17 Jan

Mauritius Battens Down as Cyclone Heads for Island Nation

Mauritius closed its main airport and stock exchange as the Indian Ocean island nation braced for the arrival of a cyclone packing winds of up to 120 kilometers per hour.

Tropical cyclone Berguitta is situated about 300 kilometer (186 miles) northeast of Mauritius and heading toward it at a speed of about 7 kilometers per hour, the country’s meteorological services said in a statement on its website.

The storm is forecast to make landfall overnight, it said. “Berguitta represents a direct threat to Mauritius,” the service said.

The tropical cyclone is the third this month to form in the south-west Indian Ocean. Tropical Cyclone Ava battered the island of Madagascar on Jan. 5, leaving at least 42 people dead and 150,000 others displaced, according to country’s disaster-management office.

The Red Cross activated its disaster response team for Mauritius and La Reunion, a French-administered island 227 kilometers southwest of Mauritius that is also threatened by the storm.

“This dangerous cyclone puts at risk hundreds of lives in Mauritius and La Reunion,” it said. “Our teams in both countries are prepositioning relief items to support communities who may need food, shelter and first aid services.”

Mauritius’s Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport was shuttered from 7 a.m., state-owned Airports of Mauritius said Wednesday in an emailed statement.

The Stock Exchange of Mauritius said Tuesday it would remain closed Wednesday if the storm warning was upgraded to Class III.

SBM Holdings Ltd., owner of Mauritius’ second-biggest lender, switched off automated teller machines from 8 p.m. on Tuesday, citing the weather.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-17/mauritius-shuts-down-as-cyclone-warning-upgraded-to-class-3

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. 

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. 
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.

11 Jan

South Africa’s Zuma Retains Office as Ramaphosa Bides His Time

Jacob Zuma remains South Africa’s president for the time being as the new leader of the African National Congress, Cyril Ramaphosa, plans how to bring an end to his scandal-ridden administration without unleashing a major split in the ruling party.

The ANC’s National Executive Committee didn’t discuss the option of forcing Zuma from office at a meeting Wednesday in the southern city of East London, according to three members of the panel who spoke on condition of anonymity. Earlier in the week, three of the NEC’s 86 voting members, who also asked not to be identified, said the matter would be raised.

Ramaphosa, 65, must strike a delicate balance between assuaging the concerns of Zuma supporters and meeting the desire of his own backers for the president’s quick removal. A lack of support from a clear majority in the NEC will limit his scope to convince voters before 2019 elections that he can rebuild the battered economy and clamp down on the alleged graft that’s become synonymous with the Zuma era.

“For Ramaphosa to build on the momentum of his ascendancy to ANC president and boost investor confidence, he will only have a relatively short window to remove Zuma,” said Mike Davies, the founder of political-advisory company Kigoda Consulting. “After that, the Zuma camp will be able to consolidate, and other factors will start to erode recent optimism that his election means significant change.”

Ramaphosa, the nation’s deputy president, was elected ANC leader by a narrow margin last month, warding off a challenge from Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s ex-wife and favored successor. A former labor-union activist, businessman and lead negotiator in talks to end apartheid in the 1990s, Ramaphosa may be playing a long game in his bid to remove Zuma.

He could allow Zuma to remain in office while he acts as an effective chief executive, building up support in the party by engineering a comprehensive cabinet reshuffle, while allowing legal cases to catch up with Zuma before removing him in six to nine months, according to Robert Schrire, a political science professor at the University of Cape Town.

To read the full article, click here.

10 Jan

Who’s in Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet? Alleged leaked list shows his choices

A document shared only by ANC insiders has found its way into public circulation this week. It reveals Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet choices and preferred ministers. It is fair to say the changes would be sweeping, and perhaps even progressive.

As reported by Donwald Pressly of the Cape Messenger, and shared with BizNews.com, the extensive list offers a real glimpse into a changing future for the ruling party.

In fact, Ramaphosa has more freedom in appointing his cabinet members than Zuma has ever had. The 2007 resolution that only made it possible to appoint ANC NEC members in top positions has since been scrapped. This means Cyril is now at liberty to appoint who he wants, and yes, that does include anti-Zuma figures.

Pravin Gordhan could return to government

Returns have been touted for Pravin Gordhan, Derek Hanekom and Blade Nzimande. Gordhan would be back as the Public Enterprises Minister, ousting Lynne Brown. Hanekom is set for a comeback in his beloved Tourism post. Nzimande would regain his Higher Education post, just months after falling victim to Zuma’s axe.

Ramaphosa is not constrained by the divisions in the party. At least, that’s what this so-called ‘leaked list’ tells us. It seems he is not preparing for life with Zuma, but life after Zuma. JZ remains the Head of State, despite stepping down from the ANC Presidency. This is something Cyril is keen resolve imminently.

Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet could feature Zuma’s critics

Mondli Gungubela, Bheki Cele and Lindiwe Sisulu are all expected to serve a role in the higher echelons of Ramaphosa’s ANC. This trio are arguably the biggest internal critics of Jacob Zuma, with the exception of Makhosi Khoza before her departure.

Gungubela openly stated he would be voting against Jacob Zuma in the motion of no confidence last August. His seat at the table would be as the Co-operative Governance Minister. Cele, a vocal opponent of the Guptas and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, could be the next State Security Minister if this list is true.

To read the full article, click here.

10 Jan

Congo May More Than Double Tax on Critical Global Cobalt Supply

The Democratic Republic of Congo is preparing to more than double a tax on two-thirds of global cobalt supply, potentially increasing the cost of the critical battery metal just as the world begins to embrace electric vehicles.

Congo, the world’s biggest cobalt producer, will increase the royalty miners pay on exports of the metal to 5 percent from 2 percent if it opts to categorize cobalt as a “strategic substance,” Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu told the country’s Senate last week.

The new classification is part of an overhaul of mining legislation that is fiercely opposed by the industry, which says the law may deter future investment. Under the revised code, backed by the government and being scrutinized by parliament, the tax on base metals including copper and cobalt will increase to 3.5 percent from 2 percent. If approved by the Senate, the law will also allow the state to select “strategic” metals, likely to include cobalt, and tax them at a higher rate of 5 percent, Kabwelulu said.

A byproduct of copper and nickel mining used to harden steel, cobalt stepped into the global spotlight last year as prices surged. The metal’s efficiency in conducting electricity has made it essential for rechargeable batteries used in electric cars produced by companies including Tesla Inc. and Volkswagen AG.

Prices Triple

Plans to dramatically increase the production of electric vehicles resulted in the price of the metal more than tripling in the past two years as miners and automakers scrambled to secure supply. The boom hasn’t gone unnoticed in Congo, whose mines supply about two-thirds of global output.

The new legislation will guarantee Congo “the flexibility to face unforeseen developments in the international market if the international economic situation demands it” by permitting the government to declare certain minerals “strategic substances,” Kabwelulu told senators Jan. 5, according to a transcript of his remarks.

To read the full article, click here.