African press review 21 February 2012

The diplomatic row - or not - between France and Rwanda, transport corruption on the roads in eastern Africa and the real cost of South Africa's President Zuma's trip to the US last year are the stories making headlines in Africa's press.


What's happening in Rwanda?

Well, nothing much, according to the front page of this morning's New Times, the government paper published in Kigali.

The authorities yesterday reacted to clarify earlier media reports that Rwanda and France were involved in a diplomatic row, noting that bilateral relations remain firm and intact.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement in response to media speculation that France recalled its outgoing Ambassador to Kigali, Laurent Contini, after Rwanda refused to approve Hélène Le Gal as the new envoy.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Government spokeswoman, Louise Mushikiwabo, said yesterday that the Government has reaffirmed its continued good relations with France, as underlined by President Paul Kagamé’s official visit to Paris in September last year.

The New Times daily notes speculation that Rwanda could not approve Le Gal, thought to be a close ally of French Foreign Affairs Minister Allain Juppé, whose relations with the Kagamé regime have been strained since the 1994 genocide.

“As for speculation in the media," Mushikiwabo said, "Rwanda does not conduct personalised diplomacy. We consider our relations with France to be above individuals and in the mutual interest of our two countries”.

The New Times also reports on the end of a transport anomaly in the East African Community.

Currently, Tanzania and Uganda allow trucks heading for the Kenyan port in Mombasa to carry 56 tonnes, Rwanda and Burundi allow loads of 53 tonnes, but in Kenya the maximum is 48 tonnes. This obviously leads to a certain amount of confusion and has opened the door to corruption at the weighbridges on roads into Kenya. Overloaded trucks have been causing a lot of damage to the Kenyan highways.

It will all shortly fall into a pothole of history, with the agreement this week of the terms of the 2012 Vehicle Load Control Bill by Transport Ministers of the East African Community.

A uniform axle load for the five East African countries will significantly increase the pace of clearing cargo at borders, eventually lowering the cost of transportation. It will also eradicate complaints about corruption and extortion on Kenyan roads.

Once the bill becomes law, a cargo cleared in any of the EAC countries will now move freely without having to be tested at each weighbridge.

The bill is now due for consideration by the community's Council of Ministers before it is finally forwarded to the East African Legislative Assembly for debate and enactment into a Community law which will be applicable in the entire five-member bloc.

Unfortunately for Kenyan roads, the new limit is the upper one, at 56 tonnes.

BusinessDay in South Africa reports that the Auditor-general Terence Nombembe is to investigate the two aircraft that "shadowed" President Jacob Zuma when he flew to the US late last year.

It appears that Zuma’s Boeing Business Jet was "shadowed" by two back-up aircraft, including an South African Airways Airbus A340 and a Bombardier Global Express. At the time, the air force said it was normal practice to back up an aircraft after a major service and the president’s aircraft had had a major service in Switzerland before the US flight.

Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier says operating the three aircraft may have required up to 16 pilots, two flight engineers and 16 cabin crew at a total cost of more than one million euros.

BusinessDay also reports that South Africa’s position as the launch pad for global companies into the continent is being threatened by other countries that are rolling out red carpets for investors, according to experts and business leaders.

Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt pose the greatest risk to South Africa’s continental competitiveness - despite their lacking advantages such as a sophisticated financial sector and a stock exchange to match the JSE, which is Africa’s largest bourse. SA also has one of the world’s best legal systems.

But these competitive advantages are not enough to protect the country’s reputation as an investor-friendly market and gateway to sub-Saharan Africa.

SA is falling behind its neighbours in terms of relative competitiveness, with the biggest problems stemming from increasing structural constraints.

Nigeria attracted 1,3 billion euros in foreign investment in 2010 compared to South Africa’s 1,2 billion euros.

The Daily Nation in Nairobi reports that President Mwai Kibaki is today scheduled to begin a three day official visit to the United Kingdom during which the Kenyan leader will attend the London Conference on Somalia.

The plane carrying President Kibaki and his delegation will depart Jomo Kenyatta International Airport shortly after 10.00 pm.

President Kibaki will highlight the progress that has been made following the operation by the Kenya Defence Forces to defend Kenya’s territorial integrity and also supplement the efforts of the transitional federal government forces and those of the African Union in dealing with the destabilizing forces of the al Shebab militia.

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