26 January 2012

US$5 million for Ghana biomass energy project

Accra, Ghana --- ESI-AFRICA.COM --- 25 January 2012 - Takoradi Renewable Energy Limited ‒ a subsidiary of the biomass producer and trader Africa Renewables Limited ‒ has secured a credit facility of US$5 million from Standard Chartered Bank in Ghana to support what it claims is its first biomass energy project in Africa.

After deals with GREL and Verdo Energy, the loan finalises AfriRen's Ghana distribution chain and should see the company double total biomass exports from Africa to Europe by 2016.

Founded in 2010, AfriRen will invest a total of US$8 million in its biomass extraction chain in Ghana, and will seek further funding of up to US$30 million in order to replicate the project across the West African region, benefitting from the upswing in European demand for biomass.

AfriRen harvests redundant rubber trees that are cut in order to prepare for replanting, and processes them into woodchips, helping displace the burning of coal and assisting Europe meet its renewable energy policy target.

The US$5 million credit facility is split into two components. Firstly a capital expenditure loan of US$3 million, which will be spent on a variety of new assets including development of their existing land near the port of Takoradi into a factory workshop and storage space for the woodchips.

The second component is a working capital facility of $2 million for operational expenses.

On being awarded the credit facility, COO Sonia Medina, said: “Standard Chartered has the credibility, reach and reputation we want. They are the leading bank in West Africa. Most importantly they have been extremely enthusiastic about our project and future plans from day one. The credit facility gives us a firm foundation while allowing us the freedom to expand quickly elsewhere in West Africa.”

The socio-economic advantages for both continents are unparalleled with Europe receiving a secure, long-term supply of biomass and Africa developing a sustainable green economy.

24 January 2012

Is Africa Important to Meeting China's Growing Food Demand?

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Africa will in the next decade increasingly play an important role in China’s long-term food security agenda as demand for food in the world’s most populous nation threatens to outstrip its supply, according to Standard Bank research analysts Simon Freemantle and Jeremy Stevens.

In their latest paper “China’s Food security challenge: What role for Africa?” published this week, Mr Freemantle and Mr Stevens write that China is facing serious strains on both the demand and supply side of its agricultural sector and will in the next few years have to look externally to supplement its sources of food supply.

“Rising incomes and urbanisation are leading to dramatic increases in food consumption in China. China now consumes the second most amount of food in the world, behind the USA. It is expected that by 2015, China’s total food expenditure will double to over US$1-trillion. Meanwhile, China is facing increasing strains on agricultural supply. Urbanisation and industrialisation are swallowing up farmland, and diminishing water tables. Between 1996 and 2006, China lost 9-million hectares of farmland,” they write.

While for now China can and will look to its own sources to provide for the bulk of new demand, it is increasingly evident that China will be unable to ensure low-cost food for its large population without ramping up external sources of nutrition. Consequently, the authors note, Beijing is expected to increasingly align its aid and outward investment in agriculture to access new opportunities.

They comment: “In Africa, two core areas create an allure for China. First, given the manner in which the continent’s agricultural sector has persistently underperformed, the provision of develop-mental and technical assistance allows Beijing an important avenue in fostering and building deeper bilateral ties. And, second, Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) immense and largely untapped agricultural potential is being increasingly viewed by China as a cog in an unfolding and inclusive food security strategy. For now, China’s strategy is overtly developmental, and, though commercialism inspires many of the cooperative farming projects, profits are generated almost entirely in local and regional markets.”

They note it is already clear that Beijing is seeking to build deeper relationships in agriculture with land-rich and politically stable countries that are friendly to China, such as Mozambique where China has made expansive agricultural investments.

They add that investments, backed by state-directed assistance, in these countries will increasingly look to produce the types of crops—such as soybeans and cotton—for which demand in China is elevated. Collaboration will also be pronounced in coffee, tea, rubber, wine, sisal; and tobacco production—emphasising select strengths already evident in Africa in the production of some of these commodities.

“Most of these initiatives will look to bolster China’s agricultural trade ties with Africa, though some, as has been evident in nascent moves in Latin America, will position Chinese firms to control the external source of production,” they write.

Mr Freemantle and Mr Stevens conclude that for Africa, managing Chinese interest in the agricultural sector will be critical. They note that Africa desperately requires capital and skills to elevate food security.

“The continent suffers from an acute lack of skills and capital in unlocking its inherent potential. Yet, as has been evident in many of the land leasing deals signed in SSA over the course of the past decade, too often investments are poorly structured, undervaluing the agricultural assets at stake. Managed well, partnerships with China can be meaningful. However, domestic food security must be placed first. Then, and leveraging Chinese aid, crops suited for China’s demand dynamics can and should be emphasised. Increasingly, green technology will provide cogent opportunities.”

18 January 2012

10 African business leaders and thinkers to follow on Twitter

A number of African executives are using micro-blogging platform Twitter to communicate their thoughts on business, politics and Africa’s development, as well as some more trivial subjects such as football.

1. Bob Collymore @bobcollymore

Position: CEO, Safaricom (Kenya)

Number of followers: 36,799

Interesting tweet: “@yegonstar: Hey @bobcollymore can i call you bobby for short???” How on earth can BOBBY be short for BOB??

2. Michael Jordaan @MichaelJordaan

Position: Chief Executive, First National Bank (South Africa)

Number of followers: 8,027

Interesting tweet: Rating agencies are paid to formalise the blindingly obvious, long after the markets have figured it out.

3. Trevor Ncube @TrevorNcube

Position: Chairman and Deputy Executive Chairman at Alpha Media Holdings (Zimbabwe) and M&G Media (South Africa)

Number of followers: 6,590

Interesting tweet: Am I the only one who thinks Sir Alex is enjoying gum more than football? #ManU #N’Castle

4. Chris Kirubi @CKirubi

Position: Africa’s 31st richest person (according to Forbes) with interests in a variety of industries (Kenya)

Number of followers: 21,693

Interesting tweet: A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship… What do you think? True or false?

5. Grant Pattison @GrantPattison

Position: CEO, Massmart (South Africa)

Number of followers: 775

Interesting tweet: Never Argue With A Fool – They Will Drag You Down To Their Level, Then Beat You With Experience!

6. Ashish J. Thakkar @AshishMaraGroup

Position: Founder and MD, Mara Group (Uganda)

Number of followers: 63

Interesting tweet: Being in #Dubai airport makes you think why we don’t have airports like this in #Africa. We need to adopt PPP’s and be more innovative.

7. Ory Okolloh @kenyanpundit

Position: Policy Manager, Google Africa (South Africa/Kenya)

Number of followers: 21,277

Interesting tweet: So if any reporter out there wants to do a non-overdone future of Africa story (hint don’t mention mpesa), youth bulge and farming is it.

8. Mteto Nyati @mteton

Position: MD, Microsoft South Africa (South Africa)

Number of followers: 329

Interesting tweet: Human beings try to control others but the human soul is hard wired to be free. Why do we waste time and effort ???

9. Mthuli Ncube @MthuliNcube

Position: Chief Economist and Vice President, African Development Bank (Tunisia)

Number of followers: 138

Interesting tweet: Africa’s ageing population is an opportunity for policy reforms and business opportunities in medical insurance and life assurance.

10. Linus Gitahi @LGtwits

Position: CEO, Nation Media Group (Kenya)

Number of followers: 2,566

Interesting tweet: It’s a paradox that the more disciplined I am, the more freedom I have…..similarly, the more I give, the more I seem to create wealth