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South Africa’s Eskom suspends power cuts

The power crisis had resulted in traffic gridlock across major cities as traffic lights stop working

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A man holds a sign during a demonstration by members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions - AFP

South Africa’s struggling state power firm, Eskom suspended electricity cuts on Friday with claims of the power system remaining vulnerable, after five days of outages which weakened the rand and affected businesses adversely across the country.

Eskom has been struggling with power station breakdowns and diesel shortages and supplies over 90 percent of the power in Africa’s most industrialised economy.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who faces a parliamentary election in May, has pledged to reform the utility by splitting it up and providing financial support. Privatisation has however been ruled out.  

The rand was on course for a loss of more than 3 percent against the dollar this week, largely due to Eskom’s woes, which risk derailing a sluggish economic recovery. 

“Due to further improvement in generation performance and the notable strides made in replenishing water and diesel reserves, Eskom is not likely to implement load-shedding on Friday,” Eskom said in a statement, using a local term for power cuts. 

Eskom started the power cuts on Sunday and intensified them to 4,000 megawatts (MW) of cuts on Monday in the worst outages South Africa has witnessed since 2014. The power cuts had been reduced to 2,000 MW by Thursday. 

The power crisis has resulted in traffic gridlock across major cities as traffic lights stop working and frustration for ordinary South Africans builds up. 
Businesses like miner Harmony Gold are exploring strategies to reduce their dependence on Eskom. 

The government has promised more details about how it will support Eskom’s balance sheet on Feb. 20, when the finance minister will deliver a budget speech in parliament. One of Eskom’s major issues is its unsustainable debt mountain of around 419 billion rand ($30 billion). 

($1 = 14.1358 rand) ($1 = 14.1358 rand) 

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South Africa’s Foschini to halt Kenya, Ghana operations

South African retailers have recorded poor performance in the last year, due to slow economic growth and currency devaluations

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South Africa's Foschini to halt Kenya, Ghana operations
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South African fashion retailer, the Foschini Group is considering shutting down its Kenya and Ghana businesses.

The firm’s Chief Executive Officer, Anthony Thunstrom, affirms that at least, six stores will be affected in both countries.

South African retailers have recorded poor performance in the last year, due to slow economic growth and currency devaluations that had hit sales.

In July, department store chain, Woolworths pulled out from West Africa for a second time.

The Foschini Group will review economic growth, legislature and lease negotiations in Kenya and Ghana before making its decision.

Come September, in its home market, Thunstrom says The Foschini Group will launch a smaller format Sportscene store that will enjoy entertainment features such as a basketball court and a DJ booth, in an effort to lure millennials into its stores and away from online players such as Naspers’ majority-owned Superbalist.

The store will be launched in September in Johannesburg’s upscale Sandton shopping and financial district.

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Total Mozambique gas project will go on despite insurgency

Total will also acquire US energy giant Anadarko’s assets in Algeria, Ghana, Mozambique and South Africa

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Energy major Total on Friday said it remained committed to a Mozambique liquefied natural gas project on the country’s northern coast despite deadly Islamist insurgent attacks.

Total will become the operator of the $25 billion Rovuma LNG Project whose construction began on August 5 in the Afungi Peninsula.

The company is also set to acquire US energy giant Anadarko’s assets in Algeria, Ghana, Mozambique and South Africa, strengthening Total’s position in Africa.

But the area where the project is located has been targeted by jihadists since October 2017, claiming more than 300 lives.

Attackers in February launched an assault on a convoy of vehicles from an Anadarko contractor, killing one worker and injuring others. 

This led to the suspension of operations for a few months, with activities only resuming after the government announced the deployment of armed forces.

Several hundred suspected attackers have been arrested, according to authorities, but sporadic assaults continue.

On Friday Total’s CEO Patrick Pouyanne reaffirmed Total’s commitment to the LNG project saying it “is a unique asset which perfectly fits our strategy and our skills.

“Please be assured of the commitment of Total to bring the best of our human, technical and financial capacities to further strengthen the project execution … in the interests of all those involved, including the government and people of Mozambique,” he said in a statement.

The project is expected to be transformational for Mozambique, creating an estimated 5,000 direct jobs and 45,000 indirect jobs.

The country’s gas deposits are estimated at 5,000 billion cubic metres and would make Mozambique a major exporter of liquefied natural gas.

The use of natural gas is on the rise globally as countries struggle to meet energy demands and shift away from using coal.

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Kenya plans to tax OTT services like Youtube, Netflix

The over-the-top services (OTT) will soon be required to declare the incomes they derive from Kenyan consumers

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Kenya plans to tax OTT services like Youtube, Netflix

Kenya’s Information Communication and Technology (ICT) ministry is working on completing a new tax scheme.

This framework, reports say, will be used to tax foreign online streaming media services such as YouTube and Netflix.

The over-the-top services (OTT) will soon be required to declare the incomes they derive from Kenyan consumers.

OTT services include all applications that offer voice, video and messaging services over the internet.

Communications Authority Director-General, Francis Wangusi says online content providers exploit the Kenyan industry. Yet, neither the government nor artistes benefit from them.

According to Wangusi, “many countries have policies that guide these services and that is where we are heading as a country”.

He adds that technologies that will facilitate taxation of OTT services are available.

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