Posts Tagged ‘Africa’


Mugabe Cancels Visit to Ecuador Following Wiesenthal Center Protest

Buenos Aires, September 28, 2010

Zimbabwe’s dictator, Robert Mugabe cancelled a scheduled trip to Ecuador, where he was to receive a Doctorate Honoris Causa in Civil Law from Bishop Walter Crespo Guarderas, self-declared head of “the Anglican Province of Ecuador”. Mugabe’s host has been linked with former Bishop of Harare, Dr. Nolbert Kunonga’s “Anglican Province of Zimbabwe”, and was charged, in 2001, with allegedly supplying arms to the FARC terrorist movement of Colombia.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center had expressed indignation at the planned visit to Quito, due to take place following the UN General Assembly in New York.

In a letter to Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patiño, Dr. Shimon Samuels (Wiesenthal Center Director for International Relations) and Sergio Widder (Director for Latin America) had noted that “Mugabe’s dictatorship has, for over three decades, set a record in human rights violations… his troops’ massacre of over 20,000 Matabele, in 1983-84, has been denounced as genocide and documented by the African Union”, adding, “Mr. Minister, lead the way in declaring this tyrant persona non grata throughout the Americas”.

“Investigate Mugabe’s host, Reverend Walter Crespo, for reported links with Zimbabwe’s oppressive system and publicly condemn this honorary doctorate award initiative”, had urged Samuels.

“Mugabe’s presence in Ecuador would offend human rights victims and whitewash such abuses in Latin America”, had added Widder.

Following its protest, the Center received an official letter from Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry stating that Mugabe had cancelled his “private visit” to that country.

“We construe from this diplomatic response that the tyrant is not welcome in Ecuador and hope that this sets a precedent throughout Latin America”, concluded Samuels and Widder

For further information contact Shimon Samuels at +336 09770158, or Sergio Widder at +54911 4425-1306, join the Center on Facebook, www.facebook.com/simonwiesenthalcenter, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent direct to your Twitter page or mobile device.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400.000 members. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the OAS and the Latin American Parliament


Mugabe Cancels Visit to Ecuador Following Wiesenthal Center Protest | Simon Wiesenthal Center

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Why Africa won’t be the next Bric

August 27, 2010 5:26pm

Prompted by this week’s application from South Africa for Bric “membership”, the man who coined the acronym – Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs – asks in today’s FT whether Africa as a whole could become the next Bric.
On several measures he says the continent has a reasonably strong case, but he notes that its biggest economies would still need to raise their games on many fronts – and he misses some more profound weaknesses in the Africa-as-a-Bric idea.
O’Neill created the Bric acronym in 2001 as a neat way of grouping together four countries that shared the potential for generating rapid growth, attracting foreign investment, and reshaping the global economy.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, managing director at the World Bank, latched onto the idea of Africa joining the group in a speech earlier this year in which she sold it as a “trillion dollar economy”.

It’s high time Africa saw and presented itself as the fifth Bric, an attractive destination for investment, not just aid. This is realistic and within reach. As Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done”.

But before you can decide where to squeeze an “a” into the acronym, old Africa hands will jump in to say that it’s nonsense to compare it to a single country: not only is Africa a continent, it’s arguably the most diverse on the planet in terms of economics, politics, culture and the environment.
What’s more, 20 African countries have populations of less than 5m people. O’Neill is alive to that and focuses his discussion on the biggest African economies.

If you … look at the potential of the 11 largest African economies for the next 40 years (by studying their likely demographics, the resulting changes in their working population and their productivity) their combined GDP by 2050 would reach more than $13,000bn, making them bigger than either Brazil or Russia, although not China or India.

But even those 11 are highly diverse – including two of the biggest, Egypt and Nigeria. And due to Africa’s lamentable roads and railways, as well as its internal border restrictions, many of them function as isolated economic islands.
Afro-optimists would say regional trading blocs are changing that, but the reality is that only about 10 to 12 per cent of African trade takes place with other African countries, according to a study from the UN Economic Commission for Africa and others.
For those reasons, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to suppose that Africa’s biggest economies will follow the same development trajectories over the next few years, let alone the next few decades.
Yet it’s worth remembering that the Bric grouping initially attracted flak for not having any coherence either, but its runaway popularity with western businesses and investors has given the four countries more in common than they had before.
Funnily enough, one thing they share is a growing hunger for mineral resources from Africa (notably Nigeria, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan).
But it’s doubtful whether any country other than South Africa has the right mix of factors to make it an attractive destination for serious western investment, across a broader range of sectors, which could rival that going to the Brics.
Earlier this year Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank’s chief economist for Africa, responded with a dose of scepticism to Okonjo-Iweala’s call:

The distinguishing feature of the Brics is that they are both middle-income and large. So it’s not clear how any individual African country can aspire to being a Bric. Countries such as Malaysia or Chile may be more appropriate models for most African countries.

To achieve their “2050 potential”, O’Neill says African countries need more macroeconomic stability, less external debt, a stronger rule of law, better education, (even) more mobile telephones, and a purge of corruption.
But it’s worth paying more attention to the parallel trends of population growth (seen as a good thing by many investors in India and Brazil) and job creation (a difficult task that most African governments are failing to manage).
Each of the Bric countries have their own pockets of poverty, and in some parts of Africa poverty is actually falling. But too many countries are producing more people than they can employ. And not only does that limit their potential as new consumer markets. It has ugly consequences in terms of crime, conflict and social unrest that can strangle economic growth.
Related reading:
Building Brics, FT
Is Russia the best Bric after all? beyondbrics
Why Africa won’t be the next Bric | beyondbrics | FT.com

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DRC: Independent Audit Of First Quantum Mining Firm To Be Launched

The Democratic Republic of Congo plans to audit the operations of First Quantum Minerals Ltd. in the country to examine “suspected wide-scale misconduct,” Bloomberg reported Aug. 31, citing Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu. A body engaged in financial auditing will carry out the investigation, which will look into allegations that First Quantum illegally exported copper ore without fully declaring it.

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Rogers Says World Needs Higher Interest Rates, Commodities Set to Advance

China and other global economies should increase interest rates to contain a surge in inflation, said investor Jim Rogers, chairman of Rogers Holdings.
“Everyone should be raising interest rates, they are too low worldwide,” Rogers said in a phone interview from Singapore. “If the world economy gets better, that’s good for commodities demand. If the world economy does not get better, stocks are going to lose a lot as governments will print more money.”
China’s central bank hasn’t increased rates since November 2007. In the U.S., the Federal Reserve this month left the overnight interbank lending rate target in a range of zero to 0.25 percent, where it’s been since December 2008, while the European Central Bank has kept its key interest rate at a record low of 1 percent.
Policy makers in Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand have increased the cost of borrowing at least once this year, while India has boosted rates four times in five months.
The global economy is at the risk of prolonging a recession after reports over the past two days showed U.S. home sales plunged by a record and Japan’s export growth slowed for a fifth month in July, he said.
“We never got out of the first recession,” Rogers said. “If the U.S. and Europe continue to slow down, that’s going to affect everyone. The Chinese economy is 1/10 of the U.S. and Europe and India is a quarter of China, they can’t bail us out.”
Rogers, who predicted the start of the global commodities rally in 1999, said he was short emerging markets and stocks and long on commodities.
“Commodities will go above their old high sometime in the next decade even if they only grow 5 to 6 percent annually,” said Rogers, who is a consultant for the Dalian Commodity Exchange.
Rogers said he would resume buying China’s stocks if they were to tumble as they did during the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2008, when they plunged 65 percent. “I haven’t bought since the fall of 2008,” he said. “It it were to happen again, I hope that I’m smart enough to buy again.”
Allen Wan. With assistance from Chua Kong Ho. Editors: Richard Frost, Linus Chua
To contact the Bloomberg News staff on this story: Allen Wan in Shanghai at awan3@bloomberg.net

Rogers Says World Needs Higher Interest Rates, Commodities Set to Advance – Bloomberg

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Sub-Saharan Africa economy: Strategic rise
FROM THE ECONOMIST INTELLIGENCE UNIT
July 13th 2010

Rising global competition for commodities is giving a new strategic importance to resource-rich Sub-Saharan Africa. China and other emerging industrialised countries are vying with the subcontinent’s former colonial powers to acquire long-term stakes in mines, oilfields and other commodity assets. With unprecedented volumes of investment on offer, the stakes are high not only for resource companies seeking to expand in Africa but also for the region itself. The challenge for African governments will be to manage their commodities better to avoid a repeat of the boom-and-bust years of the 1970s-90s.

Natural resources are hardly a new story for Sub-Saharan Africa. For decades the region has depended on exports of commoditiesóoil, hard minerals and cash cropsóto fund economic growth, though often with disappointing results. The collapse in commodity prices in the late 1970s and the mismanagement of revenue inflows resulted in weak growth and rising poverty, cementing the belief that Africa’s dependence on commodities retarded its economic development. However, soaring emerging-market demand for commodities in recent years, coupled with the increasing scarcity of hydrocarbons and hard minerals, has changed the picture. Sub-Saharan Africa has become a prime target for adventurous foreign investorsówith Chinese companies playing a particularly prominent roleówith the result that the subcontinent once again has the opportunity to benefit from its natural wealth.

Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most commodity-rich regions of the planet. The subcontinent contains the majority of known reserves of many key minerals, including 90% of the world’s platinum-group metals, 90% of the world’s chromium, two-thirds of the world’s manganese, and 60% of its diamonds. It contains 60% of the world’s phosphates, 50% of the world’s vanadium, and 40-50% of the world’s gold. Sub-Saharan Africa also boasts one-third of the planet’s uranium reserves, one-third of its bauxite, and 10% of all oil reserves (the bulk of which are concentrated in the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa).

Most of these resources are underexploited. Uneven development has resulted in a handful of countries dominating commodity exports. The most important by far, both in terms of the diversity of its commodity base and the volume of its exports, is South Africa. The subcontinent’s other commodity giant is the Democratic Republic of Congo, which sits on over half of the world’s cobalt reserves and 25% of its diamonds, as well as having large quantities of rare metals such as coltan (used in mobile phones). Nigeria and Angola dominate oil production. However, other countries are starting to develop their commodity resources, and several are set to become major producers in the near future. They include Guinea and Angola (iron ore), Ghana (hydrocarbons), and Guinea-Bissau (bauxite and phosphates).

Sub-Saharan Africa also boasts a large agricultural sector. Much of this focused on the production of cash crops for export to the West during the colonial period and in the first years after independence. Since the late 1970s Africa has lost global importance as an exporter of many cash crops. The main exceptions have been coffee, cocoa and tea, for which CÙte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Uganda and Kenya remain key global producers, and more specialised crops like cashew nuts (Guinea-Bissau) and vanilla (Madagascar). However, increased competition from Asian and Latin American producers, coupled with a decline in Africa’s terms of trade, has eroded profitability. Africa also continues to export large quantities of timber, particularly to China, but poor forestry management is threatening the sector’s sustainability.

A scramble for access

Major emerging markets are playing a key role in the development of the region’s commodities sector. Since the early 2000s China has invested heavily in African commodities, reflecting the two-pronged strategy of China’s state-owned oil and mining companies: first, acquiring access to reserves through long-term contracts; and second, purchasing stakes in local ventures whenever possible. According to the Chinese government, by end-2008 total Chinese investment in Sub-Saharan Africa amounted to US$26bn, including stakes in oil and gas concessions in Sudan and the Gulf of Guinea, copper mines in Zambia, iron concessions in Gabon, and ferrochrome and platinum mines in South Africa.

China is not the only player around. Chinese interest is increasingly being matched by investment from Indian or Indian-linked firms, notably the steel manufacturing giants Tata Steel and ArcelorMittal, which are acquiring stakes in large coal concessions in Mozambique. Brazil is also stepping up its investment. Given the expertise of Brazilian companies in construction, engineering and the oil sector, it is likely that these firms will provide stiff competition for contracts in the next phase of Africa’s infrastructure expansion.

Competition looks set to be particularly intense in the Gulf of Guinea, which continues to grow in strategic importance thanks to the steady increase in its proven oil reserves (a result of better deep-water drilling technology). The region is already the focus of military co-operation programmes between African governments and the US, EU and China. Tensions between these powers could increase as each seeks to establish a foothold in the region. Such a situation could prove advantageous to countries in the Gulf of Guinea if they are able to play off competing powers against each other. However, past experience indicates that such competition and strategic alliances can be used to prop up unsavoury regimes. This also poses potential difficulties for foreign investors. China is learning the hard way that its resource grabs can expose it to reputational risks over human-rights and environmental abuses.

Reaping the benefits?

There are plenty of other challenges. The region exports a lot of its commodities in unprocessed form, thus missing the chance to add value to them. For example, Guinea-Bissau exports its entire cashew crop (over 90% of the country’s exports) to India for processing. The creation of low-tech processing operations could capture more of the value of the crop, as well as creating significant numbers of jobs. However, efforts to develop processing industries in Africa have proved disappointing owing to the constraints of the business environment, poor management and competition from processors in India and China.

Broader challenges include managing capital inflows better and maximising the economic benefits of foreign investments. Progress is occurring, with improved local-content provisions in mining contracts, the imposition of tighter environmental standards and greater transparency over commodity revenues. However, greater efforts are needed. African governments must ensure that infrastructure development does not just support the exploitation and export of minerals but also facilitates trade and the movement of people and goods. Local workforces must be trained in new skills and not just used for manual labour. A large proportion of oil and mineral revenues need to be held outside the countries in question in order to prevent currency appreciation that could render other industries uncompetitive.

If African governments can realise these aims, there is a good chance that the subcontinent’s natural-resource endowment could provide major benefits to the population. Otherwise, the next wave of commodity development will merely entrench poor governance and corruption and further stifle economic development.

The Economist Intelligence Unit

Source: Global Forecasting Service

© 2010 The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited. An Economist Group business. All rights reserved.

Sub-Saharan Africa economy: Strategic rise Sub-Saharan Africa economy: Strategic rise ViewsWire
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It’s not just the third world where they like unmarked envelopes….

Sleaze Factor

Is there an epidemic of corruption in the world’s democracies?

BY JOSHUA E. KEATING | JULY 12, 2010

From Angola to Uzbekistan, Haiti to Zimbabwe, in far too many countries around the world, blatant official corruption not only goes unpunished — it’s the norm. But while we normally associate bribery, cronyism, and extortion with fragile developing states, the leaders of some of the world’s most stable and prosperous democracies have recently been investigated on criminal charges. Is this a case of those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, or does it mean that we’re getting better at catching powerful crooks?
FRANCE
The target: President Nicolas Sarkozy
The alleged crimes: Illegal cash payments
The investigation: French prosecutors recently investigated allegations that Sarkozy illegally received cash in unmarked envelopes from Liliane Bettencourt, France’s richest woman, as a presidential candidate in 2007. According to Bettencourt’s former accountant, the L’Oreal heir’s financial advisor gave €150,000 to the treasurer of Sarkozy’s campaign — an allegation denied by both parties. The former treasurer, who is now labor minister, was officially cleared of wrongdoing, but opponents say the investigation by France’s finance inspector was not impartial.
“L’affaire Bettencourt” is just the latest scandal to hit Sarkozy’s administration, including the resignation of two junior ministers who spent thousands of dollars on cigars and Caribbean vacations, and a corruption scandal involving one of Sarkozy’s closest friends and political allies who was implicated in a multimillion-dollar insider-trading scheme in 2007. But in the wake of the financial crisis and an unpopular pension-reform plan, this time the president might be fighting for his political career: On July 12, Sarkozy took the unusual step of appearing on national television to deny the charges.
Sarkozy’s allies have denounced the allegations as a left-wing “political plot,” and indeed there seem to be some large holesin the allegations made by Bettencourt’s advisor. But Sarkozy’s opponents will likely have little sympathy. His longtime political rival, former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, was the subject of a five-year investigation and trial over allegations that he faked documents that linked Sarkozy to bribes while the two politicians were angling for the presidency. De Villepin was cleared of the charges — though three of his colleagues were convicted — and has maintained that the investigation was nothing but a political vendetta by the president.
ITALY
The target: Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
The alleged crimes: Corruption, organized crime
The investigation: Berlusconi claims with pride that he is “the most legally persecuted man of all time.” More than 109 cases have been brought against him, ranging from nonpayment of taxes to false accounting, bribery to prostitution. By his own count, he has been subjected to more than 2,500 court hearings. But despite the best efforts of prosecutors and political opponents, the 73-year-old Berlusconi seems unlikely to ever see the inside of a jail cell or be forced to step down.
The Teflon prime minister has managed four times to pass laws granting himself immunity from prosecution, though each of which has been judged unconstitutional by the courts. For his part, Berlusconi has accused the Italian judicial system of having an ingrained left-wing bias.
The most recent legal scandal involving Berlusconi concerns his longtime friend, business partner, and political ally Marcello Dell’Utri, who has been convicted of serving as a liaison between the mafia and Italy’s political elite. In the course of the trial, a convicted Mafia hit-man testified that senior Mafia leaders had boasted of their ties to Berlusconi during the 1990s.
ISRAEL
The target: Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
The alleged crimes: Bribe-taking
The investigation: With internal probes into the 2008 offensive in Gaza and the controversial boarding of a pro-Palestinian flotilla earlier this year, Israel certainly doesn’t lack for high-profile investigations. But the country is riveted by the ongoing corruption investigation against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was plagued by corruption charges throughout his term. New York businessman Morris Talansky claims he gave Olmert more than $150,000 for his campaign for mayor of Jerusalem in 1997, but the money was spent on fine hotels, cigars, and watches.
Perhaps more shockingly, Olmert is accused of charging multiple nonprofit groups — including a charity for the disabled and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial — for the same fundraising trips. Olmert announced his resignation in 2008 and wascharged with fraud a year later.
He has yet to be convicted, but investigations are ongoing. Most recently, Olmert was questioned over accusations that he accepted bribes in exchange for helping win contracts for a Jerusalem real estate developer. His administration didn’t come off looking that clean either: A finance minister was investigated for embezzlement, a justice minister resigned after being convicted for sexual harassment, and President Moshe Katsav resigned amid scandal after allegations of sexual assault.
Olmert is the first Israeli head of government to be indicted on corruption charges, though current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been the subject of investigations in the past. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is also under investigation for a number of crimes, including bribery, fraud, and money-laundering.
TAIWAN
The target: Former President Chen Shui-bian
The alleged crimes: Corruption, embezzlement
The investigation: Chen was named as a suspect in a $450,000 embezzlement case within hours of stepping down as president of Taiwan in 2008 and sentenced to life imprisonment less than a year later — an ignominious end to the political career of the once renowned human-rights-lawyer-turned-politician.
Prosecutors had long been gunning for Chen, who enjoyed immunity from prosecution as president — his wife and son-in-law were arrested on charges of forgery and insider trading while he was still in office. Chen’s political opponents also maintained that Chen faked an assassination attempt in 2004 to win voter sympathy in his reelection bid.
Chen and his wife, who was also given a life sentence, continue to appeal their convictions. Their sentences were reducedfrom life imprisonment to 20 years in June when the court found that less money was involved in the corruption than previously thought. The former president remains in detention as his appeal continues.
But the current administration isn’t squeaky clean either: President Ma Ying-jeou, Chen’s political rival, was twice tried and acquitted on corruption charges before taking office.
* A deleted section of this article implied that President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea is being investigated in connection with allegations of illegal surveillance. While several senior South Korean officials are being investigated, including several in the prime minister’s office and one in the president’s office, Lee has not been named as a suspect. FP regrets the error.

Sleaze Factor – By Joshua E. Keating | Foreign Policy

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more on the events surrounding Entebbe

One moment that got the ‘general’ on the edge
By Patrick Mathangani

On the morning of July 2, 1976, the then Ugandan president Idi Amin gathered his aides in one room at a private villa where he was staying.

He had travelled to Mauritius where an Organisation of African Unity — now African Union — meeting was going on, but planned to get back home soon to attend to a festering hostage crisis.

Palestinian and German terrorists had hijacked an Air France flight and directed it to Entebbe Airport, just a stonethrow from State House. With nearly 100 Jews on board, Israelis were bothering Amin over the issue.

It was not unlike Ugandan strongman to call such unplanned briefings. However, that morning, as the sun rose above the Indian Ocean, not even its radiance could wash away the forlorn, scared look on his face. As usual, everyone in his entourage attended the impromptu briefing – bodyguards, journalists, and Cabinet ministers. “Young men,” he said, “There’s going to be bad news for us.”

“What’s the bad news?” a Cabinet minister asked. “The Israeli’s are planning something against us,” said Amin.

Recalling the conversation, Haji Manishur Abiriga says Amin had earlier received a call from an Israeli army general enquiring when he was planning to return to Uganda. The Standard On Saturday established the man on the phone from Israel was Baruch Bar Lev, a former head of Israel’s mission that trained Ugandan soldiers in the early 1970s. But Amin had earlier expelled the Israelis and made friends with Libya and the Russians, who were supplying him with weapons.

Now retired, Abiriga was then a journalist working with the Presidential Press Unit, and had travelled with Amin in the presidential jet.

On this morning, the president said he was bothered by the nagging calls. He asked one group of the Ugandan delegation, which had arrived in a Boeing 707, to pack and return home. The group using the presidential jet would travel the following day.

The day before, the Israelis had made an offer to negotiate with the terrorists, but this was only to buy time as they prepared a rescue plan. Amin was a central figure in the plan as he served as the link between the hijackers and Israel.

Crosshead

Unknown to the Ugandans, the Israelis had already established that although Amin was pleading innocence, he was on the side of terrorists. It would appear Amin sensed the Israeli’s were up to no good as he called his men to prepare for any eventuality.

The following day, it was time to leave. Amin had completed his main duty here, which was to hand over the chairmanship of the now defunct OAU. But before they could take off in the afternoon, the president called one more briefing. “He told us the Israelis were planning to hold us hostage, and that they had sent planes which were circling the Indian Ocean,” recalls Abiriga. But Amin had more scary news.

The president told his frightened audience: “We have explosives on board. If they come, we’ll blow ourselves up.”

As the presidential jet soared above the clouds, tense passengers clutched their seats. Everyone was cared. Amin, the burly military man the world referred as the “Butcher of Uganda,” was scared too. They kept peeping out the tiny windows to lookout for the doomsday Israeli planes.

The planes did not come.

That day, the presidential jet did not follow the usual route.

It zig-zagged in the skies for hours on end as Amin sought to shrug off any Israelis following him.

The plane eventually landed safely a few minutes to 11pm. Amin headed straight to the airport’s VIP lounge. Unlike other days, he did not hold a press briefing but promised to do so before he left for State House. Unknown to them, the Israeli planes landed at Entebbe at 11pm.

However, Major General Doron Almog of Israel’s Defense Forces disputes there were any plans to kidnap Amin, and probably have him tried for terrorism.

Almog said the only mission of the raid on Entebbe was to rescue the hostages.

“It’s not true. It’s not relevant,” he said in a telephone interview.

“The most important issue was to bring back the Jews.”

However, the fact that the Israelis landed just minutes after Amin had left the airport convinces those who were with him he had just escaped a plot to kidnap him.





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