Saturday, August 24, 2019

African Manager

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The newly-accredited Country Resident Representative of the African Development Bank (ADB) to Sierra Leone, Dr. Samuel Onwona, has said the bank has over 51 development projects worth US$250 million in the country.

According to an ADB statement, Dr. Onwona made the disclosure in Freetown on Friday when he presented his letter of credence to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mrs. Zainab H. Bangura.

The ADB Resident Representative said he was happy to take up his new assignment in Sierra Leone, and that he was poised to continue the excellent work of his predecessor to help rejuvenate the bank’s portfolio in Sierra Leone.

“My predecessor has laid a solid foundation for me which I intend to build upon, to enable growth in cooperation with the government for the purpose of producing tangible results,” Dr. Onwona said

He said the ADB had so far completed more than 30 projects in the country.

He also announced that a US$51 million loan had just been signed in Tunis between the government of Sierra Leone and the bank for the completion of the Bumbuna Hydro electric project.

“As I present my letters of credence, Madam Minister, I have no doubt that with the support of the government we would be able to achieve results that would benefit the people of this country,” the ADB official said:

Responding, the Minister praised the excellent bilateral relationship between the ADB and government.

She said President Koroma had demonstrated commitment in ensuring that the government works in the interest of the people of Sierra Leone, and assured the ADB boss of her ministry’s support at all times as a way of furthering the already existing excellent relationship with Sierra Leone.

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For Africans to meet the M illennium Development Goals (MDGs) all stakeholders need to collaborate and close ranks in providing health care services, reducing hunger, poverty and working assiduously to remove all obstacles that may prevent the realisation of the objective, according to the Founder of the Nigerian-based Charity Organisation, Amen Health Care and Empowerment Foundation, Rita Aimiuwu Oguntoyinbo.

“It is a tough one because there are so many odds against the attainment of these objectives (MDG). As I said, if we leave everything to government and its agencies alone, then we may not get there. But if individuals chip in, if you take care of 20 people and I take care of 20 people we will be able to get there, ” Oguntoyinbo told PANA in response to a question on meeting the 2015 target year.

She is passionate about improving accessibility to health care services for women and children who are the most vulnerable to major diseases and those living in the rural areas with no access to medicines.

Having worked with the World Health Organisation (WHO), but not as a health worker, for more than two decades, Oguntoyinbo sees the setting up of the Founda tion in 2004 as a way of demonstrating her belief that the various national and r egional governments as well as international development agencies cannot do it a l one.

She said close to 600 people across Nigeria had been empowered through trainings . “Amen Foundation is also training people in skills acquisition, because we rea l ise that poverty and ill-health are siblings; they go together. When a man is po o r he is vulnerable. He cannot afford basic medicines if he is unable to seek hel p , if he is unable to afford cost of transportation to health centres, which is a limitation.”

In 2000, at the United Nations Millennium Summit in the United States, leaders from across the world came up with a development plan and a target year for achieving it. MDGs have as their major components the reduction of poverty, hunger, maternal and infant mortality to half in about eight years time.

Other aspects of the MDGs are Universal access to basic education for the children, women empowerment, promotion of the environment and building o f international partnership.

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Ivorian lawyers Thursday ended their indefinite strike which began 11 November in protest against the “breach of violation” of o n e of their members, Mr. Emmanuel Assi.

They said they would now resume work 1 December after an extraordinary general m eeting, adding that the strike was called off following the intervention of the I vorian President, Laurent Gbagbo, who held discussions with the lawyers Wednesda y to douse tention.

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Three people have been arrested and detained by detectives of the Sierra Leonean Criminal Investigations Department for allegedl y breaking into and robbing a commercial bank in Freetown.

One of the new branches of the International Commercial Bank (ICB) at Rawdon Str eet in city centre, was burgled by robbers who broke into the bank’s catacomb an d stole Le 267,245,000 (two hundred and sixty seven million two hundred and forty five t housand Leones) (Le 296 = US$ 1).

Detectives of the national crime services (Criminal Investigations Department) d escribed the act as a “conspiracy”.

Speaking to journalists here Friday, detective Assistant Superintendent of Polic e (ASP), Samuel Kargbo said while on duty Saturday, 22 November, they were infor m ed by personnel of the bank that two private guards in the employment of “Mount E verest Security Agency” detailed at the said bank abandoned their guard posts an d went away with the bank’s keys.

“We visited the scene and later discovered that the front door to the bank was u nder lock and key but the internal metallic steel vault was broken into.

“We observed that it was a conspiracy between the cleaner and the security guard s on duty and some other members of the public to break into the vault and cart a way the said sum.”

ASP Kargbo said “so far, we’ve arrested the cleaner – Mohamed Kargbo – one of th e Mount Everest security guards – Gibrilla Bangura – and one Abibatu Bah who is sa id to be a relation to the other security guard who is on the run”.

The arrested suspects are helping the police with their investigations, he said.

International Commercial Bank Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Krishnamurthy Sriniv asan said, “the bank is functioning normally in spite of the incident.”

The CEO said the bank was operating under the stringent rules of the Bank of Sie rra Leone and that there was “nothing to worry about.

“We are covered by insurance and as such this will not affect our operations at all,” he said.

Srinivasan, however, expressed fears that when such organised crimes happen to a n international institution like ICB it affects the image of the country as it s c ares investors.

The bank CEO said he was happy that at least some arrests have been made by the police and investigation was ongoing

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Bindura Nickel Corporation, Zimbabwe’s sole producer o f the mineral, announced Friday it was suspending mining operations because of t h e economic downturn in the country.

In a statement, the company said it had also been hit hard by falling nickel pri ces on the international market and frequent power outages at its mines.

But Bindura Nickel Corporation said the main reason was the unstable economic en vironment in Zimbabwe in which inflation, for instance, was around 700 million p e r cent.

It said other factors included an unviable exchange rate offered by the country’ s central bank.

“The decision (to shut down) has not been taken lightly. However, the long-term survival of the company depends on the immediate adoption of several cost-cuttin g measures which include the temporary suspension of some business activities,” t h e company said in the statement.

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The previous follow up editions of the knowledge society summit which took place in Tunis in November 2005 was a matter of satisfaction for the participants in the ICT For All +3 currently held in Hammamet. Most of the objectives of the 2005 summit have been achieved in terms of their materialization in that they disseminated the digital culture in different countries, but mainly in African countries. An important part of the 1000 participants who made the trip to Hammamet, actually come from African countries, we note particularly the opresence of 15 African ministers, in charge of ICT in their respective countries, who took part in the various activities of the summit which was inaugurated by Mohammed Ghannouchi, Tunisian Prime Minister. 

ICT present a promising sector, in the developed countries

In his opening speech, the prime minister highlighted the importance of this summit, as well as the topic related to economic and technological matters that it debates. According to him, the fact that the summit deals with the issue of «high debit and of the content industry for development» shows the tight relation between the fundamentals of the economic and social renewal, on one hand, and the implementation of a modern telecommunication infrastructure, meant to spread the computing applications and ensure good exploitation of the possibilities offered in terms of relationships and technological integration. The information and communication technology sector contributes, according to studies elaborated by international consultancies, to about 25% in the GDP growth of the developed countries. This shows, insists, Mohammed Ghannouchi, that 30% in the improvement of the economic institution and administration productivity result from the spread of modern technologies and of the productive technological systems within the enterprises and that the volume of the digital services using the Internet and communication networks represent , alone  50% of the world service trade. 

Why content ?

In the immaterial economy, there is a need to manage and control all types of electronic information. The enterprise data must be structured ; this is the basis for value added creation. However, today the enterprises and the public administrations have to cope with a huge volume of non-structured  or semi-structured electronic contents and with their diversity , whether they are issued from office documents (texts, tables, etc.), web applications (portals, intranets, extranets, web sites, etc.), or from technical documents, e-mails, etc. According to the last survey of « Markess International » relating to the topic, the major content management stakes are related to collaboration work, better accessibility to contents, sharing knowledge and easier and speedier research. All the economy sector are concerned with the content management. Content creation and management are issues related to knowledge. High debit intranet communication networks which are available today open the way towards innovation, modernisation, creativity and development of electronic exchanges between the various economic, social and cultural partners and actors in different fields relating to electronic administration. E-commerce, virtual banking, distance health services, distance education and training, are practices that should help, today, to create and improve competences, this proves the importance of the content issue, not only in terms of content creation alone, despite all the value it creates, but also through its contribution to the value chain and its huge capacities to create jobs.  

What funds for what Internet uses in Africa?

But even though there is total agreement that content and the value chain to which it contributes represent a good thing, the summit and the participants to the activities will, indeed, have difficulties concerning the financing issue. The satisfaction, expressed by many participants relating to the progress achieved in the last few years in terms of Information and Communication Technologies, faces the problem of financing. Who, other than the industry giants, can prepare the way in the African countries, where the number of high debit Internet clients does not exceed 0.8% for 14% of world population, and which are concentrated in only five countries of the continent. What funds for what infrastructure should be devoted to the African continent which has ambitious objectives by 2012. These are some of the questions to which the participants to this summit of « TIC For All +3 » should provide answers, then, we could deal with the issue of the Internet uses in Africa.

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The Nigerian subsidiary of Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell Thursday announced ”the temporary shut down” of the Soku gas plant in Rivers State, in the country’s oil producing Niger Delta region, in order to carry out urgently needed repairs resulting from damage caused by a significant increase in condensate theft from the plant’s pipelines.

Consequently, the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) said in a statement made available to PANA here that it had declared ‘force majeure’ on gas supplies to Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) for the duration of the shut down.

Soku supplies some 40% of NLNG’s feed gas.

In recent months the number of illegal connections on pipelines has increased significantly and they are encroaching on the Soku plant itself, increasing safety risks to an unacceptable level, the company said.

”To ensure the safety and security of staff, contractor staff and communities, urgent repair work must be carried out immediately on the pipelines outside of the perimeter of the plant. To do this safely, the plant must be shut down. SPDC will also clean up nearby environmental damage caused by condensate spilled in these illegal operations,” it said.

The statement quoted SPDC Managing Director Mutiu Sunmonu as saying: “Our first responsibility is for the health and safety of our staff and our neighbours. The level of theft from this pipeline has meant we had to remove more than 50 illegal valves in August and September alone.

”Over the last few weeks the situation has deteriorated rapidly and resulted in a situation where safety concerns dictated we had to shut in. We also approached a stage where we have questions regarding the integrity of the pipeline which we will check.”

SPDC is the largest private-sector oil and gas company in Nigeria.

It is the operator of a joint venture in which the government, through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), holds 55%, Shell 30%, Elf Petroleum Nigeria Limited (a subsidiary of Total) 10%, and Agip 5%.

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With over 1000 participants from over 50 countries, the activities of the « Forum Tic For All+3 » started, on Wednesday November 26th in Hammamet. The objective of the forum is to continue investment development, increasing the Tunisian enterprise capacities in the area of information and communication technologies. An important chapter in this forum will be devoted to the means likely to enhance export capacities of the Tunisian enterprises in promising sectors related to the information and communication technologies sector. This forum, 3rd anniversary of the World Information Science Summit (WISS Tunis 2005), is a follow up programme for the post-summit realization and will host many events over the three days, as follow up and evaluation activities as well as the achievements within the fixed objectives.

Ministers in charge of ICT and international institutions, experts, international business leaders, business banks, investors and many consultancies will take part. The ICT For all Tunis+3 forum was jointly organized by the ministry of Technology and Communication and the Union of Tunisian Industry, Commerce and Handicraft –UTICA was also attended by international institutions working for the development of the business climate in terms of information and commuication technologies, such as the United Nations Conference for Commerce and Development (UNCCD), the Union for International Telecommunication (UIT), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), as well as the African Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank (WB) and the World Arab Society for Intellectual Property. In addition to investment and finance issues which will take an important part in the forum activities, the participants will deal with an issue which reveals to be crucial and which is the content of the Internet, with the major topic the « High Debit, Industry of Content for Development ».

The content: the major issue in 2008 edition
For the Malian Hamadou Touré, Secretary General of the International Union for Telecommunication «the current recession period shows the importance of the communication technology industry, the content in this context reveals to be crucial in terms of the facilities that it can provide to exchange on the Internet, as well as its capacities of job creation». The importance of the content topic, then, seems to be consistent with the current context of the Summit. The topic will be debated from different angles. For example the national strategies in terms of content will be debated during a ministerial panel gathering the African ministers in charge of ICT, the discussions will be focused on the high debit development of the digital content in the continent countries. The activities around the content as major topic will continue during all the forum with meetings related to reducing the digital invoice, the challenges and stakes of the high debit, the relation between the very high debit for the enterprises and investment promotion as well as the ICT development projects, in addition to the dilemma of the high debit and its mobile services in front of increasingly innovating business models, the opportunities they offer and their best practices.

Business is always present

In addition to the meetings and panels offering the opportunity to leaders and researchers to discuss the problem of the content and the best practices liable to reduce the digital invoice, especially in the African countries, the Forum will also be an opportunity for the enterprises active in this area to visit spaces organised for the matter in the Médina of Hammamet. An off shore village is organised aiming at promoting Tunisia as an outsourcing destination. A technological exhibition is also organised in margin of the Forum with the participation of about 70 Tunisian and foreign enterprises which are active in the field of computing programmes and information and communication technologies, the objective is to introduce  innovative applications and solutions to the participating countries, mainly the African and Mediterranean ones. The Forum will also be an opportunity for the organization of information and study days. For example an information day is organized by Intel Corporation, another study day will be organised by the Centre of Studies and Research in Telecommunication (CERT) and the Korean Agency for International Co-operation. The participants from Arab countries will take the opportunities to meet and debate around the realization of ICT development strategies in a workshop dealing with «technological progress for content development, challenges for the Arab world».

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Let us start with the good news, though. Since November 13th 2008, the company Alkimia has a new Managing Director, «Ali Mhiri». This latter takes over Ali Ben Ali, who retired, in special and rather difficult conditions. The enterprise, subsidiary of the Tunisian Chemical Group (GCT), is indeed strongly impacted by the sky-rocketing prices of its main material which is the phosphoric acid that it buys from the GCT, which is itself impacted by the rising sulfur prices. This acid is the basic material of the STPP which is sold to international manufacturers of detergents, Proctor, Henkel and Unilever.
These manufacturers, have indeed disrupted all purchases from Alkimia, which did not sell anything from last September and which was in the obligation of slowing if not technical disruption in its factory in Gabès. As a matter of fact, for a monthly production of 12 thousand tons of STPP, Alkimia sold in September 2008 only 1699 tons, in October 506 tons and in November of the same year 700 tons. These sales were held back by the the sky-rocketing acid prices which rose to 2630 Usd the ton last August and decreased to 1700 Usd in September. The STPP of Alkimia is hence becoming non-competitive, among detergent manufacturers who developed since then polymères and enzymes, a lot cheaper products, to replace the STPP.

We should note, here, that the GCT, unique supplier of Alkimia, had bought enormous quantities of sulfur when prices were higher (650 Usd) and stocked them (300 thousand tons according to some estimates) to have a stock of 30 thousand tons of phosphoric acid whose production price, 1200 Usd the ton, made it almost impossible to sell in the current phosphate market conjecture where the two main producers (Morocco with 30 million tons and Tunisia with 8,5 million tons), are trying to improve the international price in the acid market so as to sell their stocks. The major shareholder of Alkimia is not ready for the time being to decease the acid price, not even for his subsidiary, which as a result cannot sell any more.

2008, a year with a deficit !

Alkimia losses, for the year 2008 which is financially closed, should be of 3 to 4 MDT, without the 12 other million DT in supply for the coming year 2009. To September 30th, the company with a float of 5 % on the Tunis Stock Market, will have registered a deficit of 1 MDT, against a profit of 7 MDT at the end of the first semester 2008. To December 31st this year, the enterprise should have a loss of at least 2 MDT. Presently, and despite a rising turnover (170 MDT against 122 MDT in 2007), the enterprise cash-flow should end the year with a negative note for Alkimia which will have a 50 MDT debt to pay back to its reference shareholder the GCT.
But this is not the end of the story: According to the enterprise management forecast, if the GCT does not find a solution to its stocks of acid, if it does not decide to supply it with a loss, from now till the end of the year, Alkimia should undergo commercial hardships for about 6 months. This critical situation, is all the more grotesque that it would be almost cheaper for its major shareholder to “subsidise” the slowdown of Alkimia, than sell its acid for a price that would make its STPP «buyable» by international detergent manufacturers. 

Annaba and «Om Elkhialet» in ballotage.

This very difficult situation for the enterprise, occurs at the time when the Alkimia factory should be launched in Annaba, Algeria. Its STPP production of 5000 tons per month would then be added to the unsold stock of 20 thousand tons of the mother company. In front of such prospects, the Tunisian management of the group Alkimia, would opt for postponing the start of its factory in Annaba which was to take place in the beginning of next year. However, the enterprise hopes that the new regulations decided by the Tunisian and Algerian authorities concerning the tax exemption for some products would help it to have a 15% competitiveness margin to be able to sell its STPP in the Algerian market.  

Alkimia, with already the permission to reseach sodium sulfate, a complementary salt for the STPP, the permission of the Sebkha of Om Elkhialet in the South of Tunisia, should also postpone the start of this project which needed an investment of 35 to 50 MDT, partly in proper funds (these are becoming so rare) and the rest to levy on the Tunisian financial market (in quite unfavourable conditions).

For the time being, Alkimia sells very little STPP, its Tunisian supplier of acid refuses to decrease its price, there is a technical disruption in the factory of Gabès, and only maintenance activities are being carried out to keep its permanent staff of 305 workers whose salary mass is estimated at 7 MDT. Going for adventure !

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Namibian zinc and lead miners said Wednesday that the fall in the prices of zinc on the international market amid a slowdown in globa l economic growth would seriously hurt their revenues but assured the market they

would continue digging.

Major international mining companies have announced cutbacks in production and r etrenchments as they move to slash overheads amid a sharp fall in the prices of b ase metals and other commodities.

A financial crisis triggered in the US and European economies has led to global economic recession amid a slowdown in industrial output and consequently sharp f a lls in prices of most commodities.

Mining executives Wednesday said that if the price of commodities remained subdu ed, they might be forced to take a hard look at their operations and slash overh e ads in a bid to balance their books.

Whilst it is not yet ground zero for economies such as Namibia’s, the reckoning is likely to come in 2009.

“All operations are affected by the reductions in the price of the metal (zinc) and it’s going to affect us in terms of revenue but there won’t be any cutbacks o r lay-offs, not under the current conditions,” said Dave Bentley, Skorpion Zinc a nd Refinery General Manager.

The price of zinc has fallen by 59 per cent to trade around US$ 1,200 a tonne on the London Metals Exchange (LME). Zinc mines are currently said to have a cost o f production above the prevailing market price.

Bentley, who runs Namibia’s largest producer of special high grade zinc (SPH), S korpion Zinc mine, said that the company could still sell its product even under

the prevailing market conditions.

Bentley said that Skorpion had contracts to sell its produce though the price if determined by the LME. He ruled out any chances of cutting back on production.

“We have contracts to sell all our produce,” Bentley said.

Executives at Rosh Pinah Zinc, Namibia’s second largest zinc and lead miner, adm itted that mining companies were going through tough times.

Trevor Arran, GM corporate affairs of the South Africa-based resources group Exx aro, parent company to Rosh Pinah, said that there were no plans to reduce outpu t at the Namibian operation.

“Rosh Pinah is very important for us and we are going to keep it going as much a s we can. We are investing significant amounts of money into plant and equipment

at the moment,” Arran said.

“The (fall in) price will obviously affect the overall profitability of the enti re operation, it will have an effect on the business but management and our empl o yees are aware of the tough times ahead,” Arran said.

Rosh Pinah zinc, which mid this year inked a mega empowerment deal with Namibian investors, produced 101,000 tonnes of zinc metal in 2007.

Arran said they would continue to dig ‘even at these low prices’ adding that dem and was still strong enough.

Rosh Pinah has also hedged its future production at a fixed price. Hedging in si mple terms means forward selling of future produce. It is usually done to guard a gainst abnormal price fluctuations.

“”We are not comfortable with the (current) price—if it remains depressed, it wi ll put us under a lot of pressure,” Arran said.

“The hedging does provide us with a little bit of comfort but if the price remai ns subdued, we might be forced to take a hard look not only at Rosh Pinah but at

all our operations,” Arran said.

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