Business and Technology
U.S. Considers China Chip Making Halt
The United States is considering limiting shipments of American chipmaking equipment to memory chip makers in China including Yangtze Memory Technologies Co Ltd according to four people familiar with the matter, part of a bid to halt China's semiconductor sector advances and protect U.S. companies.
The crackdown, if approved, would involve barring the shipment of U.S. chipmaking equipment to factories in China that manufacture advanced NAND chips.
Under the action being considered, U.S. officials would ban the export of tools to China used to make NAND chips with more than 128 layers, according to two of the sources. LAM Research Corp and Applied Materials, both based in Silicon Valley, are the primary suppliers of such tools.
It would mark the first U.S. bid through export controls to target Chinese production of memory chips without specialized military applications, representing a more expansive view of American national security, according to export control experts.
The move also would seek to protect the only U.S. memory chip producers, Western Digital Corp and Micron Technology Inc, which together represent about a quarter of the NAND chips market.
Production of NAND chips in China has grown to more than 23% of the worldwide total this year from under 14% in 2019, while production in the United States has decreased from 2.3% to 1.6% over the same period, Yole data showed. For the American companies, nearly all of their chip production is done overseas.
All the sources described the administration's consideration of the matter as in the early stages, with no proposed regulations yet drafted.
Asked to comment on the possible move, a spokesperson for the Commerce Department, which oversees export controls, did not discuss potential restrictions but noted that "the Biden administration is focused on impairing (China's) efforts to manufacture advanced semiconductors to address significant national security risks to the United States."
Tensions between China and the United States over the tech sector deepened under Biden's predecessor Donald Trump and have continued since. Reuters reported on July 8 that Biden's administration is also considering restrictions on shipments to China of tools to make advanced logic chips, seeking to hamstring China's largest chipmaker, SMIC
The U.S. Congress last week approved legislation aimed at helping the United States compete with China by investing billions of dollars in domestic chip production.
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Africa Air Controllers Pause Strike
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
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
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
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
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."