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African press review 8 March 2017


Why are analysts optimistic about South African economic growth? Is there any hope of an end to the three-month strike by hospital doctors in Kenya? How much will you have to pay to go and work in South Sudan? And why is Argentinian football superstar Lionel Messi on the front page of a daily paper in Cairo?

Economists are optimistic about South Africa's growth prospects.

That's the main story in the Johannesburg-based financial paper BusinessDay. It's hard to see what the bean counters are so excited about: growth was 0.3 of a percent last year, lower than forecast by both the treasury and the central bank, making 2016 the worst year since the 2009 recession.

Experts interviewed by BusinessDay agree that the latest figures make for gloomy reading, but they insist that the underlying trend supports the view that growth will pick up in 2017.

Cosatu angry at decision to close coal-burning power stations

The Confederation of South African Trade Unions is outraged at a decision by the national power company to close five coal-burning power stations.

According to BusinessDay, the trade union group says the decision is arrogant and hostile.

Cosatu says it accepts that South Africa’s climate change obligations to introduce renewable energy will result in the closure of power stations. But it wants the closures to be fair to all those affected.

The union group says the independent power producers who are moving into the market should be required to create jobs‚ transfer technology and skills to workers currently employed in the fossil fuels sector, in particular in the petrol and coal sectors.

Earlier this month truckers caused peak-hour traffic mayhem in and around the capital Pretoria, during a demonstration over an announcement by President Jacob Zuma during the state of the nation address, that power company Eskom would sign power purchase agreements with independent producers using renewable energy.

The Coal Transportation Forum‚ an organisation of truck owners‚ said this would effectively take them out of business‚ result in job losses‚ and the closure of power stations and coal mines‚ which would turn Limpopo and Mpumalanga — the centre of the coal industry — into ghost areas.

Cosatu says 30,000 jobs are threatened.

UN chief calls for cash to avert famine catastrophe in Somalia

The United Nations has called for urgent aid for Somalia to avert a catastrophe worse than the famine that claimed 260,000 lives in 2011.

This is the main story this morning in regional paper the East African.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who visited Somalia yesterday — his first field trip since he took office in January — said the situation in the country was both tragic and regrettable.

Guterres used his meeting with Somalia's President Mohammed Abdullahi Farmajo in Mogadishu to appeal for 800 million euros in humanitarian support for the country.

More than half of Somalia's population is currently in need of food aid.

No rapid cure for Kenyan strike by doctors

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta has dealt a blow to the ongoing strike negotiations with hospital doctors, yesterday describing the industrial action as blackmail that will not be entertained by the government.

The nationwide strike, now in its 94th day, has paralysed the public health sector and compelled patients to seek vital medical services from costly private hospitals.

A visibly irritated President Kenyatta accused the doctors of operating private practices, saying they serve at public hospitals for only about two hours every day.

The president repeated the government's commitment to a fair resolution of the dispute but also called on the striking doctors to recognise their responsibilities.

Huge increase in South Sudan work permit fees

The South Sudan government has increased work permit fees for foreigners from $100 to $10,000.

A joint a statement issued by Labour, Interior and Finance ministries in Juba said the move was aimed at generating additional revenues to fill the gap in the 2016/ 2017 national budget.

The statement said work permit fees for professional or business users would now cost $10,000; for blue collar workers, $2,000; and casual workers will have to pay $1,000.

The entry visa charge was also raised to $100 from $50.

Kenyan and Ugandan nationals will pay $50 subject to monthly renewal.

The new fees come into effect this month.

Lost in translation

Argentinian football superstar Lionel Messi is on the front page of this morning's Cairo-based Egypt Independent.

Former Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawas issued a statement apologizing to the footballer over a press statement by Hawas to the Spanish media in which the former minister described Messi as a "fool".

Hawas said there had been a communication problem during Messi's visit to archaeological sites in Egypt because the footballer spoke only Spanish.

Communication was through a translator, who failed to transfer to Messi the required enthusiasm, Hawas said. The former minister says his anger was directed at the translator, not at Messi.

As reported earlier by Il Mondo newspaper, Hawas described Messi as "a fool", who did not show any response to his explanation of ancient Egyptian history during a tour of archaeological sites. He added that Messi did not show any interest in what Hawas was saying.