Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Ghana's Central Bank raises benchmark interest rate

Ghana's Central Bank has unexpectedly raised its benchmark interest rate by one percentage point to stabilise the weakening cedi as inflation reached a three-year high.
Bank of Ghana Governor Kofi Wampah told reporters in Accra last week that the policy rate had been lifted to 16%. Most economists had predicted that the rate would remain unchanged at 15%.
Risks to Ghana's inflation rate, which grew from 10.4% in March to 10.6% in April, include an increase in fuel costs, fiscal spending and exchange rate fluctuations, Wampah said. The trade deficit has increased as export revenue fell, due for the most part to declining commodity prices, he said.
“The combination of these factors has resulted in heightened exchange rate pressures,” Wampah said. “The inflation profile is therefore currently dislodged from trends over the recent past.”
The central bank increased its key rate by 2.5% in 2012 and boosted Treasury-bill sales to help stabilise the cedi, which fell 14% against the dollar last year.
The cedi has continued to perform badly in 2013, depreciating 4.7% against the dollar as companies increased their demand for foreign exchange to pay import bills and send profits home. The local currency came under even more pressure after the government announced a budget deficit of 12.1% of GDP last year, nearly twice the 6.7% target.
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Libya: Getting around the Political Exclusion Law

Those political figures and blocs who stand to lose the most from the political exclusion law have spent their time since its passing desperately seeking ways to water down the legislation. It emerged this week that some GNC members are currently pushing to modify the law in order that some political figures could be made exempt.
According to Congress member from Benghazi, Ahmed Langhi, there is an informal discussion within the GNC about the possibility of making exceptions for those who might have worked for the former regime at one time but who went on to oppose or boycott it. However, as NFA member, Ibrahim Al-Ghiriani, explained, this is an internal discussion between some Congress members and the proposal has not yet been put to the GNC in a serious way. Yet those who are pushing for these exemptions are clearly hoping to bring the matter to the table.
Other Congress members have been more dismissive of the discussions. Justice and Construction Party (JCP) member Mohamed Zarouq asserted this week, “Some forces are seeking to appeal against or modify the law. But talking about modifying it is the mere wish of some members and is not formal yet.” Thus it is clear that such suggestions will come up against resistance from key blocs within the Congress, especially the Islamists.
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focusand Libya Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Mauritania: Presidential majority agrees to aspects of Boulkheir initiative

A delegation of the Coalition of the Presidential Majority (CPM) met Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, President of the National Assembly and the People's Progressive Party Alliance (PPA), at his home on the evening of 9 May to give him their response in writing to his initiative to end the country's political crisis.
The delegation was led by Sheikh Ould Ethmane Ould Abou El Maaly, who holds the rotating presidency of the CPM. He was accompanied by:

Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Mohamed Lemine, President of the ruling UPR party;
Naha Mint Hamdi Ould Mouknass, President of the UDP;
Mintata Mint Hedeit, secretary general of RDRP;
Isselmou Ould Moustapha, President of the PCD; and
Lalla Mint Chriv, President of the (burst of) Youth Party.
The CPM's response was said to be broadly favourable and well disposed towards the initiative. A source close to Messaoud Boulkheir said that it was an “acceptable” answer. The consensus among the media reports is that the CPM is clearly willing to engage in dialogue with other parties on all the issues raised by Boulkheir's initiative, with the exception of forming a government of national unity, as long as they conformed to the country's constitution. Most reports described the CPM's response as being “flexible” and “positive”.

For more news and expert analysis about Mauritania, please see Mauritania Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 20 May 2013

Algeria is modernising its military

The Algerian Air Force has evaluated Airbus Military's A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) and unconfirmed reports indicate that it will probably purchase three aircrafts. According to Aviation Week & Space Technology, an A330 MRTT destined for the UK's Royal Air Force conducted trials at the Algerian Air Force's Boufarik military transport base near Blida in early May.
The demonstration was requested by the Algerian government, which means the likelihood of a sale is high. The A330 MRTT is based on the commercial A330-200 passenger jet and is able to carry up to 111 tonnes of fuel in its wings. It can be used as a pure transport aircraft able to carry up to 300 troops, or a payload of up to 45 tonnes. It can also be converted to accommodate up to 130 stretchers for Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions.
Algeria is modernising its military and seems to be replacing some of its older Russian equipment. It operates several Ilyushin Il-78 Midas aerial refuelling tankers. According to the Secret Difa3 blog, Boeing demonstrated a C-17 to the Algerian Air Force at the Tamanrasset test centre on 22 April. It was reportedly flown from the US Air Force's 446th Airlift Wing at McChord Air Force Base in Washington. Algeria is apparently looking to order 6-8 Globemaster IIIs but this cannot be confirmed.
For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Libya: Western concern

Even if the explosion was an accident, the blast is yet another indication of the chaos and insecurity that is gripping the country. Libya seems to be gradually unravelling, as the extent of the government's lack of power is becoming increasingly apparent. Recent events have shown all the more clearly that the central authorities are almost completely impotent in the face of other localised powers that plainly have their own very different agendas.

The situation is certainly deemed serious enough for the US to prepare itself for the worst. Pentagon spokesman George Little announced this week that it had transferred 500 US marines from Spain to the NATO base at Sigonella in Sicily to be ready for rapid deployment if necessary.

Meanwhile, the US State Department announced this week that it had ordered the departure of a number of non-essential staff from Tripoli. State Department spokesperson, Patrick Ventrell, declared, “In light of the current unsettled conditions around major anti-government demonstrations in Tripoli, the under-secretary for management has approved the ordered departure of non-emergency personnel from Libya."

The British Embassy similarly pulled out a number of its staff on a temporary basis. The British Council also decided to close its office until the situation stabilised.

All this bodes very badly for Libya and its efforts to put the country back on a normal footing.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focusand Libya Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Ghana: Supreme Court calls in KPMG to audit the pink sheets

The Supreme Court has called in KPMG to audit the pink sheets tendered as evidence of the alleged irregularities in the December 2012 presidential elections.
The court, presided over by Justice William Atuguba, took the decision after a disagreement between the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) petitioners and the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) respondents over the number of pink sheets submitted as exhibits in the case (see Comment and Analysis).
The court also decided that two representatives from each of the two parties to the suit should assist in the counting of the pink sheets, while the parties are also required to pay KPMG's bill.
Last week, NDC lead counsel Tsatsu Tsikata insisted on a physical count of pink sheet exhibits sworn in affidavits by the NPP.
Continuing his cross-examination of NPP witness and former vice presidential candidate, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, Tsikata insisted that the petitioners had initially submitted 8,621 pink sheets displaying alleged irregularities, omissions and malpractices, and not the 11,842 stated in the affidavit filed by the petitioners, nor the 11,916 pink sheets declared in the second amended petition.
He also said that an examination of pink sheet exhibits served his clients by the petitioners revealed that 115 of the 8,621 contained no relevant data, and a further 373 pink sheets were duplicated.
Support for the audit came from the respondents in the case: President John Mahama's lead counsel Tony Lithur; lead counsel for the petitioners Philip Addison; and James Quarshie-Idun who is lead counsel for the Electoral Commission.
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

BP and British Embassy pull staff as bombing hits Benghazi

The FCO and BP have both withdrawn staff from their operations in Libya in the last week, in response to uncertainty regarding the North African country's political and security situation. The British Embassy in Tripoli on Friday 10 May 2013 announced that a “small number” of staff who work in the Libyan ministries were being repatriated. Following the Embassy's example, and heeding advice given to them by the FCO, BP also announced that it was withdrawing a “small number” of non-essential staff as a “precautionary measure”.
The announcements come amid growing tensions in Libya. In recent weeks, a number of militias have besieged the foreign and justice ministries in the capital, seeking to ensure the Political Exclusion Law, an act preventing previous members of Qadhafi's government from taking office, is passed. Wanting a clean start to politics in post-revolutionary Libya, the rebels desire political office removed of the contemporaries of the man they fought to oust, however, the Law's opponents argue that these isolation provisions will deprive the country of substantial political and administrative know-how.
There have also been several bombings of police stations, the French Embassy and, most recently, of a hospital in Benghazi, one of a string of attacks in the eastern city. The car bomb struck the Jalaa hospital on 13 May 2013, killing nine and injuring dozens. It is the first such attack against civilian target, such as a hospital, in recent memory.
In January 2011, BP evacuated more than 400 staff from numerous locations inside Libya in response to the uprising that ousted Qadhafi from power. Despite this action, BP's largely offshore operations were mostly unaffected. At the same time, the British Embassy also evacuated its staff for two months.
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focusand Libya Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 13 May 2013

Suriname: Government decides not to take loans from local banks

Following the advice of the Governor Gillmore Hoefdraad of the Central Bank of Suriname (CBvS), the government has decided not to take loans from local banks. The money would be used to pay for contracted works.
Mrs Djaienti Hindori, the president of the Surinamese Association of Bankers, says that even if a loan would be asked, it would be a regular pre-financing method. That is why all banks separately declared their willingness to cooperate whenever the government would have the intention to give out bonds. “But the government still has enough other legally approved possibilities to pre-finance its expenditures,” the banker says. “The total national and international loan ceiling has not yet been reached. Legally there is still a lot of room for the government,” says Mrs. Hindori. She further comments that in each country it can happen that there is a miss-balance between income and expenditures.
“Our country is not an exception. The president of the Association of Bankers however warns the administration and advises to put a good cash management policy in place. Also it should very well be controlled that all projects are being executed within the fixed budget and within a determined period of time. “The executing ministries should also make good arrangements with the Ministry of Finance regarding the timing of the contracts and the subsequent payments. Excessive consumptive expenditures should be limited to a minimum,” says Hindori.
For more news and expert analysis about Suriname, please see Suriname Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Friday, 10 May 2013

Morocco: Al Adl leader publicly criticises the monarchy from abroad

In Algiers, leading a delegation to the conference of Algerian Islamist party Mouvement de la société pour la paix (MSP), Mohamed Abbadi, Abdeslam Yassine's successor at the head of Al Adl wal Ihsane (Justice and Good Works) movement made a strategic move unlikely to win him much popularity with the Moroccan authorities. Interviewed by the conservative Algerian daily Echourouk, he declared that “power in Islam is based on shura (consultation) and not on heredity … We suffer from the monarchy, and, progressively, if God wishes, we will get rid of it and return to what the Qur'an says”. Abbadi has already made remarks with this content and tone to the media. The difference this time is that it was an Algerian newspaper that published them under the title “We suffer from the monarchy … and wish to see it disappear.”

Al Adl refuses to recognise the Moroccan sovereign's right to the title 'Commander of the Believers', and in turn the Moroccan State refuses to recognise Al Adl. Abbadi's line is that only by strict respect of the principles which prevailed in the earliest Islamic community can the lost power of the Muslim nation or Umma be restored. (The restoration of lost Islamic glories is a recurrent theme in Islamist discourse.) Although Abbadi advocates party politics, his movement has shown no readiness to make concessions to the Palace in order to move into political life. In the interview, he declared: “We do not wish to get into a swamp from which we would not be able to get out. Anyone who gets into such a sector, or rather marsh, is obliged to make concessions at the expense of their Islamic principles. We are not prepared to do this” – unlike the ruling Islamo-democrats of the PJD, he might have added. For the record, on Saturday 4 May, Abderrezak Mokri was elected leader of the MSP.

For more news and expert analysis about Morocco, please see Morocco Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Nigeria: Buhari meets with Kano Governor to discuss merger move

Sources reveal that Gen Muhammadu Buhari, leader of opposition party CPC and would-be 2015 presidential candidate, recently met Governor Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso of Kano State. According to the source, this meeting is part of moves for Kwakwanso to move to the opposition parties' new alliance, shortly after it has been registered as a political party with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
It has also been revealed that the merged opposition party is planning to slightly modify its chosen name and acronym – The All Progressives Congress (APC) – because of the controversy that has surrounded the acronym, with the emergence of two political organisations – the African People's Congress (APC) and All Patriotic Citizens (APC) – purportedly claiming first registration rights to the acronym.
According to sources, the plan is to retain the first and last letters in the acronym (A and C) but change the second letter (P) to some other suitable word that reflects the merger.
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Yemen: Protesters fold tents to mark end of the revolution

In a highly symbolic move, the protest camps that have been in Sana'a and some other cities since early 2011 have been dismantled – voluntarily – at least by the Organising Committee of the Youth Revolution. The group sees the restructuring of the armed forces, as completing the revolution's aim of ousting the previous regime. Energies should now be concentrated on building a new and united Yemen. However, it is clear that not all youth organisations supported the move, which has been inspired by elements associated with Islah, which from the beginning were accused by some young people as trying to hijack then revolution. The now active al-Huthi political groups have objected.
The normal wrangling of Yemeni politics continues. One recent example is the dispute between the General People's Congress and Joint Meeting Parties over membership of the Supreme National Authority for Combating Corruption. In any event, few people have much confidence that this organisation will be any more effective than previous bodies.
For more news and expert analysis about Yemen, please see Yemen Focus.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

More than 50 dead in Boko Haram raid

According to a number of sources, 55 people have been killed in Bama, in the north eastern Nigerian state of Borno, in a co-ordinated attack by Boko Haram militants. It is understood that 200 heavily armed members of the Islamist group arrived in the town in the early hours of Tuesday morning and attacked a police station, military barracks and government buildings before freeing 105 inmates. Among the dead are police officers, prison wardens, soldiers, a small number of civilians and 13 members of Boko Haram.

The attack represents the rebels' single most deadly strike since the uprising began in 2009 and possibly the most significant since the Kano bombings in early 2012. It follows a government raid in Baga last month, also in the state of Borno, targeting rebels who had earlier attacked a military patrol. Over 200 people were allegedly killed and thousands of buildings destroyed in what was described by some observers as the government's use of “excessive force”. Similar operations by the authorities in late 2012 were thought to have diminished the threat posed by Boko Haram, who killed an estimated 1,000 people last year.

President Goodluck Jonathan has established a committee to lay out the terms of an amnesty for the group, but so far their leader, Abubakar Shekau, has declined to enter negotiations. Boko Haram wishes to establish an Islamic, Shari'a state in Nigeria, a country roughly divided equally between Christians and Muslims, and has previously carried out several prison breaks to free it members.

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Mauritania: UFP demands “consensus” on elections

A hint of the likelihood of elections being delayed until next year was given in April by Mohamed Ould Mouloud, president of the Union des Forces du Progrès (UFP or Union of the Forces of Progress), in a debate organised by the Maghrebian Studies Centre.

Ould Mouloud warned that if a political consensus was not reached, the elections would take place not merely in abnormal conditions in Mauritania but in the worst political crisis that the country has experienced since 2008. He gave a strong hint of why the elections are likely to be derailed and rolled up into next year when he said that the UFP would not participate in elections "without a political consensus and strong guarantees that the election would be transparent, with people being able to choose freely without political pressure”.

The UFP is a left-leaning party, describing itself as a multi-ethnic, Republican party oriented towards social justice. It has made strong statements against the persecution of dark-skinned Mauritanians, the continuation of slavery and unfair labour practices. The UFP has also strongly condemned the involvement of the Mauritanian army in politics.

For more news and expert analysis about Mauritania, please see Mauritania Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Egypt announces cabinet reshuffle

This morning, Egypt announced a cabinet reshuffle involving 11 ministers, bowing to pressure from the opposition who say that President Mohamed Morsi's government is failing to build political consensus to revive the faltering economy and agree an urgent deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This latest reshuffle, the first since January, comes before Morsi heads to Brazil for a state visit later this week.
Key among the new appointments is Sherif Haddara, Chairman of the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC), Egypt's state-run oil company, who will replace Osama Kamal as the Minister of Petroleum. His role will be crucial in the coming months, as the cash-strapped state seeks to provide much needed fuel for its citizens during the summer, as well as proposed subsidy reforms that could further exacerbate tensions. Sherif graduated from Cairo University in 1976 with a BSc in Mechanical Engineering and has overseen Ruhrpumpen Egypt, Germany's joint venture project with Egypt, in his role at the EGPC.
Judge Mohamed Ahmed Soliman, the new Justice Minister, will replace Ahmed Mekki, who resigned in protest last month at attempts by affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to reform the judiciary. Fayad Abdel-Moneim, an expert on Islamic finance and MB member, takes over as Finance Minister, replacing Al-Morsi Al-Sayed Hegazy. Amr Darrag will become Planning Minister, taking over from Ashraf Al-Arabi, who was pivotal in Egypt's talks with the IMF to secure a $4.8m loan.
It is unlikely that the reshuffle will appease the opposition, who have been calling for a neutral government and the replacement of Hesham Qandil as Prime Minister, especially as there are now 10 members of the MB appointed as ministers, as opposed to 8 in the last cabinet. The Ministers of Agriculture, Parliamentary Affairs, Antiquities, Culture and Investment were also replaced today. The Ministers of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Defence remain unchanged.
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Algeria: Sonatrach may take stake in Mozambique gas assets

Sonatrach's CEO Abdelhamid Zerguine was quoted by APS on 30 April as saying that Sonatrach is in talks to farm into Mozambique's offshore gas projects operated by Eni and Anadarko.

Anadarko, which has been in Algeria since the 1980s, is the largest foreign operator there, operating three oil and gas production sites, with production approaching some 350,000 b/d. It has recently been responsible for discovering one of the world's largest gas finds in Mozambique's Offshore Area 1 of the Rovuma basin. The discovery is likely to transform the economic prospects of Mozambique and Southern Africa.

Zerguine was speaking after signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the head of Mozambique's Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonets (ENH), Nelson Ocuane. He said Sonatrach was interested in buying part of a minority stake held by ENH in the offshore gas fields. “We want to have a place, but on the Mozambican side,” he said.

Zerguine did not give details of the size of stake Sonatrach was seeking to acquire, but said a 5% holding would cost it around US$1 billion. The memorandum also opened the way for Sonatrach to acquire exploration blocks in Mozambique.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Friday, 3 May 2013

Nigeria: MTN funds expansion

MTN Nigeria, a major player in Nigeria's telecommunications industry, has received a major boost to its expansion plans following acquisition of a $3 billion ( ? 470 billion) loan facility from a consortium of local and international banks.
The loan will enable MTN to expand, modernise, and improve its network infrastructure. The $3 billion comprises $1.2 billion in an existing restructured local facility and $1.8 billion in additional facilities. The banks involved are Zenith Bank , with ? 55 billion; Guaranty Trust Bank , with ? 40 billion; First Bank , with ? 40 billion; and Access Bank , with ? 35 billion.
Speaking at the signing ceremony held in Lagos on 23 April, MTN CEO Brett Goschen stated that MTN had invested $1.6 billion in 2012 and was looking to invest about $1.5 billion in 2013. The network has been involved in several other similar strategic partnerships with financial institutions, notably a $170 million commercial paper facility secured in 2002 and a $395 million medium-term facility in 2003.
With the introduction of mobile number portability in Nigeria on 22 April and recent complaints from users about the seemingly downward spiral of network quality, subscribers will no doubt be pleased that the company is investing massively in improving its network. Though MTN had undertaken an aggressive PR drive to attract customers wishing to migrate from other networks, some subscribers were sceptical that the network could cope with an influx.
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates