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South Africa’s Eskom suspends power cuts1 minute read

The power crisis had resulted in traffic gridlock across major cities as traffic lights stop working

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A man holds a sign during a demonstration by members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions - AFP

South Africa’s struggling state power firm, Eskom suspended electricity cuts on Friday with claims of the power system remaining vulnerable, after five days of outages which weakened the rand and affected businesses adversely across the country.

Eskom has been struggling with power station breakdowns and diesel shortages and supplies over 90 percent of the power in Africa’s most industrialised economy.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who faces a parliamentary election in May, has pledged to reform the utility by splitting it up and providing financial support. Privatisation has however been ruled out.  

The rand was on course for a loss of more than 3 percent against the dollar this week, largely due to Eskom’s woes, which risk derailing a sluggish economic recovery. 

“Due to further improvement in generation performance and the notable strides made in replenishing water and diesel reserves, Eskom is not likely to implement load-shedding on Friday,” Eskom said in a statement, using a local term for power cuts. 

Eskom started the power cuts on Sunday and intensified them to 4,000 megawatts (MW) of cuts on Monday in the worst outages South Africa has witnessed since 2014. The power cuts had been reduced to 2,000 MW by Thursday. 

The power crisis has resulted in traffic gridlock across major cities as traffic lights stop working and frustration for ordinary South Africans builds up. 
Businesses like miner Harmony Gold are exploring strategies to reduce their dependence on Eskom. 

The government has promised more details about how it will support Eskom’s balance sheet on Feb. 20, when the finance minister will deliver a budget speech in parliament. One of Eskom’s major issues is its unsustainable debt mountain of around 419 billion rand ($30 billion). 

($1 = 14.1358 rand) ($1 = 14.1358 rand) 

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Heavy rains threaten Uganda’s coffee crop quality

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Uganda’s coffee crop quality could see a decline in the coming months as heavy rains across the country have reduced the amount of sunshine necessary for bean drying.

Uganda is Africa’s largest exporter of coffee followed by Ethiopia and grows mostly robusta variety.

The country has been pounded by unusually heavy rains that started in August resulting in deaths, displacement and extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure.

Western Uganda, including the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains , some of the biggest coffee growing areas, has received some of the most intense rains.

Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the state-run regulator, forecasts Uganda’s bean exports will climb 16 percent to 5.1 million 60-kg (132-pound) bags in the current crop year ending September.

The country’s coffee output has surged in recent years, the fruition of a government programme that has been distributing free seedlings to farmers to expand acreage and replace aging trees.

Authorities say their target is to help boost annual production to 20 million bags by 2025.

The beans have traditionally been Uganda’s biggest commodity export but were recently overtaken by gold which now annually earns the country over $1 billion.

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Business rescue team rule out mid-June return for SAA flights

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South African Airways business rescue practitioners have rejected an “unvetted” statement released by the state-owned airline indicating plans to resume domestic flights from mid-June.

The national carrier had on Tuesday, announced that its planes will be back in the skies between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

But Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, the business rescue administrators, say the airline had breached communications protocol by issuing a statement which “created an unfair expectation on our relevant stakeholders, including SAA’s customers, as well as employees who are on unpaid absence as a result of the travel ban which led to the halting of the company’s operations, compounding its financial distress.”

SAA’s media statement had gone out without the approval of the practitioners as demanded by the business rescue procedure.

With the government of South Africa announcing that the country will enter into lockdown alert level 3 from June 1, domestic air travel will be permitted but only for business purposes.

The business rescue practitioners said SAA planes will remain grounded until a better understanding of what the level 3 regulations entail.

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Tanzania, France sign water supply loan agreement

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Tanzania has signed a loan agreement with France to finance water supply projects that will benefit about 770,000 people in the country’s Morogoro municipality.

The French government will extend the loan worth about $76 million to Tanzania through its French Development Agency (AFD), according to Dotto James, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning who signed the agreement on behalf of Tanzania.

“Upon completion, the water supply in the Morogoro municipality will increase from the current 37,000 cubic meters a day to 108,000 cubic meters a day,” James told a press conference following a signing ceremony in Morogoro.

AFD Country Representative for Tanzania, Stephanie Mouen says the project will improve the well-being of the people in the municipality and it will also improve the environment.

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