Friday, March 27, 2015

Togo seizes tusks of 500 dead elephants hidden in cargo bound for Vietnam

A Vietnamese man identified as Huu Dinh Khao, left, and two Togolese men stand next to a haul of ivory tusks after being seized by security forces at the port of Lome January 28, 2014. The three men were arrested by Togolese security forces who seized 1.6 tonnes of ivory, found in a container and ready to be shipped to Vietnam.

Authorities in Togo have seized nearly 4 tons  of ivory —  the tusks from over 500 dead elephants — hidden in containers destined for Vietnam, officials said on Monday. disguised as cashew nuts and timber, were found late last month, underscoring a flow of ivory to Asia that environmentalists warn is decimating elephant populations and diplomats say also risks fueling conflict in Africa.
Kotchikya Okoumassou, a senior official in Togo's environment ministry, said the tusks were found in two seizures in the port of Lome, one on Jan. 22 and another on Jan. 28.
Some 500 elephants would have been killed in the haul, which has a value of around $8 million on the international market, he added.
Two locals and a man from Vietnam, where the containers were headed to, were arrested but it was not clear where the ivory came from.
"Togo only has 115 elephants so it is clear that the ivory did not come from here," Okoumassou said.
The international trade in ivory has been banned but conservationists say African elephants are being poached at an alarming rate, especially in Central Africa.
The United Nations warned last year that the ivory trade had become an important source of funding for armed groups and was a growing security concern, especially in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad and Gabon.
Elephants are hunted for their tusks, which are mainly used for carvings but are also used in traditional medicines.
The demand mainly comes from Asia, home to growing economies that are increasingly expanding into Africa. 

Nelson Mandela leaves $4.1 million estate to family members, others

Nelson Mandela's widow, Graca Machel (C), and his ex-wife, Winnie Mandela Madikizela (R), arrive for Mandela's funeral ceremony in Qunu, Dec. 2013.
JOHANNESBURG -- Anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela left some 46 million rand ($4.1 million) in assets to family members, former staff, several schools and South Africa's ruling party, his will executors said Monday. 
Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke told reporters that the former South African president's will had not been contested so far and that Mandela's third wife, Graca Machel, may waive her claims to the estate, according to a report by Reuters.
Mandela died in December at the age of 95. 

Into Africa: China’s Wild Rush

For nearly a decade, as China made a historic push for business opportunities and expanded influence in Africa, most of the continent’s leaders were so thrilled at having a deep-pocketed partner willing to make big investments and start huge new projects that they rarely paused to consider whether they were getting a sound deal.
China has peppered the continent with newly built stadiums, airports, hospitals, highways and dams, but as Africans are beginning to fully recognize, these projects have also left many countries saddled with heavy debts and other problems, from environmental conflict to labor strife. As a consequence, China’s relationship with the continent is entering a new and much more skeptical phase.
The doubts aren’t coming from any soured feelings from African leaders themselves, most of whom still welcome (and profit from) China’s embrace. The new skepticism has even less to do with the hectoring of Western governments, the traditional source of Africa’s foreign aid and investment (and interference). In a 2012 speech in Senegal, Hillary Rodham Clinton, then secretary of state, implicitly warned Africa about China. The continent needs “a model of sustainable partnership that adds value, rather than extracts it,” she said, adding that unlike other countries, “America will stand up for democracy and universal human rights even when it might be easier to look the other way and keep the resources flowing.”
Some Africans found Mrs. Clinton’s remarks patronizing. What’s most remarkable, however, is how passé this now seems, given skepticism about China from Africa’s own increasingly vibrant civil society, which is demanding to know what China’s billions of dollars in infrastructure building, mineral extraction and land acquisition mean for the daily lives and political rights of ordinary Africans.
This represents a tricky and unfamiliar challenge for China’s authoritarian system, whose foreign policy has always focused heavily on state-to-state relations. China’s leaders demonstrate little appreciation of the yawning gulfs that separate African people from their rulers, even in newly democratic countries. Beijing is constitutionally uneasy about dealing with independent actors like advocacy groups, labor unions and independent journalists.
After a decade of bland talk about “win-win” partnerships, China seems finally aware that it needs to improve both the style and substance of its push into Africa. Last week, at the start of a four-country African trip, Prime Minister Li Keqiang acknowledged “growing pains” in the relationship, and the need to “assure our African friends in all seriousness that China will never pursue a colonialist path like some countries did, or allow colonialism, which belongs to the past, to reappear in Africa.”
This language came in belated response to a sea change that arguably began with an op-ed essay last year in The Financial Times by Lamido Sanusi, who was recently suspended as Nigeria’s central bank governor. He wrote: “In much of Africa, they have set up huge mining operations. They have also built infrastructure. But, with exceptions, they have done so using equipment and labor imported from home, without transferring skills to local communities. So China takes our primary goods and sells us manufactured ones. This was also the essence of colonialism.”
Mr. Sanusi’s commentary prompted critical assessments of China’s involvement in countries like Botswana and Namibia, over issues like the takeover of local construction industries, or the proper execution of building projects, working conditions, and the proliferation of Chinese newcomers — many of them illegal migrants — who have begun to dominate low-level commerce in a number of countries.
In Ghana, an estimated 50,000 new migrants, most of whom are said to have hailed from a single county in southern China, showed up recently to conduct environmentally devastating gold mining. This set off a popular outcry that forced the Ghanaian government to respond, resulting in arrests of miners, many of whom are being expelled to China.
In Tanzania, labor unions that have historically been close to the ruling party have strongly criticized the government for opening the floodgates to Chinese petty traders.
In Senegal, neighborhood associations blocked a giant property deal that would have handed over a prime section of downtown real estate to a Chinese developer with a scant track record.
Independent media have played an important role in demanding more scrutiny of government deals with Beijing. A recent op-ed article in one of Kenya’s leading newspapers, The Daily Nation, questioned whether a huge new Chinese investment in a railroad that would run from the coast all the way to landlocked Uganda and beyond was truly a good deal. The project’s first phase will increase Kenya’s external debt by a third.
The writer, David Ndii, noted that Kenya could have sought the financing for a project like this through the World Bank, which would have cost as little as a third of the Chinese commercial loan. But that would have required time-consuming processes, from competitive bidding to rigorous environmental and feasibility studies. Kenya’s Constitution insists on “intergenerational equity,” but also requires that “public money be used in a prudent and responsible manner.” Mr. Ndii asked whether the deal with the Chinese was consistent with either provision.
As someone who recently spent a year traveling widely in Africa to research a book about Beijing’s relations with the continent, I find Mr. Sanusi’s assessment too pessimistic. Yet a dose of caution for Africa, and of public scrutiny about the high-level deal-making underway, was clearly long overdue.
The booming, fast-changing China offers potentially extraordinary upsides to Africa. Without question, the continent is badly in need of more and better infrastructure. Competition among foreign investors holds the prospect of better returns for African states. Immigration, which is the central topic of my own reporting, has begun to create serious tensions between China and its new African partners, but even this is insufficiently recognized for its potential dividends. The spread of trading and business diasporas throughout history, including that of China, have a deep and proven track record for wealth creation, and properly managed, this could prove true for Africa as well.
But because China seems to be in such a hurry, and is so often seen to be looking out for itself, the potential downsides for many Africans have begun more and more to stand out: accelerated environmental destruction via mining and other activities; disregard for labor rights; the hollowing out of local industry; and even the stalling of the continent’s democratization.

This isn’t simply a matter of Beijing’s doing business with odious dictators, whether Omar al-Bashir of Sudan or Robert G. Mugabe of Zimbabwe. From Zaire to Equatorial Guinea to Rwanda, the West clearly has its own deep and insufficiently acknowledged history of doing much the same.
Rather, the problem (though not limited to China) is relying on shady arrangements made at the very top of the political system, often in the president’s office itself. Contracts are greased with monetary bribes and other enticements like expense-paid shopping trips to China and scholarships there for elite children. Adding to the opacity, China typically favors its state-owned companies for African projects and bypasses open, competitive bidding procedures.
The best way for the United States and other rich countries that have economic and political interests in Africa to respond is not by warning Africans about the advance of China — but rather, helping to strengthen African civil society and, thereby, governance. Washington should also encourage China and other up-and-coming players in the international economy, from Brazil to Turkey to Vietnam, to abide by higher transparency standards — and to rigorously abide by them, too.
In the end, though, what will minimize any downsides of China’s involvement in Africa is the deepening of African democracy. Grass-roots activism and vibrant independent media are, everywhere, the ultimate check on corrupt legislators and on foreigners who get lucrative but unsound deals by handing over bags of cash.

IIA Announces $1million Grant from African Development Bank

Invest in Africa (IIA) has signed a $1million African Development Bank (AfDB) grant that will enable it support a unique business skills training programme for Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Ghana.
IIA will use the grant provided by the AfDB’s Fund for Private Sector Assistance (FAPA) to implement a Business Linkage Programme designed to upgrade the capabilities of selected SMEs registered on IIA’s recently launched African Partner Pool (APP) online directory.
The Business Linkage Programme is the next phase of the APP: an online directory supporting local businesses to gain visibility and connect with international and domestic clients. The three year training programme will focus on creating long-term and sustainable partnerships by ensuring local businesses are able to deliver to the quality, time and scale required by large companies.
The programme will use specialist trainers and IIA Partners including Ecobank, EY, Ghana Guinness Breweries and AB & David to deliver training followed by management coaching and mentoring tailored to the individual needs of each SME.
“By facilitating market development, this training programme will foster SME development and help build competiveness within the industry,” said AfDB’s Resident Representative Marie-Laure Akin-Alugbade.
Beginning in the second quarter of 2015, a total of 120 successful applicants will be selected from companies already registered on the APP for the programme. Those with fully completed profiles and best able to demonstrate their determination to grow, improve governance structures, and meet international standards will have an increased chance of being selected.
“The programme sets the stage for us to build up the capacity of the selected SMEs to position themselves appropriately to be able to increase competitiveness. This will help drive revenue and provide them with a better chance of accessing finance,” said Invest in Africa’s Ghana Country Manager, Sam Brandful.
Invest in Africa will also host a number of best practice forums to share knowledge and experience of IIA’s partners, graduate SMEs, global experts and investors to continue to raise standards, win business and support other Ghanaian SMEs on how to access new markets and finance.

South Africa's Eskom fires 1,000 workers as crisis deepens

South African utility Eskom [ESCJ.UL] fired 1,000 workers at a power plant on Friday and its chief executive failed to overturn his suspension, worsening the turmoil at the company.
Africa's most advanced economy is suffering its most severe power shortage since 2008 as state-owned Eskom struggles to keep the lights on.
A union threatened a new walkout after the workers were told of their dismissal via text message. They had been accused of vandalism at Eskom's new Medupi plant during a strike this week.
Eskom is also in conflict with its senior management, having suspended CEO Tshediso Matona and three of his fellow executives this month while an inquiry is held into the operations of the troubled utility.
A labor court in Johannesburg dismissed an attempt by Matona to overturn his suspension.
"The application is struck from the roll," Judge Benita Whitchers said, adding that the challenge by Matona would be decided by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration - an independent labor arbitrator.
Standard and Poor's last week cut Eskom's credit status to junk, saying the suspensions had led to a loss of confidence in the company's corporate governance.
Eskom has suffered from years of underfunding and investment in new plants has failed to keep up with demand.
Labor disruption and technical faults have delayed construction of Medupi for years, increasing costs at the coal-fired plant. Medupi is expected to start partial operations by July, generating 800 megawatts of extra electricity for the strained power grid.
In this week's strike, about 21,000 contract workers, not directly employed Eskom but by firms contracted to build the plant, were protesting against poor living conditions and seeking higher pay.
Eskom's spokesman Khulu Phasiwe told Reuters the workers received text messages asking them not to report to work.
That further enraged union officials.
"No worker will return to work when 1,000 workers are fired. This will just make them stay away for longer," said Steve Nhlapo, NUMSA's head of collective bargaining.
"You can't fire workers by text, there are procedures to follow and unions to consult."


Medupi would be the first power station that South Africa has built in 20 years. Eskom has been implementing regular power cuts to cope with power shortages.

Ambassador Heights completes “Show Home”

Image result for ambassador hotel ghanaExecutives from Kingdom Hotel Investments (KHI), MAN Enterprise, and SY Design were in Accra last week to conduct the initial walk-through of the Ambassador Heights “Show Home.” City Home 1 set within the country’s first 5 Star mixed use residential development is now complete and will be unveiled to homeowners by the end of April.

Sales Manager for the project, Mr. Robert Davis commented “KHI in partnership with MAN Enterprise and SY Design have truly delivered a world class product. City Home 1 has been built to specification and is directly reflective of the renderings created prior to commencement of construction. The quality of finish is unparalleled in the market and sets a new standard of luxury for multi-home residential development in Ghana and the region.”

The “Show Home” not only reflects the finishes, fittings, and appliances but also the Ambassador Heights furniture package which each homeownerwill have the opportunity to acquire.

The unveiling of the “Show Home” to select clientele will commence in the months ahead. Images of the “show home” will be released in the near future.

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