Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Nigeria-Breach Of Duty


Breach of Duty

Nigeria had advance warning that Boko Haram was moving toward the town of Dapchi, yet failed to act to prevent the kidnapping of some 110 schoolgirls, Amnesty International alleged.
“The Nigerian authorities have failed in their duty to protect civilians, just as they did in Chibok four years ago,” Reuter’s quotedOsai Ojigho, Amnesty’s Nigeria director, as saying in a report issued Tuesday.
That earlier abduction, in which the Islamist militants kidnapped 276 students from the town of Chibok in 2014, awakened the world to Nigeria’s conflict with Boko Haram, now nine years old.
The latest failure could be disastrous for President Muhammadu Buhari, who won election in 2015 on a promise to make Nigerians safer than his predecessor had managed.
A military spokesman denied they received advance warning that the militants were in the area of Dapchi. But Amnesty alleged that the Nigerian army and police received at least five phone calls warning that Boko Haram was on the way to Dapchi as early as four hours before the attack.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Steinhoff Africa Retail Turns Back On Parent Company

Steinhoff Africa Retail turns back on parent company

Mar 15 2018 18:46 
Janice Kew and John Bowker, Bloomberg
Johannesburg - Few can honestly claim to have never been embarrassed by their parents.
Yet for Steinhoff Africa Retail there’s more at stake than just an awkward silence when an outdated remark falls flat. The continent’s biggest seller of clothing was left mortified in December, when majority shareholder Steinhoff International Holdings reported accounting wrongdoing that wiped 90% off the parent company’s market value.
STAR, as the South African retailer is known, was initially dragged down by the panic that ensued from the revelations, plunging more than 30% in two days. The reputation risk was compounded by Steinhoff’s announcement that STAR had agreed to gradually repay R16bn of debt to shore up its parent’s liquidity.
However, the stock has since clawed back more than half the deficit as investors acknowledge that its own 2017 financials have been audited and are apparently untainted by the scandal.
Now the Cape Town-based retailer is trying to distance itself further from Steinhoff International.
Chairperson Jayendra Naidoo is considering a name change and over-seeing a hunt for new non-executive directors that have no connection whatsoever with Steinhoff.
He stressed to shareholders in Cape Town on Thursday that STAR is independent and wants a board that represents all investors, even though Naidoo himself was previously on Steinhoff’s payroll.
Before the accounting scandal broke, STAR shared six directors with its parent company and “was very much an offspring”, Naidoo said.
Steinhoff, which owns chains including Mattress Firm in the US and Conforama in France, spun off the STAR operations into a newly listed entity in September.
At the time, CEO Markus Jooste - who has since quit and been referred to an anti-corruption police unit - said the move was to give investors a choice of retail operations in developed or emerging markets. STAR’s stock surged 20% from its listing until its parent’s crisis.
STAR’s first move was to announce the departure of CEO Ben La Grange, who was Steinhoff’s CFO during the years that the alleged wrongdoing took place. He was replaced by Chief Operating Officer Leon Lourens, an alumni of clothing chain Pep, which Steinhoff bought from billionaire Christo Wiese in 2015. Naidoo quit the Steinhoff board in January.
At the Thursday annual general meeting, Lourens joined his chair in highlighting STAR’s independence. Since January, the company’s investor relations team has moved from Steinhoff’s offices in Stellenbosch to Parow, where Pep is headquartered and Wiese still works.
The email address has been changed from @steinhoff to @star-group.
“The events of the past few months have been quite eventful and interesting to say the least,” Lourens said. “One can almost not imagine that so much has happened in such a short space of time for a newly listed company. It’s been quite challenging and dominated by events that have very little, if anything, to do with retail.”
Steinhoff Africa shares rose 0.9% to R22 by the close in Johannesburg, valuing the company at R75.9bn. 
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Thursday, March 15, 2018

South Africa: Breaking A Taboo


Breaking a Taboo

Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has raised hackles in South Africa by proposing special visa policies for “persecuted” white farmers – whom the ruling African National Congress is still trying to replace with their black counterparts, nearly 15 years after the end of Apartheid.
“We have the potential to help some of these people that are being persecuted,” Dutton said, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported
South Africa called Dutton’s comments “sad” and “regrettable,” the Guardian reported.
A government spokesperson also emphasized that the process of land redistribution “is very important to address the imbalances of the past. But it is going to be done legally, and with due consideration of the economic impact and impact on individuals.”
Australian media has recently featured a series of reports claiming numerous and increasing cases involving the murder and rape of white farmers. The Guardian cited a leading South African tracker of crime statistics as saying there’s no evidence to suggest white farmers are more often targeted for violence than any other group, but that assessment is hotly contested locally, too.

Libya: The Curse Of Black Gold


The Curse of Black Gold

Earlier this month, Libya’s massive El Sharara oil field, which supplies about a quarter of national output, halted production for a little over 24 hours. It was a crippling blow to a nation where oil accounts for 95 percent of export earnings.
But it wasn’t militants or armed conflict that affected production; it was an aggrieved farmer protesting pollution run-off from the facility.
“I closed the pipeline that crosses my land. The land is six hectares and it has become wasteland,” landowner Hassan Mohamed al-Hadi told Reuters. “We closed the pipeline last year for the same reason. A number of mediators had intervened to persuade me to reopen it within 20 days for cleaning the land but unfortunately the same thing has returned.”
The case exemplifies the strife that continues to plague the country with the largest proven oil reserves in Africa since the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
At the heart of the conflict: oil.
Libya was once a federal system unified under a single crown, but the discovery of vast oil reserves led it to institute a centralized government in Tripoli in 1963 as a way to ease foreign business relations.
But the riches that poured into the country from the black gold – in 1970 Libya was producing over three million barrels of oil per day – failed to reach outer prefectures, widening geographical and ethnic divides.
Fast forward to 2011 after the fall of Gaddafi: With the new government in shambles and unable to properly oversee the state’s biggest asset, local factions seized some oil facilities and threatened long-term shutdowns to force political acquiescence.
Meanwhile, Islamic State and other armed militants from overflow conflicts in Chad and Sudan began to attack oil fields, adding to the dry spell in production.
And with the nation’s inconclusive elections in 2014 begetting rival governments in different parts of the country – mostly due to qualms about the redistribution of oil wealth, Reuters reported – Libya, once a beefy oil producer, became anemic.
There have been bright spots recently. Libya was allowed to exempt itself from OPEC-led production cuts to boost value, while foreign oil companies have moved in to invest in the nation’s facilities, much needed steps to ramp up production.
For the past few months, production has been churning along at about one million barrels per month, far less than the 1.6 million output before Gaddafi’s ouster, but still respectable given the strife.
Plus, the US and other nations have cracked down on oil smuggling, helping oil money to remain in the government’s pockets.
But with the nation’s south remaining largely ungovernable, foreign interference in Libyan affairs rife, human rights on the decline and dueling governments still at loggerheads, Libya isn’t pulling together anytime soon to save its greatest asset.
“Ironically, almost 50 years after precipitating its transformation into a unitary state, Libya’s vast oil resources are now a threat to its future and its unity,” Guma El-Gamaty, a Libyan academic, wrote in Al Jazeera.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sierra Leone: Once More With Feeling


Once More, With Feeling

A coalition government looks to be likely in Sierra Leone, as well. But first voters will head to the ballot box for a run-off election to see who will be the country’s next president.
The Chief Electoral Commissioner said Tuesday that a run-off vote will be held March 27 between Samura Kamara of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) and Julius Maada Bio of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), the Sierra Leone Telegraph reported.
In the first round, Kamara won 42.7 percent of the vote, and Bio took 43.5 percent. But the country’s electoral rules mandate a run-off if no candidate wins 55 percent of the vote.
The result lays the groundwork for a coalition government that depends on the National Grand Coalition (NGC) and at least one other smaller party – which the paper suggests makes an SLPP-led government likely and also presents encouraging signs for the country’s struggle against corruption and internal strife.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Cape Town Needs R12 Billion Over 5 YEars To Avert Water Crisis


Monday, March 12, 2018

Sierra Leone: After The Plague


After the Plague

A few years ago, Sierra Leone was in the headlines as a terrifying outbreak of the Ebola virus struck the tiny West African country.
Today, as Sierra Leoneans await the results of their March 7 presidential election, it’s worth taking stock of how the country has fared since defeating the virus, which claimed almost 4,000 lives.
Voters choosing between the two candidates from the mainstream parties that have dominated local politics since independence from Britain in 1961 – Samura Kamara of the All People’s Congress party and Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party – were largely disappointed with their choices.
“There are certain things that aren’t going right,” Adama Deen, 38, told Bloomberg while standing in line to vote in the capital of Freetown. “We need change.”
One statistic exemplified why Deen is unsatisfied.
Two years after the end of an epidemic that exposed the fragility of the country’s public health system, Sierra Leone has only 200 doctors serving seven million people, the BBC reported.
The country doesn’t have the funds to train or import more.
A global downturn in commodity prices, particularly of iron ore, has been a major drag on Sierra Leone’s economic growth. In the past two years, the economy grew by around 6 percent, according to the African Development Bank. But it contracted by more than 20 percent in 2015. Before Ebola, it was growing by double digits in the wake of the end of an 11-year civil war in 2002, the East African, a Kenyan newspaper, wrote.
Election results are expected this week.
With 75 percent of the results declared, on Sunday the National Electoral Commission (NEC) said Bio of the main opposition SLPP had taken the lead for the first time with 43.3 percent of the vote. But Kamara, the ruling APC candidate, was still close behind at 42.6 percent, reported Africanews.com.
A total of 16 candidates were running. Normally, either Kamara’s or Bio’s party would win a majority. But this year, things were different.
A third party called the National Grand Coalition is expected to draw significant support, meaning a runoff might be necessary if nobody receives 55 percent of the votes. With 75 percent of the results in, the NGC had won 6.9 percent of the votes, and the Coalition for Change had won 3.4 percent.
Because the two main parties each might need to court the NGC to defeat the other, they may have to bend their platforms to appeal to more people than their narrow bands of supporters, wrote Luisa Enria, a lecturer at the University of Bath, and Jamie Hitchen, a London-based Africa expert, in African Arguments.
It’s heartening to see that even after so much death and despite so many challenges, Sierra Leoneans can evolve and reimagine their future.