Cash-strapped Zimbabwe needs $274 million for 2018 election

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HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s election agency said on Tuesday it needs $274 million to finance next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections, in which President Robert Mugabe plans to contest aged 94.

Zimbabwe is suffering severe cash shortages and Mugabe’s government is struggling to pay its workers on time while many businesses can’t fund the imports they need.

But Rita Makarau, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson, told a parliamentary committee that she was confident the national treasury would make the money available.

“A consolidated budget requirement has since been submitted to treasury for funding in the sum of $274 million,” said Makarau, adding that a new voter register would be completed by December.

Mugabe, Africa’s oldest leader, has been in power since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980 and is bidding for another five-year term, his last allowed under the constitution.

Elections should be held not more than 30 days before Aug. 22, 2018 unless parliament elects to dissolve itself, which would trigger an early vote, the constitution states.

Last week, Zimbabwean police sprayed tear gas and fired water cannon at opposition supporters protesting against what they say is the slow pace of electoral reforms ahead of 2018 polls.


(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Joe Brock)


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‘Chill’, Kenya central bank tells shilling speculators as election nears

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By Duncan Miriri

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Speculators against Kenya’s shilling in the run-up to national elections should “chill”, and a fall in its foreign exchange reserves is no cause for alarm, the head of its central bank said on Tuesday.

The bank’s hard currency reserves dropped to $7.80 billion – or 5.2 months of imports – last week, and traders said the central bank had sold dollars in the market at least twice since Thursday to support the local currency.

“We believe that our (reserves) cover is adequate,” Njoroge said, adding that some of the recent pressure on the shilling was due to bets on the outcome of the election, which takes place on Aug. 8.

“There is a lot of speculation out there… and frankly some of those speculators need to chill,” he told a news conference at the central bank.

Elections can be fraught and tense occasions in Kenya. The most recent one in 2013 passed relatively peacefully, but violence following the previous ballot in 2007 killed around 1,200 people.

At 10:10 GMT on Tuesday, the shilling was little changed at 103.80 per dollar.

Central bank currency reserves reached at record $8.27 billion at the end of May, central bank data showed. Given the drop since then, traders have expressed concerns about the bank’s ability to intervene further to support the shilling should the need arise.

The Kenyan currency has been broadly stable against the dollar this year and Njoroge said this trend should continue as inflation eased.

He said he expected annual inflation to drop into the government’s preferred band of 2.5-7.5 percent within two months as food prices continued to fall.

Headline inflation raced to a five-year high of 11.7 percent in May following a drought, but it fell to 9.21 percent last month after rains boosted supplies.

“We expect (inflation) to breach 7.5 (percent) within this quarter,” the central bank head said.

He linked the fall in currency reserves to government payments of just over half a billion dollars that were included in the budget.

Njoroge said concerns about the recent closures of at least 10 bank branches by Barclays Kenya and other lenders was “overblown,” saying technological innovations such as mobile phone banking were reducing the need for physical branches.

“We cannot just be stuck on brick and mortar,” he said.


(writing by John Stonestreet)


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Mazda recalls additional 19,000 vehicles in South Africa over airbag scare

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CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Mazda Motor Corp. is recalling 19,000 cars in South Africa due to airbag safety concerns as the Japanese carmaker extends a global recall to cover a wider manufacturing period, its local unit said on Monday.

The recall was prompted by investigations in Japan and North America for three different types of Takata Corp manufactured airbags over safety concerns that inflators were defective.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in July that new testing was prompting Takata Corp to declare 2.7 million air bag inflators defective in Ford Motor Co, Nissan Motor Co and Mazda vehicles.

Takata air bag inflators have been linked to 17 deaths and more than 180 injuries worldwide, and the recalls will eventually cover about 125 million inflators.


(Reporting by Wendell Roelf, editing by Louise Heavens)


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Egypt FDI likely hit $8 bln-$8.5 bln in fiscal year just ended -minister

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By Ehab Farouk

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian Planning Minister Hala al-Saeed told Reuters on Saturday that she projected foreign direct investment in the country had reached $8 billion to $8.5 billion in the 2016-17 fiscal year which ended in June.

Speaking on the sidelines of a news conference, Saeed said the government was targeting a 20 percent increase in foreign direct investment in the 2017-18 fiscal year which started this month.

Foreign direct investment in Egypt rose 12 percent in the first nine months of the 2016-17 fiscal year to $6.6 billion compared with $5.9 billion in the same period a year earlier, the investment ministry said earlier on Saturday.

Saeed told a news conference that the economic growth rate for 2016-17 would not fall below 4 percent and for the fourth quarter of 2016-17 not below 4.5 percent.

The government had projected a growth rate of 3.8-4 percent for the full fiscal year 2016-17.

Saeed said she expected the initial budget deficit for 2016-17 to come in at 10.4 to 10.5 percent. The real deficit for the 2015-16 fiscal year was 12.5 percent.


(Reporting by Ehab Farouk; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Richard Balmforth)


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South Africa central bank accuses anti-graft watchdog of incompetence

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s central bank accused the head of anti-graft watchdog of incompetence on Friday, following her proposal to switch the target of its monetary policy from inflation and currency stability to economic growth.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane set off a political row and sparked a selling frenzy in the rand currency last month when she said the Reserve Bank current mandate focuses on a “few commercial interests”.

In a scathing court filing, Governor Lesetja Kganyago said the constitutionally mandated watchdog was “reckless” and her later explanation of the report showed a lack understanding of the constitution and the central bank’s powers and functions.

“This is a grave, rudimentary error,” Kganyago said. “The only explanation that the Public Protector has offered for her clearly unlawful conduct exposes her own lack of competency.”

Opposition parties, Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters, have also branded Mkhwebane incompetent and urged her to resign or for parliament review her ability to execute her duties.

Public Protector spokeswoman Cleopatra Mosana rejected the accusations of incompetence, saying Mkhwebane continued to “discharge her duties as prescribed by the constitution.”

Mkhwebane has been in the job since October last year. Her proposal was also opposed in court by parliament and finance minister Malusi Gigaba, both of whom have said she over-stepped her powers.

The call threatened to further stain South Africa’s credentials as an investor-friendly emerging market, coming less than a week after mines minister Mosebenzi Zwane spooked investors by raising the minimum threshold for black ownership of mining companies to 30 percent from 26 percent.


(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Toby Chopra)


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Botswana’s Okavango first-half diamond sales up 9 percent

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GABORONE (Reuters) – Botswana’s state-owned Okavango Diamond Company (ODC) sales rose 9 percent to $309 million in the first half of the year as demand improved, its deputy managing director said on Friday.

Marcus ter Haar told Reuters the company had sold 1.8 million carats in five auctions held since January.

“The volumes of carats sold were 3 percent higher than the same period in 2016,” he said.

ODC, which plans to have 10 tenders this year, sells 15 percent of the output of Debswana, a joint venture between Anglo American Plc’s De Beers and Botswana, which is targeting production of 20.5 million carats this year.


(Writing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, editing by David Evans)


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Kumba Iron Ore expects surging interim profits after price recovery

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s Kumba Iron Ore said it expects half-year profits to rise by as much as 58 percent due to a recovery in iron ore prices.

Kumba, which is 70 percent owned by Anglo American, said headline earnings per share (EPS) were likely to be between 13.70 rand and 14.85 rand for the six months through June, an increase of between 46 percent and 58 percent.

“The increase in earnings for the period is largely attributable to higher export iron ore prices, partially offset by the stronger rand/US$ exchange rate,” the company said in a statement.

Headline EPS is the main profit measure in South Africa and strips out certain one-off items.

Shares in Kumba were down 1.2 percent at 171.50 rand by 0710 GMT, hit by a near 3 percent drop in China’s iron ore futures after data added to concerns about surplus supply.


(Reporting by TJ Strydom; Editing by Susan Fenton)


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Barclays Africa challenges findings on apartheid-era bailout

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Barclays Africa launched a court challenge on Thursday to the anti-graft watchdog’s findings that the lender’s South African unit unduly benefited from an apartheid-era bailout.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhebane said last month her investigation had found the apartheid government and central bank breached the constitution by supplying a bank later acquired by Absa, the retail banking unit of Barclays Africa, with a series of bailouts from 1986 to 1995.

The constitutionally mandated anti-corruption agency said Absa must repay 1.1 billion rand ($83 million) to the state.

“In reaching her finding that Absa benefited from the South African Reserve Bank financial support, the Public Protector appears to have impermissibly ignored facts and disregarded evidence provided to her,” Absa said.

The bank said in court filings it had not benefited from the central bank bailout of Bankorp because the price it paid for it took into account the central bank’s financial assistance.

($1 = 13.2500 rand)


(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng, editing by David Evans)


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Ghana seeks Swiss support to process more cocoa

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ACCRA (Reuters) – Ghana is seeking collaboration with Switzerland to boost its cocoa output and process more of the beans in the face of price volatility, President Nana Akufo-Addo said on Wednesday.

Ghana, the world’s second largest producer and top grower Ivory Coast, which together account for more than 60 percent of the world’s cocoa supply, have been hit by a sharp drop in world prices that have seen cocoa futures plummet by around a third.

While Ivory Coast responded by slashing its guaranteed farmgate prices, Ghana has maintained the price at which it buys cocoa from farmers since the season opened in October.

Ghana exports at least 70 percent of its beans mainly to Europe through forward contracts.

“Ghana, under my presidency, will no longer become mere producers and exporters of cocoa beans, and will continue the policy of processing more and more of our cocoa,” Akufo-Addo told reporters after a meeting with Swiss President Doris Leuthard in Accra.

Both sides agreed to undertake joint projects to add value to Ghana’s beans, Akufo-Addo said without giving details.

Ghana, which also exports gold and oil is under a three-year aid programme with the International Monetary Fund to restore fiscal stability to its economy, dogged by high public debt, deficits and consumer inflation.


(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Greg Mahlich)


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Autos supplier Faurecia opens second Moroccan factory, plans third

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PARIS (Reuters) – French auto supplier Faurecia plans to open a third Moroccan plant to build car interiors and emissions control parts for clients, including its parent PSA Group, the company said on Thursday.

The future plant will open next year in the coastal city of Kenitra, Faurecia Chief Executive Patrick Koller said in a statement marking the formal inauguration of its second Moroccan production site, a seating facility north of the capital Rabat.

The seating plant represents an investment of 170 million dirhams (15.4 million euros; $17.58 million) and employs 1,300 workers making seat covers and leather trim for vehicles such as the Peugeot 3008 and 5008, as well as Opel models built at PSA plants. Faurecia is 46.3 percent-owned by the maker of Peugeot, Citroen and DS cars.

($1 = 0.8760 euros)


(Reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)


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