Can Obama bring power to Africa?

US President Barack Obama (L) talks with June Muli, head of Customer Care at M-Kopa, about solar power during the Power Africa Innovation FairImage copyright
AFP

In February US President Barack Obama signed an agreement to bring electricity to 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020. Neil Ford asks, even if this is possible, how many will still be left in the dark?

Perhaps the most remarkable things about the Electrify Africa Act of 2015 are that it commits the US to increased foreign aid at a time of economic uncertainty and cuts through sharp political divisions.

The Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce, worked with Democrat Eliot Engel for two years to drive the bill through Congress.

The act commits the US government to supporting President Obama’s Power Africa initiative. Although headlined as a $50bn (£36bn) scheme, the US authorities will contribute just $7bn.

Other governments, development agencies and private sector companies are expected to provide the remainder in public-private partnerships.

This will be difficult to achieve during a global economic downturn.

Even if it succeeds in its aim of bringing electricity to 50 million Africans by 2020, more than 10 times that number will still be without power.

So the Power Africa initiative is not a magic bullet, but it has at least highlighted Africa’s power supply problems.

Permanently off grid

It is easy to take electricity for granted.

Most African homes lack fridges and electric cookers but even a single electric light bulb can bring security and allow children to do their homework after dark.

Mobile phones encourage economic growth but the lack of electricity makes recharging them yet another hurdle to be cleared.

According to the latest World Bank data, 35% of sub-Saharan Africans have no access to electricity.

This is a far lower figure than in any other region.

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Getty Images

Image caption

People who do not have electricity use charcoal to cook

The next lowest rate is 22% for South Asia, while all five North African countries claim 100% coverage.

Most Africans use wood and kerosene for fuel, causing deforestation and thousands of fatal accidents every year.

The 35% figure masks huge variations, with electrification rates ranging from 5% in South Sudan up to 100% in Mauritius.

Connection rates in rural areas are typically worse than 10%.

Most of those with electricity at home live in cities, supplied by grids that were developed in colonial times but which have failed to expand with urban growth.

Image copyright
Clare Spencer

Even many of those connected to the grid suffer from unreliable supplies.

So those who can afford them, buy their own expensive diesel fired generators.

While South Africa relies on coal-fired plants, most African countries depend on large hydro schemes to generate electricity.

Yet unreliable rainfall means that hydroelectric production varies even during a good year and is even worse – as at present – during an El Nino event.

The main problem is a lack of revenue.

Most consumers are unable to afford to pay a commercial rate for electricity.

This prevents power utilities from earning enough money to pay for new generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure; generation capacity to produce electricity; transmission to move it across big distances; and distribution to get it into people’s homes and businesses.

Either people need to become richer, or power needs to be cheaper.

Luckily, a solution may be at hand.

The price of photovoltaic (PV) solar power panels is falling, while solar cells are becoming more efficient, so PV is becoming a cost-effective option.

Such off-grid solutions avoid the need for expensive transmission and distribution infrastructure.

Juice for mobiles

Power Africa is already supporting very small-scale solar PV.

It has awarded part-funding to 28 off-grid projects, along with the technical support that small-scale developers often lack.

Many more will now follow suit.

Image copyright
Clare Spencer

Image caption

The first kWh is said to be the most valuable because it powers your mobile phone

Most of these projects involve solar PV or biomass, which involves using agricultural waste as a power generation feedstock.

Power Africa describes the first kWh people gain access to as the “the most valuable” because it provides at least a single source of electric light and the ability to charge mobile phones and radios.

With its commitment to providing “cleaner power generation”, many of the on-grid ventures backed by Power Africa also involve renewable energy.

In some cases, it is directly funding generation projects, such as the 152 MW Sarreole wind farm in Senegal.

More often, it will supply technical support and dedicated advisors.

It has already helped Ghana to tap its newly discovered gas reserves for thermal power production by providing regulatory advice.

New projects will be identified as more of the funding is made available.

It may be that a single grand scheme cannot solve Africa’s power problems but Power Africa can help provide local solutions, one at a time.

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Χάρη σε μία εκπληκτική… αλήτικη ασίστ του Μαχρέζ κι ένα εξαιρετικό τελείωμα του Κινγκ, η Λέστερ «έγραψε» το 2-1 κόντρα στη Γουέστ Μπρομ!

Οι «αλεπούδες» βρέθηκαν πίσω στο σκορ, ωστόσο πριν το τέλος του πρώτου…

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Turnover Port of Rotterdam Authority increases, sound profit development

Port_of_Rotterdam_NEW

Last year, turnover of the Port Authority increased by 2.6% to €676.9 million. This was mainly due to a 4.9% rise in the throughput of goods as a result of which the Port Authority received more port dues. Costs are under control, therefore profit development is sound. Nevertheless, profits fell by 1.7% to €211.6 million due to the redemption of a long-term loan. This has reduced the debt that has been accumulated due to the construction of Maasvlakte 2.

jaarverslag

Chief Financial Officer Paul Smits: “Our financial situation shows a positive development. For the second consecutive year after the construction of Maasvlakte 2 the cash flow is positive, which allows us to continue to invest in the port and at the same time improve our debt position. The fact that our revenues have not increased to the same extent as the throughput shows that we are making an effort to keep Rotterdam attractive for business.”

The two main sources of income for the Port Authority are the lease of sites and the seaport dues that ships pay when they visit the port. Revenues from the lease of sites rose by €3.3 million (+1.0%) to €340.8 million. This is the sum of – on the one hand – the allocation of a site to Sif – Verbrugge at Maasvlakte 2, indexation of contracts and renewal of contracts at revised prices, and – on the other – termination of the contract with Shtandart, resulting in the Port Authority recovering a site. The port dues increased by €10.3 million (+3.4%) to €316.5 million, which is less than the rise in throughput (+4.9%). The Port Authority granted environmentally-friendly ships discounts on port dues totalling €3.8 million. Overall, operating revenues rose by €17.1 million (+2.6%) to €676.9 million.

Operating expenses rose by 3.3% to €133.6 million, mainly due to higher costs for the management and maintenance of port infrastructure and investments in innovations such as PortXL and SmartPort. Costs for internal business operations remained stable. The income from participating interests amounted to €8.9 million, over 50% more than the previous year. The size of this item is determined mainly by the successful participation in the port of Sohar (Oman). For the redemption of a loan the Port Authority paid a one-off sum of €19.2 million. This is the main reason why profit for 2015 declined by 1.7% to €211.6 million.

Dividends of €91 million

In conformity with long-term agreements, the Port Authority will propose to its shareholders – the municipality of Rotterdam (70.83%) and the State (29.17%) – to pay dividends of €91.0 million (+2.0%) for 2015: €64.5 million to the municipality, and €26.5 million to the State.

Investments vs corporation tax

The mission of the Port of Rotterdam Authority is to create economic and social value by generating sustainable growth together with customers and stakeholders. That is why the Port Authority, in addition to paying off debts and paying dividends, uses its profits to invest in the development of the port. Investments in 2015 included new buoys and dolphins in the Caland and Hartel Canals, the construction of the LNG Breakbulk terminal, quay walls for UWT and Sif – Verbrugge, a jetty for LBC and the redevelopment of RDM Rotterdam. Last year, the Port Authority invested a total of €151.1 million compared to €189.4 million in the previous year.

The investment portfolio for the coming years is well-filled with projects such as the diversion of approximately 4 km of the Port Railway Line via the Theemsweg. This concerns public infrastructure to which the Port Authority will contribute almost €100 million. In competing ports in neighbouring countries, the government pays for that kind of public infrastructure. It is therefore particularly unfortunate that the European Commission has decided that the Port Authority will have to pay corporation tax as from 1 January 2017. The Port Authority is considering an appeal against this decision because it violates the principle that a level playing field should exist within Europe.

Integrated annual report

Since 2009, the Port of Rotterdam Authority has integrated its financial annual report and its CSR report, as corporate social responsibility is embedded in the company. For the sixth consecutive year, Ernst & Young Accountants LLP has issued an integrated auditor’s report for the annual report. The report is in line with the new G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative.
Source: Port of Rotterdam Authority

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CfC Stanbic entangled in S.Sudan contractor’s ownership wrangles

CFC Stanbic Bank branch along Kimathi Street in Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE 

CfC Stanbic Bank is entangled in a fight between owners of a Khartoum-based contractor over a $28 million (Sh2.8 billion) claim the company won against the South Sudan government.

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Bol Arech Akot-a director of Active Partners Group (APG) — wants CfC stopped from sending the massive sum to an Abu Dhabi bank account, claiming the transaction is an attempt to defraud his firm of the funds.

The account at CfC Stanbic’s Chiromo branch in Nairobi is held by the Republic of South Sudan. APG attached the funds in the account after being awarded Sh3.8 billion compensation for a botched electrification project it was to carry out in Africa’s youngest nation.

CfC had already deposited $18 million (Sh1.8 billion) in the Abu Dhabi account, but Mr Akot wants the transaction reversed. He wants the entire Sh2.8 billion deposited in either lawyers’ accounts or with the court pending the determination of his application.

Mr Akot who has a 40 per cent shareholding at APG fears that the transfer of the Sh2.8 billion to Abu Dhabi may be an attempt by his fellow shareholders to deny him the funds.

He insists he was not consulted before APG listed the Abu Dhabi account as the preferred destination for the funds.

“I have attempted to contact the company shareholders by letter, phone and common friends but to no avail. I placed an advertisement in the Citizen, a South Sudanese newspaper seeking information as to their whereabouts. However no information was forthcoming. The diversion of the monies to Abu Dhabi is to keep the funds out of the court’s jurisdiction,” Mr Akot says.

Justice Charles Kariuki has issued an order compelling CfC to preserve the $10 million (Sh1 billion) left in South Sudan’s account until he has heard the matter. The case will be heard on March 11.

The electrification project collapsed following outbreak of drought and war in South Sudan.

Arbitrators Philippe Pinsole, Karel Daele and Richard Omwela in January last year ruled that South Sudan had unlawfully cancelled the $197 million (Sh18.7 billion) tender awarded to APG for the electrification project.

South Sudan last July signed a deal with APG in which it committed to clear the compensation claim in eight instalments of $3.9 million (Sh403 million).

But APG in December obtained a court order attaching the Juba government’s assets after the State defaulted on the payments after paying just one instalment.

Mr Akot alleges that the firm claiming the CfC funds in court is not affiliated to the APG despite having a similar name.

“The decree holder is not associated with APG Active Partners Group Limited and the diversion of the monies into their account is theft,” Mr Akot adds.

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Oil producers moving towards freezing production

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Suhail Al Mazroui , UAE Energy Minister, said oil producers are moving towards freezing production as oil prices drop due to over production.

“Today everyone is moving towards freezing production, whether they like it or not. All will be forced to freeze production. This is the reality,” said Suhail Al Mazroui, while speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi.

If there is an agreement by all to freeze production, he said, an early meeting would take place. “There is no need to meet to decide nothing.”

He said the UAE supports any consensus by producers to cap production. “Current prices will force everyone to freeze production. Stubbornness is not useful anymore. The market decides fair prices. We need patience and time for prices to rebound.”

Meanwhile, Adnoc Distribution rolled out pilot phase of Adnoc smart self-refueling service in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. Set to run until October 1, the pilot phase covers four service stations in Abu Dhabi.
Source: Gulf News

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BNP demands new polls schedules in unions where its aspirants could not file nominations

The party vice-chairman, Abdullah Al Noman, made the demand while speaking at a discussion at the National Press Club on Tuesday.
 
Earlier, the party had said its candidates in over a hundred union councils could not submit their nominations due to obstruction and intimidation by activists of the ruling Awami League.
 
Noman said, “We demand that the Election Commission use its powers to cancel the candidacies of those who have appeared as single or only candidates through resorting to coercion and announce new schedules.”
 
He decried the fact that the BNP was not being given permission for its council conference.
 
The BNP leader alleged that the government was trying to gag the media and criticised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s remarks on the editors of two national dailies in Parliament on Monday.

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