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Niger Nods Renewable Juice

FILE: Representative illustration of a solar electricity installation in Africa. Taken 6.30.2016, Kampala, Uganda

Niger, with World Bank support, on Tuesday launched a major electrification program, employing renewable energy, with the goal of reaching 80-percent coverage by 2035.

The $317.5-million "Haske" project, ("Light" in the local Hausa language) aims to "accelerate access" to electricity for urban and rural households as well as to health and education establishments and businesses, Energy Minister Ibrahim Yacoubou said at the launch in Niamey.

The project includes the expansion of the use of solar photovoltaic energy, which is in abundant supply in the landlocked West African nation.

When completed, it is expected to provide 629 gigawatt hours of electricity annually.

Currently, wood-burning provides nearly 80 percent of the energy used in Niger households for lighting and cooking.

Two-thirds of the impoverished country of 22 million people is desert, and the "harmful effects of climate change" are making matters worse, the minister said.

The current rate of access to electricity throughout the country is just 17.5 percent, according to the energy ministry.

The new drive will help that rise to 30 percent by 2026 and to 80 percent by 2035, the ministry said.

To free itself from its heavy energy dependence on neighboring Nigeria, Niger is also working to complete its first dam on the Niger River by 2025.

In addition, the EU and the French Development Agency will co-finance the construction of another hybrid power plant at a cost of 32 million euros ($32 million) in Agadez, a major city in northern Niger that is regularly plunged into darkness.

Its construction will allow the city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to revive its economic and social development after a decline in tourism due to jihadist attacks in the Sahel, according to local authorities.

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Africa Air Controllers Pause Strike

FILE: Representative illustration of an airliner taking off from an airport, with radar in the foreground. Taken 7.3.2002.

A 48-hour strike by air traffic controllers in West and Central Africa has been suspended, their union said on Saturday.

The Union of Air Traffic Controllers' Unions (USYCAA), which called the wildcat strike, said in a statement it decided suspend its strike notice for 10 days immediately so as to allow for negotiations.

The strike, which started on Friday, has disrupted flights across the region and left hundreds of passengers stranded at airports on Saturday.

"Air traffic services will be provided in all air spaces and airports managed by ASECNA from today Saturday, September 24, 2022 at 1200 GMT," the statement said.

The controllers work under the Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA).

Paul Francois Gomis, a leader of the Senegalese air traffic controllers told Reuters that ASECNA staff demand better working and pay conditions. He said the Dakar airport air traffic controllers are short-staffed with only 60 people working when, he asserts, 80 are really needed.

Air Controller Strike Threatens Africa Travel

FILE: A picture taken on October 17, 2017 shows a general view of the Blaise Diagne International Airport in Diass, some 50 kms from Dakar. Taken 1.7.2017

A 48-hour strike planned by some staff of French-speaking West Africa and Madagascar aviation safety agency ASECNA starting on Friday, could impact some flight operations in the region, the agency said in a statement on Thursday.

ASECNA said two of its six flight information regions could be affected by the strike despite court decisions and government bans on the strike in Togo, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo and Senegal.

"ASECNA is under the threat of a strike decided by the Union of Trade Unions of Air Controllers, a clandestine organization which is not recognised by any of the member states of the agency," it said in the statement.

The 18-member states organisation manages air traffic control in an area covering 16.1 million square kilometres of airspace.

"The Niamey flight information region is expected to be impacted," ASECNA said, urging passengers to check updated flight information and so-called Notice-to-Airmen (NOTAM) it will publish on its website. It added that a Niger court decision on the legality of the strike was expected.

It added that there were also risks with the airspace controlled by the Brazzaville, Congo flight information region due to the planned strike. It gave no further details on the risks, but added that a Congo government decision was also expected.

On Thursday, a court in Senegal suspended the call to strike by air traffic controllers in Senegal and Ivory Coast, the agency said.

But Paul Francois Gomis, a leader of the striking Senegalese air traffic controllers told Reuters that they are maintaining their decision to go on strike from 0800 GMT on Friday.

Gomis said ASECNA staff are demanding better working and pay conditions. He said the Dakar airport Air traffic controllers are short-staffed with only 60 people working where 80 are really needed.

Dakar airport authorities could not be reached for comments.

South Africa Joins Rate Hike Round

FILE: South African 50 Rand currency note. Taken 4.5.2012

South Africa's central bank on Thursday raised its benchmark interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point to 6.25 percent in a bid to fight inflation. The move follows interest rate hikes by a number of other nations in recent days.

The rate hike follows a similar 0.75 percent boost in July -- the highest in a decade.

That, as inflation soared to 7.8 percent in July, near a 13-year record high.

The South African Reserve Bank, in announcing the hike, voiced concerns over high inflation and weak economic growth.

"The Monetary Policy Committee decided to increase the repurchase rate by 75 basis points to 6.25 percent per year," bank governor Lesetja Kganyago said.

"The level of the repurchase rate is now closer to the level prevailing before the start of the pandemic," he said.

The move is the fifth rate hike in a row.

Nigeria's Public Debt Grows

FILE: Nigeria's Central Bank headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria. Taken 11.22.2020

Nigeria's total public debt rose 3% to $103.3 billion in the second quarter of this year, largely driven by local borrowing to finance the budget deficit, the Debt Management Office (DMO) said.

The DMO said in its latest data, seen by Reuters on Tuesday, that public debt increased from $100.07 billion as of March this year to $103.3 billion by the end of June.

Although the debt constitutes 23% of the country's gross domestic product - within the government's self-imposed limit of 40% - Nigeria's debt repayment costs are rising while revenues are shrinking.

Between January and April, Nigeria spent more money to service its debt than it raised as revenue.

Nigeria's deficit has grown this year due to the high cost of a fuel subsidy at a time when oil revenue has fallen due to crude theft and vandalism of pipelines.

Petro Nicking "Treason" - Nigerian Lawmaker

FILE: People gather at the site of an explosion at an illegal oil bunkering site in the Egbema local government area, Imo state, in southeastern Nigeria, 4.24.2022

Crude oil theft in Nigeria, which is blamed for throttling output and exports, is tantamount to treason that should be punished by the stiffest possible penalty, the Speaker of the House of Representatives said on Tuesday.

Femi Gbajabiamila said Nigeria's crude exports were at their lowest in two decades, blaming it on crude theft that he described as "treason against our country".

Oil production fell below 1 million barrels per day in August, figures from the regulator show.

"Those who seek to impoverish our country in this manner have declared war against the Nigerian people," he told legislators when reconvening the House of Representatives after a two-month break.

"The government's response must be sufficient to convince them of the error of their ways and deter others who might be tempted to join in their treason."

President Muhammadu Buhari last month expressed concern over large-scale theft of crude oil, saying it was affecting the country's revenue "enormously."

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