Friday, November 27, 2015

Malaria costs Ghana's economy over US$735 million annually

Malaria continues to be the leading cause of outpatient attendance in the country’s hospitals and death among children under five years, costing the economy over US$735million a year through lost productivity in the corporate sector, Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Victor Asare Bampoe has said.

“Beyond health, malaria affects our capacity to attain the level of health for our work force that industry and corporate sector needs to support development of this country.

“If we do not do anything now to reduce the health and economic burden of this disease, our development aspirations will all remain beautiful dreams and we will continue to pass on the curse of poverty to our children,” he stated.

Dr. Bampoe was speaking at a corporate malaria breakfast meeting in Accra that brought together corporate institutions, individuals, policymakers, corporate sector officials, the media, development partners and other industries; he called for increased attention toward reducing the malaria footprint in Ghana.

The meeting was jointly organised by the National Malaria Control Programme and UNICEF to share the current strategic framework and encourage businesses’ help in the fight against malaria.

Dr. Bampoe indicated that the country continues to bear the burden of malaria as a major public health challenge.

He explained that Ghanaian businesses spend an average of 0.5 percent of annual corporate returns on treatment of malaria in employees and their dependents, 0.3 percent on malaria prevention, and 0.5 percent on other health-related corporate social responsibilities.

Available data show that in 2014 about 8.4 million cases of out-patient department malaria were recorded, representing about 23.6 % of all out-patient attendances. This translates into approximately 23,299 cases seen per day during 2014 in all health facilities.

Studies have shown that about 30 days of work in a year is lost on average due to malaria. The disease also continues to prevent many schoolchildren from attending school due to illness, diminishing their capacity to realise their full potential.

This shows how malaria continues to have a severe social-economic impact on populations. It is one of the causes of household poverty, because it results in absenteeism from the daily activities of productive living and income generation.

The last decade has however witnessed unprecedented progress in malaria prevention and control in the country.

“As a ministry, we will continue to work with stakeholders and partners to carry out advocacy for increased mobilisation of domestic and external funding, and providing guidance regarding appropriate malaria control policies and interventions,” he said.

Dr. Keziah Malm, acting Programme Manager, National Malaria Control Programme, making a presentation explained that between 2000 and 2014 malaria-associated mortality declined by 65% across all age groups; and that these milestones could not have been achieved without support from the global coalition of partners -- including government, the Global Fund, World Health Organisation, USAID, UNICEF, DfID and other NGOs.

She confirmed that the involvement of volunteers, health workers, and religious and community leaders has amounted to a major social mobilisation crusade in support of the malaria control effort.

“These gains notwithstanding, much more needs to be done to accelerate progress toward achieving national and regional malaria targets.

“In this regard, the role of corporate institutions cannot be over-emphasised. In many countries of the African region and across the globe, ministries of health, civil society organisations and other stakeholders are bringing malaria prevention and treatment services closer and closer to the doorsteps of the people.”

Dr. Kezier Malm, the acting Programme Manager of the National Malaria Control (NMCP), has advised corporate businesses to establish workplace malaria control activities to help reduce the high incidences of malaria and protect their health.

She said malaria is taking a heavy toll on Ghanaian businesses, resulting in each employee losing 30 working days annually to malaria -- noting that the economic cost of malaria to businesses in Ghana in 2014 alone was on average GH¢20,000, with 90% of the total cost being direct costs and the 10% being indirect cost-absenteeism.

She added: “Corporate institutions and individuals need to take full advantage of positive developments by supporting, in diverse ways, the implementation of proven malaria control interventions in their workplaces, communities and respective homes.

“Such support can be the procurement of rapid diagnostic task kits and the provision of appropriate treatment using safe and effective medicines.

“In the area of presentation, communities and employees must be supported and empowered to use long-lasting insecticide-treated nets; and and pregnant women must take the necessary prophylaxis against malaria.”

Dr. Malm therefore called on all to support national efforts and mobilise the financial and human resources needed to make quality medicines and commodities available and affordable to all communities and individuals, so that malaria will be defeated.

“We must all ensure that our workers and their families have adequate access to cost-effective malaria interventions for prevention and treatment,” she said.

Ms. Rushnan Murtaza, Deputy Representative UNICEF explained that malaria is one of the leading causes of illness in the country, and that despite its devastating effects, the importance of a malaria-free environment in promoting economic development and poverty reduction has not been fully appreciated in most countries.

Commenting on global trends, she said malaria as a disease continues to be challenging worldwide; with over 3 billion people at risk of contracting the disease, the significant cross-cutting impact is the major burden that malaria places on health systems.

She indicated that in sub-Saharan Africa malaria accounts for one-third of all out-patient visits and up to 45% of all hospital admissions.

In some part of the world there has been some progress. 10 years ago, Burundi was able to achieve a 40% decline in malaria cases. The southern province of Zambia reduced malaria deaths by 90% over the same period. This shows that Ghana can overcome the prevalence of malaria among children and pregnant women.

Mr. Prince Kofi Amoabeng -- the retired Chief Executive of UT Holdings -- was appointed as official Malaria Ambassador at the ceremony, and immediately called for the establishment of a Malaria Foundation that will be private sector-led and managed to help eradicate malaria from the country.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gov’t considers clean coal

The Minister of Power Dr. Kwabena Donkor has said the country is focused on diversifying is sources of power generation in the face of dwindling hydro’s contribution in the energy generation mix, as government is vigorously perusing the introduction of clean coal into the energy mix.
The exploitation of clean coal energy is perceived to be a cheaper source of power for industrial use, which would promote competition and lead to creation of jobs for Ghanaians and also address environmental issues.
“This country is also moving on a new trajectory, which is that hydro is increasingly becoming a minor player in the generation mix; and therefore going forward other generation sources that are more expensive than hydro will have to become the dominant generation source: but Ghana has a responsibility to remain competitive; we are looking at the introduction of clean coal energy to address future needs while the renewable sector builds up.
“This government will continue to partner the private sector in order to provide efficient power supply to the country,” Dr. Donkor told stakeholder of the power sector at a ‘Strengthening Public-Private Partnerships in the Electricity Sector’ conference organised by the International Finance Corporation and Millennium Development Authority. It was also in collaboration with the Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership.
Confirming the proposed development of clean coal facility in the country, Dr. Donkor said a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement is being considered and that the Volta River Authority (VRA) and China’s Shenzhen Energy Group -- parent company of Sunon Asogli Ghana Ltd. -- are currently undertaking pre-feasibility studies on the coal project: it is estimated to cost about US$1.5billion to build a 700-megawatt coal-fired plant after feasibility studies yielded positive results.
The project is expected to include two units of 350 megawatts, and a subsidiary coal port with a 50,000-tonne berth as a terminal to receive coal from overseas and transmit it to the plant.
Construction could take between 30 to 36 months, or even longer, depending on local conditions and available resources in the country.
Dr. Donkor explained that the country’s concept of an independent power producer recognises a shift from a traditional state-driven provision to private sector-driven generation -- adding that with the penetration of 80.5% accessibility, the country is definitely moving toward private sector-driven, with the state being in a regulatory mood to ensure equity, fairness, national cohesion, consumer progression and national development.
Presently, government is spearheading a policy on the use of clean coal for power generation to Parliament, as it strategises to address the decade-old power challenges facing the country.
This positions the country a step closer toward joining almost half of the world’s economies that use coal-fired plants to generate cheap electricity for its population -- amidst claims that coal is the dirtiest form of energy, producing high amount of carbon emissions.
It is believed that one can generate electricity at about 8cents per kilowatt hour using coal, as against the 13 and 14 cents being used in paying for other sources of thermal generation.
It will again require about 400-700megwatts to fix the current generation deficit; however, with an exponential growth of 12% demand per annum, this will not address the long-term.
In view of this, government is encouraging both conventional and non-conventional forms of generation by pushing for the use of biomass fuel plants, solar, wind-farms, tidal-powered generation as well as clean-coal fuel generation.
The country generates the bulk of its power from hydro sources, augmented by thermal generation using crude oil and gas from Nigeria as well as the country’s own gas deposits from Cape Three Points.
Dr. Donkor observed project financing as a major challenge facing the country’s power sector, which tends to delay the delivery of public projects. Thus, he asked stakeholder in the industry to adopt innovative ways of project financing that can provide the comfort that lenders would require in order to speed up the project-delivery process.
“In the power sector of the country, one major challenge being faced these days is the issue of project financing -- which tends to delay the delivery of public projects,” he said.
Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA), Owura Sarfo, indicated there are six projects under the Ghana Compact II which are structured to banish ‘DUMSOR’ in the medium to long-term energy needs of the country.
One of them, he said is: “the ECG financial and operational turnaround project, and one activity within this project is what we call ‘private sector participation in ECG’. Under this project, we intend to take a Concessionaire who will manage ECG’s business, operate ECG and carry out investments in the ECG’s business”.
Ing. Sarfo explained that electricity is a critical ingredient in the economic development of any country, and it has been proven there exists a long-term relationship between the economic growth of a country and electricity consumption -- particularly if that consumption is in the non-residential sector.
“Electricity is a limiting factor to economic growth, and disruption of supply -- as we currently have in Ghana -- normally has an adverse effect on economic growth. We can infer that in countries where the power reserve margin is very low, there is urgent need to find innovative ways of enhancing investment in this critical area.
“I think Ghanaians should resolve this once and for all. We should have the courage to do what is required to solve the Power Sector challenges, once and for all,” he said.
He recounted that in the early 1990s the World Bank, under its financing arrangement with government for the new Thermal Power Project at Takoradi, requested reforms in the Ghana power sector to enhance private sector participation.
“It was following this request that government set up the Power Sector Reform Committee. Subsequently, the Ministry of Mines and Energy engaged the services of a Consultant by name SYNEX of Santiago, Chile, to study the opportunities for reforming the Ghana Power Sector. SYNEX completed its study in June 1994.
“In 1997, government approved the power sector reforms policy -- which strongly advocated a complete reform of the power sector, and a very strong involvement of the private sector in the power space.
“Considering that in 2015 -- 18-years after approval of the power sector reforms -- we still have challenges in the electricity sector, it implies that we need to do more in this area,” Ing. Sarfo stated.

Cedi could face first half blues -- banker

Kobla Nyaletey, Director of Markets at Barclays Bank Ghana, has predicted that the first half of 2016 may be challenging -- mainly due to weak foreign exchange inflows which could trigger a depreciation of the local currency by about 20 percent against the US dollar.
“We expect the cedi to depreciate by about 20 percent in 2016 within the first half of the year, as foreign exchange inflows are expected to be weak.
“Can we find any currency as volatile as the cedi this year? It’s been topsy-turvy. The currency opened the year at GH¢3.2, weakened consistently to touch an all-time low of GH¢4.3 in June, and in just the next 4 weeks the currency reversed the entire losses to end July at GH¢3.3; since then, the cedi has weakened to about GH¢4 to a dollar.”
Mr. Nyaletey was speaking at a two-day summit -- the West Africa Property Investment Summit that brought together players in the financial institutions and stakeholders within the real estate industry of the sub-region.
The event was organised among other things to discuss some of the key issues on funding for property development in West Africa. The event was also held to provide a link between industry players in the sub-region.
Mr. Nyalatey who spoke on the topic ‘Currency Concerns: Manoeuvring around West Africa’s Currency Volatility’, confirmed that the economy’s current account deficits explain the weakening cedi.
The economy’s gross international reserves are currently at GH¢4.4billion as at the end of September, and is equivalent to 2.8 months of import cover as against a target of 3 months import cover.
“We expect this to improve to around 3.5 months import on cocoa and Eurobond flows that came in the fourth quarter of 2015.”
Christian Ahortor, Senior Economist-West African Monetary Institute, making a presentation on developments in the West African markets explained that the Ebola crisis has dragged West African growth in 2015; with the epidemic especially lethal in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where deaths exceeded 10,000 from more than 25,000 reported cases.
“The West African sub-region is currently experiencing serious economic challenges brought about by both domestic and external shocks.
“These present enormous economic management challenges, as policymakers find it difficult making positive economic choices that may disturb socio-politico-economic balance.
“These challenges also present enormous opportunities for the private sector to take advantage of; especially in power generation, housing, economic infrastructure and sanitation,” he said.
Mr. Ahortor indicated that despite the Ebola crisis’ impact, the macroeconomic outlook at the regional level is encouraging -- adding that West Africa has managed to maintain a 6% growth in 2014, two points more than the continental average.
He reckons that West Africa’s economic growth is expected to slow to 5% in 2015 before rebounding to 6.1% in 2016, which will position the region as the second-most dynamic market after East Africa.
Kofi Ampong, CEO Broll Ghana Ltd. -- a property services company, told investors that there are unlimited opportunities in the area of retail, residential, offices; and to a lesser extent industrial parks in the Francophone countries, and the language barrier should not be a hindrance or obstacle.
“Investors should take the bull by the horns and venture into these ‘virgin’ countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger and Togo with no western style malls, particularly for retail investors,” he stated.
“Despite opportunities in the sub-region, barriers to entry remain slightly high. The major risk for developers and property investors is no longer political instability but, rather, access to title deeds; to some extent, capital constraints and the procurement of building materials; in some instances lack of depth and quality of tenants; and lastly, high rentals demanded by owners of these developments and properties,” Mr. Ampong said.
The creators of the widely-known Africa Property Investment Summit and East Africa Property Investment Summit said the platform was targetted at the top-tier investors and property professionals across the region to enable them gain insights and better understand the region’s real estate markets. 
This is because the region is currently witnessing increased investment with an eye on the real estate sector; the WAPI summit provided a platform to learn about the latest regional trends, research and ideas shaping the property landscape. 

2 take steps to reduce forest degradation

The Forestry Commission and the Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod) are spearheading a landscape strategy to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in the country’s cocoa growing areas.
The strategy, christened, the Cocoa-Forest Emission Reduction Programme, seeks to significantly reduce emissions driven by expansion of cocoa into forest areas, together with illegal logging. It also aims to secure the future of the country’s forests and significantly improve income and livelihood opportunities for farmers and forest users across the programme area.          
The initiative is part of Ghana’s REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation + Conservation of Forests, Sustainable Forest Management and Enhancement of Carbon Stocks) programme.
Mr. Yaw Kwakye, Head of the Climate Unit of the Forestry Commission, announced the programme at the first meeting of Ghana’s REDD+ Ambassadors -- a group of eminent and influential people tasked with leading the REDD+ and climate change crusade in Ghana.
He explained that the country’s REDD+ strategy is well-aligned with key national developmental strategies and policies -- adding that its presents a 20-year vision, to be revised at five-year intervals, with a clear set of over-arching activities and priorities for addressing deforestation and forest degradation.
The main thrust of the strategy is the nesting of large-scale sub-national programmes that follow ecological boundaries and are defined by major commodities and drivers, Mr. Kwakye said.
He said the programme is led by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and provides economic incentives for initiatives and actions by developing countries that effectively result in reductions of mainly carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
He explained that the main drivers of emissions in the country include mining, logging, agriculture, wildfires, firewood/charcoal and settlements.
World Bank research estimates that the degradation of agricultural soils, forests and Savannah woodlands, coastal fisheries, wildlife resources and Lake Volta's environment cost Ghana at least US$520 million annually.
Currently, Ghana has a 5.9 million hectare high forest ecozone, with cocoa production zones taking 1.8 million hectares.
The deforestation rate in the country stands at 135,000 hectares annually, culminating in the country’s forest reduction to 1.6 million hectares from 8.2 million at the turn of the century.
Mr. Kwakye said: “REDD+ provides an opportunity to mitigate climate change and make our land-use sector more resilient, while establishing a new source of revenue and benefits for the country”.
 An environmental management specialist, Dr. Rebecca Ashley Asare, observed that although Africa is contributing little to global emission figures, the continent is likely to experience some of the worst effects because of poverty. “Mitigation and adaptation measures are needed, and forests can play an important role,” she said.
Dr. Asare said Climate Smart Agriculture, which puts a premium on balancing environmental sustainability with environmentally-friendly farming techniques, and REDD+ are key approaches that can contribute to addressing climate change threats.
 Nana Nketsiah urged Ghanaians to take issues concerning the environment seriously, since the consequences of environmental degradation affect us all.
Among the ambassadors are Uncle Ebo Whyte, playwright; Nana Kobena Nketsiah V, the Omanhene of the Essikado Traditional Area in the Western Region, Prof. Mrs. Esi Awuah, Vice Chancellor of the University of Energy and Natural Resources; Dr. Ismael Yamson of Yamson and Associates; Mr. Ken Thompson, CEO of Dalex Financial Services, and a host of media personalities and musicians.

Forestry Commission leads climate change campaign

The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, and the Climate Change Unit of the Forestry Commission (FC) in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) will launch the “REDD Eye” campaign and hold the maiden National REDD+ Forum to create awareness and secure buy-in for the REDD+ mechanism from Ghanaians.
REDD+ is an acronym for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. The Plus sign (+) represents activities that offer co-benefits; such as biodiversity conservation, sustainable forest management and carbon stocks enhancement.
REDD+ is an activity whose successful implementation will help reduce the impact of climate change, particularly in developing countries like Ghana.
Climate Change has become a worldwide phenomenon that is affecting all areas of human life. It is anthropogenic, in that all the drivers of climate change are human-induced.
Major drivers of climate change are deforestation and forest degradation; burning of fossil fuels; improper land use; industrialisation; indiscriminate bush-burning, among others. All these human-induced activities release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, thereby causing global warming which leads to climate change.
In this country, climate change is manifested in high temperatures, unreliable rainfall patterns, which have implications for food security.
There have been several attempts to arrest climate change and its adverse effects worldwide, but REDD+ has been recognised as an activity whose successful implementation will help reduce the impacts of climate change, particularly in developing countries like Ghana.
Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), developed countries have committed to providing incentives for developing countries that have large tracts of forest to help them expand, nurture and protect their forests. This will ensure that forests continue to play their natural role, which includes absorption of excess carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere in order to prevent dangerous warming of the earth which eventually leads to changes in climate.
As part of activities to create awareness about REDD+ and secure stakeholder acceptance of the idea, last year the Forestry Commission -- which hosts the National REDD+ Secretariat -- embarked on a National REDD+ Roadshow event. It was a mass communication campaign that involved visits to Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs), radio discussions, road processions, sensitisation of pupils and students, interactions with traditional authorities and local community members, film shows and durbars.
It was targetted at drawing attention to unsustainable land-use practices that lead to deforestation and forest degradation, and their negative impacts including global warming and loss of livelihood opportunities. The event also sought to galvanise public support for actions and measures targetted at addressing the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in Ghana. The Roadshow took place in Tarkwa, Dormaa Ahenkro, Hohoe and Damongo.
This year, the National REDD+ Secretariat has lined up a set of activities as a follow-up to that of 2014 -- all aimed at galvanising public and stakeholder support for REDD+.
The Secretariat also held local level consultations in six communities: namely Nyinahin, Bibiani, Enchi, Asamankese, Goaso and Assin Fosu.
In the Greater Accra Region, the National REDD+ Secretariat will organise a high-level consultative meeting for REDD+ Ambassadors with the objective of meeting to engage high-level actors among the key stakeholder groups, who will serve as ambassadors for Ghana’s Emission Reduction Programme dubbed the cocoa-forest REDD+ programme.
This event will see the coming-together of representatives from farmer groups, financial institutions, creative industry, private sector, CSOs/NGOS/FBOs and traditional authorities. These ambassadors are expected to advocate the REDD+ mechanism to their peers, emphasising the need to adopt climate-smart agricultural practices in their bid to combat climate change while enhancing farming activities.

Gold Fields to review future of Damang Mine early next year

Gold Fields is reviewing options around the future of its Damang Mine in the country, which is struggling with a weakening dollar gold price and expected to announce a decision early next year, the Chief Executive Officer of Gold Fields Nick Holland said in its September quarter results, which showed increased gold output and higher earnings.
“As the gold price continues to languish we constantly review our portfolio; while the weaker currencies offer some respite in most regions, Ghana is fully exposed to further declines in the dollar gold price.
“In particular, Damang is challenged in the current environment; and, as such, we are considering various options for Damang which include a recapitalisation of the mine to expose the higher grade ore, or whether it would be more appropriate to preserve the inherent value of Damang until gold prices recover,” Mr. Holland said.
Damang had an improved quarter with production up by 7 percent on higher volumes and grade. Despite the lower production, the region reported a 7 percent decrease in All-In-Cost (AIC) to US$962/oz (Q2 2015: US$1,029/oz), with net cash flow for the quarter of US$32million.
The exceptional quality of Tarkwa was again highlighted in the quarter, with the mine producing 150koz, at AIC of US$872/oz.
Gold Fields posted attributable net earnings of US$18m for the three months to September 30, compared with US$12m in the June quarter and US$19m a year ago.
It reported headline earnings of US$21m for the September quarter, up from US$19m in the previous quarter.
Gold Fields achieved an average gold price of US$1,103/oz for the quarter, which was 6% lower than the price it realised in the June quarter.
The standout performance in the quarter after an extended period of difficulties was South Deep in SA, the last remaining Gold Fields’ asset in the country and one that is still in development.
Gold output at the mine shot up 42% to nearly 55,000oz compared with the previous quarter, as a result of higher yield and increased milled tonnages.
Full-year production is forecast to be as high as 193,000oz, with the second half’s production 50% higher than the first half, as renewed management focus on the mine and a fresh approach to the way the mine is being developed take effect.
Other mines contributing to the group’s higher total gold production were Damang and three mines in Australia, all of which offset lower production from the Cerro Corono Mine in Peru, Tarkwa in Ghana, and St. Ives in Australia.
The lower gold price offset the 2% increase in gold sales of 576,000oz in the quarter, pushing revenue down 4% to US$635m. Operating profit fell 3% to US$269m compared with the June quarter.
The Group generated US$75 million in net cash flow from operations for the September quarter (Q2 2015: US$30million) despite the lower US dollar gold price. This enabled us to reduce our net debt balance further by US$50million to US$1,427million at the end of September 2015 (June 2015: US$1,477million).
The net debt/EBITDA ratio at the end of the quarter was 1.41x, compared with 1.44x at the end of the June quarter. Group attributable equivalent gold production increased by 4 percent to 557koz (Q2 2015: 535koz), with most operations producing more gold in the September quarter.
Encouragingly, all-in sustaining costs (AISC) decreased by 8 percent to US$948/oz (Q2 2015: US$1,029/oz) and total all-in cost (AIC) decreased by 9 percent to US$961/oz (Q3 2015: US$1,059/oz).
In addition to the increase in production, weaker currencies and the lower oil price are favourably impacting costs. The Group realised a FCF margin of 11 percent at a gold price of US$1,103/oz in Q3 2015, compared with 9 percent at a gold price of US$1,174/oz in the June quarter. “We are pleased to report that our ongoing efforts to improve safety allowed us to achieve a fatality-free quarter,” he said.

Good cocoa yields impact on global production

Government is optimistic that cocoa production in the 2015/2016 crop season will be enhanced by an improved supply of inputs to farmers and expectations for favourable weather.
This is likely to impact positively on the global cocoa market, which is expected to record a marginal surplus during the crop season. The country is the world second major cocoa producer after Cote d’Ivoire.
“The market is projected to register a small surplus in the 2015/16 season on account of a rebound for production in the country, due to greater use of inputs and expectations of better weather,” said Finance Minister Seth Terkper.
He attributed the projected surplus to weak growth in global demand for cocoa next year, as grinding margins remain poor.
Cocoa prices rose in the second quarter of 2015 as a result of weather-related supply shortfalls in Ghana, but demand remains strong.
The prices are expected to peak in 2015 before lowering at the beginning of 2016 to the end of the forecast period in 2019, according to the Business Monitor International report published in October.
Terkper said earnings from cocoa beans and products exports amounted to US$1,921.7million in September, 2015, which was almost the same as was realised in the same period of 2014.
The earnings from cocoa beans were US$1,340.4million, after the price rose by 22.2 percent to US$2,990.9 per tonne while exports declined by 21 percent to 448,148.4 tonnes.
“Total value of merchandise imports for the first nine months of 2015 amounted to US$10,091.1million, down by 6.3 percent representing US$682.5million,” Terkper said. “The decline was due to a drop in the importation of oil and gas.”

Focus on industrialization, job-creation—African leaders urged

China’s Director General of the Department of African Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Lin Songtian, has urged African leaders to urgently focus on accelerating industrialisation, job-creation and infrastructural development to ensure sustainable economic growth.
“African leaders must stop relying on grants from developed countries or international organisations, but rather commit themselves to industrialisation and developing their capacity for reeling out competitive products to enhance sustainable development.” ?
Addressing 13 senior journalists from Ghana and Nigeria at a China-Africa Press Exchange Workshop held in Beijing, China, Ambassador Songtian said: “We prefer to help Africa manufacture, and not just to export to Africa; this is a way to help people develop. If you want to see industrialisation, you need a lot of money to develop your infrastructure --construct good roads and provide electricity among others.
“In China we emphasise on interactions with other countries, because if you don’t do this you cannot convince people to invest in your economy.”
He indicated that the African continent lacks the capacity to create jobs and ability to produce and have enough foreign resources -- adding that African countries should embark on massive agricultural and resource mobilisation to produce goods and services with added value. ?
Mr. Songtian urged African leaders to stop in-fighting and embrace unity while remaining fully committed to serving the people. “In Africa you spend too much time fighting one another; a leader should see the country as one, be the president of the country and not the political party; be united and committed to serve the country and the people wholeheartedly, and be ready to sacrifice if necessary,” he said. ?
He pledged China’s readiness to support Africa speed up industrialisation and agricultural development, as long as African leaders demonstrate satisfactory commitment in that direction. ?
“This is the new China and we are open to Africa. Most African countries dream of seeing Industrialization, and that is what will create employment and development. Leaders need to show commitment to serving the nation.”
Commenting on media collaboration, he urged African media to focus more on ways to promote investments through positively reporting Africa’s issues in order to attract investors.
Such an approach, he said, will encourage investors instead of creating fear and uncertainties through negative reports.
“Such support from the media will go a long way to guarantee investments in the continent, most Chinese investors do not know much about the environment.
“We follow a lot of reports about your country; some of them feature decisions as to where to invest. I don’t think we should write reports to scare away investors. We should write about things that will support the common interest of both parties to do business,’’ he said.
He described the Western media influence in Africa as usually negative, and said that China’s interest in Africa is to create equal opportunities for growth and development.
“China and Africa have been close allies right from the colonial period, and have been supportive of each other on local and international issues. China has emerged economically, but we are still seeking development partners to be able to maintain growth.
“Africa has rich natural resources and a large market which through our technology can be harnessed for development.”
He explained that the economic emergence of China did not come easy but through hard work, committed leadership and consistency in policy formulation.
“But in Africa, the fear of inconsistency in policy formulation and the lack of commitment by leaders has remained a concern. We need the media to promote modern ways of doing business through the creation of an enabling environment to attract investors,’’ Songtian said.
President of the Beijing International Chinese College (BICC) -- organiser of the workshop, Mr. Geng Xuechao, said Africa has remained China’s long-term strategic partner. In 2013, President Xi Jinping’s first visit to Africa was to reinforce cooperation with the continent. 
Xuechao explained that China is keen on exchanging ideas on how to help transform African countries, adding that such exchanges are important in enabling the world to know the true China. ?

China-Africa Media Workshop
The workshop was sponsored by the China-Africa Press Centre of the China Public Diplomacy Association, and drew 13 senior journalists from Nigeria and Ghana. It was aimed at enhancing a comprehensive understanding of the Chinese economy, culture, language, education, customs and livelihood, and was organised for visiting African journalists.
The two-week workshop was organised by Beijing International Chinese College as part of media effort to create better understanding that would lead to improved relations between China and Africa.
The programme has had much recognition and great support from both Chinese and foreign governments, as it bridges friendship and cooperation between China and Africa.
Through communication and discussions, the workshop again aims at promoting the traditional friendship and cooperation in fields like economy and trade between China and Africa, meanwhile accelerating human resource development and economic social progress in those countries.
The workshop covered a wide range of activities including lectures, discussions and field trips.
As part of the programme, organisations appointed by the China Public Diplomacy Association invited government officials and scholars to introduce and discuss relevant courses, policies and measures involved in China’s social and economic development; especially the achievements and experiences, positive and negative; happenings in China’s social reforms and opening process, and other related topics.
Participants also took time to visit some Provinces: namely Beijing, Henan and Shanghai, as well as institutions and enterprises to help acquaint themselves with the reality of a developing China.
Participants also had the opportunity to sit with officials and enterprises and provide them with information about the economic situation, investment circumstances, trade policies and cooperation intentions of African countries, and thus find more opportunities and wider approaches for bilateral economic and specialised cooperation.

China takes steps to check cheating exporters

The Chinese government has vowed to crack down on exporters of sub-standard products to Africa's local retail market.
The authorities confirmed that a special action task-force with a mandate to crack down on counterfeit and sub-standard products exported to African markets has been established, and that both producers and exporters caught perpetrating such acts will receive severe punishment as proscribed by government.
Zhong Manying -- Director General at China's Ministry of Commerce, Department of West Asia & African Affairs -- interacting with 13 senior journalists from Ghana and Nigeria in a two-week visit to China explained that the Chinese government attaches great importance to the quality of products that go to Africa from China.
She said the Chinese Products Inspection Bureau at the Ministry of Commerce and other national inspection agencies, like the Customs Inspection at various local government levels, have been asked to control the quality of products that go to Africa.
Manying explained that China is collaborating with Customs officials from other African countries, and this is targetted at upgrading the Customs facilities at the products inspection to ensure standardisation and conformity of product certification.
"We have also signed a bilateral agreement of quality inspection and control agreements with different African countries. As far as I know, the treaty between China and Nigeria is about to be signed and we will be looking forward to cooperate with African countries," she stated.
Manying indicated that China is looking forward to strengthening its cooperation with African countries as volume of trade has surged rapidly to more than US$100billion between 2014 and 2015 -- with South Africa, Angola and Nigeria being the leading trading partners.
Volume of trade is expected to hit beyond US$200billion by close of 2015. Last year China exported over 49 percent of its machinery products into Africa.
She stressed that the current trade ties between China and Africa have changed, and that both parties are excited about the new partnership and cooperation.
This is a clear indication that China is now a strategic partner to the African continent in terms of trade, and she expressed confidence in the relationship that exists between the two partners.
She observed that the trade imbalance between Africa and China can be solved when the two integrate trade and industrialisation.
"We should combine trade with investment and better integrate China's manufacturing models with Africa; this will speedily improve Africa's development,” she said, proposing that manufacturing and industrialisation could be the best option that positions Africa for its developmental growth.
"Africa can cooperate with China on industrialisation, and we will be happy to help this process. This is the cooperation China is seeking with African countries on the next five-year plan.
"China is still interested in trading and investing in Africa, because Africa has lots of prospects for the future," she remarked.The volume of foreign trade between China and the African continent resulted in a 30 percent growth between 2000 and 2001.
International trade promoters have observed that although China is willing to invest in the African continent is faced with numerous challenges, and therefore Africa must do more to convince and entice Chinese investors into sustaining their investment.
Among some negative tendencies are pilfering of equipment and misuse of raw materials; political instability, high tax regimes, xenophobic attacks and, ultimately, the unavailability of skilled workforces are some of the factors hindering capital-intensive Chinese investments in Africa.
African governments therefore need to rigorously enforce and apply their laws to deal with some Chinese nationals whose activities infringe the laws of countries where they have their investments, because China’s government might not be privy to the activities of such Chinese nationals.

StarTimes sues gov't …for unlawful termination of contract

StarTimes Communication Network Technology Group has expressed worry about the abrupt and unlawful termination of a US$97million digital terrestrial television migration contract with government, as this has a huge tendency of impeding economic diplomacy between the two countries.
The Chinese company, which earlier won the contract to supply and install a reliable energy-efficient and cost-effective Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) network solution in April 2012, has already filed a law suit against government to institute arbitral proceedings at the International Commercial Court, London, over the issue -- expecting to claim about US$200million for breach of contract.
A Vice President of StarTimes Group, interacting with 13 senior journalists from Ghana and Nigeria on a two-week media visit to China, explained that the development is not a happy story for international business transactions that involve the two countries.
"This is not a good way between Ghana government and StarTimes Group, as this is part of a bilateral agreement and has a lot of influence on Chinese companies operating in Ghana and their confidence in the international investors. 
"As a business entity, we have to obey international laws and contracts," a Vice President of the company who wants to remain anonymous told the media in Beijing, China, during a tour of the company’s premises and modern facilities. 
The Vice President argued that termination of the business contract between the two entities is a great loss to the company and China-Ghana bilateral relation -- observing that the country has a very long way to go in terms of infrastructure but lacks funding.
The Vice President said in June 2011 government opened an international bidding whereby enterprises all over the world showed interest in the project. Seven companies left and StarTimes remained, then soon after StarTimes won the contract to execute the project.
In 2012 the contract was signed, and in 2014 the Eximbank of China finished its appraisal and approved the loan for commencement of the project.
"After signing of the DTT loan framework agreement between the two countries on April 10, 2015, he confirmed that the fund was released by the Chinese government through the Eximbank of China for the project to take off." 
But the contract was later abruptly terminated by government, and that after all attempts at using diplomatic means to resolve the impasse between the two countries failed to yield any fruit.  
On July 21, 2015, StarTimes formally raised its arbitration issue with the International Commercial Court.
This has raised enormous concerns among the international investing community and technology experts about Ghana's readiness to embrace modern technology while leveraging on bilateral relations and diplomacy.
According to an agreement between Africa and the ITU in 2006, Africa was supposed to have carried out digital migration by June 2015. Over 156 countries signed the ITU agreement in Geneva which sets up a frequency plan for Europe, Africa and parts of Asia as part of a binding treaty to switch off analogue transmission.
This was aimed at ensuring a higher clarity of TV programmes with great quality, and more diversity in television. This digitalisation came with challenges that included but were not limited to capital-intensity and technology-intensity and clarity.
Digital migration is the shift from analogue broadcasting to digital broadcasting, involving many changes of the transmission signals as well as making sure that members of the public can enjoy high definition television. 
The migration is executed through digital terrestrial television, which helps to reduce the use of spectrum, provides more capacity than analogue, and provides better quality signals.
The implementation of digital technology, DTT, provides more channels and better quality of picture and sound using aerial broadcasts to a conventional antenna (or aerial) instead of a satellite dish or cable connection. 
DTT is transmitted on radio frequencies through the airwaves, which is similar to standard analogue television except for one primary difference -- the use of multiplex transmitters to allow reception of multiple channels on a single frequency range. 
According to the latest report of Digital Television Forecast in sub-Sahara Africa released by Digital Television Study in England, digital television household penetration in sub-Sahara will soon exceed 50% and it is estimated that digital migration will reach almost every family by 2020. 
The report also states that about 20 million television households will appear in sub-Saharan Africa by end of 2010, indicating that there is still about 100 million households without television. 
Television household penetration will reach only 38.4% by 2020, which is seen as the long-term potential in this area by the chief analyst of Digital Television Study, Semon. 
By the end of 2013 there were 11 million subscribers of Pay-TV, among which 8.5 million users had opted for satellite television. By 2020, the number will reach 26.65 million. Pay TV revenue in sub-Saharan Africa is currently about US$3.17billion, estimated to increase by 69% to US$5.35billion by 2020. 
Strong penetration strategy in Africa
StarTimes’ senior officials have vowed to invest in the country's telecommunications market, as it will still go ahead and implement its expansion strategies and projects in Ghana despite the legal battle.
The company, which currently boasts of being the leading Africa digital TV operator is assisting to ensure that the African continent and media development progresses to the next level in digital television broadcasting, as is evident in the successful digital transformation of Tanzania. The company is now a partner to Africa in its effort to migrate from analogue to digital. 
StarTimes covers 80% of the African continent's population with a massive distribution network of 200 brand-halls, 3,000 convenience stores and 5,000 distributors, with a featured content platform and 440 authorised channels consisting of news, movies, series, sports, entertainment, children's programmes, fashion, religion -- combining satellite and terrestrial DTV systems to provide an open and secure digital wireless platform. 
In 2002 StarTimes started developing its African markets, and in 2007 received the first digital TV operator licence issued by Rwanda. ?In recent years StarTimes has received licences and registered companies in 28 African nations, 16 of which have their broadcasting networks operational including Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi, Guinea, Madagascar, Malawi, Republic of Central Africa and Ghana.
StarTimes offers advanced technology with high-quality services, having started business in 1988 with just 30 staff; and has now grown to over 4,000 staff across 16 countries. 
StarTimes Group is a Chinese multinational technology company headquartered in Beijing, focusing on system integration, technology provision and is a network operator. 
It owns a featured content platform, with 440 authorised channels for its wide range of local and international viewing publics.