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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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StartUps Flourish Across the Middle East

Comments (0) Economy, Technology


The Middle East is overcoming cultural barriers, and political and financial challenges, to become a paradise for potential investors. Emerging local technology companies are flourishing and giants from the US, Europe and Asia are taking notice. From the arrival of business angels, to the sale of to Amazon, the region is showing greater creditability for investment projects and successful business ventures.

Growing Markets

Although there are huge obstacles facing the business markets of some countries across the region, the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries (UAE, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait) plus Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan are emerging as an economic hub. According to venture capital site Beco Capital, there are over 160 million people in the region, 85 million who are online, and 50 million who are adult digital consumers with disposable income. These countries have the highest value consumers, enterprises and entrepreneurs, as well as, the youngest populations and high smartphone and broadband usage. This largely untapped market, is becoming the breeding ground for local technology startups, and big players from abroad, who wish to tap into it.

So far, only 8% of businesses in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have digital presence (as opposed to 80% in the United States) and only 1.5% of the region’s retail sales are digitally transacted, meaning there is still plenty of growth to come. According to Beco Capital, each digital job is estimated to create two to three more jobs in the economy, meaning the digital market could add up to $95 billion in annual gross domestic product by 2020. The business landscape of the region therefore, shows a lot of promise to foreign investment.

Emerging Startups

According to research house MAGNiTT, there are now over 3,000 startups across the region, with $870 million spent in startup investment last year. The top 100 startups raised over $1.42 billion in funding and each startup has raised over $500,000 individually. Some 68% of startup founders come from the Middle East, although many hold dual citizenship, 12% of successful startup founders are female, and the UAE hosts 50% of the most funded startups in the region. These figures have attracted foreign investment from abroad.  

According to Bloomberg, Amazon’s recent acquisition of Dubai based, online market retailer, shows that e-commerce in the Middle East is set to take off. Out-bidding Emaar Malls PJSC, which owns the world’s largest shopping center, at $800 million, Amazon is actively looking for new areas of growth, and seems to have found it in the Middle East. According to Bloomberg, has 23 million online visits a month, employs over 3,000 people and sells more than 400,000 products, from electronic goods to household products and clothes.    

Business Angels

An angel investor is usually an affluent individual or professional investor who provides startup capital for a new venture in return for shares in the business. In a report drafted by Harvard Business School experts, angels increase creditability to projects and increase possibilities for success. The report found possibilities for success increased by 10 to 17% when initial investment was done outside the US. According to the National back in 2012, enthusiasm for angel investment was growing across the Middle East. High speed internet connections enable the regions businesses to reach a global audience, meaning companies can grow without need for crippling overheads previously associated with foreign investment.

Executive chairman of Oasis500, a Jordan based investment program, Usama Fayyad said the Middle East was a unique opportunity for investors to participate in companies who could easily grow in value two to ten times over in a matter of months. Business angels may also have valuable knowledge and experience to help struggling startups. Serial entrepreneurs, who have started their own business can mentor local companies to ensure successful management strategies.

Startup Ecosystem

Despite the war and poverty stories emanating from across the region on the nightly news, the Middle East is well on its way to becoming a global hub for investment. Even with numerous challenges, this has not stopped the region, as a whole, from overcoming the first phases of business development to build a promising startup ecosystem.  

Sources: (1), (2), (3), (4).

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IMF says Angola needs fiscal prudence in run-up to 2017 elections

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

LUANDA (Reuters) – Angola needs to maintain fiscal prudence in the run-up to the 2017 elections, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) team said on Tuesday after a two-week visit to the oil producing country.

Angola’s economy grew fast after a 27-year civil war ended in 2002, peaking at growth of 12 percent three years ago, but a sharp drop in oil prices has sapped dollar inflows, dented the kwanza and prompted heavy government borrowing.

Oil output represents 40 percent of Angola’s gross domestic product and more than 95 percent of foreign exchange revenue in sub-Saharan Africa’s third biggest economy.

The IMF team said the outlook for 2016 remained difficult, despite the increase of oil prices in recent weeks.

The global lender also warned that economic activity will likely decelerate further, adding that a modest recovery could be expected in 2017 if shortages of dollars are tackled.

“The significant fiscal effort carried out last year was a very important step to assuage fiscal and public debt sustainability concerns,” Ricardo Velloso, who led the team, said in a statement.

“However, further steps are still needed to reduce vulnerabilities, and maintaining fiscal prudence in the run-up to the 2017 elections will be critical.”

The IMF team arrived in Angola on June 1 to discuss options on how to diversify the economy and reduce the dependence on the oil sector, Angolan authorities have said.


(Writing by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by James Macharia)

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Moroccan leased farmland attract $1.4 billion investment in 2015

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

RABAT (Reuters) – Private investments in Moroccan state-owned land leased to farmers and investors have reached 14 billion dirhams ($1.4 billion) at the end of 2015, a statement from the agriculture ministry said on Monday.

To attract foreign and local investors, the kingdom has been leasing farmland for 20 to 50 percent of its market value on long-term contracts of up to 40 years.

Morocco holds regular tenders as suitable state farmlands are gradually identified and made available.

About 111,000 hectares have been allocated in the last two years, the statement said, and the target is 500,000 hectares by 2020. Total farmland is estimated at about 7.8 million hectares.

Like other North African countries, Morocco is trying to modernise its farms to improve food security and avert the kind of price rises that contributed to popular unrest in Arab countries in 2011.

However, the North African kingdom still remains one of the World’s biggest wheat importers with volumes depending on local harvest.

The amount of investment attracted is 92 percent of the 15.2 billion targeted when the government stepped up the leasing programme to increase production and speed up modernisation of Moroccan farming in 2014.

The 14 billion dirhams investments include 4.7 billion dirhams in developing and equipping farmlands in general, 2.2 billion dirhams in vegetal production and 1 billion dirhams for breeding, the statement carried by the state news agency MAP said.

Morocco is expected to harvest a cereal crop of 3.35 million tonnes this year, down 70 percent from last season’s record 11 million tonnes after severe drought.

Rainfall was 43 percent less than an average year and 45.5 percent less than last season, which makes this the worst season in 30 years, with 98 dry days between November and February.

($1 = 9.6892 Moroccan dirham)


(Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Keith Weir)


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Higher South African rates leave households saddled with crushing debt

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

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Rate increases by South Africa’s central bank have left at least 10 million people crippled by debt in a country where many people buy on credit.

The result may be a further slowdown in South Africa’s slumping economy, which is now expected to grow just 0.9 percent in 2016. That would only aggravate the problem for those struggling with debt.

South Africa’s unemployment rate is already at a record high of nearly 27 percent. Food prices are soaring as a drought afflicts southern Africa.

Consequently, many households are borrowing to put food on the table. But inflation exceeds the central bank’s target of 3 to 6 percent, leading it to raise interest rates by 200 basis points in the past two years.

Inflation slowed to 6.2 percent in April, but commercial banks have raised their lending rates. Home loans now average around 10.5 percent, up from a low of 8.5 percent in 2012.

“Almost 75 percent of the income of the average household in South Africa is spent towards credit providers, to pay debt, so at the end of the day they don’t have enough money left to pay for their living expenses,” said Neil Roets, chief executive of Debt Rescue, a local company that helps clients manage debt.

“It’s had a devastating effect on consumers, especially because of the fact that a lot of consumers already find themselves in a situation where they are over-indebted,” he said, referring to the rising rates.

Industry officials say about 47 percent of the consumers that buy on credit are in debt arrears. About 10 million people, or a fifth of South Africa’s 52 million people, buy on credit.

The TransUnion South Africa consumer credit index, a gauge of consumer credit health, fell to a three-year low in the first quarter of this year. Debt defaults, defined by three months of arrears, rose 1.8 percent year-on-year during the quarter, after shrinking 5.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Analysts said South Africans are still paying the price for unbridled lending that fuelled a consumer frenzy. That helped the economy grow an average 5 percent a year in the five years before 2009, when a recession wiped out nearly a million jobs.

Households are now reluctant to take up new debt. Private sector credit grew in April at its slowest rate since late 2013, central bank data showed.

Retailers are feeling the pinch across the board, with consumer demand for non-essential goods in particular dropping. New vehicle sales fell 10.3 percent in May from the same month last year, the sixth consecutive contraction.

“Both consumer and business confidence is unlikely to improve significantly in the short term, given the poor economic outlook and the poor job market,” Nedbank analysts Johannes Khosa and Dennis Dykes said in a note.

“Credit growth is likely to remain contained in the months ahead as the economic environment remains weak.”


(By Stella Mapenzauswa. Editing by James Macharia, Larry King)

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