Friday, 30 August 2013

Nigeria: Power reforms need funding

The Nigerian federal government has approached the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) for a $450 million loan to fund on-going power sector reforms. The request was made by Vice-President Namadi Sambo earlier in the month in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, when bank president Ahmed Ali paid him a courtesy visit.

The vice-president, who chairs the power sector reform committee, had been in Saudi Arabia for Umrah, the lesser Hajj during the fasting month of Ramadan.
Sambo informed the IDB president that Nigeria still required about $450 million to augment transmission in an on-going power sector reform that is targeting the generation of 20,000 MW of electricity. He also solicited the support of the bank in financing other projects beneficial to Nigeria, such as the construction of a highway linking Lagos State, the commercial hub of the country, to Abidjan, the capital of Côte d'Ivoire.
Ali noted that his visit was a reinforcement of the cooperation between IDB and Nigeria, stating that his organisation had already approved three of the five projects for which the country recently sought funding. The other two are still being considered.
The approved projects are the $17.9 million construction of four science-specialist secondary schools, a $43.15 million 330-bed capacity specialist hospital, and the $81 million Zaria water project.
All the projects are based in Kaduna, northwest Nigeria. Their location has raised quite a few eyebrows, in view of the fact that Sambo is a former governor of the state.
Some of the projects, such as four secondary schools, are also considered rather pricy in the opinion of a local quantity surveyor. The $81 million project to improve the water supply across the Zaria metropolis also raises a red flag: the project has been underway for several years but remains incomplete in spite of the funds that have gone into it. Some have called for an investigation.
Multiple sources claim that a company owned by the vice-president is involved with the project and has been working on several components of it, dating back to the 1990s.
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Libya: Political Exclusion Law Committee finally gets going

The 77-member Committee of Applying the Standards of Taking Up Public Posts, the body tasked with implementing the political exclusion law, has begun its work in earnest. This week, the committee, comprising mainly those who were part of the old Integrity Committee, summoned 11 members of the Congress to inform them that the Political Exclusion Law applies to them.

Four of these 11 have already attended committee sessions and all demanded that they be given one week to prove that the law is not applicable to them. It appears that the committee granted them their request and that they will all have the chance to defend themselves. The remaining seven from this first batch are due to attend hearings with the committee this coming week.
This first group is clearly just the tip of the iceberg and represents the first set of cases that the committee had been able to work its way through. According to the committee, out of 200 Congress members, so far only 98 of them have actually completed and handed in the compulsory forms distributed by the committee that oblige members to provide details of their past. Implementation of the law is clearly going to be a long, drawn-out process.
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Cameroon: Security tightened amid rising insecurity on borders

Cameroon has, amid rising insecurity and tension around its borders, continued to deploy advanced security equipment to key areas. The latest is the dispatch of modern anti-crime vehicles and equipment to the Far-North Region where elements from Nigeria's Boko Haram militant Islamist sect have been infiltrating the country after clashing with the Nigerian army. The equipment was presented to the Far-North Governor Augustin Fonka Awah on 26 August.

The 17 vehicles, including heavy trucks and four-wheel drive cars, were handed to the region's paramilitary gendarmerie commander. Observers believe that following the apparent military successes against Boko Haram, its militants have been crossing over into Cameroon, now seen as their safe haven, just as is the case of those who were chased out of Mali and are believed to have joined Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon or to have moved over to Niger.
Cameroon officials have reported repeated cross-border crime, and have arrested some individuals within its territory earlier this year that were suspected of belonging to Boko Haram. The Far-North gendarmerie commander Francis Tang Tang assured Governor Awah Fonka that, with the new equipment, the fight against crime and cross-border insecurity was guaranteed.
Meanwhile last week, Cameroon witnessed an overspill of violence from its eastern neighbour the Central African Republic (CAR) which forced the government to close its borders. According to the East Region's Governor Dioudonne Samuel Ihava Diboua, three soldiers belonging to the Seleka rebel movement crossed over into Cameroon territory on 19 August and killed a Cameroonian frontier policeman in the border town of Tocktoyo after having got seriously drunk on Cameroonian territory.
He said that the Seleka rebels, like other needy Central Africans, routinely cross over into Cameroon to get supplies. But those who killed the police official were uncontrollable at a time when the CAR's ruling junta is trying to disarm suspected supporters of ousted president Francois Bozize, who is suspected to be rallying forces to retake power. Bozize, who recently left for France, had fled into Cameroon where about 200 of his military supporters have been individually identified.
Cameroon had tightened security along its borders with the Central African Republic but, given the limited number of troops that it has at its disposal to secure the frontiers, as well as corruption and other problems, it might seem difficult for it to truly ensure its own security in a country that is also facing the added security requirements of its own forthcoming elections.
For more news and expert analysis about Cameroon, please see Cameroon Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Ghana: Gold operators under pressure

The on-the-ground impact of falling gold prices will be serious for Africa's gold producers according to South Africa's Gold Fields. Company officials, announcing a major restructuring, are prepared to close mines if doing so would increase profits, including the major mine at Damang in south-western Ghana that is 90% owned (through share ownership of "Abosso Goldfields Limited") by Gold Fields with the remaining stake held by the government. This is even if the Gold Fields mine at Tarkwa would remain financially viable even assuming continued low gold prices of not much more than US$1,300 per ounce. It should be noted that Gold Fields, citing low gold prices and high operating costs, last week announced the slimming down of its board of directors from twelve members to nine.

By contrast, another major international gold operator in Ghana – the US' Newmont - emphasized last week at the Public Accounts Committee's public hearings that it remains "committed to Ghana for the long-term" and that it had kept around 80% of its Ghana gold sales earnings in Ghana during 2012. However, digging beneath this official picture of its Ghana operations, PAC members complained that "up to 100%" of earnings of gold companies could be held offshore under a rumoured in-progress "retention" agreement between Newmont and the government.
Under Ghana's current minerals and mining laws - particularly the 2006 Minerals and Mining Act which provides incentives to mining companies - retention account agreements signed by the relevant mining company, the Finance Ministry, and the Bank of Ghana, can allow greater offshore retention of earnings.
Given Newmont's emphasis on domestic earnings retention, and the spotlight being turned on natural resource companies, including IOCs operating in Ghana, such a scenario seems extremely unlikely, and likely reflecting concerns of domestic observers over what current mining laws could potentially allow. More information should be forthcoming from PAC proceedings, focusing on the Auditor General's 2012 report, in the coming weeks.
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Mauritania: Kinross strike ends

The 10-day strike, which began at Kinross' massive Tasiast gold mine on 8 August, has ended. According to the company, the strike had “minimal” impact on gold production. It has, however, been reported that amid the 10-day shutdown, rating experts at the Bank of Montreal downgraded Kinross and removed the expansion of the Tasiast mine from the company's production forecasts.

About 1,500 workers, representing 98% of the mine's labour force, were reported to have walked off the job on 8 August in demand of better health coverage and respect for Mauritania's labour code. The conflict seems to have begun when managers demanded the mine remain in operation during Eid al-Fitr. The strike, called by Mauritania's main trade union confederation the CGTM, has been resolved under terms that have not been made public.
The International Trade Union Confederation, with which the CGTM is affiliated, is demanding "urgent clarification" on the fate of one worker allegedly found dead under "obscure circumstances" near the mine site during the strike.
For more news and expert analysis about Mauritania, please see Mauritania Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Friday, 23 August 2013

Nigeria: Eurobond funds pumped into gas infrastructure

Minister of Power Chinedu Nebo said on 16 August that N70.2 billion (US$450 million) from Nigeria's Eurobond has been allocated for gas-to-power infrastructure. The Eurobond was launched in early July and it raised US$1 billion. It was four times oversubscribed which reflected investor optimism about Nigeria's economic prospects, and it secured long-term capital for the government's plans to tackle rampant power shortages.

While Nigeria's abundant gas resources mean generation capacity could soar, with a target of 40,00MW by 2020, the weakness of the country's transmission infrastructure remains a serious bottleneck. The country's transmission grid has a current capacity of less than 6,000MW.
The government has secured an additional US$1.47 billion to upgrade the transmission infrastructure from other sources, including the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the China Export-Import Bank. To finance the Transmission Company of Nigeria an additional US$1.6 billion is expected to come from the sale of ten electrical plants under construction as part of the National Independent Power Project (NIPP).
The NIPP project was inaugurated in 2004 under President Olusegun Obasanjo to construct power plants throughout the country and sell them to private operators. This week, the Federal Government pre-qualified 82 consortia as bidders. To meet the standards, the groups were required to have three years' experience in operating a thermal plant of over 300MW as well as having a net worth of US$100-200 million. The list of preferred bidders is due to emerge in January 2014.
There is, however, a serious disconnect between government policy and implementation. To boost the power sector's development the Federal Government waives duties on the import of certain machinery and equipment. But the Independent Power Producers Association of Nigeria complains that administrative sluggishness creates long delays in the approval of the waivers.
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Algeria: Netherlands approves supply of military equipment

Thales Nederland has been given an export licence by the Dutch government which allows it to sell some €21 million of military equipment to Algeria. Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans confirmed the licence in a letter to the Dutch parliament. He did not name the company in the letter, although Thales has confirmed that it is the company in question.

The deal involves radar systems and so-called C3 systems (command, control and communication). This equipment will go to Algeria via China, where the Algerian navy has ordered three small frigates. The systems will be partially built into the frigates by Thales Nederland staff after which sensitive hardware and software will ultimately be installed in Algeria. This is being done to prevent Chinese companies or the Chinese government gaining access to sensitive information.
According to Timmermans, the licence application was checked against the EU position on weapons exports. In was not expected that the systems would infringe on the area of human rights. Timmermans also said that Algeria has a legitimate need to protect itself against terrorist action. He also virtually ruled out the chances of the sensitive relations between Algeria and Morocco escalating militarily.
For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Iran to export gas to Iraq

Iran and Iraq have signed a high-profile agreement according to which Iran will supply 25 mcm/day of natural gas to the Al-Baghdad, Al-Mansouriyah, and Sadr power plants in Iraq.
The deal was signed by Petroleum Minister Rostam Qasemi and his Iraqi counterpart, Abdul Kareem Luaibi, in Baghdad. Iran will earn $3.7 billion a year from the deal.
In related news, the United States has announced that it is concerned about a $14.8 billion gas deal between Iran and Iraq and has asked Baghdad to explain it. The US State Department said that it plans to inform Baghdad about the implications with respect to sanctions.
In response, Mussab al-Mudaris, a spokesperson for the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity, emphasised that the natural gas supplies from Iran would help to ease electricity shortages by feeding two power plants in a Baghdad suburb.
For more news and expert analysis about Iran, please see Iran Strategic Focus.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Caspian: Azeri Light strengthens on Mediterranean disruption

It seems that Azerbaijan is benefiting from the disruption in other oil producers, notably Libya, as well as the uncertainty caused by the situation in Egypt. Throughout August, protests and labour unrest shut down Libya's two key oil terminals, disrupting exports and helping to strengthen the differential on Azeri Light. On 1 August the price of Azeri Light hit Dated Brent plus $3.95/barrel, the highest since May 2012. Later in August BP attempted to sell a 600,000 barrel cargo at Dated Brent plus $4.75/barrel and found no buyers, however.
Azerbaijan's reputation for political stability has been one of its biggest strengths, and with turbulence in other key producers unlikely to end any time soon, the price of Azeri Light is likely to remain high. The government, however, is reportedly taking no chances: according to government sources, it is basing the state budget for 2014 on a price for Azeri Light of under $100/barrel (possibly $90) to serve as a buffer against price volatility. For the past two years the Economy Ministry has based the budget on oil at $100/barrel.
In other trading news, there were four loadings of Azeri Light, each of 600,000 barrels, scheduled at Georgia's port of Supsa in August, with five expected in September. Loadings of Azeri Light at Ceyhan were reportedly down this month, by 5,785 b/d compared to July. And ONGC Videsh sold its first cargo of Azeri-Chirag- Guneshli oil since taking over Hess's stake in the project. It sold a cargo of 600,000 barrels for loading at the end of August to Statoil for Dated Brent plus $2.70–3/barrel.
For more news and expert analysis about the Caspian region, please see Caspian Focus.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Egypt: Militancy in Sinai

For Israel the growing instability and the increased activity by militant jihadists in the Sinai on its border poses a serious security problem. On 19 August, armed gunmen stopped a bus transporting police near Rafah in northern Sinai, ordered them off the bus, and shot 25 dead. It was the worst single incident in the recent Sinai conflict and underlined what the security forces face there.
The presence of jihadi groups in the Sinai peninsula has increased since the upheaval of 2011. They can survive untraced within the vast desert wastes. Some even tried to establish an al-Qa'ida offshoot. Some are from other parts of Egypt and are attracted by the ability to operate beyond the control of the security forces. Others are local, drawn from the tribes of Sinai, who have no loyalty to the central state, and little reason given their treatment at the hands of callous and ignorant government officials.
The election of an Islamist president did not stop the confrontation of jihadis with the state. Until the bus killings, the single bloodiest incident has been the killing of 16 border troops under the Morsi administration. He cracked down, and the Muslim Brotherhood called on the government to "confront this serious challenge to the Egyptian sovereignty" and "protect Sinai from all armed groups". But the army felt that Morsi was not being tough enough.
It is unclear if the latest incident was part of the jihadists continuing confrontation with the state or was provoked by the army's crackdown on the Brotherhood in the Nile Valley.
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Libyans fear armed confrontation

The situation remains tense throughout most of Libya, especially in Tripoli, as uncertainty, fear and widespread rumours of a possible coup and armed confrontation abound. Quite who might attempt a coup and which groups might be involved in armed confrontation is not at all clear, as the country totters on the brink of chaos.
A 20 August report in the London-based Guardian spoke of “growing fears of an Egypt-style standoff between the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and opposition forces, with rebels blockading key oil ports and the capital”.
The Brotherhood's Justice and Construction Party, which only won 10% of the vote and 17 of the 80 party list seats in the July 2012 election, might arguably now see itself as the main political power in the GNC, following last month's on-off decision of the largest coalition party, the National Forces Alliance, which won 48% of the vote and 39 of the seats last year, to boycott GNC sessions, at least temporarily.
But the real question at the moment is who, if anyone, can really claim to be governing the country, or to be the main political or military force in the land. With the government's authority crumbling, one diplomat in Tripoli was quoted this week as saying that “Congress has basically collapsed.”
In the present state of chaos, the word “opposition”, rather like “government”, conjures up all sorts of possibilities, some still vaguely real, others more fanciful, although the beleaguered government of Prime Minister Zidan is still nominally in charge. In fact, some analysts might argue that the mere fact that he is still the country's prime minister suggests that he might be in a slightly stronger position than he was a week or so ago, especially if Tripoli does not fall to “opposition forces” and if he is able to overcome the armed protesters who have been holding the country's oil terminals and production to ransom.
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focusand Libya Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Algeria: No change in top public jobs

The usual round of personnel changes among senior judges, walis (provincial governors), and ambassadors did not take place this summer. There is, of course, a regular rotation within the ranks of senior officialdom, but when these changes happen during a parliamentary recess, they are often politically motivated.
The health of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who signs the decrees, is certainly a factor, but observers also argue that the regime is unwilling to go ahead with any shuffle because it fears that a new administration could escape its control during this highly volatile period.
Additionally, political analysts believe that influential – and older – figures within the regime are blocking a proposed policy of forced retirement from public administration at the age of 60. With a huge demographic youth bulge failing to push its way into the system and many institutions dominated by much older officials, this idea is superficially attractive.
It is nevertheless unlikely that any radical reforms along these lines will be implemented soon. The 65-year-old rime minister, Abdelmalek Sellal , is said to have ordered the drafting of several alternative recommendations to avoid further paralysis at state institutions due to age.
For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Ghana: Supreme Court conducts cross-examination of leading NDC and NPP counsel

Although the previously stated Supreme Court date of electoral judgement (29 August) is still expected to be met, the Court has subsequently cross-examined the leading counsel for both the NDC (Tsatsu Tsikata) and NPP (Philip Addison), as well as President Mahama's counsel (Tony Lithur) and counsel for the beleaguered Electoral Commission (James Quashi-Idun). This round of cross-examination was scheduled by the Court upon receipt of final written submissions from the respective electoral case parties, as described in the last issue of Ghana Politics & Security.
As may be expected, the Court reports indicate that all parties have maintained their final positions presented in their respective final submissions, with no major surprises or indications (as yet) of further delays. Indeed, the major Court event of the week appears to be the contempt judgement noted above for the NPP's general secretary which has no bearing on the major matter at hand.
The Court's conduct will, of course, come under further scrutiny once the result is announced, although the commendation of the Court last week by Ghana's "anti-corruption" organisation the Bureau for Internal Affairs, headed by Mohammed Frimpong, for the respective Justices' "estimable character" adds another voice to those who believe that the Court - despite the extensive length of proceedings in comparison with similar electoral cases elsewhere, including Kenya - has so far demonstrated competence and fairness in its proceedings.
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 19 August 2013

Cameroon: Opposition adopts populist rhetoric

Opposition adopts populist rhetoric but it will take more than this to reduce Bouterse's current popularity.

An example of the opposition's MPs populist criticism was the letter they wrote to President Bouterse about the issue of crime. They want Desi Bouterse to outline his crime prevention programme to parliament. They asked whether - besides more investments in the police and their equipment, infrastructure and training - their policies for sustainable unemployment and poverty should be included. They cite the president's previous promises but the latest crime statistics indicate a downward trend, with Suriname's record significantly better than many other countries in the region.

Also, in response to a dramatic accident in which two school-children drowned during a school trip at a resort near the Suriname River, the opposition's Shaleindra Girjasing MP attacked the government by posing questions like: "Why was it only closed down after the accident and not beforehand? Therefore: who should be held responsible? What measures have been taken to prevent this in the future in view of the holiday that is coming up?"

It was not, however, mentioned by Girjasing that it is this government which is currently in the process of introducing life-guard requirements and nets in the water to avoid drowning. The previous administration, of which Girjasing's VHP party was a member, had no significant contribution to the safety of dozens of Suriname's resorts.

It will require sturdier weapons for the opposition to overthrow Desi's popularity and win the hearts of a changing electorate in two years' time.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Friday, 16 August 2013

Commemoration of Morocco's retaking of Rio de Oro in 1979

On 14 August, Morocco commemorated the 24th anniversary of the full re-establishment of its territorial integrity. It was on 14 August 1979 that Mauritania withdrew its claim to sovereignty over Rio de Oro (Oued Eddahab in Arabic), the southernmost region of the former colony of the Spanish Sahara. The Moroccan State media stressed the importance of the event on national news, showing historic footage of the blue-robed Sahrawi tribal chiefs assembled in the Mechouar (Palace compound) in Rabat, paying their oath of allegiance to Hassan II.
The development of the Saharan provinces and handling pressures from the Polisario movement is a difficult dossier which the Palace continues to follow closely. In his speech from the throne in 2009, Mohamed VI underlined that no compromises with would-be liberation movements were possible: the former Spanish colony would remain firmly Moroccan; to quote, “With full responsibility, We affirm that there is no place for ambiguity and duplicity: a citizen is either Moroccan or he is not ... One is either a patriot or a traitor. There is no middle ground between patriotism and betrayal.”

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Libya: Rumours of coups d'état

With the country in a state of near-anarchy, it is unsurprising that talk of coups d'état is becoming rife. Pretty much everyone, from the Islamists to the powerful Zintan militia, has come in for mention. But one name that appeared earlier this month may prove to be ominous. It is that of the Libya Free Officers Movement which probably takes its name from Colonel Qadhafi's original Free Officers Movement which mounted the 1 September 1969 coup. It, in turn, took its name from the clandestine group of Egyptian junior officers, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, who mounted the successful 1952 revolution.
It was first mentioned in Algeria's El Kabar newspaper. Algeria gave strong backing to Qadhafi during the 2011 revolution and has been the major 'counter-revolutionary' force in North Africa since the Arab Spring. There are rumours circulating that its DRS may have a hand in attempting to destabilise both the Tunisian and Libyan post-2011 governments.
El Kabar, which is invariably associated with 'disinformation', reported that it had received an exclusive statement by the Libya Free Officers Movement claiming that it was seeking to “activate 12 military regions and mobilise 14 military battalions, in addition to the air and defence forces … to shake the throne of falsehood and urge proud souls to reject the humiliation and injustice that have inflicted their country, as the forces of oppression and darkness have trampled on its pride.” For the moment, however, we regard the article as another example of Algerian trouble-making.
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focusand Libya Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Mauritania: Administrative and technical problems

Communications Minister Ould Hormah told the press that the government expected a strong turnout and that the elections would use advanced technology. He was specifically referring to biometric voter registration which, he said, would be deployed to ensure the elections were "transparent and credible".

The extent of the government's administrative and technological preparedness for the elections is not at all clear. While the government has, for some time, been making bland statements about the electoral role and biometric registration being at an advanced stage, there is no sign of hard evidence to back up the claim. Indeed, the COD certainly believes otherwise. It issued a statement on Sunday 4 August saying, “Most of the Mauritanian people haven't received identification cards, while the rest haven't been registered yet and will not be registered anytime soon because the necessary circumstances aren't available.”

There are still two months before the election and, as the recent election in neighbouring Mali has shown, a lot can be done in the last few weeks. But that could be difficult to achieve in Mauritania, largely because it will not have the same level of help from Western countries, notably from France and the UN.

If there are administrative and voter registration problems, then the situation would appear to be even worse among Mauritanian expatriate communities abroad, especially in France where the signs are that the majority are still not registered.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Ghana: IFC plans to issue as much as US$1 billion in Naira bonds

The IFC plans to issue as much as US$1 billion in Naira bonds, and indicates future plans for its further issuance of local currency bonds including one for Ghana In the months following major dollar Eurobond issuances from Ghana (at a higher interest rate cost or coupon) and Nigeria (at a lower coupon), the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) subsidiary is set to issue a series of local currency bonds to assist local infrastructure projects and small and medium sized businesses with little access to funding - having earlier this year (February) issued a relatively small (equivalent to US$75 million) Naira bond at around 10% yield for such purposes.
For example the IFC plans to issue up to the equivalent of US$1 billion of Naira bonds to assist, among other things, Nigeria's power industry which, relative to Ghana for all its energy problems, continues to be in disarray with an significant adverse impact on what should be a Nigerian locomotive for growth in West Africa…
It should be noted that, in a continent of legion investment opportunities, Nigeria accounts for almost one third of the IFC's 2013 investment commitments of around US$5.3 billion. This is a several-fold increase (for Nigeria and for Africa) over the past decade or so and is a trend also reflected in growing intra-African investment and remittances to the continent. While any planned Ghana issuance would be much smaller the IFC is indeed contemplating a Ghana local currency bond among others.
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 12 August 2013

Libya: Licences for foreign exchange issued by CBL

The Central Bank of Libya (CBL) issued licences for foreign exchange bureaux on 21 July for the first time in the country's history. Demand for the licences was high, with over 480 applications nationwide. In Tripoli and Benghazi a public draw for the heavily over-subscribed licences had to be organised. This marks the first time non-bank operators have been allowed to exchange foreign currency which was the preserve of Libya's major banks under the Qadhafi regime. For years the exchange rates on foreign currencies were heavily manipulated by the state, which restricted their availability in the market and awarded more favourable rates to associates of the government, as well as state-owned enterprises. This cultivated a huge black market in Libya, leading to the unregulated circulation of many currencies and, in particular, the US dollar.

Despite the issuance of licences, the CBL is still largely in control of the exchange of foreign currency. Banks still require proof of entry of goods into Libya, in the shape of a pro forma invoice, for large transfers of $100,000 and above to be transferred from one account to another. Once the goods arrive, they are only released by customs when proof of the transfer of this approved sum is provided by the individual.

Any large transfers that were not for the purchase of imported goods would usually have been conducted on the black market – formalised and reliable as it is after decades of existence. Although this measure will go some way to curbing transactions in this market, time will tell if the remaining restrictions on transfer limits by the CBL may not also have to be lifted and further autonomy given to the newly established forex bureaux.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Friday, 9 August 2013

RND blocking Ahmed Ouyahia's return

Further to our report (Algeria Politics & Security - 26.07.13) of former prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia's recent meeting with DRS boss General Mohamed Mediène to discuss his possible candidacy for the presidency, members of his National Democratic Rally (RND) party have set up a National Salvation Front to bar his return to the political limelight.
According to reports in the daily Echorouk, hundreds, if not thousands, of militants belonging to the RND from at least 30 wilayas have threatened to block the holding of the party's upcoming congress if the current interim Secretary General, Abdelkader Bensalah, does not take the necessary measures to sideline for good those supporters of former Secretary General Ahmed Ouyahia who have been accused of fomenting chaos and disunity within the party.
Hafi Mohamed Hatem, a member of the so-called RND Salvation Front, or Bureau as he called it, from the Algiers wilaya, was quoted mby Echorouk as saying that Ouyahia's legacy had left the RND party in a pitiful shambles across all 48 wilayas of the country. Hatem also indicated that a National Salvation Front was being set up across 30 wilayas to act as a powerful lobbying force to stop the return of Ouyahia's supporters to the upper echelons of the RND and so save the party from what he described as 'dismemberment and implosion”.
Hatem also explained that the other main objective of this National RND Salvation Front was to do everything possible to preclude Ouyahia's political comeback. As we reported two weeks ago, there is pressure from his supporters, which may include the DRS, to stand as a candidate for the upcoming 2014 presidential elections under the RND banner, despite his resignation from the party earlier this year.
(Note: Ouyahia resigned from the RND on 3 January 2013 amid much acrimony and rancour. There was major opposition to him from the party's rank and file for his overbearing behaviour and divide-and rule policy.)
For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Egypt: Polarisation leads to an escalation of casual violence

There have been 80 deaths in the last week in clashes between security forces and protesters and between pro- and anti-Morsi supporters in Cairo, Alexandria, Mansoura and other cities.
Both sides blame the other for causing the violence. The Muslim Brotherhood protesters say their movement is peaceful. It appears to be but there are well-documented exceptions. In the current febrile atmosphere these get widely circulated and feed into the rhetoric of the Brotherhood's enemies.
The army also rejected that it was responsible for the deaths in July, despite eyewitness accounts to the contrary.
Polarisation could affect the army. There is some concern within it that some soldiers might reject orders to fire against protesters. The Brotherhood has been calling on soldiers to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with it. Many ordinary Egyptian soldiers work an eight-hour day and return home in the evening and are thus not immune to all manner of political influences.
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Libya: Ahmed Ibrahim sentenced to death

This week, the former Qadhafi loyalist and regime stalwart, Ahmed Ibrahim, was sentenced to death by a Misrata court. Ibrahim, who held a variety of posts under the former regime, including Education Secretary and more recently, Head of the World Centre for Research and Studies of the Green Book, was a close confidant of the former Leader and had a fearsome reputation as an uncompromising defender of Qadhafi's ideology. He was also a prominent member of the feared Revolutionary Committees Movement.
Ibrahim and five others were found guilty by the Misrata Appeals Court of killing members of a family in Sirte prior to the town's liberation. Ibrahim was also found guilty of undermining national security and plotting to kill civilians.
Ibrahim is the first senior Qadhafi-era official to have been handed the death sentence. Although the sentence will have to be upheld by the Supreme Court before it can be carried out, the passing of execution sets a worrying precedent for others awaiting trial. The move was strongly criticised by Amnesty International, which warned that “hundreds of former soldiers and supporters of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi are at increased risk of the death penalty” in light of the ruling.
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focusand Libya Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Caspian: Oil struck at Zhambyl

Kazakhstan has struck new oil deposits in the Caspian Sea. Recently-appointed Oil Minister Uzakbai Karabalin said on 5 August that workers have located a significant deposit during exploratory work on the Zhambyl structure, being operated by a joint venture between KazMunaiGaz and a Korean consortium led by national player KNOC.
Assessment of reserves is ongoing, Karablin said, but “now one can talk about the discovery of a new deposit”, which he called a “joyful development”. The joint venture was established in 2008: Statoil had also been interested but withdrew as part of its Caspian retrenchment plans.
The announcement is good news for the Korean consortium as well as for Karabalin, who was appointed last month. Boosting exploration is a priority for the Oil Ministry as well as KMG as part of a plan to dramatically increase the reserves on the national company's balance sheet in the next few years.
Karabalin revealed the news at a meeting with President Nursultan Nazarbaev, where he also said that Kazakhstan produced over 40 million tons of crude in the first half of the year.
For more news and expert analysis about the Caspian region, please see Caspian Focus.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Ghana: Industrial action

University teachers declared a strike on 1 August after a meeting between the leaders of UTAG and the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission to discuss arrears ended inconclusively.

The UTAG embarked on industrial action earlier this year, along with teachers, doctors and pharmacists, demanding, among other things, that a 2010 wage policy be implemented in full, but they suspended action after government promises to resolve the teachers' grievances. The risks for the government are that this action could spread across the country's education system at the secondary and primary tiers as well.

Deputy Information and Media Relations Minister Murtala Muhammed told journalists that he was surprised the lecturers had declared a strike because the government has released GH¢25 million and the lecturers would start receiving their payment from the end of this week.

An online statement issued on 2 August from the office of President John Mahama said, “I wish to take the opportunity to appeal to university teachers who, I am told, have just commenced a strike based on some issues that I believe have been resolved.

“I will appeal to them not to continue with the strike, we have to ensure that the system goes on undisturbed.''

The lecturers are demanding full payment of their market premium arrears and allowances which have been outstanding for a year following Ghana's migration to the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS).

UTAG president, Dr Anthony Simmons, said on Friday 2 August that the strike would continue until the government has dealt with all its concerns.

“If the money hits the accounts, definitely we will take a decision, but until that is done, we still stand by the strike,'' he said.

The Federation of University Senior Staff Association of Ghana (FUSSAG) has also announced its intention to withdraw services over the government's failure to settle their annual base pay.

The Deputy Education Minister said that FUSSAG members should expect to be reimbursed within the next couple of weeks.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Nigeria: JTF claims anti-bunkering success

JTF claims anti-bunkering success, while the US joins a regional meeting on the growing threat off the coast.
A Joint Task Force spokesman, Onyema Nwachukwu, said that the JTF had arrested 608 suspected oil thieves in the first half of 2013. The JTF mission in the Niger Delta, code-named Operation Pulo Shield, has impounded 24 vessels and destroyed 748 illegal refineries over that period.
Nwachukwu said that the JTF patrols had notified oil companies of the breaches in its pipelines in Bayelsa in good time. He claimed that the companies had been slow to react, which led to the shutdown of 190,000 b/d.
The US and Nigeria held the Gulf of Guinea Regional Maritime Awareness Capability conference at Calabar in Cross River State from 29-31 July. Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has surged in the past year, with the International Maritime Bureau reporting in mid-July that the waters off the Nigerian coast have become far more perilous than the Gulf of Aden. Cross River State Governor Liyel Imoke said piracy in the Gulf of Guinea had cost the world economy between US$750 million and US$950 million in 2012.
The conference brought together 13 African countries and was attended by representatives from US African Command (Africom) and the US Navy. A panel of Nigerian and US naval officers proposed joint training and information sharing among the West African countries to better develop a cohesive response to seaborne lawlessness. The delegates agreed a communiqué calling for a common legal scheme for maritime security among the Gulf of Guinea states.
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 5 August 2013

Suriname: Opposition VHP expresses displeasure at government's 'mismanagement'

Opposition VHP expresses its displeasure at government's 'mismanagement' after the last minor cabinet reshuffle.
As was to be expected after the last government reshuffle (see Suriname Politics & Security – 22.07.13) the opposition fiercely criticised government policy. For the Progressive Reform Party (VHP), the largest opposition party, the dismissal of the tenth minister in three years was a reason to respond through its chairman, Chandrikapersad Santokhi.
“Sending ministers home and replacing them with others is not a solution. Corruption must be fought. The security situation needs to be improved. And most of all: the government must render account,” said Santokhi. “Changes cannot be achieved with a switch of ministers but only with good governance. And this is exactly what is lacking with this government. The VHP will offer an alternative to the voter, because in three years the government has not lived up to the many promises they made."
Analysis: It is indeed true that the objectives in the crowded "Things to do" list, presented by the president when he took office, are still far from having been achieved. But what is clear is that the current government is doing considerably more than the previous administration of former president Ronald Venetiaan, in which the VHP held an important position. Santokhi - who was Minister of Justice and Police in the previous cabinet - described crime as a serious matter. But, according to international statistics, Suriname is one of the safest countries in the Caribbean. The criticism can be seen as preparing the party for the elections of 2015. According to current polls, Bouterse's NDP will be the largest party. The VHP, now in opposition with the shrunken NPS former coalition partner, is according to reports expected to leave its alliance and form a government with the NDP in two years' time.
For more news and expert analysis about Suriname, please see Suriname Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Friday, 2 August 2013

The future of the Muslim Brotherhood

Supporters of Mohamed Morsi remain defiant. They insist he be restored to power. They say they will continue their protests until he is. However, the transitional authorities have made clear that it is not an option. The Muslim Brotherhood is being pulled in different directions. There were already splits between those who wanted a more political role, who formed the Freedom and Justice Party, and the old leadership around the Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie. Mr Badie said the army's removal of Morsi was equivalent to destroying one of Islam's holiest sites, the Kaaba in Mecca. "I swear by God that what Sisi did in Egypt is more criminal than if he had carried an axe and demolished the holy Kaaba stone by stone."
There have also been defections over the past to different splinter groups but the security services have targeted these, too. They have detained the leaders of the moderate al-Wasat party, Aboul-Ela Madi and his deputy Essam Sultan, charging them with responsibility for the death of protesters during recent violence.
There is always a risk that some members will split off and pursue their political ends of confrontation with the state through violence - a tactic adopted by the extremist Gamaat al-Islamiyaa in the 1990s with disastrous consequences.
Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy has said that turning to violence would be political suicide, and that the Brotherhood should be part of the country's political future. He warned that deepening political divisions would lead "ultimately to more tragedies". He accused the Brotherhood of inciting violence, posing a threat to the security of the country. "If they decide to withdraw from politics, it will be disappointing. If they decide to pursue violence, then you are looking at a completely different confrontation. Even if I personally reject their positions or ideology, they have to find their place in Egypt's political life. We are looking for reconciliation among all Egyptians; I don't think we are at a situation where we will allow the situation to get out of hand."
That reconciliation appears a long way off with the polarisation of political forces over the past two years. The military and the security establishment have resumed the old talk of the Muslim Brotherhood posing a security threat to the state - justification for the harsh measures, the detentions and the violent crackdowns they have introduced.
Already human rights activists are warning that the army action is not only putting the clock back to before the fall of Mubarak but even earlier to the repressive Nasser period.
The president has given Prime Minister Hazem el-Belbawi the power to grant the military the right to arrest citizens - but the military has shown it is more than capable of doing what it wants, including removing the president without recourse to such legal niceties.
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 1 August 2013

GIPC expecting high volumes of FDI from Singapore

The Ghana Investment Promotion Council (GIPC) is expecting high volumes of FDI from Singapore in the coming months.
Singapore is expected to invest in light manufacturing, ports and logistics and agriculture, as well as in the country's ailing power sector.
“There are a number of business-to-business discussions currently on-going between Ghanaian businesses and their counterparts from Singapore. We expect those discussions to lead to increased investments in the coming days,” Mawuena Trebarh, GIPC's CEO said at a 23 July press briefing announcing a memorandum of understanding between GIPC and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore.
IE Singapore's CEO Teo Eng Cheong told the press briefing, “A lot of Singaporean companies have expressed interest in investing in Ghana and they are looking almost at all sectors, especially the oil and gas, agriculture and infrastructure, among others … Singapore has a lot of interest in Africa and we think that setting up in Ghana and in South Africa is the best way to send that signal,” he said.
Trade between Ghana and Singapore currently stands at around US$1 billion, and FDI inflows amounted to US$250 million in 2012, according to data. “Our desire now is to build on this success by creating the right atmosphere for businesses from Singapore to invest in the country,” Mrs Trebarh said.
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates