• 23
  • May

A lone male suicide attacker set off a homemade bomb in the foyer at 22:33 BST on Monday at the end of a concert by US singer Ariana Grande. Relatives are using social media to hunt for loved ones, and an emergency number, 0161 856 9400, has been set up.

The first victim has been named as student Georgina Callander. She was studying health and social care at Runshaw College in Lancashire.

  • 21
  • Nov

19 November 2015: From the BBC.com section Africa

The world's second-largest gem quality diamond has been discovered in Botswana, the Lucara Diamond firm says.

The 1,111-carat stone was recovered from its Karowe mine, about 500km (300 miles) north of the capital, Gaborone.

It is the biggest diamond to be discovered in Botswana and the largest find in more than a century.

The 3,106-carat Cullinan diamond was found in South Africa in 1905 and cut into nine separate stones, many of which are in the British Crown Jewels.

"The significance of the recovery of a gem quality stone larger than 1,000 carats, the largest for more than a century... cannot be overstated," William Lamb, the CEO of Lucara Diamond, a Canadian diamond producer, said in a statement.

Lucara says two other "exceptional" white diamonds - an 813-carat stone and a 374-carat stone - were also found at the Karowe mine.

"This has been an amazing week for Lucara with the recovery of the second largest and also the sixth largest gem quality diamonds ever mined," Mr Lamb said.

The stone is yet to be evaluated, but commodities and mining analyst Kieron Hodgson, told AFP news agency that "the potential to be one very expensive diamond."

In April a flawless 100-carat diamond was sold for $22.1m (£14.8m) at Sotheby's in New York.

The gem, originally mined in South Africa, had taken more than a year to cut, polish and perfect.

Botswana is the world's largest producer of diamonds and the trade has transformed it into a middle-income nation.

  • 11
  • Nov

November 9, 2015

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) said that efforts put in place by public and private sector institutions would help raise output of cashew nuts from the current 50,000 tonnes to 150,000 tonnes by 2025.

The Deputy Director in-charge of Cashew at MoFA, Mr Seth Osei Addo, made this assertion at a validation workshop in Accra, organised by the Cashew Industry Association of Ghana with support from the Africa Cashew Alliance and the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund, adding that the ministry was worried about the country’s inability to raise output figures to appreciable levels despite having a conducive environment that supported commercial production of the crop.

“This informed the decision to map out and apply strategies that aimed at raising output while supporting companies in the value chain to operate efficiently”, Addo said.

He listed increased supplies of cashew seedlings to farmers, introduction of improved and high-yielding varieties and financial support to players as some of the interventions that were being worked on by the industry.

Commenting on the country’s potential for cashew production, he said even though estimates showed that 60 districts in the country were conducive for cashew production, only districts in the Brong Ahafo Region were properly utilised, with 90 per cent of national output coming from that area alone.

According to him, the potential of the other regions is being underutilized and so called for concerted efforts by the public and private sectors to help reverse the trend.

Dr Gideon Kofi Agbley, an advocate of the local cashew industry, said government needed to also support cashew farmers with farming inputs which would help raise output while lessening the challenges they went through.

Dr Agbley stated that mass spraying exercises, supply of fertilisers and soft loans for farmers and processors are some of the interventions the country could use to help grow the industry.

He explained that with Côte d’ Ivoire insisting that cashew nuts would only be sold to Ghanaian processors at Pitts, the local processors would continue to suffer from lack of raw materials, hence the need to raise output in Ghana.

He advised that they have to step up negotiations with the Ivorian authorities to get them to rescind that decision and allow Ghanaian buyers to purchase the nuts from their borders.

“Currently, Côte d’Ivoire sees Ghana as a competitor and not an importer and they treat Ghana as such. We need to get them to change that through dialogue so that our processors can buy from them to process,” he said, "noting that his outfit would be taking up that challenge with authorities in that country,” he added.

Courtesy of http://footprint2africa.com/

BUSINESS EDITOR’S NOTE: Barotseland is endowed with immense potential for Cashew nut cultivation and commercialization

 

 

  • 30
  • Oct

Zambia consumer prices accelerated by the most in six years, pushed higher by a currency plunge and the southern African nation’s worst power crisis on record.

Yearly inflation quickened to 14.3 percent in October from 7.7 percent the previous month, John Kalumbi, director at the Central Statistical Office, told reports in Lusaka, the capital.

“The surge in inflation follows the rapid depreciation of the kwacha exchange rate,” Irmgard Erasmus, an economist at NKC African Economics, said in reply to e-mailed questions.

“The power crisis, and resultant increase in regulated costs, also fueled increases in input costs, and we subsequently expect further pressure on both food and non-food price inflation due to indirect and second-round effects.”

Zambia’s currency has dropped 49 percent against the dollar this year, making it the world’s worst performer. Falling prices of copper, which accounts for 70 percent of Zambian exports, and the power shortage have disrupted the economy.

Monthly inflation accelerated to 6.2 percent in October from 0.7 percent in in September. While the power shortage and currency slump may have played a role, the jump was mainly the result of businesses exploiting the drop in the kwacha, the statistics office’s Kalumbi said.

“It was purely speculation and greediness” on the part of businesses that increased their prices, as not all products are imported, he said.

The country is struggling to meet half of peak power demand as low water levels at hydropower dams curtail generation.

Courtesy of Zambian Watchdog

 

  • 28
  • Sep

The Kwacha has continued its free fall against major world currencies.

Today alone the Zambian Kwacha has devalued a couple of times to point where by it closed the day at K19.26 against One British pound.

According to FNB Zambia rates published today, Monday 28, 2015, at 16: 15 hours, one British Pound was selling for K19, 26 (or K19, 260 old currency).

The Euro was going for K14.16 ( K14, 169) while the bank was selling one USD Dollar for K12.66 ( K12, 660).

In Bureaux de change, one Dollar was fetching more than K15.

This trend is expected to get worse as there are no measures that have been put in place to arrest the situation.

Meanwhile, Moody’s Investors Service cut Zambia’s credit rating to B2, five steps below investment grade and said growth would fall below 5% for first time since 2002.

Moody’s said: “the key driver for the downgrade is our expectation that the trend of persistent fiscal deficits and deterioration in debt metrics witnessed over the past few years is likely to continue.’

  • 22
  • Jul

Powerful pro-independence coalition says it will start secession process after September local elections, in defiance of government in Madrid

By Guy Hedgecoe, Madrid - 5:37PM BST 21 Jul 2015

Catalan separatist leaders have vowed to make a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain after local elections in September, putting themselves firmly on a collision course with the central government in Madrid.

The leaders of the two main Catalan nationalist political parties and pro-independence grass roots groups on Monday unveiled a united platform for the September 27 election in the semi-autonomous region. Although the election is for seats in the Catalan parliament, nationalists are treating it as a plebiscite on independence.

“The whole world needs to understand that this is for real,” Raul Romeva, a former MEP who heads the “Together for Yes” electoral list, said after the launch.

“If on September 27 this proposal has the sufficient and necessary majority, what we want is for the [Catalan] parliament to solemnly declare that according to that mandate, the process of independence should begin.”

According to this plan, a further, binding, referendum would take place in 2016, before the establishment of an independent Catalan state is completed.

Among those leading the independence charge is Artur Mas, the defiant regional premier of Catalonia and leader of the nationalist Convergence party. He has been the figurehead of the separatist movement since announcing his support for secession in 2012, after conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy refused to negotiate changes to Catalonia’s financial relationship with Madrid.

Many Catalans complain that their relatively wealthy region of seven million inhabitants subsidises the rest of Spain with their taxes. They also claim that Spain fails to understand Catalan culture and represses their language.

On Tuesday, Catalan civic organisations launched preparations for the north-eastern region’s national day, on September 11, when hundreds of thousands of people are expected to fill the streets of Barcelona to call for independence in what has become an annual tradition.

The Spanish government staunchly opposes independence or increased autonomy for Catalonia, arguing such a move would violate the constitution.

Last week, Mr Rajoy reiterated his position, saying: “There is not going to be Catalan independence.”

On Monday Justice Minister Rafael Catalá insisted that the Spanish state has “enough tools” to thwart a declaration of independence, threatening to suspend the region's semi-autonomous status if it moved ahead with a separation process.

Last November, the central government used the courts to block an attempt by Mr Mas to stage a Scotland-style referendum on independence in the region. The Catalan leader responded by staging an illegal vote which saw around two million people turn out, over 80 percent of them backing a break away from Spain.

However, most of those who would have voted “no” stayed away.

A poll published in June by the region’s CEO study centre showed that 43 percent of Catalans support independence.

On Tuesday, tensions between Madrid and Catalonia were underlined again as Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz criticised Pep Guardiola, the Catalan football legend and former FC Barcelona coach, for putting his name to the pro-independence electoral list, albeit as a symbolic move.

The minister accused Guardiola, who now coaches Bayern Munich, of representing the Spanish national team during his playing career “not for patriotic reasons, but for financial reasons.”

Guardiola occupies the last spot on the list, so, barring an unprecedented landslide, would not win a seat in the Catalan parliament. But the support of such a high profile figure is a powerful boost to the separatists' campaign - THE TELEGRAPH

  • 20
  • Jun

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has turned to his bitter regional rival Botswana President Ian Khama for a model to exploit diamonds to fuel economic development in Zimbabwe.

Khama has consistently rejected President Mugabe’s re-election as fraudulent and has often spoken out about Zimbabwe’s political crisis.
Nothwithstanding the frosty relationship, Mines and Mining Development minister Walter Chidhakwa will visit Botswana on July 2 to study the diamond model in Botswana — the world’s leading diamond producer by value.

Chidhakwa on Wednesday confirmed that he would be visiting Botswana on July 2.

He said he has also been to Namibia and South Africa to study their models and now wants to look at the Botswana model as he works on his plans to consolidate the diamond mining companies into one entity, with 50% government shareholding as is the case in Botswana. The government of Botswana mines diamonds in partnership with South African giant De Beers.

“Diamond mining is a very difficult sector,” said Chidhakwa. “It is difficult to monitor and manage, but if we consolidated the companies into one and have one monitoring mechanism the model of consolidation will allow for better monitoring thereby reduce the leakages.”

He added: “I will be going to Botswana to look at their model. We are relatively a new diamond-mining country.”

Botswana has used diamonds to develop the country from being a mostly rural backwater at Independence in 1966 to a booming economy.

While Zimbabwe was the second most industrialised country in the region after South Africa at Independence in 1980, it has since largely become a shell due to the de-industrialisation characterised by company closures and job losses, largely blamed on mismanagement of the economy.

More than 7 000 workers were retrenched last year alone and more than 1 000 workers from 67 companies have lost their jobs in the first quarter of 2015.

At least 55 000 workers have been rendered redundant after 4 610 companies closed shop countrywide between 2011 and 2014, according to Finance and Economic Development minister Patrick Chinamasa in his 2015 national budget statement.

Top government sources said this week a request for the visit to Botswana to look at its diamond model was made by Mugabe in a meeting with Khama during his visit to that country last month.

This is a surprise development as Mugabe and Khama have a not-so-cordial relationship despite Mugabe’s claims that relations with his counterpart are genial.
Khama has repeatedly rejected Mugabe’s re-election, saying the polls were stolen.

The Botswana president hardly ever agrees with Mugabe at regional meetings such as Sadc and the African Union, with the latest case being on presidential term limits and the International Criminal Court from which Mugabe wants African countries to withdraw saying it is targeting African heads of state.

At the just-ended AU summit Mugabe said African leaders had made a mistake by endorsing legislation which sets a two- term presidential limit.

“It is a democracy, if people want a leader to continue, let him continue.”

However, Khama disagreed.

“… There comes a time where we think that once you get into office and you’ve been there for 10 years (two five-year terms), really that is enough, you should make way and let others come in,” Khama said a fortnight ago.

Meanwhile, Chidhakwa wants the mining companies to merge into one firm, in a move meant to streamline their operations while curbing leakages.

The move comes after most diamond mining companies in the Marange area of Manicaland failed to account for revenues they realised in their mining operations, save for Mbada Diamonds which in March last year declared to parliament that it had surpassed the US$1 billion turnover mark.

Chidhakwa’s plans also come after years of complaints from within government and ordinary Zimbabweans, civil society and opposition parties that diamond revenues were not finding their way to Treasury, but were being used to line pockets of top politicians and service chiefs through shady deals. Zimbabwe is the world’s fourth-largest diamond miner, producing an estimated eight million carats with potential to supply 25% of global demand. However, the country is in the midst of an economic crisis and has little to show for its diamond wealth.

Seven companies were operating in Chiadzwa, namely Mbada, Anjin Investments, Diamond Mining Company, Gye Nyame, Jinan Ming Private Ltd, Kusena and Marange Resources.

Chidhakwa in an interview on Wednesday said the consolidation process would involve the merging of the wholly government-owned Marange Resources with the other diamond mining companies, including Murowa and River Ranch.

“The problem in Zimbabwe is that we have companies in Chiadzwa that were opportunistic and speculative. What we are now trying to do is to resolve that problem,” he said.

“We want to do it through consolidation. There is a basic way of doing it (sharing); 50 divided by let’s say seven. But it will not be equal sharing because they have different levels of capitalisation. We then say we are using net-asset-value of each company. You take the net asset value of Mbada, Anjin and others and you add them and come up with the total net asset value.

“You calculate Anjin as a percentage of the total and Mbada the same, and everybody gets their share. Because we now say that there is no limit, this company will mine all diamonds in the country and there is no other company that will be allowed to mine diamonds in Zimbabwe besides that framework. Everyone is coming on board – Murowa and River Ranch,” he said.

Chidhakwa said the companies would have latitude to do exploration across the country in the context of that bigger entity.

He said they would calculate how much equipment is required to mine the diamonds and its value; each company would then be required to inject capital, depending on the shareholding — like a rights issue.

If some fail to raise the money they will then be diluted and the bigger companies can buy additional shareholding.

“This mining is not for mickey-mouse miners, but serious mining across the country. The problem is that when you look at the agreements we signed, all the companies were expected to inject money either in the form of cash or equipment and it is in the agreements.

“If you go and look at what they (diamond mining firms) have injected, it’s generally less than half because some went on to lease equipment. When you calculate net-asset-value, the leased equipment is not included. So the panic now is that they are looking at what they are coming in with. Out of the lot, only one company brought about 45% of what was originally agreed on. That is where the first stage of company resistance is,” he said.

The second stage of resistance has to do with the loss of positions. The consolidation will mean one board, one CEO and one finance director.

Chidhakwa is considering two possible security systems at diamond mining fields: one where they will fire drones with cameras and another where they will use balloons with cameras to monitor activities on the ground to try and curb leakages.

It is expected that greater transparency in diamond mining will help revive the country’s ailing economy.

  • 14
  • Jun

A South African court has issued an interim order stopping Sudan's leader Omar al-Bashir, who faces war crimes charges, from leaving the country.

The Pretoria High Court says Mr Bashir must stay until it rules on Monday on whether he should be handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

President Bashir is in Johannesburg for an African Union (AU) summit.

He is accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide during the Darfur conflict.

About 400,000 people have died and more than two million have fled their homes since rebels took up arms in 2003, the UN says.

Government forces and allied Arab militias are accused of targeting black African civilians in the fight against the rebels.

TENSIONS

President Bashir was welcomed by South African officials as he arrived in Johannesburg. After the court announced it would rule on a request to arrest him, he posed for a group photo with other African leaders.

The High Court initially said it would issue its ruling on Sunday. But it later postponed the hearing until Monday, when the summit is due to end.

There are tensions between the ICC and the AU, with some on the continent accusing the court of unfairly targeting Africans.

The warrants against Mr Bashir, who denies the allegations, have restricted his overseas travel. He has, however, visited friendly states in Africa and the Middle East.

ANALYSIS: ANDREW HARDING, BBC AFRICA CORRESPONDENT

South Africa has often shied away from this sort of diplomatic headache, but this time the government has stepped straight, and deliberately, into controversy, courting Western fury by rolling out the welcome carpet for President Bashir.

The South African government must, surely, have foreseen the possibility of a legal challenge. If President Bashir is allowed to return home unimpeded, South Africa's actions will be bitterly condemned internationally - if less loudly within the continent - as a blow against the credibility of the ICC.

And if Sudan's president is detained, or perhaps even arrested, then Pretoria will be accused of luring a fellow African leader into a trap. Some would call that a no-win situation.

But it's clear that South Africa's government has chosen to flaunt its growing antipathy towards "Western" rules, and towards a court in which so many African leaders now appear to have lost faith.

SUDAN'S BLOODY STALEMATE

The ICC relies on member states to carry out arrests.

However correspondents have said the South African government - a signatory to the treaty establishing the ICC - is unlikely to move against the Sudanese leader.

South Africa's governing ANC said immunity had been granted to "all (summit) participants as part of the international norms for countries hosting such gathering of the AU or even the United Nations".

The ANC also said the ICC was "no longer useful for the purposes for which it was intended".

The court, which sits in The Hague, was set up in 2002 to try cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, when national courts cannot handle them.

The official theme of the Johannesburg summit, chaired by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, is women's empowerment and development - BBC.COM

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