16 Jan

The Congo’s political crisis is stirring deadly violence in Kasai and beyond

Over the last couple of years, scores of activists have died protesting against President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down.

In the latest bout of nationwide demonstrations on 31 December 2017, at least seven more were killed as they took the streets. Many more were arrested.

However, it is not just the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) towns and cities that have witnessed violence as a result of the country’s deepening political crisis.

Kabila’s determination to stay in power despite his term officially ending in December 2016 has also aggravated more localised conflicts, causing widespread death and displacement.

Conflict in Kasai

One such conflict has devastated the Kasai region since mid-2016, leading to the displacement of 1.4 million people internally and 35,000 across the border with Angola.

The conflict first started as a dispute between a local customary leader and central authorities in Kinshasa.

But events escalated when the local chief was killed by the Congolese military. His followers formed a militia known as the Kamuina Nsapu and fighting quickly spread throughout a region roughly the size of the UK.

Refugees in Angola told International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), which released a report on the violence today, that members of the militia entered their villages and beheaded state officials. They committed horrific violence, but most witnesses said the fighters did not target ordinary citizens.

In response, the Congolese army employed heavy force against the poorly-armed militia, which was mostly made up of children. After neutralising the group, they reportedly turned on the civilian population.

“They shot at everyone. They destroyed our houses and killed a lot of people,” said one refugee. “It was a slaughterhouse.” Along with others, he described how the army killed civilians, committed sexual violence, and looted and burned down many homes.

Inhabitants of another town caught up in the conflict described how a pro-government militia named Bana Mura (after Kabila’s presidential guard) also attacked Kamuina Nsapu and the local population.

To read the full article, click here. 

 

16 Jan

Miraa exporters to Mogadishu boycott trade over high prices

Miraa exporters serving the Mogadishu market have started a boycott on the trade citing high farm gate prices. Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) Chairman Kimathi Munjuri said the traders resolved to boycott buying the twigs to force farmers to lower the prices.

According to Mr Munjuri, a 100kg sack of miraa is now selling at Sh160,000, up from at least Sh20,000 during the rainy season. This means a 1kg bundle (bunda) of the medium quality miraa is selling at Sh1,600.

The high prices are due to low supply caused by the dry spell that started early December.“Only traders serving other parts of Somalia shipped their commodity on Monday night. Traders who export to Mogadishu feel that it is not sustainable to buy 100kgs at Sh160,000 because buyers cannot afford it.

TRADERS MEET

He said the traders met in Eastleigh on Sunday and resolved that they would not buy miraa from farmers. “This means about 30 tonnes of miraa has not been delivered to Mogadishu,” Mr Munjuri said.

Mr Joseph Muturia, a member of the Miraa report implementation committee, said the premium quality miraa known as ‘Mbaine’ is selling at Sh6,000 a kilo while ‘kisa’ is retailing at Sh4,000.

“I currently sell miraa locally because residents understand the quality of this type of miraa,” Mr Muturia said. Mr Josiah Mugo, a miraa consumer, said he could no longer afford to chew daily after prices spiked from mid-December.

“A small bundle (surba) of the best quality khat is now retailing at more than Sh400 from Sh150 last month. I am considering shifting to muguka but its quality is not good. I am now chewing occasionally so as not to stretch my budget,” Mr Mugo said.

BOYCOTT FUTILE

However, Nyamita termed the move by the traders as futile saying the miraa prices are determined by market forces.

To read the full article, click here. 

16 Jan

Africa: MLK Day Marked by Trump Criticism, Pledges to Fight Racism

Atlanta – Martin Luther King Jr.’s children and the pastor of an Atlanta church where he preached decried disparaging remarks President Donald Trump is said to have made about African countries, while protests between Haitian immigrants and Trump supporters broke out near the president’s Florida resort Monday, the official federal holiday honoring King.

At gatherings across the nation, activists, residents and teachers honored the late civil rights leader on what would have been his 89th birthday and ahead of the 50th anniversary of his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee.

In Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day with events aimed at coming to terms with its own history of slavery and by welcoming descendants of former slaves into the tribe.

Trump marked his first King holiday as president buffeted by claims that during a meeting with senators on immigration last week, he used a vulgarity to describe African countries and questioned the need to allow more Haitians into the U.S.

He also is said to have asked why the country couldn’t have more immigrants from nations like Norway. In Washington, King’s eldest son, Martin Luther King III, criticized Trump, saying, “When a president insists that our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway, I don’t even think we need to spend any time even talking about what it says and what it is.” He added, “We got to find a way to work on this man’s heart.”

In Atlanta, King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, told hundreds of people who packed the pews of the Ebenezer Baptist Church that they “cannot allow the nations of the world to embrace the words that come from our president as a reflection of the true spirit of America.”

To read the full article, click here. 

15 Jan

Glencore Shrinks Job of Billionaire Copper Head Amid Congo Probe

Glencore Plc reduced the role of its billionaire head of copper, Aristotelis Mistakidis, shaking up the business after a review in the Democratic Republic of Congo raised questions about accounting and management.

Mistakidis, one of Glencore’s largest shareholders and a key lieutenant of Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg for more than a decade, will lose control of industrial copper operations including mines and focus on the trading side of the business, according to people familiar with the plans.

Responsibility for Glencore’s copper assets will move to Mike Ciricillo, who now oversees copper smelting and refining, the people said, declining to be identified as the appointment isn’t yet public.

The shake-up reduces Mistakidis’s responsibilities after he and two other executives resigned from the board of Glencore’s Katanga Mining Ltd. in Congo in November. A review by Katanga led to a restatement of its financial reporting, and a commitment from Glencore to restructure the management of its own copper business.

Close Relationship

Mistakidis, whose holding in the company is valued at about $2.5 billion, is a key part of Glencore. He’s the third-biggest shareholder among management and helped lead the company’s ascent from a scrappy trader to a diversified commodities giant and the world’s third-biggest copper miner.

For years Mistakidis, better known as “Telis,” had run both the marketing and producing sides of the copper business, a testament to his record as a trader and close relationship with Glasenberg.

Ciricillo, who ran Freeport-McMoRan Inc.’s copper operations in Congo prior to joining Glencore in 2014, takes on the new role at a critical time for the Swiss commodity giant. Glencore plans to grow global copper production by about 25 percent to 1.64 million metric tons by 2020, largely through the resumption of operations at Katanga.

To read the full article, click here.

15 Jan

H&M Condemns Racism After ‘Monkey’ Ad Sparks Protests in Africa

Hennes & Mauritz AB went into damage-control mode over the weekend after a controversial advertisement sparked protests in South Africa.

The Swedish clothes retailer closed its South African shops after some outlets were trashed in an anti-racism protest against an online ad by H&M, featuring a black child modeling a hoodie with the text “coolest monkey in the jungle.”

“H&M is aware of the recent events inside several of our South African stores,” the company said in a statement on its website. “What matters most to us is the safety of our employees and customers” and “we have temporarily closed our stores in South Africa.”

Read More: H&M Caught in Controversy Over Black Child in ‘Monkey’ Hoodie Ad

 H&M was last week forced to apologize for the image after it caused a social-media storm and prompted Canadian artist The Weeknd to end his collaboration with the Stockholm-based company. H&M, which said it agreed with those who were upset by the image, pulled the garment in question from its stores. Over the weekend, the company took further steps to reject all forms of racial slander.
“We strongly believe that racism and bias in any shape or form, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable,” H&M said. “We stress that our wonderful store staff had nothing to do with our poorly judged product and image.”
To read the full article, click here. 
15 Jan

Nigeria’s World-Beating Stocks Are Riding on Oil

The world-beating rally in Nigerian stocks may not be over yet.

The main equity index in Africa’s biggest economy has surged 12 percent this year in dollar terms, the most among 96 major bourses tracked by Bloomberg, pushing it to the highest level since 2008. Dangote Cement Plc, controlled by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, and the largest company on the exchange, has climbed to a record high.

The advance will probably be sustained thanks to rising prices for oil, Nigeria’s main export, and as investors look to increase their holdings of what remain among the cheapest stocks in Africa, according to the asset management arm of South African lender FirstRand Ltd.
“For investors wanting more exposure to consumers in Africa and Nigeria, in particular, the outlook is good,” said Paul Clark, a money manager in Johannesburg at Ashburton Investments, which owns Nigerian stocks including Seplat Petroleum Development Co. “The banking sector is probably the most attractive at the moment, especially the tier-2 lenders.”
Foreign investors have been crucial in driving the market higher. The New York-based Global X MSCI Nigeria ETF attracted record weekly net inflows through Thursday. That helped to increase the exchange-traded fund’s market capitalization to almost $90 million, double the level in May last year.
Even after the gains, Nigerian valuations are the cheapest among the major African equity indexes. Nigerian stocks trade at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 10.2, while South Africa’s are at 14 and the MSCI Emerging Market Index is at 13.
That suggests there’s further upside, according to Cape Town-based fund Allan Gray. While foreign investors turned negative on Nigeria after following the 2014 oil crash and subsequent recession, the economy picked up last year and growth is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to accelerate to 2.1 percent in 2019.
“For long-term investors, Nigerian equities were a screaming bargain,” said Nick Ndiritu, co-manager of Allan Gray’s $389 million Africa equity fund, which doesn’t include South Africa. “Investor sentiment has turned more bullish on Nigeria and a re-rating of the Nigerian stock market is now under way.”
To read the full article, click here.
12 Jan

Trump Calls Haiti, African Nations ‘Shithole’ Countries

President Donald Trump questioned senators in an Oval Office meeting Thursday on why the U.S. accepts immigrants from “shithole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador and African nations rather than places like Norway, according to three people briefed on the conversation.

The White House didn’t dispute the quotations. Asked about the account, White House spokesman Raj Shah said “certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people.”

Trump made the comments in a meeting with lawmakers who suggested restoring protections for people from those countries as part of a broader bipartisan agreement on immigration issues, the three people said. The Washington Post first reported Trump’s remarks.

Shah went on to list the White House’s demands for an agreement that would protect undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children and stressed that the president favors merit-based immigration.

The president made the comments on the eve of the eighth anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti, killing as many as 300,000 people. On Thursday, Haitian President Jovenel Moise demanded a meeting with the top American diplomat in the country, Charge d’Affaires Robin Diallo, according to State Department officials. Moise was expected to lodge a formal protest. Michele Sison has been confirmed as the new U.S. ambassador, but has not yet arrived.

The officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a diplomatic matter, are concerned that the episode may provoke protests in Haiti because commemorations have been planned to mark the anniversary.

In the U.S., strong criticism followed initial reports of the Oval Office episode, with most though not all of it coming from Democrats.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who wasn’t in the meeting, in a tweet called the president’s remarks, “Breathtakingly offensive. Worse, it’s ignorant of American ideals.”

To read the full article, click here.

12 Jan

South African Steinhoff Unit Mulls Early Redemption of Bonds

Steinhoff International Holdings NV said one of its South African units is considering an early redemption of all notes in issue as the global retailer struggles to stay afloat amid an accounting scandal.

Steinhoff Services Ltd.’s redemption of securities issued under a 15 billion-rand ($1.2 billion) bond program will require pricing supplements to be amended and restated, the Frankfurt- and Johannesburg-listed company said in a statement after the market closed on Thursday. The necessary approvals will have to be obtained, Steinhoff said, without giving more detail.

The parent company’s woes began on Dec. 5 when it said it had uncovered accounting irregularities and that Chief Executive Officer Markus Jooste was resigning. Thereafter its bond yields spiked and its share price lost most of its value. Banks started to withdraw lines of credit and regulators from South Africa to Europe began to investigate. The stock fell 3.7 percent to 6.50 rand as of 9:36 a.m. in Johannesburg, extending its decline this week to 26 percent.

To raise liquidity the retailer has started parting with some assets it built up in a two-decade acquisition drive. French retailer Carrefour on Thursday said it acquired a 17 percent stake in Showroomprive from Steinhoff’s Conforama for 79 million euros ($95 million), while last week Steinhoff’s Austrian unit, Leiner Immobilien, sold its flagship store in Vienna for 60 million euros. Other measures to shore up finances include Steinhoff selling its Gulfstream 550 jet, while Jooste has been auctioning his racehorses.

With Steinhoff also having issued debt internationally, the European Central Banksaid earlier this week it had disposed of the company’s securities after they were downgraded to junk.

Pending Lawsuits

Steinhoff Services, the vehicle the retailer uses to sell listed bonds on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, has 12 notes in issue, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Those securities amount to a total of 7.6 billion rand in debt. More than half of those sales took place last year with Steinhoff Services having sold 4.83 billion rand of bonds in 2017. It has three notes valued at a total of 1.4 billion rand maturing in 2018.

To read the full article, click here.

11 Jan

Boiling a frog: Ramaphosa’s patient battle for the soul of the ANC

Cyril Ramaphosa’s dramatic election as president of the African National Congress (ANC) last month has raised as many questions as it has answered. Since he defeated rival Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the 18 December party conference, South Africa has effectively had two centres of power: Ramaphosa as ANC president, Jacob Zuma as state president.

There are rumours some members are pushing for President Zuma’s departure before the 2019 elections when he will have to retire. This would pave the way for Ramaphosa to become state president. From there, he could enact reforms, take control of policy matters, and put his stamp on government.

However, with the party so finely balanced between pro-Ramaphosa and pro-Zuma factions, this possibility cannot be counted on and would have to be handled very delicately. The National Executive Committee’s (NEC) top six positions, for instance, are evenly split. Ramaphosa has only a slender majority in the broader NEC and other sub-bodies.

This means that although Ramaphosa has succeeded in the tough feat of becoming ANC president, for now, he will still have to engage in numerous trade-offs with Zuma allies going forward. At the same time, he will also have to manage some surprise policies imposed by the state president ahead of the conference, such as the promise to provide free higher education for the poor.

Also on his plate are a set of radical policies championed by Zuma allies and adopted at the conference. These include increasing the government’s shareholding in the Reserve Bank to 100% and expropriating land without compensation.

This will all add to the already tough challenges of ensuring economic stability, restoring credibility, and overhauling state-owned enterprises. The upcoming 2019 elections add a further sense of urgency.

For the moment, Ramaphosa will have to navigate these hurdles dragged down by almost half the party. However, President Zuma has notably had some of his authority stifled by recent rulings.

To read the full article, click here.

11 Jan

Africa: How Africa Can Ride On the Cryptocurrency Wave

ANALYSIS

Nairobi — Cryptocurrency to most people and institutions in Africa is a very big, and daunting word. Like all new technologies, the concept of digital currencies remains an abstract idea to a lot of people, ushering in change and attempts to alter the status quo.

But the truth is change happens, whether we are ready or not. Those who take advantage of the change wave, stand to benefit as early adopters.

The opportunity to once again take charge of our own destiny has been presented to us as Africans. The question now is not about cryptocurrency, the question is what are we going to do to harness the full power of this opportunity?

In the beginning of trade in Africa, we travelled across lands, and water to trade amongst ourselves. The farmers from the west had cocoa; the nomads from the north had camels and other resources. Each measured the value of their goods or service and agreed on the exchange. “Trade by batter was born”

Then gold came, and other valuable resources so people started using this as a form of trading, then we had promissory notes, which were convertible based on the value of gold, or silver the issuer of the gold had in their vault. All these evolved into what we now call money today, and the unit of that money we derive from either the dollar, euro, pound even yen at the minute.

Cryptocurrency has landed at our doorstep and it’s a scary thought. Let me first define cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrency is defined as a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange, using cryptography to secure the transactions and to control the creation of additional units of the currency. Cryptocurrencies are classified as a subset of digital currencies and are also classified as a subset of alternative currencies and virtual currencies.

To read the full article, click here.