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Solar group to World Bank: Give us gas and oil’s $12B, and we’ll cool planet, By Mark Halper, SmartPlanet, 22 November 2012


 

Square these two sentences:

  • Earlier this week, the World Bank called for urgent action to stop catastrophic global warming.
  • Over the last 6 years, the World Bank has financed $12 billion worth of fossil fuel projects – the sort of thing that stokes the planetary thermometer –  according to renewables energy group Desertec Foundation.

Scratching your head?

So is Desertec, the Hamburg, Germany international outfit that wants to build solar power plants in the deserts of North Africa, the Middle East, China, the U.S., Australia and elsewhere to wean the world off of fossil fuels.

The group’s director, Thiemo Gropp, has issued an open proclamation under the headline, “$12 billion in World Bank funds would be better invested in desert power than in fossil fuels.”

Read more at Solar group to World Bank: Give us gas and oil’s $12B, and we’ll cool planet

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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How to access the e-commerce gold mine of Africa, By Peter Harvey, Buisness Day, 14 November 2012


AFRICA’s financial sector has tremendous potential. The continent is home to 1-billion people, half under 20, and has six out of 10 of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Yet a study last year by the African Development Bank, German International Co-operation and the World Bank found less than 20% of households have a formal bank account, and only 23% of enterprises have loans or lines of credit.

Informal financial arrangements, savings clubs (stokvels) and other independent moneylenders seem to meet the continent’s needs and are often defended as an “African solution to African problem”. However, these are largely imperfect substitutes — unreliable, unsecure and rarely private. These arrangements limit individuals, and hamper the economy as entrepreneurs and businesses are unable to take advantage of opportunities such as e-commerce, which requires a complex ecosystem for making and processing online payments.

Not one African country got into the top 30 on the Global Retail Development Index determining the most lucrative retail opportunities in the world, the top five being China, Brazil, Russia, Chile and Mexico. (China’s vast online retail market secured the top position — the value is estimated at R194bn, second only to the US.)

Even South Africa, despite having the most internet users in Africa, is underperforming with its online retail value sitting at just R2.5bn last year. Surprisingly, telecoms infrastructure is not the only cause. The first step in an online transaction is a person with a valid credit or debit card. Credit card penetration in South Africa is 0.2%, compared to Brazil’s 110%.

Debit card ownership is only slightly higher, with less than one card per South African.

We need our issuing banks to speed up the rate at which they roll out cards to their customers. Debit cards are likely to dominate as most Africans have little experience of handling credit and credit cards carry big risks for banks. The continent will also need a cadre of acquiring banks prepared to accept online payments for their merchant customers.

It remains difficult as an acquiring bank that wants to enter the e-commerce field has to buy the appropriate licences from card associations (such as Visa and MasterCard), install card processing systems, hire skilled staff to manage those systems while still having a firm grasp of the risk of fraud. It’s easier to find a bank that will issue cards than one that will acquire transactions. This has all led to a big imbalance between supply and demand. This may lead to businesses seeking greener pastures overseas.

As an alternative, smaller businesses often turn to “super-merchants” who make their own merchant facilities available to others but the costs are high and the payment cycles are notoriously bad. It can take as long as 30 days to get your money out, damaging the cash flow of a business.

Payment gateways (payment service providers) link customers, merchants, banks and the card associations and can greatly facilitate the growth of this market by educating merchants, sourcing acquiring banks for them and managing their relationships with those banks. In this regard, businesses and the government will have to step up to the plate, pressuring banks to modernise and create opportunities. After all, 1-billion potential consumers is a market too large to ignore.

• Harvey is founder and MD of PayGate

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Obama second term: What it means for Africa, Andrew Harding, Africa correspondent, BBC, 7 November 2012


Some people on this continent expected more from the son of man who grew up herding goats in a village in western Kenya.

President Barack Obama made only one, cursory trip to sub-Saharan Africa during his first term, and at the time made it fairly clear that he would not be smothering the continent with attention.

“Africa’s future is up to Africans,” he said in Ghana, in a speech that quietly acknowledged the limitations of American influence in a region that now trades more with China than the US.

So how much will change in Mr Obama’s second term?

That question was, perhaps understandably, barely mentioned in an election campaign that focused on pressing domestic issues and the Arab uprisings.

In his victory speech, Mr Obama again made only passing reference to “a decade of war” and to “people in distant nations… risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter, the chance to cast their ballots like we did today”.

Behind the scenes US diplomacy will no doubt continue to be furiously in demand.

No ‘Obama doctrine’

In the first term, the focus was on headline-hogging conflicts in Ivory Coast, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan and even a close-run election in Zambia.

The start of the second term is likely to be preoccupied with more of the same: International efforts to remove al-Qaeda-linked rebels from the north of Mali – by force or negotiation or both – and efforts to ensure that Zimbabwe and Kenya avoid repeating the violence that wrecked their last elections.

If Kenya pulls off a free and fair vote, expect a fairly prompt visit to Nairobi by Air Force One.

So far, there is no sign of a grand “Obama doctrine” for Africa – and perhaps that is a good thing given the diversity and complexity of the continent.

Mr Obama has left it to others to warn about the dangers posed by an insatiable China.

But his second term may give him an opportunity to move away from the distorting, “war on terror” preoccupations of Mali and Somalia, and focus on the broader issues – trade in particular – that he raised three years ago in Ghana.

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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