Stellar Diamonds seeks to fund first post-Ebola mine in Sierra Leone

File Photo: A trader holds a four carat diamond worth about  US$8,000 in the town of Koidu in eastern Sierra Leone.

A trader holds a four carat diamond worth about US$8,000 in the town of Koidu in eastern Sierra Leone, file. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly /File Photo

Stellar Diamonds, a London-listed small-cap, is seeking funding for a $45 million diamond project in Sierra Leone it says will be the first major mining project since the Ebola crisis rocked the country’s economy.

Diamonds and other forms of mining are central to an economy hard hit by the 2015 Ebola epidemic.

Trade in diamonds helped to fuel the decade-long conflict that ended in 2002, but since the lifting of a ban on exports in 2003 and strict international rules, the industry says Sierra Leone’s exceptionally high quality diamonds have become a force for good.

“This is the first large-scale mining licence to be issued by the government since Ebola, creating up to 1,000 jobs,” Stellar CEO Karl Smithson said in an interview.

Initially, Stellar Diamonds planned to buy the diamond prospect through a reverse takeover to acquire acreage from private firm Octea, which already operates Koidu, the biggest diamond mine in Sierra Leone and West Africa. The new project Tongo-Tonguma will be the region’s second biggest, Smithson said.

In an environment in which small players can struggle to raise cash following the 2015-16 commodity crash, Smithson abandoned the reverse takeover plan in favour of a revenue-sharing deal.

That means Stellar will pay a 9.3 percent gross royalty to Octea, which continues to own the Tonguma prospect, while Stellar keeps the adjacent Tongo acreage and operates both.

Between them, Tongo-Tonguma should produce 200,000 carats per year over the 21-year mine life and generate gross revenue of $45 million annually.

For a small-cap, the advantage of the deal is it gets rid of the need to raise all the money upfront and means work can begin quickly – Smithson hopes next year.

To provide working capital, meanwhile, the company this week announced a share issue and an open offer to minority shareholders to raise roughly 500,000 pounds ($676,700).

Its share price, which was suspended for half a year while the reverse takeover was considered, has fallen more than 50 percent this year.

Stellar Diamonds expects to raise cash from a deal agreed earlier this year to sell its assets in Guinea to BDG Capital Limited, although Smithson said the final price would be less than the $2 million figure initially announced.

BSG Resources (BSGR) said it could not comment as the Octea deal was still being finalised.

The group was founded by Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz, who is now an advisor and not involved in daily business.

($1 = 0.7389 pounds)

Originally reported by Reuters.

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China to loan Guinea $20 bln in exchange for minerals

bauxite unloading (1)

A ship carrying bauxite from Guinea is unloaded at a port in Yantai, Shandong province, China May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

China agreed on Wednesday to loan Guinea $20 billion over almost 20 years in exchange for mineral concessions focused mainly on bauxite, an ore of aluminium which the West African country has in abundance, the mines minister said.

The projects guaranteed by the loan included China Power Investment Corp’s planned alumina refinery and Aluminium Corp of China’s (Chalco) bauxite project, both in Boffa, northwest Guinea, Mines Minister Abdoulaye Magassouba told Reuters.

Originally reported by Reuters.

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Benin Moves to Save Part of West Africa’s Last Big Wildlife Refuge

Benin is hiring scores of extra park rangers and bringing in conservation scientists to rehabilitate a part of West Africa’s largest wildlife reserve, which contains big cats and thousands of elephants that have largely died out elsewhere in the region.

The W-Arli-Pendjari (WAP) complex is the region’s biggest remaining expanse of savannah, covering more than 30,000 sq km of Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso.

The tiny nation has partnered with NGO African Parks for the 10-year project centred on the 4,800 sq km Pendjari National Park, part of WAP and seen as the most viable tourist hub for the area, officials involved told Reuters on Thursday.

The complex contains by far the largest elephant population in the region, several thousand, and is thought to house most of the few hundred remaining West African lions, as well as some cheetahs and hippos.

As with other parks in Africa, they face grave threats from poachers and encroachment by a surging human population.

“Pendjari is an opportunity for Benin and the region,” Jose Pliya, director of Benin’s national tourism agency, told Reuters by telephone. “This partnership … will help us make it a sustainable tourism destination (and) a lever for development and employment for the Beninoise.”

But boosting ecotourism faces challenges, not least because jihadists are thought to have infiltrated parts of the wider reserve. France, former colonial master of the three nations that straddle the park, has advised it citizens against all travel to the Burkina Faso side of the expanse.

A tourism ministry spokeswoman, when asked about the jihadist threat, said only that Benin had never been attacked and “security measures are being put in place,” to prevent one.

To better police the park, the project will recruit 10 officers or specialists, train 90 guards, set up a satellite communications network and put a 190 km fence around it, a joint statement from African Parks and Benin said.

A spokesman for the presidency said there were as of yet no plans to work with Benin’s neighbours, although experts say cross border cooperation is key to conserving large wildernesses.

“Regional cooperation always makes sense (for) … better management of the larger landscape and the species that move within it,” African Parks spokeswoman Fran Read said in an emailed response to questions.

“But equally … Pendjari National Park is a sufficiently large ecosystem to successfully conserve all its key species.”

Originally reported by Reuters.

Remember, no problem has a quick fix solution. Thus, always ensure to consult highly knowledgeable group of professionals whom would provide you with a collective advice, never individual advice. This group advice and approach is unique with CWIIL Group and is based on the overall Management Philosophy of all CWIIL Group Companies.

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How Haidar el Ali Became one of Africa’s Best-Known Environmentalists

Haidar el Ali started out in his family’s furniture business but then dedicated his life to protecting the oceans and other habitats.

At 25 years old, Haidar el Ali had a vision that changed his life.

Like most Lebanese in Senegal, Mr. Ali came from an entrepreneurial family. It had several furniture stores and workshops spread across Dakar’s densely packed Médina neighborhood. Every morning at 7 o’clock, Ali would join his father for a quick cup of coffee and chat before they started work. But one morning, while crossing the street, Ali had a moment he can only describe as “mystical.”

“Suddenly I saw myself sitting in my dad’s place waiting for my own son. My entire life as a businessman flashed before my eyes,” he explains. “By the time I reached my dad, I told him I needed to change my life. The next day I quit. Everyone was asking what happened to me, but honestly, I didn’t know.”

It wasn’t until a couple of years later that Ali understood. He had always been drawn to nature. It wasn’t unheard-of for him to spend weeks on end in the forest, away from the consumerism attending urban life back in Dakar. So Ali made a decision. He turned his passion for the environment into a vocation for life.

To some, his next steps might not seem to make sense: He got trained as a professional scuba diving instructor in France, and shortly thereafter he opened a diving company in Dakar. But as Ali describes it, the move makes perfect sense.

“What I really wanted to do was speak out against how we were destroying our ocean,” he says. “Fishermen were, at this time, still using explosives to catch their food, and I started to film what I was seeing underwater – how the natural ecosystems were being destroyed and degraded by human activity. I took these images to villages and then to the media, which ended up getting a lot of attention. This ultimately gave me the courage to follow my dreams.”

Ali’s parents were immigrants from Lebanon who “got stuck” in this small West African country en route to the United States in the 1930s, and it took them some time to understand why their son would abandon a life of security and comfort. But Ali says he was simply being true to himself.

And he has become one of Africa’s best-known environmentalists, holding several notable positions. He has been indispensable to the work of Oceanium, an environmental nongovernmental organization based in Dakar that he joined in 1985. Almost three decades later, from 2012 to 2014, Ali served in Senegal’s government, as minister of environment and then as minister of fisheries. He also heads the country’s Green Party (FEDES).

Ali is passionate when talking about the planet, raising the alarm about its future.

“Our environment is being attacked. And it’s so easy to kill, because trees don’t cry and branches don’t fall on traffickers,” says Ali, who is now in his 60s. “Unfortunately for us, we are headed towards a place of no return. Time is not on our side.”

Of course, he has not sat idly by. In addition to trying to protect the underwater world, he has also taken up land management and reforestation projects, which he has done with Oceanium. Ali served as the organization’s president for several years, and he is now an honorary member.

The Challenges For Forests

Senegal’s forests have faced multiple challenges. Severe droughts hit the country in the 1970s and ’80s, and the rise in urbanization cleared thousands of acres of trees. Mangroves – one of the richest ecosystems in the world – have been especially affected.

Approximately 133,000 acres of mangroves disappeared in Senegal between 1980 and 2005, according to a study by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. The study estimates that as of 2005, about 284,000 acres were left, mostly in the country’s lush and tropical southern Casamance region. These tidal shrublike trees help deter land erosion; provide homes to numerous fish, mollusks, and crabs; and have carbon-sequestering capabilities greater than those of rainforests.

To help fight against mangrove degradation, Ali, through Oceanium, organized massive replanting efforts with hundreds of villages in Casamance, where he is now based. This region is the greenest part of Senegal and was once referred to as the country’s breadbasket, but it’s been far from immune from environmental problems.

Between 2006 and 2012, countless villagers helped replant about 35,000 acres in Casamance, and another 2,500 or so acres were replanted elsewhere in Senegal. It’s one of the largest mangrove replanting efforts in the world.

Ali has worked with coordinators spread across the country who help organize seed distribution among residents.

“Before Haidar came, we didn’t have nearly the number of fish or birds that we do now,” says Aliou Badiane, a planting coordinator with Ali since 2008 who’s based in a Casamance village with no running water or electricity. “The hardest part [for us] is collecting seeds, but now we have a planting system in place that’s saving us.”

Denouncing Loggers

Ali and his network have also devoted attention to a forest restoration project to protect rosewood trees. They’re denouncing the loggers who are illegally transporting these trunks into neighboring Gambia, where they’re shipped to China. As a result of the scrutiny, tree-cutters are not able to cut as much wood, which has driven up the cost of it. A year ago, a 6-1/2-foot trunk sold for 10,000 CFA francs ($17). Today, the same size runs 10 times that price.

“The increase in the selling price proves we are making their work harder,” says Ali, who says forest rangers alert the network two or three times a day about any environmental threats they witness. “Just today, for example, I got an alert of some 5,000 tree trunks found. I’ll first send some other people over to look; then I will go back myself. If this is verified, I’ll call the press to denounce it.”

According to Ali, politicians might say they’re against illegal logging, but on the ground nothing ever changes. “The government is quick to say they encourage me [in my work], but it ends there,” he says. “In my mind it’s never a question of means. It’s one of human determination and will.”

“Haidar is a man of his word,” attests Jean-Michel Kornprobst, professor emeritus of science at the University of Nantes in France, who established Oceanium in 1984, a year before Ali joined. “He has never used his environmental efforts – for which he is so strongly physically and intellectually-linked – for his own personal gain…. [He] is fundamentally honest and is genuinely fighting for future generations…,” says Professor Kornprobst, who commented via email.

Going the Extra Mile

Ali’s tree planting is fueled today as much by personal conviction as by the desire to ensure that the trees, butterflies, and fish are around for “his greatest successes” – his two youngest children, ages 1 and 3. And not only does Ali practice what he preaches, but he also goes the extra mile to compel others to follow suit.

“I’m someone who can’t tell people to plant trees if I’m not doing it myself,” he says. “In my tree nursery [just outside Casamance’s capital city, Ziguinchor], I planted some 20,000 trees of all different types – from mahogany and rosewood to orange, grapefruit, avocado, and palmyra palms. And when I travel from Dakar to Ziguinchor [about 280 miles], I take the car just so that I can personally give out seeds in every village I go through. It’s a fastidious job, but it works.”

According to Ali, Senegal can be a role model for the rest of the region, and even the world, on how people can fight to preserve a natural way of life.

“I’m an optimist because I believe in humanity and the force of humans to react,” he says. “I believe in a nonviolent citizen revolution that is aware of our power to change things and is aware of our potential as the solution. And I see this movement taking hold a bit all over the world. People are starting to become more aware that having a love for all that is living is primordial for the survival of humanity.”

Originally reported by the Christian Science Monitor.

Remember, no problem has a quick fix solution. Thus, always ensure to consult highly knowledgeable group of professionals whom would provide you with a collective advice, never individual advice. This group advice and approach is unique with CWIIL Group and is based on the overall Management Philosophy of all CWIIL Group Companies.

Consulting CWIIL Group of Companies, for any / all investment matters ensures advice based on highest level of knowledge which are given to you by a team of select research-oriented experts whom each will do their own assessment of your matter, and also assess it together, thus ensuring that in case a mistake has been made by one, it will be noticed and corrected even before it is being passed on to you. Receiving incorrect and un-knowledgeable investment advice can be disastrous and thus should be avoided.

CWIIL Group of Companies is a global group of multi-specialized units with diversified interests and activities, wherein each company is a separate legal entity registered under prevailing laws in different parts of the world. CWIIL Group of Companies Products, Services, Project and Solutions are in a multitude of Verticals including, but not limited to, Infrastructure, Power, Oil & Gas, Legal, Media, Technology, ITES, HR, Shipping, Aviation, Real Estate, Hospitals, Health and Medicine, Education, Funding & Investment, Business and Legal Consultancy, and Public Private Partnerships, and other CWIIL Group Units, worldwide, to name a few.

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Solar Power Brings Northern Mali Much Needed Light

Residents in Kidal in northern Mali are finding it easier to work and study into the night thanks to a solar lighting project recently introduced to the area.

About 1,500 households are now able to switch on their lights thanks to a 50,000 US dollar project funded by the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

The government has been trying to promote renewable energy technologies since 2007, hoping they will reach 15 percent of the total national energy supply by 2020.

“The families that have benefited from these kits are very happy, not only because they have left the darkness behind, but it has also helped people in many ways, especially in families where there are children, the kits have allowed children to study in the evenings and women to continue their activities at night,” said Assikaday Ag Wayerzagane, a chief in Kidal.

Mali’s government has not had a military presence in Kidal since clashes between the army and Tuareg rebels killed 50 soldiers there in 2014, making access to services like electricity difficult.

Mali, a landlocked desert nation and an important gold exporter, has suffered from endemic corruption and instability over the years, and more lately from multiple insurrections by Islamist groups in the north, as well as infighting between armed factions.

Most of the country’s electricity supply is produced by a shared dam on the River Senegal in Mali, which also provides power to three neighbouring countries, including Mauritania and Senegal.

The country remains one of the world’s poorest nations, with around half its population living on less than $1.25 a day, according to U.N. data.

That means most families cannot afford a solar energy kit – including solar panels, batteries and lights – which can cost as much as $1,000 upfront.

Local NGO AFORD or Association for Training, Research and Development, was selected to implement the 6-month long lighting project. Mohamed Aly Ag Albessaty, is the organization’s president.

“This project has distributed solar kits to populations in need to allow people to light their homes and it allows children to study at home now that they get electricity service in Kidal,” he said.

Many Malians complain about regular power cuts or live in remote parts that are not on the national grid.

National energy company, Energie du Mali (EDM) has begun to add solar power capacity to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, which provide around half the West African nation’s power.

Aicha Abdoulaye a Kidal resident says solar lighting has also helped improve security in the area and improved their lives.

“We use it to charge our mobile telephones, before it was so difficult to charge our telephones. At night, we can also light up to see what we are doing until we go to sleep,” she said.

The government says the country is building two large-scale solar power plants to feed into the national grid, including one in the central region of Ségou which is slated to be West Africa’s first utility-scale solar plant, with a planned capacity of 33 megawatts able to cover 5 percent of Mali’s electricity needs.

Originally reported by Reuters.

Remember, no problem has a quick fix solution. Thus, always ensure to consult highly knowledgeable group of professionals whom would provide you with a collective advice, never individual advice. This group advice and approach is unique with CWIIL Group and is based on the overall Management Philosophy of all CWIIL Group Companies.

Consulting CWIIL Group of Companies, for any / all investment matters ensures advice based on highest level of knowledge which are given to you by a team of select research-oriented experts whom each will do their own assessment of your matter, and also assess it together, thus ensuring that in case a mistake has been made by one, it will be noticed and corrected even before it is being passed on to you. Receiving incorrect and un-knowledgeable investment advice can be disastrous and thus should be avoided.

CWIIL Group of Companies is a global group of multi-specialized units with diversified interests and activities, wherein each company is a separate legal entity registered under prevailing laws in different parts of the world. CWIIL Group of Companies Products, Services, Project and Solutions are in a multitude of Verticals including, but not limited to, Infrastructure, Power, Oil & Gas, Legal, Media, Technology, ITES, HR, Shipping, Aviation, Real Estate, Hospitals, Health and Medicine, Education, Funding & Investment, Business and Legal Consultancy, and Public Private Partnerships, and other CWIIL Group Units, worldwide, to name a few.

For Queries Feel Free to Contact :

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Deputy Global Director, No. 4,
Strategic Business & Intelligence Division,
Email : deputy.gd.4@cwiilgroup.eu
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Connect : LinkedIn – Twitter – Facebook – Quora

For Queries Specific to Africa :
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Africa’s Debt Challenge – Specialized Advice From CWIIL Group of Companies

It’s been a rough year for the West African countries most affected by the Ebola virus that has ravaged their communities and crippled their economies, disrupting agriculture and trade.

Forecast to lose a combined $1.6 billion in predicted economic growth in 2015, the people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone breathed a collective sigh of relief when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forgave a combined $100 million in loans, shortly after disbursing $130 million in aid last September. The intention was to free up funds for relief and recovery efforts.

But with the need to overhaul their health systems, these countries are once again accumulating debt—like the $160 million interest-free loan awaiting approval by the IMF executive board.

The acquisition of new debt is an emerging pattern among beneficiaries of the world’s most comprehensive debt reduction programme to date. The 1996 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, supplemented by the 2005 Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, has helped 35 sub-Saharan African countries cancel $100 billion in external debt. These internationally coordinated relief programmes, managed by the World Bank, IMF and the African Development Bank, were designed to find a sustainable solution to Africa’s debt burden.

No longer forced to divert scarce resources to repay costly loans amassed during the Cold War period by corrupt and repressive regimes, the poorest and most indebted countries on the continent were able to lower their public debt and increase social spending by almost 3.5% of their gross domestic product between 2001 and 2012, the World Bank and IMF claim. For example, Benin used its savings from debt to invest in rural primary health care and HIV programmes. Tanzania abolished primary school fees and Mozambique began offering free immunization to children.

Freeing up additional resources for development was another aim of the HIPC Initiative. However, a lot of the money forgiven was already tied up in arrears, meaning it was owed but had not yet been reimbursed, so there was no new cash flow and no real savings in terms of resources.

In some countries the write-off just helped mop up overdue debt. And while the initiative did erase most of the foreign debt of these countries, it did not clear all of it. What the whole process did achieve, according to a Huffington Post article by Marcelo Giugale, a World Bank director, was instilling “discipline” that came in handy when the price of oil, gas and minerals climbed in the mid-2000s and the technologies to look for these natural resources got better. To qualify for a debt cancellation, countries had to be transparent in their operations and open to scrutiny, and they had to monitor and report their poverty reduction strategies, invest savings into social programmes and refrain from accumulating expensive debt. Which is why, according to Mr. Giugale,  African governments had “more money to spend and new offers to borrow – this time from private bankers.”

Faced with the phasing out of the HIPC Initiative and a decline in official development assistance, some countries seized the opportunity provided by their healthier balance sheets and continued economic growth to explore new sources of funding. China, leading the group of emerging economies called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), has been investing heavily in infrastructure.

International bond markets provide another avenue. According to Amadou Sy, the director of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, a US think tank, 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have issued a total of $15 billion in international sovereign bonds. Investors are also keen to snatch up these bonds, seduced by the continent’s favourable growth outlook and promise of high returns. The World Bank reports average GDP in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to remain broadly unchanged at 4.6% in 2015, rising gradually to 5.1% in 2017.

Some observers worry that countries are borrowing too much and too fast. “Africa may have the fastest-growing continental economy on the planet,” freelance journalist Richard Walker writes in the Economist, “but growing fastest of all is debt – personal, corporate and government.”

Mr. Walker points to Ghana’s issuance in late 2014 of $1 billion in euro-denominated bonds, although the country is deep in debt and has what he calls Africa’s “worst-performing currency.”  The West African nation was one of the first beneficiaries of the HIPC initiative.

Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Zambia also beneficiaries of the debt cancellation programme, have also issued similar bonds.

Even with the recent surge in borrowing, most of the post-HIPC countries are not at risk of “debt distress,” a group of economists with the World Bank insists. Dino Moretto, Tihomir Stucka and Tau Huang concede that “some countries may be borrowing too quickly,” but they also specify that “overall, governments have been borrowing responsibly since receiving debt relief.”

The trio explain that one of the objectives of the debt relief programme was to clear debt overhang and allow countries to borrow again, responsibly. Many countries have been careful in taking on loans at commercial terms, and the World Bank and other development banks have been giving grants in lieu of loans to riskier, poorer countries.

Africa’s Current Debt

Africa’s current debt is the lowest it has been in decades, Oxford University professor Mthuli Ncube and Economic Advisor at the African Development Bank Zuzana Brixiova concur in their review for the European Centre for Development Policy Management. The fastest decline, they stress, is posted by the most indebted countries, because of debt relief and accompanying prudent policies.

Aid has been critical in helping low-income countries lift people out of poverty, but financing to the region has also increased in quality and quantity, spurred by the 2002 Monterrey Consensus and subsequent 2008 Doha Conference. These UN-backed global conferences brought together heads of state and top leaders in finance, business and humanitarian groups to realize a vision called Financing for Development (FfD). The Monterrey Consensus was also the impetus behind the HIPC Initiative, since it called for innovative mechanisms to address the debt owed by poor nations.

Meanwhile, the FfD July 2015 conference in Addis Ababa is intended to advance the debate on “responsible lending and borrowing” by tabling issues on improving domestic resource mobilization, including strengthening tax administration, curbing illicit financial flows, scaling up infrastructure investment and attracting private sector financing.

“Despite misgivings about certain countries, Africa is still in a fundamentally different place than it was 20 or 30 years ago when old debts were taken on,” Todd Moss, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Centre for Global Development, told Reuters, adding that taking out loans from private creditors puts a “higher burden” on leaders to be responsible.

To keep from reverting to old ways, analysts say, post-HIPC African countries will have to be smart with their handling of new loans. Borrowing strategies need to be put in place so governments can get a return on their investments in order to service their debts. Governments also need to be prepared to withstand shocks from price fluctuations on the natural resource markets and must reduce their dependency on commodity exports. Diversifying borrowing sources is another way to sensibly manage public debt, says Citigroup economist David Cowan in the Africa Research Institute publication, Counterpoints, referring to sovereign bonds as an alternative to concessional loans.

While concessional loans come with no strings attached, help raise a country’s debt profile and put it on the radar of international debt markets, Mr. Cowan cautions that they do present currency risks and can expose a defaulting borrower to specific legal risks, notably from hedge funds or private equity funds, also known as “vulture funds.”

Good old-fashioned tax collection, transparency and tapping into local currency debt markets are avenues that should not be ignored. In the end, sound fiscal and complementary monetary policies will prevail. It’s too soon to predict whether the post-HIPC African countries will maintain sustainable levels of public debt while wrangling with bottlenecks such as weak institutions, infrastructure investment gaps, poverty and (in some places) instability. Only time will tell.

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