African Press Review 8 November 2012

Africa's economy is at the top of the news, with a look at Moody's ratings for several countries. And Somalia sets a world record... in charcoal.

The Nairobi Standard reports that Kenya's electoral body has organised a series of road races across the country to boost voter registration ahead of the general election.

The 5km and 10km road races will be held in Nyeri, Kakamega, Nairobi, Mombasa and Eldoret in the first half of December. The Kakamega version will be a bicycle race. To qualify to run, one must register as a voter.

Al-Shebab - who are they?

The organisers hope to register 50,000 runners in the entire exercise.

The international financial agency Moody's has assigned ratings to Kenya, Zambia and Nigeria. The story appears in today's edition of the South African financial paper, BusinessDay.

Zambia and Kenya were assigned B1 ratings, while Nigeria received a Ba3 rating. The outlook on all three ratings is stable.

Moody's said the B1 rating for Zambia reflected that country's rapid growth in recent years, and its track record of political stability.

Kenya's B1 rating, according to Moody's, reflects the resilience of the Kenyan economy, and the Nairobi government's commitment to institutional reform.

The Ba3 ratings for Nigeria, Africa's second-biggest economy, reflects that country's economic resilience, underpinned by vast hydrocarbon wealth, large local market and developed non-energy sector.

A Ba3 rating, in case you were wondering, is three notches below investment grade, the level at which Moody's recommends that its clients actually get financially involved.

The ratings agency warned, however, that Nigeria still had significant infrastructure needs, and what the agency calls "weak governance structures".

The main story in BusinessDay says that South African public servants should be prohibited from doing business with the government, according to the Public Service Commission.

The Commission has proposed radical measures to combat the corruption plaguing state administration.

Regional newspaper The East African reports that Somalia has a new world record.

According to the African Union and the United Nations, Somalia has the largest charcoal stockpile in the world.

The stockpile of about four million bags - whose value is estimated at between 20 million and 35 million euros in the Middle East market where most of it is sold - could become the first charcoal collection to cause war.

The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on the export of Somali charcoal over a year ago. Not only was it the main source of revenue for the al-Shebab insurgents, but the then Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu argued that the cutting of trees for charcoal in Somalia had reached alarming proportions, and unless something urgent was done, the country risked environmental collapse.

One option, according to AU and UN sources, is to consider a temporary waiver by the United Nations Security Council to allow the export of the charcoal through the port of Kismayo. This would get rid of the current stockpile, and the money would go to the government, pay Somali soldiers (who have not received any salary for the past eight months and are getting restless) and be used for stabilisation.

Critics of the proposal argue that it would set a bad precedent and benefit the same "negative" groups and businesses that have worked with al-Shebab in the recent past.

Kenya Airways has issued a profit warning for the year ending March 2013 as it reported a net loss of nearly 50 million euros in the six months to September on the back of surging costs and lower revenue.

The airline said Tuesday it expected full year profits to fall by at least 25 percent on account of high fuel prices, currency losses and lower passenger numbers.

Passenger revenues declined to 400 million euros in the six months to September, compared to 450 million in the same period last year, pulled down by decreased numbers on European routes, network pressure and concerns over insecurity.

Kenya's national carrier made a 20 million euro profit in the first half of last year.

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