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Despots are pushing the Arab world to become more secular

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DURING Friday prayers the congregation of Muhammad Yousef, a young puritanical preacher in the Egyptian town of Mansoura, once spilled out into the alleys surrounding his mosque. Now Sheikh Muhammad counts it a good week if he fills half the place. In Cairo, 110km (68 miles) to the south, unveiled women sit in street cafés, traditionally a male preserve, smoking water-pipes. Some of the establishments serve alcohol, which Islam prohibits. “We’re in religious decline,” moans Sheikh Muhammad, whose despair is shared by clerics in many parts of the Arab world. According to Arab Barometer, a pollster, much of the region is growing less religious. Voters who backed Islamists after the upheaval of the Arab spring in 2011 have grown disillusioned with their performance and changed their minds

Zimbabwe’s deepening crisis

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Do you take electronic dollars? A MONEY-CHANGER deftly flicks through a brick of bills, her fingernails a sparkly purple that matches her eye-shadow. She keeps the stack of “bond notes” (Zimbabwe’s ersatz money) bundled inside a sock in a plastic carrier bag. Real American dollars are hidden in her bra. Although bond notes are officially worth the same as American dollars, here on a pavement in Harare, the capital, greenbacks trade at a premium of 20-30% to the bills printed by Mr Mugabe’s government. Those wanting to buy dollar bills with mobile money, which is also supposedly denominated in the American currency, must pay a further premium of 30%. Such a range of values for Zimbabwe’s money ought not to be possible since, officially at least, it does not have a currency. The country a

Morocco’s little idyll of Jewish-Muslim coexistence

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Striking a harmonious note ONCE a year the little seaside town of Essaouira, in Morocco, reclaims its lost Jewish community. Sephardic trills echo from its whitewashed synagogues. The medieval souks fill with Jewish skullcaps. Rabbis and cantors wish Muslims “Shabbat Shalom” and regale them with Hebrew incantations. “It’s our culture,” says a merchant from Marrakech, who travelled 200km (124 miles) to hear them this year. The revival is the initiative of André Azoulay, a 76-year-old Jew from Essaouira (one of just three) and a former counsellor to Morocco’s kings. Each autumn he stages a colourful festival of Andalusian music aimed at bringing hundreds of Jews and Muslims together for a weekend of concerts and dialogue. Locals pack the small stadium to watch Hebrew cantors and Koran-rec

Soft drinks probe: House panel accuses NAFDAC of compromise and failure to perform duty

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The House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the production and distribution of soft drinks manufactured by the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) and other soft drinks producers in the country accused the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) of compromise and failing in its duties to live up to its responsibility. At the resumption of the committee’s hearing on Thursday, the majority Leader of the Federal House of Representatives and chair of the committee, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila called on the agency to live up to its responsibilities in order not to increase the health risks posed to consumers of food and drinks by Nigerians. The committee specifically questioned the rational NAFDAC based its decisions on before issuing a certificate of complia

Guinness Nigeria off to a strong start in Q1 as revenue surge 30%

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Guinness Nigeria Plc on Thursday reported a 30% increase in revenue for the first quarter ended 30th September 2017. The Nigerian unit of British drinks maker Diageo Plc said that sales hit N29.9bn ($82.3m) in the first three months of its financial year, up from N23bn ($63.3m) it recorded in the same period in 2016. Gross profit for the period grew 24% to N10.4bn ($28.7m) reflecting continued growth within the spirits business as well as benefit of an expanding portfolio, but against the backdrop of lapping the inventory reduction last year, the company said. Commenting on the results, Peter Ndegwa, Managing Director/CEO, Guinness Nigeria Plc said: “Although trading conditions continue to be difficult, we delivered a credible performance with a net sales growth of 30% for the quarter. Thi

Coke Employees in South Africa go on Strike

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Employees of the South African unit of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA) have gone on a protected strike for the past two weeks as they press home their unconditional demands for a 7% pay increase and better working conditions. The industrial action which began on 12 October affects the company’s operations in the Eastern Cape, Free State, Northern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. The workers on strike are former employees of Coca Cola Fortune, which together with other entities, merged to form Coca Cola Beverages South Africa in May 2016. Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) Eastern Cape provincial secretary Vukile Mangwana said, “With this strike, we originally demanded a 12% increase, but we backed down to 7%. The company is insisting on changing the shift system and this will di

NECA asks members to decline invitation to Public hearing on soft drinks

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The Director General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Mr. Olusegun Oshinowo, has asked its members to decline an invitation by the Federal House of Representatives ad-hoc Committee investigating the production and distribution of soft drinks manufactured by the Nigerian Bottling Company Limited (NBC) and other drinks produced or marketed in Nigeria. “On the request to appear before the committee, we advise members to stay off and not honour the invitation in view of our ongoing court case against the Speaker and the House, which is presently at the Supreme Court. The House is very well aware of this position,” he said in a correspondence to members dated October 14, 2017. The House had passed a resolution setting up an ad hoc committee to investigate the safety of carbo

Coca-Cola Q3 profit rises 38% on cost efficiencies, sales dip on refranchising costs

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The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) reported net revenue of $9.1bn for the third quarter of 2017, down 15% from last year’s $10.6bn, blaming the decline on ongoing refranchising of its bottler territories. The soda giant said that total unit case volume was unchanged from last year, although certain emerging markets in Latin America and developing markets showed improving trends with slightly positive case volume growth, which offset declines in developed markets that were impacted by weather and the cycling of strong results from the prior year. Net profit attributable to shareholders of Coca-Cola grew 38% to $1.45bn from $1.05bn in the previous year, driven by 18% decline in cost of goods sold and 20% drop in selling and administrative expenses. Coke said it gained or maintained value share in