Tag: Africa

Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia resume talks over Nile dam dispute
Middle East & Africa

Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia resume talks over Nile dam dispute

Nile dam dispute: Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have agreed on resuming negotiations to settle the Nile dam dispute

Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt on Sunday agreed on resuming talks to resolved the long-running dispute over the massive dam on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa. 

According to Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed Hafez, foreign and irrigation ministers of the three countries met online to hold fresh talks to negotiate the deal. The meeting was called by the current head of the African Union (AU), South Africa. As per a statement released by Sudan’s water ministry, officials, experts and observers from the three countries, AU and the United States participated in the virtual conference.

The statement also confirmed that this week’s discussions are aimed at concluding the negotiations to reach a deal by the end of January 2021. 

“The talks will pave way for the resumption of tripartite negotiations on Sunday, January 10 in the hope of concluding by the end of January,” the ministry said, as quoted by reports. 

Earlier attempts to initiate three-way negotiations to enter an agreement between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia failed after Khartoum did not attend the talks called by South Africa in November 2020.

The dispute refers to a 2011 hydropower project centering to the filling and operation of the huge reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The largest hydroelectric dam in Africa has caused unprecedented tensions between the three countries in the region. 

Egypt is fearing that the dam would gravely impact its source of water, noting that 97 percent of its drinking and irrigation water come from the Nile. Sudan, on the other hand, has warned that several lives would be affected in the region in the absence of a concrete deal.

Egypt and Sudan have also expressed concerns over the amount of water Ethiopia will release downstream in case of a multi-year drought. In this regard, both countries have called for a legally binding agreement to resolved the dispute.

However, the Addis Ababa government has insisted that downstream water supplies to these countries will not be affected. In its defence, Ethiopia, the second-most-populous country in Africa, has also maintained that its 110 million people is significantly dependent on the hydroelectric power produced at the $4.6 billion dam.

After weeks of boycotting the talks, Sudan urged the African Union to intervene in the negotiations to reach a deal. 

In July 2020, Ethiopia has announced that it successfully reached its first-year target for filling the dam’s reservoir. 

Emirates along with DHL prepare to distribute coronavirus vaccine in Arab region
Middle East & Africa

Emirates along with DHL prepare to distribute coronavirus vaccine in Arab region

Emirates along with DHL: As the COVID-19 immunizations are clearing the advance tests and getting authorized for use, the Arab region’s challenge is to prepare for the vaccine distribution plan.

The Arab world’s most significant transport carrier Emirates has collaborated with DHL to launch big vaccine delivery efforts before the year ends, as per company authorities. 

According to Arab News, Nabil Sultan, divisional senior VP of Emirates SkyCargo expressed that a center has now been made at Al-Maktoum International Airport, otherwise called Dubai World Central, to receive, store and afterward distribute the jab to medical facilities across the locale. 

The latest preparations started in summer when drug firms first declared vaccine trials. “We can store nearly 1,000,000 vaccines in our office under the temperature needs set by the manufacturing companies,” Sultan stated. 

As per the latest instructions, some of the vaccines require to be stored in super cold temperatures in dry ice containers. Therefore, that could be very expensive and difficult for poorer nations.

For example, the vaccine manufactured by US drug company Pfizer in partnership with German firm BioNTech, authorized for immunization in the UK on Dec. 2 and for emergency treatment by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Dec. 12, and stored in freezing – 70 C. 

Another US drugmaker called Moderna has made its own vaccine utilizing a similar progressive mRNA strategy as Pfizer/BioNTech, which requires to be stored in cold temperatures around – 20 C. 

While, both the UK-made Oxford/AstraZeneca immunization and the Chinese-made Sinopharm jab, permitted by the UAE on Dec. 9 could be stored in the fridge.

According to Sultan, perhaps the greatest challenge is that a ton of the neighboring nations like Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian Sub-continent lack the latest medical facilities and the infrastructure in terms of storage. “Hence, bringing the vaccine to Dubai and distributing it further is the ultimate solution.” 

Indeed, even developed nations are struggling for assets in preparation for the vaccine, especially for Pfizer/BioNTech shot, says Dr. Mais Absi, a researcher at King’s College London. 

“The quantity of refrigerating cabinets with a temperature of 80 degrees Celsius is restricted in European nations,” she told Arab News. “Along these lines, you can envision the circumstance in emerging nations.” 

However, with the emergence of new vaccine candidates, the authorities will in no time be able to shop around for the best vaccines as per their requirement. Furthermore, thanks to Emirates, Dubai will be a local hub for preparing for this endeavor.

African Growth Needs Innovative Technological Push : UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres
Middle East & Africa

African Growth Needs Innovative Technological Push : UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

African Growth Needs Innovative Technological Industrial Push: Africa has been clearly giving out signals that it is interested in developing its economy. Infrastructural development is close on heels. The message has been getting mixed responses from across the world. 

Marking the African Industrialization Day recently, UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres said that, “Technology and innovation were being embraced across the continent, and progress had been made in unity and economic integration.” 

Today, nothing can be achieved without use of technology. Africa has seen some heavy investment being made in the continent in that context. In order to manage the loss that the continent has borne due to the pandemic led slowdown, Guterres has suggested a more sustainable growth model to be adopted in the continent to facilitate inclusive industrialization. 

Speaking in a virtual meeting Guterres touched upon the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa that runs from 2016 to 2025. He also stressed upon the 2030 Roadmap for Sustainable Development and Africa’s Agenda 2063. 

His focus was more on usage of new equipment and techniques that can benefit various domestic economies across the continent.  Africa has been primarily an agri-economy that has not seen too much industrial development in three decades. It is only now that the continent is looking at growing and has a lot to offer to the world in terms of natural resources. The main focus in his suggestions was also on farmers who need the help of digitalization to transform agri-food systems and achieve rural development. 

Many political analysts believe that the continent first needs to concentrate on industrialization and Free Trade Area can come thereafter. The agreement came into action in May2019. It covered trade in goods and services, investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy. Of the 55 African Union member states, only Eritrea has yet to sign it.

The immediate objective of the free trade area is principally to boost trade within Africa by eliminating up to 90% of the tariffs on goods and reducing non-tariff barriers to trade. While the UN Conference on Trade And Development claimed that intra-country trade would help everyone increase their domestic earnings by 33%, it would not matter even if industrial growth had not happened in the meantime. That could follow. 

But a general consensus is that industrial revolution is important even before intra-country trade can start. 

How China Is Spreading Its Energy Portfolio In Africa
Geopolitics

How China Is Spreading Its Energy Portfolio In Africa

Energy Portfolio In Africa: As the pandemic redefined the energy consumption levels of the world, geopolitics around natural gas and oil demand and supply is also being redefined. What was essentially a US stronghold seems to have been taken over by China.

After it’s almost certain war footing with China and Iran, the US had decided to move towards more production that is domestic. It might have been a stupid and immature strategy put in place by the Trump led administration. But the damage was already done; and Beijing has all the reasons to move into the oil rich lands of Africa. 

Blame it on the country’s Belt and Road initiative that has led it into energy rich lands. Under the ambitious leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping, global infrastructure development program entails hefty Chinese-led investment in as many as 70 countries and international organizations around the world.

It has a varied energy portfolio. What has become most interesting is its interest in Africa, a market that has remained comparatively untapped. Sources confirm that Beijing is battling it out with Russia in Africa, over nuclear energy. Beijing has however shown huge interest in the oil and gas segment of Africa too. 

Varied sources have confirmed that in fact, China’s national oil companies indeed are investing heavily in the exploration and production of oil and gas supplies in Africa. Undeniably, the continent is the “second largest region in supplying oil and gas to China, after the Middle East, with over 25% of its total imported oil and gas.” China’s appetite for oil is nearly insatiable, and the nation has quickly risen through the ranks to become the largest importer of black gold in the world for two years in a row. 

Currently, China has a whopping USD$15 billion worth of investments planned in Africa’s oil sector. Three major players are a party to this chunky investment. These include China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (SINOPEC) and China National Offshore Oil (CNOOC). 

Africa has not seen infrastructure development due to many socio-political reasons. For Beijing it’s a win-win situation. Whether it will use this to create an infrastructure for Africa, is a far-fetched hope. However, recent messaging from the various corners of Africa is speaking of their desire to collaborate with nations that can help them expand their horizons of infrastructural growth.  

The flipside of all this investment by China is that the tide is actually flowing in the other direction. Sooner, the interest of the other power hungry nations like Turkey, Russia and Iran will move away from the oil rich nations like Syria, Yemen and Libya. The world is moving towards clean energy sources and fossil fuels are not looking that attractive to the powerful nations anymore. 

Rating Agencies attack African countries
Middle East & Africa

Rating Agencies attack African countries

Having lost operating space in the US and Europe, the rating agencies have thrown themselves into emerging countries, especially those of Africa. You don’t have to be a genius of competence and analytical skills to imagine the economic difficulties in a world devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular in emerging countries, which have always been very susceptible to what happens in the so-called advanced economies.

At different times and in diverse ways, the three rating sisters, Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch, downgraded ten African countries and their public debt securities down to the junk level. These are Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Cape Verde, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Nigeria, South Africa, Mauritius and Zambia. The assessments are based on the forecasts regarding the weakness of the tax and health systems of the countries. This happens while the World Bank has instead supported the suspension of interest payments on the debts of the poorest countries that are part of the International Development Association (IDA).

On the other hand, their knowledge of Africa is very low. S&P, for example, says to be able to make assessments on 128 countries around the world, but has only one office, in Johannesburg, for the entire African continent. Agency ratings are usually trivial ratings. But they are taken into consideration by the markets to judge the health of the various national economies and, consequently, to also define the interest rates on their public debt. This is a phenomenon repeatedly experienced with devastating effects on the cost of loans and also the weakening of the capital offered by international investors.

It is worth mentioning their role in the financial meltdown in the years of the Great Crisis of 2008, which had an impact on global markets and especially on the real economy of many countries, including developing ones. The detailed report “The financial crisis inquiry report” prepared by a bipartisan commission and published by the US government in 2011, where it was stated, among others, that “the crisis could not have occurred without these agencies. Their ratings, first skyrocketing and then suddenly lowered, have thrown markets and businesses haywire”.

Moody’s has downgraded South Africa to junk, causing it to lose the last investment-grade step, under which institutional investors are no longer authorized to buy government bonds. The rating agency estimated a significant increase in South African public debt expected to reach 91% of GDP by 2023. Fitch cut Gabon’s sovereign rating from B to CCC. The explanation of the downgrade concerns the possible difficulty of repaying sovereign debt due to a lack of liquidity due to the fall in oil prices. Moody revised Mauritius’s sovereign rating negatively due to lower tourist earnings for coronavirus. Nigeria has been downgraded from S&P from B to B – because COVID-19 would have increased the risk of fiscal and external shocks from falling oil prices and the economic downturn.

S&P also downgraded Botswana, one of Africa’s most stable economies, which had an A rating. The agency cited the weakening of its state budget due to a drop in demand for raw materials and the expected economic slowdown, due to COVID-19. The downgrading of Botswana was decided when there was yet no case of infection in the country. We assist in a wave of downgrades of private companies due to the concept of sovereign limes: a country’s rating generally determines the report card assigned to companies operating within its borders. The African countries are called by many to draw up a collective response mechanism against the abuse of the rating.

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