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African press review 29 March 2012

What would our press reviews be without opinion polls? We announce them one day, in order to be able to contradict them the next.

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Today's Daily Monitor publishes the results of a poll showing that more than half of Ugandans think government is failing to create jobs, while 9 out of every 10 respondents say nothing is being done to bridge the gap between rich and poor.

According to the article, recklessly wasteful policies, spiralling inflation and the failure to create jobs for thousands of unemployed citizens partly explain why eight out of every 10 Ugandans have lost confidence in President Museveni’s handling of the economy.

The latest Afrobarometer Survey covering the period between December 2011 and February 2012 shows that popular ratings of the state of the Ugandan economy have plummeted only a year after Museveni’s re-election.

A majority of Ugandans today feel the government is “doing poorly” in creating new jobs, the research shows, with 91 per cent of the 2,400 people who participated in the survey admitting that they feel government has done little to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor.

In Kenya, former Tourism Minister Najib Balala has only himself to blame for his dismissal from the Cabinet after he repeatedly demonstrated that his political interests were outside his party, Prime Minister Raila Odinga has said. It's all there on the front page of this morning's Daily Nation.

On Wednesday, Odinga said the Mvita MP had refused to play as a member of an Orange Democratic Movement team, and was in effect undermining the party’s objectives and interests.

In reaction, Balala says he was sacked for having an independent mind and accused his party leader of being a dictator, saying Kenyans deserve better as their next president.

On Tuesday, a group of religious leaders said they had nullified the 2007 pre-election Memorandum of Understanding between Muslim leaders and Prime Minister Odinga in protest at Balala’s sacking.

Regional paper The East African reports that an Egyptian engineer, Professor Mohamed Sanad has been selected as the overall winner of the Innovation Prize for Africa, collecting 75,000 euros in prize money for inventing small internal integrated micro strip antennae for mobile phones.

Sanad, a professor of engineering at Cairo University, developed the low-cost, lightweight, low wind-load, foldable/deployable, multi-broadband base station antenna, using dual parabolic cylindrical reflectors with broadband resonant feeds. If that's not worth 75,000 euros, then what is?

There's a related story in South Africa's BusinessDay, where it's reported that cellphone users in urban areas are refusing to allow the building of new base stations . . . basically relay antennae . . . and are lobbying for existing stations to be removed.

International lobby groups, such as Electromagnetic Radiation Action, have been making inroads into SA, calling for regulation of the industry.

Ironically, the lobbyists and cellphone companies use the same World Health Organisation findings to justify their contradictory positions on the health risks associated with cellphone towers.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer last year classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as a possible cause of cancer in humans.

A spokesman for phone company Vodacom said the International Agency gives the same cancer rating to coffee, pickled vegetables and titanium dioxide, which is found in toothpaste.

And the South African Treasury hit out at a ratings agency again yesterday, dismissing Standard & Poor’s contention that there was scope for a downgrade of the republic’s credit ratings if economic and social problems fed into political debate.

The Treasury was reacting to S&P’s move yesterday to revise the outlook on its BBB+ sovereign credit rating for SA, to negative from stable. Credit ratings help determine a country’s cost of borrowing and affect the appetite of investors for local assets.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has previously questioned the actions of global ratings agencies, after Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch revised their outlooks on SA’s sovereign credit rating, its high-performing banks and the South African National Roads Agency.

Like its two rivals, Standard & Poor’s emphasised policy risks linked to tackling high unemployment and other social problems as one of the main threats to SA’s investment grade rating.

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