Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ghana Eye will be suspended until Monday 7th of January 2008 for redesigning.

The team apologizes for any inconvenience.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Offshore Drilling Units

Oil and Gas Development Corporation (OGDC), a UK based oil company has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with PSC Tema Shipyard Limited to provide various services on mobile offshore drilling units.

The partnership would help promote the energy business in the country as a result of the increased oil and gas activity along the Gulf of Guinea.

Among the activities to be undertaken under the agreement are the refurbishment and reactivation of mobile offshore drilling units currently operating in and transiting through the Gulf of Guinea. Mr. George Karstein Irvine, Vice President of OGDC who made the announcement to newsmen in Tema, said the shipyard would provide the entire range of ship-repair and engineering services while the local manpower suppliers such as Genesis and Aquatec, a diving and marine company provides the additional local skilled labour with the OGDC coming in with its expertise in management to support.

He said under the agreement, the OGDC, which has operated in Nigeria for the past 15 years has been operating in Ghana for the past six months.

It has complied with the country's labour laws by offering jobs to about 300 Ghanaians, making up about 80 percent of the work force.

He said with the assistance of local contractors the Company plans to organise training programmes to impart the expertise to local employees to be "certificated to an international recognised standard" to stimulate the growth of local capacity.

Mr. Irvine stated that his company has also signed a contract with the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) for the services of its facilities like cranes and generators among others. The Tema Port, he said, is the most conducive one along the West Africa sub-region. Ghana: Offshore Drilling Units (Page 1 of 1)

China's Africa Dream Is Looking Less Nightmarish

Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) -- It's rare that a business deal intrigues investors and political scientists alike. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd.'s move to buy 20 percent of Africa's largest bank is such a transaction.

It's the biggest overseas investment by a Chinese company, in this case the world's No. 1 bank by market value. ICBC's $5.6 billion purchase of the Standard Bank Group Ltd. stake is the largest in South Africa since apartheid ended in 1994.

Yet there's something even bigger at play here. This is arguably the first Chinese investment in Africa that doesn't carry a whiff of political strategy. Nor is it directly related to China's desire for resources, which can often help despots more than African households.

ICBC's Standard Bank deal may be the watershed that begins propelling China's designs on Africa from talk to just plain business, and smart business at that.

``From the regulators' point of view, this kind of diversification is a great idea,'' says Michael Pettis, a finance professor at Peking University. ``Chinese banks are too highly concentrated in China and it's not in their best interest that banks depend exclusively on Chinese growth. That kind of dependence is highly pro-cyclical and can feed booms and busts.''

Standard Bank has offices in 18 African countries, including Nigeria and Kenya, and 21 other nations such as Argentina and Taiwan. The Johannesburg-based bank has 713 branches in South Africa and 240 throughout the continent. The deal is a sign that even if the Chinese Communist Party has strategic reasons for investing in Africa, companies are heading there for the economic potential.

See No Evil

Until now, China's Africa push has raised warning flags around the globe, and rightfully so. To get resources to feed its 11.5 percent growth, China has hopped into bed with some of Africa's most unsavory regimes, such as Sudan's and Zimbabwe's. That see-no-evil-hear-no-evil approach is raising eyebrows.

Warren Buffett can deny it all he wants, but it's hard to believe that his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. would have dumped its entire holding of PetroChina Co., Asia's biggest oil company, without the public criticism over China's support of Sudan.

PetroChina's state-controlled parent is the biggest foreign investor in Sudan. PetroChina's stock gained more than 11-fold since Buffett first bought it in 2003. And yet he recently abandoned what he says is ``absolutely a first-class company.''

Buffett was under increasing pressure from human-rights groups over accusations that the Sudanese government supports genocide. There was even a role for actress Mia Farrow, who helped publicize the worldwide campaign to dub next year's games the ``Genocide Olympics.''

No Baggage

ICBC's stake in Standard Bank comes without that kind of baggage. It's a state-controlled China bank, making it hard to figure out where politics end and business begins. Yet the deal shows China is now making bets on Africa's economy.

Standard Bank is gaining access to the fastest-growing major economy and fattening its capital base. China is getting a foothold into Africa's nascent investment-banking and insurance industries. It's also a way for China to use its growing cash piles overseas rather than making fresh domestic loans that may go bad or fuel inflation.

All this is stellar news for Africa, which usually suffers from the ``paradox of plenty.'' All too often, inhabitants of resource-rich nations fail to prosper while corrupt politicians and their cronies get wealthy and ignore the development needs of the struggling masses.

That has been Africa's experience for far too long. And the failure of Western efforts to reverse the dynamic left the region's leaders open to Chinese investment.

Investment, Not Aid

One interesting element of ICBC's deal is how different it is from the usual overture from Western banks. It didn't come laden with demands about how much control ICBC will have over Standard Bank. It didn't require pledges for financial change. It's merely one bank buying a piece of another with transparent terms and conditions. It's a sign Chinese managers are willing to treat Africans as peers.

The West hasn't learned that lesson with its aid programs and lecturing. By trying a new tack, China may be testing what development economists have argued for years: Africa doesn't need more aid, it needs more genuine investment and trade.

Bono and Columbia University's Jeffrey Sachs will keep plugging away, and thank the gods for that. But Chinese companies appear to see something in Africa many in New York, London and Tokyo don't. Africa represents huge and lucrative business opportunities if it gets its act together.

That's a big ``if.'' With the exception of Botswana and Ghana, Africa's biggest consistency seems to be to pull the rug out from under wide-eyed investors. China's interests are offering Africa a rare opportunity to boost its economies.

China's Money

Another interesting angle here concerns investors. Looking at ICBC along with other Chinese deals of late -- like Citic Securities Co. buying a stake in Bear Stearns Cos. -- it's clear something transformational is afoot.

In recent years, China sought foreign investments in financial firms to shore up capital and gain expertise. Now, cash-rich from trade, stock offerings and surging share prices, China no longer needs Wall Street's money. Increasingly, it's foreigners who want a cut of China's money.

``Getting access to China's market may no longer require putting money in China,'' says Brad Setser, director of research at Roubini Global Economics LLC in New York. ``It may instead require accepting investment from China.''

China may have just found a way to tame its own pressures and tap Africa without the baggage of the past. Opinion

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Africa waiting for net revolution

More than a third of Africa's citizens should have access to broadband internet by 2012, a conference of technology leaders is set to hear.

Cyber cafe in AfricaFewer than four out of 100 Africans currently use the internet, and broadband penetration is below 1%.

The barriers to broadband access are key talking points at the Connect Africa meeting in Kigali, in Rwanda.

Dr Hamadoun Toure, head of the International Telecommunication Union has called for "immediate action".

The conference features representations from organisations such as the World Bank, World Health Organization and United Nations, as well as high-profile technology leaders such as Intel's chairman Craig Barrett.

The attendees were all invited to make financial commitments to improving technology and telecoms in the continent. More than $3bn has been pledged so far.

Dr Toure said that despite the bleak picture of access issues in Africa there was plenty of opportunity.

He told the BBC News website: "If you have just 1% of broadband access today you have 99% of opportunity.

Mobile phone use is growing dramatically in Africa Mobile phone user

"The good news is that Africa has had the highest growth in mobile use globally - twice the global average over the past three years.

"For the first time economic indicators are positive from Africa."


In Rwanda, access to the net is limited and high-speed connections are rare, the BBC's Digital Planet programme was told by officials and users in the country.

"Not many students are able to connect to the internet at the same time," said Marie-Josee Ufitamahoro, a student at Kigali institute of technology.

"For example, a class of 40 students requires each pupil to be connected, so what we need is bigger bandwidth so we can share ideas with other students in other parts of the world."

Graph showing internet usage in the world

Albert Butare, Rwanda's state minister for telecommunications and energy, said the issue of bandwidth was critical.

"It's what governs the speed of the internet, the quality of the connection, whether or not you can do video conferencing," he said.

"If you are talking about telemedicine or distance learning, you need images and clear audio."

Dr Toure said the conference needed to take action on regulatory issues in some African countries, which often tie down the roll-out of net access. "The heads of state present will give assurances to the private sector on the availability of competition and the creation of a proper regulatory environment for them in which to evolve," he said. "The private sector from outside Africa and inside will make fruitful partnerships."


One of the biggest problems facing internet development in Africa is a lack of interconnectivity. More than 70% of internet traffic within Africa is routed outside the continent, driving up costs for business and consumers.

"This is a serious problem and will be discussed," said Dr Toure.

But he said Africa should not be looking for special treatment from the technology private sector.

"Africa has to create the opportunities; Africa doesn't need charity," he said.

Graph showing internet usage within Africa

"We need to make sure we have a good environment that will attract private sector investment. There's nothing wrong with making profits in Africa."

The International Telecommunications Union says more than $8bn was invested in telecommunications infrastructure across Africa in 2005.

Dr Toure said the challenge for the ITU, technology leaders and companies was to help Africa meet its Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

In the technology sphere, that means easy access to information and communication technology for more than half of the continent's population within eight years.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Africa waiting for net revolution

Africa staffs the West

Africa is losing its brightest to the First World. Less than 10% of doctors trained in Zambia since its independence in 1964 are still in the country: the other 90% have migrated, mainly to Europe and the United States. No less staggeringly, there are more Sierra Leonean-trained doctors in Chicago alone than in the country itself and cash-strapped Benin provides more medical professionals to France than there are in the whole of its own health system.
These medical examples are merely one facet of the massive loss of skills Africa as a whole continues to suffer. In effect, one-third of the continent’s university resources are serving the manpower needs of Western nations and not those of Africa itself. United Nations estimates suggest that Africa is spending a staggering $4-billion a year training professionals for developed countries.
Why this is happening, and what African universities need to do to counter the problem, came under the spotlight in the Libyan capital of Tripoli this week, which hosted the Association of African Universities’ (AAU) two-yearly conference of rectors, vice-chancellors and university presidents. It drew more than 150 delegates from across the continent.
This is far from being the first time senior African academic leaders have raised these issues and in the conference corridors the question most raised was whether the Tripoli gathering would break any new ground.
The theme was The African Brain Drain: Managing the Drain – Working with the Diaspora. AAU president Njabulo Ndebele, vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, was one of many who stressed that statistics on the brain drain are imperfect. The conference was to assess what the real picture is and to convince governments of the need for better data.
Despite this cautionary note, the indaba was awash with hair-raising figures (see sidebar one), with the AAU itself estimating that 30% of Africa’s university graduates live outside the continent.
Nuhu Yaqub, vice-chancellor of Nigeria’s University of Abuja, set the dominant tone. Noting that the brain drain was invariably one-way -- from the Third World to the First World -- he observed that “developing countries have unwittingly been subsidising the developed countries”, educating a professionals cadre that the developed world received “on a platter of gold at no cost”.
Gilbert Mdende of the University of Burundi introduced another aspect of the problem as seen from a national, rather than a continental, perspective: his university had lost 63% of its lecturers in the past 10 years to Rwanda because of socio-political crises as well as the lure of better remuneration.
Similarly complicating the picture, Johnson Ishengoma of the University of Dar es Salaam insisted that “internal brain drain” had to be factored in as part of the problem. Low academic salaries and poor working conditions (such as huge class sizes) in Tanzania had forced many academics into other fields -- including into the country’s Cabinet. This left major gaps in professorial ranks that could not easily be filled, he said.
Conferences tend to have counter-conferences -- that is, what’s exchanged outside the formal sessions. In Tripoli, many of the counter-conference sessions occurred on the steps of the conference centre with delegates staring at the Mediterranean. (To the surprise of the small contingent of South African delegates, none of whom had been to Libya before, this turned out to be remarkably similar to gazing at Durban’s surf on a calm day -- an illusion broken only when you turned to walk back inside and noted the large mural of Moammar Gaddafi on the front of the Dat El-Emad conference centre.)
During the first tea break, the Mail & Guardian spoke with Andrew Othieno, project officer in The Association of Commonwealth Universities’ Africa unit. His job is to promote partnerships between universities in the United Kingdom and in Africa. “But what I’m hearing so far is what United Kingdom academics complain about: African academics putting the problem on the table, as they’ve been doing since the Sixties, but offering no solution. It’s like continuing to complain about colonialism. The British are tired of hearing this.”
Striking a similar note was a very senior South African academic, who preferred not to be named. “It’s the first morning and all we’ve heard is a repetition from vice-chancellors of the same problem. Yet it’s their job to create enabling conditions in which academics can work and so be retained; they can’t just state the problem. They all complain about not being taken seriously by politicians, yet this is why they’re not.”
Othieno commented that when UK universities approached African universities about partnerships in fields such as information and communications technology, agriculture and health, they often received no response. “We’re offering financing for whatever capacity they want to build, academic materials, computers and so on. There’s clearly a lack of adequate communication between the UK and Africa.”
With all these comments in mind, the M&G asked Ndebele what specifics the AAU hoped the conference would produce. “The conference is part of the AAU initiative begun two years ago in Cape Town, when the current board was elected, to enhance the visibility of the AAU and the participation of the member states,” he said. “We want from the conference a better conceptual understanding of the brain drain, an advocacy programme with key organisations such as the African Union and the African Capacity-Building Foundation, and continued research in the field.”
Commenting on the criticism that the conference involved academics talking to one another rather than involving governments, he replied: “There has been a new development in Africa and that is governments saying higher education is an important part of economic competitiveness, because of the centrality to that of new knowledge and innovation.” (He was referring here to the post-independence African state’s characteristic prioritising of primary education to the detriment of tertiary -- another theme the conference repeatedly stressed.)
Given this new development, Ndebele said: “Politicians and academics need to speak to one another with mutual respect -- that’s a relationship that’s not been good for some time now. There must be new dialogue between the two.”
Politics soon erupted into the conference in a way that underlined the need for higher education to engage governments as Ndebele had suggested. The flashpoint was Nepad. Sibusiso Vil-Nkomo, of the University of Pretoria, argued that Nepad’s recognition of “the importance of technological know-how and skills is an indispensable stimulus for development”, because it could be used as a tool to develop strategies to use such skills possessed by Africans in the diaspora.
While South Africa was widely acknowledged at the conference as being further down the road to luring its professionals back to the country -- at least in having developed policies in this regard for engineers, teachers and nurses -- Vil-Nkomo’s broader claims for Nepad as the golden solution encountered immediate challenges.
Joseph Okpaku, of the Telecom Africa International Corporation in the United States, pointed to frictions among African countries themselves: “The problem with Nepad is that you can’t partner with those you compete with, otherwise there’s just blackmail -- which is what has happened.” And a contribution from the floor suggested deep schisms between governments and higher education: African political leaders had blundered in “taking Nepad first for approval to the Group of Eight and not to us. As a result, Africa doesn’t own Nepad.”
But concrete measures to counter the brain drain looked a distant prospect. It remained unclear whether the conference would achieve the measurable aims Ndebele had outlined or whether, in the testy words of one speaker from the floor, “we’ll still be discussing this 60 years from now”.
The Association of African Universities is an NGO to that aims to promote cooperation among African universities as well as increased contact between AAU members and the international academic world. Its membership numbers 208 universities from 50 of the continent’s 53 countries, and includes the three main linguistic zones of traditional tertiary teaching on the continent -- Anglophone, Francophone and Arabic
Measuring the brain drain

  • Nearly 235 000 professionals left South Africa between 1987 and 1997. Since 1997, the brain drain has cost the country $7,8-billion, according to the Paris-based Institute for Research and Development.
  • Arabic African countries annually lose 50% of their doctors, 23% of engineers and 15% of scientists. Of all Arab students abroad, only 4,5% return home.
  • About 80% of Ghana’s doctors leave the country within five years of graduation; and about 25% of all doctors trained in Africa work abroad.
  • About 20 000 professionals leave Africa every year, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
  • A recent study of 10 African countries showed an average loss of 40% of their university graduates, with massive brain drains from Cape Verde (67%), The Gambia (63%), Seychelles (59%), Sierra Leone (53%) and Mozambique (45%).
  • A survey last year of 415 students from developing countries studying at Texas University in the United States showed that more than half wanted to start their careers in the US, 20% preferred their home countries, and nearly 30% were unsure.

Push and pull factors
  • Causes of the brain drain were commonly referred to in shorthand as “push and pull factors”.
  • Among the push factors:
  • Low and eroding salaries.
  • Social unrest and political conflict, including wars.
  • Unsatisfactory living conditions, such as lack of housing and transport.
  • Lack of research facilities and funding.
  • Discrimination in academic appointments and promotions.
  • The pull factors, mostly perceived as being offered in the West, are the reverse: higher wages, political stability, intellectual freedom and better career opportunities, among others.

Africa staffs the West : Mail & Guardian Online

Monday, October 29, 2007

All must support tobacco control

The fight against tobacco control is limitless making it impossible for a sole entity to battle it single-handedly, Professor John Gyapong, Director, Health Research Unit, Ghana Health Service, noted on Thursday.
Speaking at the West African Tobacco Control workshop in Accra, he said the fight needed the support of all sectors in eliminating the false images that had been associated with its use.
Prof. Gyapong said Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) could assume an active role in the fight but it needed a political and legal backing to make it binding and effective.
The workshop organised by the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) and hosted by Ghana Coalition of NGOs Against Tobacco brought together 35 participants from Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Gambia and Sierra Leone to build capacity of NGOs to advocate the ratification and implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The Ghana Health Service (GHS), Prof. Gyapong said, had taken the lead in ensuring that NGOs served on the Policy and Strategy Advisory Board Committees while others worked in communities on awareness creation.
Prof. Gyapong said this was because tobacco was the leading cause of death in the world, killing more than five million people annually, adding that if current trends continued it was projected to kill 10 million per year by 2020 with 70 per cent of those deaths occurring in developing countries.
The figures suggest that about 500 million people living today may eventually be killed by tobacco if they maintained usage.
Ghana is one of the 40 countries that have ratified FCTC, which became an international law on February 25, 2005.
The Project Director of FCA, Alison Cox said the Framework Convention (FC) was aimed at protecting the present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.
She said Global commitment to achieve change had been clearly demonstrated with the framework being one
of the most rapidly adopted treaties signed in June 2004. As of October 1, 2007 the WHO FCTC had 150 parties representing 80 per cent of the world's population.
The great challenge now, Ms Cox noted, was to bring the last remaining eligible countries to ratify the treaty and also see it through paper to life through enabling legislature and eventual enforcement.
Mr Emmanuel Agyarko, Chief Executive of Food and Drugs Board (FDB), who chaired the function, said the voice of the consumer needed to be heard and his attention continually drawn to the negative effects of smoking.
He expressed the hope that the bill to back tobacco control in the country would be passed as soon as possible.

KESSBENFM 93.3 : : Excellence in radio

Celtel Mobile Company Storms Country

The Celtel mobile network in Sierra Leone has extended its mobile market to the West African state of Ghana as the subsidiary of Zain (formerly MTC, now having controlling shares in Western Telesystems (Westel), the second national operator in that country.

According to the chief executive officer of Zain, Dr. Saad Al Barrak, Celtel was excited to enter the Ghanaian market which he said is one of Africa's most important markets. "We are very excited to enter Ghana, one of the most important markets in Africa. We look forward to offering Ghanaians the quality telecommunications services which we provide in all the countries in which we operate. Based on our Pan-African experience, we are confident that the increased competition in telecommunications will benefit the people of Ghana and support the already robust economy of the country." Dr Saad Al Barrak made this remark during the signing ceremony of an agreement for Celtel international, a subsidiary of Zain to acquire 75% of Western Telesystems Limited (Westel) from the government of Ghana for US$120 million.

According to the agreement, the government of Ghana remain minor shareholders in Westel with a 2.5% shareholding through the Ghana National Petroleum Commission. Ghana's Communications Minister Dr. Benjamin Aggrey Ntim said,"The government of Ghana is delighted to welcome a world class telecommunications operator such as Celtel to Ghana and we look forward to working together as partners." The Minister also announced that the parties have agreed to list a portion of the company's shares in the future in Ghana's public stock exchange for the benefit of Ghanaians. The release further states that Celtel is preparing to invest millions of dollars in a state of the art telecommunications network and associated services to offer its unparallel experience as a Pan-African operator, bringing telecommunications services to more than 24 million subscribers in 15 countries in Africa.

"The company hopes to include Ghana soon in its One Network which makes it possible for subscribers to use their phones across boarders withouth having to pay roaming charges", the release concludes. Ghana: Celtel Mobile Company Storms Country (Page 1 of 1)