Hundreds Dead in Ghana Infrastructure Failure

municipal workers cleaning massive open sewers. accra, ghana, photo by z/Flickr

municipal workers cleaning massive open sewers. accra, ghana, photo by z/Flickr

GHANA, Accra - In a similar pattern to other African capitals, Accra has snowballed to four million residents, doubling in size within the last 20-years. This growth means that Ghana's capital has a growing population that increasingly puts pressure on a city that still relies on a colonial-era drain and sewage system that covers only 15% of the city.

The weak system of open sewers and water streams leading out of the city are further impeded by the massive amounts of trash that have collected in them over the years. Due to this congested network, heavy rains and tropical storms in the area cause massive, widespread flooding across the capital that in turn results in casualties, ruined infrastructure and new disasters.

Earlier this month, a flood in Accra caused many people to take cover at a gas station. However, their refuge was foiled by the horribly poor infrastructure in the country as torrential rains seeped into the underground fuel tanks, and once accidentally lit, resulted in over 200 deaths.

After such a horrible accident, President John Mahama chose the next day to credit the disaster to zoning and gutters filled with debris, instead of bringing more of the weight onto political leadership. The government's track record is hard to ignore, though, as millions have been poured into the country over the years specifically for infrastructure, yet little is to be shown for it. There was the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project, worth $160 million, that was supposed to remove trash from the waterway and restore it to its pristine original state. Years later, mounds of debris remain and the lagoon continues to flood whenever it rains.

In a bizarre, similar scenario, the Ghanaian government promised the people a $595 million Drainage Alleviation Project, funded through the US' Import-Export Bank. The project would include storm drains, trash collection systems and a waste water treatment plant. The government launched the life-changing project with a grand ceremony in 2013, but as it turns out, they had not even applied for the loan yet.

Based on the millions of dollars of funding that have made it to the country, alongside the promises of the country's leadership, Ghanaians are left wondering what has happened to the proposed projects. Deaths and destruction from an issue that could be mitigated by proper drainage is inexcusable, and a clear display of leaders' lack of resolve and dedication to the country's water and sanitation systems.

Reforms Power Growth in Nigerian Energy Markets

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Ty Butler, Senior CorrespondentInternational Development and Conflict Last Modified: 16:32 p.m. DST, 06 September 2013

LAGOS, Nigeria - Nigeria’s long trek towards large-scale energy market reforms is witnessing rapid progress as the Power Holding Company of Nigeria finalizes the sale of 15 energy companies.

A total of ten distribution companies and five generation companies have been sold to private stakeholders as part of an eight year reform effort initiated by the country’s Electricity Power Sector Reform Act (EPSR).

The act seeks to increase private investment into Nigeria’s energy infrastructure in an attempt to address lagging electricity capacity. Brownouts are not uncommon in most Sub-Saharan African states, such inadequacies in power generation and transmission capabilities make it difficult for businesses, particularly manufacturing industries, to operate efficiently.

Publicly owned power companies faced large efficiency troubles in an atmosphere where subsidized tariff rates did not generate enough income to prevent power companies from operating at a financial loss. Such realities led to wide scale inefficiencies in energy companies, including poor maintenance which reduced overall energy capacities.

Low energy prices also made the market unattractive to private investment since companies could not expect to witness economic returns on any investments made. To address pricing distortions, Nigeria implemented the Multi-Year Tariff Order (MYTO) to gradually increase the cost of electricity, allowing the sector to become profitable for businesses to operate in.

To date, Nigeria has netted $2.73 billion through the sale of its energy assets. This money joins $1.6 billion in international loans which is slated to finance, among other things, new private-public partnerships and investments into new energy and gas infrastructure.

Nigeria’s reform efforts have not only attracted international bidders for public energy assets, but have boosted investor confidence as well, encouraging new energy construction efforts. The U.S. company General Electric has agreed to invest $1 billion over five years into a new manufacturing and assembly facility in the city of Calabar; a vote of confidence in Nigeria’s future economic prospects. General Electric has also partnered with the Nigerian firm Geometric Power Limited to construct a new 450 megawatt thermal power plant in Aba.

With over 162 million citizens, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, and one of the few in Sub-Saharan Africa with fairly large domestic consumer markets. This makes the country a prime location for the development of local small and medium scale businesses. Healthy domestic markets allow companies to form and compete with generally larger international companies. It also allows for infrastructure and service grouping known as economies of agglomeration to take place which reduces operational costs.

Power sector limitations and unreliability have traditionally bogged down Nigeria’s desire to promote growth outside of its considerable oil industry. With a more inviting and stable power sector, investor risks should decrease over time along with operational costs despite higher energy prices; allowing Nigeria an opportunity to better diversify its economic growth.

Follow Ty Butler on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Senior Correspondent: @TywButler

Jim Yong Kim, New World Bank President

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:16 AM EDT, 17 April 2012

Jim Yong Kim, President of World Bank, 2012WASHINGTON, DC – The World Bank announced today that they selected President Barack Obama’s nominee Jim Yong Kim to serve as its president. Mr. Kim has been selected to replace the out-going president Mr. Robert B. Zoellick.

Mr. Kim, a Korean-American doctor, will be the first leader of the institution who doesn’t come to the post with a financial pedigree. He successfully challenged the Nigerian nominee, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Colombia's former finance minister and development expert, Jose Antonio Ocampo.

“During the bank’s 68-year history, an American has always headed the institution, while the top job at its sister organization, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), traditionally goes to a European. But emerging economies have recently been contesting that informal arrangement at both the IMF and the World Bank and presenting their own candidates.” (Source: VOA)

Although, some of the Bank’s 187 members have expressed concern that Kim lacks the requisite financial acumen to head the institution, other view his tenure as the director of the World Health Organization and a co-founder of global non-profit Partners in Health as vital to his understanding of the needs of the countries to which the World Bank provides financial and technical assistance.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda gave a ringing endorsement of Kim, as he reflected upon the dedicated support he provided in helping Rwanda to restore its health system. He went so far as to say, “Kim is a true friend of Africa and well known for his decade of work to support us in developing an efficient health system in Rwanda."

When Kim headed the World Health Organization he successfully implemented a program to increase access to affordable HIV drugs in the developing world.  He was tenacious in his efforts to extend treatment for HIV and AIDS to over 7 million people in developing nations.

Kim’s nomination has become controversial, with opponents angered by the upset of the pro forma appointment of wealthy nominees being selected to lead the institution, and in the process enrich themselves and their cronies; and proponents who believe that it is time for a new selection process and applaud the US' bold move in nominating an unlikely candidate.

It is fitting that President Obama would take the bold step of appointing an outsider to ‘change’ an entrenched culture and reform an organization which has lost sight of its mission to assist countries better support and improve the lives of their citizenry.

Kim will begin his five-year tenure in July 2012.

Victoria Seeds | Josephine Okot

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:23 PM EDT, 13 March 2012

Baskets of Beans in Market, Photo by One.org

Baskets of Beans in Market, Photo by One.org

KAMPALA, Uganda - With the recent fervor over the viral Joseph Kony video, Uganda has shot to the forefront of many American’s consciousness. There are many tragedies occurring across the Continent, and we have focused most recently on the genocide that is occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In keeping with our mission, we strive for balanced reporting and to present positive stories of Africans making a difference in their lives and the lives of their communities.

Josephine Okot is the type of person of whom we are speaking. She is a Ugandan entrepreneur who invested a lot of sweat equity into building a company that promotes sustainable agriculture through seed delivery. She founded Victoria Seeds Ltd in 2004, and has grown the company from a struggling start-up which could not get bank financing to become Uganda’s leading seed house marketing over 90 seed varieties of cereal, legume, horticultural, oil and forage crops in the domestic and regional market.

Although, Ms. Okot’s business model is based upon helping farmers grow bot staple and cash crops, her company is essentially modeled after agro-dealers in other emerging markets who seek to increase market share and profits by educating their consumers. Victoria Seeds provides management skills and farming techniques to help them increase their yields and bring their product to market more profitably.

In 2006, according to their website they “opened a Sales Outlet in 2006 at Nakivubo place to facilitate seed delivery to agro-dealers. They also established a research facility thereafter at Kawanda in 2007 to research and develop new varieties adapted to our environment. The company commissioned a seed processing and research facility in Gulu in 2008 to improve seed availability to communities resettling in Northern Uganda and started engaging largely women in the regional seed industry supply chain.”

In an interview, Ms. Okot said that one of her beliefs is that business can only survive when society thrives. She is also passionate about women’s empowerment. In a small town bordering Sudan, her company is helping women who were previously living in refugee camps surviving off the UN’s World Food Aid program, can now farm and provide for their food as well as monetary needs.

These women, during the height of the conflict in Northern Uganda, were no longer able to care for themselves or their children. Like the DRC, weaponized rape was used to control and subdue the populace, and when women left the camps in search of firewood or water, they were at great risk of being raped and violently killed.

Victoria’s Seeds also provides training because these women are not professional farmers, and many employ the practice of broadcast planting which is very ineffective. They are instructed in the proper planting of crops in rows that are well spaced. They are also being trained to plant single crops per field to increase yield and quality.

According to the company, ‘in 2011 they opened a third Processing and marketing facility in Masindi Town to expand its processing capacity and meet the increasing country demand for improved seed.” We have featured Ms. Okot and Victoria’s Seeds because of her company’s core mission of empowering rural women.

Visit Victoria’s Seeds official website here.

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Japan still coping with human, economic costs of tsunami one year later

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Japan has also been impacted by the global economic downturn, and the Tohoku quake has further exacerbated its economic recovery efforts.

In addition to the socioeconomic challenges, Japan must now contend with the daunting task of clean-up of the ongoing level 7 meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex where the tsunami flood waters are now leaking radioactive waste into the ground water.

Legarde's IMF Jenga Gambit

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:49 AM EDT, 22 February 2012

FRANCE, Paris - In the latest Greek Tragedy, aka the 'Greek Deal,' the Troika seems determined to ignore the adage of “not pouring good money after bad.”

Greece, Ireland and Portugal are the first three countries in the euro zone to agree to ‘bailout’ plans with the so-called Troika consisting of the European commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which place them under the direct tutelage of their creditors.

Although exact figures haven’t been publicly disclosed, it is believed that after this second bailout Greece will owe a total of €50 billion to the IMF, and according to German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, bailout No. 2 for Greece will be roughly €23 billion.

The IMF, ECB and European Commission have concluded that Greece's debt could hit 160% of GDP by 2020.  Even with recently implemented austerity measures which many claim are not substantive enough, Christine Legarde, the IMF’s managing director, seems poised to infuse additional capital into Greece’s foundering economy.

On Tuesday, Legarde issued the following statement, “The combination of ambitious and broad policy efforts by Greece, and substantial and long-term financial contributions by the official and private sectors, will create the space needed to secure improvements in debt sustainability and competitiveness.”

The obfuscated motivation behind the IMF’s desire to hurriedly conclude months of bailout negotiations despite Greece’s reticence and its likely inability to repay anything close to 100 cents on the drachma, has some questioning the deal.

According to financial news sources, this infusion has less to do with Greece and more to do with the rescue of the rest of Europe in an effort to prevent massive defaults and/or an exodus from the euro. Despite deep criticism, Legarde is faced with the same dilemma President Barak Obama wrestled with early in his presidency – capital infusion via bailouts or risk the total collapse of the economic system.

Legarde, as the IMF managing director is gambling that these measures will ensure the preservation of a 17-nation euro zone. Though many would argue that this is not central to the IMF's core mission, the global economies are so interdependent that like the game of Jenga, without careful positioning and risky calculations, it could all come tumbling down.

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The Cow of 'Ism'

Author UnknownLast Modified: 13:52 p.m. DST, 26 August 2014

SOCIALISM

You have 2 cows.

The state takes one and gives it to your neighbor. The neighbor loses the cow and wants another one.

COMMUNISM

You have 2 cows.

The State takes both and gives you some milk for your work, instead of a paycheck.

FASCISM

You have 2 cows.

The State takes both and makes you buy the milk.

NAZISM

You have 2 cows.

The State takes both and puts you in prison work camp until you like the idea of buying the milk.

STATISM

You have 2 cows.

The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and stores the milk. The milk goes bad, and they throw the milk away...

TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM

You have two cows.

You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.

AN AMERICAN GLOBAL CORPORATION

You have two cows.

You sell one, to retire the debt, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. You grant yourself more stock options, and later you hire a consultant to analyze why the cow has dropped dead.

ENRON VENTURE CAPITALISM

You have two cows.

You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.

The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.

The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more.

You sell one cow to buy a new President of the United States, leaving you with nine cows.

No accounting is provided with the release of the annual report. You then sell your bull to the public through an IPO of one of your new shell corporations.

A FRENCH CORPORATION

You have two cows.

You go on strike, organize a riot, and use your farm tractors to block the roads, because you want three cows, and you know the government will cave...

A JAPANESE CORPORATION

You have two cows.

You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.

You then create a clever cow cartoon image called 'Cowkimon' and market it worldwide.

You announce a recall on the cows for a battery firmware issue.

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First Published: 6 February 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

A GERMAN CORPORATION

You have two cows.

You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.

You go on a camping trip with the family.

AN ITALIAN CORPORATION

You have two cows, but you don't know where they are.

But then you remember that it doesn’t really matter and decide to have lunch with friends.

A RUSSIAN CORPORATION

You have two cows.

You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 2 cows. You stop counting cows and go get more vodka on credit.

A SWISS CORPORATION

You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you.

You charge the owners for storing them, while you milk the cows for big money. The poorest people you know drive a Mercedes.

A CHINESE CORPORATION

You have two cows.

You have 300 people milking them. You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported the facts.

AN INDIAN CORPORATION

You have two cows.

You worship them and go hungry.

A BRITISH CORPORATION

You have two cows.

Both are mad. You institute a news blackout, as a public service, until everyone forgets.

AN AUSTRALIAN CORPORATION

You have two cows.

Business seems pretty good. You close the office, call up your mates, and go to the pub for a few beers to celebrate.

A GREEK CORPORATION

You have two cows.

You borrow against the cows from the Germans. You kill the cows, make Souvlaki, and invite everyone over for a big party. You no longer have an income stream.

You can’t pay the interest so the Germans lend you more money. You can’t pay the interest so the Germans lend you more money. You can’t pay the interest so the Germans lend you more money. You can’t pay the interest so the Germans lend you more money.....

Return to Page 1 »

Follow Ayanna on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias