African Energy Chamber Offers Guide for Reforms for Equatorial Guinea’s Oil & Gas Sector
November 26, 2020 | 0 Comments
|To support recovery and boost investment, the African Energy Chamber’s 2021 Outlook offers several pragmatic solutions.|
The African Energy Chamber organized a Power Breakfast yesterday in Malabo to mark the launch of its Africa Energy Outlook 2021. The event gathered all of the Chamber’s partners and industry stakeholders in Equatorial Guinea as the market embarks on a path to recovery in 2021.
Despite its remarkable resilience, Equatorial Guinea’s oil sector is facing the same dire situation as the rest of global energy markets: plunging oil prices, uncertain demand and dry of capital on the back of the energy transition. In such a context, the country has embarked early on an ambitious investment outreach programme with the Year of Energy 2020 and the Year of Investment 2021. Key priorities include boosting local content, expanding midstream and downstream gas infrastructure, opening up the Rio Muni to onshore oil & gas activities, and leveraging on the country’s tremendous minerals and mining potential to further diversify the economy.
In its latest 2021 Outlook however, the African Energy Chamber has called on African governments and industry stakeholders to come together and do more to support the sector’s competitiveness and attractiveness. A key concern for Equatorial Guinea’s oil & gas industry remains the lack of competitiveness of its fiscal terms and the lack of an attractive enabling environment that supports local private sector growth and jobs creation. “The time for fiscal reforms in Equatorial Guinea and the CEMAC region is now. If we do not act now, our companies risk going bankrupt, our economic parameters will worsen and our jobs will be in jeopardy,” declared Leoncio Amada NZE, CEO of APEX Industries and Head of the CEMAC Region at the African Energy Chamber.
To support recovery and boost investment, the African Energy Chamber’s 2021 Outlook offers several pragmatic solutions. The Chamber has issued a call to action to policy makers and stakeholders around the adoption of bold fiscal reforms and the modernization of regulatory frameworks to bring back investors’ confidence. Similarly, the Chamber is increasingly engaging with financial institutions and banks on making capital more easily available to local entrepreneurs.
Finally, the 2021 Outlook also calls for a much wider adoption of natural gas across the economy, and a stronger industry dialogue to boost capacity building. “It would help if governments across the region caucus with international oil companies and the petroleum industry as a whole when drafting policies that are going to affect the industry. The voices of local and international investors need to be heard in order to adopt market-driven policies,” declared Simon Smith, Vice President and Country Manager at Marathon Oil Corporation.
Equatorial Guinea is ideally positioned to lead such a recovery, because of its political will and leadership and its established gas industry. “There is tremendous pressure from NGOs and green energy lobbyists, but there is still a future for the oil and gas industry in Africa. We have the right to exploit our natural resources to build our economies, and our natural gas potential offers such an opportunity,” added Oscar García Bernico, General Director of State Entities at the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons. The Chamber has indeed highlighted how Africa’s gas potential, much more important than oil, is a key advantage for the continent as it seeks to embraced the energy transition and retain foreign capital.
The high-level reunion highlighted that, once again, the future is in the industry’s hands but the ability of policy makers and industry stakeholders to work together on a more ambitious set of reforms will be a deciding factor of the upcoming recovery. In doing so, the country will be ably to rely once again on leadership of H.E. Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons. Both at home and abroad in key institutions such as OPEC, GECF or APPO, he has always been central to advocating for the interests of the local industry and the rest of Africa at large. In this context, Equatorial Guinea has strong cards to play, and is thankfully already embarked on landmark projects that can set it apart from years to come, from the development of an offshore gas megahub in the Gulf of Guinea to the expansion of its refining and gas monetization infrastructure at Punta Europa.
*African Energy Chamber
A common roadmap to spread the benefits of West Africa’s blue treasure
November 26, 2020 | 0 Comments
ECOWAS has adopted a common and detailed plan to unlock the potential of fisheries and aquaculture for nutrition, welfare and sustainable growth
AMADOU TALL & SIDIBÉ ABOUBACAR*
Fish is key to the economy of Sierra Leone, where it contributes up to 10 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). However, the enormous potential of West Africa’s ‘blue treasure’ – its fisheries and aquaculture resources – is yet to be fully unlocked.
Treasures, however, must be managed wisely. Otherwise, there is a risk that a few reap all the benefits, or that a short-term approach results in the wealth being squandered away. This is why the ECOWAS member states have recently validated a common new roadmap (the Comprehensive Strategic Framework for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, or CSFS FAD) to sustainably develop the sector and make it work for nutrition, welfare and sustainable growth.
Building on a series of diagnostics of the situation and policies of fisheries and aquaculture in each of the member countries, and taking a participatory, inclusive and fair approach (both arising from the European Union-funded FIRST and PESCAO programmes), the new framework aims at coordinating the efforts of all stakeholders (governments, small-scale fisherfolk, private actors, women, youth…) from all countries.
There is no shortage of challenges in sustainably spreading this blue wealth. Missing strategic orientation and weak governance, legislative and regulatory basis, together with a lack of transparency and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices have contributed to fisheries resources depletion in the region. A coordinated and sustainable management of shared resources (e.g. through harmonized rules and policies) applied by skilled government authorities, in collaboration with non-state actors will be key.
In this regard, adopting an inclusive and top-down approach to regulate the sector can contribute to an effective solution, but will not suffice. Small-scale fisheries are a recognized driver of sustainable development, and policies and regulations affecting the sector will need to bring fisherfolk fully onboard to protect and strengthen their livelihoods. Protecting tenure and user rights is essential for a sustainable management of small‑scale fisheries and a sound development of aquaculture.
The fisheries resources are being exploited at their maximum levels and protecting the resources and the fisherfolk may not be enough for fisheries and aquaculture to boost rural livelihoods and nutrition. Fish-based agrifood value chains need to be further developed and modernized. Post-harvest losses in the region are unsustainably high, due to the lack of infrastructure (e.g. transport or cold chains), and access to regional and international markets.
Achieving such modernization – and promoting fish consumption throughout the
region – will require more investments from public and private actors alike, while key partners such as the European Union and regional and international development banks continue to support the sector. In order to inform investment priorities, track progress and guarantee accountability, more data and information systems are needed: technical partners like the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) can make a major contribution in this field.
The recently-validated CSFS FAD provides a sound vision and a pertinent and coherent roadmap for ECOWAS member countries and all stakeholders to participate in protecting this invaluable natural resource and impartially sharing its benefits across sectors, countries and communities. With this framework, the boat is ready for all stakeholders to jump onboard and work together for a good (and sustainable) catch in the years to come.
*Dr Amadou Tall is the leader of the Component 1 of PESCAO Programme (ECOWAS)
*Dr Sidibé Aboubacar is the policy officer of the Eu-FAO FIRST Programme in the ECOWAS.
S. Sudan President Kiir; “we are not going back to war” amid lugging peace deal
November 26, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Deng Machol
Juba – South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has said his country will not return to war despite the slow implementation of the fragile revitalized peace agreement.
It has already been a two year since the peace deal was signed in September 2018 by the warring parties but the implementation isn’t going well as it was expected.
“There are others who think that we may go back tomorrow to war, something that I always so no. I want to assure you that we are not going back to war.” President Kiir told a delegation of eminent personalities of church leaders from All African Conference of Churches and World Council of Churches on Friday in Juba.
Since the national cabinets were appointed in late February and then followed by the appointment of nine state governors in July, the governor for Upper Nile is yet to be named.
The national legislature and other state government structures have also not been established.
The unified forces is also yet to be graduated.
Week ago, the main opposition party — SPLM-IO said it will not submit the names of its nominees for local government and other positions if the governor for Upper Nile is not appointed.
But the SPLM-IO nominee, Gen. Johnson Olony is being rejected by the president Kiir, describes him (Olony) as an “active soldier who has not fully subjected himself to the peace and political development in Juba, and is not “within territories that are controlled by SPLM-IO or by the government.
Meanwhile, the church leaders had called on the president to complete the formation of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity.
However, the president revealed that he is ready to complete the formation of the unity government.
“I’m always begging my brother [Riek Machar] so that we conclude the agreement and we move forward for any projects that we want to initiate for our country,” said Kiir.
“Peace has now come to South Sudan and we are now at peace. You have witnessed it by yourself. In your sleep, you might have not been woken up by bullets being fired in the air or against the people, this is what we have stopped,” he added.
President Kiir further explained that “It takes time for the people to understand the agreement. It takes time for everybody to be convinced that there is peace. It is the implementation that is slow. It is slow because of the thinking of others.”
But experts said president Kiir and his vice president Dr. Riek Machar don’t have a political will to implement the peace deal.
South Sudan which emerged from the country’s five year of conflict that has killed nearly 400,000 people and uprooted four million people from their homes, is now facing huge challenges from COVID 19 and floodings.
Zimbabwe: Parliament Beams Spotlight on Covid induced Gender Based Violence
November 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Nevson Mpofu Munhumutapa
Zimbabwe Parliamentary -Portfolio Committee on Gender has launched 16 days of gender- based violence, opening up can of worms in line with covid-19 and gender -based violence. Prevalence rate of GBV [Gender Based Violence] is high owing attention to other factors besides covid-19, Experts in Gender-Based-Violence speak out.
There are other line-affecting factors lying side-by side close to women and children especially those disabled, exposed to gender-based violence and stricken in poverty leading to vulnerability. The 2020 16 days is run under the theme , ‘’Orange the World —- Fund ,Respond , Prevent and Collect’’ ….
Giving a thrilling presentation in Harare at a virtual platform UNFPA [United Nations Fund for Population Agency] Country Representative Esther Muia points out that women and children remain exposed to effects of gender-based violence in families and communities.
‘’Women and children remain burdened especially during this time of covid-19. Women are close to children; children are close to mothers because they get basic support from matriarchal parent. During covid-19, gender-based violence increased, exposing women and children further deep into poverty and vulnerability’’ .
‘’Women remain un-economically empowered during this time resources are scarce and out of reach. Women do domestic work of which they stand responsibility of food security especially in rural communities where they are 60% in Agriculture’’.
African countries must stand firm and resilient against a number of challenges artificially and naturally. Many of them become extremely impacted by several factors’ likely disasters, floods, hunger and drought caused by climate shocks above all.
‘’There are standing, blocking issues and core hindering factors which have reversed gains of women in communities. This is because of covid-19. Therefore, we need to see to it that they have support of men staying out of gender- based violence.’’
‘’In Africa the other side of the challenge story is a result of climate disasters, floods, drought and hunger that has affected many families exposing women and children mainly to hunger vulnerability. Those in large number are from rural marginalized communities ‘’.
Speaking in perfect tones in line with peace, Lorraine Makawa a Parliamentarian notes that peace brings women in collective action, working together and social justice to address peace. She elaborates that peace in the African region is a weapon addressed by solving gender in-equality. This realizes the outcome of human development in the light of women empowerment.
Interviewed at a Regional view point she notes that peace is the only weapon that has given freedom, liberal rights and emancipation of women in countries like Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Angola which faced civil wars. She continued to state that war-torn African countries looked first at peace and conflict resolution, addressed equality then looked at women empowerment with children sorely at the center.
‘’Peace has freed women in war torn countries in the African continent like in Rwanda. Where there is no peace, gender- based violence increases. Like in the time we are we are affected. We have come up with one stop centers to accommodate survivors.
‘’We are implementing this in spot-light districts where gender-based- violence has been rife. We bring all services under one roof, police services, legal services and resources, tools, food and basic amenities to address this challenge.
‘’Women must engage in economic activities so that they must take care of children in terms of food provision. Empowerment there-fore is vital , crucial and important especially in covid-19 era . Action is the way out of such challenges. We note there are gaps. Our interventions are from funding partners. There has been Humanitarian crisis, thus the challenge among bigger challenges.’’ She says.
In the years back gender-based-violence in Africa has been fueled by patriarchy, male domination, culture, tradition and African customs among other causes. The mentioned factors are no-longer standing negatively impactive in the post-modern society of educated young people who no-longer have the aura of gender-based -violence perpetration. This escalating scenario bearing remorse on the shoulders of women and the Zimbabwean Government, makes it lose on Sustainable Development Goal number 5 [Five] on Gender-Equality.
Afreximbank signs Establishment Agreement for the Fund for Export Development in Africa (FEDA), alongside Headquarters Agreement with Rwanda
November 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
Cairo, 24 November 2020: – African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the Republic of Rwanda, on 22 November 2020, in Cairo, signed key documents related to the establishment of the Fund for Export-Development in Africa (FEDA), a development-oriented subsidiary of Afreximbank.
The Establishment Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding were signed by His Excellency Alfred Kalisa, Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda in Egypt, and Afreximbank’s President, Professor Benedict Oramah in the presence of His Excellency Mahamadou Labarang, Dean of the African Ambassadors in Cairo and FEDA Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Philip Kamau. The Establishment Agreement creates FEDA while the Headquarters Agreement provides that the Republic of Rwanda will host the headquarters office.
FEDA has been established by Afreximbank to facilitate foreign direct investment flows into Africa’s trade and export sectors and to fill the equity funding gap that amounts to $110 billion per annum in exports related sectors.
His Excellency Alfred Kalisa, Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda in Cairo, said:
“The Government of Rwanda is happy to have signed these key agreements with Afreximbank. Rwanda is glad to host FEDA as we work together to achieve the dreams of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACfTA) on the continent. We will work together to ensure that FEDA is successful in driving and achieving its mandate.’’
FEDA aims to provide equity financing to companies operating in key industries and sectors to significantly increase the likelihood of success in delivering on Afreximbank’s development priorities and meeting the Bank’s strategic goals under the main pillars of the intra-African Trade Strategy and the Industrialisation and Export Development Strategy.
Professor Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank, said:
“FEDA is a new vehicle created to deal with the perennial problem of capital constraints to private sector development and industrialisation in Africa. Afreximbank has already committed over 350 million US dollars to the Fund, including commitments for operation of a Credit Fund, investments in the Bank’s strategic initiatives and those to be deployed under limited partnership frameworks.
I would like to thank H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda and his Government for embracing the strategic essence of this institution to both Rwanda and Africa. To have agreed to host FEDA without any equivocation is a clear and bold statement of visionary leadership and recognition of the economic value of Pan-African institutions.”
FEDA is tasked to provide capital to companies in the financial services, technology consumer and retail goods, tourism, manufacturing, transport, logistics and warehousing, trade enabling infrastructure e.g. industrial parks, agribusiness and education sectors in Afreximbank’s member states. FEDA will invest across all market segments but with greater focus on SMEs which has substantial funding shortages and represent about 90% of businesses in Africa. It will also invest in mature companies and start-up businesses where there is a gap in the marketplace and where investments have a high level of value additionality and development impact in Africa.
About Afreximbank: The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) is a Pan-African multilateral financial institution with the mandate of financing and promoting intra-and extra-African trade. Afreximbank was established in October 1993 and owned by African governments, the African Development Bank and other African multilateral financial institutions as well as African and non-African public and private investors. The Bank was established under two constitutive documents, an Agreement signed by member states, which confers on the Bank the status of an international organization, and a Charter signed by all Shareholders, which governs its corporate structure and operations. Afreximbank deploys innovative structures to deliver financing solutions that are supporting the transformation of the structure of Africa’s trade, accelerating industrialization and intra-regional trade, thereby sustaining economic expansion in Africa. At the end of 2019, the Bank’s total assets and guarantees stood at USD$15.5 billion and its shareholders funds amounted to US$2.8 billion. Voted “African Bank of the Year” in 2019, the Bank disbursed more than US$38 billion between 2016 and 2020. Afreximbank has ratings assigned by GCR (international scale) (A-), Moody’s (Baa1) and Fitch (BBB-). The Bank is headquartered in Cairo, Egypt.
Largest clinical trial in Africa to treat mild COVID-19 cases
November 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Jorge Joaquim
13 African countries and an international network of research institutions have joined forces to launch the largest COVID-19 clinical trial in mild-to-moderate outpatients in Africa. The ANTICOV clinical trial aims to respond to the urgent need to identify treatments that can be used to treat mild and moderate cases of COVID-19 early and prevent spikes in hospitalization that could overwhelm fragile and already overburdened health systems in Africa.
The clinical trial will be carried out at 19 sites in 13 countries by the ANTICOV consortium, which includes 26 prominent African and global research and development (R&D) organizations, coordinated by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), an international non-profit drug research and development (R&D) group with extensive partnerships in Africa.
“There is a need for large clinical trials in Africa for COVID-19 to answer research questions that are specific to an African context,” said Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. “African countries have mounted an impressive response so far to COVID-19 and now is the time to prepare for future waves of the disease”.
ANTICOV is an open-label, randomised, comparative, ‘adaptive platform trial’ that will test the safety and efficacy of treatments in 2,000 to 3,000 mild-to-moderate COVID-19 patients in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Sudan, and Uganda. ANTICOV aims to identify early treatments that can prevent progression of COVID-19 to severe disease and potentially limit transmission.
“Africa has for the most part avoided the large-scale mortality seen in other countries, but with lockdowns ending and borders opening, we need to be prepared” said Dr Borna Nyaoke-Anoke, Senior Clinical Project Manager at DNDi, which is also the sponsor for clinical trials in the DRC, Kenya, and Sudan. “We need research here in Africa that will inform policies and test-and-treat strategies, so that as clinicians we can give the best options to people with COVID-19.”
Initially, ANTICOV will focus on drugs where large-scale randomized clinical trials could provide missing efficacy data in mild-to-moderate patients. The trial will begin testing, against a control arm, the HIV antiretroviral combination lopinavir/ritonavir and the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which remains the standard of care for COVID-19 today in numerous African countries.
Nuggets Convert Contract of Bol Bol
November 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
Bol, 7-2, 220, was selected with the 44th overall pick by the Miami Heat in the 2019 NBA draft and was acquired by the Nuggets in a draft night trade.
The Denver Nuggets have converted the two-way contract of Bol Bol to a standard multi-year NBA contract, President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly announced today.
Bol Bol, who will remain a rookie for the 2020-21 season as he did not appear in an NBA game prior to the hiatus on March 11th, appeared in seven games for the Nuggets during the seeding games in the Orlando Bubble and averaged 5.7 points and 2.7 rebounds per game while shooting .500 from the field and .444 from beyond the arc.
The 21-year-old impressed in the Nuggets three scrimmage games prior to the Seeding Games in Orlando, posting averages of 13.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in 29.3 minutes per game. He also appeared in eight games for the Windy City Bulls of the G League in 2019-20, averaging 12.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 19.3 minutes.
Bol, 7-2, 220, was selected with the 44th overall pick by the Miami Heat in the 2019 NBA draft and was acquired by the Nuggets in a draft night trade. He appeared in nine games as a freshman for Oregon in 2018-19, averaging 21.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in 29.8 minutes before a season-ending foot injury. Bol reached double figure scoring in every game and tallied four double-doubles.
The 19-year-old native of Khartoum, Sudan, is the son of former NBA great Manute Bol who played 10 seasons for the Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat.
*SOURCE Denver Nuggets
Africans “know and understand what development ought to look like,” says President Uhuru Kenyatta
November 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
Kenyatta noted that on a continent of around 1.3 billion Africans with a median age of around 20 years, there is a very tangible underlying sense of urgency when it comes to expectations of government.
President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta urged African governments to put their citizens at the centre of delivering service during Africa Delivery Exchange 2020, a virtual event that opened Tuesday.
In remarks to open the two-day workshop, Kenyatta noted that on a continent of around 1.3 billion Africans with a median age of around 20 years, there is a very tangible underlying sense of urgency when it comes to expectations of government.
“Our people know and understand what development ought to look like and what benefits it should bring to their social-economic wellbeing. Therefore, any failure to quickly address the missing middle within the development paradigm could create a deficiency of trust between the electorate and those in positions of leadership,” Kenyatta said.
The event was jointly hosted by Kenya President’s Delivery Unit, the African Development Bank and the Tony Blair Institute (TBI) for Global Change.
Kenyatta recognized the Bank and the TBI’s support in advancing Kenya’s development, thanking African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina and Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who joined him on a panel.
“Without the lessons from TBI, we would have had to reinvent the wheel, but instead, we started with a tried and tested model, and we have improved on it to reflect our unique circumstances here in Kenya.”
In his remarks, Blair observed that leadership demands have changed and that governments are expected to do far more than they ever were traditionally. “They’ve got to deliver services for their people; they’ve got to put in place the right environment for their economy, they’ve got to deal with all sorts of huge crises, of which COVID-19 is just the latest example. All of these require extraordinary focus, clarity and decisionmaking.”
To meet these delivery expectations, governments must focus on prioritization, policy, personnel and performance management. “Performance management is the most critical one. What’s difficult is that each of these systems you’re trying to change will have interests that often will obstruct. They’ll need areas that need you to go across the whole of government, to get something done in one area of government, they’ll have complicated politics around them.”
Adesina commended Kenyatta for focusing on ordinary citizens and praised the Kenyan government’s ‘Big Four’ agenda, which prioritizes food security, affordable housing, manufacturing, and affordable healthcare for all, and noting a fifth area in which the country had made great strides. “Mr. President, you’re doing exceptional work on energy. You’re connecting your people all over the country in an amazing way with last mile delivery. If you add in energy, you’d actually have a big five.”
The Bank president set out some delivery lessons: A clear vision; publish delivery expectations to create accountability; establish a culture of accountability; rigorous results measurement; ensure sustainability.
“The Bank is currently developing a new Africa public service delivery index, that will help to rate African countries including sub nationals on the delivery of public services,” he added.
The COVID-19 pandemic formed a backdrop to the event.
This is not the first pandemic we’ve faced, Adesina said, but it must never happen again that the continent is caught unprepared. “Africa has underinvested massively on healthcare. We need to change and give Africa a quality health care defense system to make sure we have excellent primary health care.”
“One question is, how do you keep the sense of urgency that you had when dealing with the disease and carry that same sense of urgency and focus into building back better afterward?”
The African Development Bank has formed strategic partnerships with Government Delivery Units in Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia, and is working toward approval of a fourth in Senegal. In January 2019, the Bank led the launch of the African Delivery Units Network to provide a platform for sharing knowledge, experience and expertise among African governments’ delivery units.
The two-day event includes technical sessions and presentations by specialists, including representatives of national and city government, multilateral development institutions and other development partners.
Why Ghana needs a new financial sector regulation architecture
November 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Woelinam Dogbe*
There is ample evidence that the existing financial sector regulation architecture in Ghana is not fit-for-purpose.
Ghana’s financial sector is in crisis. A crisis occasioned by the collapse of over 300 financial institutions; and which has affected every division of the financial sector. Universal banks, savings and loans companies, microfinance companies, capital market institutions, and insurance companies have been impacted.
While majority of the collapsed institutions were licensed and regulated, a few were unlicensed and ought not to have been in operation. The fact that the unlicensed institutions were allowed a free rein to operate until their eventual collapse, speaks volumes about the existing regulatory regime and the safety of financial consumers.
Experts have identified the causes of the crisis to be: weak regulatory supervision, unethical behaviour by managers of the financial institutions, and poor corporate governance practices. In the specific case of the unlicensed institutions, their illegal activities flourished because of dereliction of duty on the part of regulators.
The devastation caused by the crisis has been severe and widespread. Apart from financial losses, consumer confidence in the financial sector has been significantly weakened. Some consumers have lost their lives as a result of the trauma of having their life savings locked up in collapsed institutions.
Unquestionably, there is the need for a regulatory regime that is fit-for-purpose. One that prioritizes the need to ensure the safety of institutions as well as prioritize the need to protect consumers. Thus, the necessity of regulatory reform is imperative.
Presently, the regulators of Ghana’s financial sector (i.e. Bank of Ghana – BOG, Securities and Exchanges Commission – SEC, National Insurance Commission – NIC and National Pensions Regulatory Authority – NPRA) have through their actions and inactions demonstrated that they prioritize Prudential Regulation (“ensuring financial institutions remain strong”) to the neglect of Conduct Regulation (“ensuring the safety and fair treatment of consumers”).
This lopsided approach to financial sector regulation has resulted in consumers suffering unfair treatment and exploitation at the hands of financial service providers. Examples of the mistreatment of consumers include: unfair pricing practices, unconscionable loan terms, misrepresentation of risks associated with products, mis-selling, product pushing, poor handling of customer complaints, etc.
The reform of financial sector regulation in Ghana must institutionalize conduct regulation and afford it the importance it deserves. This will require strong commitment from government to sponsor the needed legislation. This is the surest way to ensure the financial sector is safe and works well for all.
State of financial consumer protection in Ghana
Financial consumers in Ghana continue to suffer at the hands of financial institutions because of manifestly weak market conduct regulation. The present crisis has further exposed the deep-seated disregard and lack of commitment to financial consumer protection in Ghana.
A careful review of the regulatory interventions and policy prescriptions that have been implemented or mooted following the crisis have centered on “saving the institutions” with very little focus on “protecting consumers”.
While it is important to protect the institutions; because the safety of the institutions has implications for the safety of consumers’ deposits and investments, it is equally important to proactively protect consumers and ensure they are treated fairly and are not exploited.
Financial consumers are vulnerable and need to be protected from elements within the financial sector who would want to take advantage of this vulnerability to cheat consumers to rake in abnormal profits.
There is a widespread practice within Ghana’s financial services industry where providers; particularly banks and SDIs, arbitrarily increase fees on products and services that consumers have already signed on to. For example, it has become an annual ritual for banks and SDIs to upwardly review fees such as account maintenance fees, card maintenance fees, transaction fees etc. The only obligation the central bank has placed on the banks and SDIs is for them to give customers at least a 30-day notice period before implementing the fee reviews.
The point is often made by financial institutions that, if consumers are unhappy with the fees being charged, they are at liberty to switch to another provider. This argument is at best, disingenuous and laced with mischief because, as things stand today, it is very difficult for consumers to switch banks or SDIs. For example; banks and SDIs mirror each other’s pricing; thus, when one bank or SDI introduces a new fee or increases an existing fee, the others follow. Therefore, if a consumer decides to switch, he or she will only be “jumping from frying pan to fire”.
Sadly, the regulators who ought to ensure consumers are treated fairly are themselves the guilty party. For example; the National Insurance Commission (NIC) recently implemented new pricing dynamics for motor insurance. The stated objective was to sanitize pricing practices and mitigate systemic risks resulting from price undercutting. Unfortunately for consumers, the consequence was a steep increase in premiums.
The steep premium increases priced out millions of consumers from comprehensive motor insurance cover. Consumers were made worse off and were exposed to severe loss as a result of being priced out. It took massive public uproar and resistance from insurance companies for the NIC to roll back some of the elements that caused the price hike.
It is important to note that, unfair pricing is only a minutia of the mistreatment consumers receive. Others include issues such as financial institutions pushing high risk products to vulnerable consumers. Product pushing and mis-selling exist but there’s no record of regulators punishing, naming and shaming institutions that have engaged in such bad behaviour.
Best practices in financial consumer protection in Africa
There are pockets of great examples of proactive financial consumer protection across Africa. Some regulators on the continent are living up to expectation and doing what is required to ensure consumers are protected and treated fairly.
One of the shining lights is the Bank of Zambia (BoZ). The BoZ in September 2018 issued a notice titled “Bank of Zambia notice to the public on the prohibition of unwarranted charges and fees directives of 2018”. In the said notice, the BoZ detailed a list of twenty-six (26) charges and fees that it had prohibited.
The charges and fees prohibited by the BoZ included: initial debit card issuance fees, debit card maintenance and renewal fees (annual, quarterly or monthly), commission on turnover activities on account, automated teller machine (ATM) surcharges, point of sale (POS) transaction charges (own bank customer and other bank customer), charge for balance and other account inquiries by a customer over-the-counter or any electronic platform, among others.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is also worthy of applause. The CBN has taken some steps to ensure banks in Nigeria handle customer complaints in a timely and effective manner. It has instituted and published a fine grid for improper handling of customer complaints and delays in resolving customer complaints. The CBN’s policy of naming and shaming is commendable. When consumers see and feel that the regulator is acting and sanctioning errant institutions, their confidence in the financial system grows. The CBN recently sanctioned some errant banks and fined them as much as 2 million Naira (circa USD5,200) for breaching various consumer protection mechanisms.
Another regulator leading the way is the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE). When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the CBE championed several initiatives that not only focused on keeping the institutions afloat, but also rolled out deliberate interventions to bring tangible relief to consumers.
The CBE instructed banks to cancel ATM withdrawal fees and points of sale (POS) fees for six months. It also instructed banks to give 6 months repayment holiday to individuals and businesses impacted by COVID-19. Also, the CBE instructed the suspension of late fees (penalty interest). Furthermore, in an effort to reduce cash handling, all bank transfers within Egypt were exempted from fees and charges.
Challenges with Ghana’s financial sector regulation architecture
There is ample evidence that the existing financial sector regulation architecture in Ghana is not fit-for-purpose. The recent crisis has badly exposed this fact. Aside the loopholes in prudential regulation that are at the root of the crisis, the neglect of conduct regulation is a major cause for concern. This needs to be addressed, lest we risk another crippling crisis.
The major drawbacks of Ghana’s existing financial sector regulation architecture are:
- The financial sector has become entwined; but still operates with siloed regulators
- The financial sector regulators are biased towards prudential regulation and have limited capacity for conduct regulation
- The financial sector lacks an effective institutional mechanism to set and enforce market conduct standards
Ghana’s financial sector has evolved to the point where banking halls have become distribution points for non-bank financial products. Today, banks are distributing insurance, capital market, and pension products. Even mobile money operators are distributing banking, insurance and pension products. Thus, the financial sector has become vastly entwined. However, regulation has lagged behind the sector’s evolution. The sector still has fragmented regulators (i.e. BOG, SEC, NIC, and NPRA) operating in silos and overseeing both prudential and conduct regulation for their respective industries.
Having an entwined sector with siloed regulators presents peculiar dangers to consumers. It becomes a complicated proposition for consumers when, for example, they buy a non-bank product (i.e. insurance or capital market product) through a bank and are faced with a challenge that needs a regulator’s intervention to resolve. Or; when a consumer buys a pension product through a mobile money operator and is unfairly treated, knowing which regulator to approach can be unsettling and stressful.
Furthermore, when a novel ponzi scheme emerges, the siloed regulators pass the buck and are hesitant to take responsibility to stop harm to consumers. A classic example is the Menzgold scam that swept through the country a few years ago; and left in its wake millions of victims. In the Menzgold case, instead of the BOG and SEC taking decisive measures to shut down the scam, they pussyfooted and took to issuing statements to say Menzgold was not licensed to operate.
Secondly, the fact that the current architecture does not prioritize consumer protection is abundantly evident. Unlike in best practice examples from Zambia, Egypt and Nigeria where the BoZ, CBE and CBN respectively have been proactive in implementing effective measures to protect consumers and ensure they are treated fairly, the opposite is the case in Ghana.
The regulators in Ghana have adopted a laidback attitude towards the subject and have in some cases merely designated units as being responsible for market conduct, in an attempt to window dress the issue.
Thirdly, the financial sector lacks an institutional mechanism to set and enforce market conduct standards across the sector. As a result of the lack of standards, actions and inactions of financial institutions and regulators that are injurious to consumers are not flagged and nipped in the bud. Also, since there are no standards, bad conduct is allowed to fester to the detriment of consumers.
The absence of standards also breeds the consequence of consumers not being aware of their rights and remedies available to them. Thus, they are unable to shield themselves from exploitation and unfair treatment. Consumer education is poor; and mostly non-existent, because the regulators have shunned this duty of care.
The reform of financial sector regulation can only happen with unalloyed commitment from government. The intricacies of Ghana’s political system make it such that, the required legislation to birth the reforms needs government backing and sponsorship.
It is therefore welcome news that Ghana’s main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress, through its leader, H.E. John Mahama, has promised to “establish a Financial Services Authority that will be responsible for ensuring that consumer markets work for consumers, providers and the economy as a whole” if voted into power.
It is hoped that the proposals made in this article will be adopted and incorporated in the reform of Ghana’s financial sector regulation architecture.
A proposed fit-for-purpose financial sector regulation architecture for Ghana
To forestall future crisis in the financial services sector and advance consumer protection, an effective and fit-for-purpose regulation architecture is critical. It should be a regulation architecture that proactively identifies problems and nips them in the bud, one that severely punishes wrong doing, names and shames, and one that resolves the imbalances between prudential regulation and conduct regulation.
It is against the foregoing background that the following proposals are made:
- Decouple prudential regulation and conduct regulation. This calls for discarding the current model that warehouses prudential regulation and conduct regulation in the same institutions. An effective and efficient decoupling of prudential regulation and conduct regulation will resolve the challenges enumerated.
- Task the existing industry regulators (i.e. BOG, SEC, NIC and NPRA) exclusively with responsibility for prudential regulation. Thus, the responsibility for conduct regulation must be taken away from them.
- Establish a single independent conduct regulator. The new entity will be the sole regulator of market conduct across the entire financial services sector; i.e. banking, insurance, securities and pensions.
The proposed architecture is a unique adaptation of the Twin Peaks Model. In the typical twin peaks model that exists in counties such as the United Kingdom, Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa among others, there are two regulators – one focused on prudential regulation of the entire financial services sector and the other regulator focused on conduct regulation of the entire financial services sector.
In the United Kingdom, for example, the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) are responsible for prudential regulation and conduct regulation respectively. The two entities (PRA and FCA) were formed in 2013 in a wave of regulation reforms following the 2007 financial crisis. Hitherto, a single entity was responsible for both prudential and conduct regulation until the split in 2013.
In the proposed model for Ghana, each of the industries (banking, insurance, capital markets and pensions) within the sector will have independent prudential regulators. There may be too much disruption if an attempt is made to have a single prudential regulator for the entire sector at this point. Perhaps, in the next phase of reforms, having a single prudential regulator for the sector may be considered. For now, the focus must firmly be on a single conduct regulator.
The benefits of the proposed model – having a single independent conduct regulator and industry-specific prudential regulators – are evident.
The industry prudential regulators will focus on keeping the institutions sound. They will have the mandate to set prudential requirements and to ensure compliance. In addition, they will be clothed with the power to license institutions for their respective industries.
The single independent conduct regulator will ensure that consumers are protected across the entire financial services sector. It will ensure institutions conduct themselves properly in the market. It’s core focus will be on areas such as: product suitability and safety, fair pricing practices, resolution of customer complaints, among others.
No new product can be introduced onto the market without the prior approval of the conduct regulator. Neither can an approved product be modified without the express approval of the regulator. Before the conduct regulator approves a product, it must ascertain that the institution submitting the product for approval has been duly licensed by the appropriate prudential regulator. Such a regime will prevent scams like Menzgold, DKM, and the others from taking root.
The independent conduct regulator will have the power to stop an institution from operating in the market if it deems its products or practices to be harmful to consumers or other market players. More importantly, it will have the power to prosecute institutions and/or individuals if their activities pose a danger to consumers or if they are found to be behaving badly or to have behaved badly.
With the proposed single independent conduct regulator, consumers will have a single point of contact for all complaints or challenges they have with any financial institution. Thus, the challenge of having to contend with many regulators in an entwined financial sector will be eliminated.
The proposed regulator will set market conduct standards, proactively police the market to ensure it is safe for all participants, punish, name and shame offenders, and educate consumers on their rights as well as on how to protect themselves in the market.
Operationalizing the proposed architecture will be easy to do. Marshalling the needed human capital to staff the proposed independent conduct regulator should not be difficult. The various industry regulators currently have some staff who ostensibly are tasked with monitoring market conduct. These staff can be pulled out to form the nucleus staff of the new institution. The nucleus staff would need to be augmented with professionals with the requisite technical expertise.
If there’s a silver lining in the crisis that has hit Ghana’s financial sector, it is that it presents a golden opportunity to reform Ghana’s financial sector regulation architecture. The time to act is now!
*The author, Woelinam Dogbe, is the President of the Alliance for Financial Consumer Protection (AFCOP). He is a Chartered Banker, a Financial Sector Specialist, and a Management Consultant. He can be reached via email@example.com.
Mozambique: Finance minister dismisses Chinese asset seizure fears
November 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Jorge Joaquim
Finance minister Adriano Maleiane has rejected suggestions that China will seize Mozambican public assets if the government defaults on Chinese loans.
Addressing parliament Maleiane said that the fears expressed by opposition party members were groundless.
“There are no indications of this… We have no information that the Chinese government can seize any assets in Mozambique due to defaults”, he said.
He insisted that the debts with China, which he said totalled $2.02bn, had been handled smoothly. $1.97bn of the debt is with China Exim Bank, and has paid for projects such as the Maputo ring road and bridge over the Bay of Maputo.
Maleiane said that he thought these projects would eventually pay for themselves through toll fees.
Venâncio Mondlane, of opposition party Renamo, claimed that it would take 75 years to pay off the bridge debt, and asked if any infrastructure project financed by China had been profitable, but Maleiane did not reply.
Mondlane pointed to alleged cases in which Beijing opted for the seizure of infrastructure by debtor states in Africa and Asia to ensure the settlement of debts.
The Center for Public Integrity (CIP) considered a few days ago that Mozambique’s debt to China was “not very transparent”, demanding that Filipe Nyusi’s government explain how it will manage this burden. The Mozambican NGO also criticized the way in which this money was used by the government, stressing that the debt can be compared to the recent past of hidden debts of the Mozambican state.
Currently, the debt to China is the largest that Mozambique has with a single country, and this debt represents about 20.2 percent of Mozambique’s total external debt, and about 13.2 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Tanzania to deport over 500 suspected terrorists for trial in Mozambique
November 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Jorge Joaquim
Some 516 suspects of terrorism and collaborators of jihahadist violence being held in Tanzania will be deported to Mozambique to be tried for crimes committed in Cabo Delgado province.
The terrorists were seeking refuge in Tanzania because of attacks by the Mozambican Defence and Security Forces when they were captured by Tanzanian authorities.
Mozambique has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Tanzania, under which both countries’ police forces will collaborate to tackle the insurgency.
According to Mozambique’s police chief, Bernardino Rafael, the key points of the memorandum include an agreement to extradite all those accused, and to maintain the security of the border.
Tanzanian authorities arrested 562 terrorist suspects and collaborators after an attack in the Tanzanian village of Kitaya in October, and recently arrested an unspecified number of people in the towns of Kigoma and Mwanza, close to the borders of Rwanda and Burundi, who told Tanzanian authorities that they were on their way to Mozambique to join the insurgents.
The group being deported includes Mozambicans, Tanzanians, Somalis, Congolese, Rwandans and Burundians.
Cabo Delgado has been the scene since October 2017 of attacks by Islamist militiamen popularly known as Al Shabaab, without being related to the group of the same name that operates in Somalia. ince then, more than 2,200 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.
The Islamic State affiliate has intensified its actions since last March and since August it controls the port city of Mocimboa da Praia. In recent weeks, it has intensified its attacks and carried out dozens of beheadings, sparking a wave of displacements.
Siemens Gamesa works through COVID challenges to help feed 250MW of clean energy to South Africa’s grid
November 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
|Siemens Gamesa has installed over 850MW of wind power in the country, close to one third of market share.|
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, November 24, 2020/ — 109 wind turbines installed in Kangnas and Perdekraal wind farms with a combined capacity of 250MW; Both projects represent one of the first ‘Bid Window 4’ wind farms to feed power to South Africa’s national grid; Siemens Gamesa has installed over 850MW of wind power in the country, close to one third of market share.
Siemens Gamesa has officially started production of Mainstream Renewable Power’s 110MW Perdekraal East and 140 MW Kangnas wind farms in South Africa, supporting additional green power supply into the country’s national grid.
The Perdekraal East site is located 80km northeast of Ceres in the Western Cape and the Kangnas wind farm is situated near Springbok in the Northern Cape. The wind farms are equipped with a total of 109 2.3MW capacity onshore wind turbines and will help provide enough clean electricity to power a total of 250,000 South African homes. Additionally, the wind farms will emit zero carbon emissions using almost no water during the power generation process.
Despite COVID-19 challenges, the two projects have been completed in line with the original timeline set by Mainstream Renewable Power. Mainstream fully developed the projects, managed the construction process and will manage the operations and maintenance of the plants. The global developer of renewable energy is based in Dublin with offices in Cape Town. Kangnas wind farm was even completed significantly ahead of schedule.
Part of the “Bid Window 4” of the government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), both Perdekraal and Kangnas wind farms will together add to the 1.3GW to the country’s clean energy generation capacity.
In compliance with the REIPPPP regulations, the wind projects were built by the 30% black owned subsidiary of Siemens Gamesa in South Africa and, by its South African staff utilizing South African contractors thereby creating jobs while supporting local communities, driving local manufacturing and development projects within local communities.
“Siemens Gamesa is taking a step forward in its mission to provide a cleaner, more sustainable future for South Africa in its journey to a low carbon economy, having contributed as of today with more than 850MW of wind capacity to the national grid. We are also proud to demonstrate our engagement towards improving living standards across the country, despite the disruption witnessed due to the Covid-19 lockdowns earlier this year,” said Janek Winand, Managing Director Siemens Gamesa South Africa.
Beyond the completion of its wind projects in the country, Siemens Gamesa remains committed to the local communities in need through several social actions led across the regions where it is operating. Among these initiatives, the company helped provide relief to Tembisa residents suffering from the impact of the COVID19 crisis through the donation of vital supplies benefitting over 300 families. The team also supported recently the Witzenberg Association for Persons with Disabilities (WAPD) near the Perdekraal wind farm through the donation of a mobile day care.
“As a responsible company, we are eager to assert further our contribution to South Africa’s increasing energy demand, but beyond that, we are strongly committed to provide continuous support through rapid responses to the challenges faced by the local communities in need, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic,” added Janek Winand.
About Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy:
Siemens Gamesa is a global leader in the wind power industry, with a strong presence in all facets of the business: offshore, onshore and services. The company’s advanced digital capabilities enable it to offer one of the broadest product portfolios in the sector as well as industry-leading service solutions, helping to make clean energy more affordable and reliable. With more than 107GW installed worldwide, Siemens Gamesa manufactures, installs and maintains wind turbines, both onshore and offshore. The company’s orders backlog stands at €30.2 billion. The company is headquartered in Spain and listed on the Spanish stock exchange (trading on the Ibex-35 index).
About Siemens Gamesa in Africa:
Siemens Gamesa has been pioneering wind energy projects in Africa for 20 years. Installations total 4GW in countries such as Egypt, South Africa, Morocco, Kenya, Mauritania, Mauritius Islands, Tunisia and Algeria representing 60% of all wind power on the continent. Siemens Gamesa is driving Africa’s energy transition to deliver cleaner, more reliable, more affordable energy for millions of African people and support long term sustainability and economic growth. It has the broadest product portfolio in the industry with leading technology and innovation, the scale and global reach to provide proximity to customers, and high standards of health, safety and environmental protection.
*SOURCE Siemens Gamesa