What's happening in Mediterranean & Africa





Risk management factors make La Spezia the Mediterranean port to watch this year

ANYONE familiar with a map of western Europe, but unfamiliar with the ways of Asia-Europe shipping, would think that the quickest way to European markets from Asia via Suez would be by a Mediterranean port.

The idea of going past Gibraltar, around the Iberian Peninsula, crossing the stormy Bay of Biscay, then wending one's way through the congested English Channel would seem counterintuitive at the very least.

Yet that has been the traditional way, because near the Northern Range ports - Le Havre, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg - is where most affluent Europeans live, and where road and rail links are shorter, cheaper and better than in the pastoral south.

Considering West Africa: A diamond in the rough with a promising future - but how far into the future?

While East Africa does well with what little it has, West Africa, with rare exception, is becoming increasingly lawless and chaotic, despite its abundant riches in oil and other natural resources.

Make no mistake, West Africa has a lot going for it. Nigeria has one of the lowest income tax rates in the world, 7-24 per cent, and therefore, a growing consumer base of Nigerians with a lot more disposable income. As a foreign investor, there are investment incentives, some covering all sectors, while others are limited to a few.

Britain and Nigeria have an excellent commercial relations with over GBP6.1 billion (US$8.2 billion) worth of trade per year; the UK is also the second biggest African market for British goods. British companies are well-known in Nigeria, and UK brands (especially luxury goods) are in very high demand.

Belt and Road explores opportunities in East Africa as geo-political challenges grow

Doubts grow about the sustainability of China's Belt and Road Initiative in East Africa, where big spending is focused around the newly-built standard gauge railway from the Port of Mombasa to the Kenyan capital Nairobi, 274 miles away.

Recent sustainability doubts are fuelled by the cooling of relations between China and the West, which has dampened China's income from trade, the profits of which largely sustains ambitious mega projects like Belt and Road.

It is in East Africa where Belt and Road activity is most evident. Ethiopia and Kenya are an integral part of the Chinese scheme, primarily due to the established port infrastructure at Djibouti, the manufacturing capability available in Ethiopia and the regional connectivity via road, rail and energy supplies within Kenya.

Violence shifts black-on-white to black-on-black as South African truckers slaughtered

THE ferocity of South Africa's drive to expropriate white-owned land without compensation, and the black-on-white murders that went with it, has largely been replaced by black-on-black slaughter as savage attacks on foreign truckers soar.

The ferocity of the punitive Economic Freedom Fighters' (EFF) land seizure campaign has abated after last year's elections returned the African National Congress (ANC) to power with 57.5 per cent of the vote, leaving the radical EFF's 10.7 per cent with hardly the mandate to sustain the widespread confiscations many feared.

Thus, more modest "land reform", as property seizures are called, will go ahead cautiously, only affecting land held for "speculative purposes" or occupied by tenants that "should" be given away.


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