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Africa’s major central banks embarking on policy easing cycle ride

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By Vuyani Ndaba

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Africa’s major central banks are entering an easing cycle as they try to stimulate growth after months of drought, austerity drives and confidence issues across the continent, a Reuters poll found on Thursday.

Much of southern and eastern Africa is still recovering after an El Niño-related drought wilted crops last year. Poor business confidence in South Africa and foreign exchange restrictions in Nigeria have also hampered growth.

“We expect that African monetary policy is entering a widespread and protracted period of policy easing. This will provide a boost to growth,” said John Ashbourne, Africa analyst at Capital Economics.

Ghana, which agreed a three-year fiscal discipline deal with the International Monetary Fund in exchange for aid in 2015, cut 100 basis points from its benchmark interest rate in May and is expected to do the same on Monday, putting it at 21.50 percent.

Medians in the poll predict South Africa will make a first quarter trim of 25 basis points to 6.75 percent and while Kenya will hold steady on Monday it is expected to cut 100 basis points to 9.00 percent in the second quarter of next year.

Nigeria is expected to hold rates at 14.0 percent on Tuesday, and through this year, but will reduce borrowing costs by 175 basis points across 2018.

BATTERED CONFIDENCE CHIPS AT GROWTH

Aly-Khan Satchu, CEO of Nairobi-based Rich Management said policymakers in Africa’s biggest economies have lost credibility and it would be difficult to regain that.

To try to reduce demand for dollars, Nigeria banned the importing of 41 items, but that only fuelled the gap between the official and black market rates for its naira currency.

The policy, alongside a commodity price slump that hurt oil exports, has since 2015 forced its central bank to hike the benchmark rate 300 basis points to 14 percent as it tried to deal with much faster inflation and restore the currency’s strength.

Nigeria — Africa’s biggest economy — fell into recession for the first time in 25 years in 2016 but is expected to turn in growth of 1.0 percent this year and 2.5 percent the following.

South Africa is expected to expand 0.7 percent this year after escaping a six-month recession last quarter that was partly due to weak confidence and drought.

Confidence in South Africa’s economy has been sapped by the chopping and changing of finance ministers four time since the end of 2015 by President Jacob Zuma. The last change in March triggered a credit rating downgrade to “junk” status.

Kenya is expected to grow 5.2 percent this year and 5.9 percent next.

Growth slowed to 4.7 percent in the first quarter, hit by a credit slow down after authorities late last year capped the interest banks could charge on loans.

However, Ghana is expected to fare better than most, growing 6.1 and 6.8 percent in 2017 and 2018 respectively, supported by the IMF programme, recovering from 3.5 percent last year.

On Tuesday, President Nana Akufo-Addo said Ghana would not extend its three-year aid programme with the IMF beyond April 2018, but the fund urged it to do so to allow time to complete the programme’s goals.

 

 

(Editing by Jonathan Cable/Jeremy Gaunt)

 

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Nigerian exchange bureau head urges rate unification

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By Oludare Mayowa

LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria’s central bank must step up efforts to unify the country’s multiple exchange rates to sustain gains in the local currency over the last few months, the head of the country’s exchange bureaus said.

Africa’s biggest economy has at least six exchange rates which include one for Muslim pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia, a retail rate set by licensed exchange bureaus, and a rate for foreign travel and school fees, in addition to the official and black market rates.

Nigeria is battling a currency crisis brought on by low oil prices which tipped its economy into recession and created chronic dollar shortages. It wants to attract foreign investors and strengthen its currency to ward off inflation.

The central bank has been intervening on the official market in the last few weeks to try to narrow the spread between rates on the official market and black market – where the local currency trades around 30 percent weaker. It has sold about $5 billion since February.

The bank opened a currency window in April for investors to trade the naira at rates set freely between buyers and sellers, hoping to increase the amount of dollars available in Nigeria.

“The gradual convergence of the exchange rate on both black market and investor forex window is an opportunity for the central bank to unify rate in all segments of the forex market,” Aminu Gwadabe, president of the country’s Association of Bureaux De Change Operators told Reuters late on Thursday.

Gwadabe said a move to eliminate multiple rates would restore investors’ confidence in the economy and boost offshore dollar inflows, further strengthening the naira.

Central bank spokesman Isaac Okorafor said the regulator would sustain its current efforts to improve dollar liquidity in the market until it was able to achieve currency rate convergence.

The naira was quoted at 365 to the dollar on the black market on Friday, while the local currency was quoted at 372.70 per dollar at the investor window.

The local bourse rose to a two-year high on Wednesday as investors snapped up Nigerian stocks after MSCI increased the country’s weighting in its frontier market index.

Nigeria’s forex reserves grew to around $30.22 billion by June, from $26.44 billion a year ago, as oil production and oil price stabilise in the wake of OPEC and non-OPEC oil output cut deal, analysts have said.

 

(Editing by Alexis Akwagyiram and Toby Chopra)

 

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Nigeria replaces Skye Bank bosses over capital failures

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

LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria’s central bank has replaced the chairman and chief executive of Skye Bank after it failed to meet minimum capital ratios, its governor said on Monday.

The central bank said Skye Bank’s non-performing loan ratio has been above the regulatory limit for a while and it hadmet with Skye’s board to resolve the issue, governor Godwin Emefiele told a briefing.

Earlier, banking sources told Reuters that Skye’s chief executive Timothy Oguntayo had resigned before the central bank announcement. He was the head of Skye Bank when it bought nationalised lender Mainstreet Bank in 2014.

“The basic issue is capital adequacy and liquidity. From what we see, adequacy ratio in the bank has been weakening and we don’t want it to get to a point where depositors will be at risk,” Emefiele said.

Skye Bank is designated as one of Nigeria’s systemically important banks due to the size of total sector deposits it holds after the acquisition of Mainstreet Bank. This means it has to hold more capital.

Emefiele said the central bank had conducted a stress test and decided to replace the chairman, chief executive and all non-executive directors after they failed to recapitalise the bank.

He said Skye had been a net borrower from its rediscount window for “sometime.” The central bank also appointed Tokunbo Abiru from rival First Bank to head Skye Bank.

“(Skye) bank is not in distress and remains able to continue banking activity,” Emefiele said.

Nigeria’s central bank has powers to remove bank executives and used them during the 2008/2009 global financial crisis when it sacked nine CEOs at banks which were undercapitalised.

Last year, the regulator gave three commercial banks until June 2016 to recapitalise after they failed to hit a minimum capital adequacy rate of 10 percent.

Skye Bank has been in talks with shareholders and new investors to raise 30 billion naira ($150 million). It suspended plans for a rights issue last year due to weak market conditions.

Emefiele said the overall banking industry was sound, despite weaknesses in the economy but that none of Nigeria’s 21 commercial lenders were in distress.

Shares in Skye fell 9.5 percent.

 

(By Chijioke Ohuocha and Oludare Mayowa. Additional reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Louise Heavens and Jane Merriman)

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Nigeria’s central bank intervening in currency market: traders

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

LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria’s central bank asked for bid-offer quotes from currency traders on Monday as it sold dollars on the interbank market to boost liquidity, traders said.

After abandoning the naira’s 16-month old exchange rate peg a week ago, the central bank sold dollars at an auction to clear a backlog of demand and keep markets active.

Currency traders said they had tightened the differential between bids and offers to 0.5 naira from one naira set when the currency was floated last week.

 

(Reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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