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South African wine and spirits producer Distell has made its first fully-fledged international acquisition, with the purchase of the renowned cognac brand Bisquit from Pernod Ricard for Euro 31 Million. The deal gives Distell, the world's fourth-largest brandy producer, the inventories of Bisquit's finished cognac, as well as stocks of eau-de-vie (cognac distillate) currently in maturation. The deal augments the company’s spirits stable with a highly respected international brand and gives it access to Bisquit's existing customer base in Europe and Asia for other Distell offerings. To avoid any disruption of supply, Distell has maintained existing distribution agreements with Pernod Ricard affiliates in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Bisquit will be the first wholly-owned Distell brand to be produced outside Africa, taking the local company further into the mainstream international spirits market, and follows on the company's joint venture established two years ago with Scotch whisky producer Burn Steward Distillers to produce and market the Bunnahabhain, Black Bottle and Scottish Leader whisky brands in sub-Saharan Africa. While accounting for only 8.6% of brandy volumes sold worldwide in 2007, cognacs command a higher price than any other type of brandy and growth in sales has outpaced that of any other spirit over the past decade.

South Africa has been ranked fourth in the world for auditing and reporting standards, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2008-2009. The implications of such a ranking are encouraging for South African businesses and financial institutions as well as overseas investors. Given the plethora of laws and regulations auditors were subject to, South Africa's ranking will also hopefully have some influence on foreign audit regulators, who need to inspect auditors who audit entities listed on foreign exchanges.

The World Bank has approved an Rs 580 million, five-year technical assistance loan to finance the Mauritius Economic Transition Technical Assistance Project (METTAP), which aims at enhancing the performance of selected public enterprises and services that contribute to an improved investment climate. The METTAP loan is a key support to Mauritius as it transitions from a development paradigm dependent on trade preferences to one centred on global competitiveness. The project revolves around three pillars namely, Business Facilitation, Public Enterprise reform and Utility and infrastructure projects through the Public Private Partnerships. METTAP is a specific programme designed to improve overall public sector efficiency by removing existing administrative hurdles to business and investment and reengineering key public enterprises to improve service delivery and achieve gains. It also helps in undertaking regulatory, legal and institutional reforms to streamline investment-related procedures and contribute to making Mauritius an attractive and preferred investment destination. Mauritius has more that 150 para-statal bodies and METTAP will focus on those that are critical to improving public sector efficiency and facilitating business development.

South Africa is fast becoming a preferred business tourism destination. Large international companies are eager to host international events, conferences and trade expos in the country, and business travellers are as just as willing to attend. The SA Department of Trade and Industry has identified business tourism, commonly referred to as the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice) industry, as a niche tourism segment with growth potential. Recent figures show that in the first nine months of 2008, business travellers spent R2.4-billion in South Africa, 32% more than in the same period in 2007. Although the actual number of business travellers declined during this period, they are spending more. While the global financial crisis has reduced international travel, foreign visitors to South Africa increased by 5.1% to 8.6-million in the 11 months to November 2008. Business tourism also has lucrative spinoffs for the leisure tourism industry as business travellers often book tours to explore the region they are visiting, either before or after conferences. According to the Gauteng Tourism Authority, the province is currently listed 35th by the International Congress and Convention Association, which ranks countries according to their ability to present international functions. In a 2007 survey by the Meetings and Incentive Travel magazine, which is circulated to event organisers throughout the UK, Cape Town topped the list of favourite long-haul destination cities. South Africa was voted the second favourite long-haul destination country.

South Africa and Nigeria have launched a joint advisory council to promote and facilitate increased investment between the two continental powerhouses. The Joint Presidential Advisory Council on Investment will help create an environment that will encourage investment flows between the two countries. Trade and investment have grown exponentially since the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994 and the resumption of diplomatic and economic ties between the two countries. Nigeria contributes over 40% of West Africa's regional gross domestic product (GDP). Petroleum plays a major role in the Nigerian economy, accounting for around 40% of the country's GDP. With its large population and abundant natural resources, Nigeria has become South Africa's most important trading partner on the continent. Bilateral trade grew from approximately R180-million in 1999 to almost R11-billion in 2007, with South Africa's imports from Nigeria dominated by crude oil (98% of imports). Over the same period, a number of South African companies have become major players in almost all sectors of the Nigerian economy, the biggest investment being in telecommunications. Other sectors of Nigeria's economy that South African firms are involved in are banking, property, retail, media, mining, construction, tourism, agriculture, entertainment, and fast food franchising.

In line with its status as one of Africa's foremost financial services providers, Guaranty Trust Bank PLC has expanded the scope of its operations in Sub-Saharan Africa with the opening of a Liberian subsidiary located at United Nations Drive, Clara Town, Bushrod Island, Monrovia, Liberia. According to a press release from the bank, the Nigerian bank, which currently has a branch network which spans over 152 locations in Nigeria, has additional subsidiaries in The Gambia, United Kingdom, Ghana and Sierra Leone. The release added that GT Bank's presence and activities in Liberia will herald a rise in trade and investment opportunities, as its Liberian subsidiary will enjoy the leverage of the GT Bank group's enviable heritage and global connections.

The Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) and the French Development Agency (AFD) have signed a long-term €85 million loan (approx R1 billion) agreement to improve the O.R Tambo International Airport. According to the agreement between the two parties, the loan will be repayable over fifteen years with a three year grace period. According to ACSA, the funds will be utilised to finance the extension and upgrading of ACSA’s flagship airport, in particular the Central Terminal Building. As part of ACSA's strategy to diversify its sources of funding, it has approached a number of financial institutions, particularly those that focus on long-term infrastructure development. AFD is the first international development finance institution to support ACSA in funding its capital investment programme. The AFD, operating in South Africa since 1994, is a French government institution set up to provide development financing especially for urban, rural and infrastructural development, as well as industry, financial systems and education.

ArcelorMittal South Africa is to build 10 new schools over seven years at a cost of R250-million, the first being a new primary school in the township of Mamelodi outside Pretoria. Mamelodi Primary is scheduled for completion by the end of the year, and the remaining nine schools, two in the Eastern Cape and one each in the rest of the provinces, will be built to guidelines provided by the Department of Education. In a first for South Africa, Mamelodi Primary School will be built using insulated panels technology, which relies heavily on steel as a building material. It can withstand extreme weather conditions, is fire-resistant and 10 times faster to erect than using conventional building technologies. For ArcelorMittal, the Mamelodi project is part of its strategy of investing heavily in education, training and skills development. This includes promoting maths and science at high schools, an extensive bursary programme for artisans, engineers and other technical skills, and upgrading the skills of its own employees. The investment not only ensures that the company has a pool of skilled resources for its own operations, but also towards addressing the country's skills shortage in general. Over the past three years, ArcelorMittal has invested some R22-million in a Science Centre and a Centre of Excellence.

The South African National Space Agency Bill, which could see South Africa setting up its own space agency later this year to pull together all space-related activities in the country under a single organisation has been signed into law. The Act creates an agency that will promote the peaceful use of outer space; foster research in astronomy, earth observation, communications, navigation and space physics; foster international cooperation in space-related activities; and advance scientific, engineering and technological competencies through human capital development and outreach programmes, according to the Department of Science and Technology. The agency will also implement the National Space Strategy, which was approved by the Cabinet in December 2008, to stimulate the capability to place South Africa among the leading nations in the innovative utilisation of space science and technology. The agency is also expected to bring together the work of several institutions and harness their capacities to leverage billions of rands to boost the economy and create more jobs. Some of the projects it will co-ordinate include the Square Kilometre Array bid, the Southern African Large Telescope, and South Africa's second indigenous satellite, SumbandilaSat.

The construction of a small craft harbour at Durban's Point Waterfront is expected to attract investment capital in excess of R6-billion to the province. According to the KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sibusiso Ndebele, the small craft harbour will also create 6,000 to 8,000 direct new jobs during construction, and 6 000 permanent jobs once operational. Once completed, the development will increase the rates base of eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality by more than R100-million per annum. The development will comprise approximately 575 000 bulk square metres across a variety of usage types, including office, residential, retail and hotels.

A new mass vaccination campaign to be rolled out across West Africa this year promises to eliminate the deadly brain disease meningitis in Africa, according to the UN World Health Organisation (WHO). Twenty-five-million doses of the new meningococcal A, or MenA, vaccine are currently in production in India. The drug is expected to be introduced in Burkina Faso in late 2009. "This is the beginning of the end of the disease," said Marc LaForce, the director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP). The project, an initiative of WHO and the non-profit Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health, has been developing the vaccine since 2003. While the disease is more deadly in the meningitis belt than anywhere else in the world, there have been no prevention vaccines for the strain found in Africa – until now, following clinical trials with MenA. Meningitis is caused by inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meninges. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded MVP’s creation, research and development since 2001.

South Africa's Department of Safety and Security has signed an agreement with the French Embassy to strengthen the country's capacity in the fight against transnational organised crime and terrorism. The Priority Solidarity Funds Agreement will reinforce the South African Police Service's capacity to respond to terrorist threats and tackle international criminal networks. The agreement was informed by the understanding that countries could no longer afford to function in isolation in what has essentially become a connected global village and that the sharing of experiences, information, skills and knowledge was critical in the effort to defeat crime. French training of South African Police Service (SAPS) members in specialised fields, procurement of specialised technical equipment, as well as the sharing of expertise in the field of tracking has all strengthened the country's fight against crime and the three-year cooperation agreement will encompass a financial commitment of more than R15-million to the SAPS.

Nigeria and other developing countries face a financing shortfall of $270-700 billion to pay for their imports and service their debts this year, as the global economy falters and foreign investors withdraw, says the World Bank. According to the organisation, only one quarter of the most vulnerable countries have the resources to prevent a rise in poverty. In a bid to curtail the effects of the global financial meltdown, governments of most developed countries have pumped several billions of dollars into their economy to save their financial system. Nigeria has also taken a number of measures including the reduction of foreign trips by government officials, depreciation of its exchange rate, push for establishment of a Financial Service Regulatory Committee, an Asset Management Company, and deregulation of its oil sector, among others. Nigeria had recorded a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 6.6 per cent last year and proposed a growth rate of 7.5 per cent this year, which analysts insist may not be a reality given the tight liquidity in the economy that has reduced consumer spending. But the World Bank said that international financial institutions could not by themselves currently cover the shortfall of emerging countries - that includes public and private debt and trade deficits - for 129 emerging countries, even at the lower end of the range.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called on the international community to act urgently to avoid the devastating effects of the current financial crisis on Ghana and others classified as most vulnerable countries. "After hitting first the advanced economies and then the emerging economies, a third wave from the global financial crisis is now hitting the world's poorest and most vulnerable countries," IMF's managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, said at the launch of a new IMF study in Washington DC. The study, entitled: "The Impact of the Financial Crisis on Low-Income Countries", stated that more than 20 countries were vulnerable to the unfolding crisis. Apart from Ghana, other countries are Angola, Nigeria, Zambia, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Haiti, Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, Albania, Moldova, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Sudan and Vietnam. "More than $25 billion in urgent concessional financing will be needed this year in the most affected countries.

International telecoms equipment manufacturer Alcatel-Lucent has partnered with the Telkom Foundation to establish an e-learning centre and internet café at Grassy Park High School in Cape Town. The centre will be able to provide free access to high-speed broadband internet to students as well as residents from the neighbouring community. It will be equipped with the latest high-performance computers and a complete set of learning facilities and tools, and will be able to accommodate about 25 users at a time. The initiative is part of Alcatel-Lucent's corporate social investment programme, which places education high on its agenda, with a view toward developing local talent and providing better learning opportunities for underserved areas, says the company.

The Moroccan government has pledged to increase women's political representation at local levels. Following a reform of the Commune Charter that set a minimum quota of 12% for female representation, the government now intends to get the message out to the public. A national awareness campaign entitled "Women in communes: a driving-force for local governance" was launched was also launched earlier in the year. According to the Moroccan government, the aim is to exceed the set quota for the level of women's representation for the first time and the campaign is the fruit of commitments made by the government, parliament, political parties, the media and other partners. The country has already reached the target for women's representation at the commune level, with an increase from 0.56% to 12% of seats. The campaign will include media messages and community-level activities, and will highlight success stories in the hope of raising public confidence in women's abilities.

South Africa's Standard Bank is to take a 33% stake in Russian investment bank Troika Dialog, forging a major partnership deal despite the mounting economic crisis in Russia. Standard Bank will acquire the stake for 200 million dollars (158 million euros) through a convertible loan while also handing over its Russia operations and all its Russian business to Troika Dialog, the Russian bank said in a statement. The transaction will mark the first time a foreign bank has taken a major share in a Russian financial institution since the financial crisis broke last year, sending shockwaves through Russia's capital markets. Standard Bank said in its own statement that the "combined operation will have a capital base in excess of 850 million US dollars and will be strongly positioned to compete in the Russian financial services sector." The transaction remains subject to regulatory approval. Troika boasts of being the oldest investment bank in Russia, having been founded in 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed.

Angola has secured another billion-dollar (783 million euros) loan from China, according to the country's state media, to be spent on developing its agricultural sector. The southern African country has already received at least five billion dollars in credit from China to pay for its post-war reconstruction, but the World Bank believes up to eight billion dollars more has not been publicised. Chen Yuan, CEO of the China Development Bank, announced the latest finance deal. The China Development Bank is one of the country's largest, and is one of three policy lenders charged with supporting Beijing's government programmes. Trade between the two countries was at 25.3 billion dollars in 2008, and Angola is now China's biggest African trade partner. Angola, a former Portuguese colony, was a key agricultural producer in the 1950s and 1960s, but millions of farmers left their land during the decades of war that left the soil littered with landmines. Most food is now imported. The government, which relies on oil and diamonds for more than 90 percent of its income, is suffering amid the global slowdown and is investing in areas like agriculture in a bid to diversify the economy.

Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa is poised to halve from the average of the past decade to slightly more than 3 per cent in 2009 as the continent is struck by the "third wave" of the global economic crisis, the International Monetary Fund has warned. Antoinette Sayeh, director of the IMF's Africa department, said the crisis that began in developed economies and then hit emerging markets was hurting the world's poorest continent via low global commodity prices, tighter credit markets and depressed external demand.

Zambia has launched a US$400 million Kariba North Bank extension project and placed emphasis on building new power stations as well as expanding the existing ones. According to the Zambian Government, it is in the process of concluding the legislation to make the sector one of the priority sectors in the provision of incentives under the Zambia Development Act. The energy sector, specifically electricity, has played a critical role in facilitating growth of the economy and the Kariba North Bank extension project will involve the installation of two additional generators with a total capacity of 360 mega watts. This will bring the total installed capacity at the Kariba North Bank to 1,080 mega watts. President Rupiah Banda has thanked the Chinese government for facilitating the provision of 85 per cent of the cost of the project through the China Export and Import Bank and the Development Bank of Southern Africa for providing the balance of the project funds. Chinese ambassador to Zambia, Li Qiangmin said the project demonstrated the cordial bilateral relations by the Zambian and Chinese governments and that Zambia was one of the preferred investors' destinations by the Chinese because of its good policies which they had taken advantage of. He said the company contracted to do the works, Sino Hydro, was the biggest power company in China and one of the largest in the world.

A24 Media has announced the launch of its much anticipated online stills collection, which contains some of the best photographic collections in Africa, digitised for the first time. The collection charts the past 50 years of the continent's history, and features never before seen work from world-renowned photographers Mohamed Amin and Duncan Willetts. With images available online; the collection is diverse in content, capturing images ranging from wildlife, culture, sports and portraits from the Maasai of Kenya even to iconic images of the late John F. Kennedy of the USA.

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has launched the Pan African Alliance on E-Commerce to intensify cooperation and initiate common projects of interest in African countries, as part of a two-day workshop on Trade Facilitation and Aid for Trade in Addis Ababa. The Alliance hopes to establish and encourage the use of "Single Window" across the continent, which is an electronic platform where traders undertake transactions on line, reducing the need for paperwork. Senegal, Tunisia and Mauritius are said to already have such platforms, dramatically reducing the time it takes to clear customs in those countries. Trade and transport officials from more than 20 countries from across Africa took part in the workshop, which was organised by ECA's African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC). The Aid for Trade Initiative was launched with the purpose of helping developing countries, the least developed in particular, to build their supply-side capacity and infrastructure needed to take advantage of trade liberalisation and enhance their participation in the world trading system in order to meet their economic development needs.

The Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF) has confirmed it has successfully streamlined the customs administration system in Senegal, considerably reducing the time and costs associated with importing and exporting goods. Additional improvements are expected in 2009 as the second phase of the project gets underway, delivering more tangible changes and further optimizing conditions for trade. Since 2007, ICF has been working with the Government of Senegal, in partnership with implementation agency GAINDE 2000, to streamline and refine its existing system of paperless electronic customs administration. The project followed the recognition that if Senegal is to become a more attractive trading partner, the clearing process in the port has to be speedier and more predictable. Before ICF support, processing time for pre-customs declaration was two days, now it takes just three to seven hours. Likewise, 853 certificates of origin were processed by GAINDE in 2007; with ICF support, this has now increased to 1,983 certificates in 2008. Following the success of the project’s first phase, ICF today announced support of a second phase, which will render the Port of Dakar's customs clearance process entirely paperless. This will be achieved in two stages over the next two and a half years. The second phase of the project aims to reduce the time associated with the custom clearance process by a further 50%, from an average of 18 to just 9 days. An improvement of this scale will put Senegal's customs administration system on a par with countries like France and Spain where it currently takes nine days to clear customs. ICF is the only pan-African body, based in Africa, explicitly and exclusively focused on improving the continent's investment climate. It works with receptive African governments to systematically remove constraints to investment in order to make the continent an even better place to do business. ICF is currently active in Burkina Faso, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zambia, and has a number of pan-African projects and initiatives.

China is regaining its appetite for acquisitions in Africa as asset prices on the continent tumble, according to Standard Bank, Africa's largest lender that is partially owned by China’s biggest bank. Jacko Maree, Standard's chief executive, said in an interview with the Financial Times that Chinese companies were readying to "turn on the taps" once more after 2007’s surge of investment into Africa fell away dramatically due to the global financial crisis. Market valuations for many African companies – particularly miners but also telecoms groups and banks – have fallen sharply during the crisis. Last year, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) took a 20 per cent stake in Standard for $5.5bn.

Irish company Mainstream Renewable Power has signed a Euro 850-million joint venture deal with South African firm Genesis Eco-Energy to build wind farms to generate "an initial pipeline" of over 500 MW of energy in the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape provinces by 2014. The joint venture company plans to have two projects - a 30 MW wind farm at Jeffrey's Bay near Port Elizabeth, and a 40 MW project at Colesberg in the Northern Cape - ready for construction early in 2010. The two projects "are both at advanced development stages and are expected to be fully operational early in 2011," Mainstream said. A shortage of power generating capacity is constraining South Africa's economic growth, and state electricity company Eskom is to spend hundreds of billions of rands over the next five years on increasing this capacity. Besides contributing to South Africa's climate change mitigation strategy, the new projects will give a major boost to local economic development, energy security and job creation.

Absa Capital has launched South Africa's first Shariah-compliant equity-linked exchange traded fund (ETF). The initial public offering for the NewFunds Shariah Top 40 Index ETF opened on 23 February, while the ETF was listed on the JSE on 6 April. According to Absa, the Shariah Top 40 Index ETF is a first for South Africa and will redefine the Muslim investment landscape in the country. The company expects the new offering, a cost-efficient, transparent and easy-to-access investment product that conforms to the principles of Shariah law, to be well-received in a market that urgently required more local Islamic investment products to service the estimated 400,000 Muslim households in South Africa. Absa Capital said the new ETF offered a credible Islamic investment opportunity, aligning the South African Islamic investment market with global trends.

Absa Capital's NewGold ETF, the largest ETF in the South African market, with approximately R9-billion in assets, is also Shariah-compliant, having been approved by the Shariah Supervisory Board. The Shariah Top 40 Index ETF tracks the FTSE/JSE Shariah Top 40 Index jointly established by London's FTSE International and the JSE. The Shariah screening of the index constituents is performed by Yasaar using a two-step methodology. Yasaar represents all major Shariah schools of thought, creating a best practice approach that has credibility across all regions of the Islamic world, and the ongoing screening of the Shariah compliance of the ETF is conducted by Absa's Islamic Banking Shariah supervisory board.

As discussions continue on ways to tackle the impact of the global financial crisis in Africa, the African Development Bank (AFDB) has decided to increase its annual lending to $11 billion to help countries in dire need. President of the AFDB, Mr. Donald Kaberuka, made the Bank's position known at the two-day conference organized by the government of Tanzania and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Dar es Salaam. Kaberuka told the conference participants titled: 'Changes: Creating Successful Partnerships for Africa's Growth' that the bank had also unveiled an Emergency Liquidity Facility of $1.5 billion, a Trade Finance Initiative of $1 billion, and a Framework for Accelerated Resource Transfer of African Development Fund (ADF) Resources to help member states.

Advanced talks between dfcu Limited and United Bank of Africa (UBA) could soon mature into another major bank acquisition in Uganda's financial sector. UBA, a new comer into Uganda's banking sector, is set to take over dfcu. If the negotiations end in agreement, it will end dfcu's search for a buyer that, according to a reliable source, began in 2005. UBA is itself a product of a merger between two of Nigeria's big banks; Standard Trust Bank and Continental Trust Bank. This makes it Nigeria's biggest bank. It owns assets worth more than $14 billion--the largest in the Nigerian local market. UBA operates in seven African countries, which offers consumers a wide range of products. The planned acquisition comes at a time when dfcu is basking in last year's strong financial performance. Dfcu Bank's profit doubled to Shs14.5 billion in 2008, up from Shs7.2 billion the year before. The bank's cost to income ratio - the amount of money a bank spends to make certain profit - also declined.

In its effort to further strengthen Nigeria's financial services sector and checkmating credit crisis in banks, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has issued the country's first Approval-in-Principle (provisional license) to XDS Credit Bureau Limited to operate credit bureau services. This is in view of Section 57 of the bank's enabling act. With this development, the XDS becomes the first credit bureau licensed in Nigeria that can collate and share data on individual and corporate credibility with financial institutions to enable them make informed decisions while lending to customers. The process will also help to reduce the dependence on collaterals by banks which scare away customers and budding entrepreneurs from accessing facilities with them.

The fourth quarter of 2008 witnessed an uptake in job creation resulting in a decline of 1.3 percent in unemployment in the country, Statistics South Africa reported. Stats SA's Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the fourth quarter of 2008 highlighted that the construction, community and social services sectors of the economy were the biggest contributors to employment in the reported quarter. Employment increased by 1.4 percent and unemployment declined by 6 percent. The combined effect was a decline of 1.3 percentage points in the unemployment rate. Construction, community and social services were the biggest contributors to the employment gain, however, only the change observed in construction was statistically significant, Stats SA reported. Although increases were also observed in other industries such as manufacturing and private households, the increases were not statistically significant. The formal sector of the economy accounted for more than half of the new jobs that were created excluding agriculture which contributed 98,000, but once again the number of jobs created in the formal sector is not statistically significant, Stats SA said. Data showed that that there has been an increase in employment for both men and women in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter of 2008, with 1.6 percent more men entering the job market and 1.1 percent increase in women. The Western Cape was South Africa's leader in terms of increase in employment with 66 000, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 48 000 and the Eastern Cape with 43 000. The number of unemployed South Africans declined in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 3.9 million from 4.1 million in the third quarter. This, Stats SA said, indicates a drop of 249 000 in the unemployment figure.

The Bank of Ghana (BoG) has secured an ISO/IEC 27001:2005 certification, which is the world's highest accreditation for information protection and security, the bank has said in a statement issued yesterday. It said the independent assessment was carried out by UK-based Lloyds Register Quality Assurance (LRQA), one of the few companies in the world to perform ISO 27001 audits. ISO 27001 is the only auditable international standard which defines the requirements to ensure that sufficient security controls are instituted within the certified organization. Additionally, maintaining the ISO 27001 Certification requires an annual review and three year re-certification in the continual scrutiny of Bank of Ghana's information security management system in a manner that aims to provide confidence to clients and the public as a whole that the Bank's data is protected on an ongoing basis.

The Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor, reported an increase in student teachers in 2009 that in some cases doubles other years' statistics. This comes at the end of a steady increase in enrolments over the last three years. As a result of incentivised teacher training, the Minister continued, universities report that applications for entry into teaching increased this year by 50 to 100 percent in comparison with last year. In 2007 the government launched the Funza Lushaka bursary scheme. The scheme provides full-cost bursaries that cover tuition, accommodation, a book allowance and a stipend to successful applicants. The bursary is awarded for studies in "national priority areas", where teachers are needed. These include essential subjects such as mathematics, the science and languages.

The financial crisis and global recession will see African economies lose up to to $49bn by the end of this year, research by ActionAid suggests. About $27bn of this was a fall in aid, export earnings and income from richer recession-hit nations said the charity. The lost income is equivalent to a 10% pay cut for the continent, it added. The ActionAid report found that countries which liberalised their markets, and were large enough to attract significant investment would be most affected by the financial crisis. South Africa would be among the hardest hit, as it was likely to see income from abroad plunge to around a fifth of the country's economic output.

South Africa's internet population is expected to grow as much in the next five years as it has in the 15 years since the internet became commercially available in the country. This is among the conclusions contained in the Internet Access in South Africa 2008 report, released this week by researchers and consultants World Wide Worx. The report shows that the number of internet users in South Africa grew by 12.5% to 4.6-million in 2008 – the first time since 2001 it has grown by more than 8%. The increased growth rate is expected to continue for the next five years, taking the internet user population to the 9-million mark by 2014.

Chinese officials plan to open a malaria research center in the Cameroonian capital of Yaounde, Shen Yi, a Chinese embassy official, said recently ahead of an opening ceremony for the center, Xinhuanet reports. The center is expected to cost three million Chinese yuan, or about $440,000, Xinhuanet reports. China also plans to send four malaria experts to Cameroon for 50 days, Shen said. Shen added that China sends a team of malaria experts to Cameroon annually but that the team plans to work with a Cameroonian team this year to share China's experience in controlling the disease.

The volume of remittances from Ghanaians abroad has dropped by some 16%, in line with general expectations of a possible dip. Latest figures sited show monies sent from Ghanaians abroad to relations home, between January and February 2009, stands at USD 250m, a drop from the USD 300m registered for the same period in 2009. The situation, brought on by the global recession, is likely to worsen in the months ahead but will get better with time, analysts say. Analysts further cite job losses and the loss of investments by Ghanaians living abroad as the reasons stoking the drop. Meanwhile, Ghana continues to register excellent export figures. Exports for the Q1 2009 have gone up to USD 181.5m from USD 154.4m the same time in 2009, an increase of over 17%. Imports on the other hand are expected to be less in the Q1 2009.

South Africa's emerging status as one of the world's most liberalised telecoms markets has received a boost with the launch of O-Tel, the latest entrant into a rapidly growing sector. O-Tel is a licensed national telecoms operator, having receiving its individual Electronic Communication Network Services (i-ECNS) license from the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) in January. The telecoms company is able to offer a nationwide telecommunications service from day one because subscribers connect either to the Vodacom 3G network or Telkom's ADSL network to be able to make telephone calls or surf the internet. O-Tel provides coverage within Telkom ADSL or Vodacom 3G with a telephone line for R99 per month and with no contract necessary, according to the company. O-Tel supplies subscribers with proprietary wireless routers called O-Boxes designed by the globe's most respected telecoms equipment manufacturers. Subscribers are then able to purchase their own choice of standard telephone handset to plug into the O-Tel hardware and then make highly affordable voice calls to any telephone in the world with the added advantage of optional internet access. The recent awarding of i-ECNS licences by Icasa, following last year's Altech court judgment, has turned South Africa into one of the world's most competitive telecoms markets overnight.

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