Mark Zuckerberg to build AI to help at home and work

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has said he plans to build artificial intelligence (AI) to help him around the house and with his work.

In a Facebook post, he said his personal challenge this year would be to build a "simple AI" like Jarvis from Hollywood blockbuster film Iron Man, referring to the AI butler.

Mr Zuckerberg plans to share his progress over the course of the year.

Last month, he made headlines for plans to donate 99% of his stake in Facebook.

He had to defend his philanthropic venture -launched to celebrate the birth of his daughter- after critics argued that it could provide a way for the founder to avoid paying tax on the sale of his shares.

'Control everything'

On Monday, Mr Zuckerberg said he would start to build the AI with technology that is already out there and teach it to understand his voice to control everything in his home from music and lights to temperature.

"This should be a fun intellectual challenge to code this for myself," Mr Zuckerberg said.

"I'll teach it to let friends in by looking at their faces when they ring the doorbell," he said. "I'll teach it to let me know if anything is going on in Max's (his daughter's) room that I need to check on when I'm not with her."

For Facebook, he added that the system would help him visualize data in virtual reality and help him build better services, as well as lead his company.

His announcement comes as Facebook is in the midst of AI initiatives such as building an assistant through its Messenger app for users.

The tech billionaire said a part of the motivation behind this year's challenge was the reward of building things yourself.

His previous personal challenges have included learning Mandarin, reading two books a month and meeting a new person everyday, he said.

Source: bbc.com

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Oil drags Wall Street to 2015 losses

(Closed): Wall Street finished its final day of 2015 down, marking its worst annual performance in seven years.

Oil prices suffered a second year of steep losses and are expected to take at least another year to clear as the international surplus continues.

The Dow Jones was down 178.84 points or 1.03%, at 17,425.03.

The S&P 500 was down 0.95% at 2,043.86, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite was 1.15% lower at 5,007.41.

The oil price collapse sent global markets reeling throughout 2015.

Shares of US oil giants Chevron and Exxon Mobil were down 0.17% and 0.22% respectively for the day.

Energy stocks have taken a beating this year, with the S&P energy sector losing nearly 24% in the last twelve months.

For the year the S&P 500 was down 0.7% while the Dow Jones ended 2.2% lower.

The Nasdaq, however was a bright spot closing 5.7% higher for 2015.

Trading volumes were thin on the last day of the year.

Apple was down 1.92% weighing on the Nasdaq.

McDonald's was down 1.08% at $118 and weighed on the Dow the most.

Stocks were led lower as US jobless claims increased by 20,000 to 287,000 last week, wildly missing forecasts of 270,000.

Brent crude oil was up 3% at $37.60 per barrel for the day but down 35% over the year. US light crude was 1.2% higher at $37.04 but down 30% for the year.

Source: bbc.com

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Piracy Still Affecting Textile Business

Despite government’s efforts to stop piracy in the country, textile companies are still lamenting the impact on their operations of pirated textiles smuggled into the country.

The Managing Director of Ghana Textile Prints (GTP) Kofi Boateng said: "It is true that government has set up an anti-piracy task force, but the problem is so large -- to an extent that the efforts of government are not having any meaningful impact, though they have scared a few people.

"Our designs, labels and copyrights are being imitated by some people from the Far East. They then print and bring them back onto the Ghanaian market. So we now have to employ more young but experienced creative people so that we can have thousands of designs and colours on a monthly basis in order to survive and compete well," he said.

The once-vibrant Ghanaian textile industry is at a cross-road due to importation of cheap, pirated textiles that make original textile designs manufactured in Ghana relatively expensive.

There were about 20 textile companies which employed about 25,000 in the 1980s. But currently there is a remnant of just four textile companies employing under 2,000 people, battling to stay in business amid a myriad of challenges.

Even surviving companies Akosombo Textile Limited (ATL), Tex Style Ghana Limited (GTP), Printex and Ghana Textile Manufacturing Company (GTMC) are struggling in the face of competition from cheap, pirated imports.

The Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) has said it is not against the importation of fabrics so far as they are not fake in terms of design, brand-name and other characteristics.

The illegal business has in recent years led to the retrenchment of many textile workers, while some local manufacturers have had to diversify their businesses.

The task force team since its establishment in 2010 has undertaken many different destruction exercises, with a total 6,000 pieces of Ghanaian-designed fake textiles destroyed.

The textile designs were seized during operations by the task force at various outlets across the country.
John Kwesi Amoah, Assistant Manager Brand Protection ATL, noted that: “We want fair competition; we are not saying that government should ban people from importing textiles, but we want fair competition. People should come with their own design and brand”.

Source: peacefmonline.com

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Apple 'to pay €318m' to settle Italy tax fraud case

Apple's Italian subsidiary has agreed to pay €318m (£235m; $348m) following an investigation into tax fraud allegations, Italy's tax office says.

Italy's tax authorities say the company failed to pay €880m in tax between 2008 and 2013, according to La Repubblica.

The settlement follows an investigation by prosecutors in Milan.

The US tech giant has not commented on the deal. It has previously denied attempting to escape paying tax owed on profits made around the world.

Apple Italia is part of the company's European operation which is headquartered in Ireland, a country with one of the lowest levels of corporation tax in the EU.

A spokesman for the tax agency confirmed the newspaper's report was accurate but would not divulge further details.

Ireland taxes corporate earnings from normal business activities at a rate of 12.5% compared with 27.5% in Italy.

Investigators in Italy say they found a huge gap between the company's revenues in Italy of over €1bn between 2008 and 2013 and the €30m that was paid in tax in the country.

The settlement comes amid a European Commission investigation into the tax arrangements of numerous multinational companies accused of using cross-border structures to reduce their tax bills, sometimes with the help of secret and potentially illegal "sweetheart" deals.

The issue of Apple's Irish arrangements is separate from but related to the broader one of multinational companies "parking" revenues and profits in low-tax countries.

Apple's activities in the Republic of Ireland are currently subject to that investigation, which is due to announce soon whether tax breaks designed to secure the company's extensive investment in Ireland amounted to illegal state aid.

Apple's European operations have been headquartered in Cork since 1980.

The company is expanding its workforce there to 6,000 and it has been joined in Ireland by other US tech firms including Twitter, Microsoft and Google.

The company's chief executive, Tim Cook, has rejected accusations that the firm has been sidestepping US taxes by stashing cash overseas, insisting: "We pay every tax dollar we owe."

Mr Cook said on a visit to Ireland in November that he was confident the Dublin government and his company would be found to have done nothing wrong.

Source: bbc.com

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Facebook class action lawsuits to go ahead

Two US class action lawsuits against Facebook by shareholders alleging it hid growth concerns ahead of its 2012 public listing can now go ahead.

A federal judge certified the legal proceedings, Reuters reports, saying investors who claim they lost money could pursue their claims as groups.

Facebook told the BBC that it was disappointed with the decision and it has launched an appeal against it.

The firm's initial public offering (IPO) in May 2012 raised $16bn (£10bn).

The investors say that by purchasing the firm's shares at inflated prices they lost money.

That year, its shares began trading on 18 May in New York at $38 per share, but the price fell to almost half the amount of $17.55 on 4 September.

The price stayed below the IPO price for more than a year, but shares ultimately rebounded and closed up at $107.26 on the Nasdaq index on Tuesday.

District judge Robert Sweet gave the lawsuits class action certification on 11 December, but the order was made public on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Concerns over revenue

Investors claim that Facebook omitted information about revised revenue projections and the impact that increased mobile usage, at a time when there was little advertising on mobile devices, would have on its revenues.

But Mr Sweet said Facebook provided "an impressive amount of evidence" to indicate that shareholders knew how mobile usage would affect the firm's revenue.

However, he rejected the tech giant's argument that shareholders should pursue their claims individually.

In a 55-page decision, Mr. Sweet said that given the extraordinary size of the case, allowing two subclasses "in fact adds more weight to the predominance of common questions and answers, practically negating the individualized questions raised".

Facebook told the BBC that it believes the class certification is "without merit".

The tech giant also said the decision "conflicts with well-settled Supreme Court and Second Circuit law", and it has already filed an appeal seen by the BBC.

"The suggestion that class members' knowledge might be inferred on a class-wide basis flouts due process," the appeal said.

Source: bbc.com

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Brazil's deficit jumps sharply as recession bites

Brazil's deficit jumped in November to one of the highest levels on record as state finances came under increasing strain amid a deep recession.

The public sector deficit - the difference between what the government spends and what it receives in revenues - rose to 19.6bn reais ($5.1bn).

This was worse than expected and much higher than October's 11.5bn reais.

The government is struggling to increase tax revenues as the economy continues to shrink.

Between July and September, the economy contracted by 1.7% compared with the previous quarter, deepening the country's worst recession in 25 years.

The economy has shrunk in all but one of the last six quarters.

Unemployment has risen sharply this year and now stands at 7.5%, putting a further strain on government finances.

Inflation is also running at more than 10%, undermining the value of Brazilians' savings and their ability to spend.

Brazil's economy has been hit hard by a slowdown in global demand - particularly in China - for its commodities, while a corruption scandal centred on state oil giant Petrobras has severely damaged investor confidence.

Source: bbc.com

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Asian markets subdued by falling oil prices

Asian shares traded mixed, following a lacklustre lead from global markets dragged down by oil prices.

The price of US crude oil dropped more than 3% overnight, while Brent crude was back near 11-year lows on reports that Iran plans to increase exports once sanctions are removed, which would add to the global supply glut.

Lower energy shares across Asia weighed on benchmark indexes.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index was down 0.1% to 18,850.17 in morning trade.

"Oil prices look likely to continue in their depressed state if Iran is able to ramp up its exports at such a rapid rate," said market analyst Angus Nicholson at trading firm IG in a note on Tuesday.

Iran intends to increase exports by 500,000 barrels per day once the economic sanctions are removed, according to reports.

Toshiba's restructuring

Meanwhile, shares of Toshiba rose by 0.6% on a local report that the struggling electronics giant planned to ask for an additional $2.5bn (£1.7bn) in credit to fund its large-scale restructuring.

The company is reeling from a $1.3bn accounting scandal earlier this year.

Chinese shares headed higher in early trade with the Shanghai Composite up 0.4% to 3,546.38, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was higher by 0.1% to 21,945.33.

In Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.6% to 5,238.80 after reopening from public holiday on Monday.

Bucking the trend were shares of Woodside Petroleum, up 0.1% despite the drop in oil prices.

South Korea's Kospi index was down 0.7% to 1,949.56, following the previous session's losses.

Source: bbc.com

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BoG urges RCBs to pay extra attention to good corporate governance

The Bank of Ghana has asked rural and community banks (RCBs) to put in place corporate governance and effective risk management best practices that help banks to clearly identify, measure, control and mitigate the risks associated with their operations.

It observed that good corporate governance and risk management systems lie at the heart of any successful business, and further advised rural banks to adopt adequate measures that deal with the associated challenges of operational and credit risks which often come along with their operations.

Head of Other Financial Institutions Supervision, Bank of Ghana, Mr. Raymond Amanfu, made these remarks at the shareholders’ Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Atwima Mponua Rural Bank at Toase.

He said RCBs should give serious consideration to human capital as part of their attempts to grow.

He insisted that RCBs should endeavour to appoint competent and reliable persons of high integrity to manage their institutions, and also deal with issues of unethical banking practices promptly and appropriately.

He indicated that the BoG does not countenance such practices. “We require due diligence be carried out on all prospective RCB staff before they are employed”.

Mr. Amanfu said impacts from the rural banking industry continue to be felt in the economy. He noted that after four decades of operations, the RCB sector has evolved significantly in response to phenomenal challenges posed by changing dynamics in the industry and among other actors.

It is important to note that the total assets of rural and community banks (RCBs) grew from a year-on-year total figure of GH?1.8billion in October 2014 to GH?2.40billion in October 2015, marking a 17.8 percent increase.

This noteworthy performance of RCBs accounted for 3.4 percent of the total assets in a banking industry with GH?70.39billion as at October 2015.

The total assets of RCBs were funded mainly by deposits, 76.22 percent; borrowings and other liabilities, 10.36 percent; and reserves of 9.45 percent.

Notwithstanding the steady performance recorded by the RCB sub-sector, the BoG expressed concern at some major lapses which continue to occur in the operations of RCBs despite several initiatives taken to address them.

It said it will ensure that all licenced institutions operate within the rules and laws governing their operations, and not tolerate any violations of laws -- as offenders will be appropriately sanctioned.

This warning comes with the knowledge that some RCBs have been operating agencies in the urban centres without the BoG’s approval.

The central bank has noted that these agencies are mostly established without due consideration as to the financial and supervisory capabilities of the RCBs, which often leads to misuse of depositors’ funds with attendant effects of flouting prudential requirements.

Source: bbc.com

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Gov’t completes investment deal with Newmont

Government has negotiated its Investment Agreement with mining giant Newmont, guaranteeing improved benefits for Ghana.

A statement from the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry says the new deal will also ensure long term sustainability of the mining industry.

The objective of the re-negotiation is to ensure that all major stakeholders, including Ghanaians, mining companies and their investors equitably share in the benefits that mining brings.

The proposed changes are expected to improve benefits for Government and economy and increase revenues while assuring a fair, predictable and beneficial long term basis for Newmont’s business in Ghana.

The re-negotiated Investment Agreements, now consisting of two separate agreements, one for each Newmont Ghana entity operating in Ghana, were submitted to Parliament for ratification in June and ratified by Parliament this week.

Newmont’s original Investment Agreement with the Government of Ghana was ratified by Parliament in December 2003.

Newmont has since invested more than US$2.7 billion in Ghana to date; making the company the largest single investor in gold mining in Ghana.

Newmont Ghana has affirmed its long-term commitment to Ghana and says it will continue partnering with the government and people to bring sustainable value and opportunity for all stakeholders.

The Newmont deal with government has in the past been criticized for being too lopsided in favor of the mining firm.

The Government of Ghana set up the Government Mining Review & Negotiating Committee (MRC) in 2012 to review the country’s mining regime and to re-negotiate existing stability agreements taking into account changes in the national economy and the mining industry over the past few years.

Source: ghanaweb.com

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Ghana is 8th best country for business in Africa - Forbes

On the Forbes 2015 ranking of 144 Best Countries for Business in the world, Ghana ranks 79th and 8th in Africa.
Ghana is ahead of countries like Senegal, Tunisia, Namibia and the Seychelles. Some of the other countries that Ghana is ahead of include Mozambique, Lesotho, Madagascar, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire which is ranked at 106th in the world and 17th in Africa.
The countries ahead of Ghana are, Mauritius, South Africa, Morocco, Botswana, Cape Verde, Rwanda and Zambia.
Forbes posts indicators like population, GDP growth rates, GDP per capita and trade balance to GDP.
Ghana’s GDP growth is put at 4 per cent, GDP per capita is $4,100, trade balance to GDP, -10.4 per cent and the population is 26.3 million.
Nigeria is ranked at 122nd in the world and 27th in Africa with a population of 181.6 million. The country’s GDP growth is put at 6.3 per cent, its GDP per capita is $6,100 and trade balance to GDP is 0.2 per cent.
The ranking has Denmark with a population of 5.6 million at number one, with 1.1 per cent GDP growth, $44,600 GDP per capita and trade balance to GDP of 6.3 per cent.
At the bottom of the ranking is Chad. Having a population of 11. 6 million, Chad has a GDP growth of 6.9 per cent, a GDP per capita of $2,600 and trade balance to GDP of -7.8 per cent.
With a population of 1.3 million, Mauritius is the number one country in Africa on the ranking. It has a GDP per capita of $18, 700, a trade balance to GDP of -5.5 per cent and GDP growth of 3.6 per cent.
The ranking covers 40 countries in Africa. 

Source: myjoyonline.com

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Beware: Takata airbag fault claims eighth victim in the US

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has linked an eighth US death to a faulty airbag inflator made by Japan's Takata.

The NHTSA said a teenager was killed in July after an airbag in a 2001 Honda Accord ruptured.

A total of 19 million cars, containing 23 million airbag inflators, made by 12 car companies have been recalled.

In November, Takata agreed to pay a $70m fine for safety violations and may face deferred penalties of up to $130m.

The airbag fault has claimed nine lives globally.

The airbag inflators explode with too much force and spray metal shrapnel into the car. All nine deaths, eight in the US and one in Malaysia, have all been in Honda cars. More than 100 people have been injured.

Honda said that the car involved in the crash had been included in a February 2010 national safety recall campaign and claimed that it had made "numerous attempts" to contact the previous owner of the vehicle.

It said it sent a new recall notice to the current owner of the car on 21 July this year, one day before the crash.

A spokesman for the NHTSA said that Honda, as well as Subaru and Mazda, have added a "few hundred thousand" more cars to the recall in the US, adding that other car companies may follow suit.

The NHTSA said about a quarter of affected cars have been fixed, the majority of which are in areas of high humidity which can react adversely to ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound which is used to deploy the airbags.

In a statement, Takata said: "Our heartfelt condolences go out to the driver's family.

"We are working in close collaboration with Honda and NHTSA to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding this tragic situation. Takata's number one priority is the safety of the driving public."

Shares in Takata closed down nearly 5%.

Source: bbc.com

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Ghana Proposes a Pan African Trade Hub System

The Minister for Trade and Industry, Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, has presented in Nairobi to the international community an innovative project dubbed the Pan African Trade Hub System (PATHS). 

The Minister’s presentation was at a forum organised by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) attended by top officials of the African Union, the World Trade Organisation, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the International Trade Commission and the UN Economic Commission for Africa. 

Also present were several African Ministers, CEOs of some major multinational corporations, business associations and chambers of commerce, heads of think tanks, academics, research firms and NGOs.

According to the Ghana Minister, PATHS aims, among other goals, to increase the values of Intra-African trade from the current approximately 5% of Africa’s total trade to some 25% in two decades, in order to promote greater African development, to create wealth, and to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

The Minister of Trade and Industry was one of the main speakers at the high level forum of UNCTAD  on the topic “The African Continental Free Trade Area—Making it Work”  as one of the side events at the  just concluded tenth WTO Ministerial Conference which took place in Nairobi, Kenya from 15th to 18th December, 2015. 

Dr. Spio-Garbrah described PATHS as continental public-private partnership of African international organisations, member governments, financial institutions, and the private sector which would be an aggregated e-commerce/m-commerce, e-procurement, and e-payments platform and portal. It is intended to converge and facilitate the work of a range of institutions and actors in the African trade ecosystem, from governments, customs and revenue agencies, commodity producers and traders, importers and exporters and other trade facilitation entities.

The Ghana Minister further stated some of the other benefits of the PATHS to include increasing African's percentage of  total world trade  from 2% to 10%; and to increase Intra-African Investment and Foreign Direct Investment, In addition, PATHS would improve the quality, standards and competitiveness of African goods and services in international trade; enable African SMEs to compete more effectively globally; as well as enable Africa to raise the service delivery and integration of banking and payments service infrastructure to international standards.

 The PATHS is intended to be a  public-private commercial partnership supported by the African Union, African Governments, African Chambers of Commerce and Industry and public-private investors as well as a profit making commercial enterprises. It is to be registered as a private company initially in Kenya, Ghana, Mauritius and Tunisia.

The Minister listed the PATHS stakeholders as the African Union (AU), Regional Economic Communities (RECs), African governments and public agencies, industrialists, manufacturers, commodity producers, warehousing companies, traders/brokers, financial institutions, banks, insurance companies, importers, exporters, freight forwarders, clearing agencies and online shoppers.

Elaborating on the Road Map to achieving the establishment of the PATHS, the Minister explained the steps to adopt in the bid to establishing the PATHS as continuing with the ICT architectural design and development, equity capital mobilisation, and obtaining the formal support of the AU and other African regional and national bodies for the initial platforms, products and services of PATHs  to be finally launched to coincide with the proposed  declaration of a Continental Free Trade Area for Africa in 2017 or whenever that agreement may be signed by African member states.

Following the Ghana Minister’s presentation to UNCTAD, the Government of Kenya, acting through its Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ambassador Amina Mohamed, immediately associated itself with the Ghanaian initiative and offered at a press conference in Nairobi to co-sponsor a resolution of support for PATHs for consideration by member states of the AU at a forthcoming summit meeting of Heads of State in 2016. The Ghana delegation to the WTO conference included two members of Parliament, the Acting High Commissioner of Ghana to Kenya, and senior officials of the Ministry of Trade and Industry based in Accra, Geneva and Brussels.

Source: peacefmonline.com

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Kumasi Rattray Park costs KMA $4.4M

It has emerged the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly spent a whopping 4.4 million Dollars to construct the city’s modern amusement center, the Rattray Park.

The Rattray Park is named after Captain Rattray, a Scottish who was the Assistant Colonial Secretary in the Gold Coast and clerk to the Legislative Assembly of Accra in 1919.

He was a special commissioner and the colonial government anthropologist in Ashanti in 1920, who did a lot of research work on the Ashanti Kingdom and the people of the Gold Coast in a bid to help the government understand the people.

Captain Rattray is believed to be the first man to fly an aircraft (glider) to West Africa, and crash-landed at the site where the ultramodern recreational centre stands.

The Rattray Park, Kumasi City which was commissioned on June 1, 2015 by President John Dramani Mahama with the support of the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II has become the preferred choice for outdoor relaxation for many residents.

Believed to be the biggest and most beautiful amusement park in West Africa, it comes with an artificial lake and a restaurant. But project cost remains unknown until now with some assembly members agitating over City Mayor’s refusal to furnish them with how much the assembly has spent on it.

K.M.A Chief Executive, Kojo Bonsu, has revealed the project cost the assembly a whooping 4.4 million US Dollars.

He promised to make public details of the cost in due course after delay caused by unavoidable factors. Mr. Kojo Bonsu who made the revelations on Nhyira Fm’s ‘Kuro yi mu Nsem’ program Monday is however happy at the gains made so far with revenue realized from the project.

He says the facility is generating some revenue to support the Assemblies operations, touting it as one of the assembly’s success.

According to Mayor Bonsu, the assembly is able to make at least 17,000 cedis on some weekends from the park.

 

Meanwhile, the Assembly has also commenced the renovation of Prempeh Assembly Hall and walling of the Komfo Anokye sword site on the premises of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.

He added that the Assembly is embarking on these projects with Internally Generated Funds and support from the World Bank’s Urban Development Grant
In another development, Mr. Bonsu has assured traders in the central market and various satellite markets the assembly will ensure these projects are completed in time.

Source: Nhyira Fm

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World Trade Organization strikes 'historic' farming subsidy deal

Countries in the World Trade Organization (WTO) have agreed to abolish subsidies on farming exports.

Developed countries agreed to stop the subsidies immediately and developing nations must follow by the end of 2018.

The WTO, which represents 162 countries, called it "the most significant outcome on agriculture" since the body's foundation in 1995.

But longstanding talks on other trade barriers were left unresolved at the end of the summit in Kenya.

Removing agriculture export subsidies is intended to help farmers in poorer countries to compete more fairly.

"The decision you have taken today on export competition is truly extraordinary," WTO chief Roberto Azevedo said at the closing session in Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The summit of ministers, which finished on Saturday after five days of talks, was the first to be held in Africa.

Doha deadlock

The WTO called the farming agreement "historic", while the European Commission said it would be "good for fairer trade".

"For those who had doubts, it proves the relevance of the WTO and its capacity to deliver results," EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said.

Kenya's Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said the summit would be "remembered as having made that leap" from a time when the WTO was divided along a "developed and developing divide".

It follows a WTO deal in July to cut tariffs on $1.3trn (£833bn) worth of technology products.

But the body had been under pressure in Nairobi to remove other trade barriers after discussions had stalled in recent years.

The lack of progress in the ongoing Doha Round of talks, which first started in the Qatari capital in 2001, had led some countries to seek agreements among smaller groups.

Doha's goals included increased duty-free access for developing countries; lower tariffs on agricultural products, textiles and clothing; and the reduction of trade-distorting subsidies from developed countries.

The final declaration adopted in Nairobi said "many members" reaffirmed their "full commitment to conclude" the Doha Development Agenda goals.

But it added: "Other members do not reaffirm the Doha mandates, as they believe new approaches are necessary to achieve meaningful outcomes in multilateral negotiations."

Two new countries, Afghanistan and Liberia, were accepted into the WTO at the summit and will formally join in the coming weeks.

Source: bbc.com

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US spending bill lifts 40-year ban on crude oil exports

US politicians have approved a measure to lift the 40-year ban on crude oil exports.

The move is part of a $1.1 trillion (£738bn) spending bill approved by the Senate on Friday that will fund the US government until 2016.

Oil prices rose on Friday following several weeks of falls, as the markets cope with a glut of crude.

US West Texas Crude gained 1.1% to $36.38 a barrel, while Brent rose 0.7% to $37.32 a barrel.

US oil producers will now be able to sell crude to the already saturated international market.

The bulk of US oil comes from shale producers. Production and exploration companies argued the ban - imposed during the Arab oil embargo in the mid-1970s - was outdated and unnecessary.

Opponents claimed that lifting the ban would lead to the loss of oil refining jobs and would be bad for the environment.

As a trade-off for lifting the ban, the spending bill includes tax breaks for solar and wind power and a pledge by Republicans not to block a $500m payment to the UN Green Climate Fund.

President Obama signed the bill into law on Friday.

The global glut meant that lifting the ban was not expected to lead to significant US exports for months or even years, but could give producers extra flexibility.

George Baker, head of Producers for American Crude Oil Exports, said: "Now that we have levelled the playing field, the United States finally has an opportunity to compete and realise our nation's full potential as a global energy superpower."

Tom O'Malley, executive chairman of refiner PBF Energy, claimed that lifting the ban would lead at least one oil refinery on the US east coast to close.

"This is a crazy thing to do. Once you lift it, it's hard to reverse it," he said.

Source: bbc.com

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Sub-Saharan Africa’s commodity export gains declining – Moody’s

Despite efforts by Sub-Saharan Africa countries to diversify economies and accumulate buffers, their commodity exporters remain vulnerable to commodity price shocks, according to a Moody’s report .

“The most recent collapse in the prices of oil, copper and iron ore, amongst others, has slowed growth significantly, increased fiscal and external imbalances, and weakened currencies,” the ratings agency said in a report released December 11.

Other highlights in the report are:

In general, the region’s oil exporters have been affected more than metals and mining exporters. Among Moody’s rated SSA commodity exporters, Angola, the Republic of the Congo and Gabon have the most oil-reliant economies.

Despite diversification efforts, the region’s economies are less diversified than it was two decades ago. Export diversification and economic complexity are lower among SSA oil exporters than among peers in developing Asia or Latin America.

 Fiscal and current account balances bear the brunt of the commodity shock. In several African frontier markets, the share of foreign-currency denominated debt has risen and there has been an increase in international bond issuance. Angola, Ghana and Zambia are among the most affected countries.

Recent sovereign rating actions in SSA reflect weakening trend growth, widening twin deficits and rising uncertainty about the capacity of the governments to consolidate their finances.

Source: myjoyonline.com

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IMF chief Lagarde to stand negligence trial in France

IMF chief Christine Lagarde is to stand trial in France for alleged negligence over a €404m ($438m; £294m); payment to a businessman in 2008.

She was finance minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy's government at the time of the compensation award to Bernard Tapie for the sale of a firm.

Mr Tapie supported Mr Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential election.

Ms Lagarde's lawyer described the court's decision as "incomprehensible", and said the IMF boss would appeal.

In a statement she said she had "always acted in this affair in the interest of the state and in respect of the law", according to AP.

Mr Tapie was once a majority shareholder in sports goods company Adidas but sold it in 1993 in order to become a cabinet minister in Francois Mitterrand's Socialist government.

He sued the Credit Lyonnais bank over its handling of the sale, alleging that the partly state-owned bank had defrauded him by deliberately undervaluing the company.

His case was later referred by Ms Lagarde to a three-member arbitration panel which awarded the compensation, causing a public outcry.

Investigators suspect he was granted a deal in return for his support of Mr Sarkozy.

Earlier this month, a French court ruled that Mr Tapie was not entitled to any compensation for that sale and should pay back the €404m with interest.

Five-day deadline

France's Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR) decided that Ms Lagarde, 59, should be tried on the charge of "negligence by a person in position of public authority" over the compensation case, iTele TV channel and the Mediapart website reported on Thursday.

A court spokesman later confirmed the decision.

French media said the CJR investigation magistrates declined to follow the recommendation of another court which last year decided not to pursue the case.

"It's incomprehensible," Ms Lagarde's lawyer Yves Repiquet told iTele. "I will recommend Mrs Lagarde appeal against this decision."

A spokesman for France's attorney general said Ms Lagarde would have five days to appeal, once the court decision is made public on Friday or Monday.

Meanwhile, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said the organisation - which represents 188 member nations - "continues to express its confidence in the managing director's ability to effectively carry out her duties".

Bernard Tapie: A French saga

1993: Credit Lyonnais bank handles sale of Adidas, in which Bernard Tapie is a majority stakeholder, to enable tycoon to pursue ministerial career under then Socialist President Francois Mitterrand

1993-2007: Mr Tapie claims Credit Lyonnais undervalued Adidas and that he was cheated; lengthy court battle ensues

1994: Bernard Tapie's highly indebted group collapses and is wound up by Credit Lyonnais

2007: Mr Tapie switches support to conservative Nicolas Sarkozy in presidential election. Finance Minister Christine Lagarde intervenes in Tapie case to order binding arbitration

2008: Special judicial panel rules Mr Tapie should receive damages of €404m; Ms Lagarde decides not to challenge ruling, prompting public outcry

2011: Public prosecutor recommends judicial investigation into Ms Lagarde's decision to order arbitration

2013: Ms Lagarde is questioned by magistrate and her Paris apartment searched. Mr Tapie is placed under investigation by prosecutors investigating corruption claims

2014: French prosecutors open formal investigation of negligence into Ms Lagarde

3 December 2015: A court orders Mr Tapie to pay back €404m with interest


Ms Lagarde replaced Dominique Strauss-Kahn as IMF managing director in 2011.

Mr Strauss-Kahn - also a former French minister - resigned following his arrest in New York on charges of sexual assault that were later dropped.

Source: bbc.co.uk

 

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Ghana’s Economic Growth Depends On The Private Sector- Dr Joseph Siaw Agyepong

2015 has been a prosperous year fir the Jospong Group of Companies and to show appreciation, the group held its annual thanks-giving service to thank the Lord for successes they have chalked.

The event which was held at the Group’s headquarters at Nmai Djorn in Accra brought together representatives from several other companies outside Jospong Group, including state officials.

This years’ service was on the theme: “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house that you have brought me thus far”.

In an address, Dr Joseph Siaw Agyepong, Chairman of Zoomlion and Jospong Group of Companies, urged government to put the private sector on top of its priority list, to ensure sound economic growth.

To the renowned business magnate, Ghanaian entrepreneurs, if offered the needed support, would achieve tremendous success both locally and internationally.

“Our experiences have convinced us that the Ghanaian entrepreneur is capable of achieving world-class success across all sectors when adequately supported,”
Dr. Siaw Agyepong said.

He said the success of Zoomlion and Jospong Group shows that the private sector is capable of ensuring the socio-economic development of the country if given the space to operate.

He said “as Americans build America so will Ghanaians build Ghana….if we are one, with one language and one mindset, nothing we imagine will be impossible. With the right mindset, the private sector can team up to build a Better Ghana.”
Given the current economic conditions, Dr. Siaw Agyepong said it was imperative for the private sector to work towards drawing synergies in the sector for the development of the nation.

He said a healthy collaboration between the private and public sector is also imperative to the economic development process.

“It is worth mentioning at this point that we have so far enjoyed great support and cooperation from the public sector in general, especially from Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, MMDAs and other government agencies,” the chairman said.

Dr. Siaw Agyepong commended management and staff for their commitment to meeting the company’s goals.

Julius Debrah, Chief of Staff, who was the guest speaker, heaped praises on the Jospong Group of Companies for its good works in the country.

He said the thanksgiving service held by the company was appropriate, urging the management of the company to continue the annually event.

Mr Debrah commended former President Kufour for supporting Zoomlion since its inception in Ghana, urging politicians to support the private sector to grow in the country.

“We should make sure that the private sector becomes the engine of growth irrespective of the political party in power. Let’s celebrate our own and support it to grow for the good of the nation,” he said.
Joseph Siaw Agyempong said in 2016, two million waste bins would be distributed to homes in a bid to curb littering and enhance quick waste collection efforts.

The company hopes to distribute two million waste bins every year from 2016.

Source: peacefmonline.com

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Economy Has Shrunk

For the first time in 14 years, Ghana’s economy has shrunk and growth has declined from 8.4 percent in 2009 to 4.2 percent currently, Prof Gyan-Baffour, Member of Parliament (MP) for Wenchi has indicated.

He disclosed this on the floor of Parliament during a debate on the 2016 Budget.

Prof Gyan-Baffour said such negative growth in the wake of oil resources had significantly affected the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita income.

“Mr Speaker, according to the Bank of Ghana data on page 213 of this budget, the economy is shrinking. The GDP was $39.517 billion in 2011; it went up to $41.459 billion in 2012 and $48.678 billion in 2013 and has since started falling to $38.775 billion in 2014 and further down to $36.068 billion in 2015,” he emphasised.

He also pointed out that with an increased population and shrinking GDP, the per capita income has reduced from $1,884 in 2013 to $1,346 in 2015, stressing that the budget’s theme of ‘Consolidating Progress towards brighter medium term’ should change to ‘Consolidating mediocrity and incompetence.”

He said government has mastered the art of borrowing such that the country’s total debt has ballooned from GH¢9.5 billion to GH¢93 billion in seven years with most of the borrowed money going into consumption instead of investment as indicated by the IMF.

The MP said industries had suffered greatly under this government, especially in the wake of the current power crisis.

“Mr Speaker, positively transforming the economy will mean adding value to our raw materials that is converting bauxite into aluminum, gold into trinklets, producing more chocolate from cocoa and the rest.”

He also added that government could also increase the fiscal space by revisiting the Oil Revenue Management Act and re-organizing EDAIF into a commercially viable bank to support manufacturing and export.

Source: Daily Guide

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Facebook amends 'real name' policy after protests

After passionate and at times angry pleas from various vulnerable communities, Facebook has announced it is to amend its controversial "real name" policy.

On Tuesday the site said it was to test new tools that allowed people to share any special circumstances they felt meant they could not use their real name.

The tool is intended to help people who may have suffered domestic abuse, or in cases where their sexuality could put them in danger.

However, Facebook stood firm on insisting people use "real names" in all but the most unusual situations.

"We require people to use the name their friends and family know them by," the company said.

"When people use the names they are known by, their actions and words carry more weight because they are more accountable for what they say.

"We're firmly committed to this policy, and it is not changing.

"However, after hearing feedback from our community, we recognise that it's also important that this policy works for everyone, especially for communities who are marginalised or face discrimination."

Intense pressure

The company is also adding a new tool for reporting fake names, requiring anyone who is reporting another user to provide more context for their complaint.

Facebook said it received hundreds of thousands of reports of fake names every week.

"In the past, people were able to simply report a 'fake name' but now they will be required to go through several new steps that provide us more specifics about the report," the company said.

"This additional context will help our review teams better understand why someone is reporting a name, giving them more information about a specific situation."

Image copyright Getty Images

Image caption Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was criticised for his remarks on the policy

The social network had faced intense pressure from rights groups over its hard-line stance on real names.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg was heavily criticised after he suggested that people that use two names, or have an alias, showed a "lack of integrity".

Drag queens

Last year, prominent drag queens in San Francisco had their Facebook accounts deleted as they were deemed to be violating the real name policy.

After considerable uproar, including a planned protest outside Facebook's headquarters, the company acknowledged that it had been a mistake to delete the accounts, but said it faced a challenge in verifying people on the network.

It argued that insisting on real names played a role in preventing bad actors on the site and had made people more accountable for what they posted.

"The stories of mass impersonation, trolling, domestic abuse, and higher rates of bullying and intolerance are oftentimes the result of people hiding behind fake names, and it's both terrifying and sad," the site said.

"Our ability to successfully protect against them with this policy has borne out the reality that this policy, on balance, and when applied carefully, is a very powerful force for good."

A group of civil liberties organisations and rights groups formed the Nameless Coalition which has been leaning on Facebook to change its policies.

The new tools announced on Tuesday fall short of the group's complete suggestions, but representatives from Facebook met members of the Nameless Coalition at a public event in San Francisco.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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Petroleum Commission confident bridging skills gap in oil and gas industry

The Petroleum Commission is confident the launched Ghana Upstream Sector Internship Program (GUSIP) would help bridge the skills gap in the oil and gas industry to the benefit of the economy.

Many industry players have expressed concerns about the lack of personnel with the requisite technical skills set for the development of the industry.

Human Capital Manager for the Petroleum Commission Edward Appiah-Brafo explains to JOY BUSINESS the Internship Program should boost job-creation opportunities in the sector.

According to him, the commission also has some concerns regarding number of people taking management courses and said “it is infact a big concern for the commission and the commission has stepped up its communication efforts in educating Ghanaians that the alacrity with which they go and pursue oil and gas management courses or anything management with oil and gas attached to it is not the antidote to the shortage of skills in the industry.”

Mr. Appiah-Brafo spoke with JOY BUSINESS at the maiden application assessment of candidates for the Ghana Upstream Sector Internship Program where about 200 successful graduates are to be selected for internship in the upstream oil and gas sector after the assessment.

To emphasise his point that the industry needs a lot more technical personnel as opposed to those with management backgrounds, he indicated that “the people that are here are not writing for management positions. They are writing for technical and entry level positions like supply chain, procurement, logistics, petroleum engineering, geoscience, oil and gas accounting, etc. and these are all at the entry level.”

About 200 successful candidates would be given first-hand training in oil companies in the country and beef up their training and capacity building efforts. The programme is aimed at creating and boosting employment opportunities in the oil and gas sector.
Source: myjoyonline.com

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Ghana Revenue Authority launches New Income Tax law

The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has launched a new income tax law to replace the Internal Revenue Act.

The implementation of the new tax, Act 896, 2015, would take effect from January 2016 and would seek to address the narrow and distorted tax base of the old Act.

Mr George Blankson, Director-General of the GRA, said sensitisation and education programmes would be carried out after the launch to enhance public understanding of the Act.

He explained that the integration of the revenue agencies in 2010 necessitated the need for the harmonisation of administrative and new tax laws.

“The Income Tax Act is therefore part of the process of the reorganisation of the tax laws known as the tax law projects,” he said.

While some provisions in the old Act were maintained in the new law, other sections have been modified and new provisions introduced to make compliance easy for taxpayers.

In the new act, specific provisions that guide the different methods and time for payment, including tax payable by withholding, tax payable by instalment and tax payable by assessment have been spelt out to improve and facilitate tax compliance.

Mrs Mona Quartey, Deputy Minister of Finance who launched the new income Tax law said it is complex and user-unfriendly, necessitating the need to replace it with a new Act, which encapsulates international best practices.

“The new act has reorganised the residual provisions in Act 592, simplified it and made it user-friendly, while retaining provisions that are peculiar to income tax administration,” she said.

Mr Quartey said the growth in the business environment calls for a tax administration that is abreast of changing trends.

The acting Deputy Commissioner of the Policy and Programme Unit of the Domestic Tax and Revenue Division of the GRA, Mr Edward Gyamerah, said provisions have been made for income tax exemptions.

“As part of the policy to broaden the tax base; interest paid to an individual is excluded from income that is exempted from tax. This is taxed at a concessionary rate of one per cent as a final tax,” he said.

Pension, he indicated is now included as an exempt income.

A Board Member of the GRA, Mr Ralph Tufour, said Ghanaians must attach urgency to taxation and urged potential and regular income earners to fulfil their tax obligations.
 
 
 
 
Source: Peacefmonline.com
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Disturbances delay commercial salt refining in Volta Region

Mr Mahendra Nuthalapatin, Managing Director of Kensington Industries Limited, has lamented about delays in commencing commercial salt refining by his Company in the Kpedzakope-Adina salt enclave in the Volta region, due to problems with the local people.

The latest problem took place on Wednesday December 2, during which a group of people torched the company’s excavator and tipper truck, accusing the company of destroying their heaps of salt and salt winning areas

The Company has ceded 300 metres each of its concession to the people of Kpedzakope and Adina, but the people of Kpedzakope say they need a bigger area because salt winning is their mainstay.

The Company, with 7,000 hectares salt concession in the Kpedzakope and Adina salt enclave in the Volta Region, has its 200 metric tons a day capacity refinery to produce food grade salt for export and domestic markets   standing idle.

“For two years the huge potential of the refinery has been idle, Mr Nathalapatin told a meeting of the Volta Regional Security Council (REGSEC) whose members led by Helen Adjoa Ntoso, Regional Minister, were at Kpedzakope following the latest skirmishes.

A total of 15 people were said to have been arrested in connection with the disturbances in which the Keta Divisional Police Commander was said to have narrowly escaped being killed but with a head injury.

The Company was said to have lost six of the 15 years for which it was to operate the concession.

The REGSEC meeting with management of the company was to assure them of the commitment to create a peaceful atmosphere for the company to operate in.

“We are bringing foreign direct investment and 500 direct employment opportunities including a transport Company,” Mr Nathalapatin said.     

He said the Company which was operating in Nigeria and several African countries, was attracted to Ghana because of the peaceful atmosphere and the immeasurable potentials for commercial salt production.

“We want to do peaceful business, and not fight the people,” Mr Nathalapatin said.

He said some African countries, including Ivory Coast, were ready to provide a competitive atmosphere for the Company to operate in.

Mr Nathalapatin said Nigeria provided a huge market for Ghana’s salt.

“As Dankote brings cement to Ghana so we also take salt to Nigeria,” where he said local production of food grade salt could meet only half of the demand which had to be made up with imports.

He said his company planned to build a jetty from where salt could be shipped to Nigeria.

Mr Nathalapatin took the REGSEC members round its refinery and machines, and assured them that the Company would co-operate with and transform the lives of people in the area.

Ms Ntoso assured the Company of the government’s commitment to create a peaceful atmosphere for the Company to operate in.

Addressing the people of Kpedzakope, she said the government would be tough on rising violent tendencies in the Ketu South Municipality.

Ms Ntoso said the Volta Region had been craving for foreign direct investments, and must therefore,   encourage rather than frustrate investors who had decided to locate in the region.

She, therefore, advised communities in the enclave to use dialogue and lawful means in resolving their differences with the only investor in the area.

Source: myjoyonline.com

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Be part of the governance process of our oil resource

Natural resources are neither manufactured in the laboratory or grown on some specialized soil(s). If there is, then it will not qualify as a Natural Resource. The struggle to obtain natural resource is Global.

This is because of the value it has and it’s ability to transform the socio economic aspiration of most countries. But in the quest to make the most out of our resources, we the citizens together with all stakeholders must play our role diligently.

Oil is one of Ghana’s natural resources that must be better governed. We all need to be part of the governance process to ensure our oil changes our lives and generations to come.

The question is, how do we get involved? You and I may not be in positions to directly oversee to the optimum utilization of our oil money. But one thing is for sure. Our collective oversight and advocacy is a necessary platform to enhance the future transparency and accountability we seek in our oil governance.

Civil Society participation at different level in shaping frameworks and policies of specific industries are usually as a result of available information and how it impacts on society.   

Do you want to know where our oil money comes from? And do you want to know where it is spent?

Visit the most comprehensive premier data website www.ouroilmoney.org; which gives an in depth information on oil receipts, revenues, contracts, proposals and reports from 2011 to date.

The website www.ouroilmoney.org, is interactive, gives a quick feedback, shares views with users and provides data from sources such as Ministry of Finance, Bank of Ghana, PIAC and other Governmental Institutions.

Ouroilmoney.org is an initiative of Africa Centre for Energy Policy and Supported by UKaid.

Ghana's oil is our oil, don’t sit on the fence. Let’s get interactive on www.ouroilmoney.org.
 

Source: myjoyonline.com

Natural resources are neither manufactured in the laboratory or grown on some specialized soil(s). If there is, then it will not qualify as a Natural Resource. The struggle to obtain natural resource is Global.

This is because of the value it has and it’s ability to transform the socio economic aspiration of most countries. But in the quest to make the most out of our resources, we the citizens together with all stakeholders must play our role diligently.

Oil is one of Ghana’s natural resources that must be better governed. We all need to be part of the governance process to ensure our oil changes our lives and generations to come.

The question is, how do we get involved? You and I may not be in positions to directly oversee to the optimum utilization of our oil money. But one thing is for sure. Our collective oversight and advocacy is a necessary platform to enhance the future transparency and accountability we seek in our oil governance.

Civil Society participation at different level in shaping frameworks and policies of specific industries are usually as a result of available information and how it impacts on society.   

Do you want to know where our oil money comes from? And do you want to know where it is spent?

Visit the most comprehensive premier data website www.ouroilmoney.org; which gives an in depth information on oil receipts, revenues, contracts, proposals and reports from 2011 to date.

The website www.ouroilmoney.org, is interactive, gives a quick feedback, shares views with users and provides data from sources such as Ministry of Finance, Bank of Ghana, PIAC and other Governmental Institutions.

Ouroilmoney.org is an initiative of Africa Centre for Energy Policy and Supported by UKaid.

Ghana's oil is our oil, don’t sit on the fence. Let’s get interactive on www.ouroilmoney.org.

- See more at: http://myjoyonline.com/opinion/2015/December-15th/be-part-of-the-governance-process-of-our-oil-resource.php#sthash.hLHBmXSc.dpuf
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South Africa's Pravin Gordhan named third finance minister in week

South Africa's president has appointed the experienced Pravin Gordhan as his third finance minister within a week.

He replaces the little-known David van Rooyen who had only been in the job since Thursday.

Last week, President Jacob Zuma sacked previous Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene in a widely-criticised move that sent the rand to record lows and caused the stock market to tumble.

The developments come amid concern over South Africa's struggling economy.

Mr Gordhan was widely respected when he served as South Africa's finance minister from 2009 until 2014.

BBC Africa business reporter Lerato Mbele says his re-appointment is designed to quell market discontent and restore some confidence.

It appeared to have an immediate effect with the currency rising, recovering from just over 16 rand to the dollar to about 15 by Monday morning, according to currency site xe.com.

The Johannesburg stock exchange also recovered some of last week's losses.
Who is Pravin Gordhan?

    Trained and worked as a pharmacist in Durban
    One of the main negotiators in the drafting of South Africa's democratic constitution from 1991-1994
    Ran South Africa's revenue service from 1999-2009
    Served as finance minister from 2009-2014
    Re-appointed finance minister in 2015

But the new finance minister has a hard job with unemployment currently above 25%, growth sluggish and credit rating agency Fitch recently downgrading South Africa to one notch above "junk" status.

The brief tenure of Mr van Rooyen and the uncertainty it caused may have damaged South Africa's reputation further, analysts say.

Mohammed Nalla, head of research at Nedbank Capital, said having a finance minister serve just a few days did not bode well.

"International investors are probably thinking: 'Why didn't the president make a much more considered decision in the first place?'" he said.

President Jacob Zuma's decision to fire two finance ministers in the space of a week has been a colossal blunder.

Not only has it been recognised by opposition parties, who are calling for his resignation, but also by the general public, the financial markets and, by the weekend, the president himself, hence the change in mind.

But what is happening with the governing African National Congress?

The ANC leadership was not consulted and seemed to be hearing about the dramatic appointments at the same time as the rest of us.

There is no doubt that the continent's oldest liberation movement is in disarray.

President Zuma will emerge weaker but the party will not lose votes in the medium term - as people remain loyal to the movement if not the individual.

Mr Nene's reluctance to approve a plan to build several nuclear power stations at a cost of up to $100bn is thought to have contributed to his removal as finance minister.

But President Zuma's move to get rid of him drew a lot of criticism from within the governing ANC.

Former Health Minister Barbara Hogan on Friday called on Mr Zuma to resign. The highest-profile ANC member to oppose Mr Nene's removal, she said that the president had crossed a line and needed to be held to account.

Razia Khan, an analyst with Standard Chartered bank, said the turmoil was "perhaps the first instance since 2007 that Zuma has come under severe pressure within the party".

A statement from Mr Zuma's office said he had "received many representations" to reconsider his decision to appoint Mr van Rooyen.

"As a democratic government, we emphasise the importance of listening to the people and to respond to their views," it added.

Fitch said on Thursday that Mr Nene's sacking "raised more negative than positive questions".

 

Source: bbc.co.uk

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Volkswagen admits 'chain of errors'

The chairman of embattled carmaker Volkswagen says a chain of errors led to the emissions scandal and that its top priority is winning back trust.

Speaking at a news conference, Hans Dieter Poetsch said: "We are talking here not about a one-off mistake but a chain of errors."

He said VW would be "relentless in seeking to establish who was responsible" for the scandal.

VW's chief executive said it was "fighting for every customer".

But Matthias Mueller said a massive slump in sales had not occurred in the wake of the scandal.

In September, US regulators found some VW diesel cars had a "defeat device" - or software - to cheat emissions tests.

The company said the problem began when it decided to launch a large-scale promotion of diesel vehicles in the US in 2005, but found it impossible to meet strict emissions limits in force in that country in time.

VW said it had agreed steps to improve supervision of engine software development to prevent future manipulation.

Mr Mueller said it was relatively simple and inexpensive to fix the millions of affected cars, but this had not been possible before, as the technology for the fixes was not available when the cars were built. In any case, the company was unaware at the time that there was a problem.

Volkswagen will in future undertake "real-life" tests, which will be checked by both internal and external third parties.


'Good progress'

Mr Poetsch said: "No business justifies crossing legal and ethical boundaries."

He said it was likely that only a limited number of people took part in the deception and said they would not be named as yet, adding that it was impossible to stop misconduct by individuals.

However, he added that the actions taken by the company would make such actions that much more difficult in future.

US law firm Jones Day is conducting an investigation into what happened. That, Mr Poetsch said, was making good progress, but would take some time to conclude.

The cheat device affects up to 11 million cars worldwide.

The damage to VW prompted its chief executive to resign and wiped billions off the company's value on the stock markets.

Shares in VW closed down 0.3% at €139.10 in Frankfurt on Thursday.


Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35060201

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Africa's business tycoons highly corrupt, Transparency says

Business executives are the most corrupt group in Africa after police officers, a new survey indicates.

This is the first time its annual survey ranked businessmen as highly corrupt, Transparency International said.

Abuses of power increase poverty and deprive people of basic needs, the anti-corruption watchdog warned.

Poor people were hardest hit as they were almost twice as likely to pay a bribe compared with the more affluent.

More than people 43,000 were interviewed in 28 states in sub-Saharan Africa for the People and Corruption: African Survey 2015.

 

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-34974328

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Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg to give away 99% of shares

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan say they will give away 99% of their shares in the company to good causes as they announce the birth of their daughter Max.

Mr Zuckerberg made the announcement in a letter to Max on his Facebook page.

He said they were donating their fortune to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to make the world a better place for Max to grow up in.

The donation amounts to $45bn (£30bn) at Facebook's current value.

However the shares will not be donated to charity immediately, but over the course of the couple's lives.

Were Mr Zuckerberg to give away 99% of his shares immediately, he would still possess hundreds of millions of dollars. Ms Chan's worth has not been documented.

Max was born last week, although her birth was only made public on Tuesday.

In his letter Mr Zuckerberg said the aim of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is "to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation".

Its initial areas of focus will be personalised learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities.

 

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34978249

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Four telcos go head-to-head for 800MHz spectrum today

All is set for the auction of the 800MHz spectrum band for 4G LTE  as the four bidders ready themselves to battle for the licence between today, Wednesday December 2 and 6.

The winner of the bid would be announced on December 7.

The four companies are running for a pair of 2x10MHz spectrum blocks within the 800MHz band, which has become available for broadband telecom services because of the global migration from analogue to digital television systems.

The four bidders are Ghanaian companies Surfline Communications, Goldkey Telecoms and Migson Communications, and South African telecoms giant, MTN Ghana (Scancom Ghana Limited).

They have all paid their non-refundable GHC200, 000 registration fees and the initial deposit of US$6.75 million each, which is 10 per cent of the US$67.5 million floor price of each of the two spectra blocks.

The highest bidder will win at the end of the day, and that company gets to pay the difference between the winner price and the 10 per cent initial deposit in 60 days. But the losers will be given back the 10 per cent deposit they made.

The four bidders have also completed engagements and an orientation process with the selected auctioneer, KPGM, how has assured to deliver a transparent, objective and professional exercise.

Indeed, KPMG has brought in some of its expert international staff to ensure the highest quality of professionalism in the auction process.

Background

This process started way back May 14, 2015, when the telecoms regulator, National Communications Authority called for public consultation prior to announcing the dates of the actual auction.

The public consultation process ended on June 11, 2015, by which time nine entities had put in their comments, contributions and concerns about the process.

The nine were MTN Ghana, Airtel Ghana, Vodafone Ghana, Tigo Ghana, Ghana Telecoms Chamber, Qualcomm International Incorporated, GSM Association, Ing. Dr. Adam Icarus Imoro and team made up of Surfline Communications, Goldkey Telecoms, Blu Telecoms and Broadband Home.

They each raised issues that led to some adjustments in the initial proposal by the NCA regarding the spectra auction. For instance, the initial floor price was $92 million plus, but it was reduced to $67.5 million based on respondents request for a reduction.

The deadline for the submission of bids was set at November 9, 2015 and by the close of that date only four had paid the mandatory non-refundable GHC200,000.

ICT Chamber

But after this rather long process, there emerged the Ghana ICT Chamber allegedly comprising of a 10-member Ghanaian consortium seeking to quash the open auction and offering to pay the $83 million required for the digital migration in Ghana, in exchange for the entire 800MHz spectrum.

Interestingly, the ICT Chamber included Surfline and Goldkey, who already have a Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) licenses in the 2600MHz band for 4G LTE services; and the two are also in the run for the 800MHz band.

In their submissions, the ICT Chamber directly attacked MTN Ghana's involvement in the open auction simply because MTN is a South Africa company. They insisted that Ghana's most priced asset cannot be given to a South African company so it must be indigenized.

They also sought for protection against the entry of the six 3G telcos into the 4G space, insisting that the locally-owned 4G players need more time to "recoup their $200 million investment and make a handsome profit".

NCA

But the NCA has explained that it had already taken care of local content in the telecom industry by awarding the first three blocks of the 2600MHz spectra strictly to local companies Surfline, Blu and Goldkey.

Moreover, winners of the new 800MHz spectrum would also be required to offload at least 35 per cent shares to Ghanaians.

MTN

MTN, which was attacked directly by the ICT Chamber, has also said that Ghanaians need to be given the chance to enjoy affordable and easily accessible 4G service before the technology becomes obsolete.

The company believes, with its 15 million customers and counting, it is in the best position to make this happen on a faster scale than any industry player.

It has therefore expressed the commitment and its readiness to deploy 4G LTE within six months after it gets access to the spectrum.

MTN Ghana CEO, Ebenezer Twum Asante said "we are ready, our equipment are ready, our expert staff are ready and our customers are ready with the 4G compliant devices waiting for us to rollout the service, and we can't wait any longer."

When the 800MHz spectrum is deployed on a larger scale, it will help to improve the performance of 3G networks and also provide 4G access to many more Ghanaians at affordable rates. It will also enable the rollout of more innovative products and services like mobile health, mobile agriculture, mobile education and more.
 

Source: http://www.myjoyonline.com/business/2015/December-2nd/four-telcos-go-head-to-head-in-800mhz-spectrum-auction-today.php

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ACEP predicts bleak future for Ghana’s oil industry

Think tank, African Center for Energy Policy, has forecasted a bleak future for Ghana’s oil industry due to what he says is refusal by companies granted production licences to explore for more oil.

ACEP Executive Director, Dr. Amin Adam, says the situation has arisen because there is an absence of proper due diligence on the companies’ capacity to explore oil before they are awarded licences.

Although Ghana is in its fifth year of oil production, Dr Amin Adam says the country may soon witness a decline in production unless companies with strong capacity are engaged to explore.

“When it comes to contract we still have very serious issues relating to how companies are evaluated. We have issues relating to open and competitive bidding process which other countries are using but we are not using," Dr Amin Adam said.

He has urged Parliament to push for full contract disclosure by government agencies that award exploration licences.

Dr. Amin Adam was speaking to Joy News on the sidelines of an international oil and gas training programme for journalist.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fears it may lose its highly trained staff to oil production companies operating in the country.

Although the EPA lacks adequate human resource to fully monitor activities of oil companies especially on the FPSO, the company says it is losing key staff multinational companies who offer better job opportunities.

EPA’s Deputy Director in charge of oil and gas, Kojo Agbenor Efunam, told Joy News the agency is under constant pressure to find ways to keep its staff.

Commenting on the issue, Dr Amin Adams said the problem at EPA must not be taken lightly.
 

Source: http://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2015/December-2nd/acep-predicts-bleak-future-for-ghanas-oil-industry.php

 

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Zambian businesses pummelled by power cuts

During an afternoon power cut in the Lusaka township of Bauleni, 52-year-old Stanford Mwanza does what work he can in his carpentry workshop by varnishing a wardrobe.
Among Bauleni's 15,000 residents little stirs on streets full of normally active welders, mechanics and tyre menders during business hours, as workers wait for power to return.
Elsewhere across the Zambian capital of 1.4 million, and throughout this hydroelectric-dependent country, businesses are suffering after an erratic rainy season from last October to March this year left reservoir water levels too low, resulting in load shedding - or planned power-cuts - lasting eight to 14 hours a day.
Not everyone, however, accepts the government's blaming of rains for the energy crisis that began shortly afterwards, but has worsened since August. Everyone agrees on the outcome, though.
"It is a hell of a problem," Mr Mwanza says. "The power went at 10 this morning and now we just have to wait. Normally it takes me three weeks to finish a wardrobe but this one has taken two months."
Poor rains
Zambia had one of Africa's fastest growing economies - expanding on average 7% annually over the past five years - driven by mining of its huge copper and cobalt reserves.

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Local businesses must exploit Instant Messaging to build their brands

It’s about time local businesses took advantage of the growing use of Instant Messaging (IM) to promote and build their brands.
Instant messaging involves real time exchange of text messages between individuals through a software application over the Internet.  The popularity of IM has soared over the past year, with a 12 percentage point uplift in daily usage as more Ghanaians opt for closed messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber. In Ghana, daily instant messaging has seen impressive growth, from 74% of Ghanaian internet users, to 86% in 2015.
Globally, over half of internet users (55%) are now using instant messaging every day, while three quarters are using it on a weekly basis, according to Connected Life, a study of over 60,000 internet users worldwide from global research consultancy TNS.
According to Adewale Obaseki, the Managing Director of leading Marketing Research firm,              TNS RMS, IM offers significant opportunities for brands that successfully move to a content model. He said this when he delivered a lecture on the topic –Integrated Marketing Strategy in a digital world - organized by the Chartered Institute of Marketing – CIMG as part of its monthly series.
“Digital has come to stay, there has been more innovations in this in the last ten years than in the last seventy years and for Ghana we need to move to digital because our consumers are also changing their habits on a daily basis as well as their technology habits. Thus as marketers reaching them, it is actually important and the platform to reach them is digital.
“You need to understand your consumer and your target group. If your target group are the younger generation, they probably do not watch television as much as we do and so reaching them through digital is probably your only option. Now we have the average young digital user putting on his ear-piece  and then playing with his mobile all-day and so now companies whose targets are these consumers really need to connect with them through digital” he said.
Instant Messaging is particularly dominant in emerging ‘mobile-first’ markets, with daily usage rising even higher in markets such as Ghana, South Africa, China, Brazil, and Malaysia. By contrast, some Western markets are lagging behind in daily IM usage, including the UK and the US.
Despite this, social networking platforms are still rising in popularity on a global level with a 6% uplift in daily usage. Facebook has maintained its position as the world’s favourite social platform; almost one third of global internet users say they use it every day. In Ghana, however, daily usage of Facebook has plateaued, with a slight decrease in daily usage (from 66% in 2014 to 63% in 2015). Instagram and Twitter, however, have seen dramatic growth in Ghana over the past year, as social media behaviour starts to fragment over an increased number of social networking platforms.
This data shows that consumers are even more connected to each other, and across multiple platforms. While IM popularity is rising, traditional social media platforms are still holding strong, allowing content to go viral more quickly. The challenge for brands is to create content that consumers actually want to share.
Mr. Obaseki added “The mobile-centric nature of African markets presents enormous opportunity for marketers. Connected Ghanaians spend an average of over three hours per day on social platforms, with WhatsApp and Facebook the dominant platforms, but with newer platforms such as Instagram seeing rapid growth in popularity. The constantly connected status of digital users, and their appetite for relevant, engaging branded content is fertile ground for marketers to make a meaningful connection with their consumers”.
 Joseph Webb, Global Director of Connected Life, also noted “Apps like Snapchat, and WhatsApp are sweeping up new users every day, particularly amongst younger consumers who want to share experiences with a smaller, specific group, rather than using public, mainstream platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
“As people’s online habits become ever more fragmented, brands need to tap into the growing popularity of IM and other emerging platforms. The need for a content-driven approach across IM, social and traditional channels has never been clearer. Yet at the same time brands need to be very careful. Instant messaging is a more closed medium, meaning it is essential to share limited content that is genuinely relevant and valuable”
- Source:http://www.myjoyonline.com/business/2015/november-27th/local-businesses-must-exploit-instant-messaging-to-build-their-brands.php

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'As We Await Karpower Barge'

As Ghana welcomes the highly anticipated 225MW Karpower barge, a lot of Ghanaians have expressed their thoughts, pleasures and displeasures relating to its adoption and use in Ghana per our recurrent energy crisis.

Apart from the fact that power barge is not a sustainable answer to Ghana’s current energy crisis, it is need for us to know some operational history of the Karpower.
 
To start with, the key operational challenge of the Karpower barge has being the fuel quality. This is one of its main setback in the history of its operations in other countries.  

In April 2013, the Fatmagul Sultan, the electricity-generating barge stationed off the Lebanese coast, stopped producing electricity for over a month, yet Karpower had to demand 8 million dollars of back pay from the Lebanese state for this downtime.  

Interestingly, the Karadeniz Company, maintained that reason behind the stoppage was low-quality fuel. This same clause of paying for non-performance is found in Ghana’s contractual agreement with Karpower.   

Since the key challenge for Karpower’s continuous operation is the quality of fuel, the question then is between Karpower and Ghana, who is responsible for the fuel standards according to the contract agreement?

If Ghana is responsible for the supply of the Fuel, do we have the adequate fuel specification or standards for the Power barge not to breakdown?

Again, it is imperative that such key issues are resolved timely within contractual frameworks between the Ghana and the Karadeniz Company, since this has been one of the reasons for the power barge’s breakdown in some other countries previously.

Despite the fact that the $700million USD to be spent on this Karpower could have been used to build a 450MW solar power plant which equally could have supported our peak load demands, it is still need that we have value for money for this Karpower project.  

In concluding, let me re-emphasize the need for Ghana to pay attention to the mistakes others have made concerning their agreement on this power barge so Ghanaians do not suffer its ramifications.
 
 
 
 
Source:http://business.peacefmonline.com/pages/economy/201511/262211.php

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Tonaton.com Launches Two New Services

Tonaton.com, Ghana's largest marketplace, has launched two new services to enable it meet the dynamic needs of its customers.

The two services, launched on Thursday 19th November, 2015, are Tonaton Delivers, a safe and efficient delivery service for Tonaton.com users to get the products they buy to be delivered to their front door and Tonaton Memberships, a value-added service to help businesses extend their footprints to increase their sales.

Speaking to the press, Managing Director of Tonaton.com, Sandra Abrokwa Owusu-Kyerematen said,Tonaton Deliversis focused on building confidence and trust of online marketplaces in Ghana.

“Quality of service and goods is one aspect we do not compromise on Tonaton.com. It is important to us that, our customers are pleased with the products they receive from their orders and that it also matches   exactly with what they viewed on the website and were expecting,” Sandra said. “As the online market industry still evolves in Ghana, it is important to us that customer trust is established and maintained, this can only be achieved by adding more valued services to our existing ones. The Tonaton Delivers service we are offering now clearly sets us apart from competition,” she added.

The pay-on-delivery service, the first for any e-marketplace in Ghana, will strive to eliminate certain burdens off both buyers and sellers.

“We are always looking to innovate on behalf of our customers and find ways to save them time and money. With Tonaton Delivers, we're relieving buyers and sellers of the inconvenience of traffic and the physical distance that exists between them. This is just another example of the value that Tonaton.com strives to provide its users,” Sandra added.

The service, being offered in Tema and Accra, is expected to be expanded to other areas in the coming weeks. With charges of GHs10 for Accra and GHs15 for Tema, Frederick Owusu, Head of Business Development and Category Management of Tonaton.com added that users of this service will see the value in time saved, not to mention the relief.

“This delivery service is a great service for people who are busy and don’t want to take the time to drive or meet buyers.  This represents the fastest, cheapest and most convenient way for customers to purchase items online.” he said.

How Tonaton Delivers Works
Once a seller posts a product ad on Tonaton.com and a buyer decides to purchase the item, the seller can book delivery by calling Tonaton Delivers. Tonaton Delivers will then pick up the item from the seller and deliver it to the buyer. After the buyer has inspected the item and shown satisfaction, they will proceed to pay Tonaton Delivers for the item.

Depending on the contentment of the buyer, Tonaton Delivers settles seller or returns unsold item to seller. Tonaton Delivers, “Fast, safe & convenient deliveries to you!” Call 0501509132 now.

The other service, Tonaton.com Memberships a value-added service to help businesses extend their footprint to increase their sales. The service comes with unmatched additional benefits for business ad posters depending the package subscribed on such as, a page dedicated entirely to one’s business- microsite, free featured listings, free customized shop stickers, free professional product photos, heavy discounts on banner advertising and free deliveries from Tonaton Delivers.

Speaking to the media, Frederick Fiifii Owusu, Head of Business Development and Category Management of Tonaton.com, said Tonaton.com Memberships comes in two packages. "The first package is "Business Unlimited", where users have full benefits and no limits on ads they can post on the site in a month. The second, "Business Plus", where users have the opportunity to tell the world about their business and products with limited ads."

Tonaton.com, Ghana’s largest market place looks forward to helping businesses grow as well making transactions easier and faster on the site through their initiatives

source:http://business.peacefmonline.com/pages/news/201511/261993.php

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