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Sierra Leone knocks zeros off bank notes in currency re-calibration

Sierra Leone will launch a re-denominated currency on Friday, knocking three zeros off bank notes but keeping their value unchanged, the central bank said.

Financial transactions with the West African country have been suspended since Wednesday in preparation for the re-calibration of the leone currency, Central Bank Governor Kelfala Murana Kallon told Reuters.

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President Julius Maada Bio was the first person to use the new notes at a central bank launch event in the capital, Freetown, on Friday.

Maada Bio said the change was needed to simplify accounting records, reduce cash volumes needed for transactions and do away with other inconveniences and inefficiencies.

“We have removed three zeros but the money yesterday is the same value as the money today: new notes, same value. The value of your pension, your debts, your rents and your salary remains the same,” he said in a video posted to his Twitter feed.

The change comes amid efforts to strengthen the tumbling leone, which is now fluctuating at about 13,000 to the dollar.

“It is a psychological boost knowing that the leone has appreciated against the dollar, at least on the face of it,” university student Ibrahim Mattia told Reuters.

But critics, including the main opposition All People’s Congress party, say the re-denomination is confusing and adds no value.

“So much uncertainty,” said civil servant, Mohamed Koroma. “We wait to see where this cosmetic move leads us to amid the present hard economic climate.”

The denominations of Sierra Leone’s bank notes are currently 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,0000 leone.

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‘Faster than Starlink:’ STC plans satellite internet for Saudi Arabia in 2023


The Saudi Telecommunication Company (STC) is looking to roll out high-speed satellite internet in 2023 that will eventually cover all corners of the Kingdom, according to a company executive.

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STC has already trialed the technology in the planned megacity of NEOM, STC General Manager of Business Development Saad al-Rabiah told Al Arabiya English.

“We’re looking now into moving to a larger scale this year, 2023,” al-Rabiah said during the LEAP conference in Riyadh.

The satellites STC is planning to use “have higher speed than, for example, Starlink, the one with Elon Musk,” al-Rabiah explained.

Whereas Starlink is focused on providing internet access to less developed countries, STC’s plan aims to provide high-speed internet to all areas of the Kingdom, which already has internet access for around 90 percent of its population.

Improved internet access will “elevate [the] living experience” of people in rural areas, according to al-Rabiah, allowing them to communicate with friends and family, and access better levels of education and healthcare.

“It will also help governments to make sure that spending is more efficient in rural areas,” as people will be able to access certain services online.

Other initiatives that STC is working on include its smart cities program, which tracks traffic flow and uses artificial intelligence technology to give authorities the necessary information to re-route traffic.

Drone technology employed by STC is scouting out possible locations for mining minerals in the country’s vast desert.

STC’s AI-equipped cameras and remote controlled cranes are unloading ships in Dammam port. Automating this process cuts makes it more efficient and cuts down on any potential accidents, al-Rabiah said.

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Turkey’s Ceyhan oil terminal, Iraq’s KRG pipeline halted after quake


A major earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria early on Monday has halted operations at Turkey’s oil terminal in Ceyhan and flows via Iraq’s northern oil export pipeline from Kirkuk.

Turkish pipeline operator BOTAS said there was no damage on main pipelines which carry crude oil from Iraq and Azerbaijan to Turkey. An emergency meeting will take place on the issue, the Tribeca shipping agency said.

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In a notice, Tribeca said ports in southeastern Turkey are affected by the quake and that delays in operations are reported.

Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has halted flows through the pipeline which runs from Iraq’s northern Kirkuk fields to Ceyhan, the region’s ministry of natural resources (MNR) said on Monday.

The KRG had been pumping 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) and Iraq’s federal government was pumping 75,000 bpd through the pipeline, an oil industry source told Reuters.

Oil exports will resume after a “careful inspection of the pipelines is finalized,” an MNR statement said.

Most upstream oil producers have several days of storage capacity, so KRG production should continue in the near term, the oil industry source added.

Azerbaijan

Regarding Azeri crude flows to Turkey, two sources said there was no damage at the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) terminal, but one of the sources added that inspections would take place over the next 1-2 days.

There is sufficient storage capacity in Ceyhan and in Baku, and flows could be reduced if needed, the second source said.

The eastern Mediterranean terminal of Ceyhan is some 155 km (96 miles) from the area of the quake’s epicentre.

The magnitude 7.8 quake struck southern Turkey and northwest Syria early on Monday, killing and injuring hundreds as buildings collapsed across the region.

State pipeline operator BOTAS said natural gas flows were halted to Gaziantep, Hatay and Kahramanmaras provinces and some other districts as a result of damage to a gas transmission line.

Residents in northern Iraqi provinces reported feeling a light tremor following the earthquake.

Read more: Another 7.5-magnitude earthquake hits southeast Turkey, felt in Lebanon

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Saudi Arabia says tech giants to invest more than $9 bln in Kingdom, says IT Minister


Saudi Arabia has attracted more than $9 billion in investments in future technologies, including by US giants Microsoft and Oracle Corp, which are building cloud regions in the Kingdom, a government minister said on Monday.

Saudi Minister of Communication and Information Technology Abdullah Alswaha said Microsoft will invest $2.1 billion in a global super-scaler cloud, while Oracle has committed $1.5 billion to build a new cloud region in Riyadh.

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“The investments… will enhance the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s position as the largest digital market in the Middle East and North Africa,” Alswaha said at LEAP, an international technology forum taking place in Riyadh.
Alswaha did not give details on the timeframe. Oracle told Reuters the investment will be made over several years.
The minister said China’s Huawei will also invest $400 million in cloud infrastructure for its services in Saudi Arabia and another cloud region in partnership with oil giant Aramco.
An additional $4.5 billion was invested in global and local assets across multiple sectors at the forum, Alswaha added.
Tonomus, a subsidiary of the $500 billion signature NEOM project, said last year it invested $1 billion in 2022 in AI, including a metaverse platform.
Increased demand for cloud computing has pushed technology companies such as Oracle, Microsoft, Amazon, and Alphabet’s Google to set up data centers across the world to speed up data transfer.

Read more: Second edition of LEAP technology conference opens in Saudi Arabia

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