Author: Antonio Guerrero

CHINESE INVESTMENT BOOSTS SIERRA LEONE IRON ORE SECTOR

By Antonio Guerrero

China’s Shandong Iron & Steel Group (SISG) takes a 25% stake in Britain’s African Minerals.

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Sierra Leone’s iron ore output is becoming the country’s key export

A $1.5 billion investment by China’s Shandong Iron & Steel Group (SISG), one of the world’s largest steelmakers, for a 25% stake in Britain’s African Minerals, will benefit Sierra Leone’s fast-expanding iron ore sector—where the company’s iron ore mines are located. The investment should lead to additional exploration for increased output.

SISG will use iron ore extracted in Sierra Leone to supply its steel mills, which have an annual output capacity of 31.6 million tons. While diamonds were the backbone of Sierra Leone’s economy prior to the country’s civil war, the government is hoping that iron ore will become its key economic driver going forward.

The government of Ghana has entered into a public-private partnership with Gadco, an agribusiness company building sustainable projects in Africa—which may make Ghana West Africa’s largest rice producer. Under the partnership, Gadco will increase its fields to 4,000 hectares under a 30-year lease from the government, boosting rice production to 200,000 metric tons by 2015 from 20,000 tons now.

Production involves long-grain perfumed rice, though other varieties may be added. It will help the government reduce its rice import bill —now at $450 million a year. Ghana produces only 30% of domestic demand for rice. Gadco is based in London, Amsterdam and Accra, Ghana.

The South African government’s decision to provide neighboring Swaziland with a $360 million financial rescue package has sparked political controversy. While the loan—offered in three tranches through February 2012—forces Swaziland to implement budget reforms, Swazi pro-democracy activists and South African labor groups contend it should have demanded a push for democracy.

Swaziland is governed by King Mswati III—a monarch who opponents charge pilfers from the nation’s treasury and refuses to lift a ban on political parties in place since 1973. Activists are threatening to take to the streets in Pretoria, South Africa. Earlier this year, protests in Swaziland were fueled by the King’s decision to slash public sector salaries and reduce social services—in response to a mounting financial crisis that the South African rescue package seeks to ease.