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Nile talks deadlocked again as Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan transfer talks to Washington2 minutes read

“We hope to reach a deal next week in Washington,” Egyptian Water Minister Mohamed Abdel Aty said.

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Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Sileshi Bekele, speaks during a news conference after the trilateral ministerial technical meeting on the case of Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 9, 2020. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Renewed talks by Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on Thursday remained deadlocked after two days of meeting on their dispute over a giant hydropower dam on the Nile though Cairo said it hoped the issues would be resolved by Jan. 15 in line with a deadline agreed with Washington.

“We did not reach an agreement today but we achieved clarity at least on all issues including the filling. We hope to reach a deal next week in Washington,” Egyptian Water Minister Mohamed Abdel Aty told Reuters late on Thursday after two days of meetings in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

The countries are due to convene on Jan. 13 in Washington with the aim of resolving their disagreements by Jan. 15 over the filling and operation of the $4 billion hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is building on the Nile.

They agreed to the timeline after a meeting in Washington with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and World Bank President David Malpass in November.

After the meetings in the Ethiopian capital ended with no progress, Ethiopian Water Minister Sileshi Bekele accused Egypt of coming to the talks with no intention of reaching a deal.

“We didn’t agree on the filling of the dam as Egypt presented a new proposal requesting the filling to be carried out in 12-21 years. This is not acceptable. We will start the filling of the dam by July,” Sileshi told a news conference.

The dispute over the filling and operation of the massive dam has sparked a diplomatic crisis between Egypt and Ethiopia, who both see existential threats in each other’s positions on the project.

Cairo fears the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will restrict supplies of already scarce Nile waters on which its population of more than 100 million people is almost entirely dependent.

Addis Ababa denies the dam will undermine Egypt’s access to water and says the project is crucial to its economic development, as it aims to become Africa’s biggest power exporter with a projected capacity of more than 6000 megawatts.

One diplomat close to the talks said Ethiopia did not offer sufficient guarantees on water reserves.

“Ethiopia is not willing to commit to any meaningful mitigation safeguards including during extended drought, therefore there was no prospect for an agreement. Next step is going to (Washington),” he said.

If the dispute is not resolved by Jan. 15 then an international mediator will be appointed to help resolve it, according to the deal the countries reached in Washington.

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Masiyiwa to Bid for Ethiopian Telecoms License

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Zimbabwean Billionaire and founder of Econet Global Ltd, Strive Masiyiwa has disclosed his position on acquiring a telecommunications license in Ethiopia, which is opening up the industry to foreign investment for the first time.

The Horn of African country has announced plans to sell as much as 49% of the state-owned monopoly, Ethiopian Telecommunications Corp and to issue two new spectrum licenses.

Carriers including Orange SA, MTN Group Ltd. and Vodacom Group Ltd. have already shown interest in the country of more than 100 million people, which has a relatively low level of data penetration and internet access.

Econet, through a number of its subsidiaries, is actively developing interests in Ethiopia.

Econet has operations in Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Burundi, with investments in Europe and South America.

The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had scheduled the liberalization of the industry for early this year.

However, it is yet to provide guidance on the exercise, including any limits on foreign ownership.

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Common Customs bond in East Africa will to reduce costs

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Importers in East Africa will from July, operate under a common Customs bond, to guarantee uniform import duties and taxes across all partner states.

Currently, the value of Customs bonds varies from country to country because of the application of different duty rates, valuation and sensitivity of goods.

Kenya requires importers of transit goods to secure a Customs bond issued by an insurance company, while delicate or sensitive cargo requires a bank or cash guarantee. In Uganda and Rwanda, the Customs bond is issued by an insurance company with rates based on the taxes charged by the destination country.

According to the East Africa Community Single Custom Territory Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, the common Customs bond will reduce the cost of doing business and goods turnaround time.

This common Customs bond is expected to be adopted during the Council of Ministers in July as part of the pillar to create a Customs Union. It is meant to create a level playing field for the region’s producers by imposing uniform competition laws, Customs procedures and external tariffs on goods imported from countries outside the EAC.

To secure cargo movement in the region, revenue commissioners from Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda in attendance, say they are already implementing cargo tracking systems and before the end of this year, there will be one data control centre to monitor and track cargo.

The new data control centre involves computerisation of all Customs systems and it will help in enhancing online tools, which include a regional dashboard, transport observatory system and a geographic information system.

A regional cargo tracking system is already operational on the Northern Corridor and has reduced cargo loss to close to zero in 2019.

According to the committee, the EAC secretariat in collaboration with Trade Mark East Africa and other partner states particularly the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) are looking into the possibility of interfacing the TRA Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTs) platform with existing ECTS systems along the central corridor.

Kenya Revenue Authority regional co-ordinator Southern Region Kenneth Ochola said they are setting up internal mechanisms in consultations with the Kenya Bureau of Standards to monitor compliance.

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Carrefour faces Kenyan fines over unfair supplier deals

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Kenya’s competition watchdog has fined Carrefour and ordered the French retail giant to review all its supply agreements within 60 days after the supermarket chain was found to be exploiting traders who supply it with goods.

The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) also ordered Carrefour through its franchise holder, Majid al Futtaim’s (MAF) to expunge six items from its supplier contracts that are said to give the store the power to offer ultra-competitive pricing to boost sales and increase market share.

The clauses include forcing suppliers to pay a non-refundable fee to do business with it and forcing merchants offering the retail chain goods to provide extra rebates or discounts.

Carrefour was found to be in breach of the law for forcing suppliers to post their own staff at its outlets at the expense of the suppliers. It was also accused of rejecting goods already delivered.

The retail giant has also been barred from delisting suppliers unilaterally without notice for failure to meet its stringent supply contract.

According to the CAK Director-General, Wang’ombe Kariuki, all current supply agreements of Majid Al Futtaim Limited relating to its Carrefour Hypermarkets in Kenya be amended forthwith and in any event within 60 days of service of this order to expunge all offending provisions.

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