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Africa has sights set on hydrocarbon haul despite global shift
12 November 2021, 2:59 PM

Several African countries plan to exploit their oil and gas reserves to tackle poverty and energy shortages, representatives gathered in Dubai said this week in the face of pressure to end fossil fuel extraction to curb global warming.

Officials and industry executives stressed that Africa as a whole has a relatively small carbon footprint, which Statista estimated accounted for 3.7% of global CO2 emissions in 2020.

“We want to develop our resources as Africa, just as our brothers in the West have done,” John Munyes, Kenya’s minister of petroleum and mining, told the Africa Oil Week conference in Dubai, which coincided with the second week of the United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

“Much of Kenya is renewables, we just want to tap into what God has given us: hydrocarbons,” he added.

Across the African continent, where some 600 million people lack electricity, both well-established and emerging producers are seeking to accelerate hydrocarbon extraction.

“We understand that we have to mitigate the damage to the planet. That’s why we have signed up to the energy transition,” Thomas Camara, Ivory Coast’s minister of mines, petroleum and energy, said.

“But for our African nations, we have to ensure that our populations have access to energy … We will not turn our back to oil and energy companies so we can ensure the happiness – and even the existence – of our populations.”

Some two dozen African countries pitched their energy sectors to investors during the event in Dubai.

OPEC member Angola, where production peaked in 2008 and has been steadily declining for the past half-decade, plans to develop more fields including through licensing rounds for onshore blocks in 2023 and offshore blocks in 2025.

Output in 2031 is projected to slightly exceed last year’s roughly 1.3 million barrels a day.

Ghana, which discovered oil in 2007 and began extraction at the end of 2010, will channel investments to oil and gas development to then use the proceeds to invest in infrastructure and social welfare such as healthcare and education, its deputy energy minister, Andrew Egyapa Mercer, said.

“We believe strongly in oil and gas, and in particular gas” to ensure reliable energy baseloads, he added.

CLOCK TICKING

Western oil and gas companies looking to develop deposits in Africa face growing pressure over environmental concerns, which are leading them to accelerate plans as the world transitions to renewable forms of energy such as solar and wind.

“We have to come up with processes that enable us to convert a discovery into production as quickly as we can, because the clock is ticking. The clock is ticking in terms of the energy transition,” said Paul McCafferty, senior vice president Africa at Norwegian energy major Equinor.

Industry executives said among the challenges they now face was securing sufficient capital for hydrocarbon projects.

Top oil exporters Angola, and to a lesser extent Nigeria, are facing crude production declines due to lack of investment in expensive deepwater oil fields, partly because oil companies are allotting less funding to fossil fuels.

Africa Oil Corp CEO Keith Hill said the energy transition process needs to be balanced and that it was more of a 30-year process than a five or 10-year one.

For Uganda, hydrocarbons are necessary to reshape the economy, its energy minister said, and it is counting on a pipeline through Tanzania to the Indian Ocean coast that will help Uganda export its crude.

“We have a duty to provide jobs for our people. We have a duty to make sure that the distribution of electricity goes to the last person,” Energy Minister Ruth Nankabirwa said.

Turkey bans Syrians, Iraqis and Yemenis from flights to Belarus to curb migrant crisis
12 November 2021, 2:30 PM

Turkey banned Syrian, Yemeni and Iraqi citizens from flights to Minsk on Friday, potentially closing off one of the routes used by migrants that the EU says have been flown in by Belarus to create a deliberate humanitarian crisis on its frontier.

Thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, are sheltering in freezing conditions in the woods on the frontiers between Belarus and the EU states Poland and Lithuania, which are refusing to let them cross. Some have already died and there are fears for the safety of the rest as bitter winter conditions settle in.

The European Union accuses Belarus of creating the crisis as part of a “hybrid attack” on the bloc – distributing Belarusian visas in the Middle East, flying in the migrants and encouraging them to try to cross the border illegally. Brussels may impose new sanctions on Belarus and airlines it blames for ferrying the migrants, as soon as Monday.

Belarus denies that it manufactured the crisis, but has also said it cannot help resolve it unless Europe lifts earlier sanctions, which the EU imposed to punish President Alexander Lukashenko for a violent crackdown on mass street protests against his rule in 2020.

Lukashenko, a close ally of Russia, threatened this week to cut off Russian gas supplies to Europe through pipelines across Belarusian territory. On Friday, the Kremlin appeared to distance itself from that threat, saying it was not consulted in advance of Lukashenko’s remarks and that it would fulfil its gas delivery contracts.

European officials have repeatedly said their best hope of resolving the crisis at the frontier is to stop would-be migrants in the Middle East from boarding flights for Belarus in the first place.

Turkey has denied playing a direct role by allowing its territory to be used to ferry in migrants. But Minsk airport’s website listed six flights arriving from Istanbul on Friday, the most from any city outside the former Soviet Union.

Turkey’s Civil Aviation General Directorate (SHGM) said on Friday it would ban the sale of tickets on flight to Belarus to citizens from Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The Belarusian state-owned airline Belavia said it would comply with the request.

“In relation to the illegal border crossing problem between the European Union and Belarus, it has been decided for citizens from Iraq, Syria and Yemen wanting to travel to Belarus from our country’s airports not to be sold tickets and not to be allowed on planes,” the SHGM said on Twitter.

European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas welcomed the Turkish move.

EU foreign ministers may approve more Belarus sanctions on Monday that could include individuals and companies, according to one diplomat.

The bloc’s executive commission said airlines that bring migrants would be on the list, and two diplomats said the main airport in Belarus was also being considered.

Polish authorities stopped two groups of migrants from crossing the border from Belarus late on Thursday, private broadcaster TVN24 quoted local police as saying, marking a relatively quieter day in a week of tense confrontations.

The Polish Border Guard said on Friday on Twitter there had been 223 attempts to illegally cross the border on Thursday.

Two incidents in the evening involved larger groups – one near Kuznica Bialostocka where the Belarusian army tried to push some 35 people, mostly women and children, to the Polish side, and another including a group of around 100 migrants near Polowce, the local police said.

The Polish border guard said the number of migrants alongside the two countries’ border had risen to around 3 000-4 000.

Presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will meet on Monday in Vilnius to discuss the crisis and be joined by video link by Poland’s president Andrzej Duda, the Lithuanian president’s office said on Friday.

Taliban appoint members as 44 governors, police chiefs around Afghanistan
7 November 2021, 9:56 PM

The Taliban appointed 44 of its members to key roles including provincial governors and police chiefs on Sunday, a key step in shoring up its governance as the country grapples with growing security and economic problems.

It is the first large-scale round of appointments announced since the cabinet was formed in September.

The Taliban released the list of its members’ new roles, including Qari Baryal to serve as governor of Kabul and Wali Jan Hamza as the city’s police chief.

The previous commander in charge of Kabul’s security, Mawlawi Hamdullah Mukhlis, was killed this month in an attack on Afghanistan’s largest military hospital in downtown Kabul.

The Taliban took over the country on August 15 but have faced an uphill battle in their promise to restore order and security after decades of war. Islamic State have carried out a spate of attacks around the country, while the economy has been plunged into crisis.

There have been international calls for the group to negotiate with other political players to form an inclusive government including minorities and women, although substantive progress on that has so far not materialised.

Cheptoo dedicates New York run to slain Olympian Tirop
7 November 2021, 9:41 PM

Kenyan Viola Cheptoo dedicated her second-place run in Sunday’s New York City Marathon to Olympian and compatriot Agnes Tirop, who was found stabbed to death in her home last month, and said she would work to bring awareness to gender-based violence.

Kenyan police last month arrested the husband of the 25-year-old two-time World Championship bronze medallist Tirop, whose funeral two weeks ago was attended by over 1 000 mourners.

Cheptoo was with Tirop in September when she smashed the women-only 10-kilometre world record in Germany, crossing the line in 30 minutes and 1 second.

“It’s been really challenging,” said Cheptoo, who flew home with Tirop from Germany to Kenya. “There were no signs of abuse because she kept it to herself, and just knowing how she was murdered, the pain that she went through has really affected me.”

Tirop had finished fourth in the 5 000m at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Cheptoo is among a group of athletes who came together with Tirop’s family to form “Tirop’s Angels,” a foundation that aims to raise awareness of violence against women.

“We want women… to be able to speak up, and we know a lot of athletes are suffering in silence,” she said.

Cheptoo finished behind compatriot and Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir at the famed five-borough race on Sunday in her marathon debut.

“I ran this race for Agnes,” said Cheptoo. “When it got really tough I just kept thinking, you know, Agnes would have been running in New York in a year or two.”

Musk should sell 10% of his Tesla stock, Twitter users say
7 November 2021, 9:30 PM

Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk should sell about 10% of his Tesla stock, according to 57.9% of people who voted on his Twitter poll asking users of the social media network whether he should offload the stake.

The world’s richest person tweeted on Saturday that he would offload 10% of his stock if users approved the proposal in a poll.

The poll garnered more than 3.5 million votes.

“Much is made lately of unrealized gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock,” Musk said in a post on Saturday, adding that he does not take cash salary or bonus “from anywhere”, and only has stock.

US Senate Democrats have unveiled a proposal to tax billionaires’ stocks and other tradeable assets to help finance President Joe Biden’s social spending agenda and fill a loophole that has allowed them to defer capital gains taxes indefinitely.

Musk has criticised the proposal saying, “Eventually, they run out of other people’s money and then they come for you.”

As of June 30, Musk’s shareholding in Tesla came to about 170.5 million shares and selling 10% would amount to close to $21 billion based on Friday’s closing, according to Reuters calculations.

The world’s richest person had said that he would abide by the results of the poll.

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