Ezra Group is a forex business, with its electricity outfit providing the conduit
By John A. Akec
I have come to believe that Ezra Construction and Development Group(Ezra) business model was designed to make huge profits through access to highly discounted foreign exchange rate market. Selling electricity was merely a means to an end. And here is why.
The current row over the delayed payment of the dues owed by the Government of South Sudan to Ezra and that has resulted in continuing power blackouts in Juba, has brought the Company under intense public spotlight. It also raised many questions about the nature of the contract, and the business model of Ezra.
In a press release published by The Dawn newspaper on 7th April 2021, Ezra warns its customers that “the Juba power plant will cease to operate in the next few days…unless the government … urgently made the US payment as set out in PPA [Power Purchase Agreement] signed on 16th August 2017.” The press statement went on to say that “the Government through both the Ministry of Energy and Dams, and Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, is contractually obliged to convert the SSP received by JEDCO into US dollars to pay Ezra for electricity it generates. The statement also acknowledged the payment of 15% of its dues, and that the remaining 85% of its claims has been delayed for over 400 days (or 13 months).
What is more, the company statement says that the government pledged in January 2021 that the central bank will transfer a sum of USD 3 million into Ezra’s account every month. Obviously, the pledge has not been honored, and hence the current crisis in form of media war by Ezra and the frequent and long power outages being experienced by Ezra’s customers over the last week . Intelligent people are bound to ask questions about the terms and conditions of the signed Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) that gave Ezra the monopoly of generating and supplying power to Juba city. Details are sketchy and shrouded in secrecy, but the information coming out into public domain leaves much to be desired.
According to well informed sources, Ezra was signed up to invest USD 300 million in 100-Megawatt power generation plants in South Sudan on a build-operate-and-transfer (BOOT) basis for 17 years, starting from November 2019 and until November 2036. So far, a capacity of 33 Megawatt is claimed to have been installed at an undisclosed cost.
It was agreed in the PPA, the story goes, that Ezra will sell electricity in bulk to South Sudan Electricity Corporation (SSEC), a national public electricity utility company operating under the Ministry of Electricity and Dams, which has been pushed to the margins. As it turned out, the Ministry of Electricity and Dams, and Ezra Group opted to form a new company – Juba Electric Distribution Company (JEDCO) to replace South Sudan Electricity Corporation (SSEC). Ezra holds majority 52% of shares in JEDCO, while the government, represented by SSEC, has 48% stake. According to an implementation agreement signed with the Ministry of Electricity and Dams, JEDCO buys electricity from Ezra on whole sale at USD 0.373 per 1 Kilowatt-hour (KWh) and sells it to the public at USD 0.420 per 1 KWh or its SSP equivalent.
Furthermore, according to Ezra, the government of South Sudan agreed to allow JEDCO to exchange its revenues to dollar at official exchange rate which is 75% lower than the parallel exchange rate. That has not worked out as smoothly as was expected. So far (until the time of this writing) Ezra has received USD 6 million from the government of South Sudan since the beginning of the operation. But it owes KCB some USD 9 million in loans, and USD 6.7 million loans to its suppliers; bringing the total debt owed to creditors by Ezra Group to USD 15.7 million. At the same time, Ezra has in its KCB’s account some SSP 6 billion which it is trying to exchange at official exchange rate in order to pay its debts to KCB and suppliers. At parallel market exchange rate, SSP 6 billion is equivalent to USD 9.6 million. And at official exchange rate, it will be a hefty USD 33 million. If paid out at official exchange rate, Ezra can clear all its debts and scoop a profit of USD 14.3 million in its first year of operation. A good business. Or is it?
To add to this controversy, a customer spending SSP 5 million a month on Ezra electricity can receive 1,607.6 KWh. This amounts to paying SSP 3,110 per one KWh of electricity, or USD 5.0 per one KWh at parallel market exchange rate of SSP 620 to a dollar. This is 11 times the agreed retail tariff rate. Not only that, Ezra claims that USD million it has received from the government is worth 15% of what is due over 13 months of operation. Meaning, the USD 6 million it has received is out of USD 40 million due in its first year of operation. Multiply that by 17 years, and it works out to a hefty USD 680 million in addition to interest rate adjustment.
And that is not all. The network through which Ezra distributes its generated power has been paid for by an African Development Bank’s grant of USD 38 million to the government of South Sudan, of which USD 26 has already been spent on the distribution network.
Still that that is not all. JEDCO is practically a subsidiary of Ezra, although the government owns 48% of stakes. And despite all this knowledge, Ezra has behaved all along like a 100% percent owner of JEDCO, while using a publicly funded distribution network for free to sell its electricity.
Given what we now know, Ezra is practically a lucrative forex business that is selling electricity as means to an end. Hence, there is absolute need for a government’s probe into Ezra’s contract and operations in order to lay bare all the facts; and take measures that will safeguard the public interest against Ezra’s monopolistic and exploitative behavior.
About the author:
John Akec is an academic from South Sudan. Currently, he is the vice chancellor of the University of Juba in in South Sudan. He holds degrees in engineering including a doctorate in mechanical and manufacturing engineering. He has also received postgraduate training in environmental sciences and entrepreneurship. His teaching and research interests span mechanical design, robotics, control engineering, artificial intelligence, web development, multimedia systems, environmental impact assessment (EIA), and e-governance.
President Kiir encourages household farmers to engage in agricultural activities to improve livelihood
JUBA, 24th September (Office of the President) – His Excellency President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Saturday had encouraged every household farmer to engage in agricultural and other productive activities in order to collectively improve the livelihood of the people.
A statement the President made while on inspection visit to his Rice and Maize plantation farm in Luri.
President Kiir said some of the plantations like Rice and Maize at his farm are ready for harvest.
President Kiir has ventured into farming during some of his free time mostly on Weekends as an example to lead and encourage the people to engage in agricultural activities in order to collectively improve the livelihoods.
The President also appreciated those that responded to his call and are using some of their free time to engage in agriculture and other productive activities, something that he urges every individual South Sudanese to embark on during their free time.
“This is the rice plantation, some plantations ready for harvest. if every household across the Country does this, we would have sufficient food, and we would not be complaining of food shortage and hunger. I encourage every household to do something productive and innovative for themselves.” said President Salva Kiir at his farm in Luri during the inspection today.
Speaking to the Press after the field visit, the Executive Director in the Office of the President Hon. James Deng Wal said the people of South Sudan are blessed with a very fertile land that don’t need fertilisers for productivity.
Wal added that the President is encouraging every household to take up the tools and carry out farming for personal consumption.
Meet Garang Kuot, National Democratic Alliance Secretary General
After its official launch, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) announced its Secretary General – Garang Kuot Kuot.
“In accordance with the ordinary sitting number seven of 18th September of 2022, the global steering committee for the establishment and registration of the National Democratic Alliance unanimously nominated and endorsed the appointment of Mr. Garang Kuot Kuot as Global Secretary General with effect from 21st September 2022.
Garang Kuot said that his appointment came after critics claimed the new party launched last week was just a faceless internet thing.
“This is the only appointment done by the NDA, and the purpose was to put a human face on the organization so that people would not think that NDA is some kind of internet thing and the people leading it are afraid to be known. This is the reason we at NDA wanted to reach many people and give them confidence in the NDA as a legitimate political force,” Garang said.
National Democratic Alliance is a youth-led political party backed by former child soldiers popularly known as the Red Army.
Grabbing of Juba University’s Land: Preserving our Learning Institutions for the Next Generations
By Ariik Kuol Ariik Mawien, Juba, South Sudan
Saturday, September 24,2022(Thejubamirror ) — The University of Juba was established in 1975 by the government of Sudan. It is considered one of the oldest institutions in the country’s archive when revisiting the historical background of the South Sudanese people. The university produced the most outstanding and brilliant leaders that fought for this beautiful country. For instance, the students of the University of Juba in 1980 became the first Southern Sudanese to acknowledge the value of the Nile water and stood firm against the construction of the Jonglei Canal.
Again in 2022, the University of Juba led the successful campaign for the anti-dredging of the Bahr el Ghazal (Naam) River, Sudd Wetlands, and the resumption of the Jonglei Canal Projects. It was one of the events that projected most of our leaders as pro-foreigners (South Sudanese-Egyptians) in their thoughts and actions, having too much greed for money, being less conscious about the future of the next generations (unpatriotic spirit), and self-serving individuals.
On June 19, 2022, Hon. Manawa Peter Gatkuoth (God Continue resting his soul in peace), the National Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation died in Egypt and his funeral prayer was conducted at Simba Square in Juba. The death of Manawa was a very sad moment for South Sudanese people within and outside the Country.
On the other hand, it was a brilliant opportunity for the Nile Water DEALERs to advance further their selfish interests, angrily revealed themselves with emotions, accused the general public over the death of Manawa and described citizens as “Social Media Criminals”, a term that went extra viral on several media platforms for more than a month.
From that time, we felt, our Country and valuable resources were under the custody of untrustful people and are experiencing potential threats within and outside the Country. For example, when leaders compromise the future of their Country and generations to come, decided to deal with outsiders and trade in common goods, the Nile Water and public land just to get a few dollars for survival.
Preserving the Land of the University of Juba and other Public lands is a collective responsibility of every South Sudanese Citizen. We don’t access public finance, health care, clean drinking water, electricity, favourable transport, reliable communication and stable security services. But, we continue to achieve dividends of education, though very little from our Universities and other Institutes of Higher Learning across the Country.
, JUBA, SUDAN : A classroom of the Juba university is full of students, Wednesday 02 May 2007, Sudan. ERIC LALMAND EricxLALMAND PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY x6631012x
In this case, the University of Juba admits the largest number of Students every year compared to the other four (04) public Universities operating in the Country. It has established a forum of becoming the mother of other learning institutions of Higher Education and a permanent Home of Wisdom for many South Sudanese seeking further qualifications.
Currently, the University has more than twenty-two (22) schools, numerous faculties/colleges and centres hosting over fourteen thousand (14,000) South Sudanese students. Imagine, there is a growing demand for more space to establish new schools, colleges/faculties for undergraduate and post-graduate programmes as well as specialised research centres, libraries and laboratories.
What does it mean when grabbing the Land belonging to the University of Juba?
Grabbing the land that belongs to the public institution, especially the University of Juba, privatising and turning it into an individual-owned investment asset, is a capital crime equivalent to selling the future of the Country and her people. In other words, registering what belongs to us in your own name, amounts to institutional crime and corruption and is punishable by law.
Any Authority doing this act is seen through the lenses of a public enemy, considered a perpetrator who committed a crime against the Country and her people. We must respect such old Institutions that existed for the length of forty-five (45) years, a period that is equivalent to or more than the age of some government officials currently serving in the Country.
We expect to add new things to the University structure not subtracting even the existing peripheral parts of it. This is a total mess for our people, how do we establish an informed Nation without respecting the learning environments, how do we produce competitive and talented human capital when the existence of the right-wing Institutions of Higher Education is under threat, how do we produce our own Teachers, Engineers, Doctors, Lawyers, Economists, Accountants and Agriculturalists.
We will not drill our own oil and mine our gold, diamond, uranium, copper, silver and other precious metals without the existence of the University. We will not be able to undertake major infrastructures like building towers, tarmac roads, railway lines, airports, waterways and specialised telecommunication services without favourable learning environments.
We will continue to have a weak and substandard education system in the Country if we don’t embrace our higher institutions, protect their existence and help them improve their performances in producing capable, talented, dedicated and competent teachers.
We can not be free from diseases, injustice, corruption, economic crisis and food insecurity if we don’t stop threatening our learning institutions. Without reflecting on career issues, we will continue losing our vital business, oil, health, construction and communication sectors to foreign nationals from Sudan, China, Malaysia, India, Egypt, Uganda, Kenya, D.R. Congo Ethiopia, Eritrea and Lebanon just to mention a. Why?
Because, we are not competitive, we are lacking knowledge and skills, our Universities are lacking necessary support and could not get enough resources (budget) they need to operate, we lack trust in our home education and could only trust Countries like the UK, USA, Australia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and other Countries we believed to have better and standard education systems, we are seriously endangering and imposing major threats on our own institutions in terms of land grabbing, pollution and lack of cooperation from stakeholders (University and State government).
Thank God, our only son, Dr. Prof. John Akec Apuruot for transforming the University of Juba into the world standard level. This is what I exactly meant by the word, “adding new things into the University structure and avoiding subtracting the existing peripheral parts of it”. If South Sudan could get ten (10) more of Prof. John Akec Apuruot, our Country will drastically turn into a paradise on earth.
Since he became a Vice Chancellor of the University of Juba, we witnessed rapid development at the University, the number of lecture halls increased, the more qualified teaching staff was recruited, the salary structure changed significantly, and new schools, colleges and centres were established, the graduate programme increases, the academic calendar becomes regular, annual graduations take place, graduates receive their certificates and transcripts on time.
What a great transition from an underdeveloped and weak institution into a strong transformative and world-standard institution we are having today.
The University officials on their Senate Meeting No.122, September 22, 2022, Passed the Following Resolutions as hereunder:
RESOLUTIONS UOJ SITTING NO 221
Dated: 22nd September 2022
1- Calls on MoFP to honour proposal by Ministery of Higher Education to apply 120% salary adjustment rise for the financial year 2022/23
2- Calls on Central Equatoria State government to cease all developments activities on University Lands and withdraw all military personnel deployed on University premises
3- Failure by MoFP or Central Equatoria to resolve the above by Friday 29 September will lead to industrial action by UoJ staff.
We urge the Government of Central Equatoria State to distance itself from grabbing the land belonging to the University of Juba. It must be made very clear that, University is a public Institution and that its land must be respected and fully defended by every citizen. We call on the Chancellor, His Excellency, President Salva Kiir Mayardit to immediately intervene in helping the University restore every single inch of its land without hesitation.
The University of Juba is a public Service Institution that existed before this government and will continue to reign permanently for many generations to come. The University’s lands that are under threats of grabbing, including Custom, Hai-Thoura and other campuses that are yet to be disclosed in the future.
The author, Ariik Kuol Ariik Mawien, holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Rural Development and Community Studies (2018/2019) and a Bachelor of Science in Economics (2013-2017) from Rumbek University of Science and Technology (RUST). He can be reached via Email: email@example.com or Twitter: @AriikKuolAriik or Skype/WhatsApp: +211 (0) 923 650 380 or Cell Phone: +211 (0) 928 187
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