African business news - October 2021

By Britt Collins October 27, 2021

Egypt business news

Chinese ride-hailing giant DiDi Chuxing has launched operations in Egypt.

The company will operate its ‘Wasalny’ or ‘Wasalny+’ services in the Alexandria governorate, in a move that rivals competitor Uber.

Operating across 17 countries globally, Egypt is DiDi’s second African launch after its earlier entry into South Africa. DiDi’s head of government relations in North Africa and the Middle East, Moanis Amin, confirmed the limited entry in Alexandria is part of a wider plan to conquer the Egyptian market.

Felipe Contreras, the head of international expansion communications and PR at DiDi, has revealed the firm, which was founded in 2012, plans to rent electric bikes in Alexandria going forwards and said DiDi also has plans to offer electric cars manufactured by BYD.

 

Congo business news
Congo’s state cobalt buyer and China’s biggest cobalt refiner are in talks to ease international concerns about human-rights abuses in the country’s mining sector.

State-backed Entreprise Generale du Cobalt (EGC) earlier this year earmarked the Kasulo mine, in Congo’s Lualaba province, for its first purchases of cobalt – used in car batteries and other electronics – as it works to overhaul conditions at informal mining sites, where child labour and deadly accidents are all too common.

But EGC’s plans to start buying cobalt from the mine this month have been disrupted by Chinese refinery giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt.

Its subsidiary, Congo Dongfang International Mining SARL (CDM), is based at Kasulo and the refiner told Reuters it has a contract giving it the right to stay until the deposit is exhausted.

‘We’re working on resolving the situation created by the continuous presence of CDM on this site, and we are hopeful a solution is in sight,’ EGC Director-General Jean-Dominique Takis told the news agency.

Bryce Lee, the head of corporate social responsibility at Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, said the company was in ‘friendly negotiations’ with EGC over Kasulo.

Geneva-based commodity trader Trafigura is helping to finance EGC in return for a supply of 45,000 tonnes of hand-mined cobalt, valued at around $2.4 billion at current prices.

Takis said the EGC had aimed to source 7,000 tonnes of cobalt in hydroxide from Kasulo this year, followed by 15,000 tonnes in 2022 and 20,000 tonnes in 2023.

Trafigura declined to comment on the discussions, which have not previously been reported.

The dispute highlights the problems faced by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as it tries to secure a greater share of the profits from its mineral wealth.

Southern Congo sits atop an estimated 3.4 million metric tons of cobalt, almost half the world’s known supply.

It is mined by hand at unregulated sites, often using child labour. Conditions at the mines can be hazardous for workers.

Deterred by human-rights abuses in the supply chain, electric car makers, including Volkswagen and Tesla, are seeking to reduce their use of cobalt.

EGC was given the exclusive right to buy hand-mined cobalt in 2019 but implementing its mandate to ensure the metal is mined ethically requires a lengthy process, including renovating mines to make them safer.

EGC’s responsible cobalt standard, set out in March, bans tunnelling on its sites and says pits must not exceed 10 metres in depth.

That means Kasulo will have to be remodelled before EGC can source from it.

An anonymous source told Reuters it would take around two months from when EGC takes over the site for cobalt purchases to begin.

Minister of Mines for Lualaba Province Jean-Marie Tshizainga wrote to CDM telling it to cede Kasulo to the EGC, according to a letter shown to Reuters.

Huayou Cobalt’s Lee said that letter ‘did not align with the formal agreement that is in place’.

Reuters could not determine whether the government decree establishing EGC's monopoly rights voids CDM’s contract with the Lualaba ministry.

In 2020, CDM’s parent company Huayou Cobalt said it would stop sourcing cobalt from unregulated mining sites in the DRC until the international community decides on a responsible-sourcing standard.

Lee claimed that since April 2020 no hand-mined cobalt from Kasulo has entered CDM’s treatment units, and instead CDM has facilitated the sale of cobalt from Kasulo to local traders to ensure miners have an income.

 

Mauritius business news

Mauritius is looking to attract international homebuyers to offset the drop in tourist revenues caused by Covid-19 travel restrictions.

According to Ken Poonoosamy, CEO of the Mauritius Economic Development Board, the island has been courting international property buyers since the early 2000s, when the country launched its Integrated Resort Scheme (IRS), which paved the way for foreign investors to legally buy property and land on the island.

Since then, he said the policies have brought around $3 billion worth of investment to the island.

Recent updates to the legislation have opened up the types of properties that can be developed and sold.

As a result, international luxury resorts like One&Only and other development groups — including Mauritian sugar-cane conglomerates looking to diversify — have begun construction in anticipation of an influx of interest.

Controversially, however, the island is only currently allowing entry to international visitors who have had two Covid-19 jabs, restricting likely uptake as well as tourism to the island. 

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