Monthly Archives: February 2015

NAC, Wesbank Meet On Operational Arrangements for Vehicle Finance Scheme

Top officials of National Automotive Council (NAC) and WesBank of South Africa met in Abuja recently on the proposed roll-out of made-in-Nigeria Vehicle Finance Scheme scheduled for later this year. WesBank, a division of FirstRand Bank, is South Africa’s market leader in automotive asset finance. The bank is represented in other African markets including Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zambia. This position has been achieved through successful partnerships with leading Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), offering finance to consumers for both locally-manufactured and imported models.
At the meeting were the Director General, National Automotive Council (NAC), Engr. Aminu Jalal, who headed NAC Management team, comprising Mr. Luqman Mamudu the Director, Policy and Planning and Engr. Waheed Odetoro, Director, Industrial Infrastructure, while the WesBank delegation comprised Mr. Eugene Ochse, Head of Africa Operations) and Mr. Simon Ingersent, Designated CEO for Nigeria Operations. The WesBank team also had interactive meetings with potential partners, including selected vehicle dealers in Abuja to obtain first hand information and get acquainted with certain dealership practices peculiar to Nigeria.
The NAC Scheme has been designed around a network of vehicle dealers and manufacturers’ distributors from whose floor the purchase process will begin. Last October, NAC signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with FirstRand Bank in Johannesburg, South Africa, mandating WesBank to manage consumer vehicle financing for Nigerian assembled vehicles. NAC DG, Engr. Aminu Jalal said, at the occasion of MoU signing, that the Nigerian government approved the Nigerian Automotive Industry Development Plan (NAIDP) to attract investments from vehicle manufacturers globally and grow the supply of locally-manufactured vehicles.
He explained that the MoU agreement would allow WesBank to work closely with NAC to develop vehicle financing solutions specifically for those vehicles built in Nigeria with the aim of making them readily affordable for the average Nigerian car user.
Jalal added that the Vehicle Financing Scheme would make Nigerian assembled vehicles easily affordable on convenient payment terms spread over a period of about four years at affordable interest rate. The scheme is also intended to assist vehicle assembly plants in Nigeria to gain high volume within a very short time so as to facilitate local components development.

Kenya looks to Algeria for answers to insecurity (Africa Review)

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta last week made his maiden trip to North Africa, meeting with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Prime Minister Abdel Malek Sellal and other senior officials.
Since taking office nearly two years ago, President Kenyatta has concentrated on cultivating strong ties with the Gulf states.
The President has already made official visits to Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Turkey and Qatar where he signed multi-billion dollar deals in oil and gas, infrastructure and energy projects.
During the visit, President Kenyatta officiated the opening of Kenya’s first embassy in Algiers and announced plans for both countries to lift visa restrictions for the holders of diplomatic passports.
The two countries also signed cooperation agreements in oil, gas and energy, including onshore and offshore exploration and production of hydrocarbons.
They also agreed to work closely on security challenges facing the continent even appealing to the international community to help mitigate the unfolding humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, where
out two million people are now internally displaced.
Kenya has been actively seeking investors for its emerging oil and gas sector.
In Algeria, President Kenyatta sees a country flush with petro-dollars and experience in managing oil windfalls. The country’s oil industry is one of the biggest in the world.
According to Middle East Economic Survey (MEES), Algeria’s oil and natural gas export revenues amounted to almost $63.8 billion in 2013. Its foreign exchange reserves reached $194 billion by the end of December 2013.
The sector accounts for 60 per cent of the budget, 30 per cent of GDP and over 95 per cent of export earnings.
Oil resources
Algeria has the 10th largest reserves of natural gas in the world and is the sixth largest gas exporter. It ranks 16th in oil reserves. Algeria’s oil production stands at 1.875 million barrels a day.
“As Kenya looks forward to commercial exploitation of its oil resources, we look forward to learning from Algeria’s expertise,” said Kenya’s Foreign Secretary Amina Mohamed.
An upbeat President Kenyatta said the new partnership was expected to deepen and cover a wider range of issues.
“Our governments will work much closer to set up a joint commission for cooperation between our two countries,” according to a statement from President Kenyatta’s office.
“We will be meeting at ministerial and other levels to compare notes and ensure that the discussions bear fruit.”
While President Kenyatta’s trip focussed less on big policy announcements, his choice of Algeria as his first official trip to North Africa could not escape the notice of foreign policy analysts.
“It makes sense why Kenya and Algeria would want to strengthen ties The country is now emerging as the pivotal state in North Africa,” says Macharia Munene, a professor of international relations at Nairobi’s United States International University.
Algeria has long been perceived as a significant regional powerhouse. But it’s perceived importance has risen in the last few years after the geopolitical shift in the Middle East prompted by the Arab Spring.
“With Egypt and Libya in crisis, Algeria, which has long held regional ambitions, emerged to fill the vacuum left by the two hegemons,” Prof Munene told The EastAfrican.
Kenya’s political and economic links with North Africa were also disrupted when the wave of revolutions in the Arab world swept through its key ally Libya.
Political instability
As a result, Kenya was trying to firm up its links in the region by expanding ties with other key players. But relations with Libya were not always rosy.
Former President Daniel Moi severed ties with Tripoli in 1987 over allegations that Muammar Gaddafi’s regime was training dissidents to overthrow his administration.
Diplomatic relations only resumed in 1998, and they gradually improved under former President Mwai Kibaki’s administration to the point where Libya became one of the largest FDI partners for Kenya.
Last year, Kenya announced that it would close its embassy in Libya because of continuing political instability.
While the country still has an embassy in Egypt, the political situation there remains unstable. Much of the country’s diplomatic engagements in North Africa will likely be channelled through the Algiers embassy.
Also, the similarities between Kenya and Algeria would naturally see them gravitate towards each other, Prof Munene told The EastAfrican.
oth countries were symbols of the British and French colonial resistance in Africa in the 1950s. They are also aspiring regional powers faced with the threat of violent religious extremists.
President Kenyatta said his visit would help his country “benefit from Algerian experience in combating terrorism”.
Access to weapons
“Algeria is facing security challenges emanating from Libya and Mali, while Kenya is experiencing a similar situation from unstable Somalia and South Sudan,” the President said.
Within Algeria al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) remains the most active security threat.
AQIM has attacked Algerian security forces, government targets and Westerners in the Sahel, operating primarily in the mountainous areas east of Algiers and in the expansive desert regions near Algeria’s southern border.
The security situation in Libya, Mali and Tunisia also gravely concerns Algeria.
With weak security institution, jihadist fighters have ready access to weapons and the long porous borders provide violent extremists with opportunities distabilise North Africa.
These security concerns have forced Algeria to push its defence budget to over $10 billion to patrol the expansive borders it shares with Libya, Mali and Tunisia.
The fear that terrorist groups in Africa could be collaborating and borrowing tactics from each other has seen frontline states commit to sharing intelligence on the activities of Al Shabaab, al-Qaeda affiliates in North Africa and Boko Haram.
President Kenyatta sees Algiers as a Key player in the war on terror and his trip sought to set a foundation for closer collaboration on security issues. After his closed door meeting with President Bouteflika, President Kenyatta said they agreed to share more intelligence and forge “stronger defence, security and economic partnerships”.

Suggestions for Obama's Last Trip to Africa As President [opinion]

Since becoming president of the United States, Barack Obama has visited five African countries: Ghana, Egypt, Senegal, Tanzania, and South Africa.
The president used his 2009 trips to Ghana and Egypt to articulate his broad and ambitious policy of engagement towards sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab world, respectively. The president’s pronouncements during the trips to Ghana and Egypt generated high expectations for a new dawn in the relationship between United States and these regions. Nevertheless, there was not much by way of new policy initiatives to back these pronouncements, and, thus, to a large extent these two visits were more symbolic than substantive. As such, during his first term a lot of criticism by policy analysts was directed at the president’s detachment from Africa. Many felt that under Obama’s presidency America was lagging behind many other countries especially China, India, Brazil, and even other smaller economies such as Turkey in its engagement with Africa.
In 2013, the president made a more extensive and substantive trip to Africa, traveling to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. During this visit, the president announced actual initiatives that aim to deepen commercial relations, support regional trade logistics, and enhance security. Also significant was the announcement of the first US-Africa Leaders Summit to be held the following year, in August 2014.
In 2013 President Obama indicated that he would visit Africa at least one more time during his presidency. The expectation is that this trip will be later in 2015 but most likely in 2016–his last full year in office. Given that planning for US presidential international trips require months, if not years, of planning, it is a good bet that the planning for the next African trip will soon be underway. Thus, his planning team should note that a good way to maximize the impact of his trip is to be more strategic in the choice of countries visited and also include a policy focus relevant to the entire continent.
While the countries visited so far are quite deserving of the honor, the omission of others has been, so far, both very significant and clearly misguided. It appears the choice of the countries visited by the president were based on what were seen as “safe bets”–those meeting some peace and governance thresholds. The president has avoided countries facing major challenges such as terrorism and poor governance records. For a more lasting impact, though, the president needs to get out of his comfort zone, visit non-“safe bet” countries, and connect with countries showing openness to reforms, are rising economic leaders, and could be key strategic security partners.
In this regard, I propose that the president trip cover at least the following countries: Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Kenya.
Nigeria
Nigeria, a country characterized by serious governance problems compounded by ever-intensifying incidents of terrorism imparted by Boko Haram, would not pass the “safe bet” test. Notwithstanding the failures and challenges that Nigeria faces, and regardless of how the 2015 elections turn out, this is the country that deserves a visit by President Obama.
It is a country that has long been characterized by high levels of corruption and serious ethnic and religious fractures. But Nigeria is the most important country in Africa, and it is the country that has the most influence on the direction that Africa takes. It is now the largest economy on the continent and has the largest population there. In addition, Nigeria is the dominant country in West Africa’s regional economic community–the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Despite all its shortcomings, Nigeria has, in recent years, undertaken major reforms that are helping stimulate the economy and shift it away from an overreliance on oil. By all accounts, Nigeria can be considered the continental anchor: Whatever happens in that country has large spillover effects across the continent.
The president could use the visit to articulate a strategy to fight terrorism not only in Nigeria but also across the continent. Fighting terrorist groups should be a key focus of the president’s trip in Nigeria but also during the visit to other countries given the increasing threats posed by these groups and the fact that they have potential to grow and export terror outside Africa.
In addition, this is the place where the president can focus on the importance of strengthening the institutions of governance for peaceful co-existence among the country’s very diverse ethnic and religious groups. Many of Nigeria’s problems are linked to its failure to deal with diversity, which is a problem that characterizes most of the continent and costs a great deal both in terms of violent conflicts and economic performance. Thus, Nigeria would be the perfect country for the president to articulate how the United States can work with Africans to strengthen institutions.
Ethiopia
Ethiopia is another large country also characterized by significant governance problems. The country’s past has been characterized by dictatorships, serious conflict and devastating famines. However, since the dictator Mengistu Hailemariam was deposed, Ethiopia has made important progress, including adoption of a new federalist constitution and far-reaching economic reforms that have seen the country achieve one of the highest growth rates in the continent over the last decade. The economic reforms have attracted new foreign direct investments with the consequential emergence of new industrial clusters, especially in leather processing. Not all is perfect though: Like with governance, Ethiopia still lags far behind other countries in deregulating some key sectors of the economy especially telecommunications, land markets, banking, and finance.
This country deserves a visit by President Obama for a number of reasons. First, the leadership in Addis Ababa has demonstrated willingness to reform. Although a work in progress, the reform process is on a positive trajectory and is a good example for other African countries. Second, the country is an important ally in the war against terrorism and has been pivotal in the war against Al-Shabaab.
Finally, the president should use the trip to visit the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa. A visit to the AU headquarters by the US president would be a significant endorsement of the role of the continental organization and would, indeed, be the best forum in which to hold the next US-African Leaders Summit–building up on the success of the first summit held in Washington in 2014. Given the central role that the AU is charged with in advancing the African integration project, President Obama and the African leaders could use the summit to discuss strategies to advance the pace of regional integration especially as pertains to involvement of the US private sector, such as in the building of regional infrastructure.
Kenya
As the president’s second “home,” Kenya must be included in the itinerary. Previous US presidents have shown great pride by visiting their ancestral homes. Notable are the visits by Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton to their ancestral homes in Ireland. It will be an opportunity for the president to demonstrate pride in his African roots. Although President Obama visited Kenya as a private citizen and again as a US senator, a visit as president will have great significance not only to him but also to Kenyans and indeed other Africans.
Outside of his personal connection, there are other reasons for the president to visit Kenya. Kenya has made major political and economic reforms. It now has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world and the implementation of this constitution is continuing steadily. It is the largest economy in East Africa and a leader in the integration of the East African Community. Kenya is emerging as Africa’s innovation hub and has also been at the forefront on the war against terrorism, especially against Al-Shabaab. Kenya continues to play a very important role in brokering peace initiatives in the region. For all these reasons, Kenya deserves to be included in the president’s itinerary.
Policy focus
For Obama’s final trip to Africa as president to be impactful, it is also crucial that he focuses on a few key policy issues that have continental implications as opposed to many, small fragmented policies. Furthermore, the policy approach should build on mutualism prominent in the deliberations during the US-Africa Leaders Summit. In this regard and as discussed above, key policy issues that the president should seek to focus on should include collaborative strategies in the fight against terrorist groups in Africa and support of Africa’s regional integration project especially through the participation of US private sector. Finally, the president should focus on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Specifically, he should articulate approaches of how the US would work with Africans in advancing the development agenda. It would be particularly impactful if the president will mobilize the international community to support Africa’s Post-2015 Development Agenda. US initiatives that support Africans in dealing with these broad issues is a sure way for the president to solidify an African leg.
Mwangi S. Kimenyi is senior fellow in the Africa Growth Initiative and currently serves as advisory board member of the School of Economics, University of Nairobi. The founding executive director of the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (1999-2005), he focuses on Africa’s development including institutions for economic growth, political economy, and private sector development. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter. The article was first published by the Brookings Institution.

Bamboo – an Answer to Deforestation or Not in Africa? [analysis]

Deforestation is haunting the African continent as industrial growth paves over public commons and puts more hectares into private hands.
According to the Environmental News Network, a web-based resource, Africa loses forest cover equal to the size of Switzerland every year, or approximately 41 000 square kilometres.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is also on record as saying the African continent loses over four million hectares (9.9 million acres) of natural forest annually, which is twice the world’s average deforestation rate. And deforestation, according to UNEP, accounts for at least one-fifth of all carbon emissions globally.
The dangerous pace of deforestation has triggered a market-based solution using bamboo, a fast-growing woody grass that grows chiefly in the tropics.
“If grown in the right way, and under the right sustainable management system, in certain areas, bamboo can play a role in reversing ecosystem degradation” – Troy Wiseman, CEO of EcoPlanet Bamboo
“The idea of bamboo plantations is a good one, but it triggers fear of widespread starvation as poor Africans may be lured into this venture for money and start ditching food crops” – Terry Mutsvanga, Zimbabwean human rights activist
EcoPlanet Bamboo, a multinational company, has been expanding its operations in Africa while it promotes the industrialisation of bamboo as an environmentally attractive alternative fibre for timber manufacturing industries that currently rely on the harvesting of natural forests for their raw resource. The company’s operations extend to South Africa, Ghana and Nicaragua.
For EcoPlanet and some African environmentalists, commercially-grown bamboo could help reverse the effects of deforestation and land degradation that has spread harm across the African continent.
“If grown in the right way on land that has little value for other uses, and if managed under the right sustainable management system, bamboo can play a role in restoring highly degraded ecosystems and connecting remnant forest patches, while reducing pressure on remaining natural forests,” Troy Wiseman, CEO of EcoPlanet Bamboo, told IPS.
Happison Chikova, a Zimbabwean independent environmentalist who holds a Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Geography and Environmental Studies from the Midlands State University here, agreed.
“Bamboo plants help fight climate change because of their capacity to absorb carbon dioxide and act as carbon sinks while the plants can also be used as a source for wood energy, thereby reducing the cutting down of indigenous trees, and also the fact that bamboo can be used to build shelter, reduces deforestation in the communal areas where there is high demand of indigenous trees for building purposes,” Chikova told IPS.
But land rights activists are sceptical about their claims.
“The idea of bamboo plantations is a good one, but it triggers fear of widespread starvation as poor Africans may be lured into this venture for money and start ditching food crops,” Terry Mutsvanga, an award-winning Zimbabwean human rights activist, told IPS.
Mutsvanga’s fears of small sustainable farms losing out to foreign-owned export-driven plantations were echoed by Nnimmo Bassey, a renowned African environmentalist and head of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, an ecological think-tank and advocacy organisation.
“No one can seriously present a bamboo plantation as a cure for deforestation,” Bassey, who is based in Nigeria, told IPS, “and unfortunately the United Nations system sees plantations as forests and this fundamentally faulty premise gives plantation owners the latitude to see their forest-gobbling actions as something positive.”
“If we agree that forests are places with rich biodiversity, it is clear that a plantation cannot be the same as a forest,” added Bassey.
Currently, bamboo is widely grown in Africa by small farmers for multiple uses. The Mount Selinda Women’s Bamboo Association, an environmental lobby group in Chipinge, Zimbabwe’s eastern border town, for example, received funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) through the Livelihood and Economic Development Programme in order to create sustainable rural livelihoods and enterprises by using bamboo resources.
Citing its many benefits, IFAD calls bamboo the “poor man’s timber.”
Further, notes IFAD, bamboo contributes to rural poverty reduction, empowers women and can be processed into boats, kitchen utensils, incense sticks, charcoal and footwear. It also provides food and nutrition security as food and animal feed.
Currently, EcoPlanet Bamboo’s footprint in Africa includes 5,000 acres in Ghana in a public-private partnership to develop commercial bamboo plantations. In South Africa’s Eastern Cape, certification is under way to convert out of production pineapple plantations to bamboo plantations for the production of activated carbon and bio-charcoal to be sold to local and export markets.
Environmentalist Bassey worries whether all these acres were unutilised, as the company claims. “Commercial bamboo, which will replace natural wood forests and may require hundreds of hectares of land space, may not be so good for peasant farmers in Africa,” Bassey said.
EcoPlanet Bamboo, however, insists it does not convert or plant on any land that could compete with food security.
“(We) convert degraded land into certified bamboo plantations into diverse, thriving ecosystems, that can provide fibre on an annual basis, and yet maintain their ecological integrity,” said Wiseman.
Wiseman’s claim, however, did not move long-time activist Bassey and one-time winner of the Right Livelihood Prize, an alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize, who questioned foreign ownership of Africa’s resources as not always to Africa’s benefit.
“Plantations are not owned by the weak in society,” said Bassey. “They are owned by corporations or rich individuals with strong economic and sometimes political connections. This could mean displacement of vulnerable farmers, loss of territories and means of livelihoods.”
Edited by Lisa Vives/ Phil Harris

NAC, Wesbank Meet Over National Vehicle Finance Scheme

The officials of the National Automotive Council (NAC) and WesBank of South Africa on Wednesday met in Abuja on the proposed roll-out of made-in-Nigeria vehicle finance scheme later in the year.

A statement by the NAC, its Director-General, Mr Aminu Jalal, led the Director, Policy and Planning, Mr Luqman Mamudu and Director, Industrial Infrastructure, Mr Waheed Odetoro to discuss the scheme.

The WesBank delegation comprised of Mr Eugene Ochse, Head, Africa Operations and Mr Simon Ingersent, designated CEO for Nigeria Operations.

It said the WesBank officials also interacted with potential partners, including selected vehicle dealers to obtain first hand information and get acquainted with dealership practices peculiar to Nigeria.

The statement said that NAC Scheme was designed around a network of vehicle dealers and distributors for the pilot project.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that NAC signed a memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with FirstRand Bank in Johannesburg, South Africa in October 2014.

The MoU mandates WesBank to manage consumer vehicle financing for Nigerian assembled vehicles.

It also quoted Jalal as saying that the Nigerian government approved the Nigerian Automotive Industry Development Plan (NAIDP) to attract investments from global vehicle manufacturers and to grow the supply of locally-manufactured vehicles.

According to the statement, the MoU will allow WesBank to work closely with NAC to develop vehicle financing solutions.

The aim, it said, was for vehicles built in Nigeria to be readily affordable for the average Nigerian.

It recalled that Jalal said that the Vehicle Financing Scheme would make Nigerian-assembled vehicles affordable on convenient payment terms spread over a period of about four years at affordable interest rate.

The statement said the scheme was also intended to assist vehicle assembly plants in Nigeria to gain high volume within a short time so as to facilitate local components development.