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Zimbabwe’s Mugabe is gone, but political kow-towing still abounds

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Politics

HARARE (Reuters) – Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule may be over, but a culture of political fawning by the Zimbabwean state media and fear of those in authority still flourishes.

The Herald newspaper and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation – state and ruling ZANU-PF party mouthpieces – routinely heaped lavish praise on the 93-year-old Mugabe and his wife Grace in sycophantic articles and commentaries.

With the sudden change of guard, Zimbabwe’s official media is having a hard time shaking off old habits and is now tailoring its eulogies to fit Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s successor.

State radio intersperses programmes with martial music from the war of independence in honour of Mnangagwa’s war veteran allies and the army.

One morning talk show host spoke glowingly on Tuesday of seeing the presidential motorcade at 0645 GMT. This, he said, signalled the new leader was keeping his word to hit the ground running.

“The president is showing the way so get to work on time,” he said.

Mnangagwa, 75, a close Mugabe ally for several decades, took power after the military takeover on Nov. 15 following a succession battle that split the ruling ZANU-PF party.

“Comrade Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, (is) a true son of the soil who sacrificed his entire life to serving Zibmabwe as evidenced by the role he played in the liberation struggle as well as after independence up to this day. We are blessed to have you as our leader,” an advertisement by the ministry for women affairs, gender and community development gushed in the Herald.

 

PERSONALITY CULTS

Not all within the ruling party are comfortable with the trend though.

Justice Wadyajena, a Mnangagwa admirer and outspoken ZANU-PF parliamentarian, reminded his Twitter followers of the dangers of personality cults.

“Those falling all over each other pledging loyalty to President ED are just brutes playing meek,” Wadyajena wrote, referring to Mnangagwa by the initials of his first and middle names.

“If you really are principled, there’s no reason to bootlick, your conduct should speak for itself. We’ve seen the danger of personalizing governance and gatekeeping a NATIONAL FIGURE!!”

Mnangagwa, who served Mugabe loyally for 52 years, is expected to form a new cabinet this week. Zimbabweans are watching to see if he breaks with the past and names a broad-based government or selects figures from the Mugabe era’s old guard.

 

 

(By Emelia Sithole-Matarise. Additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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S.Africa’s Zuma calls for action after S&P downgrade, rand up on Moody’s reprieve

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy

By Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African President Jacob Zuma called for concrete measures to boost growth after S&P Global Ratings downgraded the local currency debt to sub-investment grade, while foreign currency debt was pushed deeper into “junk” territory.

The rand recovered on Monday from steep falls suffered late on Friday after the downgrade, taking some relief from Moody’s decision to only place South Africa on review for downgrade.

A cut to “junk” on the local currency debt by both S&P and Moody’s could have seen South African debt lose its place in Citi’s World Government Bond Index (WGBI), the biggest of the global benchmarks and tracked by about $2-3 trillion of funds.

Zuma directed Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Monday to finalise proposals for expenditure cuts amounting to 25 billion rand ($2 billion) and revenue boosting measures totalling 15 billion rand – including through taxes.

A proposal by a presidential commission to introduce free higher education should also be implemented in a “fiscally-sustainable manner”, the statement from Zuma’s office said.

Gigaba in October unveiled a gloomy outlook for the economy as he flagged weaker growth expectations, wider budget deficit estimates and rising government debt.

Both S&P and Moody’s cited deterioration in South Africa’s economic growth prospects and public finances.

As of 1527 GMT, the rand was trading at 13.7625 per dollar, 2.86 percent firmer than its New York close on Friday, when it had tumbled 2 percent following S&P’s announcement.

“The market is finding some relief in the fact that Moody’s has chosen to give us basically till February before they change our rating, if they do change our rating,” said Shaun Murison, currency strategist at IG Markets.

In fixed income, the yield for the benchmark government bond was down 9 basis points to 9.245 percent, also recovering after rising as much as 11 basis points earlier in the session.

Moody’s said the review will allow it to assess the South African authorities’ willingness and ability to respond to the rising pressures through growth-supportive fiscal adjustments that raise revenues and contain expenditures.

“The review period may not conclude until the size and the composition of the 2018 budget is known next February,” Moody’s senior analyst for South Africa, Zuzana Brixiova, said in a statement.

Moody’s rates South Africa’s foreign and local currency debt on their lowest investment grade rung of Baa3.

VOLATILITY

S&P’s decision will see South Africa excluded from the Barclays Global Aggregate index, whose inclusion criteria requires investment grade rating on its local currency debt from any two ratings agencies.

Fitch already rates South African debt as “junk”, and affirmed the rating on Thursday.

If nothing changes, the country will be downgraded to “junk” by all ratings agencies and the WGBI dream will be no more, at least for many a year, said Standard Bank chief trader Warrick Butler in a note.

“What this means, in terms of the currency, will be increased volatility.”

Falling out of the WGBI could have led to a larger sell-off in bonds, even though rising yields could present a buying opportunity for some yield-hungry investors.

“If you look at some of the metrics the real yields are among the highest in EM, the domestic curve is extremely steep, the current account is in better place than it was three to four years ago and the rand is quite competitive against likes of (Russia’s) rouble or Brazilian real,” said London-based Paul Greer, senior trader at Fidelity International.

“On the local side the real yield and steepness of curve look attractive from tactical perspective.”

Analysts said an exclusion from the Barclays index would lead to outflows of about $2 billion, compared with more than $10 billion if South Africa was to fall out of Citi’s WGBI.

South African debt was dropped from one the widely used global bond indexes, the JPMorgan Emerging Market Bond Index Global in April after S&P and Fitch downgraded foreign currency debt to sub-investment grade.

On the stock market, the Top-40 index was 0.35 percent lower at 53,810 while the broader all-share was down 0.28 percent at 60,157.

($1 = 13.7678 rand)

(Additional reporting by Sujata Rao in London; Editing by James Macharia/Mark Heinrich)

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Zimbabwe’s economic situation “very difficult”: IMF mission chief

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s economic growth is threatened by high government spending, an untenable foreign exchange regime and inadequate reforms, a senior International Monetary Fund (IMF) official said.

Zimbabwe was once one of Africa’s most promising economies but suffered decades of decline as former President Robert Mugabe pursued policies that included the violent seizure of white-owned commercial farms and money-printing that led to hyperinflation.

Mugabe, 93, resigned on Tuesday after nearly four decades in power following pressure from the military, the ruling ZANU-PF party and the general population.

New ZANU-PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to be sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president on Friday.

Zimbabwe has not been able to borrow from international lenders since 1999 when it started defaulting on its debt, and has $1.75 billion rand in foreign arrears.

“The economic situation in Zimbabwe remains very difficult,” Gene Leon, IMF’s mission chief for Zimbabwe said in a statement to Reuters late on Wednesday.

“Immediate action is critical to reduce the deficit to a sustainable level, accelerate structural reforms, and re-engage with the international community to access much needed financial support.”

Leon said Zimbabwe should resolve arrears to the World Bank, African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank, among other reforms, for the IMF to consider future financing request from the country.

Zimbabwe should also be ready to implement strong macroeconomic policies and structural reforms to restore fiscal and debt sustainability, Leon said.

 

(Reporting by David Lawder in Washington and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo in Johannesburg; Editing by James Macharia)

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Facebook to open Nigerian hub next year in African tech drive

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Technology

LAGOS (Reuters) – Facebook will open a “community hub space” in Nigeria next year to encourage software developers and technology entrepreneurs and become the latest technology giant to pursue a training programme in fast-growing Africa.

The U.S. social media company said the centre would host an “incubator programme” to help develop technology start-ups, while it will also train 50,000 Nigerians in digital skills.

Africa’s rapid population growth, falling data costs and heavy adoption of mobile phones rather than PCs is attracting technology companies looking to attract more users.

Facebook did not provide details of the period over which its planned training would take place in Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous country with 180 million inhabitants.

“We understand the important role Facebook plays here in Nigeria with developers and start-ups and are invested in helping these communities,” Emeka Afigbo, its regional head of platform partnership, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Facebook said the training – aimed at software developers, entrepreneurs and students – would be offered in cities including the capital, Abuja, Port Harcourt in the south, Calabar in the southeast and Kaduna in the north.

Last year Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg visited technology companies in Lagos and his charitable foundation provided $24 million to Andela, which trains developers.

Google’s chief executive in a July visit to Lagos said the company aimed to train 10 million people across the continent in online skills over the next five years. He also said it hoped to train 100,000 software developers in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. [L5N1KH9WQ]

Although Africa may not offer as much opportunity to add consumers as China or India, because large wealth gaps mean that many people in places like Nigeria have little disposable income, Facebook said more than 22 million people already use its social media website every month in Nigeria.

Widespread poverty means mobile adoption tends to favour basic phone models. That, combined with poor telecommunications infrastructure, can mean slow internet speeds and less internet surfing, which tech firms rely on to make money.

 

(Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; editing by Alexander Smith)

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Zambia’s central bank says delayed IMF programme affecting kwacha currency

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia’s central bank governor said on Wednesday the delay in reaching a conclusion for an aid programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was putting pressure on the kwacha currency.

Zambia and the IMF agreed in October to chart a new path towards debt sustainability after the IMF delayed the conclusion of talks with Africa’s No.2 copper producer, saying it was at high risk of debt distress.

The government had said it hopes to get board approval from the international lender by the end of 2017

“It is more of sentiment because the fundamentals point to continued appreciation,” central bank governor Denny Kalyalya told a media conference.

“One of the factors has been that players were looking to the conclusion of an IMF programme before the end of the year.”

The kwacha currency slid to 10.0850 per dollar on Wednesday from about 9.0000 three months ago and traders said it was due to increased dollar demand and short foreign currency supply.

 

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by James Macharia)

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