Jan 27, 2020

Today, Africa is seen as one of the most promising regions for hotel developers. Aside from small chains and independents, four global hotel groups dominate signings and openings on the continent.

Over the last four rolling quarters, as of September 2019, Accor, Hilton, Marriott International and Radisson Hotel Group have opened 2,800 rooms and signed deals for 6,600 rooms. Across Africa, hotel development remains important in most advanced economies, such as Morocco and South Africa; and projects are multiplying in East Africa, especially in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

In West Africa, Nigeria is back on the development scene thanks to emerging regional destinations beyond Abuja and Lagos. Francophone Africa is also moving fast. The Ministry of Tourism of Ivory Coast has launched an ambitious national plan for tourism development, Sublime Cote d’Ivoire, and already announced over US$1bn investment in the sector. Senegal is the other regional star, with local programmes such as Diamnadio, Lac Rose near Dakar and Pointe Sarene. Other countries showing active hotel development include Benin, Cameroon, Guinea, Niger, and Togo.  

Now, in an interview, Philippe Doizelet, Managing Partner, Hotels, Horwath HTL, West Africa’s leading hospitality consultant, in conjunction with the Forum de l’Investissement Hôtelier Africain (FIHA), the premier hotel investment conference in Francophone Africa, has identified four fundamental factors which are fuelling an increasing flow of investment into the hospitality sector in West Africa. They are, in alphabetical order: Air connectivity, Better economic growth, Currency and Demographics.

In the past few years, additional flight connections have transformed travel to and from West Africa, which, in the words of Philippe Doizelet, Managing Partner, Hotels, Horwath HTL, has been a game changer.

He said: “It used to be that the main hubs for flying between West African countries were Paris and Casablanca. However, thanks to the rapid growth of Ethiopian Airlines and other carriers, such as Emirates, Kenya Airways and Turkish, the situation has changed; and new routes are offered to travellers. For example, it is now possible to fly direct from New York to Abidjan, where the African Development Bank is located, and to Lomé, where the Central Bank of West African States (BOAD) is situated… and with increased travel comes increased commerce and demand for accommodation.” According to the UNWTO, international tourist arrivals in Africa grew by 7% in 2018, one of the fastest growth rates in the world together with East Asia and the Pacific.

The flight data analyst, ForwardKeys, recently confirmed that trend continuing. In 2019, African aviation experienced 7.5% growth and it is the stand-out growth market for Q1 2020. As at 1st January, international outbound bookings were ahead 12.5%, 10.0% to other African countries and ahead 13.5% to the rest of the world. As a destination, Africa is also set to do well, as bookings from other continents are currently ahead by 12.9%.

The second factor is the superior economic growth of many West African countries, which are expanding substantially faster than many of the world’s most advanced economies. According to World Bank data for 2018, several, such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Senegal are growing at 6% per annum or better, more than double the world average, 3%. That is a potent attraction to international investors. However, that’s not all; as prosperity grows domestically, so too does the local financial services industry. It then looks to invest client monies; and a good proportion of that capital gravitates towards real estate projects and, in turn, new domestic infrastructure. As those projects come to fruition, more prosperity is generated and so a virtuous cycle is stimulated, which acts as a catalyst for further economic development.

Currency is the third factor. Later this year, the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro, is planned to be dropped and 15 countries in West Africa (ECOWAS) will adopt the Eco, a new, free-floating, common currency, designed to reduce the cost of doing business between them and so increase trade. However, whilst there is great enthusiasm for the Eco, it is somewhat qualified because the economies of participating countries are at different stages of development and governments may find it difficult to adhere to agreed guidelines for managing their economies.

The fourth factor is demographics. The population is young and the fastest growing of any major world region. According to Philippe Doizelet, it is also characterised by a hunger to learn and confidence about the future. “People are seeing their standards of living improve and they are keen to seize opportunities. We are seeing that mindset reflected throughout the hospitality industry; it’s incredibly refreshing and it’s attracting business.” He said.

However, the picture is not all rosy. Horwath HTL also identifies four factors which threaten economic progress; they are security issues, political agenda, governance and increasing public debt. Although Africa today experiences much less conflict than it did three or four decades ago, when most African countries experienced war, some parts of the Sahel are still subject to security threats. On the political front, although democracy is continuing to spread, it is not yet the general rule everywhere, especially when come the times of major elections. Third is governance. Philippe Doizelet says: “When people are poor and the state is weak, there will be corruption, but I’m not convinced that it is much worse than in other parts of the world.” The fourth concern is rising public debt, much of which has been incurred as long-term loans from the Chinese to build infrastructure. That said, the debt to GDP ratio of many West African states is still less than many highly developed nations.

Matthew Weihs, Managing Director, Bench Events, which organises FIHA, concluded: “Africa is not the easiest place to do business, but it is an incredibly exciting place because the opportunities substantially outweigh the threats. Every time we organise a hotel investment forum, I see more hotel openings being announced and I meet new players keen to enter the market. The FIHA delegates are literally constructing the future of Africa in front of our eyes and anyone who attends the conference has the opportunity to join in.” FIHA takes place at the Sofitel Abidjan Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan, March 23-25.

Jan 27, 2020

Health authorities in China have revealed that the number of deaths arising from the outbreak of MERS & SARS-like disease known as Coronavirus across the country has increased from 56 to 80 as fears continue to rise over its spread.

In a statement issued on Monday, health officials revealed that the hard-hit province of Hubei announced 24 new fatalities, as it expanded measures to keep people at home during what is usually the country’s biggest holiday season.

The end of the Lunar New Year holiday, China’s busiest travel season, was pushed back to Sunday from Friday to “effectively reduce mass gatherings” and “block the spread of the epidemic”, a cabinet statement said. Schools will also postpone reopening until further notice, it added.

Officials also say no less than 2,700 people have been infected by the virus which President Xi Jinping said posed a “grave” threat, as the city of Shanghai reported its first fatality.

China confirmed 1,975 cases of patients infected with the new coronavirus as of January 25, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

The development comes after the Chief Executive of Hong Kong; Carrie Lam announced that the outbreak of Coronavirus is now an “emergency” for her semi-autonomous terrain.

Jan 27, 2020

Isabel dos Santos, 46, the daughter of Angola's long-running leader of 38 years, was mostly seen as untouchable in Luanda.

In fact, for most of her life, she represented both worlds.

She was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, during the Cold War era to a Russian mother and an Angolan father who would later become President.

She went to school in London, the centre of Western capitalism.

When she came back to Angola, her story goes, she begun from the grassroots, "sweeping the streets" of Luanda through her company, and later launched a popular restaurant known as Miami Beach.

She had made her money at 24.

LEAKED DOCUMENTS

But recently, the world has been treated to a trove of more than 715,000 documents showing a labyrinth of hundreds of companies around the world where money was reportedly laundered by Isabel.

Leaked documents showed how Ms dos Santos got access to lucrative land, oil, diamond and telecoms deals when her father, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, was president.

New York-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which published the 'Luanda Leaks' fingered Isabel, for looting her own country and using firms around the world to clean her money.

Suddenly, leading media houses in the West and around the world were starting to question whether Isabel dos Santos was worth $2.2 billion or whether she was in deed the 75th most influential woman in the world as claimed by Forbes magazine.

So how did the Angolans see it?

LOOTING

First, it wasn't news. Rumours of looting by the former president's family and his ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) had been a subject of hushed discussions throughout dos Santos' 38-year rule.

In 2008, local journalist Rafael Marques created a whistleblowing website Maka Angola, where volunteers helped build a strong narrative against the integrity of the dos Santos. Few outside Angola believed him.

"Inevitably, this is the end of one empire and the political end of one family that has caused harm to Angola and to its people due to their excessive greed," Marques told the Nation in a phone interview, hopeful that the world could help pressure her into submission.

Some activists in Angola, muzzled during dos Santos reign just like journalists, said she did not "eat alone", even though targeting her could create a better public perception for the government.

CORRUPTION IN ANGOLA

"Corruption in Angola is a general thing and involves the state circles and the MPLA circles," Mr Carlos Rosado, an Angolan journalist who worked with ICIJ on the project, told Novo Jornal newspaper.

"I am not one of those who would think there is a selective persecution. We had to start from somewhere and I understand that it starts from Isabel dos Santos. That is the most reported case now but the judicial authorities have to expand the investigation scope to other sectors and personalities," Rosado said.

Isabel was often unreachable and untouchable.

Hiding behind a father who was the head of state, she simply chose to sue for any perceived malicious reporting or use state organs to harass critics.

In the wake of the recent scandalising stories, however, she has been all over fighting back the accusations.

In an interview with the BBC, she claimed the trove of files were stolen papers to orchestrate "witch hunt" against her and her father.

In Angola, Isabel's assets include a 25 per cent stake in Unitel, one of the southern Africa state's two mobile phone networks, and a 25 per cent stake in Banco Internacional de Credito (Banco BIC), 51 per cent in BFA and 99.9 per cent in Zap Media.

ACCOUNTS FROZEN 

Last month, prosecutors froze her bank accounts and assets along with her husband's (Sindika Dikolo) after a court ordered she repays the state some $75 million in dodged taxes.

She did not appear in court and the decision was made in her absentia.

But she fought back the move in the mainstream media and social media, describing the freezing as baseless political vendetta.

"This is an orchestrated and well-coordinated political attack, ahead of elections in Angola next year. It is an attempt to neutralise me and to discredit the legacy of President Dos Santos and his family," she argued.

"I am a private businesswoman who has spent 20 years building successful companies from the ground up, creating over 20,000 jobs and generating huge tax revenue for Angola. Last year my businesses paid over $100 million in tax."

Her fall from grace began shortly after her father left the seat in 2017.

SACKED

His successor, João Lourenço, sacked her as chair of the state-owned oil firm Sonangol in 2018.

Angolan Attorney- General Hélder Pitta Grós says she laundered money, forged documents and committed other economic crimes and maladministration during her stewardship of state-owned oil firm Sonangol.

Alexandre Neto, a political analyst in Luanda, told the Nation that the decisive move by authorities was an opportunity to launch a new governance system in Angola.

Her dealings in Portugal and elsewhere suggest the network for corruption was beyond Angola.

"Ms Isabel dos Santos revelations show that there is an international corruption web that goes beyond investigations in Angola", Mr Domingos da Cruz, a lecturer at state-owned Agostinho Neto University and activist said after the documents showed she profited from Western auditing firms.

"It is not a surprise that western governments, and companies, participated in what is now being seen as corruption for Ms Isabel dos Santos, her family and friends, and members of the former government," Mr da Cruz said.

Locally, Angola's perennial corruption means anyone else in power could steal.

TI INDEX

Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 released Thursday ranks Angola 146 out of 180 countries, just 19 positions better than it was in 2018.

In fact, the ruling MPLA is handling the matter cautiously. Its top officials refused to talk about it.

MPLA spokespeople refused to return calls by journalists.

And Mr Manuel da Cruz Neto, an MPLA legislator only said "I have no details about this and I don't comment on media cases".

Opposition MPs, however, say Luanda Leaks purge has to spread to other Angolan individuals who allegedly siphoned money from the state.

LOCAL HENCHMEN

Mr Liberty Chiaka Angolan of the main opposition party Unita said there were local henchmen.

"It involves a lot of people. The corruption fight should not be done in a selective manner but broadly and this means employing deeper political changes," he said, lamenting how details of fraud were published by foreigners rather than the local Attorney-General's office.

Ahead of elections next year, Ms Dos Santos hinted she could run for President.

But she has been exiled since her father left the seat and the MPLA claimed only the party president becomes a presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, Ms Dos Santos has accused everyone publishing information from the leaked documents as either racist or part of a political witch-hunt to finish her.

 

Source: Daily Nation

Jan 27, 2020

The Sudanese government signed a preliminary deal with one rebel group on Friday, a move that is seen as the possibility for reconciliation in Sudan.

The deal, signed by Sudan’s ruling council and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) conveys special status to two regions: South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Both were already partly under control of rebel groups, and the sites of years of conflict.

"After this signing we are going to finalise the full agreement and the SPLM-North will be part of the new system in Khartoum," said Yasir Arman, deputy head of SPLM-N, at the ceremony.

This new status means that the two special regions will be able to draft their own laws, with an aim to resolving ongoing land disputes in the area, said Arman.

The process towards this first step began in October when the ruling council and the rebel groups re-started talks in an effort to end the conflicts.

"The government of Sudan is more willing than before to reach a peaceful settlement in Sudan", said General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, a major figure in the transition council and the head of the government delegation at the peace talks.

Another key point to the agreement is to unify the militias and government troops into one military, said Arman.

One voice absent from the ceremony was Abdelaziz al-Hilu of a rival SPLM-N rebel group who makes up the majority of fighters on the ground.

 

Credit: RFI

Jan 27, 2020

Lake Victoria, in East Africa, is the world’s largest tropical freshwater lake. At 68,800km², it’s also the second largest freshwater lake in the world after Lake Superior in North America.

On a clear day you cannot see the other side of Lake Victoria, yet this vast body of water has dried up several times in the past – and it could happen again.

Over the past 100,000 years, the lake has completely dried up at least three times. Each time it was probably replaced by a vast grassland.

My colleagues and I found that the lake could dry up again in as little as 500 years because of changes in temperature, rainfall and orbital forcing – the effect on climate of slow changes in the tilt of the Earth’s axis. Our predictions are based on historical and geologic data from the last 100,000 years.

Inadequate and conflicting data on long term weather trends make it hard to be conclusive. And we can’t be sure of how climate will change in the future due to human actions without more data. Over the past few decades, the frequency of drought in East Africa has increased but climate models project an overall increase in rainfall over the next century for this area.

Previous studies on Lake Victoria’s future water levels have been done, but didn’t have evidence for past changes in rainfall or include orbital forcing.

Based on historical and geologic observations, our findings show that Lake Victoria can dry up very quickly with small decreases in annual rainfall. Knowing whether rainfall is going to increase or decrease over the next 100 years becomes very important.

Today about 30 million people in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania rely on the lake for fishing, irrigation, drinking water and, in Uganda, electricity. Lake Victoria is also the source of one of the River Nile’s major tributaries, the White Nile. About 250 million people rely on the Nile in Ethiopia, Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt.


Read more: In the future there will be more rain, but less water, in the Nile Basin


Huge population growth is expected in the region. All these people will increasingly rely on the lake because the region is warming and may receive less annual rainfall due to global climate change.

Factors that affect the lake level

For our research, we needed to examine all the factors that could affect the size and level of Lake Victoria, including rainfall, temperature, evaporation and rivers flowing into and out of the lake.

The main inflow is the Kagera River, which drains the highlands of Rwanda and Burundi. The White Nile flows out of the lake. It also loses a lot of water to evaporation which, at the equator, is very high due to intense sunlight – almost equal to the amount of rainfall falling on the lake.

From previous research we knew that the lake dried up twice, at 17,000 and 15,000 years ago.

To reconstruct lake levels as far back as 18,000 years, scientists examined diatoms (a type of algae) collected from the bottom of the lake to see how fresh or brackish the water used to be. Brackish diatoms indicate lower lake levels because the water becomes saltier as the water evaporates.

Our new research examined the chemistry of fossil soils along the edge of the lake to understand past changes in the amount of rainfall. Because the orbit of the Earth around the sun has varied, we also looked at how sunlight reaching the Earth has changed, and will change.

Using all this information we were able to create a model of the lake’s past, present, and future.

Drying up

Our findings show that the amount of annual rainfall in the Lake Victoria Basin must continue to be at least 75% of current rainfall amounts (105 cm each year) or the lake will disappear.

Once the lake has dried up rainfall needs to be at least 131 cm every year to refill the lake. Depending on other changes in the weather, this could take between hundreds and thousands of years. If there was less than 94% of today’s rainfall, it would take at least 10,000 years to refill.

Climate models all predict an increase in temperature over the next 100 years, which will affect evaporation for this region.

Previous drops in lake levels over the last 60 years were caused by a natural decrease in annual rainfall and by Uganda releasing more than the agreed upon water to generate electricity. We found that if previously observed natural rates of lake level fall are projected into the future, the White Nile could stop flowing out of Lake Victoria in as little as 10 years at the fastest rates. But we need more research to know just how likely this is.

Delicate balance

Our research shows just how delicate the balance is between rainfall and evaporation for Lake Victoria. The lake could dry up in as little as 500 years. But the consequences of falling levels for people living around it would begin much sooner.

For Uganda, this would mean the loss of its primary source of electricity. The White Nile also sustains the Nile during the dry seasons.

In as little as 100 years, the major port cities around Lake Victoria could lose access because the lake has shrunk. Currently these cities depend on the income generated from the fishing industry and fresh water.

Kenya could lose all access to the lake in 400 years. This sets up a potentially dangerous dynamic between Kenya and Uganda, which already fight over fishing rights – very lucrative due to the 1 million pounds of fish harvested from the lake every year.

Increased monitoring

There is an urgent need for a greater understanding of how rainfall will change in this region. Lake Victoria’s continued existence is directly related to rain and evaporation.

We need to increase monitoring of temperatures, precipitation and other weather data, such as humidity, in the region. We must also measure the water flowing into and out of Lake Victoria via all the rivers.

A greater understanding of the lake’s history would also improve our ability to understand any patterns in the lake drying up. Deeper drilling for sediment samples would provide information to help us predict and prepare for the potential future of Lake Victoria.The Conversation

 

Emily J. Beverly, Assistant Professor, University of Houston

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Jan 26, 2020

Zimbabwe’s central bank has frozen an account of a Chinese company it accused of manipulating the local currency, which lost ground against the dollar on the black market last week.

The southern African nation reintroduced the Zimbabwe dollar last June, ending a decade of dollarisation, but this resulted in runaway inflation, which economists say reached 520% in December.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor John Mangudya, in a statement late on Friday, singled out unlisted China Nanchang as a currency manipulator.

Mangudya said the RBZ financial intelligence unit (FIU) had identified Nanchang as a company that had used millions of Zimbabwe dollars to buy greenbacks on the black market, weakening the local unit.

Nanchang is the major contractor for the construction of a dam that is set to supply water to Zimbabwe’s drought-hit second biggest city Bulawayo, among other government contracts.

“The FIU has ordered the freezing of the identified account pending further analysis and is undertaking ongoing surveillance to identify more culprits involved in the parallel market transactions,” Mangudya said.

The central bank did not say if the account was held with RBZ or with another bank.

A spokesman for Nanchang could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Zimbabwe dollar was trading at 25 to the U.S. dollar on the black market on Saturday compared to 22 last week. On the official market, the local currency was pegged at 17.

Last year, the central bank temporarily froze accounts belonging to four companies over the same charges.

A weakening currency along with shortages of cash, foreign exchange, fuel and electricity are among symptoms of Zimbabwe’s worst economic crisis confronting President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

 

Reuters

Jan 26, 2020

A billionaire has offered to pay striking doctors in Zimbabwe to help end a months-long protest over grave hospital conditions as the economy crumbles, and a doctors' group on Thursday said it was encouraging members to embrace the money and return to work.

But Dr. Masimba Ndoro, vice president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, warned that “nothing much has changed” in the conditions at public hospitals that include the lack of basic items such as bandages and gloves.

Relatives of patients are still expected to buy such items and, in some instances, bring buckets of water as Zimbabwe's once-envied health care system reflects the southern African nation's general collapse.

“It breaks a doctor’s heart to ask a patient who clearly cannot afford bread to buy their own blades, bandages and even dressing solutions, painkillers and antibiotics,” Ndoro said.

Doctors abandoned work four months ago to press for better salaries and working conditions, saying their roughly $100 monthly pay is not enough to get by. The action became one of Zimbabwe's longest doctors’ strikes in history.

The majority of people in Zimbabwe already are battling to put food on the table, let alone afford expensive private medical care or drugs.

“It is in the interests of both the patients and the doctors to go back to work,” Ndoro told The Associated Press.

He said his organization, which represents about 1,600 junior doctors at public hospitals, is asking members to accept the offer by Zimbabwean telecoms billionaire Strive Masiyiwa.

Masiyiwa through his charity late last year offered to pay doctors a “monthly subsistence allowance” of roughly $300. Doctors are also offered transport to and from work.

The Higherlife Foundation charity announced Tuesday that it had reopened the offer, which more than 300 doctors had signed up for before it closed in December.

Ndoro said more needs to be done to fix the health sector.

Often the best a doctor can do is diagnose and write a prescription for patients who usually ask relatives for help to buy drugs at private pharmacies, where prices are steep because of shortages at public hospitals.

Critics say the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy is making hollow President Emmerson Mnangagwa's promises to change the country's fortunes when he took power in 2017 after longtime leader Robert Mugabe stepped down under pressure.

Since then, inflation has spiked to about 500% amid shortages of gas, food and even drinking water. Electricity cuts of up to 18 hours a day have led some rural hospitals to ask relatives to take bodies to private funeral parlors or conduct quick burials to keep them from decomposing in their mortuaries.

Health Minister Obadiah Moyo on Wednesday told the state broadcaster that the situation is improving.

“They (doctors) are back in full force. We want to be able to work together as one team, everyone has a role to play,” he told the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.

But many doctors and other health professionals such as nurses seem to share little of the minister’s optimism and are looking for a way out.

“I don’t have the actual numbers but many doctors have left the country,” Ndoro said. “A lot are pursuing greener pastures. They may not yet have left, but they are definitely going to leave.”

 

AP

Jan 25, 2020

Nigeria professional footballer, Kelechi Iheanacho has set a personal record as his fourth-minute effort gave Leicester City the victory in Saturday’s FA cup match against Brentford.

Iheanacho handed Leicester City a fourth-minute lead and lifted the team to the fifth round of the FA cup after receiving a cross from James Justin and his left-footed shot from inside the six-yard box beat goalkeeper Luke Daniels.

The 23-year-old has now scored nine goals in his nine FA Cup starts, including from his days as a Manchester City player.

The Nigerian striker would also be hoping to extend his goal tally to eight this season when Leicester visit Aston Villa for Tuesday’s English League Cup semi-final return leg.

However, despite dominating possession against Thomas Frank’s team, it ended 1-0 in favour of the King Power Stadium outfit.

The former English champions are third in the English top-flight log with 48 points from 24 outings.

After the match, Iheanacho took to Twitter to celebrate the victory, he wrote: “Great work out there, on to the next round. Thanks to our fan for there support.”

The Federal Government of Nigeria has revealed her plan to borrow N2 trillion from the current N10 trillion pension funds to finance the development of infrastructure.

#WorldPressNews learnt that this was disclosed at the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting presided over by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, on Thursday in Abuja.

Briefing newsmen at the end of the NEC meeting in Abuja, Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, stated that the decision of the Federal Government to pull N2 trillion out of the pension funds was reached by a NEC sub-committee.

According to El-Rufai, the country will never be able to address its road infrastructure deficit with the current budgetary allocation for road construction and maintenance. He explained that with the N200 billion in the 2019 budget and N169 billion in 2020 budget, roads cannot be properly fixed.

“In 2019 budget, N200 billion was budgeted for construction and maintenance of federal highways. In 2020, the budget is N169 billion. If we continue this way, we will never be able to fund highway infrastructure. We need to unlock funds to construct and maintain highways.“We will never be able to construct and maintain highways with N200 billion every year. Highway infrastructure and maintenance can only be done with long term funds.”

Speaking on the rationale to borrow from the N10 trillion pension fund, El-Rufai stated that the decision followed an interim report earlier presented to the council, and the decision to borrow N2 trillion from the pension fund was in compliance with the Pension Reform Act 2004, which empowers the government to borrow 20% of the fund to address national issues.

According to him, various countries of the world such as Chile and South Africa funded their infrastructure growth by borrowing money from workers’ pension funds. El-Rufai also stated that with Nigeria’s pension funds largely dominated by youths in their 30s, who still have several years ahead of retirement, utilising the funds for infrastructure would not generate any problem.

Other infrastructures mentioned by the El-Rufai included rail and power projects. According to him, the committee had identified three areas (rail, road and power) where the pension funds would be invested, He added that the borrowing would be done through bonds with private companies investing in road and rail infrastructure and paying within a period of 20 years.

While lamenting on the moribund state of infrastructures in the country, El-Rufai stated that in the last three years, the Federal Government had invested N1.7 trillion in the power sector, without any meaningful effect. According to him, the committee has thrown open consultations on how to fix the endemic crises plaguing the power sector, by inviting memoranda from the general public.

The latest move by the government shows revenue crisis in Nigeria continues to linger. In spite of Nigeria’s burgeoning debt profile, which currently stands at over N26.2 trillion, the figure is expected to hit a new height in 2020.

Jan 25, 2020
British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has signed agreement for the nation to leave the European Union next week Friday.
 
Johnson, on Friday hailed “a new chapter” in Britain’s history as he signed its divorce deal with the EU, clearing another hurdle ahead of the country’s departure from the bloc next Friday.
 
Johnson signed the agreement in Downing Street in front of European and British Foreign Office officials who had brought it from Brussels.
 
EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel had put their names to the treaty at a ceremony held behind closed doors in the dead of night.
 
“The signing of the withdrawal agreement is a fantastic moment, which finally delivers the result of the 2016 referendum and brings to an end far too many years of argument and division,” Johnson said in a statement.
 
“This signature heralds a new chapter in our nation’s history,” he added on Twitter.
 
AFP reports that the treaty would now return to Brussels, where the original would be kept in EU archives along with other international treaties, while three copies would be dispatched back to London.
 
On Wednesday next week, the text will go to the European Parliament for ratification and on Thursday diplomats from the EU member states will approve the deal in writing.
 
Then, on Friday, January 31, Britain spends its last day in the EU before leaving the bloc at 2300 GMT as clocks strike midnight in Brussels.
 
“Charles Michel and I have just signed the agreement on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, opening the way for its ratification by the European Parliament,” European Commission president Von der Leyen tweeted.
 
In a separate tweet, European Council president Michel said: “Things will inevitably change but our friendship will remain. We start a new chapter as partners and allies.”
 
The former Belgian premier, whose council represents EU member governments, added, in French: “I’m keen to write this new page together.”
 
In another move to prepare Brussels for relations with Britain as an outside power, the European Commission named an ambassador — veteran diplomat Joao Vale de Almeida — to London.
 
Johnson signed with a Parker fountain pen, as is traditional for ceremonial signings in Downing Street, with staff including the prime minister’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost present.
 
Earlier in Brussels, the signing was conducted before dawn in the European Council’s headquarters, as chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier looked on.
 
No reporters or photographers were allowed to witness the low key ceremony, despite news agencies offering to organise a pool.
 
British voters backed leaving the European Union in a June 2016 referendum, and after lengthy negotiations and several delays Johnson’s new government plans to “get Brexit done” next week.
 
Queen Elizabeth II gave her formal assent to the British withdrawal legislation on Thursday and the EU is now expected to complete the final formalities in the coming days.
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