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St Petersburg Forum Offers Unlimited Business Opportunities

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St Petersburg Forum SPIEF'21

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

The 24th St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF’21), a unique business forum that is highly expected to bring together politicians, corporate business directors and investors from different parts of the world, is set to take place June 2-5 as the epidemiological situation begins to stabilize in Russia.

That, however, the Russian Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor) with organizers promise everything in its power to ensure that the event is held with all the necessary measures in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus and strictly in compliance with the recommendations given by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Roscongress Foundation, the organizer, says on its website that it has decided to create new infrastructure for the comfort and safety of participants in view of the coronavirus pandemic. For instance, PCR test conducted at access to the venues, catering, sanitizing the premises, and providing participants and staff with personal protective equipment.

Thermal imaging control will be provided. Medical stations at the venue provided with the necessary equipment and medicines. There will be ambulances and resuscitation vehicles, including teams of English-speaking doctors. All spaces of the site equipped with air recirculation units and decontamination devices, among other measures for all participants visiting the events in St. Petersburg city.

Hans Kluge, Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe, together with Anna Popova, Head of Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor), will hold a special briefing for participants on the pandemic situation and its control in Russia and around the world.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Russian local media that President Vladimir Putin plans to take part in the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). “But Putin will be there in person,” Peskov reaffirmed his earlier statement, and further informed that in-person forum will be held in strict accordance with health and safety measures, the president received the first vaccination shot on March 23 and the second on April 14.

Over the years, this forum has strengthened multifaceted business ties, facilitated broadening relations and the development of cultural dialogue between Russia and many foreign countries. According to Roscongress Foundation, a number of foreign countries, keen on making solid business presentations and equally seek partnership opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation, have already registered their participation.

Traditional inter-country business dialogues are planned as part of SPIEF featuring representatives of business communities of Italy, Germany, France, the United States, India, Africa, Finland, Japan, Latin America, the Middle East, as well as the EAEU-ASEAN business dialogue. Under the umbrella of SPIEF, international meetings in business room format will be held with the participation of representatives of Roscongress Foundation’s international partners and businesses in the corresponding world regions.

Apart from the main business programme, SPIEF will also host the SME Forum, Youth Economic Forum, SCO, BRICS and ASEAN events, B20 Regional Consultation Forum, Creative Business Forum and Drug Safety and Security Forum, as well as events on Arctic and African agenda.

The central theme of the Forum is A Collective Reckoning of the New Global Economic Reality. The business programme includes more than a hundred events divided into four tracks touching upon the issues of the global and Russian economy, as well as social and technological agenda.

Joining Forces to Advance Development is the key track of the business programme. It includes sessions on economic recovery and international cooperation, discussions on Eurasian integration, the transformation of global trade, the effectiveness of business during the pandemic, global energy market, recovery of the food market, and sustainability of national healthcare systems.

The second theme block of the business programme focuses on national development targets, the anti-crisis agenda for strengthening the long-term potential of the economy, investment climate in Russian regions, shaping of Russian research and technology space, development of the financial market, creation of circular economy, and functioning of strategically important industries.

Discussions under the New Technology Frontiers track will feature the topics of international cooperation in science, digital sovereignty and information security, healthcare digitalization, tech ethics and others.

The Human Factor in Responding to Global Challenges theme block will talk about cultural codes of the new reality, collaboration in international education projects, and new skills and employment models in a post-COVID world. Moreover, there are sessions on the development of creative industries, sport and education.

The Russian Small and Medium-sized Business Forum is an annual event held as part of SPIEF to discuss the current state of small and medium-sized businesses and measures to enhance their role in the Russian economy. It is, however, planned that the focused sessions encompass the key aspects of support and development for small and medium-sized enterprises.

“Small and medium-sized business is the foundation of the economy and a key indicator of the current status of socio-economic development. As we are looking towards the future, it is essential to develop and implement long-term programmes that will give a new impetus to the development of SMEs,” said Anton Kobyakov, Adviser to the Russian President and Executive Secretary of the SPIEF Organizing Committee.

“We plan to discuss all the proposals in details at the SME Forum because they determine how small and medium-sized businesses will thrive in the future. Small and medium business is the largest employer and a guarantor of socioeconomic stability and the dynamic development of society. The development of entrepreneurial education, cooperation among small and big businesses, and the development of youth entrepreneurship, among other issues,” he said.

With a similar view and position, SME Corporation CEO Alexander Isayevich said “Entrepreneurs need to understand how to work in the new economic realities and what support measures the state will continue to provide. In addition, it is crucial for entrepreneurs to have high-quality non-financial services. The sessions, attended by a wide range of experts, will help to find optimal solutions not only for the SME sector but also for the entire economy. We always advocate an open dialogue with business, as this is the principle that underlies our new development strategy.”

As part of the Youth Day programme, the most promising undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as young scientists from Russia’s leading universities and scientific organizations will participate in the St. Petersburg Forum.

“It has become a good tradition for talented young scientists and students to take part in SPIEF, it is a leading business event that brings together unique experts from all areas of the economy. Participation opens up limitless opportunities for young people to exchange experience and gain new knowledge,” said Andrey Fursenko, Aide to the President of the Russian Federation.

There will also be large-scale different cultural events. For instance, Qatar plans an exhibition – “Qatar between Land and Sea, Art and Legacy” – this exhibition is a great opportunity for people from around the world to explore the very precious elements of the Qatari and Middle Eastern tradition and lifestyle, such as handmade carpets and artefacts, pearls, and antique jewellery, which makes it a magical journey through history.

St Petersburg forum is highly considered an important step forward in developing and strengthening investment‑related collaboration. As one of the biggest economic forums in Russia, it yearly gathers several thousands of participants, including representatives of ministries and government bodies, financial and investment organizations, startups, and tech and innovation companies, and representatives of the media.

Despite the adjustments made due to the pandemic, there are for all participants interesting and useful initiatives for comprehensive interaction as the key objective is to create opportunities and friendly conditions to consolidate links between Russia and the world.

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Australia Begins Process to Introduce Central Bank Digital Currency

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australia central bank digital currency

By Adedapo Adesanya

As more countries gravitate towards a digital currency, Australia joined the cadre as it announced the beginning of a collaborative effort to review the case for a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in the country.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), Treasury, and other agencies will oversee the research effort designed to explore the potential economic benefits of introducing such a currency in Australia, the RBA said in a statement Tuesday. The project is expected to run for about a year.

Speaking on this, the RBA’s Deputy Governor Michele Bullock said the work “is an important next step in our research on CBDC. We are looking forward to engaging with a wide range of industry participants to better understand the potential benefits a CBDC could bring to Australia.”

The central bank reiterated the research comes in the context of Australia already having “relatively modern and well-functioning payment and settlement systems.”

The RBA is collaborating with the Digital Finance Cooperative Research Centre in the project, while Treasury is participating as a member of the steering committee. The work will involve the development of a “limited-scale pilot that will operate in a ringfenced environment for a period of time.”

Over the course of the next 12 months, interested industry participants will be invited to develop specific use cases that demonstrate how the digital currency could be used to provide innovative and value-added payment and settlement services to households and businesses, the RBA added.

A report on the findings, including an assessment of the various use cases developed, will be published at the conclusion.

Central banks worldwide are acting swiftly to ensure they don’t fall behind as money edges toward its biggest reinvention in centuries with alternative concepts like cryptocurrencies taking hold.

Nigeria is one of the countries at the forefront of a CBDC with the introduction of the eNaira in 2021 with the Digital Euro still under investigation phase while Jamaica began its own testing phase in May. China’s Digital Yuan has been in testing since 2020.

Blockchain technology, as well as events like the coronavirus pandemic, are among the forces pushing consumers to go cashless.

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Mozambique Risks Economic Stability Over Russian Oil

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Mozambique Risks Economic Stability

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

Mozambique risks destabilizing its economy and further losing western development finance if it goes ahead to purchase sanctioned oil from Russia.

With the return of western development finance institutions such International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and the USAID, and currently showing tremendous support for sustainable development projects and programmes, Mozambique would have to stay focused and stay clear of the complexities and contradictions of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Mozambique needs to seriously concentrate on and pursue its plans of exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG), extracted from the Coral South field, off the coast of Palma district, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, possibly starting this October. It marks an economic turning point and opens a new chapter for its revenue sources.

According to our research, Mozambique will become the first country in East Africa to export LNG. It will be produced on a floating platform, belonging to a consortium led by the Italian energy company, Eni. The platform, built in a Korean shipyard, arrived in Mozambican waters in January and is now anchored in Area Four of the Rovuma Basin, some 40 kilometres from the mainland.

This is the first deep-water platform in the world to operate at a water depth of about two thousand meters. The Coral South project is expected to produce 3.4 million tons of LNG per year over its estimated 25-year lifespan.

A second project is planned for Area One of the Rovuma Basin, where the operator is the French company TotalEnergies. The planned LNG plants for this project, are onshore, in the Afungi Peninsula of the Palma district. The jihadists seized Palma town in March 2021, and TotalEnergies withdrew all of its staff from the district. Subsequently, the Mozambican defence and security forces and their Rwandan allies drove the terrorists out of both Palma and the neighbouring district of Mocimboa da Praia.

The current global economic situation is changing, and competition and rivalry for markets are also at their height. During the past months, Russia has cut its export of gas as a reciprocal action against European Union members and has redirected its search for new clients in the Asian region. It has already offered discounted prices to China and India, and now looking beyond Africa.

United States Special Envoy to the United Nations, Thomas-Greenfield, has made one point clear in her speeches with African leaders that “African nations are free to buy grain from Russia but could face consequences if they trade in U.S.-sanctioned commodities such as oil from Russia.”

“Countries can buy Russian agricultural products, including fertilizer and wheat,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. But she added that “if a country decides to engage with Russia, where there are sanctions, then they are breaking those sanctions. We caution countries not to break those sanctions because then … they stand the chance of having actions taken against them.”

Russian Ambassador to Mozambique, Alexander Surikov, after a meeting with the Confederation of Economic Associations of Mozambique (CTA), had proposed that the Mozambican authorities could buy Russian oil in roubles after Moscow presented the option to Maputo. Ambassador Surikov further expressed Russian companies’ continuing interest in investing in Mozambique. Likewise, the possibility was raised of Russia opening a bank in Mozambique focused on supporting bilateral trade and investment.

Russia previously had a VTB bank in Maputo, later involved in opaque deals. It was a financial scandal involving three fraudulent security-linked companies, and two banks – Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, relating to illicit loan guarantees issued by the government under former President Armando Guebuza. Until today, it is popularly referred to as the “Hidden Debts” scandal involving US$2.7 billion (€2.3 million), the financial scandal that happened in 2013.

In the aftermath, financial institutions exited, projects were abandoned and this southern African country has struggled to rebound economically. Now they are returning with new financial assistance programmes that would promote sustainable and inclusive growth and long-term macroeconomic stability.

In the context of the current cereal crisis, one other issue that the ambassador raised was how Mozambican companies could have direct access to Russian wheat suppliers. In this regard, it was not clear how Russian wheat would enter the market and how it would be paid for because Mozambique uses principally the US dollar in its foreign transactions, and Russia cannot conduct transactions using the US currency due to the sanctions imposed following the invasion of Ukraine.

“The rouble and the medical are worthy currencies that do not need the benevolence of some other countries that control the international system,” the Russian diplomat explained, adding that Moscow wanted to strengthen cooperation with Maputo.

Nonetheless, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy of Mozambique, Carlos Zacarias, admittedly the possibility of buying Russian oil in roubles. “I am sure that we will study and verify the feasibility of this offer from Russia. If it is viable, for sure Russian oil will be acquired in roubles,” Carlos Zacarias said.

Mozambique’s receptivity to the Russian proposal stems from the fact that the world is experiencing a peculiar moment, characterized by great volatility in oil prices on the international market as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Mozambique was among the countries that abstained on two resolutions that were voted on by the General Assembly of the United Nations, one condemning Russia for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine as a consequence of the war and the other suspending Moscow from the Human Rights Council.

The Mozambican Liberation Front (Frelimo, the ruling party) was an ally of Moscow during the time of the former USSR and received military support during the struggle against Portuguese colonialism and economic aid after independence in 1975.

Mozambique and Russia have admirable political relations. Mozambique has to focus on trade and economic development with external partners. According to data provided by CTA, the annual volume of economic transactions between Mozambique and Russia is estimated to be, at least, US$100 million (€98.5 million at current exchange rates).

Experts aptly point to the fact that there is a tremendous opportunity window for Mozambique. With partners including ExxonMobil Corp., China National Petroleum Corp. and Mozambican state-owned Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos, Mozambique has to move towards its own energy development. These past few years, experts have also reiterated adopting a suitable mechanism, mapping out strategies and utilizing financial support for sustainable development.

Mozambique has considerable gas resources and the right decision is to move toward both an onshore concept and an offshore concept. The ultimate goal has to establish connectivity between its resource exploration and national development. The idea is to foster economic relations based on its domestic development priorities. And consequently, it has to determine influential external investment partners ready to invest funds and, in practical terms, committed to supporting sustainable development in the country.

The Mozambique LNG offshore project, valued at around $20 billion, aims to extract about 13.12 million tonnes of recoverable gas over 25 years and generate profits of US$60.8 billion, half of which will go to the Mozambican state.

The process to achieve this task has started and would generate 14,000 possible jobs in phases – first creating 5,000 jobs for Mozambicans in the construction phase and 1,200 in the operational phase, with a plan to train 2,500 technicians and so forth. These projects also have a great capacity to create indirect jobs, with foreign labour decreasing throughout the project and Mozambican labour increasing. Most of these jobs are expected to be provided by contractors and subcontractors.

Several corporate projects came to a halt due to armed insurgency in 2017 in Cabo Delgado province. The entry of foreign troops to support Mozambican forces in mid-2021 has improved the security situation. Since July 2021, an offensive by government troops was fixed, with the support of Rwandans and later by the Standby Joint Force consisting of forces from members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Cabo Delgado province, located in northern Mozambique, is rich in natural gas. Although the gas from the three projects approved so far has a destination, Mozambique has proven reserves of over 180 trillion cubic feet, according to data from the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy. With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with natural resources. It is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the African Union.

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ECOWAS Creates Committee as Nigeria Cries Foul Over Recruitment

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ECOWAS Court

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament has appointed an independent ad-hoc committee to investigate allegations of recruitment malpractice at the parliament.

This is as it also directed the suspension of the ongoing recruitment exercises, pending the outcome of the investigation by the independent panel.

Nigeria had raised worry earlier and even threatened to withdraw its membership of ECOWAS if the regional body does not suspend the ongoing recruitment exercise as recently directed in the 2022 First Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja.

Nigerian representatives at the parliament had issued the threat when some principal officers in the regional bloc defiled the directives and embarked on the alleged illegal recruitment of their relatives and cronies.

Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Mr Sidie Mohamed Tunis in a statement said having received written complaints from the 1st Deputy Speaker, Honourable Ahmed Idris Wase, and the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador Musa Sani Nuhu, concerning the ongoing recruitment exercise at the ECOWAS Parliament, had appointed an Independent Adhoc Committee to investigate allegations of marginalization and malpractice against Nigerian candidates in the ongoing recruitment process.

The action of the Speaker is in conformity to Rule thirty-three (33) and thirty-four (34) of the Rules of Procedures of the Parliament which provides that a Special Committee may be set up to address specific matters.

The Speaker, in response to pressing emergencies, can set up an Adhoc committee, in consultation with the Bureau, and inform Parliament at its next session.

The ad-hoc committee would be headed by Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, the Chairman of the Committee on Administration, Finance, and Budget.

Other Members of the Committee include Lynda Chuba Ikpeazu – Nigeria; Fatoumatta Njai – The Gambia; Amadou Djibo Ali – Niger; Kounon Nahou Agbandao -Togo.

Others are, Caramo Camara -Guinea Bissau; Moussokora Chantal Fanny – Cote d’ Ivoire and Mr Arboncana Oumarou Dicko – Clerk to the Committee.

The terms of Reference of the team are Investigate allegations of inappropriate conduct in the ongoing recruitment process at the ECOWAS Parliament; Investigate allegations of marginalization of Nigerian Candidates in the current recruitment process; Investigate and determine if indeed the plenary adopted any Resolution concerning the subject matter (Recruitment of Staff), using normal parliamentary procedure.

It was disclosed that “In the execution of its mandate, the Committee shall be granted access to all documents relating to the recruitment exercise and work with the Advisory Committee on Recruitment and Promotions at the ECOWAS Parliament, to under-study and review the exercise. The Adhoc Committee would be guided by the provisions of the Supplementary Act and the ECOWAS Staff Regulations.

“The work of the ad-hoc Committee is expected to commence on 22nd August 2022 and its findings are expected to be reported to the Speaker in one week, following which a Bureau meeting will be convened to consider the report for onward submission to the Plenary.

“The ECOWAS Parliament, under the leadership of Right Honourable Dr Sidie Mohamed Tunis, affirms its stern commitment to fair labour practices and is devoted to upholding and protecting the rights of all Citizens of the Community to aspire for positions in any Community Institution, in line with the provisions of the ECOWAS Staff Regulations and all related Protocols.”

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