Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Minister: "All Mauritanians will be enrolled"

Speaking on 25 July at a hotel in Kaédi (Gorgol wilaya), the centre of civil unrest earlier in the month, the Minister of the Interior and Decentralisation, Mohamed Ould Boilil, said that all eligible Mauritanians would be enrolled on the electoral role. He was in Kaédi to discuss wilaya problems with local officials, including the Wali of Gorgol, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, following the unrest that hit the town earlier in the month.
During the course of his address, the minister took the opportunity to speak about the elections to be held in October under CENI's supervision. He explained how the ONS was conducting the census under the supervision of CENI and that, of the 1,700,000 Mauritanians of voting age, some 1,600,000 ID cards had already been delivered to the enrolment centres. Ould Boilil went on to explain how the state had provided CENI with all the means to carry out credible and fair elections and to prevent the sort of electoral fraud which characterised the country before 2009.
Editorial Note: The fact that the government has passed a law earlier this month enabling the military to vote in their barracks (Mauritania Politics & Security - 16.07.13) is indicative of how the ballot is likely to be manipulated by the government.
For more news and expert analysis about Mauritania, please see Mauritania Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Iraq-India strengthen energy ties

Iraq has moved to strengthen its relations with India by offering the country three contracts to develop blocks in the Middle Furat oilfields. The three blocks are Kifil, West Kifl and Merjan.
The offers were made during the recent visit by Indian oil minister Veerappa Moily to Baghdad. Moily came as head of a 28-member delegation that was in Iraq to participate in the 17th India- Iraq joint commission on economic and technical co-operation, held on 7 July. This commission is aimed at broadening bilateral co-operation across a number of sectors including energy, agriculture, affordable housing, higher education and tourism.
What was unusual about the offers was that they were awarded without any bidding process. This is a rare occurrence in Iraq, outside of the KRG, suggesting that Baghdad is particularly keen to develop its relations with Delhi.
It was reported, too, that Iraq has also agreed to renegotiate the contract that was awarded to Indian company ONGC Videsh (OVL) in 2000 for block 8. The Saddam Hussain regime initially offered OVL a production-sharing contract for the block, but later changed its mind and sought a contract renegotiation. The post-Saddam Hussain government initially agreed to honour the PSC with OVL, but reportedly then had second thoughts, preferring the service contract model instead. Negotiations over the contract have been at a standstill. However, following Moily's visit, Iraq is now willing to start renegotiations with the firm for the block.
In addition, according to a statement issued by the Indian Oil Ministry, Iraq has agreed to consider investing in Indian Oil Corporation's Paradip refinery. According to the refinery project executive director, M Vijaywargiya, the refinery, at Jagatsinghpur in Odisha, is set to be commissioned in September–October this year. The Oil Ministry also stated that Baghdad is open to considering extending 60 days credit for crude sales to India.
For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 18 July 2013

IMF sees Cameroon's economy improve in 2018

Cameroon has, according to the IMF, witnessed a "moderate economic growth under its current economic policies" in 2013. The news was broken in Cameroon on 4 July by Finance Minister Ousmane Alamine Mey, referring to an IMF executive board meeting that was held earlier in the week in the Cote d'Ivoire capital of Abidjan.
The IMF forecasts that Cameroon's real GDP growth will gradually increase to reach 5.5% by 2018, and said this would be bolstered by non-oil revenue, which should be supported by expected key public investment projects and that economic recovery strengthened in 2012 with growth reaching 4.4% when compared with the 4.2% in 2011, which reflects an increase in the value of oil exports.
The board noted that, following the decline in net income, the current account deficit widened from 2.9% of GDP in 2011 to 3.7% in 2012.
"Although Cameroon has had robust growth in the past few years, there has been little growth in per capita income, despite a relatively diversified and well-endowed economy," it said.
While acknowledging that the banking system had stabilised, the IMF says that only two out of the five commercial banks in financial distress appear to be in the process of re-establishing their financial soundness.
In commending the recovery of economic activity in a low inflation environment, the IMF also cautioned the Cameroonian government to redouble its efforts on fiscal, financial and structural reforms that are necessary to meet the country's growth potential.
For more news and expert analysis about Cameroon, please see Cameroon Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Friday, 12 July 2013

European Commission President visits Algeria

The European Commission President José Manuel Barroso arrived in Algeria on Saturday 6 July for a two-day visit. He began by meeting Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal to discuss bilateral ties and issues of mutual interest.
The most significant outcome of his visit was the 7 July signing by Sellal and Barroso of an MoU between Algeria and the EU on energy. It seeks to boost the excellent energy co-operation between the two sides and open promising development prospects. It covers all aspects of co-operation in energy - both conventional and renewable energies - including technology transfer, expertise and management. Barroso said that the EU also wanted to establish closer ties with Algeria in the economic and political fields. “We are very interested in having even closer ties [with Algeria]. My visit aims at strengthening ties in the field of political dialogue and economic co-operation.”
Barroso said before his departure on Monday that economic development and bilateral trade would help ensure stability in the broader Maghreb region. “We believe that enhanced regional co-operation would bring benefits in terms of prosperity and security, both for the countries of the region and the European Union,” he said. With reference to the In Amenas terrorist attack, he said the EU is committed to stability in Algeria. “Algeria is a key partner for the EU, both at the bilateral and regional levels … Natural gas is a strategic issue for both parties: Algeria is a major supplier to Europe, while Europe is by far the largest customer of Algeria.”
For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Egypt: Dangers of excluding Islamists

The exclusion of Islamists from political life spells very real dangers. They remain a significant force. Islamists won nearly three quarters of the seats in parliament. To drive them underground again, as in the old days of the military regimes, risks storing up trouble ahead. Some are already muttering about the possibilities of armed insurrection -something avoided so far.

There have been voices within the Tamarrud movement, which orchestrated the mass demonstrations against President Morsi, seeking to forge alliances with the youth wing of the Muslim Brotherhood which they feel were betrayed by their leaders.

Another institution that has had its wings clipped since the change of authorities is Al-Jazeera, for many years seen as a mouthpiece of the Muslim Brotherhood. Plain-clothes police raided the TV station's main office in Cairo on Sunday and arrested the bureau chief.

Abdel Fattah Fayed was accused of operating an unlicensed channel and broadcasting reports that had a negative impact on national security.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Ivorian authorities are calling for talks with Ghana's political administration

The Ivorian authorities are calling for talks with Ghana's political administration over the possible environmental and social impact on Côte d'Ivoire of the Bui HEP dam project.
In a letter dated 17 June and reported locally, the Ivorian government claims that Ghana?s failure to consult them on plans for the dam is, “in total violation of the international regulations in force, as regards cross-border projects”. The letter also indicates that the Ivorians received no communications from the Ghana government regarding the dam's construction despite numerous invitations sent for discussions on the project.
Speaking on local radio on 8 July, Deputy Minister for Energy and Petroleum, John Jinapor, said that although government had not received any correspondence from the Ivorians, he was sure that it would be open to discussions concerning the dam's potential impact. The Bui Hydro-electric Dam is located 50km from the Ghana-Côte d'Ivoire border, on the Black Volta River at Bui Village. It is expected to provide some 400 MW of power to Ghana when it is fully operational.
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Sahara: IEA on North Africa

The International Energy Agency (IEA) medium-term outlook report, published on 28 May, anticipates that oil production from OPEC members Algeria, Angola, Libya, and Nigeria will stagnate over the next five years at 7.12 million b/d, posting more or less zero growth from 2012 to 2018. Last year, the agency anticipated supply growth of 685,000 b/d from 2011 to 2017.
Antoine Halff , head of markets at the IEA in Paris, said that at first the Arab Spring of 2011 looked like a blip as production recovered quickly from the war in Libya. 'But it turns out it is a big event,' he said. 'We are beginning to see security issues in northern and western Africa and this will have implications for OPEC supply.' Although oil production recovered from the Arab Spring faster than expected, the delayed impact of the revolutions that swept across North Africa is now hurting supply growth forecasts for Libya, Algeria, and Nigeria.
The IEA is particularly bearish about Algeria, forecasting a drop in oil production capacity from last year's 1.2 million b/d to 0.8 million b/d by 2018. The other African members of OPEC will see their production capacity stagnate instead of posting significant growth, as the IEA forecast only a year ago. This gloomy outlook comes on the back of escalating security risks, uncompetitive fiscal terms, challenging local content requirements, and contract sanctity concerns. The IEA concludes, 'Increased violence by Islamist extremists and militants, against a backdrop of political instability across much of northern and western Africa since the Arab spring, is changing the equation for acceptable risks for international oil companies.'
For more news and expert analysis about the Sahara region, please see Sahara Focus.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Ghana: Government is not doing enough to eliminate human trafficking

A 2013 US State Department report says that the government is not doing enough to eliminate human trafficking. While the government is making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, for example by drafting a new five-year action plan and initiating new prosecutions and convictions, it has not provided enough funding to properly run and maintain government-operated shelters and has not provided any specialized anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officials.
Instead, the anti-human trafficking unit of the Ghana Police Service has decreased efforts to protect victims in 2012. For example it identified 262 victims but only referred 33 on an ad hoc basis to government and NGO-run facilities offering protective care. The report recommends that Ghana increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offences, improve related data collection and ensure the maintenance of government-operated shelters.
Ghanaian boys and girls are subjected to conditions of forced labour in fishing, domestic service, street hawking, begging, artisanal gold mining, and agriculture. The Volta Region has the highest proportion of child prostitution, and possibly child sex tourism, but both are growing in the oil-producing Western regions. During the reporting period, a number of fraudulent recruitment agencies emerged, advertising jobs abroad in the domestic and retail service sectors. This encourages more and more Ghanaian women to migrate to the Middle East, some of whom are forced into prostitution upon their arrival, it said.
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 1 July 2013

Algeria: Orascom reaches agreement on Sorfert dispute

After several years when Algeria's relationships with its actual and potential joint-venture partners in the petrochemicals sector have been strained, a deal between Sonatrach and Egypt's Orascom Construction Industries (OCI) suggests that some progress may still be possible – but the political impediments are still daunting.

On 27 May, the companies, which are jointventure partners in the 2 million tonne/year Sorfert Algérie greenfield nitrogen fertiliser complex, signed an amendment to the shareholders' agreement which OCI said had agreed “mutually beneficial arrangements, which will allow for the earliest possible start of production and commercial activities of the company”.

OCI chief executive Nassef Sawiris described the agreement as a “milestone”. There are good economic and financial reasons to allow the project to go forward and the plant to start producing as it has mostly been financed by Algerian banks and the terms of the loans are not being met.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates