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South Africa has opened a state-of-the-art new embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The 12,000 square metre, South African-styled and decorated building was designed by architects from both Ethiopia and South Africa, and includes a section highlighting South Africa's preparations for the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Construction began in September 2006. Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tekeda Alemu said the new building was proof of South Africa's commitment to enhancing cooperation with Ethiopia and the African Union (AU). South Africa has signed a number of memoranda of understanding with Ethiopia, on industrial and technical cooperation as well as on trade and investment, agriculture, defence, arts and culture, tourism, human resource development and health. South Africa and Ethiopia first established official diplomatic relations in 1994.

Single brand store network PEP has extended its African operations to Angola. The first store was opened in Lobito at the end of October 2008 with a new distribution centre in Benguela. According to Africa General Manager Willie Jacobs, PEP's product offering of value for money and functionality will boost the company into the fast-growing Angolan market. PEP now operates in 11 African countries and is the biggest single brand retailer in Southern Africa.

India expects to triple trade with Africa over the next five years to reach $100 billion as it tries to strengthen ties in a region where Asian rival China has made rapid inroads. Despite an economic slowdown, India is planning a slew of projects in agriculture, small industry, mining, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), oil pipelines, chemical industry, power generation and transmission among others. The Indian government also plans to double credit lines to $5.4 billion over five years and provide $500 million for projects from the "Aid to Africa" budget, Pranab Mukherjee, India's External Affairs minister said during a India-Africa business summit in New Delhi. Business leaders and politicians from at least 32 African countries and India vowed to improve bilateral trade and relations, which date back to the British colonial period when thousands of Indians were taken to Africa as indentured labourers. Many stayed on, and there are now close to 2 million people of Indian ethnic origin living in Africa. India's trade with Africa soared from $967 million in 1991 to $35 billion in 2008, but remains way behind China's nearly $100 billion. China trailed India in trade with Africa a decade ago, but its investments have since risen considerably on the back of major energy construction and mineral extraction projects. India will also donate $1 billion to connect 53 African countries through a satellite and fibre-optic network to promote "Virtual" medical and educational programmes. Uganda has a $100 million trade with India and Kiwanuka said that could double in less than five years as Indian companies invest in sectors such as food processing and textiles.

The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government has launched a unique science and engineering training institute, the Moses Kotane Institute, to improve science and technology fields in the province. According to the Premier of Durban, Sibusiso Ndebele, mathematics, science and technology programmes, to be rolled-out by the institute, will be consistent with pro-growth policies. The institute comprehensively supports the government's Agrarian Revolution by offering broad modules on agricultural science. The new Institute will specialise mainly in building the skills of historically disadvantaged students. The institute has forged formal links with the National Department of Education which will officially regulate all programmes. The institute is named after struggle veteran Moses Kotane, who made an enormous contribution to educating South African freedom fighters who were in the former Soviet Union and in Tanzania.

South Africa ranks as the sixth most optimistic country out of the 36 surveyed in accounting and consulting firm Grant Thornton's 2009 International Business Report (IBR), up from ninth last year. 35% of privately held businesses in South Africa are reportedly optimistic about prospects for the economy in 2009, a drop from 75% in 2008, with an overwhelming consensus that falling consumer demand and the shortage of business credit are the biggest obstacles. Despite the slump in optimism, say the report’s producers, there are still pockets of hope in the South African marketplace, and privately held businesses are some of the first to realise this. According to the firm, this is the first time that pessimists have outweighed optimists about the outlook for the economy - with the most optimistic province being Gauteng, at 40%, and the least optimistic being the Eastern Cape, at 17%. The drop follows a global trend, in which business optimism around the world has slumped by 56% in the last 12 months, contributing to the firm's International optimism/pessimism barometer recording a negative balance of -16%, compared to 40% in 2008. Globally, some countries surveyed have high turnover expectations, with Vietnam at +91%, India at +71% and Botswana at +70%. Others fear the worst: Hong Kong registered -48%, Taiwan -44%, Japan -23%, and Spain -21%. The most optimistic country in the survey is India at +83% (+95% in 2008), which can be attributed to the robust economic growth of recent years, which the country hopes to maintain throughout 2009. Now in its seventh year, the IBR survey researches the opinions and expectations of privately held businesses in 36 countries.

Africa Interactive, the publisher of the pan-African news website AfricaNews.com, is announcing the release of their mobile news website:  http://m.africanews.com. This latest innovation follows an unprecedented mobile phone revolution in Africa in the past years. The mobile version of AfricaNews.com makes the company one of the few African media outlets to both source and publish content via mobile devices. The mobile website is unique as it is the only mobile service dedicated to broad news on Africa. As internet on mobile devices flourishes in Africa the company has again taken the lead to serve new and emerging audiences. This website is optimized for mobile devices and gives a clear overview of the latest news submitted by the more than 400 AfricaNews.com reporters who report from 35 African countries.

The South African subsidiary of UK-based telecoms group BT has been awarded both individual electronic communications services (i-ECS) and electronic communication network services (i-ECNS) licences, paving the way for the company to broaden the range of networked IT services it provides in the country. The i-ECNS licence provides similar provisioning rights as presently held by local telecommunications incumbents and the major local mobile operators. This development is part of the broader opening up of South Africa's telecommunications market, with several value added network services (VANS) operators receiving licences. BT has been operating in the South African market with a VANS licence. Last year, under pressure from the key players in the telecommunications sector, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa decided to convert the VANS licences into individual i-ECNS and i-ECS licences.

South Africa's government budgeting system has been rated as the second most transparent in the world – ahead of such wealthy democracies as the US, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden. This is according to the International Budget Partnership's (IBP) recently published Open Budget Survey 2008, which evaluates whether central governments give the public access to budget information and opportunities to participate in the budget process, and examines the ability of legislatures and auditors to hold their governments accountable. According to the survey, the world's most transparent countries are the UK (with a score of 88 out of 100), South Africa (87), France (87), New Zealand (86), and the US (82). The survey classified these five countries as "providing extensive information". "These top performers include both developed and developing countries," the IBP said. The organisation said in a press release that the strong showing of South Africa, as well as that of Slovenia, Sri Lanka, and Botswana (all of which provide significant information to their people), demonstrated that developing countries can achieve transparency given sufficient willingness of their governments to be open and accountable to their people.

A new study by a US-based investment advisory firm suggests that Africa's broadband market is set to quadruple by 2012, with the current 2.7-million users soaring to 12.7-million. Aimed at service providers, investors and infrastructure suppliers, the study was conducted in 33 African markets. With its report titled 3G, WiMAX, ADSL and the Future of African Broadband, the company aims to dispel the pessimism that has pervaded the broadband sector in recent years. AfricaNext attributes the low incidence of broadband penetration in Africa until now to a variety of factors such as expensive services, high prices for international bandwidth, dilapidated infrastructure, and restrictive regulatory frameworks. However, a number of new, more positive factors are making the future of broadband in Africa is looking much brighter and will see a surge in broadband growth over the next four years. These factors include last mile competition, international gateway licensing, new submarine cables, domestic fibre backbone developments, unified licences, improvements in radio spectral efficiency, increased internet usage from a younger population, and increased availability of capital. AfricaNext argues that 2009 is likely to be the start of greater things for the telecommunications sector and singles out Huawei Technologies as a major influence on future developments. The networking and telecommunications equipment supplier is the largest such company in China and has spent the last decade making substantial investments in Africa. With more than 2 000 employees, over 50% of whom are recruited locally, Huawei has set up training centres in Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Tunisia, and most recently, South Africa.

African leaders agreed in the Ethiopian capital to transform the African Union (AU) Commission into the African Union Authority (AUA) and elected Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi as the new AU Chairman.

Tickets for the 2010 Fifa World Cup kick-off on 11 June 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa are now on sale to the general public. Of the 1.65-million World Cup tickets that Fifa has allocated to the general public, just over 570.,00 have been set aside for Fifa member country supporters, and 344,00 for tourists who book with Fifa-registered tour operators. That leaves a total of 743,965 tickets that anyone, from anywhere in the world including South Africa, can apply to buy. Fans can apply online, through www.fifa.com, or over the counter at any First National Bank (FNB) branch in South Africa. All ticket orders will be entered into a random selection draw at the same time on 15 April 2009, regardless of whether they were submitted on the first or the last day of the first sales phase. Fans have the choice of match-specific tickets for the 64 games to be played in the tournament, as well as team-specific ticket series that allow them to follow the country of their choice. These range from three-game ticket series (for three games involving the same country) to seven-game ticket series. Tickets are available in four categories, with prices that vary accordingly. Any tickets left over from the first, "random selection" phase - or released by any of Fifa's other customer groups - will be sold in a second, "first-come-first-served" sales phase running from 4 May to 16 November 2009. Two more sales phases - a random selection followed again by a first-come-first-served phase - will follow the World Cup Final Draw, in which the 32 participating teams will be drawn into eight groups for the tournament.

Interfin Merchant Bank has applied for a licence from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to switch over to commercial banking. IMB hinted that that the financial group wanted to expand its product range, which it cannot do as a merchant bank. The group wants to offer a wider range of products, something that we can't do as a merchant bank. Commercial banks are financial intermediaries. They basically accept and keep deposits from clients while merchant banks are mainly involved in trade finance issues. They also offer financial services and advice to corporations and wealthy individuals on how to use their money.

The South African government is to spend Rand10 billion over the next three years on the National Jobs Initiative, which will bring together a range of new and revamped programmes as part of an initiative to save jobs during the global economic crisis. Details of the initiative were released in a report, "Framework for South Africa's response to the international economic crisis", drawn up by a task team comprising members of government, business and organised labour. The initiative's goals are to minimise job losses, ensure that all activities strengthen the capacity of the economy, and sustain are high levels of investment in public sector infrastructure. According to the report, attention would be given to those sectors which were already showing signs of early job losses, including the clothing, textiles and footwear, mining, and the automotive and capital equipment sectors.

Sponsored by Diageo, the Africa Business Reporting Awards were created in 2004 to help transform perceptions about the continent. Six years on, Africa is seen very differently and the Awards continue to seek out and recognize journalists and editors around the world who have gone the extra mile to promote a balanced view of economic opportunity and business achievement in Africa. The 2009 Awards are now open for entries for the following categories: Best Published Feature, Best Radio Feature, Best Television Feature, Best Published Photograph, Media of the Year, and Journalist of the Year. The closing date for entries is 14 April 2009. For details of the Awards and entry guidelines:  www.africabusinessreportingawards.com. There are no entry fees.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has published the election timetable for South Africa's upcoming national and provincial elections. South African President Kgalema Motlanthe officially proclaimed 22 April as the date for the country's general election, signalling the closing of the voters' roll. Voters who cannot vote at a voting station due to physical infirmity or disability or pregnancy have until 14 April to apply to a municipal electoral officer for a special vote. Voters who will be temporarily out of the country on voting day, and who have notified the IEC, may apply for a special vote at a South African embassy on 20 April between 9am and 5pm. For more information on voting:  Independent Electoral Commission website.

The Independent Electoral Commission has announced that there are over 23 million South Africans registered to vote in the national and provincial elections provisionally set for 22 April. According to the IEC, the final registration weekend led to a 3.16 million increase in the number of registered voters. The new registrations follows a voter registration drive which saw a higher than expected number of South Africans visiting some 19,000 voting stations across the country. There were 18.1-million people listed on the voters' roll ahead of South Africa's 1999 general elections and 20.6-million people listed ahead of the 2004 general elections, with the IEC initially setting a target of growing the list to 22-million ahead of the upcoming general elections. A total of 1 508 642 new registrations were recorded over the past weekend, of which 78.3% were from South Africans younger than 30 years of age.

The Constitutional Court has ruled that South African citizens abroad who are registered to vote will be allowed to vote in the 22 April general elections. The court also said those South Africans who are registered and who are interested in voting would be required to inform the electoral office within 15 days.

The government of Japan, through its Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) programme, has provided R3.38-million to South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to support its voter education campaigns. Japan has been providing funds for the IEC's voter education campaigns since South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994. The IEC said they would use the funding to produce comic booklets to promote voter education throughout the country. The booklets will significantly boost the IEC's outreach programmes especially the civic and voter education, a flagship programme which enabled the commission to reach millions of voters since the start of the registration campaigns for the elections on 22 April. The material will be translated into all South African official languages as well as in Braille for the visually impaired, and a total of three million copies will be distributed to all the IEC's provincial offices.

Predictions are that the youth will turn up in unprecedented numbers to vote in South Africa's forthcoming elections. Political analysts and the Independent Electoral Commission project that the 2009 election will represent a record year for voter turnout, especially among young voters. Young people had been spurred into action because they felt their interests were not being addressed by politicians. South Africa's youth has emerged as a powerful new force determined to make its voice heard in the general election on April 22. An analysis of the voters' roll and statistics from the recent voter registration drives shows that South Africa is experiencing an explosion in political activity among the youth. More than 1 million young people in the 18-to-29 age bracket registered to cast their ballots for the first time, compared to 300000 older citizens. More young women took part in the registration drive, with 546579 versus 461228 men. A total of 6 million youths under the age of 29 are now on the voters' roll, compared to 4 million in 2004. South Africa now has 23 million registered voters, compared to the 20 million captured by the IEC during the 2004 election.

Access Bank Plc, one of the largest banks in Nigeria, is due to start operations in Ghana by April. The bank has acquired a building at La for its corporate head office, and is considering siting its business office in the strategic Ridge enclave which houses a number of corporate business offices including UBA, Databank, Fidelity Bank, MTN and Ecobank Ghana.

Despite the economic slowdown, 2008 remained a buoyant year for the South African tourism industry, says Tourism Minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk. According to the Minister, the latest available figures for foreign arrivals, for the first 10 months of 2008, showed a strong increase in arrivals of 5.4% from January to October. This follows a growth rate of 8.3 percent in 2007, during which year the country exceeded nine million foreign arrivals. Arrivals from North America remained stable compared to October 2007, arrivals from Australasia were up 6.3%, and arrivals from the Middle East were up 5.9%. However, the industry experienced decreases in arrivals of 6.5% from Europe and 4.6% from Central and South America. Van Schalkwyk said a cohesive approach was needed to position South Africa better as a tourist destination, to proactively identify chall

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