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November 2017

13 November 2017

Investing from the Cape to Cairo – October 2017

Casting around for the theme for this month's column, we were, for a moment, stumped. That's because recent private capital deal activity in Africa has proved to be something of a mixed bag. No coherent trend or strategy seemed apparent, But, despite that, we did find a few interesting gems for you in the second half of September though the end of October.

Renewable energy opportunities continued to provoke a lot of investor interest. The biggest transaction took place in late September. The deal was signed during U.N. week and took place during Invest Africa's gathering that week in Manhattan. The investor was Highland Group Holdings, who agreed to invest $100 million of equity in Symbion Energy’s planned $370 million methane gas power generation project on Lake Kivu in Rwanda. While this is the first African project backed by Highland, the group's renewable energy projects elsewhere in the world include the Deutsche Bucht and Veja Mate offshore wind energy projects in Germany.

October saw an interesting trade sale in the renewable sector. Fenix International, a venture-backed renewable energy company with offices in East Africa and Silicon Valley, has been acquired by ENGIE.  According to Crunchbase, Fenix has raised over $16.6 million since 2008 and counted Alphamundi, GVEP International, GDF Suez, Schneider Electric and Orange France Telecom among its backers.

As a result of this acquisition, Fenix becomes the first solar home system provider to link with a major energy firm. Fenix employs 350 people, operating predominantly in Uganda and has recently expanded into the Zambian market. Its client base already exceeds 140,000 customers, and its felt that ENGIE's involvement will accelerate he firm's roll out of its services to other African markets.

Another solar home provider, Mobisol, featured in the news in October.  Zurich-based development asset manager responsAbility Investments struck what’s described as an eight-figure debt deal with Mobisol, the private equity-backed provider of off-grid solar home systems. The transaction involves the establishment of a special purpose debt vehicle which will be known by the acronym MOOVE, (Mobisol Off-Grid Financing Vehicle), with capital provided by two of responsAbility energy funds.

Mobisol will use the vehicle to support its growth in Tanzania, tapping it to provide financing for the electrification of over 15,000 households and small businesses. According to a company representative, the new structure is already exciting interest from a varied group of investors including impact investors, family offices and DFIs. At an aggregate level, some people feel confident that MOOVE could help structure a completely new asset class in the pay-as-you-go universe, attracting a new set of commercial and institutional investors who are keen to invest in simple and secure investment vehicle structures.

One private equity firm that's had a busy few weeks has been AFIG Funds. They put three transactions up on the board in the last 6 weeks. Two were financial services deals and one was in real estate, where AFIG made a follow-on investment in Primrose Properties Ghana on behalf of their first funr=d, the Atlantic Coast Regional Fund. 

Accra-based Primrose Properties is a special purpose vehicle which AFIG first backed in April 2015. According to Patrice Backer, AFIG's COO, the asset's solid performance accelerated the decision to invest in a follow-on round. The fresh capital will be used to fund the development of a middle-income housing community in Sakumono, a suburb of Ghana’s capital.

Of AFIG's two financial sector deals, the first took place in late September. Again on behalf of their first fund, AFIG backed Nigeria’s FSDH Merchant Bank, a financial services company that offers the market a range of services including merchant, corporate and investment banking solutions as well as asset and pension fund management. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The private equity firm followed up the FSDH investment with another banking deal two weeks later. First Atlantic Bank started life as a Merchant Bank over 20 years ago, before switching its focus in 2011 and becoming a full-scale commercial bank in 2011.

Staying in the realm of financial services deals, private equity form AfricInvest agreed to invest $55 million to take a 14.3% ownership stake in Britam Holdings, a publicly-listed insurance company headquartered in Nairobi. The transaction is being structured through a special purpose vehicle set up on behalf of AfricInvest Fund III, DEG, FMO and Proparco, which will be managed by the Tunis-based private equity firm.

Of the investment fund launches announced in the last few weeks, two were particularly significant.  A.P. Moller Capital, an affiliate of the Maersk shipping line family’s A.P. Moller Holding, added $100 million to its new Africa-focused infrastructure fund which held a $550 million interim close in August. The new commitment came from PFA Pension, Denmark’s largest pension fund, who join three other Danish pensions funds - PKA, PensionDanmark and Lægernes Pension – on the fund's roster of LPs.

In September, Capitalworks, one of Africa’s larger private equity firms, launched Africa Capitalworks, a planned $300 million investment company that will target mid-market opportunities in a number of sectors across sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa. The investment vehicle will be directed by one of Capitalworks’ founders, Beth Mandel, and Nana Sao.

Other gems in the mixed bag include possibly Botswana's biggest private equity deal. Investec Asset Management and RMB Ventures completed their acquisition of Kamoso, a retailer and consumer goods business. While the financial details of the acquisition were not revealed, the stake was brought from Standard Chartered Private Equity and New York investor Development Capital Partners. They originally invested in Kamoso in 2015 in a deal reportedly valued at approximately $45 million at the time.

Thanks for reading the column. As we always ask, please let us know your ideas about subjects to cover in this column every month. And of course, please tell us what you like or dislike about it. It all helps our ongoing quest for improvement.


Africa Capital Digest’s Editor & Publisher, Allan Cunningham, provides his monthly summary of the deals and activity that’s helping to drive fundraising across the continent.



September 2017

25 September 2017

Kenya-UK presentation latest for PS Trade


September 2017

12 September 2017

What next for commercial governance in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Steven King, Group Head of Corporate Compliance at Travelex, describes the latest project to tackle the widespread corruption that stifles economic growth and development in Sub-Saharan Africa. The only viable solution, he believes, lies in collaboration across the full governance eco-system and needs to happen at all levels

In 2015, a report from Transparency International suggested that around 75m people in Sub-Saharan Africa had paid a bribe in the preceding year. The report also suggested poor people in the region are twice as likely as the richest to have made a payment. The survey, of more than 43,000 people across 28 Sub-Saharan countries, revealed that at least half of those who paid bribes did so many times a year.

Some of the bribes are to escape punishment by the police or courts, but many are paying bribes to get access to basic services. Corruption in the region is nothing new, but many feel it’s on the rise and that their governments are failing.

A new solution is now bringing together expertise from the public and private sectors to stamp out practices that are preventing many regions from achieving economically. The project, backed by the Business Council for Africa-Invest Africa, draws on input from various organisations including the UK’s National Crime Agency.

It brings together people who can offer advice, training and mentoring on every part of the process and who have long experience in fighting corruption and tracing illegal assets in other countries; for example, the legal foundations of the UK’s asset-recovery legislation come from Irish law, where the government has a history of efforts to confiscate terrorist funding.

There are good reasons for doing this. The 2016 Ibrahim Index of African Governance reported that the average score for corruption and bureaucracy had worsened by 8.7 points across the continent over the previous decade. Thirty-three countries had deteriorated, 24 of them falling to their worst ever level in 2015.

Please click the link below to read the full article: 



September 2017

04 September 2017

Djibouti - A country on the rise

A series of major infrastructure developments in Djibouti has placed the country firmly on the radar of international investors.

In June 2017, the East African country opened the third of four ports – a move designed to significantly increase import and export capacity, and led by the Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority (DPFZA). Djibouti currently handles around 90% of Ethiopia’s inbound trade and is regarded as the gateway to one of the fastest growing regions in the world.

The ports form part of a wider US$15billion infrastructure drive, which also includes a Liquefied Natural Gas facility and oil terminal. Two airports will also be constructed, which will be served by the newly relaunched Air Djibouti. The national carrier will play a crucial role in establishing Djibouti as a major logistics centre for the region and has already taken delivery of a number of planes, including a Boeing 737 and Boeing 767-200.

As well as the seas and skies, capacity has also been increased overland. This year saw the completion of the new Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway; 752km of track linking Ethiopia’s capital with the Port of Djibouti. With trains reaching speeds of 160km/h for passengers and 12km/h for cargo, it has cut journey times between the two hubs to 12 hours, compared to 3 days by road.

These dramatic improvements will serve the development of Djibouti’s International Free Trade Zone (DIFTZ). When fully realized, DIFTZ is set to become the largest in Africa. Phase I is due to be completed by the end of 2018, covering 240 hectares. It is expected to handle $7billion in trade within two years.


August 2017

21 August 2017

SIERRA LEONE: More heavy rain forecast this week after over 500 killed and missing in Freetown landslide | Africa Confidential

By Patrick Smith
Editor of Africa Confidential 

We start in Freetown where rescue workers are trying to prevent more loss of life with renewed downpours expected this week and in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari is back on-seat and addressing the country on security matters. In Angola, the MPLA, headed by presidential candidate João Lourenço, is set to cruise to victory on Wednesday (23 August) against a weak opposition; the turnout may give a clearer idea about sentiment on the ground. Still on elections, opposition leader Raila Odinga submitted his election petition to the Supreme Court but insiders expect it will fail. Lastly, after a week of speculation about the possibility of Grace Mugabe being charged with assaulting a model in a Johannesburg hotel, the South African government gave her diplomatic immunity. Business sources claim there was a behind-the-scenes deal over landing rights for the two country's airlines.

SIERRA LEONE: More heavy rain forecast this week after over 500 killed and missing in Freetown landslide
Officials and volunteers are mapping out the most vulnerable areas around Freetown amid fears there could be another devastating landslide this week with deluges forecast for tomorrow (Tuesday 22 August) and Wednesday.

Seneh Dumbuya, the chief coroner in Freetown, told Reuters news agency yesterday (20 August) that rescue workers have brought out 499 bodies since the landslide at Mount Sugar Loaf on 14 August. Locals say another 600 people are still missing; some people trapped by rubble and mud in air pockets have been able to send text messages. The biggest risks now are that a fresh deluge could trigger another landslide, and that cholera could spread because of the shortage of clean water. Environmentalists say unregulated logging in the hills outside the capital and an absence of buildings regulation are to blame for the severity of the disaster.

NIGERIA: Buhari's dawn broadcast promises harder line on Biafran separatists and Islamist insurgents
After a day back in Abuja, a revived-looking President Muhammadu Buhari, who has spent most of this year receiving medical treatment in London, made a fiery televised address to the nation promising more determined action against Boko Haram. He added that attempts by citizens in the south-east of Nigeria to secede – a repeat of the calls that triggered the Biafran civil war in the 1960s – were a red line that no political organisation could be permitted to cross.

Although Buhari repeated the government's position that Nigeria's national unity isn't negotiable, he indicated that he would be open to a dialogue with secessionist groups. 'Every group has a grievance. But the beauty and attraction of a federation is that it allows different groups to air their grievances and work out a mode of co-existence,' he said.

ANGOLA: MPLA's João Lourenço pledges sweeping economic reforms ahead of 23 August presidential election
With his victory assured in this week's presidential elections, the MPLA's candidate João Lourenço offers a programme to restructure the oil-dependent economy and reiterates his commitment to crack down on state and corporate corruption.

Although those pledges ring hollow to the many Angolans who point out that little progress has been made on those issues during the MPLA's four decades in power, opposition parties are unlikely to make much headway in the elections. The biggest opposition party, UNITA, has been missing in action although one of its former militants, Abel Chivukuvuku, the candidate of Casa-CE, has been leading a much livelier campaign and winning over some in the coastal cities as well as the opposition redoubt of Huambo.

KENYA: Little prospect for success of opposition election petition in fast-track High Court case
Seven Supreme Court judges must rule on opposition leader Raila Odinga's petition to overturn the victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 8 August elections. Insiders say the opposition's petition has far less detailed information than the complaint about the disputed 2013 elections which the Court rejected.

Kenya's courts do not countenance the sort of lengthy legal argumentation and demand for data sets from the electoral commission that was a feature of the opposition petition in Ghana in 2012. The Ghana courts took eight months to consider – and ultimately reject – the petition. But the process did give the opposition a forensic knowledge and understanding of the electoral reporting system, which it used to great effect in last year's elections.

Odinga submitted the petition last Friday (18 August), having earlier said he would prefer to mobilise his supporters against what he insists is a stolen election rather than engage with the judiciary. 'Our decision to go to court constitutes a second chance for the Supreme Court.' It can, he added, '…redeem itself, or like in 2013, compound the problems we face as a country.'

ZIMBABWE/SOUTH AFRICA: Did a deal over landing rights help Grace Mugabe get diplomatic immunity after facing prosecution for assault?
After internal argument in the government, South Africa's Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, confirmed that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe's wife, Grace, was being granted diplomatic immunity following calls for her to face criminal charges over allegations that she beat up a young model in a Johannesburg hotel last week.

Some insiders are linking the decision to a sudden resolution in a dispute over landing rights between the national airlines of South Africa and Zimbabwe. After both airlines had to ground their flights on the busy Johannesburg to Harare route due to a row over operating permits, South African Airways resumed its flights to Zimbabwe just hours after Grace Mugabe's departure late on Saturday (19 August).


ZAMBIA: In a dramatic climbdown, government releases opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema and drops all charges

MALI: President Keïta withdraws plans for constitutional reform devolution

TOGO: Opposition demonstrates in Lomé against 50 years of the Eyadéma dynasty

Don't forget to check www.africa-confidential.com for our latest stories.


August 2017

11 August 2017

Hogan Lovells launches ground-breaking legal guide to investing in Africa

Hogan Lovells launched its first Special Report on Investment in Africa 2017, an extensive and innovative guide to the legal framework for investment in 23 African countries.

Produced in collaboration with African Law and Business (ALB), it provides potential investors with easily comparable country-by-county analysis and guidance on the investment landscape, including an overview of the local legal framework on matters such as local content rules, real estate ownership, taxation, dispute resolution, and employment.

To read the Report online, click here.


July 2017

24 July 2017

NIGERIA: Buhari is 'set to return home' after appearing in new pictures with State governors | Africa Confidential

By Patrick Smith
Editor of Africa Confidential

This week we start in Abuja House – the one in London where President Muhammadu Buhari has been staying for the past two months. Then to Kinshasa where Congo's opposition is planning to step up protests against sit-tight President Joseph Kabila. In Cape Town we take the temperature ahead of next month's confidence vote in President Jacob Zuma. This week Paris hosts key talks between Libya's Prime Minister Faiez el Serraj and rogue general Khalifa Haftar and the dispute between Tanzania's President John Magufuli and foreign mining companies shows sign of escalating. We round off with our In Very Brief section – three flashpoints for the week.

NIGERIA: Buhari is 'set to return home' after appearing in new pictures with State governors
A smiling President Muhammadu Buhari was pictured lunching with State governors in London yesterday (23 July). He will return to Nigeria as soon as 'the doctors give him the green light', said Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina.

The release of the picture may dampen down some of the more extreme speculation about Buhari's health but the lack of a precise date for his return will prompt his critics to demand more information about his condition. Although Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has assumed the constitutional powers of Acting President in Buhari's absence, some insiders say that some areas of government remain off-limits.

Two major personnel decisions – the appointment of the Secretary to the Government and the director of the National Intelligence Agency – appear to be on hold pending Buhari's return (AC Vol 58 No 11, A date with destiny).

The photo of Buhari released by the Presidency, the first in over two months, shows him at a dining table chatting with top officials from the governing All Progressives Congress, including Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha.

CONGO-KINSHASA: Opposition plans protests to oust Kabila as claims of grand corruption multiply
On 8 August opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi launches a campaign of street protests and national strikes against President Joseph Kabila's rule. The opposition accuses him of reneging on his agreement to hold national elections this year and trying to extend his time in office illegally (AC Vol 58 No 11, Kabila thriving on chaos).

The protests are meant to culminate in mass demonstrations in Kinshasa and all 25 provinces on 20 August. A leading spokesman for the opposition alliance, François Muamba, says that unless President Kabila sets a date for the next presidential elections, he will cease to be recognised as head of state after 1 October.

After that date opposition activists will campaign for citizens to stop all payments to the state. Tshisekedi has also called on citizens not to accept 'bad orders' from the police and armed forces, especially from those groups that have been 'killing Congolese people'. This latest wave of opposition activism coincides with the release of several detailed reports accusing the Kabila family of gross enrichment through its grip on state power:

  • New York University's Center on International Cooperation, backed by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, says the Kabila family owns – wholly or partially – 80 companies in Congo. President Kabila and his family now own, it says, more than 81,000 hectares of farmland in the country.
  • President Kabila's sister Jaynet has a stake in the country's biggest cellphone company.
  • Zoe Kabila, the President's brother, has extensive stakes in big mining ventures including a highly lucrative partnership with Robert Friedland's Ivanhoe company, according to a lengthy investigation by Bloomberg News. Both Jaynet and Zoe are members of parliament and senior members of the President's political alliance.
  • More than US$750 million of the country's mining revenue has gone missing in the last three years, according to a new report from the London-based Global Witness anti-corruption lobby, and is being distributed through political and business networks close to the Presidential family.

The Kabila family denies all wrongdoing and Ivanhoe's Friedland says it will be issuing a riposte to the Bloomberg investigation. However, these latest claims of grand corruption at the top will loom large in the opposition campaign in the coming weeks.

SOUTH AFRICA: Opposition divided over chance of  Zuma's defeat in confidence vote next month
With parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete yet to rule on whether the vote on the no-confidence motion on President Jacob Zuma due on 8 August will be by secret ballot or not, pressure is growing on African National Congress MPs (AC Vol 58 No 12,Zuma's chaos theory). Allies of Zuma in the intelligence services have stepped up surveillance on MPs they consider 'problematic'; some MPs say they are being threatened to vote in Zuma's favour while others claim they are being offered inducements.

Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters and former President of the ANC's Youth League, forecasts that at least 60 of the governing party's MPs will vote against Zuma. That would mean a resounding defeat for the President if, as many suspect, all the opposition MPs vote against him.

Yet John Steenhuisen, Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance, which filed the no-confidence motion in April, doubts it will pass. The ANC controls 62% of the seats in parliament and, unlike Malema, he thinks it would be expecting too much for so many ANC MPs to turn against Zuma. Steenhuisen believes the financial interests behind Zuma, who faces public attacks on probity from his own party and the opposition, are too entrenched to allow their man to be pushed out.

LIBYA: Rogue general Haftar to meet Premier Serraj in Paris this week
French officials are to broker a critical meeting in Paris tomorrow (25 July) between Prime Minister Faiez el Serraj, head of the United Nations-recognised government in Tripoli, and rogue general Khalifa Haftar, whose forces have been fighting along the coast towards Tripoli (AC Vol 58 No 12, States of failure). Haftar, who last month claimed to have won control of the eastern city of Benghazi, has the backing of regional powers Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Haftar, who does not recognise the legitimacy of the Tripoli government, has not met El Serraj for 18 months. France's President Emmanuel Macron wants to show his country's support for the UN's political strategy in Libya but also to push for a deal between Serraj and Haftar.

Given the Mediterranean crossing from Libya is the main route illegal migrants take into southern Europe, trying to shore up the Tripoli government has become a priority for French, German and Italian politicians. Even if there is some agreement between Serraj and Haftar, it could prove much tougher to broker some deals between the disparate militias fighting for control around the Tripoli and the rich oil reserves.

TANZANIA: Government's dispute with Acacia mining to drag on ahead of critical negotiations
At a rally on 21 July, President John Magufuli upped the stakes in his battle with mining companies, threating to shut all gold mines in the country if he judges them to be delaying negotiations about the payment of back taxes.

Ahead of talks between the government and Acacia mining – which is accused of owing billions of dollars in back taxes – there are reports that senior managers of the company have been pulled in for questioning by state officials. Top officials at Acacia have told Africa Confidential that they are committed to cooperate with the government's investigations into their operations. The company wants to refer the tax dispute to independent arbitration although it's unclear whether the government wants to go that route.

Magufuli's latest statements show that the mining issue now tops the government's agenda, and may help boost his political base. It follows parliament's passing of a natural resources law this month which grants the government stakes of 16% in mining companies operating in the country and an option to buy up to 50%. It would also allow the state to renegotiate contracts with mining and energy companies (AC Vol 58 No 15, Magufuli's law). 


SENEGAL: Government keeps leading oppositionist and Mayor of Dakar Khalifa Sall in gaol ahead of parliamentary elections  on 30 July.

ZAMBIA: Fitch ratings agency warns on growing political risk after President Edgar Lungu declares state of emergency.

ANGOLA: Security chiefs entrench position ahead of elections and the handover to new President. 

Don't forget to check www.africa-confidential.com for our latest stories.


July 2017

04 July 2017

How can Africa's electricity sector become more efficient and affordable?

By Moin Siddiqi, economist

Today, about three-fifths of sub-Saharan Africa's population of 1bn live without power, often resorting to using kerosene or spending hours in darkness, which imposes ‘colossal’ socio-economic losses upon an energy-rich region. Whilst those connected to grid electricity supply, crippling power outages are widespread, as cash-strapped utilities (mostly state-owned) are unable to provide reliable services due to under-investment in infrastructure during the past decades.

Please click the link below to read more. 




June 2017

29 June 2017

Private Infrastructure Development Group catalyses private investment in sub-Saharan Africa

The Private Infrastructure Development Group opened up access to life-changing infrastructure designed to boost economies and combat poverty for 31 million people, last year.

The group’s success was in part down to its focus on building power plants, which account for up 50% of its work, according to PIDG’s Annual Report 2016: infrastructure, transforming economies, changing lives.

PIDG chief executive Philippe Valahu said: “Energy is key to unlocking barriers to improving people’s lives.

“By providing reliable, affordable power in remote places, hospitals, schools and small businesses, PIDG is having a strong transformative effect.”

The organisation, which catalyses private investment in infrastructure in the frontier markets of sub-Saharan Africa and south and south-east Asia by blending it with public finance, raised $23 for every $1 donated from its eight members.

That money is then invested, through PIDG’s companies, in projects including renewable energy farms, telecoms, transport, industrial infrastructure, agriculture, housing and waterworks.

PIDG’s ability to leverage the funds it gets from seven countries and the World Bank means its impact is felt by people living in the most fragile areas.

Among other key achievements in 2016 PIDG saw:

  • $2.6bn mobilised from private sector investors and DFIs
  • 18 projects reach financial close, 13 of which are in fragile and conflict-affected states
  • 7,404 long-term jobs created.

To view PIDG’s Annual Report 2016 go to www.annualreport.PIDG.org.


June 2017

21 June 2017

NIGERIA: After the budget is signed, better news about the numbers | Africa Confidential

By Patrick Smith
Editor of Africa Confidential 

We start in Nigeria on a rare high note – at least on the economic plane – and then go to Tanzania, where President John Magufuli's government is stepping up his campaign of resource nationalism. In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma is also playing the resource nationalist card while in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel sees great potential for a more constructive relationship between Europe and Africa.

NIGERIA: After the budget is signed, better news about the numbers
In stark contrast to the febrile political climate, the economic data in Nigeria are looking at their most positive since President Muhammadu Buhari came to office two years ago. Some of that is due to longer-term trends: oil prices have strengthened and production is up while investment in farming and agro-processing is beginning to pay off.

Shorter term factors are also helping. Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo signed the 7.44 trillion naira (US$23.6 billion) budget for 2017 on 12 June and that will release disbursements from the government's capital spending programme of N2.2 trn., a record figure. As those disbursements – many on roads, power stations and social investment – sluice through the system, they should create jobs and boost incomes, giving a much-needed lift to local economies across the federation. Of course, much will depend on how the spending is managed.

Both international and Lagos-based market analysts are putting out increasingly upbeat analyses of the country's economic prospects, much of them based around the combined effects of more spending on infrastructure, far higher agricultural production and the launching of Aliko Dangote's 500,000 barrel-a-day oil refinery and petrochemical plant next year. After 18 months in the doldrums, the Nigerian Stock Exchange is bouncing back, registering gains week after week.

Yet there are plenty of questions about the better data. For example, inflation fell to 16.25% in May, its lowest figure for a year. Food prices, however, remain extremely high across the country and are rising at a faster rate than the baseline inflation figure.

This matters because for many families, food is the biggest item of expenditure. Higher local food prices seem to be linked with the growing volumes of food that is being exported to Nigeria's neighbours, which has created some local shortages. In the medium term, higher food prices could encourage more people to go into farming.

Another concern is what happens to the naira-dollar exchange rate. As better economic news trickles out, along with big government disbursements, the naira has strengthened: the parallel market rate is currently N367=US$1. It remains an open question whether the strengthening of the currency reflects the more positive economic mood or is just a function of the government's releasing hundreds of millions of dollars. For now, officials in Abuja say their much criticised exchange rate policy has been vindicated.

TANZANIA: President Magufuli's new claims against Acacia Mining presage tougher resource nationalist measures
After giving full support to a committee which claims that the state has been losing hundreds of millions of dollars in mining taxes and royalties, President Magufuli is set to extend the scope of his campaign of resource nationalism to the oil and gas sector.

This follows the release of a government committee report on 12 June concluding that Acacia Mining had failed to declare some 40% of its production to the authorities. 'These people are ruthless,' Magufuli said in a live broadcast of the release of the report, '…They have taken all the gold and other minerals but revenues, taxes, they didn't pay.' The committee's conclusions extend across the entire mining sector, although Acacia is in the government's sights in the short term.

The report recommends that Acacia and the government should open arbitration on what it says are outstanding dues; this should be handled by Tanzania's courts, it adds.

For its part, Acacia denies all wrongdoing but is taking the report extremely seriously. 'Acacia remains open to further dialogue with the government regarding these issues and continues to assess all its options.' Top company officials met with Magufuli's team after the report came out last week and talks are continuing.

SOUTH AFRICA: Nationalist Mining Charter draws fire from the companies
With his new mining charter, Mines Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, a close ally of President Jacob Zuma, is trying out a similar blend of local politics and resource nationalism in South Africa.

Launched on 15 June, the Charter stipulates that all mining companies in the country should ensure that 30% of their shares are held by black South Africans (that's up from current threshold of 26%), and they should award 80% of their spending on services to black-owned companies and ensure that over half their top management are black. It would also end the 'once-empowered, always-empowered' principle that allows a mainly white-owned company to comply with ownership rules by selling its equity to black investors, even if they later sell it on to other white investors.

Zwane's Charter has predictably prompted loud criticism from the big mining companies, which say they will challenge it in court. No one expects it to get passed into law in the short-term but it could prove smart politics for Zuma's allies, who are under pressure to put their 'radical economic transformation' agenda into practice.

For Zuma, the spectacle of his ministers battling with big mining companies might – temporarily – distract attention from the legions of corruption allegations that he faces in connection with his own business friends. The row over the Mining Charter is surfacing just as the African National Congress prepares for its big policy conference next month.

And in December, the ANC will hold its leadership elections. The two frontrunners for the party presidency are Zuma's ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. And every ANC member knows that Ramaphosa made his fortune from astute investments in the mining sector during the first round of black economic empowerment, which is now seen as having done little more than enrich a small elite.

AFRICA/GERMANY: Chancellor Merkel calls for revisions to EU-Africa trade deals
The Afro-German partnership is going from strength to strength after a conference and a series of bilateral meetings in Hamburg earlier this month. As host of the Group of 20 most industrialised countries next month, Germany wants to push Africa up the agenda. In fact, only one African state, South Africa, is a member of the G-20.

Trade and investment, not aid, dominate Germany's revived relations with Africa, although by some measures, Berlin is also the biggest giver of non-tied development assistance to Africa.

The Africa push is led by Merkel, who has already established a reputation for a more open-minded view on migration than many of her European counterparts. Cynics says this is more about Germany's requirements for labour than high moral principle.

Now Merkel has joined the two issues: she is calling for more focus on trade and development in Africa as a means to reduce the numbers of people trying to navigate the perilous waters of the Mediterranean between Libya and southern Europe. Last week, Merkel told fair-trade campaigners in Hamburg that she understood their complaints about the trade treaties between the European Union and Africa. She said the EU-Africa summit due to be held later this year should discuss how to renegotiate them.

In London last week, Ghana's Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta said that his country had been given fast-track membership of the Germany-Africa trade partnership scheme and would be accessing over $200 million in trade development credits. He said that Germany's apprenticeship programmes for high-level technical education offered a viable solution to the skills mismatch in his country.

Don't forget to check www.africa-confidential.com for our latest stories.