-US-Africa Relations Bigger than personalities Officials says
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Ambassadors Don Yamamoto and Stephanie Sullivan with Journalists at the State Department
Relations with Africa and the USA go beyond any one leader or official, Senior State Department Officials told Journalists in Washington, DC, recently in a media briefing. Speaking at the State Department to Journalists from Pan African Visions, the Washington Post,Allo Africa News, and Reuters, Ambassador Don Yamamoto, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and Ambassador Stephanie Sullivan , Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of African Affairs ,discussed US-African relations under the Trump Administration, and shared perspectives on a number of developments across the continent.
Giving an over view of the recent African tour of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Ambassador Sullivan who was part of the delegation, said much of the focus was on strengthening trade and development relationships, strengthening regional security, including counter-terrorism cooperation, a focus on good governance and democratic values, and the relationship on economic developments and building resilience in communities to avoid the extremist ideology.
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which was the first stop of the tour, Secretary Tillerson and AU Chairperson Moussa Faki reaffirmed the commitment to the shared goal of a stable and prosperous Africa. Secretary Tillerson held talks with Ethiopian government officials on human rights, the need to open political space, and the ongoing political transition, Ambassador Sullivan said.
In Djibouti, there were discussion on the situation at the container port, investment climate, and security issues. In Kenya, Secretary Tillerson congratulated President Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga on the statesmanship on display as they seek to move the country forward. There were discussions on hot spots like South Sudan and Somalia with Kenyan government officials. A highlight of the Kenya lap of the trip was the meeting with survivors of the 1998 Embassy bombing, and laying of a wreath at the site of the former Embassy where the bombing took place, Ambassador Sullivan disclosed. Secretary Tillerson also had meetings with President Buhari in Nigeria, and Idriss Derby in Chad to round up the tour.
On what the trip did in restoring confidence on US-Africa ties after controversial statements attributed to President Trump, a few months before the trip, the State Department Officials said AU Chairperson Moussa Faki summed it best when he said the focus was on the future and not the past. U.S -African relations are very unique in their own way the Officials said. The departure of Secretary Tillerson will be no effect to engagements taken, Ambassador Sullivan added.
Both Officials fielded questions on immigration, China in Africa, engagement with the African diaspora, the political situation in Cameroon, South Sudan, Guinea and Zimbabwe amongst others.
Reducing diamond dependence among new president’s challenges
Masisi is ‘safe pair of hands,’ economist Jefferis says
By Mbongeni Mguni and Michael Cohen*
Ian Khama, left, shakes hands with Mokgweetsi Masisi. Phoographer: Monirul Bhuiyan/AFP/Getty Images
Ian Khama, a former army general who’s led Botswana for the past decade, will step down on Sunday, leaving his deputy Mokgweetsi Masisi in charge of the world’s second-biggest diamond producer until next year’s elections.
While Masisi, 55, will inherit one of Africa’s wealthiest and best-governed nations, he’ll still have his hands full reducing the economy’s dependence on diamonds, creating jobs for the almost one in five workers who are unemployed and wooing more foreign investment. Aside from gems the country has little other than tourism to generate foreign exchange.
“A safe pair of hands” is how economist Keith Jefferis, a former deputy central bank governor, describes Masisi. He expects him to push changes the economy needs, including doing more to integrate it into regional and global markets.
“It will be essential to re-establish much better public-finance discipline,” Jefferis said. “The quality of public financial management has deteriorated over many years, with poor spending decisions and an increasing level of waste and inefficiency.”
Masisi trained as a teacher and worked as an education project officer for the United Nations Children’s Fund for eight years before quitting in 2003 to enter politics. He was appointed assistant minister for presidential affairs and public administration after being elected as a lawmaker in October 2009 and given the same ministerial portfolio in 2011. Khama named Masisi minister of education and skills development in 2014, a portfolio he retained when he became vice president that year.
“He is a jack-of-all-trades and is experienced in numerous areas,” said Leonard Sesa, a political scientist at the University of Botswana. “He will be the type of president who assigns someone something, then monitors them very closely because he knows exactly what the output should be.”
Botswana law restricts the president to serving two five-year terms, and provides for the vice president to automatically fill the post should it become vacant. The National Assembly will elect a new president after elections scheduled for October next year. Khama also took office a year before elections in 2009.
Lack of Jobs
The Botswana Democratic Party, which has ruled since the southern African nation gained independence from the U.K in 1966, is likely to name Masisi as its presidential candidate. While the party’s share of the vote slid to the lowest level since it took power in the last elections in 2014 amid voter disenchantment over the quality of state services and a lack of jobs, it’s still expected to retain its majority.
The son of Botswana’s first post-independence president, Khama, 65, angered several of his fellow African leaders, including Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Congo’s Joseph Kabila, when he publicly berated them for overstaying their welcome.
His administration has also sniped at U.S. President Donald Trump for making derogatory remarks about African nations and the UN Security Council for not doing enough to end the war in Syria.
Khama is likely to continue wielding influence after he steps down, according to Sesa.
“Khama appointed Masisi his deputy and trusts him completely,” Sesa said. “They both have made statements indicating that there has been joint planning for Khama’s retirement. I expect to see Masisi award Khama some type of national assignment once he is retired. There’s clearly mutual understanding there about working together.”
Zambia is one of the few African countries that has managed to steer clear from international headlines whether on the good side or bad side since her attainment of independence in 1964. Zambia has largely found itself stuck in the middle, something which has made her less appealing to the media.
All spheres of Zambian life seem to be stuck in the middle ground, politically, Zambia is neither a fully-fledged democracy (at least according to African standards such as the South African democracy) nor is it a fully-fledged dictatorship (as has been the case with Ivory Coast, the Gambia or even its neighbour, Zimbabwe). Economically, the country is neither an African giant nor is it a basket case and the same can be said of the social life of Zambians.
Despite this seemingly ‘okay’ Zambia, a closer look reveals that for years, the country has been steadily sliding into the unwanted territory, political wise. Since the end of the one-party state in 1991, successive Zambian presidents have exhibited traits of authoritarianism. While all of them failed to fully establish themselves as ‘strong’ rulers, they left their authoritarian tools when they left office such as constitutional amendments meant to promote and preserve the influence of the incumbent.
The first major example of this came when Fredrick Chiluba manipulated the constitution in a bid to stop his predecessor from running against him. Chiluba succeeded, largely because many did not want to see the return of Kenneth Kaunda, a man who had ruled the country for years before. The precedence set here was bad, as seen by Chiluba’s attempts later to amend the constitution to allow a president to serve three consecutive terms instead of two.
The democratic rot has been going on and the current president, Edgar Lungu to some extent is guilty of following this same path of trampling on the country’s democracy. While Lungu may be doing the same things that his predecessors did in the past and got away with, his challenge is that he is operating in a different environment. Most of Africa’s poorly governed countries and authoritarian states such as the Gambia, Ivory Coast, and Zimbabwe are no longer in the news as they have a new leadership. This means there is more scrutiny paid to the lesser talked about countries such as Zambia and his failings are now being mirrored at a larger scale to a larger audience. The result is the conscientisation of the masses subsequently leading to processes such as the one he is facing, impeachment.
Calls for impeachment
Lungu is not the first Zambian President to face an impeachment but his, is tougher as it’s not only the opposition parties that want him gone but also some renegades from his own party, Patriotic Front. In addition to opposition parties, Lungu faces resistance from civil society. The Conference of Catholic Bishops, a revered organisation in Zambia has also called for Lungu to step down.
Why the outcry
Everyone seeking the ouster of Lungu seems to have a genuine reason. The opposition has some strong points when it comes to labelling Lungu an authoritarian who is ruthlessly cracking down on dissent. The arrest of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema on treason charges when there is no evidence to substantiate the charge is seen as a way of silencing opposition voices.
Another key point of discontent between Lungu and the opposition is with regards to the election of 2016. The main opposition party, United Party for National Development (UPND) raised a legitimacy question in the aftermath of the elections saying there were electoral flaws. The opposition wanted Lungu to step aside and let the Speaker of the National Assembly lead while the courts heard the opposition’s case. Lungu refused and the opposition since feels aggrieved. The Conference of Catholic Bishops though not stating if Lungu should have step aside after the 2016 election say that the courts erred by not hearing the opposition’s plea. It’s their conviction that Lungu might have played a part in silencing the courts.
While the concerns of both the opposition parties and the civil society agree that Lungu has let the country down, Lungu still has some support namely in the form of the Patriotic for Economic Progress group which says the matters raised in the impeachment are baseless and meant at settling personal scores.
Regardless of whether the move to impeach the president is justified or not, Lungu has a case to answer especially when it comes to the matter of Hakainde Hichilema. Why is he still in custody for treason charges when there is no evidence to suggest that he committed acts of treason?
The officials, chosen from 46 countries, will attend a two-week seminar at the Italian Football Association’s base in Coverciano next month.
The African referees are: Mehdi Abid Charef from Algeria, Malang Diedhiou of Senegal, Bakary Papa Gassama from The Gambia, Gehad Grisha from Egypt, Janny Sikazwe from Zambia, and Ethiopian Bamlak Tessema Weyesa.
Europe will be represented by referees from Germany, Turkey, Russia, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Serbia, Italy, Slovenia and France.
Asia will have six as will north and South America and two from Oceania.
Kinshasa, DRC, 29 March 2018 – Mining industry representatives* in the Democratic Republic of Congo have submitted a formal proposal to the country’s Ministry of Mines that is designed to address concerns about the recently revised mining code as well as the government’s revenue needs.
Among other things, it proposes linking a sliding scale of royalty rates to the prices of the key commodities, which industry representatives believe would be a more effective mechanism than the windfall tax introduced in the new code and at current prices would immediately give the government a higher share of revenues than what is provided in the new code. It also deals with stability arrangements, state guarantees and mining conventions.
Along with the stability afforded to convention holders, enshrined in the 2002 mining code is a 10 year stability clause which provides that the holders of mining and exploration titles will continue to be governed by the terms of the 2002 mining code for such period in the event of the implementation of any new law.
“The State guarantees that the provisions of the present Code can only be modified if, and only if, this Code itself is the subject of a legislative amendment adopted by Parliament.
The rights attached to or deriving from an exploration licence or mining exploitation licence granted and valid on the date of the enactment of such a legislative modification, as well as the rights relating to or deriving from the exploitation licence subsequently granted by virtue of such an exploration licence, including among others, the tax, customs and exchange regimes set forth in this Code, remain acquired and inviolable for a ten-year period from the date of:
the entry into force of the legislative modification for the valid exploitation licences existing as of that date;
the granting of the exploitation licence subsequently granted by virtue of a valid exploration licence existing on the date of entry into force of the legislative modification.”
However, the proposal accepts 76% of the articles in the 2018 code and suggests changes to the rest only to ensure the effectiveness and legality of the code. The mining industry representatives believe these changes will resolve issues with the code and contractual relationships while giving the DRC and its people increased participation in the proceeds of mining.
* Issued on behalf of members of the DRC mining industry representing more than 85% of the DRC’s copper, cobalt and gold production and most significant development projects: Randgold Resources, Glencore, Ivanhoe Mines, Gold Mountain International/ Zijin Mining Group, MMG Limited, Crystal River Global Ltd and China Molybdenum Co, Ltd (CMOC), AngloGold Ashanti.
44% of all work activities in Ethiopia are susceptible to automation, as are 46% in Nigeria, 52% in Kenya and 41% in South Africa
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, March 27, 2018/ —
The Internet of Things (IoT) is set to revolutionize the job market and African industry must adapt to survive
Siemens aims to help accelerate digitalization skills and empower those who will be leading the change
State-of-the-art automation equipment donated to engineering faculties in five African markets
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is having a disruptive effect on economies and the development of digital skills is vital. There is an opportunity, especially in Africa, to embrace new and exponential technologies combined with human talent to accelerate industrialization and drive economic growth.
Siemens creates opportunities for digitalization skills development across Africa
According to The Future of Jobs and Skills in Africa Report , release by the World Economic Forum (WEF), it is predicted that 44% of all work activities in Ethiopia are susceptible to automation, as are 46% in Nigeria, 52% in Kenya and 41% in South Africa.
With this in mind, Siemens (www.Siemens.com) is handing over equipment specifically related to industrial automation that enables integrated engineering to 13 engineering faculties at universities in Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa. This is part of the company’s commitment to sustainable skills development across the continent. The value of the equipment is close to $400 000.
Data collected by WEF in key African markets shows employers across the region identify inadequately skilled workforces as a major constraint to their businesses, including 41% of all firms in Tanzania, 30% in Kenya, 9% in South Africa and 6% in Nigeria. This pattern may get worse in the future. In South Africa alone, 39% of core skills required across occupations will be wholly different by 2020.
“The uneven development of the past can only be overcome with locally engineered solutions,” says Sabine Dall’Omo, CEO of Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa. “In an African context, disruptive technology can be seen as an opportunity to leapfrog into the best and most advanced technologies, but this is only possible with access to the right training and equipment.”
Siemens will continue its commitment to Africa and offer long-term support to beneficiaries by ensuring that students are able to train on the most advanced technology available. This will ensure graduates, and therefore the emerging workforce, have the skills necessary to effectively lead large-scale digitalization across the continent, resulting in long-term benefits to economic growth.
Siemens firmly believes the best way for African markets to benefit from the digital revolution is to combine skills training and improved / new infrastructure.
Says Dall’Omo; “Convergence of man and machine intelligence will enable a new era of speed, flexibility, efficiency and connectivity in the 21st century. The conversation about man vs machine is not an either-or scenario. Ongoing education and training has a positive effect for both business and society. A strong pipeline of talent with the relevant skills and knowledge is beneficial to governments and businesses, while young people advance into jobs and careers with increased economic opportunity if they have the right skills.”
Factory automation and electrical engineering equipment donations have been made to the following institutions:
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana
Dar-Es-Salaam Institute of Technology, Tanzania
Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (DeKUT), Kenya
And nine Universities and Colleges across South Africa
“Our commitment to skills development and our relationships with these institutions goes beyond just this donation,” adds Dall’Omo. “We invest for the long-term and believe that by playing an active role in skills development, locally engineered solutions could catalyze the re-industrialization of the economy and trigger growth on an unprecedented scale.”
The company has a unique understanding of the challenges faced across the African continent, and has proved to be a reliable partner from grassroots level, right through to corporate and government level.
Siemens AG (Berlin and Munich) (www.Siemens.com) is a global technology powerhouse that has stood for engineering excellence, innovation, quality, reliability and internationality for more than 165 years. The company is active in more than 200 countries, focusing on the areas of electrification, automation and digitalization. One of the world’s largest producers of energy-efficient, resource-saving technologies, Siemens is a leading supplier of efficient power generation and power transmission solutions and a pioneer in infrastructure solutions as well as automation, drive and software solutions for industry. The company is also a leading provider of medical imaging equipment – such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging systems – and a leader in laboratory diagnostics as well as clinical IT. In fiscal 2016, which ended on September 30, 2016, Siemens generated revenue of €79.6 billion and net income of €5.6 billion. At the end of September 2016, the company had around 351,000 employees worldwide. Further information is available on the Internet at www.Siemens.com.
This document contains statements related to our future business and financial performance and future events or developments involving Siemens that may constitute forward-looking statements. These statements may be identified by words such as “expects,” “looks forward to,” “anticipates,” “intends,” “plans,” “believes,” “seeks,” “estimates,” …
KARIBA, Zimbabwe, March 28 (Reuters) – Zimbabwe on Wednesday added 300 megawatts (MW) to its national power grid and President Emmerson Mnangagwa said work to expand the coal-fired Hwange plant by 600 MW would start soon now that financing had been secured from Chinese investors.
The southern African nation has struggled to produce enough electricity due to ageing equipment, with the most recent power plant having been built in 1987. It produces 1,200 MW against a demand of 1,600 MW. The balance is imported from Mozambique and South Africa.
Mnangagwa commissioned two generators from China’s Sinohydro Corp that will produce 150 MW each at Kariba, the country’s largest hydro power plant 360 km north of the capital Harare.
Sinohydro Corp will also carry out the Hwange expansion.
“I am pleased to confirm that Hwange expansion project has reached financial closure and work should commence soon,” Mnangagwa said.
A deal for the Hwange plant, valued at more than $1 billion, was signed in 2015 by Chinese President Xi Jinping on a rare trip to Harare but had stalled under the rule of Robert Mugabe, who was forced to resign following a defacto army coup last November.
Mnangagwa said he would visit Beijing on April 6, where he is expected to seek loans to help revive the economy.
Zimbabwe, which became a pariah in the West after Mugabe’s government was accused of rigging votes and abusing human rights, has over the years turned to China for investment to help an economy desperate for new infrastructure like roads, power and water.
*Reuters .(Reporting by Philimon Bulawayo Writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe Editing by James Macharia and Alexandra Hudson)
Botswana’s President Seretse Ian Khama waves to the crowd as he leaves after a rally in his village Serowe on March 27, 2018, before officially stepping down on March 31 and handing power to his vice-president on April 1. / AFP PHOTO / MONIRUL BHUIYAN
President Ian Khama of Botswana this week wrapped up a national “farewell tour” before he stands down on Saturday in a power transfer designed to stress his statesmanship and the country’s stability.
Khama has visited all of Botswana’s 57 constituencies since December, bidding a long goodbye to a population of just 2.2 million after serving the constitutional maximum of 10 years in office.
He will be succeeded by Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi, a full 18 months before elections.
Khama’s two terms in power have been defined by his country’s rapid development thanks to lucrative diamond and beef exports and by a reputation for good governance.
He has also become renowned for straight talking — breaking with diplomatic convention to criticise leaders including US President Donald Trump and then-president Robert Mugabe in neighbouring Zimbabwe.
On Tuesday, his tour finished in his ancestral village of Serowe in the east of the country, with a day of songs, poems, gifts, ululation and pleading for him to remain in office.
Thousands of jubilant villagers dressed in blue, white and black, gathered in a kgotla, a traditional courtyard, to hear Khama speak.
“I was a soldier, I didn’t have interest to join politics, I had future plans, away from politics,” he told the crowd, adding that his predecessor Festus Mogae had to persuade him to take over in 2008.
– Son of independence leader –
Khama, 65, has cultivated a down-to-earth image — despite his father Seretse Khama serving from 1966 to 1980 as Botswana’s first president after independence from Britain.
Edna Monyena, a village elder in her 80s, lavished praise on the outgoing president, telling him that he was “an honest man, a straightforward man” who showed “real love”.
Many elderly female villagers wore blue dresses printed with portraits of Khama’s father, and some used cow bones as percussion instruments as they stood up to sing and dance.
Khama was showered with gifts including a 4×4 truck, 143 cows, hundreds of chickens, over 415,000 pula ($44,000), and a fully-equipped luxury caravan that his brother Tshekedi dubbed a “mobile state house”.
The avid conservationist also received a framed picture of a rhino.
“I wanted him to be 50 years more in office, I want him to work until the Almighty calls him,” unemployed Sadie Moleta, 23, told AFP in Serowe, where Khama is a chief of the Bangwato tribe.
Khama, a former pilot and military chief, demonstrated his outspoken streak when he recently accused Trump of promoting policies that encourage poaching, and summoning the US envoy over Trump’s alleged slur against African countries in January.
Khama called on Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to step down well before the nonagenarian was ousted, and his government has also urged Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila to resign after his term expired in December 2016.
The Botswana leader’s on-schedule departure has made a public display of obeying the constitutional term limit.
But his own record in office has not been without its critics, who accuse him of an autocratic leadership style.
He led the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to landslide victories in two elections, although the party won less than 50 percent for the first time in the 2014 vote.
– Uneven legacy? –
Often seen as one of Africa’s success stories, Botswana has recorded rising unemployment since 2009 as diamond prices fell.
The drop in revenue forced Khama to halt many planned investments in recent years.
“Internationally, he positioned himself as a moral leader in the region, stepping down as an example of a leader who respects laws and traditions — and inviting both President Kabila and Mugabe to respect democracy and the rule of law,” Matteo Vidiri, a BMI Research analyst, told AFP.
“(But) a slowing economy and increasing public discontent has damaged the narrative of Botswana’s ‘special character’, of a country being able to escape the ‘resource curse’.”
The opposition blames Khama for creating a society of “beggars”.
“He killed the spirit of self-reliance creating dependency through handouts,” Kesitegile Gobotswang, deputy president of the Botswana Congress Party, told AFP.
“The economy shed jobs under his leadership.”
Khama, who is unmarried, was born in Britain as his father married white British woman Ruth Williams — a mixed-race partnership that caused widespread shock in Africa and Britain.
Incoming president Masisi, 55, will be inaugurated on Sunday.
The President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa and former President of Nigeria_ Olusegun Obasanjo
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, 27th March 2018, -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Economic recovery and institution building are the challenges faced by all African countries today.
During a panel discussion organised by the Africa CEO Forum around the theme,
When Leaders make History, the President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa and former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, shared their experiences on the sustainable and inclusive growth of Africa in general and their own countries in particular.
According to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Africa’s problem is “the failure of leadership”. President Mnangagwa continued, saying, “Geographically, my country is far from Nigeria but that did not stop Nigeria from helping us when we needed it. It is this vision that we African leaders should share: mutual aid. Africa needs to learn how to manage its own problems, and this starts with the balance between leadership and institutions“. He believes that the executive, the legislature and the judiciary should be independent. Each must perform its mission freely and transparently, but play a complementary role.
The sustainable and inclusive growth sought by African countries is only possible if civil society and elected politicians operate without interference. “We have civilian organisations that come to our countries to support our people by building schools and health centres. It’s their role and we welcome that. What we do not accept is that they interfere in our politics. You cannot come from outside and tell us who we need to put at the head of our country, think our politics for us. We must let Africa evolve,” he said.
Zimbabwe has begun its economic recovery through the implementation of an agrarian reform process that enabled 367 families to gain access to land.
“We are attempting to evaluate the situation before launching reforms. But we have started land redistribution. This was one of the major problems that we had to solve in Zimbabwe. Today, we need a structure to fight famine and poverty. For now, we are giving our farmers the means to improve and increase production. The food shortage will be alleviated through this system,” said President Mnangagwa, who also announced that women and young people will be given a prominent place in national decision-making.
In his speech, Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, said that, in the fight against corruption, there was one principle to be respected: that of having strong institutions and effective leadership. “It’s good to have a law that sets up a strong institution. But you have to have the men who go with them, effective people. If not, we will not complete our mission. Our goals will never be achieved,” he said.
Cost-effective exports and affirmative action for women and young people will also contribute to the success of this highly awaited economic recovery.
The panel discussion ended on these words, after which the Jeune Afrique Media Group’s Publication Director, Marwane Ben Yhamed, closed the sixth edition of the Africa CEO forum.
The AFRICA CEO FORUM is organized by Jeune Afrique Media Group, the publisher of Jeune Afrique and The Africa Report, and by rainbow unlimited, a Swiss company specialized in event organization and economic promotion. With the success of its 2017 edition, which welcomed almost 1,200 business leaders from Africa and the world, the AFRICA CEO FORUM has established itself as the main international event for the African private sector to discuss the continent’s development in a highly professional environment ideal for business networking. The 2018 edition is co-hosted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC, part of the World Bank Group).
President Idriss Deby is set to govern Chad until 2033 if a recommendation made by his party is approved, news agency Reuters reports.
A report issued by allied politicians, business leaders and traditional chiefs has proposed a presidential term limit for the country’s leaders from 2021.
The proposed changes include a six-year rather than five-year presidential term, limited to a maximum of two terms.
Mr Deby, who came to power in 1990, will be 81 by the time his final terms ends.
The opposition has dismissed the proposed changes as a plot to create a monarchy.
Chad, an ally of Western nations in the fight against Islamist militants in West and Central Africa, has faced strikes and protests in recent months over economic woes caused by low prices for its chief export, oil.
South Sudan Government Spokesman and Information minister Michael Makuei. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Juba – South Sudan has shutdown telecom operator Vivacell over a tax dispute, citing failure to comply with the government’s rules and regulations.
The mobile operator Vivacell was among the first companies that invested in the communications industry in South Sudan. All calls and internet services stopped functioning since Tuesday’s mid – night.
The Country Minister for Information and Telecommunication, Michael Makuei said the firm was ordered to cease operations for its failure to conform to the government rule and regulations.
He said Vivacell had failed to pay over $60 million for its license since its inception, hence the drastic action.
“We want them to pay some of $66 million for its license and up to now they are dragging their feet – they are not paying – they are continuing to operate [and] this why we decided to shut down,” Makuei said.
National Communication Authority said each telecom operator has what he calls “International Gateway” through which international calls are connected.
However, the government has now acquired its own system, which the telecom operators have to use for inter-connection purposes.
A week ago, the National Communication Authority (NCA) issued a public notice suspending Vivacell’s license.
In response to shutdown, however, the firm said in a statement, ‘Vivacell regrets this unfortunate event in our operations and the inconvenience it has caused to our valued customers.”
Though the firm assured the public that they are expeditiously working with the relevant authorities to have the matter resolved, with confident that it operations shall continue across the country, it couldn’t work.
“By midnight today [Tuesday] the national traffic and all the traffic of Vivacell would be shut down,” Ladu Wani Kenyi, the director general of the Communications Authority, announced also on the state-owned SSBC.
According to Information Minister, Vivacell was exempted by the government of South Sudan for ten years, which ended last year in September, but the firm have not paid any taxes.
Makuei said despite a series of discussions with the government on the matter, Vivacell refused to comply with this arrangement.
“They have been resisted and as such the government decided to move against Vivacell and today (Tuesday night) we are shutting it down on internal calls until they come, they sit with us and conform and if they don’t conform, we will give out this frequency to any other company,” Makuei said.
Makuei argued that the mobile operators are using foreign licenses, something he said it would affect other mobile telecom operators if they don’t conform with the government.
Vivacell, owned by the Lebanon-based Fattouch Investment Group, entry into South Sudan in 2008 as was facilitated by top officials of the ruling party SPLM. Most of Vivacell’s shareholders are top government officials, launched its Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) network in February 2009. By early 2011, the company said it had achieved network coverage in all of South Sudan’s 10 state capitals, and along main roads from Juba to Yei and Bor.
Vivacell shut down has brought mixed reaction from across the country, multiple of users, who spoke this media, while shifted to other mobile operators, said the closure has greatly affect them, by will make communications difficult with family members in other parts of the country., urging the government to settle any disputes amicably to reverse the decision.
The mobile telecom operator is yet to react to the government’s latest decision.
More so, South Sudan currently has two other mobile phone operators, Kuwait’s Zain and South Africa’s MTN will still be operating, with reportedly less than 4 million subscribers in the country.