YAOUNDE, CAMEROON — African lawyers say they are committed to bringing back money illegally taken out of the continent. During a meeting in Cameroon's capital Yaounde, former South African President Thabo Mbeki said the hemorrhage of money from Africa makes the continent heavily indebted and highly underdeveloped.
The lawyers say illicit financial flows, amounting to an estimated $50 to $60 billion per year, are carried out through theft and bribery by public officials, corporate transactions, criminal activities, international trade, public procurement and contracting, poorly enforced financial regulations and multi-national financial networks. The African lawyers also say much of the loss cannot be traced.
The president of the Pan-African Lawyers Union, Elijah Banda, told VOA that illegal outflows are no longer only carried out by corrupt African leaders.
"The way we understand financial flows is not people taking boxes of cash across the borders. It is being undertaken in a very serious way in multi-national transactions, transfer pricing between corporations and their sister corporations overseas. Copper based countries that have an extractive industry are very prone to these activities. In Zambia we know that money is leaving the country which should not in form of proper declaration of taxes in form of proper declaration of profits by these multi-nationals. All these become illegal flows," said Banda.
A Nigerian human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, who has been instrumental in trying to bring back money taken out of his country, told VOA that multi-national companies work in collaboration with his country's political elite to loot the peoples' wealth.
"The Nigerian government out of sheer irresponsibility, after 54 years [of oil exportation] does not know how much oil is produced in Nigeria daily. They rely on what Shell, Mobil and the rest [of the oil companies] tell us. This is what we have lifted from the ground. We lose in some years like 2011, $16 billion in one year," said Falana, adding that bad legislation also facilitates the illegal outflow of money.
"In 2011, the [Nigerian] national assembly amended the money laundry act to allow anybody travelling out of the country to declare it. That was primitive. What used to happen before then was that nobody could go out of the country with more than $10 thousand cash. Any other amount beyond that had to go through a banking process, but when you say I can just make millions of dollars, get to the airport, declare it and take it out, that is primitive," said Felana.
Stopping the flow
A joint report by the African Development Bank and the United States advocacy group Global Financial Integrity, presented during the conference, indicated that between $1.2 trillion and $1.4 trillion left Africa in illicit financial flows between 1980 and 2009, an amount which is almost equal to Africa's current gross domestic product.
Cameroonian born lawyer Akere Muna told VOA they are working with the World Bank to trace the money.
"The World Bank calls this initiative about money that has been taken out: 'stolen assets recovery initiative.' So the World Bank is calling the money that has been taken out stolen assets. It means therefore that if any bank deals with that money it is dealing with stolen assets," said Muna.
It will not be an easy thing to trace and bring back the money.
Anna Gardner of the London-based NGO "International Lawyers for Africa" told VOA that the process is often long and cumbersome.
"Firstly, there has to be due diligence in the victims country to identify how much money is missing. Then there is a process once that is identified to get court orders to say that those assets have been identified, they need to be frozen and then the real process now starts. It is a long and convoluted process, the burden of proof is too great," said Gardner.
Elijah Banda, however, says the lawyers resolved to bring the matter to the attention of the wider African public and the world through targeted messaging and the building of strong coalitions and partnerships.
As Thabo Mbeki said, the massive illicit loss of money continues to hurt Africa's financial condition, development, and its future.
CAMEROON and its landlocked neighbour Chad reached an agreement on June 3 to carry out a feasibility study into the construction of a 700km line linking Ngaoundéré in northeast Cameroon with Ndjamena, the Chadian capital.
Financing has yet to be agreed for the project, which will require investment estimated at Central African Francs 1.4bn ($US 2.92bn).
The concession holder for the railway will be Cameroonian railway operator Camrail, owned by Bolloré Africa Logistics, a subsidiary of France’s Bolloré Group.
With some 80% of Chad’s imports and exports currently transported by road via Cameroon’s main port and commercial capital of Douala, Chad is looking to expand trade through rail and other infrastructure projects linking the landlocked country to the Atlantic coast.
Cameroon’s transport minister Mr Robert Nkili says the project would also benefit northern regions of Cameroon, where traders were struggling to export their products to other regions. His Chadian counterpart, Mr Adoum Younousmi, added: “If the work programme is respected, construction should begin in 2016.”
In 2012 Cameroon announced plans to build railway lines to expand trade with Chad as well as southern neighbours such as Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, but construction has not yet begun.
After a three-year long battle, chemicals and seed giant DuPont (NYSE: DD ) won control of South Africa's largest seed company, and can now more effectively challenge Monsanto's (NYSE: MON ) dominance of the dark continent.
DuPont's Pioneer Hi-Bred division acquired an 80% stake in South Africa's Pannar, which has a large store of maize germplasm, one of the most important crops on the continent. By acquiring the seed company, DuPont now has access to one of the largest collections of genetic resources for the crop, which gives it a powerful wedge to pry loose more of its rival's market share. Monsanto, having bought two South African seed companies years ago, Sensako and Carnia, estimates it owns half of the South African maize market.
Genetically modified maize already accounts for 75% of the crop grown there, with hybrid corn seed sales totaling about $350 million annually. Pannar is steeped in selling GM seeds licensed from Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta, and the acquisition was opposed by many on the grounds that it would consolidate control of a domestic food staple into the hands of just two foreign multinational corporations. That's not unlike the uproar over U.S. pork producer Smithfield Foods selling itself to a Chinese company.
Unlike the Smithfield saga, however, pork's prominence in U.S. diets is nowhere near as universal as maize is in Africa. Mealie meal, a course flour made from maize, is a food staple in South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere.
Moreover, because Pannar controls important stores of organic and hybrid traits that have been grown and developed in Africa over long periods of time, opponents worry that seed diversity will be threatened when two companies that have an interest in spreading GM seed control what seed is available on the market.
Yet, DuPont points to the low yields farmers in Africa have achieved thus far, where 86 million acres are available for corn production, but average yields fall short from what's achieved elsewhere. Where African farmers can achieve yields averaging two tons per hectare, Brazil gets nearly seven tons, and the U.S., where 86% of the corn crop is genetically modified, boasts nearly 10 tons.
Of course, since GM maize seed has such a preponderance of the market, it's easy to question whether even more such seed will be beneficial.
It's not just South Africa where DuPont is seeking to exert its influence, because that market already enjoys an advanced network of farms; rather, it's in the developing nations such as Mozambique and Tanzania where farmers are only just starting to develop commercial agriculture that DuPont will use Pannar's reach to leapfrog over Monsanto. It will use not just maize to do so, but also sunflower, sorghum, wheat, and soybeans.
Over the past two decades, Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow Chemical, and DuPont -- call them the five fingers of death to non-genetically modified seed -- have together purchased more than 200 seed companies, and now completely dominate the seed market.
Terms for the latest deal were not disclosed, but DuPont says it's one of the biggest such deals its Pioneer unit has ever made, and is the largest for the company in Africa. The lights for non-genetically modified seed, however, just dimmed darker on the dark continent.
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Africa is becoming the top choice for North American oil companies looking to diversify, and the East African Rift is the hottest of the hot, with Kenya waiting on commercial viability, Angola and Ghana already on the road to rival Nigeria and two newcomers—Namibia and Zambia—where the doors have been thrown open for exploration.
Getting in on Namibia and Zambia is an extremely expensive endeavour, but here's a way to de-risk this adventure, keep your shareholders calm and strategically position yourself to take advantage of the next big find without footing the massive drilling bill: Buy up a ton of acreage and sit back and let others do the expensive exploration and drilling on territory adjacent to yours. Then strike and watch offers come in.
In an interview with Oilprice.com, Alberta Oil Sands (AOS) CEO, Binh Vu … discusses:
How to get in elephant-sized plays in the East African Rift
How to save cash by piggy-backing on others' expensive exploration
Why Namibia could be a major oil monster
What makes Zambia such an attractive oil venue
Other African plays that are worth looking into
Why it's hard for juniors to compete in Africa
Why someone will always need Canadian oil sands
What heavy oil economics will look like over the coming years
Why Canada's Algar Lake is a major sleeper play
What qualities investors should look for when betting on juniors
James Stafford: With the oil discoveries in Kenya and a lot of optimism over other rifts and lake systems including those present in Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania, etc. the East African Rift System has become an emerging oil hot spot. What we want to know is how to make money here without spending a ton of cash in exploration and drilling? What's the smart way to stake a claim on the East African Rift Basin?
AOS: That is a great question. The truth is that this area has become quite expensive as it has been found to be increasingly prolific. Major signing bonuses, deposits, and commitments are required in spots like Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. There is very little opportunity for the junior explorers to compete.
We believe that Zambia is a fabulous jurisdiction because it shares the geology and rock age in certain large areas that have hosted the Lake Albert Discovery and the Block 10BB Kenya discovery. However, it is totally underexplored for hydrocarbons and thus provides much cheaper access to very prospective areas. Our company has successfully tied up ~18 million acres or what we believe covers about 33% of the attractive rift areas in Zambia - which equates to oil and gas rights over about 8% of the country.
James Stafford: How does an exploration company on a budget go about covering and "high-grading" targets over such a large area?
AOS: Without a doubt that is a highly important question for any company engaged in the pursuit of elephant-sized targets in new frontiers. One of the things that we do is first is aim for concession agreements that don't tie us to expensive immediate seismic commitments. Second we eschew large and expensive 2-D seismic programs in favor of a process of high grading using satellites, other remote sensing techniques, and 'ground truthing'.
We estimate that by using satellite data analysis over a number of criteria--gravity gradiometry, thermal emissivity analysis, geobotany analysis including vegetation anomalies and geo-microbial review over specific high-graded areas on our acreage--we can save millions of dollars and years of time. We then get to specific areas that are ready for smaller, focused electroseismic surveys / 3-D surveys, and that can then be attacked as drillable targets either to take on ourselves, or to farm down to majors who are looking for the next major rift discovery.
Africa's richest man, Aliko Dangote, plans to invest up to $8 billion to build a Nigerian oil refinery with a capacity of around 400,000 barrels a day by late 2016, the tycoon told Reuters on Tuesday, almost doubling Nigeria's refining capacity.
"This will really help not only Nigeria but sub-Saharan Africa. There has not been a new refinery for a long time in sub-Saharan Africa," Dangote said in a telephone interview.
The country currently has the capacity to produce some 445,000 barrels per day among four refineries, but they operate well below that owing to decades of mismanagement and corruption in Africa's leading energy producer.
Nigeria, the continent's second-biggest economy, relies on subsidized imports for 80 percent of its fuel needs. A surge in domestic capacity would be welcomed by investors in Nigeria, but it would cut into profits made by European refiners and oil traders who would lose part of that lucrative market.
Dangote said the country's ability to import fuel would soon be challenged. "In five years, when our population is over 200 million, we won't have the infrastructure to receive the amount of fuel we use. It has to be done," he said.
Past efforts to build refineries have often been delayed or cancelled, but analysts have said Dangote should be able to build a profitable Nigerian refinery, owing to his past successes in industry and his strong government connections.
The Dangote Group's cement manufacturing, basic food processing and other industries have helped lift his personal fortune to $16.1 billion from $2.1 billion in 2010, according to the latest Forbes estimate.
Nigeria has two refineries in its main Port Harcourt oil hub, one in the Niger Delta town of Warri, and one in Kaduna in the north that serve 170 million people. Not one of them functions at full capacity.
Analysts have said previous attempts to get refineries going have been held back by vested interests such as fuel importers profiting from the status quo. Dangote said this concerned him.
"The people who were supposed to invest in refineries, who understand the market, are benefiting from there being no refineries because of the fuel import business," he said. "Some ... are going to try to ... interfere."
Nigeria's government subsidizes fuel imports to keep pump prices well below the market rate at a cost of billions of dollars a year. Fuel subsidies are the single biggest item on the country's budget.
Dangote said making a new refinery run at a profit would work even if the government failed to scrap the subsidized fuel price that has deterred others from investing.
"We've done our numbers and the numbers are okay."