Forbes publishes its Billionaire rankings today, tracking the trials and tribulations of the world’s richest – the 1 percent of the 1 percent, if you like.

While the media debate the tip of the iceberg – Bill Gates knocking Carlos Slim off the top spot, and Mark Zuckerberg shooting up to number 21 – the numbers show that Africa’s elites have notched up significant gains. Read more

Uganda’s government has been locked in a long-standing battle with companies over the development of its 3.5bn barrels of oil, mostly located around the Albertine Graben.

So it is with some relief that last week a memorandum of understanding was finally signed with UK-based Tullow Oil, Total of France and China National Offshore Oil Corporation, providing a framework for commercial production which builds on an April agreement. Read more

The bad old days of hyperinflation

In a week where currency after currency in the emerging markets have been battered, it’s nice to keep your options open. In which case, Zimbabwe seems to have the right idea. Its citizens can now pick any of nine currencies to use.

As of Wednesday, four new currencies are legal tender in the southern African state: the Australian dollar, the Chinese yuan, the Indian rupee and the Japanese yen. Read more

Shares in Paladin rose after the miner announced the sale of a 25 per cent stake in its Namibia uranium mine to the China National Nuclear Corporation. The deal was partly about cutting debt at the Australian miner. But it also signals that low uranium prices, especially in the post-Fukushima era, are taking a toll on African exploration.

Between 2005 and 2007, the uranium price increased steeply from $20 per pound ($44 per kg) to almost $140 per pound ($311 per kg) during what came to be described as a ‘nuclear renaissance’. The drivers included growing momentum towards low carbon energy, carbon cap schemes, high oil prices and potentially epic demand for new nuclear capacity among large emerging economies. In several African countries, uranium surveys were eagerly commissioned and new deposits sought. Read more

Lagarde with Henry Rotich, Kenyan finance minister

IMF boss Christine Lagarde concludes a trip to Africa trip on Friday, continuing her tradition of starting the new year visiting one of the world’s fastest growing continents. For 2014, she chose Kenya and Mali, two very different economies on either side of Africa. Read more

To date, South Africa has done little to explore its offshore oil. Geological data is old and out of date, existing oilfields are ageing, and few new ones are being discovered. Even the Orange Basin, near Namibia, is believed to hold substantial reserves, but there has been little drilling since Shell acquired rights in 2009.

But technological innovations in deepwater drilling and seismic imaging, and general optimism following the discovery of hydrocarbons in the Karoo and along the southern African coastline, are prompting a growing number energy players to look again, despite the odds. Cairn India, Anadarko, Sunbird, Total, Sasol, ExxonMobil and Chevron are among those signing deals, bidding for exploration licenses and planning drilling activity this year. Read more

Nigeria looks set to become Africa’s biggest economy in the medium term, and with its large population and growing consumer spending power, the west African country is top of the list for many investors looking to tap African growth. But 2014 will ask searching questions about the country’s political climate. Read more

Novartis is bullish on Africa. The company’s chief executive Joseph Jimenez last week assembled his senior executives to discuss strategy. Describing the continent as the “next set of emerging markets”, Jimenez thinks it could deliver double digit growth for the Basel-based drug company.

Pharmaceutical companies are now looking to devise long-term strategies for Africa, a market long reliant on donations but now with an expanding middle class. But all brand pharma companies have to tread carefully when trying to make profits in emerging markets. Read more

This week, the EU parliament approved a four-year accord with Morocco to allow European boats to fish in disputed territorial waters off Western Sahara. Angry demonstrators quickly gathered in towns across the annexed region, claiming Morocco has no right to enter into such treaties.

The accord highlights the in-between status of the region, with independence activists questioning the legality of mining deals and other contracts in the area. Read more

The BNDES, Brazil’s government-owned development bank, will open its first Africa office on Friday in South Africa’s commercial capital of Johannesburg. Only the third overseas office for the Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social after Montevideo and London, it signals the ever-growing ties between Latin America’s largest economy and the world’s fastest growing continent. Its goal is simple – to push Brazilian companies deeper into Africa. Read more

The formal World Trade Organisation gathering in Bali in early December already has some strongly positive news – a global trade deal is on the cards – a rare and big achievement.

But some issues are still a bit thorny – take cotton. In the past, African governments lambasted the US and EU for their cotton subsidies. Now it’s India and China that they should worry about. Read more

Back in September, to much fanfare, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan officially handed over share certificates and licenses to the handful of energy consortiums who successfully bid $2.5bn for ownership of ten distribution companies and five power generation plants.

But investors are starting to grumble about breakdowns in communication, procedural confusion and the government’s failure to properly think through how the new system will work. Read more

The next wave of policy makers?

From Rwanda to Liberia, a new wave of young policy makers are taking up key government posts across Africa. With youth comes a fresh perspective on Africa’s development priorities, an impatience with red tape, and a stronger commitment to economic reform. But will a lack of experience prove problematic?
 Read more

Out of the gloom of South Africa’s economy, some green shoots of growth. Although not necessarily the kind everyone is comfortable with.

The country’s gambling industry is going from strength to strength, according to a new report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Gross gambling revenues posted their largest historical increases over the last five years, just as the country’s decade of post-millennial growth slumped. Read more

Tanzania has been riding the wave of the east African gas boom, with national natural gas reserves estimated at 40tn cubic feet. Now, to carve out a bigger slice of the action, the government has announced tougher new terms for companies.

The new model Production Sharing Agreement published Monday, which replaces a 2008 version, introduces signature and production bonus payments into the mix, raises the royalty rate for offshore gas from 5 to 7.5 per cent, and sets out more stringent local content requirements. It also puts forward details on capital gains tax, in a bid to avoid the kinds of disputes Uganda is embroiled in. Will it scare companies off? Read more

South Africa’s new energy treaty with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has prompted talk about the mother of all infrastructure projects: the Inga dams.

An ensemble of hydropower installations on the Congo river, Inga is projected to cost around $80bn – making it the biggest such project in the world.

If it ever actually gets built, that is.

 Read more

Are Nigeria’s pension funds ready to step up to the plate and help finance the country’s development? Policy makers hope they will grow out of their conservative approach of buying government paper and take advantage of recent changes designed to encourage them into new alternative asset classes, including private equity and infrastructure funds.

“Our pension funds are young,” says Olusegun Aganga, trade and industry minister. “We’ve not had them for a very long time so it is natural that there is a conservative way of looking at things.” But having built up a capital base of around $20bn (from $2bn in 2004), they are ready to do more, the minister hopes. Read more

Luanda: up go the costs

If you thought that London / HK / Mumbai / [enter your city here] was a bit on the expensive side, spare a thought for those in Luanda and Juba.

The capitals of Angola and South Sudan are the 1st and 3rd most pricey oil and gas towns in the world for expats, according to hydrocarbons news provider Rigzone. Sifting through the latest cost of living data produced by ECA and Mercer International, Rigzone reckons both capitals now beat Perth and Moscow, and are separated only by Norway’s Stavanger, when it comes to their power to lighten your wallet. Read more

MTN is one of Africa’s most ubiquitous brands, its sunny blue and yellow logo peppering every street corner from capital cities to rural villages. Its biggest rival in home territory is Vodacom, currently in top spot with 47 per cent of the South African market. But their combined dominance is starting to grate local rivals and regulators. Read more

Should South Africa have a debt ceiling? The question was raised in a report earlier in October by the IMF, which suggested that the country might want to put one in place as its fiscal position deteriorates.

But in London on Tuesday, South African finance minister Pravin Gordhan dismissed the idea, suggesting that the Fund was barking up the wrong tree. Read more