ISRAEL: Asia-Europe rail bridge approved by Israel - The Israel cabinet has approved plans on Sunday to build the first rail link between its Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts, offering a new Asia-Europe trade route to compete with the Suez Canal, AFP has reported. "This is a strategic decision," prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministers at the cabinet's weekly meeting. "In the coming decade, new (economic) powers will arise," he said. "It is within our power to create an alternative transport route, bypassing the Suez Canal."
MEED: Middle East energy investments currently total $180bn, 113 projects - New power, water, and energy projects valued at $180bn are planned or underway across the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia alone investing $109bn into 16 projects. The kingdom is investing $100bn into King Abdullah City of Atomic and Renewable Energy, due to begin construction next year, with 15 smaller projects worth $9bn in the works, according to figures collated by Ventures Middle East ahead of this week's Middle East Electricity exhibition in Dubai.
The UAE is also set to be one of the most active energy producers in the region with developments such as Abu Dhabi's $20bn nuclear power plant, under construction since last year, and the recently announced Dubai solar park. The seven emirates are spending a total of 34.2bn on 20 projects.
"According to the World Energy Council, the GCC will require 100 GW of additional power over the next 10 years to meet growing demand. The power sector will require $50 billion worth of investments in new power generating capacity and $20 billion in desalination," said exhibition director Anita Mathews.
Qatar recently announced plans to build at least nine power and water facilities worth $4.8bn over three years, including the $3bn Qatar Facility D power project, commencing this year.
Bahrain has four ongoing projects worth $4.2bn; Kuwait has 17 projects valued at $4bn, while Oman has put aside $2.9bn for 13 new power, water and energy projects to begin at various points in the year ahead.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, Jordan has nine projects predominantly in the water sector worth $6.1bn starting this year, with Morocco looking to make the most of its wind resources, earmarking $3.8bn for renewable energy projects over the next two years.
At the same time, Egypt and Iraq continue to move forward with power infrastructure plans as both countries commit $5.3bn each to new projects over the next two years.
MOROCCO: North Africa gets giant car plant - The biggest car factory in North Africa, run by French firm Renault, is officially opened near the Moroccan city of Tangiers.
OMAN: Oman integrated steel plant begin construction in Q3 - Oman-based Sun Metals has said construction work on the company's major steel mill project planned at Sur in Sharqiya South governorate is due to commence around the third quarter of this year, Oman Daily Observer has reported. The project, involving an initial investment of around $90m, will come up on a 1.4 million sq m plot earmarked by PEIE at Sur Industrial Estate, he added.
QATAR: US firm CH2M Hill wins major Qatar World Cup contract - Qatar's 2022 Supreme Committee has awarded US-based CH2M Hill Inc. the Gulf country's World Cup programme management contract and will oversee the construction of sports facilities in the country, slated to host the tournament in 2022.
QATAR: PPP initiatives could save Qatar up to $30bn - According to a report by the Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA), Qatar could save up to $30bn, or one-fourth of its national economy, by encouraging more public-private partnerships (PPP) and focusing on key areas where such partnerships offer huge potentials, Gulf Times has reported.
SAUDI: Siemens wins $1 billion contract to for Saudi power plant components - Siemens has announced it has secured another major order worth more than $1bn for a combined cycle power plant in Saudi Arabia, Arab News has reported.
SAUDI: Kingdom Holding opts to expand key Riyadh project - Kingdom Holding Co (KHC), the Saudi-based investment group chaired by Prince Alwaleed, has decided to expand its key project in Riyadh, Kingdom Centre (Trade Centre) at an investment of SR43.8m ($11.6m). The expansion is planned to include 26 new commercial stores with a total area of 3,580 sq m, in addition to 10 commercial stands occupying 157sqm, an 874sqm children recreation area 27 food stalls totalling 1,420 sq m, a 600sqm mosque, and common area and service facilities making up the 13,550sqm expansion. The Kingdom Centre occupies 94,230sqm of land comprising the Al Mamlaka shopping mall, and a 300-metre office tower which was, when built, the tallest building in the Middle East.
UAE: Dubai developer turns loss to profit - Dubai's second largest developer by market value, Deyaar Development has swung to a small profit in 2011 of Dhs37.7m ($10.3m), compared with a net loss of Dhs2.87bn in the previous year, Reuters has reported.
UAE: DP World reported to be looking for loan to pay half of $3bn facility - The world's fourth-biggest port operator, DP World is in talks with HSBC Holdings, Standard Chartered and Citigroup Inc. for a new $1.5bn loan to help repay half of a $3bn credit facility that matures in October, Bloomberg has reported,
AFRICA INFO, GENERAL INTEREST & RISK ISSUES ANGOLA: Deloitte Angola consultancy to publish Tax Guide – Consultancy company Deloitte Angola said Thursday in Luanda it planned to publish Angola’s first Tax Guide on 15 March. The publication will explain and compile questions related to taxation in the country.
Arab Spring uprisings embolden Africa's militants THE NATIONAL John Thorne Feb 10, 2012
Boko Haram in Nigeria, Tuareg insurgents in Mali and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have ramped up operations since the Arab Spring. Experts are worried that the region could be further destabilised as these groups acquire more weapons and power, John Thorne, Foreign Correspondent, reports
Across North Africa, the Arab Spring uprisings have empowered millions: activists, politicians, voters - and, it turns out, the region's militants. Revolts that brought down dictators also threw security services off balance, while weapons poured out of Libya in the chaos that followed Muammar Qaddafi's downfall, analysts said. "We're very concerned," said William Lawrence, head of the North Africa Project for the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based NGO. "As many as 12 countries could be significantly affected by the flow of arms and fighters." Al Qaeda's North African franchise and Nigeria's Boko Haram group have increased attacks over the past year, while Tuareg insurgents in Mali launched new offensives last month.
The expanding violence highlights the difficulty of controlling the Sahara desert and adjacent Sahel region, more than 9 million arid square kilometres where national borders often fade into irrelevance.
Through history the region was populated by nomads, driving their livestock and raiding caravans that transported goods between sub-Saharan kingdoms and Mediterranean ports. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the troops of colonial France sweated their way across the Sahara in a continuous effort to impose order.
A new threat arose in the late 1990s: Algeria's Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC), which has attacked mainly Algerian security forces in a messy coda to the country's civil war. While the group's northern wing has carried out bombings and ambushes, its Saharan bands based in northern Mali have gained millions of dollars by kidnapping westerners for ransom.
Saharan countries have increasingly worked together on security, and the United States has pumped funding into counter-terrorism training for the region's armies. In 2007 the GSPC officially renamed itself Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), linking its quest to build an Islamic state in Algeria with the global jihad of Osama Bin Laden.
Last year North Africa saw a different kind of uprising, as pro-democracy protests led to the fall of dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. However, political upheaval also weakened security forces in Tunisia and Libya, and the collapse of Mr Qaddafi's regime exposed his arsenal to weapons traffickers while depriving some African governments of a former benefactor. "That's going to create problems for established rulers across Africa," said Jon Marks, chairman of Cross-Border Information, a British risk-assessment firm. "Even a small number of armed militants can still make trouble in the nebulous security situation."
AQIM stepped up attacks last year, including a double suicide bombing that killed 18 at Algeria's top military academy in August, and claimed credit for brazen kidnappings in Mali. "AQIM's capabilities in the Sahara are steadily expanding," said Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, a North Africa expert for Control Risks, a risk-assessment firm in London. "The group has shown that it is capable of handling several hostage situations at once." In separate kidnappings last November in Mali, gunmen abducted two Frenchmen from their hotel in Hombori, and grabbed three European tourists and shot dead a fourth in a Timbuctoo restaurant. AQIM said later that it held the five hostages, and last month threatened to execute them if their governments attempted a rescue. The group also holds four Frenchmen kidnapped in 2010 in Niger.
Libya's interim government has struggled to secure weapons stocks and control borders. The discovery last September that surface-to-air missiles had gone missing set off international panic. So far, there is no evidence that the Libyan missiles have found their way to militant groups, analysts said. Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a senior AQIM commander in the Sahara, told Mauritania's state news agency last December that the group had acquired Libyan weapons.
CHINA: Asylum rumours sparked off by Chinese top official's disappearance after visit to US consulate
Big News Network.com 9th February, 2012 - BEIJING - Speculation was rife, especially in the Chinese social media, that a well-known crime-fighting former police chief may have tried to and failed in getting political asylum in the United States. Wang Lijun, one of China's former top police chiefs and the vice-mayor of Chongqing, is reported to have visited the US consulate in Chengdu on Tuesday night and sought meetings with officials there. He left the consulate after some time and there is no knowledge of his whereabouts.
Wang's tough crackdown on organised crime in the western megacity of Chongqing fetched him national recognition. Last year he got the city's most powerful mob boss tried and executed. He also hired local writers to produce an official history of the campaign against organized crime syndicates in the city of 29 million. He stepped down from his job as vice-mayor last week, triggering speculation of a quarrel with the city's Communist Party secretary, Bo Xilai, who is reported to be seeking national office. According to speculation, the former police chief could have fallen out of favour with Bo over his brutal crackdown on criminal gangs.
Cote d'Ivoire: Leprosy Fight Still Flagging 8 February 2012 Dimbokro/Toumodi — Côte d'Ivoire's leprosy programme was consistently under-funded during the civil war (2002-2007) and last year's political turmoil, say health practitioners, leading to a loss of expertise in terms of detecting or treating the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers a disease to be a public health emergency if the prevalence is greater than one case per 10,000 inhabitants (a 0.01 prevalence rate). In 2009, the leprosy prevalence rate was 0.36 in Côte d'Ivoire.
ETHIOPIA: Tens of thousands flee northern Kenya violence - Aid workers say they estimated that around 20 000 people had fled across the border and needed support after a recent upsurge in deadly clashes. Clashes in northern Kenya between rival ethnic groups in recent weeks have forced tens of thousands of people to flee into neighbouring Ethiopia, the UN has said. "Conflict between the Borena and Gabra clans in northern Kenya has displaced tens of thousands of people," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report released Tuesday. OR SCAMMING FREE FOOD PROVISIONS?
Gambia: Detained GPA Officials Released On Bail The Daily Observer (Banjul) By Omar Wally, 10 Feb
Officials of the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) who were detained by the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) in connection with the "missing" fully loaded container(s) at the Port of Banjul have been released on bail and asked to report back to work, a reliable source has informed the Daily Observer.
GERMANY: Merkel 'taking Europe in wrong direction' - American billionaire George Soros has slammed German Chancellor Angela Merkel, warning that her policies could lead to a repeat of the Great Depression.
Guinea massacre: Minister charged New - A minister and military officer in Guinea is charged for his role in the killing in 2009 of scores of people during a protest against military rule.
IRAN: Despite the debacle of Iraq and the horrific consequences of the invasion and occupation for million of Iraqis, and tens of thousands of others, the drums of war are beating again. This time the target is Iran - accused of developing WMDs, just like Iraq. ELECTION CAMPAIGN, INVASION REQUIRED FOR OBAMA TO SECURE A SECOND TERM
IRAQ: Turkish warplanes strike targets in Iraq Turkish warplanes have carried out air strikes on suspected Kurdish militant targets in Iraq overnight, Turkey's general staff have said.
Kenya: Publisher's Case Against KenGen Deferred to March 12 By Benson Wambugu, 9 February 2012
A suit filed by a publisher-cum lawyer seeking information on alleged multi-billion shillings contracts awarded to foreign companies by Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) was Thursday deferred to March 12. Nairobi Law Monthly (NLM) publisher Ahmednasir Abdullahi wants KenGen to be compelled to make public information relating to the geothermal well drilling contracts, some of which he claims were corruptly awarded.
NLM has termed the case as sensitive saying it involves documents and information that is considered top secret and held exclusively by KenGen and its MD Edward Njoroge. Abdullahi, in a sworn statement claims the documents touch on questionable contacts worth billions of shillings that he alleges the taxpayer has lost money.
The publisher will be seeking orders to compel KenGen to list, tabulate and make copies of all documents, emails, letters, memos, board minutes, board papers, tender minutes, legal opinions, log of study tours, reports money transfers, cheques and other payments among other documents between KenGen and Norwegian company Green Energy, Symba Power Energy or their subsidiaries and associates, Great Wall Drilling Company and Hindustan Turbo company and Maxx Watt ltd.
Madagascar: Rajoelina Loses Friends SOUTHERN AFRICAN REPORTER 9 February 2012 - Madagascar's transitional president, Andry Rajoelina, is facing internal revolt in his inner circle as he battles to stave off implementation of the SADC elections roadmap and hold on to power on the troubled island. Some members of his government and the judiciary are now privately calling on the ex-disk jockey to step down.
Rajoelina has colluded with some senior military, police and intelligence figures, and France (Vol 29 No 14 and No 15), to frustrate the SADC-sponsored process aimed at restoring a democratic government. In the latest example, Rajoelina and his allies last month prevented ousted President Marc Ravalomanana from returning to Madagascar. Ravalomanana's return is an explicit requirement of the roadmap document signed in September 2011.
However, tensions are growing between Rajoelina and his security allies on the one hand, and senior political figures in the transitional government he leads on the other. Transitional Prime Minister Omer Beriziky, in particular, has broken ranks with Rajoelina. Last week he told Ojaniaina Dina Andriamaholy, chief legal advisor of the High Transitional Authority (Rajoelina's temporary government) and vice president of the Administrative Court, that the SADC roadmap in its current form was unnecessarily generous to Rajoelina and gave him inordinate powers.
Andriamaholy, already sceptical of Rajoelina's regime, advised the prime minister to use the country's High Constitutional Court to counter Rajoelina's powers and actions, particularly with regard to strict implementation of the roadmap. In a recent decision, the court adopted the SADC roadmap as a Malagasy legal instrument, giving its provisions and timetables the power of Malagasy law. This paves the way for amnesty legislation to be passed, setting aside Ravalomanana's conviction in absentia by a criminal court that critics say was controlled by Rajoelina. The High Constitutional Court, by adopting the SADC roadmap as a legal instrument, effectively made Rajoelina's government subject to SADC authority, a point insiders say Andriamaholy made to the frustrated Beriziky.
Pressure regarding the roadmap is now mounting on Rajoelina from within his own camp. Insiders suggest high-level tension with the army and the judiciary over the slow implementation of the programme. Some senior security figures fear the return of Ravalomanana would have direct personal consequences for them, since they were directly involved in ousting the former president in a coup in 2009 and installing Rajoelina, a 34-year-old ex-Antananarivo DJ, as president of the country. These elements have pressured Rajoelina to resist the SADC reform process.
However, this has led to as yet private but growing calls on Rajoelina to step down as transitional president from some quarters of his inner circle. They argue he has failed to restore stability and normality to the troubled island state. ABOUT TIME! BUT THE SLIPPERY EEL IS STILL BATTING FOR PARIS
Malaria twice as deadly as feared (2012-02-06) AIM udy published on Friday in the British medical journal “The Lancet” has found that malaria kills almost twice as many people as formerly believed. Looking at data over the last thirty years using new techniques, the researchers estimate that there were 1.2 million deaths in 2010 caused by malaria, nearly double the 655,000 figure produced in the World Health Organisation’s World Malaria Report. The other shock finding of the study is that many victims are older children or adults. Previously, experts thought that almost all those dying were infants.
The paper considers that in sub-Saharan Africa a prominent cause of the tripling of deaths was antimalarial drug resistance (older anti-malarial treatments such as chloroquine are no longer effective). Although most malaria deaths are in very young children, the study found that “with few exceptions, the proportion of malaria deaths in adults is almost always more than 40 per cent”.
MOZAMBIQUE: Did kidnap victims owe money to loan shark? (2012-02-10) The recent kidnappings of Asian businessmen may be connected to the loan sharking operations run by Momad Assife Abdul Satar (“Nini”), suggests the latest edition of the independent weekly “Savana”. Satar is serving a lengthy prison sentence for the murder of investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso, and for his part in the fraud of 1996 that siphoned the equivalent of 14 million US dollars from what was then the country’s largest bank, the BCM.
Satar and a second of the Cardoso assassins, Vicente Ramaya, were transferred on Monday from the Maputo top security prison to the cells of the Maputo City Police Command. Although Samo Goncalves, the Director of Penal Control in the Ministry of Justice, denied that the transfers had anything to do with the kidnapping, “Savana”’s sources insist that they do. After three weeks of investigations into the kidnappings, the police requested the intervention of the State Security and Intelligence Service (SISE). It was SISE which identified Satar and Ramaya as the main suspects.
Prior to his arrest in 2001 for the Cardoso murder, Satar had run an illegal loan sharking operation from the premises of Unicambios, the now defunct foreign exchange bureau owned by his brother, Ayob. Asian businessmen who, for whatever reason, could not borrow money from the normal sources of funding turned to Satar – who was always willing to lend, but at extortionate interest rates. During the Cardoso murder trial, Satar told the court that he made his living out of short term loans and charging “commissions” on them. He freely admitted that he had no authorisation for this and paid no taxes. He was, in short, an unregistered, illegal money-lender – a loan shark. It is now suspected that the businessman kidnapped in recent months owed Satar money. They had taken out loans before his arrest and never repaid them.
Satar and Ramaya could continue to run criminal operations from their cells in the top security prison because they were always in mobile phone contact with the outside world. Not only were phones regularly smuggled into the jail, but Satar also had access to computers. He set up his own page on Facebook, and for a period ran a blog (www.ninisatar.blogspot.com) – this has not been updated since August 2009.
According to “Savana”, SISE suspected that Satar and Ramaya were using their illicit cell phones to coordinate activities such as the kidnappings. The sudden transfer to the police command is intended to cut off their channels of communication with the outside world. “Savana” notes that Satar is also believed to have connections with Remix Property – a company that burst upon the Maputo business scene in late 2010, and seems mysteriously wealthy. It has interests in real estate, construction, car hire, and the sale of electrical goods. (Source: AIM)
Niger transition shows way for North Africa With Saturday's second-round presidential elections, Niger ends a model one-year all-inclusive democratic transition process. The process could be an example for the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.
NIGERIA: Shell says 140,000bpd oil export from Nigeria threatened by theft - The Nigerian subsidiary of oil giant Shell Monday raised an alarm over the effects of continued crude oil theft along one of its major export pipelines, saying the practice could affect the production and export of 140,000 barrels per day from the company and third party production.
Nigerians flee to Cameroon - Nigerians have fled in droves to neighbouring Cameroon to escape violence claimed by the Islamist Boko Haram group and revenge attacks by Christians.
Rwanda: South African Airways Resumes Flights On Kigali The South African Airways (SAA) has added Rwanda to its 500 destinations across the world by reentering the Kigali - Johannesburg route. An Airbus A319 aircraft with a capacity of carrying 120 passengers; 25 in business class and 95 in economy class will operate three days a week on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays from Johannesburg to Kigali, before departing for Bujumbura. The return flights will operate from Bujumbura to Kigali and onwards to Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport.
Senegal: Day of Reckoning - It's the Economy Stupid! - The Senegalese people are extremely disillusioned. In 2000, they enthusiastically went to the polls to elect Abdoulaye Wade as their president. Wade had campaigned as an agent of change, but change never came to Senegal throughout his decade in power. Now the only change he wants to make is to the constitution, so that he can retain his hold on power.
Wade turned out to be almost a caricature of the dozy African potentate for whom power, nepotism, and embezzlement become indistinguishable. So deeply has he identified his and his family's interests with the state that he appointed his son, Karim Wade, to head four different ministries - international cooperation, air travel, infrastructure, and energy - simultaneously. To make young Wade his successor, the 86-year-old president has resorted to every trick in the book. He staged a photo opportunity for his designated-heir with Barack Obama during the G-8 meeting in Deauville in 2011, and followed that up with a trip to Benghazi - his flight escorted by French Mirage fighters - to lambast Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi. In doing so, Wade broke ranks with the rest of the African Union, naively expecting to gain French and Western support for his bid to retain power. Wade's shortcomings have also hurt Senegal's economy. The 1.16 per cent annual growth of the agricultural (which employs sixty per cent of the country's people) was quite insufficient to provide for a population growing 2.5 per cent annually.