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Africa Business in Brief


issue 345 | 29 Mar 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

A non-exhaustive list of recent measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19)

Angola: The President of Angola has approved Provisional Presidential Legislative Decree No. 1/20, which introduces a set of urgent measures to mitigate the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic caused by the new Coronavirus.

Source: PLMJ Advogados, SP, RL 

Equatorial Guinea: The Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons (MMH) of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea decided on the waiving of its fees for services companies in the country. This is the first action to be taken to support oil & gas services companies in Equatorial Guinea in the wake of the oil price drop caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: African Energy Chamber

Eswatini / Lesotho / Namibia: The central banks of Eswatini, Lesotho and Namibia have cut policy rates by 100 basis points to 5.5%, 5.25%, and 5.25%, respectively.

Source: IHS Markit

Ethiopia: Ethiopia has ordered Federal employees to work from home to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, effective 25 March 2020 until further notice.

Source: Fana Broadcasting Corporate

Ethiopia: The official statement by the Office of the Prime Minister outlined a three-point proposal to the G20 states, including the need for an emergency finance and a global Africa health emergency package, as well as a debt resolution and restructuring package for African governments to deal with the novel coronavirus outbreak on the continent.

Source: IHS Markit

Ghana: The Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS) has announced a waiver of fees on electronic services. In a press statement issued in Accra, it said all commercial banks, Fintechs and Mobile Money (MoMo) Operators, leveraging the various platforms to offer electronic payment services were not going to incur any service charges. This takes effect from 23 March and the waiver is regardless of the volume and value of transaction.

Source: Ghana Business News

Kenya: The Central Bank of Kenya has stretched the duration that lenders are allowed to keep their short-term loans from 28 days to three months in a bid to keep banks cash flush.

Source: Business Daily

Kenya: The Capital Markets Authority has given Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed firms one more month to submit and publish their audited financial statements. The regulator has given the extension to all licensed intermediaries, issuers of securities to the public and collective investment schemes. The regulator also suspended other compliance requirements including the need to publish financial statements in two newspapers of national circulation. This particular obligation has been waived until 30 June 2020.

Source: Business Daily

Kenya: Kenya Airways (KQ) will now only fly domestic routes as it moves to adhere to the international flights ban imposed by the government in the wake of the increased cases of the novel coronavirus. The airline’s Chief Executive Officer Allan Kilavuka said that they will now temporarily suspend all international services effective midnight 26 March, until further notice.

Source: Daily Nation

Kenya / Uganda: Over the last two days, Uganda and Kenya have both announced emergency tax measures to deal with the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak. This includes various tax cuts in Kenya and extensions for filing returns in Uganda.

Source: ENSafrica

Madagascar: Madagascar’s central bank said on Tuesday, 24 March it had injected MGA420-billion in March into the banking system to help it cope with the coronavirus epidemic. Banky Foiben’i Madagasikara (BFM) also planned to inject a minimum of MGA200-billion by the end of March to boost available liquidity in the banking system, it said in a statement.

Source: Reuters

Mauritius: Following the nationwide confinement measure announced by the Mauritian Prime Minister and effective since 6am on 20 March 2020 for a duration of two weeks in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, several measures have been adopted, including the isolation and screening people; placement of people in quarantine, a curfew order, and implementation of a wage support scheme.

Source: ENSafrica

Mauritius: The Value Added Tax (VAT) on hand sanitizers and protective masks has been removed, as from Tuesday 24 March 2020, by the Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA) in the wake of the propagation of the Covid-19 in Mauritius. Necessary amendments will be made to the VAT Act in the forthcoming Finance Bill with retrospective effect (i.e 24 March 2020).

Source: Government of Mauritius

Mozambique: Cornelder de Moçambique (CdM) is implementing surveillance and prevention actions designed to exercise greater control over the entry of ships from countries with high levels of local Covid-19 transmission.

Source: Club of Mozambique

Namibia: President Dr. Hage G. Geingob declared a state of emergency with effect from 17 March 2020 on account of the outbreak of Covid-19.

Source: Parliament of the Republic of Namibia

Nigeria: The House of Representatives on Tuesday, 24 March introduced and passed for third reading a bill that seeks to provide a stimulus for the Nigerian economy given the novel coronavirus that has been ravaging countries across the world. Dubbed the Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill, 2020, the draft law aims at providing temporary relief to companies and individuals to alleviate the adverse financial consequences of a slowdown in economic activities caused by the Covid-19 disease.

Source: National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Rwanda: On 20 March 2020, the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) issued new tax measures to deal with the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak. Tax measures adopted include: the suspension of all comprehensive tax audits and post clearance audits for a period of one month. The deadline for filing certified financial statements has been extended to 31 May 2020, however, the deadline for the declaration and paying of income tax remains unchanged at 31 March 2020. The 25% down payment required for taxpayers seeking amicable settlement of their tax disputes with the RRA has been suspended with effect from 23 March 2020 for a period of one month.

Source: ENSafrica

Rwanda: With effect from 14 March 2020, Rwanda’s Ministry of Health and other governmental bodies have issued several measures that will be implemented in order to mitigate the risk of the Coronavirus. This was turned into an almost total lockdown with immediate effect by a communiqué issued by the Office of the Prime Minister on 21 March 2020 and which will be in force during a two-week period (with possibility of extension).

Source: ENSafrica

Uganda: National carrier Uganda Airlines is suspending all passenger flights from 23 March “until further notice” as the government shuts down borders and stops all inbound and outbound flights in efforts to limit the spread of the Coronavirus.

Source: Uganda Business News

Uganda: The Minister of Health has invoked powers under the Public Health Act, (Cap. 281) to issue rules and orders aimed at combating Covid-19.

Source: ENSafrica

Zimbabwe: President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a state of disaster in all rural and urban areas in Zimbabwe with effect from promulgation of the notice, issued on 23 March 2020.

Source: Veritas

Zimbabwe: In terms of the Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention and Containment) Regulations, 2020, Covid-19 has been declared a formidable epidemic disease with effect until 20 May 2020, unless the Minister earlier, by general notice in the Gazette, extends these regulations by a further month.

Source: Veritas 


Partnerships key for harmonizing biosafety regulations in Africa, study

The latest report on the global status of commercialised biotech crops shows a total of 70 countries have adopted biotech crops through cultivation and importation. However, adoption of modern biotechnologies in agriculture for improved production and trade in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region continues to linger in debate and controversy, despite efforts to maximize the benefits and reduce the risks. Some of the efforts include the implementation of the COMESA Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy, endorsed in 2014 by the Council of Ministers from COMESA countries. This policy translated into the COMESA Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy Implementation Plan (COMBIP), which seeks to increase investment in biotechnology applications and agricultural commodity trade in the region. Different countries are at varied levels of research and development, with diverse capacities of development and implementation of requisite laws and regulations. In cases where these laws are in place, progressing from research to commercialisation has been a challenge. In addition, other countries are taking sudden political decisions that are affecting the progress of biotechnology applications. Notably, the opportunity costs for delayed adoption of biotech crops in developing countries, comprising COMESA member states, is estimated at USD45.5-billion.

Source: Africa Business Communities

East Africa

Regional trade hit as virus slows down border clearance

With border closures announced to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the road transport sector has been hardest hit. The road transport accounts for over 60% of goods movement from ports of entry to the region. Besides shutting of the borders, more checks have been introduced to minimise exposure and curtail export of the virus. Logistics experts have predicted business could reduce by more than half going forward, with players calling for measures to minimise disruption and provide a critical service. Kagure Wamunyu, Africa region chief executive officer at Kobo360, said logistics business will drop by 50% since borders trucks are spending up to two days before they cross the border due to the stringent checks. Kenya’s borders with Uganda and Tanzania have been shut, with minimal truck movement. This has led to delays in delivery of goods within the region. Mombasa is the gateway to East African countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, and South Sudan served by the Northern Corridor.

Source: Business Daily


USTDA supports Kalahari Energy Botswana with its 97 MW coalbed methane-fueled power plant

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) awarded a grant to Kalahari Energy Botswana in support of the development of a power plant in Botswana that will generate electricity using indigenous coalbed methane. The project includes a CBM-fired power plant with a nameplate capacity of 110 MW powered by gas engines, a supporting gas-field extraction and processing facility to supply gas to the power plant and a 220 kV transmission line to evacuate the power to the Serule substation. The project is located in the Central Kalahari Karoo Basin. Kalahari Energy Botswana, the project owner, appointed Prana Energy as Project Developer to develop the project from the inception stage through to financial close.

Source: Africa Energy Portal


Ethiopia, Germany Sign EUR100-million grant agreement

Ethiopia and Germany signed a grant agreement amounting to EUR100-million on 23 March 2020. The agreement was signed by Admasu Nebebe, State Minister of Finance and Mrs. Brita Wagner, Ambassador of Germany to Ethiopia. The grant is to support the Ethiopia’s reform agenda for transition to a model of economic development strongly oriented on private sector development by improving the framework conditions for investments and for improved access to financial services for local and foreign private companies. The funding will also be used for the second phase of the growth and competitiveness program and avail finance for the reform oriented expenditures through the budget support.

Source: Fana Broadcasting Corporate


World Bank approves USD500-million in grant, credit to Ethiopia

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved USD500-million in grant and credit in continued support of Ethiopia’s homegrown reform agenda. Of the total, USD250-million is a grant and the remaining USD250-million is credit, according to a press release issued by the bank. The second Ethiopia growth and competitiveness development policy operation (DPO) is intended to accelerate Ethiopia’s economic growth and achieve its vision of becoming a lower-middle-income country. This operation is the second of a series of DPOs and provides both financial and technical support to Ethiopia’s economic reforms. The operation is designed to help Ethiopia revitalise the economy by broadening the role of the private sector and attaining a more sustainable development path. Ethiopia, with support from the operation has continued the implementation of reforms in the energy sector to improve efficiency and cost recovery, while protecting the poor. It has also established the new telecom regulator, Ethiopian Communication Authority. The country also approved new investment and privatisation proclamations, fostering competition and facilitating private sector participation in a number of sectors. The second DPO focuses on three pillars: maximizing finance for development, improving the investment climate and developing the financial sector; and promoting transparency and accountability.

Source: Fana Broadcasting Corporate


Legal considerations of the Coronavirus on businesses in Ghana

On 15 March 2020, in response to the increasing numbers of persons affected with the Coronavirus in Ghana, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo directed all schools to be closed until further notice and banned all public gatherings including conferences, workshops, funerals, festivals, political rallies, church activities, sporting events, and other related events for four weeks. The legal implications for businesses are complex and wide-ranging, from a need to protect the health and wellbeing of employees to ensuring that challenges that face the business are effectively mitigated. This article considers some of the issues – including the health of workers, leave entitlements and data protection - that employers may face in the wake of the effects of the Coronavirus and the measures taken by the Government of Ghana. In order to ensure business continuity, an employer needs to devote the required human and technical resources to managing the different implications which have arisen due to the Coronavirus. Employers also need to consider alternative work arrangements and putting in place the required tools and systems to enable employees to use these alternatives. Businesses also need to be aware of the latest guidelines issued by the WHO and local authorities requiring actions to be taken by all including employers.

Source: ENSafrica


40 desalination systems financed by carbon offsetting

The German companies Boreal Light and Atmosfair will work with the Kenyan companies Water Kiosk Ltd and Bilal Sustainable Development Programme to develop 40 solar-powered water desalination systems in several counties in Kenya. The project will require an investment of KES435-million Kenyan (over USD4-million). Several arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya will soon benefit from 1,000 m³ of drinking water per day. Four companies have just joined forces to build 40 solar-powered water desalination systems in several counties of the country.  The project will be carried out by the companies Boreal Light, Atmosfair, WaterKiosk and Bilal Sustainable Development Programme. These companies will finance the works to the tune of KES435-million. The 40 desalination systems to be built in the counties of Kenya will remove salt and other minerals from water to make it safe to drink and suitable for other uses. Solar-powered drinking water kiosks will be installed to supply the population. The project will also support more than 20 fish farms and the irrigation of 40.47 hectares of plantations. Ultimately, more than 100 permanent jobs will be created for kiosk operators.

Source: Afrik21


Government forgives INSS fines and reduces interest charges

The government has approved a decree forgiving employers fines resulting from overdue National Institute of Social Security (INSS) contributions, and reducing interest on arrears. “As these are many employers who do not fulfil their obligations to pay contributions to the INSS, which deprives their workers and their families of access to social security benefits, the Council of Ministers, based on the legislation in force, grants total forgiveness of fines and reduction of late payment interest in the case of full payment of the debt or payment by instalment,” Council of Ministers spokesman Filmão Suaze said.

Source: Club of Mozambique

Namibia / Angola

Namibia, Angola to develop cross-border Baynes hydroelectric dam

The governments of Angola and Namibia have signed bilateral agreements for the construction of a cross border Baynes hydroelectric dam. Angolan Minister of Energy and Water H.E. João Baptista Borges made the announcement and said the agreement will enable the launch of a public tender for the selection of a construction firm for the project, in line with the proposed timeline. Construction of the Baynes hydroelectric dam falls within Angola’s Energy 2025 Vision, which centers on creating increased capacity and distribution capabilities, supported by new renewables and private sector investment in new power generation projects. The planned hydroelectric dam will be located on the Cunene River on the border between Angola and Namibia. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2021 and a completion date scheduled for 2025. It is estimated to cost USD1.2-billion; feasibility studies for the project were already carried out. According to the agreement, of the 600 MW to be produced by the plant, 300 MW will be directed to Angola and Namibia, respectively.

Source: Africa Energy Portal


Nigerian government devalues currency and cuts 2020 budget spending

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) devalued the official exchange rate of the naira by 15% against the US dollar on 20 March. The Nigerian naira is now trading at NGN360:USD1.00, from USD306:USD1.00 previously. The exchange rate for exchange bureaus was also devalued to NGN380:USD1.00, from NGN360:USD1.00 previously. On 19 March, the Nigerian government announced that government spending in the 2020 national budget would be cut by NGN1.5-trillion (USD4.2-billion). The original spending commitment of NGN10.33-trillion allowed for debt servicing costs of NGN2.45-trillion, recurrent expenditure of NGN4.88-trillion, and capital spending of NGN2.14-trillion. The budget cutbacks will be achieved by a 25% reduction in recurrent expenditure across all federal government agencies and a 20% reduction in the capital budget. The new budget estimates assume an average oil price of USD30 per barrel during 2020.

Source: IHS Markit


New Ministerial Orders cast light onto gross misconduct and working hours, and introduce death allowance in private sector

On 20 March 2020, the Rwandan Government issued nine ministerial orders implementing the Labour Code that entered into force in September 2018. The said Ministerial Orders implement the Labour Code and provide for further details on a number of aspects falling under their respective purviews, namely: the organisation of labour inspection; determination of gross misconducts; election of employees representatives and their responsibilities; determination of essential services that should not be interrupted during strike or lock-out; implementation of the weekly working hours in private sector; employee training; minimum content of a written employment contract; and funeral expenses and death allowances. This article focuses on the Ministerial Order establishing the List of Gross Misconducts (N° 002/19.20 of 17/03/2020), the Ministerial Order on Working Hours (N° 005/19.20 of 17/03/2020) and the Ministerial Order on Funeral Expenses and Death Allowances (N° 009/19.20 of 17/03/2020).

Source: ENSafrica

São Tomé and Príncipe / Equatorial Guinea

São Tomé and Príncipe and Equatorial Guinea lead energy cooperation in the Gulf of Guinea

São Tomé and Príncipe and Equatorial Guinea have agreed on the establishment of a Special Zone for Joint Exploration to explore and develop cross-border oil and gas reserves believed to be in the blocks bordering each country’s maritime zone. The decision was taken during a meeting in the week of 16 March in Malabo between H.E. Osvaldo Abreu, Minister of Public Works, Infrastructures, Natural Resources and Environment of São Tomé and Príncipe and H.E. Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons of Equatorial Guinea. It notably follows several cooperation agreements signed last year during the official visit of President Evaristo Carvalho to Equatorial Guinea, which notably included joint oil exploration in the countries’ maritime zone. Both ministers discussed plans to expedite joint exploration efforts in the blocks within their maritime zone, and expect operations to start as early as October 2020. São Tomé and Príncipe is also set to benefit from Equatorial Guinea’s experience in the hydrocarbons sector, especially when it comes to offshore oil and gas exploration, production and monetization. São Tomé and Príncipe is believed to be an upcoming frontier when it comes to oil and gas. It has already attracted several international players in its blocks, including Galp Energia, operator of block 6 and Kosmos Energy, operator of block 11. International major Shell also participates in both blocks with a 20% and 30% stakes respectively.

Source: African Energy Chamber


Amea Power to build four solar and wind farms in two regions

The Ugandan government recently reached an agreement with Hussain bin Jassim Al-Nowais, head of Amea Power, an independent power producer (IPP) based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The IPP wants to build four solar and wind farms in two regions in Uganda. New renewable energy projects will be implemented in Uganda. It is the promise of a recently signed agreement between the chairman of Amea Power Hussain bin Jassim Al-Nowais and Ugandan Head of State Yoweri Museveni. The agreement specifically covers the construction of four wind and solar farms in two regions of the country. In the West Nile region of northwestern Uganda, the IPP wants to build a 10 MWp solar photovoltaic power plant and a 10 MW wind farm. Amea Power wants to build the largest facility in the Karamoja region of northeastern Uganda. The UAE-based IPP wants to build a wind farm with a capacity of 120 MW. The solar power plant will be capable of supplying 80 MWp to the Ugandan electricity grid. The chairman of Amea Power Hussain bin Jassim Al-Nowais said that implementation of his project in the West Nile region will begin before January 2021.

Source: Afrik21


European Union grants EUR90.4-million to Uganda for green economy

A grant agreement has recently been signed between the European Union (EU) and Uganda. Brussels has granted EUR90.4-million to support the green economy in Uganda. This initiative should attract investment from European companies in this East African country. An agreement was recently signed on this between Matia Kasaija, the Ugandan Minister of Finance, and Attilio Pacifici, the EU Ambassador to Uganda. According to the terms of the agreement, the lion’s share of the funds, i.e. EUR45-million, will be used to finance the programme for the adoption of an inclusive green economy, “which involves the development of innovative products and projects that reduce environmental risks”. This new business model will be a key reference for Uganda’s access to the EU market. Europe intends to support waste management, as well as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for households and industry. According to Ambassador Attilio Pacifici, the EU grant will enable Uganda to register direct investments worth EUR646-million that European companies plan to invest over the next five years.

Source: Energy Mix Report


Zimbabwe launches renewable energy, biofuels policies

Government has launched the National Renewable Energy Policy (NREP) and the Biofuels Policy of Zimbabwe (BPZ), documents that will guide the investment and production of clean energy alternatives in the country. The policies emanate from the National Energy policy of 2012 and seeks to achieve a 33% reduction in greenhouse carbon emissions by 2030. Launching the policies, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the blueprints will give guidance towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 that ensures affordable and sustainable energy. The renewable energy policy will widen the scope of energy sources, diverging from the traditional fossil fuels currently in use. However, to lure investment under the NREP, licensing timelines for prospective investors will be reduced from the current six months. However there is no specification of how brief the timelines will be. Grid connection approvals for producers of renewable energy will be expedited. Furthermore, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for production of 5 MW and below will be relaxed while for the other categories, the (EIA) timelines will be shortened. All renewable energy projects will be given National Project Status while incentives in the forms of tax holidays of 5% for the initial five years and 15% thereafter will be awarded.

Source: Africa Energy Portal