Daily Archives: May 8, 2014

Greenfields investments to stimulate infrastructure capacity in fast-growing West Africa says Standard Bank

The World Economic Forum (WEF) notes that he insufficient amount and quality of infrastructure is one of the major impediments to developing growth in West Africa

JOHANNESBURG, South-Africa, May 8, 2014 – West Africa’s future as a competitive economic bloc requires new solutions in power technology and investment to improve energy access and enable the implementation of an ambitious infrastructure programme according to Standard Bank (http://www.standardbank.com).

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Policymakers, regional governments and investors are grappling with methods to de-risk investment in new business models. They are also looking at the technological, regulatory, financial and geopolitical factors that change the game and replicate the energy access success stories.

“The challenge for these growth markets is to find viable funding mechanisms and create an enabling environment to literally power the future of a continent that holds 15% of the world’s population,” says Mr David Humphrey Head of Power and Infrastructure, Standard Bank. “Coupled with funding, financial services institutions are also giving more attention to interest rate risk management and hedging products; foreign exchange, and fuel hedging; and local currency funding on a corporate, structured or project basis,” added Mr. Humphrey

The World Economic Forum (WEF) notes that together with border administration slowing inter-regional trade, the insufficient amount and quality of infrastructure is one of the major impediments to developing growth in West Africa and improving its competitiveness. Closing this deficit is part of the solution.

While over half of Africa’s improved growth performance can be attributed to improvements in infrastructure, the WEF says an estimated USD93-billion is needed annually until 2020 to fund infrastructure development. Increased urbanisation, growing consumer markets and broader ties to the global economy are putting additional pressure on the need for African economies to steam ahead with these investments.

These challenges cannot be viewed in a silo and without a broader economic context. Global economic activity remains subdued, and despite signs of strengthening in high-income countries, significant downside risks persist. This affects factors such as intra-trade flows, the cost of capital equipment, and rising energy costs.

In West Africa, the surge of regional players and multinationals into the region’s finance, retail, FMCG, oil, energy and mining sectors, is opening up key economic opportunities for Africa’s fastest growing region. Foreign direct investment (FDI) flows to African countries increased by 5 per cent to USD50-billion in 2012 even as global FDI fell by 18 per cent, according to UNCTAD’s annual survey of investment trends reported in 2013. FDI flows to West Africa declined by 5 per cent to $16.8 billion, the report revealed. Of investment channeled to the two major oil-producing countries of the region, FDI to Ghana remained stable at $3.3 billion, but inflows to Nigeria declined by 21 per cent to $7.0 billion, accounting for much of the diminished flows to the region. However Nigeria is reacting by liberalizing its power sector, with the state owned distribution and generating companies sold into the private sector in October 2013. The sector is poised for substantial investment pending the first five year regulatory review which will be announced in the near future. This review will have to balance the need for investment to drive better efficiency and reliability of service against the price the sector will be allowed to charge consumers. But if the price is investment conducive and correct incentives are put in place, rapid improvement should be expected over the next 2-3 years.

While natural resources are still the mainstay of FDI flows to Africa, FDI in consumer-oriented manufacturing and services is beginning to climb, reflecting the growing purchasing power of the continent’s emerging middle class. Between 2008 and 2012, the share of consumer-related industries in the value of greenfields investment projects in Africa grew from 7 per cent of the total to 23 per cent.

These encouraging trends bode well for regional integration around infrastructure investments. The general sentiment around infrastructure in the region is one of unprecedented collaboration. Accordingly the continent’s infrastructure projects over the next decade or so are set to be even more co-operative. Launched in 2010, the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), headed by the African Development Bank (AfDB), aims to implement infrastructure projects of $68 billion by 2020. These projects are all aimed at galvanising Africa’s economic development by removing the infrastructure impediment. The areas of critical interest in African infrastructure are roads, railways, ports, water and energy.

For the Pan-African agenda, the development of cross-border projects, such as transport corridors and transnational water and power supplies is required. An estimate of Africa’s current road coverage is 34 percent, while its electricity access average is at only 30 percent. Regional collaboration is particularly critical to landlocked nations, which can pay almost double to export their goods compared with coastal nations.

Some of the top 10 infrastructure projects currently underway or under negotiation in Africa include the Abidjan-Lagos Motorway. It will connect five West African countries (from west to east they are the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria) along a predominantly coastal route. The total cost of the motorway is expected to be $8 billion, and construction should begin in 2015. Ghana, Africa’s second largest gold producer, is launching a range of large-scale infrastructure projects, aimed at boosting the economy’s growth potential. These projects address the large infrastructure gaps present in the economy, a focus point of the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA).

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is one of the continent’s strongest agricultural markets, enjoying reforms and capital investment; Senegal is pinning growth on further exploration of its deep sea oil blocks; Ivory Coast is working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to implement technical and institutional reforms to reduce the electricity sector’s burden on the budget and in Cameroon the government’s long-term development strategy aims to address shortfalls in transport and energy infrastructure.

Standard Bank looks forward to playing its part in helping drive West Africa’s economic success as it continues to expand and develop its franchise in West Africa, as demonstrated by the recent opening of its representative office in Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Standard Bank.

Issued by: Magna Carta PR
On behalf of: Standard Bank

For more information contact:
Kate Johns
+27 11 631 2406 (office)
+27 82 805 0210 (cell)

For further information visit: http://www.standardbank.com or http://www.standardbank.co.za

SOURCE: Standard Bank

Ban appoints veteran diplomat as deputy head of UN Guinea-Bissau office

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appointed Marco Carmignani of Brazil as his Deputy Special Representative with the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS).

With more than two decades of service with the UN, Mr. Carmignani brings with him a wealth of political and leadership experience. For the past seven years, he served in peacekeeping and political missions in the Middle East as Senior Advisor and Chief of Staff.

Prior to that, he held a number of senior positions at the UN Secretariat in New York and in Africa, including with the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB).

Three decades after gaining its independence from Portugal, coup-prone Guinea-Bissau remains one of the world’s poorest countries. Deployed in the aftermath of a crippling civil war in the late-1990s, the UN Peacebuilding Support Office worked to help the small West African nation cast off a legacy of violent conflict and establish a stable civilian democracy. On 1 January 2010, it was replaced by the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office, UNIOGBIS.


DR Congo mass rape verdict fails to deliver justice to victims, says UN envoy

The United Nations envoy on sexual violence in conflict today voiced her disappointment that only two people were convicted of rape during the recent trial of 39 soldiers and officers charged with committing crimes in and around the town of Minova in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) two years ago.

In the mass rape trial, which concluded on 5 May, the Operational Military Court in North Kivu condemned 26 members of the DRC armed forces (FARDC), including two for rape, one for murder and most of the rest on more minor charges such as looting and disobedience. Fourteen officers were acquitted.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, took note of the conclusion of the trial and expressed her disappointment at the verdict.

“The Special Representative regrets that the verdict does not reflect the magnitude of the crimes of sexual violence that were committed and fails to do justice to all victims who had the courage to bring this case to court,” said a statement issued by Ms. Bangura’s office.

Ms. Bangura saluted the bravery of the survivors and urged DRC authorities to pay reparations and take immediate measures “to protect survivors, witnesses, and the legal counsel who worked tirelessly to seek justice for the hundreds of survivors, as well as for human rights defenders who advocated for accountability.”

A UN report on the incident detailed harrowing victim testimony and eyewitness accounts of mass rape and other gross violations of human rights perpetrated by the FARDC between 15 November and 2 December 2012 as the soldiers retreated after clashing with M23 rebel forces in North Kivu province.

Earlier this week, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed its disappointment at the ruling, saying that it fell short of the expectations of the numerous victims and confirmed the shortcoming of the country’s justice system.


Gross rights abuses committed by both sides in South Sudan conflict, UN report finds

Gross human rights abuses have been committed by both sides in the brutal conflict that erupted in South Sudan at the end of last year, including rapes, mass killings and torture, and, according to a new United Nations report released today, civilians were not only caught up in the violence, they were directly targeted, often along ethnic lines.

“Based on thorough documentation and investigations, there are reasonable grounds to believe that gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law have been committed by both parties to the conflict,” warned a report prepared by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which cites the conflict’s “devastating” impact on civilians, who have suffered mightily through attacks on hospitals and churches, and acts of sexual violence perpetrated against women of different ethnic groups.

The report provides a comprehensive account of human rights violations and atrocities perpetrated during the hostilities that engulfed South Sudan since 15 December 2013 and follows up on the interim report released by the Mission on 21 February.

Primarily based on more than 900 interviews with eye witnesses and victims, the report provides a succinct timeline of the conflict, which was sparked by a political dispute between President Salva Kiir, who belongs to the Dinka ethnic group, and former vice-president Riek Machar, who belongs to the Lou Nuer, and finds that “from the very outset…gross violations of international law…occurred on a massive scale.”

These findings were echoed by UNMISS chief Hilde Johnson in an interview earlier today with UN Radio, in which she said “grave violations and atrocities” have been committed by both sides as the fighting has spread through the country’s four states. She cited two “particularly horrific” incidents covered in the report – a mass killing early on in the conflict in a police station near Juba, and the killing of some 200 people in Bentiu two weeks ago.

In both instances, the killings were “clearly ethnically motivated,” she said, underscoring that “the need for accountability is absolutely essential…the perpetrators of such acts need to be held to account.”

Ms. Johnson said the report also tells the story of the conflict’s impact on the civilian population. “It shows attacks against women, children, the elderly and disabled,” she said, decrying not only “the ferocity of the abuses but the fact that incidents have been perpetrated where these vulnerable are being targeted equally – if not more than – fighting forces.”

“This is what is so sad and so enraging,” she said, reiterating the report’s call for an immediate end to the violence, and urging both parties to shoulder their responsibility to make this happen.

The report goes on to note that South Sudan has never undertaken a comprehensive, independent, and effective accountability process since it attained independence. As such, long-standing impunity and failure to treat killings, sexual and gender-based violence, and other gross human rights and humanitarian law violations as crimes, reinforces the cycle of conflict.

“Accountability is critical to end the legacy of impunity in South Sudan and prevent similar atrocities in the future. There can be no reconciliation without accountability. We call for a credible peace process that will lead to national healing and reconciliation,” said Ms. Johnson.

The conclusions call for further investigations and UNMISS welcomes both national and regional initiatives along these lines. Such investigations must move quickly and lead to the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators. They must also be conducted independently and in a transparent manner consistent with international standards and principles, the report concludes.

ASG Cheng-Hopkins concludes visit to Somalia, announcing $7 million for peacebuilding support

MOGADISHU, Somalia, May 8, 2014 – The Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, today concluded a five-day visit to Somalia, announcing an additional US$7 million in support of peacebuilding activities in newly recovered areas of south-central Somalia.

“We are committed to spending $10 million very fast under the UN Peacebuilding Fund’s (PBF) Immediate Response Facility,” ASG Cheng-Hopkins said. “Somalia still has internal problems, and still has a problem with Al Shabaab and with other groups, but there are sufficient windows of opportunity in certain parts of the country where we should invest now in peacebuilding so that peace sustainability can be preserved.”

On 19 March, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, announced the allocation of $3 million from the PBF to support stabilisation efforts in newly recovered areas. The UN Assistance Mission in Somalia(UNSOM), in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior and Federalism, is currently finalising the first project to release these funds. The funds announced by ASG Cheng-Hopkins are in addition to this, and are expected to boost the capacity of local government, facilitate reconciliation efforts at the grassroots level and fund public works projects for youth and other vulnerable groups, among other things.

ASG Cheng-Hopkins said the PBF was investigating peacebuilding needs in Somalia in consultation with the Federal Government, regional leadership, civil society and donors.

“One project that comes to mind is what we can do for defectors, the so-called disengaged combatants from Al Shabaab and other militias, how we can reintegrate these youth back into society by giving them skills, by giving them an opportunity for livelihood so that they don’t fall back into these activities that are the root of the instability in Somalia,” she said.

Speaking with ASG Cheng-Hopkins, women’s groups in Mogadishu expressed their desire for a stronger role in Somalia’s political developments, such as the constitutional review process. The ASG stressed that the UN believes in empowering women both politically and economically to give them confidence to play their role in society, and her department is keen to support broad consultations in constitutional, electoral and other national processes.

During her trip, which included visits to Mogadishu, Kismayo and Hudur, ASG Cheng-Hopkins met with, among others, Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, Speaker of the Federal Parliament Mohamed Osman Jawari, leaders of local administrations, civil society, women’s groups, the youth and traditional elders. Some key areas of discussion included the need to develop public works projects to bring visible symbols of peace to the Somali people; the need to train local government officials and the role of civil society in the peacebuilding process.

The UN Secretary-General declared Somalia eligible to access the Peacebuilding Fund in December 2013. The Fund was set up in 2006 following a request from the General Assembly and the Security Council to support peace-building efforts in countries emerging from conflict or political crisis.