Monday, 24 September 2018

MTN will stop offering customers free Twitter usage.

“After providing free Twitter to millions of subscribers for an unprecedented four years, MTN’s industry-first free Twitter service will come to an end at midnight on 25 September,” said MTN.

MTN said it had over 13 million Twitter users on its network in August 2018, with 1.9 petabytes of data being used on the network per month.

“Overall usage trends towards video and images have determined that it is no longer feasible to offer a service like Twitter for free due to the cost and demand it places on the network.”

The cancellation of the free Twitter service follows MTN recently placing a 500MB daily usage cap on its free Twitter offering – following the exploitation of the service by hackers.

Published in Telecoms

“China equals Hitler” said the sign held up in the Zambian capital Lusaka by a protester opposed to Beijing’s tightening grip on the economy of the southern African nation.

The demonstrator, James Lukuku, who leads a small political party, was picked up by police and spent several hours in a cell reflecting on his one-man protest.

But he is not alone in opposing China’s growing presence in President Edgar Lungu’s Zambia and in particular its major programme of loans to Lusaka. 

In fact his criticism echoes concerns shared by many across swathes of Africa and beyond, where some fear that China’s mega-projects risk leaving already fragile economies in even worse shape.

“I want to bring to the attention of the international community the Chinese influence and corruption in Zambia,” said Lukuku who wore a white T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan #sayno2China.

China is the main investor in Zambia as it is in several other African countries and with its offers of “unconditional” aid, most public tenders are awarded to Chinese bidders.

In Lusaka and across the country, China is busy constructing airports, roads, factories and police stations with the building boom largely funded by Chinese loans.

‘These criminal debts’

“China is about to take everything from Zambia. They have taken over our economy through these criminal debts. This government is contracting debts from China even without parliamentary approval,” said Lukuku.

Zambian public debt is officially around $10.6 billion but suspicions have grown in recent months that the government is hiding its indebtedness — as happened in neighbouring Mozambique, which in 2016 was forced to admit it had kept secret $2 billion of borrowing.

Fearing that Zambia might be in a similar position, the International Monetary Fund at one point delayed talks over a $1.3 billion loan deal.

The slump in the price of copper, Zambia’s leading export, has led to fears that Lusaka might even struggle to service its existing debt.

Lukuku and his supporters believe that the state is on the verge of handing control of the Zesco national electricity company, Lusaka airport and the ZNBC state broadcaster to China.

Stung by the criticism that he was selling out to China, Lungu has hit back at critics.

“I implore you to ignore the misleading headlines that seek to malign our relationship with China by mischaracterising our economic cooperation to mean colonialism,” Lungu told lawmakers recently.

‘The dominance of Chinese’

Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe has also come out to insist that, in the first half of 2018, $342 million was paid in interest to creditors, of which 53 percent were commercial sector — and only 30 percent of which were Chinese.

But the country’s main opposition party has put China’s debt dominance at the forefront of its campaign to unseat the government.

Opposition figure Stephen Katuka warned against the “rate Zambia is entertaining Chinese nationals which are displacing Zambians through big financial offers”.

Katuka, who is the secretary general of the United Party for National Development, described the replacement of Zambian workers with Chinese labourers — as is customary on Chinese-run projects — as “a time bomb”.

“If this situation is allowed to degenerate, it may lead to aggression on foreign nationals,” he added.

There have been several high profile incidents of Chinese managers allegedly mistreating their Zambian workers.

“In some instances the Chinese are beating Zambians in places of work for simply failing to follow instructions,” said Katuka.

Typically reclusive, China’s ambassador to Lusaka Lie Jie was drawn into the growing furore to defend Beijing’s intentions.

“I feel strange when I hear we want to colonise Africa,” he told journalists recently, categorically denying that China was seeking to buy Zambia’s publicly-owned companies.

Economist and head of Zambia’s Private Sector Development Association Yosuf Dodia told AFP that Chinese investment should be seen as an opportunity not a burden. 

“Zambia has been dominated by the West for 100 years… and we are seeing poverty all over the continent,” he said.

“The partnership level is around $10 billion — and that is good. There is no other country that offers those kinds of opportunities.”

The benefit of such vast investment is not always felt on the ground, however.

“I am not happy with the dominance of Chinese contractors. In the first place, the money that they get from these contracts is externalised and all that they return here are meagre wages,” said Edgar Syakachoma, himself a contractor.

“Let the government also give us the contracts so that they benefit Zambians.”


Published in Economy

Rwanda’s economy grew by 6.7 per cent in the second quarter of 2018 with Gross Domestic Product at current market prices estimated at $2,268 billion, up from $2,119 billion in the second quarter of 2017. According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda the positive growth was a result of growth in all the three key sectors of the economy.

The performance represents rebound from the 4 per cent growth rate registered in the same period last year

The three sectors are agriculture, which grew by 6 per cent, industry that grew by 10 per cent, and services that grew by 5 per cent.

The Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Uzziel Ndagijimana, said that the economic growth posted reflects hope that the country will achieve the 7.2 per cent economic growth rate targeted for this year.

The growth in agriculture sector was mainly attributed to growth in food crops and export crops, with food crops growing by 6 per cent in season A, while export crops grew by 6 per cent mainly due to tea and coffee production.

The growth in industry was driven by manufacturing and construction activities which expanded by 12 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively.

Food processing, which was characterised by increased processing of cereals, tea, coffee and sugar were the main drivers of growth in the manufacturing sector.

The statistics body also said that the production of textiles, clothes and leather goods increased by 13 per cent, while production of construction materials, such as metallic products increased by 37 per cent.

It said that construction is picking up its momentum with an increase of 11 per cent in the second quarter of 2018 following an increase of 8 per cent observed in the first quarter of 2018.

Minister Ndagijimana described growth in the industrial sector as an expected result from the Made-in-Rwanda campaign, which has sought to promote domestic production.

“Manufacturing is growing through different measures to promote domestic production and manufacturing under the Made-in-Rwanda policy,” he said.

As for the growth in the services sector, it was due to growth of several activities, including wholesale and retail trade that increased by 11 per cent due to increase in tradable agricultural and manufactured products as well as transport activities that increased by 13 per cent boosted by air transport that increased by 17 per cent.

Growth in the services sector was also fuelled by information and communication activities that increased by 18 per cent, financial services that increased by 7 per cent, as well as public administration activities that increased by 4 per cent.

“The high increase is due to the fact that last year’s growth was very low,” the Deputy Director General of the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, Ivan Murenzi, said.

The economy is projected to grow 7.2 per cent this year, up from the 6.1 per cent posted last year.

Published in Economy
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