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Danièle Sassou Nguesso : Breaking Down Gender Barriers

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In a continent which has suffered from gender disparity for so many years, the recent spate of stories about strong African women gaining prominence at every level of society has been an encouraging and heartwarming trend. These women, more than any other factor, are what will inspire a new generation of African girls to stay in education and to pursue their dreams. One such woman is 43-year-old Danièle Sassou Nguesso

Born in Dakar, Senegal, in 1976, Nguesso had a privileged upbringing, something that made her even more aware of the many who were not so lucky. Her mother had a PhD in Pharmacy and her father was a doctor, and Nguesso studied in Paris, first gaining a Baccalaureate in science at 17, then later qualifying as an optician at the Ecole Supérieure des Opticiens de Paris. After some time working in France, Nguesso decided to return to Africa and she opened her first optician’s shop under the brand name, “Optical”, in Libreville, Gabon, in 2003, notably becoming Gabon’s first female optician at the same time. The brand is now well-established in five major African cities. 

Danièle Sassou Nguesso : to facilitate the empowerment of women

At that point, Nguesso could have continued on the standard pathway of many entrepreneurs, focusing purely on building a business empire. But her travels around Africa made her realise she wanted more than that. Everywhere she went, she saw gender disparity and institutionalised discrimination, which were leading to a continued marginalisation of women as well as physical and psychological abuse. She also saw how the poorest and most vulnerable children were denied access to education and she realised that among these children could be future doctors, future authors, or future leaders. 

In 2008, she set up Le Petit Samaritain to promote and support access to education. Then in 2015, she set up the SOUNGA Foundation in order to break down gender barriers and to facilitate the empowerment of Congolese women. As Nguesso says: “It is important for our girls to receive the same training like our boys; so that they can pursue the same jobs opportunities as their male peers.”

The foundation has set up several projects in order to support women towards those opportunities. “Sounga Nga” is an incubator project that offers training in skills such as accounting and marketing to women looking to set up businesses. The project also offers low-interest loans to help the women capitalise their business. 

The Sounga Gender Label partners with various Congolese Ministries as well as private organisations to encourage good corporate governance and to promote the employment of women across several sectors and levels. 

And the Sounga Focus Group is an annual study of what women at every level of Congolese society is thinking and feeling and a way of identifying socio-cultural needs. This allows the foundation to then feed their findings back to the government in an effort to facilitate change.

Her family connection as a major advantage

One difficulty Nguesso does not face is communications with the government. She is married to controversial Congolese politician, Denis-Christel Sassou Nguesso. He is the son of Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has been President of the Republic of the Congo since 1997. Her husband is also tipped to replace his father when he eventually retires. She sees her family connection as a major advantage as she does not have to navigate the mazes of bureaucracy in order to get her powerful and important message across. 

Despite her schedule with the foundation, and having four children to raise, Nguesso completed a Master’s in Politics and Development Management at Sciences Po in Paris in 2016. And in 2018, she was awarded the African Inspirational Female Leader of the Year award at the East African Business Summit & Awards. With plans to continue expanding the foundation across Congo and other countries, Nguesso is inspiring and supporting thousands of young African women and girls. 

Photos : elle.ci / Facebook / magazine.inafrik.com / griote.tv/

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Anbessa: Best Foot Forward for This Ethiopian Shoemaker

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When you think of an international shoe exporter, Ethiopia may not be the first country that springs to mind. Yet Anbessa Shoe Share Company, based in the Akaky Kaliti suburb of Addis Ababa, has been making its mark across Africa as well as several international export markets. 

Originally founded in the 1930s by an Italian expatriate living in Ethiopia, the company has had an at times turbulent past. Operating as DARMAR in the 1950s, it made shoes for men, women, and children. But in the 1970s, it was nationalised by the Derg Regime, the shortened name for the ‘Provisional Military Government of Socialist Ethiopia’, a Communist Marxist-Leninist military junta that ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987. The fall of communism worldwide also affected Ethiopia and led to the formation of the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in February of 1987. 

The company remained under government control until 2011 when it was purchased by the current owner, Ato Tedla Yizengaw. Yizengaw, a serial entrepreneur who owns several thriving Ethiopian businesses, and who has guided Anbessa into a new era with the backing of a strong board of directors.

Anbessa exports to Africa, the USA, EU, Middle East, and Asia

With a staggering 65-70% of the domestic market, Anbessa also exports to the rest of Africa as well as the USA, EU, Middle East, and Asia. While its primary product is shoes, it also manufactures bags and belts, ensuring that no leather is wasted in the production process. 

Its growth and success has been recognised by the Brand Africa 100 ratings, with position #23 in 2018 followed by an impressive climb to #12 in 2019. It is the sole Ethiopian brand recognised in the Brand Africa charts. Export figures for 2017 exceeded $750,000, a figure they hope to grow steadily with a new factory looking to increase production levels.

In September 2017, the company moved into a new UD$15 million production plant in Akaky Kaliti. The primary aim of the new plant was to ramp up production from the previous 3500 pairs of shoes made daily to a new output of 10,000 pairs daily. But Yizengaw is an astute businessman and knows that it’s not just about quantity; he needs to improve and maintain quality to increase their export market. So the company has partnered with the Leather Industry Development Institute (LIDI), an Ethiopian organisations founded in 2010 to offer training to all areas of the leather industry and to improve skills at all levels of the workforce.

To increase their export volume from 10% to 70%

More recently, Anbessa bought the bankrupt Habesha Tannery in July of 2019 for just under 1 million US dollars. This will allow the company to not only produce their own leather but also to have a much more hands-on approach to quality control at every stage of the manufacturing process. Anbessa sees the acquisition of the tannery as a crucial part of their plan to vastly increase their volume of exports. The machinery in the tannery – which Anbessa plans to expand – was worth over US$1 million alone, so it was a clever bit of business. The Turkish company who had owned the tannery had become bogged down in default payments with the Development Bank of Ethiopia. Anbessa hopes that the new acquisition combined with their new factory will increase their export volume from 10% to 70%. 

As well as the quality of their footwear, many commentators point to Anbessa’s business practices as a major positive. All the material they use in production comes from sustainable sources, a major selling point when it comes to international markets. And their focus on fair treatment for all their workforce – up to 1,636 since moving to the new factory – also draws praise. The staff received discounted meals in the factory’s modern and clean cafeteria. Every staff member also receives free medical check-ups, and the factory itself meets stringent safety standards. The company also adheres to International Labor Organization (ILO) regulations, ensuring that all staff are of minimum working age and that no minors are ever employed. 

With experienced and forward-thinking management, a dedicated and well-treated workforce, and quality products that are being more and more recognised internationally, Anbessa is a success story that looks like it will keep on growing. 

Photos: resolution.studio / squarespace-cdn.com / twimg.com

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Spotify enters into the South African market

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Entertainment and Lifestyle, Technology

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Global music streaming provider Spotify launched its services in South Africa on Tuesday, marking its entry into Africa, where there is a rapid uptake of smartphones and improving telecommunications infrastructure.

The Swedish company, launched in 2008 and available in more than 60 countries, is the biggest music streaming company in the world and counts services from Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google Play as its main rivals.

The South Africa launch comes as Spotify prepares for a direct listing of its shares on the New York Stock Exchange, which will allow investors and employees to sell shares without the company raising new capital or hiring Wall Street banks to underwrite the issue.

“We believe South Africa is a wonderful country to start in,” Spotify Managing Director in Middle East and Africa Claudius Boller told Reuters on the sidelines of the launch.

“We looked at the technology landscape, we looked at the maturity and actually South Africa is seen globally as a very important music market.”

Spotify also has aspirations to branch out into the rest of Africa, Boller said, without committing to timelines or geographies.

An increase in connectivity across South Africa, helped by higher investment in infrastructure, as well as a growing uptake in credit cards and bank accounts has drawn global video and music streaming providers.

Its music streaming market is dominated by players such as Apple Music, Google Play, France’s Deezer and Simfy Africa, with only a few local operators such as mobile phone operator’s MTN and Cell C with MTN Music+ and Black.

Internet and entertainment firm Naspers also recently launched music streaming platform Joox, from China’s Tencent, in which it holds a 33 percent stake.

In its filing to list its shares, Spotify said its operating loss widened to 378 million euros ($465.32 million) in 2017 from 349 million euros.

($1 = 0.8123 euros)

 

(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; editing by Jason Neely and Pritha Sarkar)

 

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2017 Top African Finance Ministers

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finance

Economic and finance ministries from West and East African have set the standard for 2017’s API. Ten countries from the region have mastered macroeconomic balance with growth rates above 5% that outpace their demographic growth. Burkina Faso topped the list with 53%, followed by Senegal with 52%, Tanzania with 48%, Ethiopia with 47%, Kenya with 46%, Rwanda with 45%, Niger and Guinea with 43%, Cote d’Ivoire with a 42% growth rate, and Togo with 41%.

The API was extended in 2017 to include all African countries, instead of only those in the CFA zone, or the central and west regions, as was the case in previous editions. API 2017 also saw the inclusion of a new category for evaluation: the digital financial infrastructure worth 40% of a country’s mark, along with endogenous factors 30%, and institutional and fiscal frames, worth 30%. Although growth was substantial last year, financial website Financial Afrik warns that unless African countries can maintain growth of over 10% for over a decade there will not be any major development in the country.

Leading the pack

Topping the list of Africa’s best finance ministers is Burkina Faso’s Minister of Economy, Finance and Development Rosine Sori-Coulibaly. In office since January 2016, Sori-Coulibaly has been working to reduce the weight of current expenditure in the state budget, and has also allowed the public greater access to small business loans. She is joined by Senegal’s Amadou Ba, who brought about an increased cycle of growth garnered by the country since 2014. Third on the list is Philip Mpango, the appointed minister of finance in Tanzania since 2015. Mpango continues to create structural reforms in the country to finance free education and complete the nationalization of precious stones.

Other ministers of note include Ethiopia’s Abraham Tekeste, who is in charge of the implementation of a five-year-plan in the country to display a GDP growth of 11% per year. Over this period, industrial growth is set at 24% per year. Minister of Finance in Kenya Henry K. Rotich is at the root of several in-depth reforms in the East African country. Advocating for diversification, Rotich faces the challenge of financing Kenya’s public external debt. Rwanda’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Claver Gatete has distinguished himself in the rationalization of current expenditures, the implementation of innovative policies and the facilitation of procedures for economic operators.

Implementing policies

Rounding out the top ten is Niger’s Hassoumi Masaoudou, who has been minister of finance since 2016 and has the challenge of financing the Economic and Social Development Plan for Niger from 2017 to 2021. In a tense security environment Financial Afrik reports the first year of the plan has been quite successful. Guinea’s Malado Kaba has inherited several major infrastructure projects and is the first Guinean appointed minister of finance to obtain satisfactory results in regard to funding. Former head of the Ivorian Treasury, Cote d’Ivoire’s Adama Kone has reconciled the imperative of controlling the budget with the need for growth. The current cocoa crisis has not broken this balance and Ivorian fundamentals remain strong. Minister of Economy and Finance in Togo since 2015, Sani Yaya’s great challenge remains to restructure the country’s debt and to mobilize funds for development programs. In the two years as finance minister, Yaya’s results have awarded him respect.

Digital Financial Infrastructure

The API identifies four determinants that favor the construction of digital financial infrastructure in African countries. Innovation centers, the organization of public dialogues on financial and regulatory technologies, a national tool for digital verification of identity and the creation of a digital environment secure enough to experiment with the offer of innovative financial services. Both Kenya and Senegal scored highly in this area with both countries developing incubators of technological innovation, such as, spaces for co-creation between entrepreneurs and accelerators of enterprise. Also standing out in this area are Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Tanzania and Togo, thanks to the organization of public dialogues on the future of finance, financial regulation and inclusion.

According to Financial Afrik, Africa is improving in terms of economic and political governance, however in terms of transparency and institutional communication efforts must be made. Ministries of Economy and Finance are responsible for strengthening competitiveness between domestic and foreign companies, but at the same time, they need to ensure consumers are protected.    

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TV5Monde Afrique Launches Digital Offer for 25th Anniversary

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tv5monde afrique

As part of the network’s 25th anniversary, TV5Monde Afrique has launched a free digital offer on online and mobile programs, specifically for African users. With 1.2 billion inhabitants, 362 million internet users, 150 million social network users and 220 million Africans aged between 15 to 24, the region is becoming a hot spot for telecom investors and TV5Monde is keen to take advantage.

TV5Monde’s digital director Helene Zemmour said the growing mobile market in the African continent meant the network had to find a way to move with user habits and rethink their offer for mobile. Consisting of a new website, mobile app and offline content, TV5Monde will broadcast programs based on the centralised theme of Africa, such as, the daily Africa Journal, as well as, movies, series, game shows, sport, documentaries, and magazines. Officially launched in Kigali, Rwanda in October, it will launch from Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire on November 27th, Dakar in Senegal on December 5th, and Paris, France on December 11th. TV5Monde’s move to mobile, aims to confirm the network’s position on the continent and stay in touch with Africa’s increasing mobile consumption.

Mobile Consumption in Africa

According to the London research and consulting firm Ovum, over a billion Africans will be connected online by 2020, and this is due to the growth and influx of affordable smartphones. According to Ovum’s statistics, there are currently 419 million people online in the region, which is set to more than double over the coming five years to 1.07 billion people, by 2022. Ovum’s research shows Africa to be the fastest growing mobile market in the world and mobile data will be the main driver of growth. Researchers suggest this increase in data connectivity will also bring rising data revenue for operators, and create new platforms for digital services.

According to Bloomberg’s Matthew A. Winkler, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, hand-held phones are driving economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa as much as the railroad did in the United States of America in the 19th century. Mobile phones are letting people be their own ATMs, Winkler said, increasing economic activity by enabling payments for food, travel, school and business. This transformation is reflected in the more than 1,300 publicly traded companies that make up corporate Africa. According to data collected by Bloomberg, communications firms have increased in the last five years by 25% of the total market capitalization of African companies, up from 16%. Materials and energy, the natural resources the region is known for, diminished to a combined 18%, from 27%, for the same period. With a mere 43% mobile penetration, compared to 65% for the world, it will not be surprising if Sub-Saharan Africa will be most highly favoured region for telecom investors.    

SES-5 Satellite

Taking advantage of the high digital growth forecasts for the region, TV5Monde has also signed a long-term distribution contact with SES to broadcast three channels to French speaking viewers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The SES-5 satellite, which covers Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Atlantic Ocean, will distribute TV5Monde Afrique, the youth channel, TiVi5Monde, as well as, the lifestyle channel, TV5Monde Style HD.

The move to join SES, is also a move to strengthen the use of the French language across Africa. TVMonde’s CEO, Yves Bigot said the agreement would broaden the reach of the French language, which was becoming all the more decisive in a digital world where language is increasingly important, and the CEO of SES Video said the company would be delighted to contribute to the spread of the French language. SES-5 currently distributes over 500 local and international channels to Sub-Saharan Africa, 65 of which, are in French.

Dedicated to the audiences of the African continent and to the diaspora and fans of Africa, TV5Monde’s digital offer hopes to tap into the expanding internet audience, as well as, maintain and possibly grow the French language in the region.

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Nigeria’s President continues to divide opinions

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Muhammadu Buhari

When Muhammadu Buhari was elected as Nigerian President in March 2015; it was the culmination of a long and controversial involvement in Nigerian politics. While many have criticized his record on human rights, others have praised his seemingly incorruptible nature, and efforts to battle domestic terrorism. As recent health concerns have yet to be fully abated, the future of the President remains uncertain.

A history of political struggle

Muhammadu Buhari was born on December 17th 1942, in Daura, Katsina State, to a large family in which he was the 23rd child. By the age of 19, Buhari had joined the military, and within one year he had been sent to the UK for officer training. Buhari returned to Nigeria in 1963 and from here, until his election in 2015, he was rarely away from the political struggles within the country.

After serving the government in the Nigerian Civil War, Buhari was involved in the 1966 Counter Coup, before supporting the 1975 Coup that briefly led to him taking on nonmilitary roles within the new government.

But it is the 1983 Coup, that he led, which threw him into the limelight. Buhari took power from January 1984 until August 1985, in which time he led a fierce stamp down on political corruption, indiscipline and rising crime. While the measures were seen by many as necessary for economic reform, widespread human rights abuses were reported, and press freedom was severely curtailed.

Buhari’s brief stint in power came to an end in 1985, when he was overthrown and put into detention for 3 years. However, his ambitions as a leader saw him return to politics with a failed Presidential bid in 2003, followed by two more attempts at gaining democratic election in 2007 and 2011.

Legitimacy and the Future

Buhari finally succeeded in becoming the democratically elected President in March 2015, when Nigeria elected him to replace incumbent leader, Goodluck Jonathon. Buhari’s commitment to breaking the cycle of corruption within Nigerian politics was almost immediately displayed when he had former national security advisor, Sambo Dasuki, arrested for embezzling $2 billion worth of funds that were assigned for the battle with Boko Haram.

Several other senior government figures have also found themselves in jail, as Buhari looks to cut out the rot that he feels has hampered Nigerian progress for too long. However, this has echoes of similar moves that he made in his brief run of power in the 1980’s, and the world’s leaders are unlikely to be supportive of the other measures that Buhari employed at the time, including executions for drug users, and public floggings for people who did not line up at bus stops in an orderly fashion.

Thus far, none of the obvious abuses of the past have manifested themselves under Buhari’s new leadership, and there has been marked improvement in the security in Nigeria’s north-eastern region, which has borne the brunt of much of the nation’s Islamic extremism.

However, a recession hit Nigeria soon after Buhari’s electoral triumph, and Islamist forces pushed out of the north-east have begun to increase attacks within the nation’s oil rich, Niger Delta region. Buhari has also faced criticism over his recognition of women in government, as his cabinet is only 16% female, compared with the previous regime’s 31%.

Major concerns over Buhari’s health

Most recently, there have been major concerns over Buhari’s health, and whether he would be capable of continuing in power. In January of this year, Buhari traveled to the UK for treatment on an unspecified condition, and remained there for 7 weeks, before returning to Nigeria in March. Buhari then returned to London for more treatment on May 7th, and thus far has not gone back to his nation.

Although his wife has assured concerned Nigerians that he is recovering well, there is a growing demand in Nigeria for him to be declared unfit, and while vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, has been in control during Buhari’s absence, there are several other potential leaders looking for their chance to take the top post.

Buhari is a man who has fought in wars, coups and survived an assassination attempt in 2014; so regardless of ones opinion on his policies, it cannot be said that he is easily broken. The future of his leadership looks uncertain, but if he is physically capable, then we can be assured he is likely to do his utmost to retain his position.

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Africa fails to benefit from global investment surge

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Chemical Industry

Direct investment to Africa declined by 7% to $54 billion, giving the continent only 3% of the total worldwide investment, according to a new United Nations report.

Direct foreign investment soared in 2015 to its highest levels since the 2008 financial crisis, but Africa did not share in the wealth.

Globally, direct investment flows increased by 40% to $1.8 trillion, according to World Investment Report 2016 (pdf) by the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development.

At the same time, direct investment to Africa declined by 7% to $54 billion, giving the continent only 3% of the total worldwide investment.

While investment in North African nations, notably Egypt, increased, sub-Saharan Africa saw declines as resource-based commodities faltered and economies weakened, led by a decline of more than 60% in South Africa.

Egypt, Sudan see growth

Investment flows to North Africa increased by 9% to $12.6 billion, an increase largely driven by a boost in Egypt of 49% to $6.9 billion. The increase in Egypt reflected expansion of foreign investment in banking and pharmaceuticals as well as large investments in telecommunications.

Investment in Sudan increased 39% to $1.7 billion, thanks largely to continuing Chinese investment in oil production.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Angola reported investment more than tripled to a record $8.7 billion in investment in 2015 after years of declines. The UN report said the increase reflected loans to local institutions by foreign parent organizations.

Elsewhere on the southern continent, weak commodity prices stifled investment.

Investment in West Africa decreased by nearly 20% to less than $10 billion, in large part because of a slump in investment in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy. Investment fell to $3.1 billion last year largely because of lower commodity prices, a faltering currency, and delays in major developments such as multi-billion dollar offshore oil operations.

Investment in Central Africa declines

In Central Africa, investment inflows dropped by more than a third to $5.8 billion. The Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Congo reported declines as commodities operations suspended operations.

Factory Workers in Kayonza, Africa

Factory Workers in Kayonza, Africa

East African investment was steady at $7.8 billion.

The European Union and the United States invested more than $2 million in Ethiopia. Investment in Kenya reached a record $1.5 billion as a result of investor confidence in the business environment and growing domestic consumption.

Southern African investment also held steady at just under $18 billion, driven primarily by the large increase in investment in Angola.

South Africa posts steep drop

Other nations saw steep declines. Investment in South Africa fell by 69% to $1.8 billion, its lowest level in a decade. The UN report said weak economic performance, lower commodity and higher power costs were to blame.

After years of record growth, Mozambique saw a 24% decline to $3.7 billion. The report blamed uncertainty about the 2015 elections and lower gas prices as well as the cancellation of major mining operations.

Meanwhile, investment outflows from Africa also declined by 25% to $11 billion because of weaker export demand and falling commodity prices. The continent’s largest foreign investor, South Africa, cut its investments by 30% to $5.3 billion. Angola investors reduced their investment abroad to $1.9 billion, less than half the 2014 amount.

U.S., U.K. lead in African investments

The top investor economies to Africa in 2015 were the United States ($66 billion), the United Kingdom ($64 billion), and France ($52 billion). As China seeks to increase ties to the continent, direct investment from the Asian nation more than tripled from $9 billion to $32 billion. South Africa was the fifth largest investor to the continent at $26 billion.

The report said the global investment surge was unlikely to continue at 2015 levels. It attributed the 2015 increase to a spate of cross-border acquisitions and  mergers.

The United Nations said investment to Africa could grow this year to as much as $60 billion. New projects valued at nearly $30 billion were announced in the first quarter of the year, up 25% from the same period a year earlier.

The report predicted the largest increases in Egypt and North Africa. “But a more optimistic scenario also prevails more widely, for example in Ethiopia, Mozambique,  Rwanda and the United Republic of Tanzania,” the report said.

However, depressed prices for oil and mining commodities will continue to be a drag on investment in other parts of Africa.

“The world economy continues to face major headwinds, which are unlikely to ease in the near term,” the report said.

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DR Congo slashes growth forecast for 2016 to 5.3 pct: cenbank

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

KINSHASA (Reuters) – The central bank of the Democratic Republic of Congo has slashed its GDP growth forecast for 2016 to 5.3 percent, compared with 6.9 percent last year, as a slump in commodity prices batters its mineral-dependent economy.

The central bank statement obtained by Reuters on Monday did not give details as to what was behind the revision. Congo has suffered from falling prices in its key mineral exports, including copper, cobalt, tin and diamonds.

Its previous estimate in April projected growth at 6.6 percent for this year, itself revised down from 9 percent earlier. The latest estimate brings it closer to the IMF forecast, currently at 4.9 percent.

Congo, Africa’s biggest copper producer, relies heavily on raw materials, which account for 98 percent of export earnings. After bouncing back at the start of the year, copper on the London metal exchange fell by a quarter last year, and has fallen further in 2016.

 

 

(Reporting by Aaron Ross; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Joe Bavier)

 

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