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Digital Finance needs to be a top priority for African Growth in 2018

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digital finance

In an annual report released by the Africa Growth Initiative, there is a call for African nations to embrace digital technology as one of the major priorities for 2018. The report, entitled “Foresight Africa: Top priorities for the continent in 2018”, identified six priorities for the continent to capitalize on new technologies that would have the potential to bring more economic prosperity at every level of civil society. Technology-based solutions to long-entrenched problems are believed to be the catalyst the continent needs in order to strengthen its institutions and improve its standing on the global stage.

The Africa Growth Initiative was created in 2011 by the American think-tank The Brookings Institution. The Foresight Africa project is a series of reports, commentaries and events that aim to help policymakers and Africa watchers stay ahead of the trends and developments impacting the continent. Since 2011, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative has used the occasion of the new year to assess Africa’s top priorities for the year.

Education and agriculture could develop more innovative solutions

This year, a particular focus was placed on “harnessing Africa’s digital potential.” By focusing on technology and digitization, countries are better able to shift their economic structures and transform both the labor market and public services. Entrepreneurs with sustainable business models would benefit from opportunities for financial inclusion, easier retail payments, and improvements in administrative services. Other sectors such as education and agriculture could develop more innovative solutions as a result of improved access to key information such as market feasibility.

One of the biggest areas of opportunity is in mobile payment technology. Given that an estimated 50% of the world’s population is considered “underbanked” or “unbanked”, the development of such technology in the early 2000s gave thousands of people access to a formal banking system in societies that were to-date highly cash-based. On the African continent, the success of the mobile phone-based money transfer system M-Pesa has helped African economies save billions of dollars. M-Pesa made it easy for its users to deposit, withdraw, and transfer money without needing to visit a bank or carry a large amount of cash. For low-income people, especially women, it became easier to borrow and save money.

Public and private investors attracted

Mobile payment technology in development has attracted both public and private investors who see its potential to improve the efficiency of government institutions and private operations, saving money while increasing the volume of business. It has allowed for innovation in other areas: M-Akiba allows for people to invest in bonds issued by the Kenyan government; M-KOPA makes it easy for people to acquire solar power; M-TIBA helps people set money aside for health expenses; and the One Acre Fund invests in small farmers and facilitates the acquisition of seed and fertilizer, training, and loans.

By moving towards digitization, some of Africa’s most intractable problems could be addressed, including corruption, administrative break-downs, and the diversion of public money that has choked the public sector. Rather, the Africa Growth Initiative pushes the public to move towards democratizing access to public services (taxes, commerce, transportation) by shifting the operations online.

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Tunisia Becomes the 21st Member Country of Arabsat

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It was announced April 12, 2018 that Tunisia has been formally elected as a new member country of Arabsat (Arab Satellite Communications Organization) by the Tunisian Minister of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy, Anouar Maarouf. Now with 21 member countries, Tunisia enters with a 0.7% stake in the organization and acted as the host of the 42nd Annual Conference of the Arab Satellite Communications Organization in Gammarth.

While there have been issues in the past with member countries acting in a coordinated fashion, Arabsat’s unique coalition and organization structure is a boon to the technology field throughout the Arab world. The addition of Tunisia to Arabsat seems to be a massive win for the quality of services in the region.

Under the new agreement, Tunisian television and radio will now be broadcasting directly through Arabsat due to the creation of a new satellite station with the National Broadcasting Corporation (ONT). Thanks to this change, picture and sound quality will greatly improve to higher levels capable of taking much better advantage of high definition televisions. Arabsat already offers over 500 standard definition, 95 high definition (HD), and 200 radio stations for its user base. With this added footprint, it is very likely that there will be more and more HD programming coming shortly. Better programming will hopefully means more technology sales and a greater incentive to create more diverse programming across the Arabsat networks.

To increase the planetary footprint of Arabsat

With Tunisia on board, Arabsat Executive Chairman, Khaled Ben Ahmed Balkheyour mentioned the satellite telecom coalition is currently seeking to invest over $600 million (1440 dinars) in two brand new industrial satellites. One of the control stations will be located in the Edkhila region of Manouba in Tunisia while the second will be featured in Saudi Arabia. The goal of will be to increase the planetary footprint of Arabsat, and strengthen coverage in the rest of Africa and Europe. Not only allowing for better television broadcasting, but also better internet services, and better maritime and military communications. As of now, the expectation is that each of the new stations will be operational by the first quarter of 2019.

Like with any satellite venture, much of the costs are up front. It requires a great deal of capital to build and launch a satellite into geosynchronous orbit around the planet. Such an early sizeable investment explains the need for over 20 countries at its inception. Making satellite technology viable and profitable takes a great deal of time and effort and backing money. This is a major explanation for the fact that while it was started in 1976 (with much unofficial history before that), Arabsat did not have its first satellite in orbit until 1985. However, in the 21st century, Arabsat has more support than ever as well as the ability to bring in revenue on its own thanks to its robust content and internet offerings. Arabsat has become a major player in the telecom industry and experts say that its very existence is a powerful beacon of collaboration throughout the Arab world.

A new member country: the continued expansion of the organization

As one of the most massive telecom conglomerates in the world, this year’s conference saw the chairman speak highly of the host country, playing up Tunisia’s role in promoting the direction and connection of Arabsat. He also announced Arabsat’s profits in 2017 reaching $120 million (288 million dinars) and a strong hope for future growth in the industry. With Tunisia on board, Arabsat seems to believe the future looks very bright. A greater footprint, more satellite stations, and a new member country signal the continued expansion of the organization and its reach to citizens living and working all over the world.

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Zimbabwe wants mining companies to list on local exchange

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy, Mining

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe wants mining firms to list on the local bourse as part of efforts under new president Emmerson Mnangagwa to boost investment and local ownership of its vast mineral resources, a new bill before parliament showed.

Mnangagwa, who took power in November when the military ousted Robert Mugabe after nearly four decades, has vowed to revitalise the economy and unlock investment in the mining sector after years of reticence by foreign investors.

“No mining right or title shall be granted or issued to a public company unless the majority of its shares are listed on a securities exchange in Zimbabwe,” the bill says.

Companies seeking rights to mine in the platinum-rich country but already listed elsewhere must notify the mines minister and use the funds from such public offers to develop the mine in Zimbabwe, the bill said.

A failure to comply would mean a liability of a fine equivalent to 100 percent of the cash raised at the foreign listing or as much as 10 years in prison.

Industry lobby group, Chamber of Mines, said its members were not opposed to the proposal to list on the local bourse but warned that exchange may not be deep and liquid enough for companies to raise capital.

“Our members are not averse to listing on the local bourse but it has no capacity to meet the needs of the members,” Chief Executive Isaac Kwesu said.

“Mining is a capital intensive business and some of our larger mines are listed on foreign exchanges because they are able to raise large amounts for working capital and for investment.”

Four mining companies, including Canada’s Falcon Gold and local diversified miner RioZim, are listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, which has a market capitalisation of around $8 billion.

 

(Reporting by Alfonce Mbizwo, editing by David Evans)

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Trafigura signs three-year cobalt deal with Shalina Resources subsidiary

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Mining

LONDON (Reuters) – Commodities trader Trafigura has signed an offtake agreement for cobalt hydroxide running to December 2020 with Shalina Resources and its subsidiary Chemaf, based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Chemaf said in a statement on Wednesday.

Interest in cobalt reflects a shift in the automotive industry to electric cars (EV), powered by lithium-ion batteries which also require components made from the metal as well as other materials such as nickel.

Trafigura has already increased its foothold in nickel with an exclusive offtake agreement with Finland’s Terrafame, that also produces zinc and cobalt.

“If as expected EVs account for an increasingly significant proportion of a growing global vehicle fleet from 2025, it will drive sharp rises in demand for nickel and cobalt,” Trafigura Chief Executive Jeremy Weir said in the company’s 2017 annual report.

“That provides a very promising environment for our growing cobalt and nickel trading activity.”

Chemaf specialises in cobalt and copper exploration. It produced about 5,000 tonnes of cobalt last year from its Etoile mine and processing plant in Lubumbashi, with production set to rise to 7,000 tonnes this year.

More than 60 percent of global cobalt production comes from the DRC. Trading and mining group Glencore, the world’s biggest producer of cobalt, has already signed major offtake agreements with Chinese companies.

Trafigura traded 69.9 million tonnes of metals and minerals in 2017, up 18 percent from 2016.

 

(Reporting by Julia Payne; Editing by Susan Fenton and David Holmes)

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Time to cut? Nigeria central bank gathers for first 2018 meeting

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy

LONDON (Reuters) – The Nigerian central bank’s monetary policy committee will finally meet on Wednesday to set interest rates for the first time this year.

Interest rates have been stuck at a record high of 14 percent since July 2016. However, the committee had to cancel its January meeting due to an inability to form a quorum following a number of departures that reduced it to just five out of 12 members.

A majority of analysts taking part in a Reuters poll said they expected rates to stay on hold for now, but that they would be cut later in the year.

Here are three graphics showing Nigeria’s changing economic dynamics.

 

1/ EASING PRESSURE

The pace of inflation has steadily slowed since the start of 2017, with the core reading hovering close to the 12 percent mark. And with exchange rates fairly stable and demand-related pressures absent, inflation rates could be sinking further, making Nigeria ripe for easier monetary policy.

“After a year of lethargic disinflation, the drop in headline inflation to 14.3 percent in February 2018 ignites hope that inflation is still on a steady course towards the target 9.0 percent ceiling and that conditions could continue improving to favour unwinding the present hawkish monetary stance,” StratLink wrote in a note to clients.

 

2/ WHERE’S THE GROWTH?

Nigeria returned to growth in 2017 with the economy expanding 0.83 percent after shrinking by 1.58 percent in 2016, which was its first annual contraction in 25 years. However, latest growth figures are still well below its potential, the recovery has been fragile, and private sector credit lending lacklustre.

Political stalemate has been a common occurrence in Nigeria and has hampered reforms, while lawmakers still have to pass the 2018 budget. But with elections coming up in 2019, the heat is on for policy makers to help stimulate growth.

“The main focus will be to try and do something positive to the economy, to try to kickstart bank lending to the economy against a very weak backdrop, where the budget has not been passed and money supply is weak,” said Razia Khan, chief economist for Africa at Standard Chartered.

 

3/ RISING BUFFERS

Meanwhile a recovery in oil prices, successful debt sales including rolling local into external debt, and a significant amount of portfolio investment have helped replenish the central bank’s coffers. In March, foreign exchange reserves stood at $46.2 billion – a near 9 percent jump month-on-month.

Nigeria’s foreign exchange buffer has climbed 53 percent since March 2017 when it stood at $30.30 billion – though reserves remain far from the peak of $64 billion in August 2008.

 

(Reporting and graphics by Karin Strohecker; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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South Africa’s Gold Fields ties up with Canada’s Asanko in Ghana

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Mining

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s Gold Fields will buy a near 50 percent share of Asanko Gold Inc’s Ghana subsidiary and take a stake in the Canadian miner in a $202.6 million deal announced on Thursday.

Investors were cautious, questioning whether the African joint venture would make a return any time soon and sending Gold Fields’ shares down nearly 6 percent, in an already weak bullion sector.

Gold Fields said in a statement that as well as acquiring half of Asanko Gold Ghana’s 90 percent interest in the Asanko Gold Mine, its Ghana subsidiary will also acquire associated properties and exploration rights in the African country.

Shares in Goldfields fell more than the broader bullion sector – which was down 2.8 percent – tumbling 5.9 percent to 46.01 rand by 0858 GMT.

“There’s always some execution risk, they are buying these things but can they actually make money out of it, is what the market is asking,” said Cratos Capital equities trader Greg Davies.

The deal includes an upfront payment of $165 million on closure of the transaction and a deferred payment of $20 million. Gold Fields’ subsidiary will also take a 9.9 percent stake in Toronto-listed Asanko for $17.6 million in a share placement.

The South African miner said the $203 million deal fitted in with its strategy to improve its portfolio by lowering all-in costs and extending mines’ lifespans to enhance cash generation.

Asanko, which is expected to produce 253,000 ounces of gold annually from 2019 to 2023 with a life-of-mine of at least 15 years, also has the potential to make further discoveries, Gold Fields said.

“The Asanko joint venture will give immediate access to low cost production ounces, increasing the quality of the Gold Fields’ portfolio,” the South African miner said.

(Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg and Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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South Africa cuts main interest rate as inflation falls within range

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PRETORIA (Reuters) – South Africa’s central bank cut its main interest rate to 6.5 percent on Wednesday, in another boost for the economy after ratings agency Moody’s left intact its last investment-grade credit rating.

Traders and economists had expected the 25 basis-point cut in the repo rate after a slowdown in consumer price inflation to 4.0 percent in February, which put price growth well within the central bank’s 3-6 percent target range.

It was the first easing step since July and comes as South Africa rides a wave of investor optimism in the wake of President Cyril Ramaphosa replacing scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma as head of state in February.

The rand fell, however, as the rate cut dents somewhat the appeal of local assets versus developed-market peers. Banking stocks also fell.

South African Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago told a news conference that inflation risks had subsided somewhat since January and that the bank had raised its economic growth forecast for this year to 1.7 percent from 1.4 percent.

But he said that the bank had not started “a journey of cutting” and that the future path of the repo rate would depend on data.

Four members of the Monetary Policy Committee voted to cut the rate while three wanted to keep it on hold, Kganyago said. There was no discussion of a more aggressive 50 basis-point rate cut.

Despite the central bank’s broadly upbeat tone, Kganyago said that the growth outlook remained relatively constrained and that the policy-setting committee would prefer to see inflation expectations anchored closer to the midpoint of its target range.

Analysts said they were not expecting to see a flurry of further rate cuts.

Razia Khan, an Africa-focused economist at Standard Chartered, said: “We think that today’s 25 basis-point cut was probably it in terms of South Africa’s easing cycle”.

Moody’s said on Friday that it expected to see a strengthening of South Africa’s institutions under Ramaphosa which could translate into greater economic and fiscal strength.

S&P Global, another of the “big three” ratings agencies, said it wanted to see stronger per capita growth before it would consider raising its credit rating.

 

(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Nomvelo Chalumbira; Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by James Macharia and Hugh Lawson)

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South African Netcare gives up on British health prospects

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Europe, Health

(Reuters) – South African private healthcare operator Netcare drew a line under its ambitions in Britain on Wednesday, saying it would exit the market due to difficult trading conditions.

Netcare shares were up 7.7 percent at 1349 GMT following the announcement by South Africa’s third-largest private hospital chain, which has been in Britain for a decade through a controlling stake in BMI Healthcare.

The company, which in September made an all-share offer to buy out minority BMI Healthcare shareholders said it was making the move because trading conditions “remained difficult” across the private healthcare market.

It said a poor performance by BMI Healthcare was the result of National Health Service (NHS) demand management initiatives and weaker private medical insurance demand.

Netcare said in November it would restructure its British operations, after reporting a drop in annual profit due in part to belt-tightening by Britain’s publicly funded healthcare system.

The NHS, which has been operating with an over 1 billion pound deficit and a shortage of beds and staff, has been seeking help from private companies such as BMI Healthcare, Spire Healthcare and Nuffield Health.

However, the total NHS caseload at BMI Healthcare dropped by 4.4 percent year-on-year for the 5 months to the end of February due to “stringent demand management strategies” Netcare said.

Netcare expects the core earnings (EBITDA) margin in the British business to be between 0.8-1.2 percent in the first half of 2018, down from 5.2 percent in the prior period.

Netcare reiterated that underlying trading EBITDA margins across the group are expected to remain broadly flat in the first half of 2018 from a year earlier.

 

(Reporting by Justin George Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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Frozen $500 mln in Angolan fraud probe came from central bank account with Standard Chartered

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LUANDA/LONDON (Reuters) – The $500 million at the centre of an alleged fraud involving the son of Angola’s former president was transferred out of a Standard Chartered account held by Angola’s central bank, the British bank told Reuters on Wednesday.

The Angolan prosecutor general’s office said on Monday it had charged Jose Filomeno dos Santos, the former president’s son, and Valter Filipe da Silva, the former governor of the central bank known as Banco Nacional de Angola, with fraud over the case.

Britain’s National Crime Agency said last week that $500 million had been frozen in the UK as part of an investigation into a potential fraud against Angola’s central bank and could be returned to the southern African country.

“We are aware that our client, Banco Nacional de Angola (BNA), was the victim of an attempted fraud in Angola which involved the transfer of funds from their Standard Chartered Bank account,” Standard Chartered said in an emailed response to questions.

The bank did not respond to a question on how the transaction appeared to bypass security mechanisms.

The Angolan central bank, which has so far made no public statement about the case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dos Santos is the highest profile figure charged since President Joao Lourenco succeeded longtime leader Jose Eduardo dos Santos last September pledging to tackle an endemic culture of corruption in the oil-producing country.

Reuters was unable to immediately contact Jose Filomeno dos Santos. He said in a statement circulated in Angolan media on Tuesday that he was cooperating with the investigation and had handed his passports in to the prosecutor general’s office.

Reuters has also been unable to reach Da Silva for comment.

Standard Chartered said it is closely cooperating with Angola’s central bank and British law enforcement.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday that HSBC had frozen a bank account in connection with the alleged fraud.

The Financial Times, which reported the HSBC bank freeze earlier, said documents purporting to be from Swiss bank Credit Suisse were also used in the fraud.

The documents were fake and Credit Suisse was not involved in the transaction, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Britain’s National Crime Agency said the funds were frozen after the transaction raised suspicions, without naming the banks involved.

Standard Chartered, which has operations across Asia and Africa, ended its dollar-clearing operations with commercial banks in Angola in Dec. 2015 because it deemed it too risky.

Singapore said last week its central bank had imposed penalties of nearly $5 million on Standard Chartered Bank and Standard Chartered Trust (Singapore) for breaching money laundering rules and terrorism financing safeguards.

HSBC’s move to freeze the accounts and work with authorities to return the funds will reinforce the lender’s assertion that its efforts to improve financial controls are bearing fruit.

The bank paid $1.9 billion in fines to U.S. authorities in 2012 and agreed to install an independent monitor to improve its anti-money laundering controls, after it was used to launder Mexican cartel drug money.

A five-year period in which the bank faced criminal prosecution if it breached U.S. compliance rules again ended in December.

 

(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer in Luanda and Lawrence White in London; Editing by Adrian Croft)

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Djibouti plans new container terminal to bolster transport hub aspirations

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Infrastructure

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Djibouti is in talks with French shipping company CMA CGM to develop a new container terminal at an initial cost of $660 million as part of the tiny African country’s bid to expand into a sea and air transport hub for the continent.

Aboubakar Omar Hadi, chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority (DPFZA), told Reuters on Tuesday that the authority hopes to award the concession in July. It was also prepared to buy out DP World’s stake in an existing container terminal to end a row with the Dubai port operator and avoid arbitration, he said.

Djibouti’s strategic location has led the United States, China, Japan and former colonial power France to build military bases there.

Its ports already serve as an entry point for cargo which is then sent by smaller vessels to ports along Africa’s eastern coast, but it is now seeking to become a sea-air transshipment hub for the entire continent.

To do this, Hadi said DPFZA was also planning to construct a $350 million airport and expand Air Djibouti’s fleet of cargo aircraft.

The new container terminal project could break ground as early as September with construction expected to take 24 months, Hadi said, speaking on the sidelines of the Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

“We are going to build DICT, Doraleh International Container Terminal. This is a new plan,” he said. “We are in discussions with CMA CGM.”

The port authority was not in talks with any other potential partners, he said. CMA CGM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Once operational, Hadi said the port terminal would boast an annual capacity of 2.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), but subsequent expansion phases would bring that up to 4 million TEUs.

Fifteen percent of the project’s cost will be financed through equity. Of that, the DPFZA will contribute 85 percent, with its concession partner providing 15 percent. The rest will be raised via international institutions and banks.

“We are targeting trans-shipment,” Hadi said.

 

DP WORLD DISPUTE

Meanwhile, Hadi said the port authority was ready to end a dispute with DP World over its cancellation of a concession contract for another facility, the Doraleh Container Terminal, by buying out DP World’s 33 percent stake.

Djibouti ended the contract with the Dubai state-owned port operator last month, citing a failure to resolve a dispute that began in 2012.

DP World has called the move illegal and said it had begun proceedings before the London Court of International Arbitration, which last year cleared the company of all charges of misconduct over the concession.

“We are prepared to pay them their 33 percent of shares,” Hadi said. “There is no need for arbitration. We are going to buy their shares.”

 

(Reporting by Joe Bavier; Additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris; Editing by Aaron Ross and Susan Fenton)

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