who were exploiting the financial system of the country.

At a February 2010 conference on banking in Nigeria, he described his blueprint for reforming the Nigerian financial system as being built around four pillars.

  • enhancing the quality of the banks
  • establishing financial stability in the country
  • enabling a healthy financial sector evolution
  • ensuring that the financial sector contributes to the real economy

Talking later that month, he said that the crash in the capital market had been due to the high level of financial illiteracy on the part of the Nigerian investors.

Parallel interestsIn parallel to his banking career, Mr Sanusi has also contributed to the nationwide debate over Sharia law.

In 1997, he obtained a degree in Sharia and Islamic Studies from the African International University in Khartoum, Sudan.

In an article in September 2000, he noted the problem of reconciling “belief in the universal and eternal applicability of the Sharia with the need to meet the requirements of a particular milieu.”

And at a seminar in Abuja his talk was entitled Basic Needs and Redistributive Justice in Islam – The Panacea to Poverty in Nigeria.

Election loomingNigerian government borrowing has increased around 50% by late 2010, while its spending has been rising in the run-up to the presidential primaries in the middle of January – a contest whose outcome could shape the political and economic landscape for the next few years.

The excess crude account, into which Nigeria saves windfall oil income, has dropped to $300m (£193m) from $20bn at the start of the presidential term in 2007.

The political uncertainty also means major pieces of policy, including some multi-billion dollar investment decisions, are on hold until after the elections.

The biggest decision regards the Petroleum Industry Bill, which will re-write Nigeria’s decades-old relationship with foreign oil firms.

It will redefine the fiscal and legal framework governing investment, including its key offshore fields which are expected to yield most of its future production growth.

Until that bill passes, foreign oil firms will keep multi-billion dollar investments on hold.

Potential investors in the planned privatisation of the domestic power sector, one of the cornerstones of President Jonathan’s policy, are also unlikely to go beyond statements of interest until the elections are over.

But banking reforms continue apace and the five-year tenure of Mr Sanusi means even a change in president is unlikely to derail them.

With this recognition by the international community and people in finance, this can be seen as a turning point in how Nigeria develops a substantive economic development plan that brighten’s the countries prospects of prosperity.  Recently there have discussions to include South Africa in the “BRIC” nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China.  A good strong argument can be made for Nigeria since it has Africa’s largest population of 140 million, on pace to have a Africa’s biggest economy (3x bigger than South Africa as of now) and vast wealth of oil resources, something that South Africa has but not to the degree as Nigeria.  Nigeria’s more liquid markets, makes it the top choice for many eyeing investments in Africa.  Its good that the world is noticing the good work put in my Mr. Sanusi.  The country is on pace to have double digit growth this year, has set up a sovereign wealth fund, is building a free trade zone with China in Lagos, and China is also building an $8 billion oil refinery in the country. All these steps and economic investments in the country are due to competent economic management and they are beginning to pay off for the country.

Bookmark and Share

Nigeria’s Microsat Satellite Passes Pre-Launch Test

Nigeria Microsat Passes Pre-Launch Test.

The replaced Nigerian satellite, NIGCOMSAT-1R, has undergone and passed a major performance test and activities are in top gear for its launch in 2011, an official has said.

Timasaniyu Ahmed-Rufai, the managing director of NIGCOMSAT told a management and media dinner on Thursday in Abuja that the satellite had undergone vibration tests while a simulation of the outer space had been used to test its ability to survive the harshness of the outer space.

The project has now entered an advanced stage of Assembly and Integration Test (AIT) of the platform and payload components indicating that the project is very much on course for the delivery date of last quarter of 2011, the official told his audience.

“However, the minister of finance who also went on the visit to China, requested that the satellite be launched in the early part of the third quarter of 2011,” he said.

Ahmed-Rufai said his group also went to engage the company to provide a backup in the form of NIGCOMSAT 2 and NIGCOMSAT 3 in earnest to forestall the mistake of the past.

“You can be rest assured that once we launch the NICOMSAT-1R, we are going to immediately commence the building of NICOMSAT 2 and 3 in order to provide the necessary back-up,” he added.

“Our aim is a situation where most of the emerging applications become a reality in Nigeria in such a way and manner that it is affordable,” the managing director said.

Rising from the sixth Quarterly Management Review (QMR) meeting in Abuja at the weekend, officials of NIGCOMSAT and China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) disclosed that NigComSat-1R will be delivered on schedule.

He hinted that about four other countries were to launch their satellites ahead of Nigeria’s NIGCOMSAT-1R.

Ahmed-Rufai said extra precautionary and quality control measures were being taken to ensure that nothing was left to chance in delivering a robust high performance satellite.

“One of the features of NigComSat-1R is the newly introduced Asian beam meant for content trunking and service delivery to Asia, Europe and Africa,” he told his audience.

“The spacecraft will be operated on geo-stationary orbit of 42. 5*E; and will provide 14 Ku-band active channels, 4 C-band active channels, 8 Ka-band and 2 navigational channels,” the official added.

Ahmed-Rufai assured that with the launch of NigComSat-1R, Nigerians will be able to enjoy affordable broadband and multimedia services.

He also pointed out that despite the arrival of fibre on the shores of Nigeria; satellite was still needed to transmit from landing point in Lagos to other parts of the country.

He said NIGCOMSAT was already preparing a Direct-To-Home (DTH) platform in Nigeria and it would be ready before the launch of the satellite, thus paving way for local DTH companies to emerge.

The NICOMSAT’s foreman said the launch of the satellite would, among other things, be able to ensure securities by detecting activities of bombers.

“If you can guarantee the security of a nation, then you also guarantee investment; as you all know, some areas in Nigeria are not investment friendly because of the security issues,” he added.

The managing director also hinted that before the end of 2011, Nigeria was going to have a comprehensive suite of handset manufacturing.

“We have gone to partner with the biggest Chinese handset company to produce our handsets here in Nigeria and sell locally and internationally,” he said.

“Nigeria is de-industrialising and if we do not embrace production, then we would continue to consume,” he added.

Bottom line: Space exploration and scientific research is here to stay in Africa, especially since countries that are joining the space race like Nigeria, South Africa are moving along in their space capabilities.  Competition is good for both countries and the continent since it will usher in new investments in science and technology. Whether it is South Africa launching its own space agency or space cooperation between the African Union and European Union, the sky is the limit for growth and development on the continent.

Bookmark and Share