Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Was South Africa right to deny Dalai Lama a visa?

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By Isaac Esipisu

Given that China is South Africa’s biggest trading partner and given the close relationship between Beijing and the ruling African National Congress, it didn’t come as a huge surprise that South Africa was in no hurry to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama.

Tibet’s spiritual leader will end up missing the 80th birthday party of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a fellow Nobel peace prize winner. He said his application for a visa had not come through on time despite having been made to Pretoria several weeks earlier. (Although South Africa’s government said a visa hadn’t actually been denied, the Dalai Lama’s office said it appeared to find the prospect inconvenient).
Desmond Tutu said the government’s action was a national disgrace and warned the President and ruling party that one day he will start praying for the defeat of the ANC government.

It’s the second time the Dalai Lama has been unable to honour an invitation to South Africa by Tutu after failing to make it to a meeting in 2010.

South Africa will certainly win more plaudits in Beijing, which last week agreed to $2.5 billion in investment projects with during a visit by South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

from MacroScope:

Building BRICs in Africa

Some eye-catching numbers from Standard Bank out today on the influence of BRICs countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- on Africa.

First off, the bank says the global recession and its recovery have been nourishing these so-called South-South ties. But it is all now ready to take off. The bank estimates:

Breaking down the walls – Sudan’s oil transparency push

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- It was a just another seminar on transparency in the oil sector. Seemingly banal. But this was being held in Khartoum, involving live debates between northern and southern Sudanese officials, a minerals watchdog and the international media, who were allowed free access to publicly grill those who administer what has for years been an absolutely opaque oil industry. What emerged was surprisingly positive and all walked away feeling that — at least until the Jan. 9, 2011 referendum on southern independence — this was the first step towards finally unpicking all the stitches that have sewn the sector tightly shut to outsiders. We are “PR stupid” said the newly appointed Minister for Energy from the former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement Lual Deng who instigated the forum. He said this to explain the discrepancies in oil production and oil prices uncovered by the Global Witness NGO whose report “Fuelling Mistrust — the need for transparency in Sudan’s oil sector” provoked the discussion. These include figures published by the ministry of finance web site of oil revenues with little clarification of how they had been calculated, even citing barrels of Sudanese black gold selling for as little as 15 cents a barrel. It also found discrepancies between China’s CNPC who dominates Sudan’s oil sector dogged by U.S. sanctions, and Sudan’s energy ministry output figures. Those figures were easily explained as the difference between gross production and net of water, gas and solids on Wednesday. But the fact an international giant like CNPC is publishing undefined production figures in an annual report provoked concern even from Sudanese officials. And why did it require such an elaborate showcase to provide such a simple response? Minister Deng’s answer was the “PR stupid” line. After months of chasing and waiting in vain for a reply from The government or CNPC to the discrepancies in oil output, including having the phone hung up on them by the Chinese, Global Witness went ahead and published their work. “Next time you should just call us to verify the figures,” was CNPC’s ironic response, with the presenter who had flown in from Beijing for the forum, flashing on a PowerPoint screen the email and mobile number of CNPC’s country manager in Sudan. Just five minutes earlier that same manager had declined my request for a meeting or to share his contacts “in the interests of transparency.” One of dozens of attempts I have made over the years to extract any information from the state-owned firm. I wonder how long he will keep that mobile number. But if you sifted through the barbed comments by Sudanese officials directed at the Global Witness reps and the attempts by CNPC to ridicule the figures, important progress was made. Sudan said it would commit to the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, to which CNPC gave its support. It also agreed to a full audit back to 2005 and the ministry said it would publish daily production figures. It also gave French oil giant Total a public guarantee that whether or not the south votes to secede in just five months, its oil concession contract would be honoured. If all this happens, it will be a massive step towards opening up Sudan’s taboo oil sector which could convince those elusive big European companies who left during Sudan during the north-south civil war to come back and invest. Do you see European companies investing in Sudanese oil and gas? If Europeans come back in should U.S. sanctions be lifted to allow American firms to compete for the spoils? Is Sudan – likely to split into two countries in five months –worth the risk for investors?

oilIt was a just another seminar on transparency in the oil sector. Seemingly banal.

But this was being held in Khartoum, involving live debates between northern and southern Sudanese officials, a minerals watchdog and the international media, who were allowed free access to publicly grill those who administer what has for years been an incredibly opaque oil industry.

Africa optimism rising

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SAFRICA-When some of the most influential figures in emerging markets finance spoke to a group of Reuters editors, they were asked about top picks for growth beyond the so-called BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

One continent came up again and again – Africa – and one country in particular – Nigeria. Goldman Sachs global head of economic research, Jim O’Neill, highlighted the improvement in the growth-environment index of Africa’s giant over the past decade.

West must change approach to Africa

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SUDAN/Tom Cargill, Assistant Head of the Africa Programme at Chatham House, writes on the West’s relationship with Africa:

French President Nicholas Sarkozy put it best this week, when he spoke of the increasing important of Africa in Global Affairs: “Africa’s formidable demographics and its considerable resources make it the main reservoir for world economic growth in the decades to come.”

Motor-rickshaws changing face of transport in Mali

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Mali introduced Chinese-made motor rickshaws in 2006. They’ve been such a hit that most of Mali’s bigger cities are overrun with them and competition between drivers is pushing down prices. They’ve now been barred from the centre of the capital, Bamako, but in Mali’s third-largest city, Segou, the rickshaw-taxi is the main means of public transport.

“I have a wife and seven children,” rickshaw driver Bassidi Baba Djefaga told Reuters Africa Journal. “This
rickshaw is what enables me to feed my family. Before I had the rickshaw, I was a taxi driver and had two taxis. But when the new rickshaws arrived, I saw that taxi cars weren’t going to be good business any longer. So, I sold my two taxis and bought a rickshaw.”

How will Chinese culture influence Africa?

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chinaSo far, media coverage of China’s involvement in Africa has mostly been about investment. Stories of Chinese engineers in hard hats standing by roads up mountains in Ethiopia. Stories of Chinese farmers moving to Zambia. 

But, in a push to extent its economic reach, China is now making a very real effort to export its culture to the world’s poorest continent. Last year the Asian giant overtook the U.S. as Africa’s top trading partner, confirming to the West that it has a real battle on its hands to maintain its influence over African nations.

Africa-Asia ties flying high

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AFRICA-CHINA/RISKSInvestment from China and other Asian countries was an important factor in several years of unprecedented growth in Africa before the global downturn hit.

It is very much seen as a critical driver for Africa’s future growth prospects as well.

Searching for reasons to be cheerful in Sudan

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sudanOnly the most foolhardy commentator would dare to say anything optimistic about the coming year in Sudan, four months away from highly charged elections and 12 months from an explosive referendum on southern independence.

So here goes — five reasons why Africa’s largest country might just manage to reach January 2011 without a return to catastrophe and bloody civil war, despite the worst predictions of most pundits.

Out of Africa — and into China

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At a meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh this month, China promised to double the aid it gives to Africa and even forgive the debt of some of the continent’s poorest countries.

We’ve known for some time that Chinese are migrating to Africa to exploit business opportunities. But it’s perhaps less known that growing numbers of Africans are also moving to China to live and work.

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