2014 World Cup: Africa's hopes in Brazil

At the 2014 FIFA World Cup, from 12 June to 13 July, Africa's teams hope to produce better results than at the 2010 tournament in South Africa. Ghana, Algeria, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria and Cameroon represent the continent this year, but which of them will make it past the first round?

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Politics of attendance and no-shows - Anansi

European Union and African leaders pose for a family photo during a European Union Africa summit in Brussels April 2, 2014. Photo©ReutersShowing up at a summit can be key to a politician's image and communications strategy, but the power of a well-planned absence or boycott is all too tempting for some. The sick no-shows, also, manage to use the doctrine of silence surrounding the health of African leaders to their advantage. The Europe-Africa summit in April provided just the right platform for drama brewed in the African pot.

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Italy could boost Africa gas imports to offset Russia

Italy could increase gas imports from Algeria, Libya and the Netherlands to counter any disruption of supplies from Russia, Deputy Industry Minister Claudio De Vincenti said on Monday as G7 energy ministers gathered in Rome.

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Transport infrastructure before development

A train in Madagascar. Photo©Yosef Hadar/World BankWhile African governments and development partners are investing more in roads and rails infrastructure much more needs to be done for any meaningful socioeconomic impact to be made.

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Algeria: The battles Bouteflika has won

A substantial military guard has protected the In Amenas plant since the 2013 hostage crisis. Photo©Tsuyoshi MATSUMOTO/AP/SIPAThe roots of Bouteflika's popularity go back to his bargaining with Islamist forces in the 1990s and restoring Algeria's pride. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika benefits from his dynamic past.

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Elections: The big men back Algeria's Bouteflika

An executive vice-president would relieve President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of physically demanding tasks. Photo©Ryad KramdiWeakened by a stroke in 2013, and despite his increasingly rare public engagements, 77-year-old Bouteflika remains the establishment's choice in April's presidential polls.

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General Electric signs $400 million Algeria generator deal

General Electric on Wednesday signed an agreement to build an industrial complex to produce gas and steam turbines in partnership with Algeria's Sonelgaz at a cost of $400 million.

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African teams at the 2014 World Cup: Who will crash out first?

Photo©ReutersNigeria, Ghana, Algeria, Cameroon and Côte d'Ivoire, will be locking horns with some of the world's finest teams at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but who are the players to watch. While most of the teams have a longstanding tradition of crashing out of the international games in the first round, this year could prove pivotal for the African teams. 

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Manufacturing: Future may be brighter for African companies

Steel manufacturers were not so lucky in 2013. Photo©ReutersAll the factors are in place for a manufacturing revolution in Africa, but for the moment it is global companies that are profiting the most.

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Africa's hopes in the 2014 World Cup

Image©Panoramic; Sipa; Graphic: Emeric TherondThe field of close to 50 African teams narrowed down to a final five for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as the year drew to a close.

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Africa's big spenders, hedged bets and cushy jobs - Anansi

With South Africa's ANC officials spending as much as R1m on luxury wheels, the chorus against graft is reaching a crescendo. In Algeria, one politician is betting on President Bouteflika's full recovery. And as lord mayor of Kampala licks his wounds after his impeachment, civil societies in Gabon question a former US ambassador's new job.

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6 people to watch in North Africa in 2014

Wided Bouchamaoui (left), Ziad Bahaa Eldin (left top), Ghazi Salah al-Din al-Atabani (bottom left), Ali Benflis (bottom right), Wafik Al Shater (top right), Omar Balafrej (right)The Arab Spring has produced a new wave of influential people across the North African sub-region. Our top six people to watch in 2014 list includes Tunisia's Wided Bouchamaoui who turned down calls to take over as prime minister.


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Western Sahara dispute dims Morocco's solar dreams

File Photo©ReutersA Moroccan solar project worth some $9 billion (6.6 billion euros) aimed at turning desert sun into lucrative power exports to Europe could be at risk as international lenders balk at plants planned for the disputed Western Sahara.


Morocco drew up plans in 2009 to build solar plants and wind farms to generate 4 gigawatts of power by 2020 but much of that output is to come from sites planned in Western Sahara, the focus of a decades-old territorial dispute.

I don't see why we could not get the financing needed for those solar power projects

Morocco has controlled most of Western Sahara since 1975 and claims the sparsely populated stretch of desert, which has offshore fishing, phosphate reserves and oilfield potential, as its own.

However, the Algeria-backed Polisario Front seeks independence and a United Nations mission was formed more than 20 years ago ahead of an expected referendum on Western Sahara's political future which has never taken place.

The dispute was rekindled in October when Morocco recalled its ambassador from Algeria after that country's president upset Rabat by calling for human rights monitors to be sent to the region.

Western Sahara has also drawn scrutiny as European and U.S. authorities worry that damaged relations between Morocco and Algeria could hurt cooperation against Islamist militants who are active across the Maghreb.


Morocco's plans call for building five solar power plants, including two in Western Sahara - a 500 megawatt (MW) plant at Foum El Oued and a 100 MW plant near Boujdour.

Another 500 MW project is planned at Sabkhat Tah which borders Western Sahara. Yet lending sources at German state-owned bank KFW , the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, and the European Union have told Reuters they will not finance projects based in Western Sahara.

"If we support those investments, it would look like we are supporting the Moroccan position. We are neutral regarding that conflict," one senior bank source said.

A second source said: "We have never supported any project in that territory (Western Sahara), and we won't, although the Moroccan solar plan means a lot for us."

All the sources declined to be named because of the political sensitivity of the matter.

Progress on the solar projects has so far been limited to one site within Morocco where Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power is building a 160 MW solar plant in the city of Ouarzazate.

MASEN, Morocco's solar energy agency, plans to launch tenders soon for construction of two more plants worth 1.7 billion euros - one of 100 MW and another of 200 MW - also near Ouarzazate.

Germany's KFW backed a 654-million-euro loan in October to part-finance these.


Mines and Energy Minister Abdelkader Amara said Morocco dismissed concerns over financing though he acknowledged plans for Western Sahara were not yet finalised.

"In the initial plan, three solar power plants of five are based in the southern provinces (Western Sahara), but we have not yet decided all those areas yet," he said. "If those institutions say that they would not finance them, we will see at the time."

Sources say Morocco may seek alternative bilateral financing from Arab Gulf states already invested in the kingdom if KFW and others balk at backing the sites planned for Western Sahara.

But they say these investors may also be skittish over such investment and would be unlikely to finance the whole of it.


While rights groups such as Amnesty International accuse Morocco of continuing to use excessive force against activists and repressing political freedom in Western Sahara, Rabat invests heavily there hoping to calm social unrest and independence claims.

Yet any investment involving international firms stirs protests over the legitimacy of Moroccans to negotiate on behalf of the Western Saharan population.

EU lawmakers approved a fisheries agreement with Morocco last month, allowing European ships into Moroccan and Western Saharan waters, two years after rejecting a similar deal out of concern it might strengthen Rabat's control over Western Sahara.

Morocco's official media portrayed the EU fishing deal as a political victory while the Polisario Front dubbed it a violation of international law.

Kosmos Energy and Cairn Energy last year also started seismic surveys off Cap Boujdour in Western Sahara and plan to drill an exploration petroleum well.

"We respect international laws. We have started oil exploration and have signed a fishing agreement with the European Union," Amara said.

"So I don't see why we could not get the financing needed for those solar power projects."

Moroccan lawmakers drew up a renewable energy law in 2009 which helped attract foreign investors including German industrial and financial firms which set up the north Africa-focussed Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII).

However, some members have since quit the DII, including manufacturers Siemens and Bosch, and European efforts to bolster production of renewable energy have reduced Europe's need for potential North African imports.

Morocco has domestic demand for such power, however, as the country remains heavily reliant on energy imports.


Election Watch 2014: Algerian succession worries loom

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Photo©ReutersWill Algeria's three-time President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stay or will he go?

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False dawn for African steelmakers

File Photo©ReutersDemand for iron ore and other inputs is expected to grow, particularly in China, but African steel companies are not in a position to benefit from global trends.

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Canada-Africa: The mines and the money

A Toronto firm makes repairs to its Zambia copper ore mill. Photo©Photo12/AlAmyBuoyed by successes forged in mines and oil sands at home, Canadian companies are moving steadily into Africa. The government, meanwhile, is making sure that aid and private sector activities benefit each other.

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More billionaires as Africa's rich get richer

A 2013 ranking by Forbes magazine reveals that the fortunes of Africa's rich are growing, while a handful of newcomers arrive on the scene.

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Telecoms: Gulf groups get serious in Africa

Based in the United Arab Emirates, Etisalat had 31.8m proportional African subscribers* in June 2013. Photo©Sunday Alamba/AP/SIPaEtisalat's deal to buy a stake in Maroc Telecom is a sign of renewed commitment to African telecoms, but some players with smaller stakes are continuing to withdraw.

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West cuts costs for diplomacy and security programmes in Africa

Photo©Lance cpL. Jessica DeRose/AFRICOMMilitary sources in the United States (US) began a discussion in August about the reorganisation of military commands that could lead the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) either to be disbanded or to be moved from Germany to the US.

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Threats after US anti-terror operation in Libya and Somalia

U.S Navy SEALS raided suspected terrorist hideouts in Libya and Southern Somalia targeting al-Qaeda and al-Shabab leaders. File Photo©ReutersAmerica's weekend exploits in North Africa has highlighted the scope of the anti-terrorism campaign the West is willing to lead in Africa, from Nigeria, through Mali, Algeria and Libya to Somalia and Kenya.

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