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Ghana must continue fiscal consolidation to contain debt levels: IMF

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

ACCRA (Reuters) – Ghana must press on with its fiscal consolidation programme to tackle its high public debt irrespective of unfavourable commodity prices, an International Monetary Fund team said on Wednesday at the end of a visit to the country.

Ghana, which exports gold, cocoa and oil, signed a three-year, $918 million deal with the IMF a year ago to restore fiscal balance and the review team said it was broadly satisfied with implementation of the programme.

“The required fiscal adjustment is on track,” mission head Joël Toujas-Bernaté told reporters. “Given the high level of public debt, fiscal consolidation needs to continue notwithstanding the headwinds from low commodity prices.”

Ghana’s public debt stands around 70 percent of GDP, a level the IMF described in the past as “distressing”.

The government plans to issue a Eurobond of up to $1 billion this year to finance the budget amid concerns that market conditions are not favourable for the sale.

Toujas-Bernaté said it was up to Ghana to determine the appropriateness of the transaction at this time, adding that the government could utilise its “good” cash balance should market conditions remain unfavourable.


(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Mark Heinrich)

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Bank of Ghana new gov says top priorities are inflation, rates

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

ACCRA (Reuters) – New Bank of Ghana’s Governor Abdul-Nashiru Issahaku said in his first domestic speech on Tuesday that bringing down inflation and reducing interest rates were his main priorities but that achieving those goals would take some time.

The Bank also remains committed to enabling commercial banks to scale up lending to small and medium sized businesses and other sectors in order to boost gross domestic product growth, Issahaku said.


(Reporting by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Joe Bavier)

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Bank of Ghana governor plans to fight inflation, boost growth

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

ACCRA (Reuters) – Ghana’s new central bank governor said on Monday his top priority was to fight inflation, but he also wanted to pursue new policies to boost local business growth.

In his first interview since being named Bank of Ghana governor last week, Abdul-Nashiru Issahaku pledged full commitment to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme aimed at stabilising the economy.

“My focus is to work assiduously to achieve our core responsibility of ensuring price stability,” Issahaku said.

Consumer inflation in the West African country, an exporter of gold, cocoa and oil, eased to 18.5 percent in February from 19 percent in January.

But it remains above the government’s upper target of 15.7 percent, while the central bank’s benchmark 91-day Treasury bill rate stood at 22.7713 percent on Friday.

At the same time, gross domestic product growth has fallen from around 14 percent in 2011 to 4.1 percent last year, in part because of a global slump in commodity prices.

President John Mahama promoted Issahaku from deputy governor when his predecessor, Henry Kofi Wampah, stepped down last month ahead of what is expected to be a closely fought election in November when Mahama will run for a second term.

Issahaku takes over at a crucial time for the bank, one year into the IMF programme. Some fear the election will put pressure on policy makers, including the central bank, which is independent, to loosen financial controls.

It also comes as the bank’s main lending rate stands at 26 percent, leading to complaints by many in the business community that it is stifling growth.

Issahaku, a member of the government’s economic management team, said he would work with the Finance Ministry and other agencies to maintain spending limits. “Elections or no elections, I remain committed to the programmes and we cannot afford to derail,” he told Reuters.

But he said Ghana had to begin immediately to “start to think out of the box about propelling growth of local businesses and creating employment.”

Ghana was one of Africa’s economic stars for years. Since the 2012 election, however, it has been tackling a budget deficit, high levels of public debt, inflation and a currency that fell sharply in 2014 and 2015.

Ghana’s cedi currency withstood a seasonal first quarter pressures to rally against the dollar in a sign of the impact of the IMF programme and bank policies.

Issahaku said he wants to sanitize the financial sector, especially micro finance firms, and enhance the regulator’s transparency and capacity. To boost growth, he would consider options to provide incentives to banks to offer credit to strategic sectors at reasonable rates. The governor has worked with the World Bank and the African Development Bank and holds a PhD in International Affairs and Development from Clark Atlanta University.


(By Kwasi Kpodo. Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Richard Balmforth)

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Ghana presidency appoints Issahaku as new central bank governor

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

ACCRA (Reuters) – Ghana’s presidency appointed Abdul Issahaku as governor of the central bank on Monday, promoting the deputy governor to replace Henry Kofi Wampah, who is ending his four-year term early, a statement said.

The bank has worked to reduce inflation that has been persistently above government targets, just one of the problems facing a country following an International Monetary Fund aid programme to stabilise its economy.


(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Ghana central bank governor says he will retire end-March

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

ACCRA (Reuters) – Bank of Ghana governor Henry Kofi Wampah will retire at the end of March, he told Reuters on Tuesday, cutting short a four-year term during which he struggled to rein in inflation and stem the decline of the cedi currency.

Wampah, whose term officially ends on Aug. 5, said he had informed President John Mahama of his intention to leave early, adding that it would give his successor time to settle in before presidential and parliamentary elections planned for November.


(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Joe Bavier)

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Ghana consumer inflation slows to 18.5% in February

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

ACCRA (Reuters) – Ghana’s annual consumer price inflation fell to 18.5 percent in February from 19.0 percent the month before, helped by the stability of the local currency, the statistics office said on Wednesday.

Consumer prices could fall further if the cedi holds steady and in the absence of any external shock, deputy government statistician Anthony Amuzu told reporters in Accra.

After weakening nearly 4 percent in January on seasonal high corporate dollar demand, the cedi, has remained firm in recent weeks. It was trading at 3.8500 to the greenback on Wednesday, down 1.3 percent year-to-date.

“The stability of the cedi was the major driver in February,” Amuzu said, adding that it drove down prices of imported items.

The commodities exporter is implementing a three-year aid programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in an attempt to remedy fiscal problems including inflation persistently above government targets.

The IMF projects that inflation will peak before slowing to around 10 percent at the end of the year and the central bank has been tightening monetary policy in order to contain it.

Analyst say the easing in February CPI showed that the central bank’s tight monetary policy had been effective.

“The deceleration in year-on-year inflation also relieves the pressure on the Bank of Ghana to raise interest rates in the near term,” said Standard Chartered’s head of Africa research Razia Khan.

Year-on-year non-food inflation for February, which comprises imported goods, was 24.5 percent, compared with 25.5 percent the month before. Food inflation was 8.3 percent, from 8.2 percent in January.


(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Toby Chopra)

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Peace Hyde: Entrepreneur, broadcaster, actress

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peace hyde

The British-born personality promotes education, entrepreneurship in Ghana and Nigeria.

As a child growing up in the United Kingdom, Peace Hyde had two dreams: One day moving to Africa, home of her Ghanaian forbearers, and launching a career in television.

Today, Hyde is living that dream in high style as an award-winning broadcaster, internationally recognized entrepreneur, West Africa correspondent for Forbes, and founder of a nonprofit that promotes education in Ghana and Nigeria.

Two years after leaving a teaching career in England to move to Ghana, Hyde, 30, was recently named African Broadcaster of the year at the Nigerian Broadcasters Merit Awards 2016.

Awards for leadership, influence

Hyde also was one of five people in media and entertainment named to a prestigious list of 50 most influential young Ghanaians in 2015 and was recognized as a Young Chief Executive Officer leader by the young CEO Business Forum in London for her work with Aim Higher Africa, a nonprofit she founded to promote education in Ghana and Nigeria.

She is also currently nominated for International Business Woman of the Year at the Women 4 Africa awards in London in May.

As a teacher in England for seven years before relocating to Africa, Hyde learned two important lessons: the importance of education to motivate and empower young people and the ability to multi-task, which has served her well in her many roles.

Education is a critical tool in the fight to empower communities and lift them out of poverty, she said.

Encounters with young people who carried goods back and forth at the markets of Accra convinced her that education was their way out. Seeing young girls who had no future but laboring at the marketplace, she said she “felt a deep sense of injustice. Something needed to be done for these girls.”

Without funding initially, she began to teach the children at the marketplace. Later, she found support to start Aim Higher Africa, a nonprofit that focuses on education and entrepreneurship.

Project creates digital classrooms

Initially, working in Ghana, Aim Higher Africa focused on improving standards at rural schools, including providing teachers with guidelines on discipline, testing, evaluating and grading.

As the program has grown and expanded to also work in Nigeria, where Hyde is currently based, she said it has become more strategically focused on bringing digital education to rural classrooms.

Currently, the organization is working with 30 schools in Ghana and Nigeria, Hyde said.

Promoting African entrepreneurship

She wants to help build a generation of young African entrepreneurs to help improve employment opportunities on the continent.

She said discussions traditionally have focused on job creation. But her philosophy with Aim Higher Africa is that empowering the next generation entrepreneurs and leaders who can create new industries “the only way you can create sustainable and scalable opportunities.”

Aim Higher Africa organizes Ignite events where entrepreneurs share their expertise and encouragement with young people.

She also hopes to tell success stories in her role as a television host and Forbes West Africa correspondent. As more stories of successful entrepreneurs are told, the environment and opportunities for the next wave of entrepreneurship will improve.

She sees “a new Africa where we are proudly exporting our heritage to the world,” she said. “I believe it is time to highlight the move towards digital platforms and technological advances that were not present (in Africa) a couple of years ago.”

Started with a teaching career

Born to Ghanaian parents in the United Kingdom, she was raised in England and received a degree in psychology from Middlesex University. She went on to receive a master’s degree in journalism and communications as well as a teaching qualification.

Once she completed her studies, she taught in middle and high school for seven years.

She said her experience as a teacher gave her a lot of practice in multitasking, which has paid off as she juggles roles that include broadcasting, running a nonprofit and even some acting.

Her current broadcast projects include hosting a popular celebrity talk show, The EFGH Show (Entertainers from Ghana) and hosting Friday Night Live, a lifestyles show. She has occasional roles in television programs, including a role as a Yoruba mother on the MTV program “Shuga.”

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Harsh winds, lack of rain to hit Ghana cocoa output

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

ACCRA (Reuters) – Ghana could lose as much as 25 percent of its projected cocoa output this season as harsh winds and a lack of rain confound efforts to boost yields in the world’s second-largest producer, a government source said.

The Harmattan wind, which blows off the Sahara, sapping soil moisture and spoiling seeds, came early this season and has intensified in recent weeks, stunting pod growth more than usual and stifling government plans for expansion.

The West African country had hoped to produce 850,000-900,000 tonnes of cocoa in the 2015/16 crop year, up from the previous season’s 740,000 tonnes.

But a government source with knowledge of crop estimates said full-year production might not exceed 750,000 tonnes, and could fall as much as 25 percent short of initial estimates.

In addition to the impact of the weather, some cocoa farms have been destroyed by seasonal bushfire, the source said.

Regulator Cocobod, which had provided free early-maturing hybrid seedlings and fertilisers to boost the crop, said it was too early to know the effect of the weather on its output target and declined to give an estimate.

“Our technical men are just about to go to the field and until they come out with their findings, it will be too early to estimate the damage caused by the Harmattan,” Cocobod spokesman Noah Amenyah said.

In major western and eastern growing regions, farmers told Reuters that they are struggling to even meet last year’s quota.

“We started the year with high hopes because they (Cocobod) gave us all the inputs we needed, but we don’t have the same level of hope now,” 59-year-old farmer Stingo Arthur said, pointing at the withered pods clustered on the trees of his 20-acre farm.

“It is severe now because there is no rain.”

Arthur had expected to harvest more than thirty 64-kilogram (141-lb) bags this season, up from 20 bags last year after boosting his farm with 516 hybrid seedlings and fertiliser last June. So far, he has harvested only 18 bags.

Chief cocoa farmer for the Eastern region, Nana Obeng Akrofi, said he had revised down his original harvest target of 200 bags to “not more than 160” from his 45-acre cocoa cultivation at Bonsu, due to the devastating effects of the Harmattan.

Ghana produces 70 percent of its output in its main crop harvest between October and January. A July-September light crop is discounted to local processing companies.

The bad weather means farmers did not see the volume of beans that normally come at the tail end of the main crop.

Weather forecasters predict rain in mid February or early March but many farmers say that will be too late for light crop beans.

“My fear is that the light crop may be worse,” Akrofi said.


(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Makini Brice, Edward McAllister and Jan Harvey)

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Ethel Cofie builds a mobile platform to boost youth employment

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Ethel Cofie

The Ghanaian entrepreneur is developing a micro work platform that will enable businesses and people to coordinate tasks that computers cannot perform.

Ghanaian entrepreneur Ethel Cofie sees technology as a key driver of business efficiency and revenue and she hopes to demonstrate that with her company’s latest project, M-Ablodé.

Cofie is the founder and CEO of Edel Technology Consulting. Her company is collaborating with the United States African Development Fund to create M-Ablodé, a mobile micro work platform that will enable businesses and people to coordinate the use of intelligence to perform tasks that computers cannot.

Edel said the platform would help create employment and wealth in developing economies, especially Africa. The name Ablodé means freedom or independence in the language of the Fon Ewe people who originated in Ghana, Benin and Togo.

Platform could help boost youth employment

The hope is that the platform will tap into Africans’ mushrooming access to mobile phones to help drive youth employment on the continent, which is expected to have a labor force of one billion by 2040.

Using technology to better the economy is at the center of Cofie’s experience in technology development.

“Years ago, I got tired of just building tech for tech’s sake,” Cofie said. “Instead I wanted to build tech that would clearly create something new for an organization or would make things more efficient, or something that would create more revenue.”

Global experience in technology

Cofie, who founded Edel in 2010, has more than 12 years of experience working in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Ghana on projects including the Bill and Melinda Gates Mobile Technology for Health project, the Ford Foundation’s Nigeria election monitoring project and as an IT strategist for Vodaphone. In 2014, she was a Mandela Washington Fellow at Yale University.

Edel projects include the World Bank’s Negawatt global challenge, a competition that seeks to encourage innovation around energy issues through a process of meetups, brainstorming, prototyping and pitching.

Other Edel projects are Unilever’s Clean Team initiative to bring affordable sanitation to poor communities; an online leadership center for the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, and micro-finance revenue growth for Dalex Finance.


Founded Women in Tech Africa

In 2013, Cofie also founded Women in Tech Africa, a pan African organization with membership from 30 countries that has convened virtual meetings as well as conferences and training in Nigeria and Ghana.

She said she started the organization “out of my very personal need to start a ‘girls club,’ as an antidote to what had been a ‘boys club’ in the tech sector for so long.’’

The new M-Ablodé platform, due for release this summer, will tap into the proliferation of mobile phones in Africa.

Mobile subscriptions to reach 930 million

In 2002, only one in 10 in Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda owned a mobile device, according to Pew Research Center. Today, ownership in many countries tops two-third. In South Africa 89 percent ownership is on part with the United States, Pew said.

Ericson, the telecoms giant, expects mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa to increase to 930 million by 2019.

In announcing the new platform, Edel said it would help address the growing problem of youth unemployment. Edel noted that Africa’s labor force would number one billion by 2040, surpassing China and India to make it the largest in the world. At the same time, “in Africa, youth unemployment occurs at a rate more than twice that for adults. Youth count for 60 percent of all African unemployed.”

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Ghana producer inflation jumps to 10.5% in December

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

ACCRA (Reuters) – Ghana’s producer price inflation rose sharply to 10.5 percent in December from 3 percent the month before, the statistics office said on Wednesday.

The West African country is under a three-year International Monetary Fund aid programme to address financial problems that include high budget deficits and consumer inflation persistently above government targets.


(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Emma Farge)

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