Africa News in Brief: Aug. 28 edition

| August 27, 2013

Courtesy of Global Information Network

Romanian snaps up deals for West African resources

(GIN)—Flying just under the radar, a Romanian national has been signing lucrative deals for manganese, oil, gas and other high value minerals, leading flattering news reports to dub him “the Emperor of West Africa.”

Frank Timis, CEO of Pan African Minerals, was treated like royalty this month by country leaders after buying up the rights to mine precious manganese from Burkina Faso. In exchange, Timis promised to extend the region’s railway and link Niamey in Niger to coastal Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire via the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou.

Construction of the railway has been central to plans to exploit manganese at the Tambao mine since it was discovered in 1959. Tambao is expected to yield up to one million tons a year. The increased rail capacity will support growth in foodstuff and livestock industries, and the establishment of the largest manganese extraction project in the world.

The seven-year railway project, like colonial-era ventures linking resources to ports, is to begin next year.

Manganese is a metal with important industrial metal alloy uses, particularly in stainless steel.

Timis is expected to make billions from the exploitation of manganese in Tambao. Other operations run by Timis are African Minerals in Sierra Leone, and African Petroleum in Liberia. Pan African Minerals, the latest offshoot of the Timis Corporation, has its eye on new frontiers.

The EU and French governments are said to be financing the Niamey-Abidjan initiative, with private investment from Timiş, whose company secured the rights after a long history of legal squabbles between the government of Burkina Faso and several successive prospectors whose mining rights were controversially canceled.

“We desperately need railways,” said Moussa Akfar, a Niamey resident. “Our roads are not practical. They are in such poor condition—it can take hours just to travel 80 miles.”

But the project was flawed, he confessed.

“These plans to create railway links with the ports in Cotonou and Abidjan are only concerned with transporting goods. They will not make it easier for people to move around.” Urban development expert Abeiku Arthur added, “Transport is supposed to be about the movement of people, goods and services, and the first of those is people.”

Meanwhile, shares in Timis’ African Petroleum fell 90 percent over the past 12 months and an effort by Timis to sell his Liberian property to China, before oil was found, shocked many in the industry. An investigation by the industry’s regulatory body is underway.

 

Mugabe election confirmed by court

(GIN)—After a standing ovation and a seemingly interminable chorus of clapping and ululating, newly-re-elected President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe gave a fist salute to the crowd at the Bingu International conference Centre Hall where the South African Development Community (SADC) summit was held.

Leaders of the 15-nation SADC, which had monitored Mugabe’s recent election, announced the appointment of Mugabe as deputy chair of the group. This means President Mugabe will become the next chair of the regional grouping next year after Malawi completes her one-year term and Harare will host the bloc’s heads of state and government.

The Summit was held in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe.

The development is a clear sign yet that regional leaders accept results of the July 31 elections and are confident of Zimbabwe’s political future.

Mugabe took the opportunity to scorn his critics in the international community.

“I have nothing to do with the British, I have nothing to do with the Americans,” said the 89-year-old Zimbabwean leader. “We make our decisions as African people, and those are the decisions we go by.

“I am Robert Mugabe, a Zimbabwean and African,” said the 89-year-old African leader.

On Aug. 18, the regional body called for “the lifting of all forms of sanctions hitherto imposed on Zimbabwe,” leveled against the veteran president and blacklisted firms and individuals.

“Zimbabweans have suffered enough,” said the regional bloc’s incoming chairperson, President Joyce Banda of Malawi.

Meanwhile, in a not unexpected development, Zimbabwe’s constitutional court upheld the disputed election, calling it free, fair and credible.

“The presidential election held on July 31, 2013 was in accordance with the laws of Zimbabwe,” said Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku on Aug. 20.

One test of the president’s new economic initiative will be the fulfillment of promises to war veterans, ex-detainees and the 230,000-strong public sector workers who are all expected to see an upward adjustment in their salaries.

Meanwhile, the U.S. remains opposed to lifting sanctions against President Mugabe and his aides.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Aug. 19 the U.S. program of what it calls “targeted” sanctions will remain in force as long as “serious flaws” persist in Zimbabwe’s electoral process.

 

Thousands attend one-year anniversary of Marikana Massacre

(GIN)—At the commemoration of the first anniversary of the Marikana Massacre, named for the platinum mine where police shot and killed 34 striking workers, government officials were conspicuously absent from the event which drew thousands of unionized mine workers.

At the memorial, organized by church leaders and labor officials, twenty reserved seats stood empty, representing the rejection by the African National Congress of the unofficial Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which took on the mine owners, leaving the official National Union of Mineworkers in the dust.

Reporter Kadijah Patel of the South Africa Mail & Guardian, called the memorial “unprecedented in South Africa’s post-Apartheid history.”

She recalled: “Throngs of workers came to the ceremony dressed in the green t-shirts of AMCU.“ They stood outside on small hills, facing the stage in the blazing heat, listening intently to the speakers. And across the sea of people, there were no visible references to the ANC or National Union of Mineworkers. There were no flags, t-shirts, or posters hinting at the ruling party or its alliance partners.”

Some of the feuding between the official and “unofficial” labor group spilled into the open when a spokesperson for the ANC in North West province, said acidly: “The ANC finds it immoral and totally unacceptable that such a traumatic incident could be turned into a political playground by some political parties who seek to enhance their political ambitions and interests.“

The ANC’s national spokesperson, Jackson Mthembu, stepped back from the biting remark saying: “The ANC respects the right of anyone to organize and participate in any gathering that seeks to soothe and heal the wounds that were caused by the Marikana tragedy. No one should ever seek to determine and direct how people must mourn nor contest ownership of the right to mourn.“

Even mine owner Ben Magara apologized to the families of those who died in the massacre saying it “should never have happened”.

An inquiry into the shooting is underway. But in another blow to the workers, the North Gauteng High Court declined to order the president and the justice minister to fund the case of 250 mineworkers before the Constitutional Court.

The decision leaves hundreds of men personally involved in the strike, who lost friends and in the case of about 78 of them survived injuries, with no legal say in the inquiry.

 

Study: Millionaires abound in major African cities

(GIN)—Johannesburg has the top number of millionaires on the African continent with some 23,400 very rich people, according to a newly released survey of the wealthy.

Cairo, Lagos and Cape Town are the cities with the next largest concentrations of high-net-worth individuals with 12,300, 9,800 and 9,000 respectively, according to the New World Wealth survey carried out early this year.

Nairobi rounds out the top five cities with 5,000 super-wealthy individuals. The Kenyan capital was also only second to Accra in having the fastest growing rate of the high net worth group.

The next five cities in order are Durban, Casablanca, Pretoria, Luanda and Algiers, according to the survey.

A concentration of super-rich individuals creates a demand for luxury goods, prime properties, art and services like wealth management and private banking—indices to investors of economic growth.

South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria and Kenya are the highest ranking African countries, with 48,800, 23,000, 15,900 and 8,400 millionaires respectively.

Rising incomes have invited greater investment in broadband, wireless and other communications platforms that enable internet access, cell phones and social media. Facebook now has a skyrocketing presence in Africa. According to ICTworks, the fastest growing nations in terms of Facebook users are Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt. As of December 2011, there were more than 37 million Facebook users in Africa.

But at a recent U.N. conference, youth activists from Sierra Leone and Uganda noted the immense obstacles they still face due to the widening gap between the haves and the have nots. Traveling to Internet cafés in urban areas is expensive for rural youth and unsafe for young women at night. The majority of primary and secondary schools are not yet wired. In some cases projects and funds are used for political gain and personal favors. Even at university level, student access might be limited to one to two hours per week at a computer lab, meaning almost everything is done on paper.

 

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 28 print edition.

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GLOBAL INFORMATION NETWORK distributes news and feature articles on Africa and the developing world to mainstream, alternative, ethnic and minority-owned outlets in the U.S. and Canada. Our goal is to increase the perspectives available to readers in North America and to bring into their view information about global issues that are overlooked or under-reported by mainstream media.