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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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South African rand on shaky ground after current account gap widens

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

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s rand stayed on the back foot against the dollar early on Wednesday a day after central bank data showed a wider-than-expected current account deficit.

By 0711 GMT the rand was at 15.2850 against the greenback, little changed from its New York close at 15.3040 in the previous session.

The local currency had fallen as much as 1.5 percent to its weakest in more than a week on Tuesday after the South African Reserve Bank said the current account deficit widened to 5 percent of GDP in the first quarter of this year 4.6 percent.

Government bonds edged higher, and the yield for the benchmark instrument maturing in 2026 eased 3 basis points to 9.17 percent.

South Africa relies heavily on portfolio flows to plug its current account shortfall, making the rand more vulnerable than its emerging market peers when risk appetite wanes.

“Local data this week has not provided any comfort for the local unit and this, long with markets bracing for a number of significant events, has seen the rand remain firmly under pressure,” Nedbank said in a market commentary.

Traders and analysts said markets were focused mainly on the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy meeting later on Wednesday while the prospect of Britons voting to leave the European Union at a June 23 referendum had dampened risk appetite.

On the equity market, the JSE exchange’s All-Share index was up 1 percent in early trade, while the benchmark Top-40 index added 0.9 percent.


(Reporting by Stella Mapenzauswa; Editing by Andrew Heavens)


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