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News in Review

1. Oil major BP to leave five African states

British global energy company BP Plc—the third largest global energy company in the world—announced it is getting out of the Namibia, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana markets following a strategy review, but would still invest in its Mozambique and South Africa markets.

The company is among the largest private sector energy corporations in the world, and one of the six “super-majors” (vertically integrated private sector oil exploration, natural gas, and petroleum product marketing companies). BP Africa’s Chief Executive did stress that BP will stay committed to Africa, as they have significant operations in Angola, Mozambique and South Africa and in Algeria, Egypt and Libya.

BP informed the governments of the five countries it is exiting of its plans, but did not specify when the assets would be sold. This follows a strategic review by BP into its R&M businesses.

2. South African union cancelS strike at Gold Fields

The biggest South African union threatened to strike at the Gold Fields’ operation, a strike that would have ceased output at the number four gold producer in the world. The union is grappling with issues about work health and safety, which the union claimed were being used to lay off staff.

In March, a decision was made to cancel the strike was made after Gold Fields agreed to accede to the National Union of Mineworks (MUN) demands and suspend the use of external service providers in conducting functional work capacity testing.

The Union and the mine both agreed to find a neutral test to be used to test the functional and physical ability of workers.

3. Ghana infrastructure on fast-track for oil

Ghana is fast-tracking its construction for a deep sea oil port and major rail link in 2010 to take advantage of its energy and minerals. Ghana is to become a producer of commercial energy by the end of 2010, when the offshore Jubilee field comes on line. The second largest cocoa producer in the world, and the regional economic leader, is expecting sustained growth and to stabilize its cedi currency.

As Ghana prepares to join the league of oil exporting countries this year, OAO Lukoil , Russia‘s second-biggest oil producer, and closely held Vanco Energy Company, has made ”a significant” oil and gas discovery off Ghana.

Ghana is set to become one of Africa‘s newest oil exporters in late 2010 when production begins at the Jubilee field, which has potential resources of as many as 1.8 billion barrels.

Ghanian President John Atta Mills announced that his government will soon submit to parliament an oil and gas revenue management bill ahead of planned oil production in the last quarter of this year, in anticipation of activity in the oil industry.

Revenue derived from the oil production will be reinvested in the national power supply, with improvements concentrated on road network and water supply, construction of a deep sea oil port and revamping railway lines, according to the President. There is great optimism that these projects will not only create significant employment themselves but will also support the growth of other industries for the country.

4. SA getting out of recession in reasonable timeframe

SA is coming out of the first recession in almost 20 years in a reasonable timeframe, according to the Reserve Bank Governor’s analysis of economic data. Figures showed the GDP of SA expanded by 3.2 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2009. The biggest economy in Africa got out of the first recession in 17 years in the third quarter of 2009. The onset of recovery will hopefully confirm the Bank and National Treasury’s growth forecast for 2010.

5. World Bank doubles loans to Morocco

The Economic Affairs Minister of Morocco, Nizar Baraka, announced that within the next three years, his country would receive an annual World Bank’s loan of $600 million—twice the originally negotiated $300 million allocation. Baraka affirmed that the boost was a signal of Morocco’s credible development programmes and reforms and a signal of the stategic partnership program set by each party. The partnership has helped the Moroccan Kingdom improve its community’s services, sustained development, good governance and regional development.

Joined by World Bank officials, the minister explained further how his government aimed in the next five years to improve governance, expand access to basic services like drinking water, implement financial reforms and boost competitiveness of small businesses in cities and rural areas.

6. SA government expects economy to grow 2.3 per cent in 2010

The SA government believes the country’s economy will expand by 2.3 per cent in 2010, aided by the FIFA World Cup in June. The prediction was made by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan while delivering the country’s budget. The World Cup will add 0.5 per cent to this prediction, led mainly by visiting fans and their spending. The budget comes as SA is struggling with an overall unemployment rate of 25 per cent and a widening gap between the rich and the poor.

7. Botswana privatising national airline

Authorities in the southern African country of Botswana have maintained that the privatisation of its national airline will go on despite resistance from sections of that country’s society and years of toe dragging. Nevertheless, this month, Botswana’s Transport Minister Frank Ramsden stated that the privatisation of Air Botswana is still on.

Ramsden said after the two attempts to privatise the airline and one to engage a management contractor all failed, the government has decided to fully refurbish the airline and put it up for privatisation. Latest figures indicate that Air Botswana made a loss of P87 million during the 2008/09 financial year. The majority of loses are cited to be a result of overstaffing and an inefficient, aging fleet and a plethora of problems with management.
Reports out of Gaborone say so far, two ART72 500 aircraft have been bought, with possibilities of acquiring other wide bodied aircraft to augment the fleet and enhance the airlines performance in the aviation transport.

Air Botswana (Pty.) Limited was founded in 1972 to succeed two failed former national airlines: Botswana National Airways and Botswana Airways Corporation. Air Botswana Holdings was responsible for the ownership and leasing of aircraft, and served as the holding company for Air Botswana. Privatisation has been ongoing for over nine years.
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