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UGANDA: Hydropower plant plan hits funding, technical snags By: John Muchira ENG NEWS 10th February 2012 - Plans by Uganda to start building the planned 700 MW Karuma hydropower project this year have been thrown into jeopardy, following disagreements with would-be financiers over the design and capacity of the plant.

Days after the East African nation abolished subsidies in the energy sector, prompting a huge rise in the cost of electricity, the potenial financiers, including the Germany Development Bank, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank, stated that it was not realistic that the water flow at Karuma would sustain the generation of 700 MW. They argued that it did not make economic sense for Uganda to invest heavily in the project when it was clear the plant would only achieve full capacity during specific periods. The project has a $1.3-billion price tag. They also contended that the feasibility study, commissioned by the Uganda government, did not “comprehensively capture the project’s complex technical, financial and environmental issues”. The feasibility study was undertaken by Energy Infratech, of India.

Instead of proceeding with the project, the would-be financiers want the plant scaled down to between 400 MW and 450 MW. They have also offered to finance another feasibility study into the project. But Uganda, which has identified the planned power plant as one of the high-priority projects in its National Development Plan and as the ultimate solution to Uganda ’s persistent energy problems, has vowed to proceed with construction, even if the lenders withdraw their support.

Although Uganda is confident it can raise the $1.3-billion required for the project, even if the current would-be financiers refuse to participate, projections show the cost of the project could surge to $2.2-billion by the time it is completed, an eventuality that might see the project stall midway. The project will entail the construction of a 600 MW to 700 MW hydropower facility located about 3 km upstream of the Karuma bridge and 80 km downstream of Lake Kyoga, on the Nile river.

Uganda: Bioelectricity Project Takes Off — The World Bank in partnership with the Agency for Promoting Sustainable Development Initiatives (ASDI) and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, last week inaugurated a pilot project for the promotion of bioelectricity in Uganda at Kayei Landing Site, Akokoro Sub-County, Apac District. Bioelectricity, which will be replicated in different areas across Uganda, involves technology transfer for electricity generation from biodegradable wastes (water hyacinth, grass, kitchen waste, market waste, fish waste, agricultural waste etc) for electricity generation. About 100 households in Kayei Landing Site on Lake Kyoga in North - central Uganda, will benefit from the 10 kilowatts of bioelectricity that will be produced by the project using a $150,000 grant from the World Bank-administered Africa Renewable Energy Access (AFREA) Trust Fund.

"This is the only project funded by the World Bank Biomass Energy Initiative for Africa in the category of increasing power capacity with bioelectricity as a pilot that will be replicated not only in Uganda but Africa as a whole,"

Cameroon: Railways of hope CAMEROON TRIBUNE By Nkendem Forbinake, 8 February 2012 - If the meeting summoned last Friday by the Minister of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi had held on April 1, conclusions at the meeting would have been dismissed as April Fools' gimmick. The meeting was to examine the final report of a study ordered by government on the extension and modernisation of the national railway network between now and 2020. The conclusions of the study are simply revolutionary while the sums envisaged are as startling as they are whopping. If all goes according to plan, Cameroon could, in a very short time, take its present 987 kilometres of railroads to an impressive 3,269.3 kilometres!

In the plan, localities such as Wum, Jakiri, Foumban, Limbe, Kribi-Lolabe and, even Kousseri in the northernmost tip of the country would be served with railways. Of course, the new minefields, especially in the East Region, are being given pride of place. These include Gamboula, Mintom and Ngoyla where iron ore has been discovered in huge quantities and mining virtually started.

In the very short term, two projects are envisaged: Douala-Limbe (73.5 kms) and Douala-Ngaoundere (907.5 kms) for which feasibility studies are already on and should end this year, 2012. In the middle term, the towns of Kousseri, Kumba, Wum, Gamboula, Foumban, Bafoussam, Mora, Ngoyla, Jakiri and Mintom will benefit from this new mode of transport. The new plan is designed to ensure an effective link with Cameroon's immediate neighbours and even beyond, extending to Angola and the DRC.

The project is attracting sums that have never been heard before or which are even difficult to decipher. The total for all the envisaged projects is an unpronounceable figure of FCFA 14,976.5 Billion (or FCFA 14,976,500,000,000)

With regard to financing, development partners are handy and are warming up to take the projects under the BOT (Build Operate and Transfer) system.

On the other hand, the provision of these railway lines is a condition sine-qua-non for the realisation and sustenance of some of the huge mining and deep sea port projects which are part of efforts to raise Cameroon to an emerging economy status by 2035. Beyond that, new lines are also planned for areas with intensive agriculture and stockbreeding which will see farm and animal products easily getting to markets.

Gabon: Surfing hippos, lacking tourists By David Baron BBC 7 February 2012 PRI's The World

A decade ago Gabon set aside 10% of its land for national parks. It wanted to become Africa's version of Costa Rica - a magnet for eco-tourists. But turning Gabon's natural assets into tourist cash has been tougher than expected.

"They're body-surfing in the waves, it's quite amazing." So says my guide, Wynand Viljoen, as he recalls seeing hippos along this part of the Atlantic coast of Africa, just south of the equator. This is what led National Geographic, in a 2004 article, to call Gabon "the land of the surfing hippos".
"It looks even weirder if you see the elephants," says Mr Viljoen. And you often do see elephants on the beach. All sorts of animals wander this rare stretch of undeveloped coast. Just inland, Mr Viljoen shows me forest elephants, western lowland gorillas, red river hogs, and fresh leopard tracks in the sand. This is Loango National Park, one of 13 Gabonese national parks established by presidential decree in 2002, and which cover 10% of the whole country.

In 2008, the British Guild of Travel Writers named Loango the top new tourist destination in the world. But then, two years ago, Loango Lodge shut down. "As a pioneer, it became victim to the fact that Gabon wasn't really ready," says Lee White, a British-born biologist who pushed for the creation of Gabon's national parks and helped launch the tourist and conservation effort at Loango. Now he is director of Gabon's national park service.

"When you're trying to move a country that has no experience with tourism to become a tourist-friendly country, there are huge challenges," he says. Transport in Gabon is unreliable. Hassles with police and immigration officials are common. Investor Rombout Swanborn says, for some time, he was able to circumvent these problems. He bought his own planes and flew tourists directly to Loango from throughout the region. But Mr Swanborn says he faced problems with Gabon's civil aviation authority, an agency considered so ineffectual by the European Union, it put Gabon on an air safety blacklist. "Before they do anything at all, they ask you for a lot of money," says Mr Swanborn. He says he refused to give money when officials asked for it. "We were not ready to pay an extravagant additional tax. We knew it wouldn't benefit the country - let's put it that way." The government grounded his planes. Mr Swanborn tried to bring tourists to Loango by other means, involving a four-hour boat ride down the coast, followed by a car ride on pot-holed roads. But that proved too inconvenient and time-consuming for many tourists. Bookings dried up and the lodge shut down.

This may seem a straightforward tale of a well-meaning businessman stymied by alleged African corruption and inefficiency, but others who were involved say it is not that simple. They say Mr Swanborn didn't do enough to build trust with the Gabonese, and that undermined his efforts. "The definition of eco-tourism is this: You have to help local people. You have to share the benefits," says Rene Adiaheno, a former head of Gabon's national park service. Mr Adiaheno says as an eco-tourism operator, Mr Swanborn should have done more to train and employ local villagers. Romain Calaque was an early employee at Loango who now works for Gabon's Wildlife Conservation Society. He says Mr Swanborn didn't always take government rules and regulations seriously. "The government became very upset, and it was almost impossible to find a way to get all the partners back around the table," he says. Mr White says it boiled down to a clash of cultures - an aggressive European businessman operating in a country where people prefer to avoid conflict. AFRICA BUSINESS OPERATIONS NOTE, EFFECTIVE PUBLIC RELATIONS ESSENTIAL!

Whatever went wrong at Loango, Mr White remains optimistic about the eco-tourism potential of Gabon. He says things are beginning to look up. For one, the country has a new President, Ali Bongo Ondimba, who has given some signs he wants to root out the corruption that plagued this country under the former president, his father, who held office for 42 years. The new government is negotiating with tourism companies to build as many as nine new national park lodges in the next few years.

Some hope that tourism can help Gabon reduce its reliance on oil.

If tourist cash doesn't flow into the economy here, pressure could mount to open Loango and the other national parks to other forms of revenue. And the land that was set aside for the hippos in the surf, and the buffalos on the beach, could be handed over to people who value this place for other reasons - to extract its timber, minerals and oil.

Gabon is co-hosting, with Equatorial Guinea, this year's Africa Cup of Nations football tournament.

For the Gabonese authorities, this has been a unique opportunity to show to the world that they can organise events like this and that they are open to foreign visitors. I have been lucky enough to have visited Gabon twice recently: A year and a half ago as a tourist, and in the last few days as a journalist covering CAN 2012. Both times getting a visa has been easy and I have not had a single problem travelling overland on my own. People are extremely friendly and hospitable. And in contrast to its neighbours - Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo - I have never been asked for money at its frequent checkpoints. However, it is still a difficult destination for all but the most hardened travellers. Although most of its roads are in very good condition, it is not easy to get to the main tourist attractions, including Loango National Park.

And, this being a country used to oil money, accommodation at hotels and lodges can be prohibitively expensive for many individual travellers. But, as a businessman told me a couple of days ago in Libreville, the government knows that its oil reserves are drying up quickly and it will have to get its act together and seriously encourage alternative sources of revenue, including tourism.

Nigeria: Second Niger Bridge to Gulp N100 Billion - Works Minister Leadership (Abuja) By Omotola Oloruntobi, 10 February 2012 - The Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Ononelemen has said that the Second Niger bridge is to gulp N100 billion, out of which the federal government will contribute 30 per cent while a yet to be selected concessionaire will contribute 70 per cent of the total cost, Minister of Works.

Nigeria: Exxon, NNPC to Seal U.S.$1.5 Billion Loan Deal THIS DAY 10 February 2012 - Quoting unnamed international bankers, Bloomberg reported yesterday that Standard Chartered Plc and South African lenders Standard Bank Group Ltd and Nedbank Group Ltd. are among the banks involved in the deal.

Nigeria: FG to Invest N4.46 Billion in Transport Sector By 2015 - The Federal Government is to invest N4.46 billion on the development of the transportation sector between 2011 and 2015.

Nigeria: Dangote to Crash Cement Prices With New N160 Billion Plant –The Chairman of Dangote Group of Companies, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, said yesterday that he intended to crash cement prices in the country with the commissioning of his $1 billion (N160 billion) cement plant in Ibese, Ogun State. Dangote made the commitment yesterday at the commissioning of the latest cement facility which has the capacity to produce 6 million metric tonnes of cement per annum (mtpa).

Sao Tome and Principe: Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program launched in Sao Tome and Principe February 9th, 2012 – The launch of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) in Sao Tome and Principe is intended to prepare an agricultural investment plan for the archipelago, a programme representative said in Sao Tome Wednesday. Joel Beassen, a representative of the CAADP noted that the launch would “bring together all the players in this sector (agriculture), namely members of parliament, the government and cooperatives,” so that the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) can prepare an agricultural investment plan for Sao Tome and Principe”.

The CAADP, which was approved by the African Union and adopted by consensus in 2003 in Maputo by the African nations, is implemented in the ECCAS countries and funded by the World Bank. Sao Tome and Principe is the sixth country in the Central Africa sub-region where the programme has been implemented, following Chad, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Burundi. “The aim is to allow agriculture to become a bigger driver of national development in each of the States of the Central Africa sub-region,” said Beassen, cited by Portuguese news agency Lusa. (macauhub)

AFRICA: Trade barriers cost Africa billions: WB By INet Bridge, 08/02/2012 - A new World Bank report shows how African countries are losing out on billions of dollars in potential trade earnings every year because of high trade barriers with neighboring countries.

By Helmo Preuss

A new World Bank report shows how African countries are losing out on billions of dollars in potential trade earnings every year because of high trade barriers with neighboring countries, and that it is easier for Africa to trade with the rest of the world than with itself.

According to the new report, "De-Fragmenting Africa: Deepening Regional Trade Integration in Goods and Services", regional fragmentation could become even more costly for the continent with new World Bank forecasts suggesting that the economic slowdown in the eurozone could shave Africa's growth by up to 1.3 percentage points this year. The authors said: "while uncertainty surrounds the global economy and stagnation is likely to continue in traditional markets in Europe and North America, enormous opportunities for cross-border trade within Africa in food products, basic manufactures and services remain unexploited."

The report said this situation deprives the continent of new sources of economic growth, new jobs, and sharply falling poverty, factors which accompanied significant trade integration in East Asia and other regions. The cross-border production networks that have spurred economic dynamism in other regions, especially East Asia, have yet to materialise in Africa. African leaders have called for a continental free trade area by 2017 to boost trade within the continent.

Regional integration in Africa has long been recognised as essential to address the issues of the small economic size of many countries and the often arbitrarily drawn borders that pay little heed to the distribution of natural endowments. But, as is often noted, Africa trades little with itself, at least to the extent that is recorded in official customs statistics. "It is clear that Africa is not reaching its potential for regional trade, despite the fact that its benefits are enormous - they create larger markets, help countries diversify their economies, reduce costs, improve productivity and help reduce poverty." said Obiageli "Oby" Ezekwesili, The World Bank's Vice President for Africa, and a former Nigerian Minister of Extractive Industries.

"Yet trade and non-trade barriers remain significant and fall most heavily and disproportionately on poor traders, most of whom are women. African leaders must now back aspiration with action and work together to align the policies, institutions and investments needed to unblock these barriers and to create a dynamic regional market on a scale worthy of Africa's one billion people and its roughly US$2-trillion economy."

The report noted that until the onset of the financial crisis, most sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries grew rapidly and often at much higher rates than the world average. Economic growth in these countries was robust and driven by the boom in commodity prices, which led to very high growth in export values, especially for minerals, to new fast-growing markets such as India and China.

While exports have grown strongly over the last decade, and the region's trade has recovered well from the global crisis, the impact on unemployment and poverty has been disappointing in many countries. Unemployment remains around 24% in SA. In Tanzania, extreme income-poverty appears to have remained broadly constant at around 35% of the population. This shows that export growth has typically been fueled by a small number of mineral and primary products with limited impacts on the wider economy and that formal sectors remain small in many countries.

As a result, the report suggests that Africa will have to diversify its exports from depending solely on precious metals and other commodities and encourage more people to trade goods and professional services in accounting, law, education and healthcare, among others. The region's large number of young people also calls for significant numbers of new jobs, intensive trade, and growth.

"Imagine the benefits of allowing African doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers and lawyers to practice anywhere on the continent, but responsibility for making this happen lies with countries first and foremost," said Marcelo Giugale, the World Bank's Africa Director for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management.

"The final prize is clear: helping Africans trade goods and services with each other. Few contributions carry more development power than that," he said.

To escape the current straightjacket of trade fragmentation, the report says that African leaders, most of whom will attend this week's regional integration summit in Ethiopia hosted by the African Union, need to pursue changes in three key areas.

1. Improving cross-border trade, especially by small poor traders, many of whom are women, by simplifying border procedures, limiting the number of agencies at the border and increasing the professionalism of officials, supporting traders associations, improving the flow of information on market opportunities, and assisting in the spread of new technologies such as cross-border mobile banking that improve access to finance.

2. Removing a range of non-tariff barriers to trade, such as restrictive rules of origin, import and export bans, and onerous and costly import and export licensing procedures

3. Reforming regulations and immigration rules that limit the substantial potential for cross-border trade and investment in services.

Trade and regional integration are core elements of the bank's new Africa strategy, launched in March 2011, to help countries create opportunities for their transformation and sustained growth. The bank has doubled its investment in regional integration from US$2.1 billion in 2008 to US$4.2 billion in July 2011, and it will rise to $5.7 billion by July 2012. Barriers include trade permits, export taxes, import licenses, and bans, all of which are persistent.

While there has been some success in removing import duties within regional communities, a range of non-tariff and regulatory barriers still raise transaction costs and limit the movement of goods, services, people and capital across borders. The end-result is that Africa has integrated with the rest of the world faster than with itself. Effective regional integration is of particular pertinence now. While uncertainty surrounds the global economy and stagnation is likely to continue in traditional markets in Europe and North America, enormous opportunities for cross-border trade within Africa in food products, basic manufactures and services remain unexploited.

Such trade is essential for welfare and poverty reduction, since poor people, and especially women, are intensively engaged in the informal production and trading of the goods and services that are actually crossing African borders. Allowing these traders to flourish and gradually integrate into the formal economy would boost trade and the private sector base for future growth and development.

There are enormous opportunities from trade in services in Africa that are not dependent on a common external tariff being in place.

Countries can work to improve trade facilitation at the border and to remove non-tariff barriers with neighbors while free trade agreements are being designed and implemented. Countries that are not members of the same free trade agreements can work to disseminate information on market prices to producers and traders.

IRAN: Oil trade flows already hit by Iran sanctions – IEA - The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said sanctions on Iran are already hitting global oil flows even though a European ban on imports from the Islamic Republic does not come into effect until July, Reuters has reported.

IRAN: Iran's steel imports hit heavily by sanctions - Steel exports to Iran, one of the world's top importers of billet used in construction, are grinding to a halt as crippling US-led sanctions have left local buyers without access to major currencies, Reuters has reported,

IRAQ: New Iraq oil terminal to start loading in 10 days - An Iraqi oil official has announced the country is expected to start loading crude at its first new Gulf export terminal in the south within 10 days, after bad weather and technical problems delayed its initial start, Reuters has reported. Iraq plans a $1.3bn expansion of its Gulf port export facilities in the Basra oil region, including undersea and onshore pipelines and Single Point Moorings or SPMs for loading tankers as it rebuilds its industry after years of war. "Maybe in a week to 10 days," South Oil Co deputy director Faisal Khalaf said when asked when the first SPM would begin exporting.


IRAQ: Construction begins in Kirkuk on $31m five star hotel - Kurdistan-based Rekani Firm has launched construction works on its $31.58m hotel in Kirkuk in Iraq's semi-autonomous northern region, AK news has reported. The city's first five-star hotel and shopping centre is being developed in partnership with Turkish firms, the firm said.

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