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Africa Business in Brief

 

issue 353 | 24 May 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

 

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

Africa: The Africa Private Creditor Working Group (AfricaPCWG or the Group) is an initiative to represent the views of international private creditors invested in Africa and to work with countries on their financing needs during the COVID-19 crisis. The AfricaPCWG will provide African Governments, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the G20, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) a forum through which all stakeholders can engage transparently and constructively with different categories of private international investors in African sovereign and corporate debt to coordinate the resolution of broad issues arising due to the COVID-19 crisis. The AfricaPCWG is coordinating the views of over 25 of the world’s foremost asset managers and financial institutions providing private finance to nations and companies through Eurobonds, syndicated loans, trade finance and other credit structures across the continent of Africa. These investors represent total assets under management in excess of USD9-trillion.

Source: Business Wire

Africa: It is too early to know the full impact of COVID-19 on Africa. To date the experience has been varied. There are causes for concern, but also reasons for hope. Early estimates were pessimistic regarding the pandemic’s impact on the continent. But the relatively low numbers of COVID-19 cases reported thus far have raised hopes that African countries may be spared the worst of the pandemic. While the virus is present in all African countries, most countries have recorded fewer than 1,000 cases. The African Union acted swiftly, endorsing a joint continental strategy in February, and complementing efforts by member states and Regional Economic Communities by providing a public health platform. The policy brief, Impact of COVID-19 in Africa, takes a snapshot of immediate impacts of the pandemic on health, economies, peace, security, human rights and humanitarian assistance in Africa. It outlines response measures currently being taken by African and external stakeholders and provides recommendations to protect gains in the fight against the pandemic and maximise opportunities in the recovery for a more inclusive and sustainable future as countries emerge from this crisis.

Source: United Nations

Africa: Ministers responsible for commerce, trade and industry in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region have agreed on a set of guidelines, which are expected to play a key role in facilitating coordination and uniform application of measures across the borders while ensuring public safety and safe trade. The decision was made during the 8th Extraordinary Virtual Council of Ministers meeting held on Thursday, 14 May 2020. The Ministers also agreed that the guidelines will be applicable during the COVID-19 pandemic period and will be reviewed as and when necessary. Under the guidelines, member states will electronically publish any newly introduced trade and customs-related measures in response to the pandemic and share it periodically with the COMESA Secretariat. Indicative list of essential goods based on the latest Editions of the World Customs Organization (WCO) Harmonized System (HS) classifications will also be published to facilitate clearance of customs and border requirements.

Source: Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa

Africa: The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Monday, 18 May, convened a meeting between African finance ministers, the Africa Private Sector Working Group (AfricaPCWG or the Group) and the African Union (AU) Special Envoy on COVID-19 as the search continues for solutions to ensure African economies enjoy continued market access and meet their private sector debt service obligations. The meeting aimed at finding new financing solutions to provide additional resources for countries to mitigate the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and ways to improve the profile and terms of Africa’s commercial debt obligations so that Africa can better confront the health crisis. The discussion engaged the recently formed AfricaPCWG.

Source: United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

Southern Africa: The Southern African Development Community (SADC) report, SADC Regional Response to COVID-19 Pandemic: Report on the COVID-19 Pandemic in the SADC Region, presents the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and implications for SADC Region as monitored by the SADC Macroeconomic Subcommittee, supported by the SADC Secretariat. It provides policy recommendations to member states. The report provides an overview of the global, continental and regional overview of the pandemic. Several SADC member states have embarked on processes towards lifting of public health and other measures in view of depressed economies, which is the crux of this report, where it provides an analysis of the costs and benefi¬ts of lifting measures and further highlights the importance of undertaking a risk assessment of each country, including at sub-national level, prior to the lifting of lockdown and other measures.

Source: Southern African Development Community

Kenya: Architects want Covid-19 quarantine and treatment facilities built away from crowded places to prevent the spread of the disease. Under proposed guidelines on planning and design of COVID-19 facilities, the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) says the centres should be erected on the outskirt of towns and equipped to offer accommodation and essential services.

Source: Business Daily 

Kenya: Banks, Saccos and micro-finance lenders now face a fine of KES2-million for every defaulter they deny loans to for being listed negatively with the country's credit reference bureaus (CRBs). This new regulation represents a fresh attempt to unlock credit to firms and workers hard hit by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Treasury has introduced the fine in regulations aimed at cleaning up the CRBs blacklist and enhancing borrowers' chances of being able to borrow more.

Source: Nairobi News

Kenya: The shift to e-commerce has gained momentum as businesses seek to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jumia, has entered partnership with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) to help local businesses establish e-shops. Kenya-based retail software developer CompuLnyx and digital payments company, DPO Group have also launched e-commerce platforms for local businesses. Last month, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) also launched an online directory giving its members a platform to market locally manufactured goods.

Source: Business Daily

Kenya: The World Bank has approved a KES107-billion (USD1-billion) loan for Kenya to help it close its Budget deficit and tackle the economic shocks arising from the global COVID-19 pandemic. The loan, which was initiated before the COVID-19 crisis started, is the second ever such direct lending for the Kenyan Budget from the World Bank in decades, after another debt of KES75-billion was processed last year. It also represents the largest amount disbursed by the World Bank, which announced Wednesday, 20 May, that the loan would be repaid until 2060. The bank also allowed the Treasury to start paying the principal in 2025 - after a grace period of five years - easing the quarterly repayment costs.

Source: Business Daily

Malawi: National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME) has entered into a partnership with a local e-commerce firm, Alinafe Online (AOL), in a quest to enhance sales among its members. Confirming the development NASME national chairperson, William Mwale, said the partnership was aimed at enhancing trading within Malawi following a decline in business amid COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Source: BusinessMalawi™

Mozambique: The National Institute of Social Security (INSS) will establish a MZN600-million fund to alleviate the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The pandemic has closed more than 1,175 companies, liquidating more than 12,160 jobs – the INSS’s main asset – mainly from the hotel and restaurant sector.

Source: Club of Mozambique

Mozambique: The Portuguese government announced that it will support Mozambican micro, small and medium-sized companies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mozambique is just one of the Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa that will benefit from Portuguese government financial support lines aimed at mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement sent to ‘O País’, the Portuguese embassy in Maputo announced that Portugal will provide financing lines in the amount of EUR1.8-million to African Portuguese Speaking Countries (PALOP).

Source: Club of Mozambique

Nigeria: Given the devastating blow COVID-19 has dealt businesses in the past five weeks, business owners in the country have demanded one-year tax break among others from the government to enable them to recover. This was contained in the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry COVID-19 Impact Report Survey. Apart from one-year tax relief, the businesses also asked for the suspension of the implementation of the new value-added tax regime rate until the end of the year. They demanded these incentives for healthcare and pharmaceutical companies, airlines, manufacturers, agro-processors, small and medium enterprises and the hospitality sector.

Source: Economic Confidential

Nigeria: The Development Bank of Nigeria Plc has advised micro, small and medium enterprises in the country to reinvent their current business models to enable them to leverage growth opportunities for their businesses in the post COVID-19 era.

Source: MMS plus

Nigeria: The number of active oil rigs in the country fell by 23.8% to 16 in April amid the COVID-19-induced collapse in prices and demand for crude. Data obtained from Baker Hughes Incorporated and the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries showed that Nigeria’s rig count stood at 21 in March.

Source: Voice of Nigeria

Rwanda: The cabinet on Monday, May 18, further eased the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown but largely maintained existing measures to control the spread of the virus. Under the new measures which will run for 15 days until June 1, the government eased some restrictions. 

Source: The New Times

Tanzania: On 18 May, Tanzania reopened its airspace to both scheduled and non-scheduled international flights following its closure last month in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. The decision came a day after President John Magufuli directed Works, Transport and Communication minister Isack Kamwelwe and his Tourism counterpart Hamisi Kigwangalla to allow aircraft to come into the country from outside.

Source: The Citizen

Uganda: All Ugandans aged six years and above will be given free face masks in a bid to protect themselves against COVID-19, President Yoweri Museveni has said. “These masks, like mosquito nets, will be distributed through the LC system. One mask per person of age six and above will be given. It must be worn all the time when you are in public,” he said.

Source: The EastAfrica

Uganda: Private cars will be allowed to move starting 26 May while restrictions on public transport will be relaxed on 4 June as government moves to ease the COVID-19-induced lockdown, President Museveni has said. The President was, however, quick to note that this will only apply in 95 districts out of 135 that make up the country. He said transport restrictions will remain in place for all the 40 districts that border Uganda and other countries.

Source: Daily Monitor

Zambia: The Bank of Zambia (BoZ) cut its policy rate by 225 basis points to 9.25% during the May meeting of the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC). Although Zambia’s projected inflation path over the medium term is higher than the central bank’s target range of 6–8%, the monetary easing is in line with measures taken by the government to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy. The BoZ warns that Zambia could slip into a recession during 2020. Zambia’s GDP is expected to contract by 2.6% during 2020, from a growth rate of 1.9% in 2019. Lower output in the construction, wholesale and retail trade, tourism, manufacturing, electricity, and mining sectors is expected due to COVID-19 pandemic-related business operation disruptions.

Source: IHS Markit

Africa

Africa’s Top 250 Companies in 2020

This year’s Top 250 Companies survey highlights the overall carnage in African share valuations in the last few years and even more so in March 2020. The survey ranks African or Africa-focused companies listed on public securities exchanges according to their market valuation, also known as “market capitalisation”. Total value for all 250 firms on the list this year is USD597.7-billion, down 20% from last year’s total of USD748.2-billion. But last year had seen a 16% fall compared to total market capitalisation of USD887.1-billion in March 2018 and this year’s total value is 37% below peak value of USD948.3-billion in 2015. The market value of the 250th company – in other words the cut-off market capitalisation to join the Top 250 list – was USD195-million in 2020, compared to USD394-million in 2018. It is too early to say what the damage the COVID-19 pandemic will cause to companies’ future profits, a key basis on which investors value securities and set the market capitalisation. Hardest-hit economic sectors include retail and wholesale. The technology ranking sees more of irresistible rise of the telecommunications firms. Both usage of digital services and mobile money are major beneficiaries from the crisis in Africa and worldwide.

Source: African Business Magazine

Africa

Ecobank and Google roll out digital solutions for African SMEs

Ecobank Group, the pan-African Bank, in collaboration with Google is helping to equip African SMEs with the necessary digital skills to navigate the rapidly evolving business world. The aim is to assist African businesses remain relevant and fulfil their potential by embracing digital capabilities. With this robust platform, Ecobank provides 24/7 access to customers, conveniently meeting the evolving cash management, payment and collection needs of businesses. It is essential that African SMEs take full advantage of the commercial opportunities having a digital presence provides. It will ensure comprehensive engagement between SMEs and their customers as well as potential new customers. The digital packages are expected to be available to Ecobank's SMEs customers across sub-Saharan Africa in May 2020.

Source: Africa Business Communities

Equatorial Guinea

First mining contracts signed in Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea’s Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons has signed the very first mining contracts in the Central African country’s history. A total of five mining contracts were signed with three different companies and follow the conclusion of the country’s first mining bidding round last year, EG Ronda 2019. The agreements include: one gold exploration contract in Block (I) with Manhattan Mining Investment Co; three prospecting contracts with Blue Magnolia in Block (B) for bauxite and precious metals, Block (K) for gold, and Block (H) for gold, uranium, iron, bauxite, basic metals and rare earth minerals; and one prospecting contract with Shefagold in Blocks (N) and (O) for platinum, palladium, silver, chrome, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, iron ore and related minerals. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons had published a new regulatory framework for mining operations in the country. The new regulation applies to all exploration and exploitation activities by both foreign and local companies that wish to operate in Equatorial Guinea.

Source: Mining Review Africa

Gambia

The Gambia wins World Bank aid to reform the energy sector

The World Bank has approved a USD30-million grant to help The Gambia to improve financial viability and service delivery in the energy and telecom sectors. The grant will be leveraged to improve debt and public investment management as well as enhance the transparency and governance framework of state-owned enterprises. The Gambia will ensure public investment projects are appraised as per National Development Plan priorities. The aim is to support the adoption of a new procurement bill to eliminate the use of single-source procurement as well as to tighten the emergency clause for its use. The energy sector will take advantage of the grant to provide cheaper, more reliable and cleaner energy to customers.

Source: ESI Africa

Ghana

Government launches policies for financial inclusion and digital payments

The Ministry of Finance has launched three policy initiatives designed to deepen financial inclusion and accelerate the shift to digital payments. As part of the launch, the Ministry presented the government’s vision of building a highly digitized payment system that accelerates economic development and drives inclusive growth. The National Financial Inclusion and Development Strategy, developed in collaboration with the World Bank, aims at increasing financial inclusion from the current 58% to 85% by 2023 and to help create economic opportunities and reducing poverty. The Digital Financial Services Policy, developed in partnership with the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), builds on existing technological gains to create a resilient, inclusive and innovative digital ecosystem that contributes to social development, a robust economy and a thriving private sector. The Cash-Lite Roadmap, designed in collaboration with the United Nations-based Better Than Cash Alliance, puts forward concrete steps to build an inclusive digital payments ecosystem, including; better access to financial services, enabling regulation and oversight, and promoting consumer protection. As part of these policy efforts, the government has set up a new Digital Payments Coordination Unit to drive effective stakeholder engagement on the implementation of key actions.

Source: Ghana Business News

Kenya

Cytonn to transact more with investors on mobile phones

Property developer Cytonn Investments has launched a digital system that will facilitate mobile phone transactions on its platform. The digital business, to be spearheaded by a newly launched subsidiary, Cytonn Fintech, takes away the need for human contact during transactional processes at all levels. Chief executive Edwin Dande said investors in the Cytonn money market fund (CMMF) products will be able to initiate buying of unit trusts, disposal as well as transfer of units to other members without seeking assistance from Cytonn staff at their various offices. “Cytonn Wallet is our solution to an existing need where our clients can send money directly to M-Pesa, to their bank accounts, pay bills, buy unit trusts and transfer unit trusts to other investors on the platform at the click of a button,” he said. Mr Dande said the new venture was necessitated by global trends where businesses have been forced to go digital to remain relevant in the fast evolving business environment. Cytonn FinTech, will offer the digital rollout of Cytonn Investments’ products from mutual funds, housing, diaspora products, pensions, crowdfunding, digital loans, insurance, healthcare and education financial solutions to the wider market.

Source: Business Daily

Kenya

KPA extends free storage period for imports, exports

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has extended the free storage period for importers and exporters in view of the slow truck turn-around occasioned by the impact of COVID-19. “Kenya Ports Authority wishes to announce to the general public of extension of free storage period to its customers. This is in line with our continuous and deliberate efforts of cushioning our customers on effects of the Coronavirus,” acting managing director Rashid Salim said in a statement. The approved new free storage period, effective from 18 May, runs for three months, KPA notes. Free storage for domestic export containers has been increased from nine to 15 days. Transit import containers will now enjoy 14 days of free storage at the port and the Inland Container Depot-Nairobi (ICDN), from the previous nine. Transit import containers at the Naivasha ICD will have 30 days free period. All transit export containers are now being stored for 20 days free of any charges from the previous 15 days. Storage for domestic import containers, however, remain unchanged where cargoes are stored free for four days, before starting to attract charges. This will go a long way in cushioning importers and exporters using the Port of Mombasa and ICDs in the country as cargo movement remains affected, mainly with slow clearance at the Malaba, Busia, and Namanga borders.

Source: The Star

Mozambique

Total’s Mozambique LNG to sign USD15-billion financing in June

A Total SA-led liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Mozambique will receive commitments for about USD15-billion of financing at a signing scheduled in June, marking rare progress for such a project as companies scrutinise costs. The first and most significant phase of the financing commitment for the LNG project – which will be Africa’s biggest private investment yet – involved lenders including about 20 banks, according to people familiar with the matter. That will move ahead at a time when plans for other facilities in the region and globally have been delayed. Acquiring funding for construction of the USD23-billion project, which will chill natural gas into a liquid for export, comes as oil and gas companies globally are focused on cutting expenditure as COVID-19 curbs energy demand and pressures prices. The so-called Area 1 LNG project will generate about USD38-billion in revenue for Mozambique’s government over its lifetime, according to a Finance Ministry forecast. That will be supplemented by sales from the even bigger project led by Exxon and planned in the neighboring Area 4 offshore block.

Source: BloombergQuint

Nigeria

Senate begins amendment of Nigeria’s Local Content Law to strengthen economy

Move to carry out the amendment of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act 2010, got a boost in the Senate as a Bill to that effect scaled second reading. This was a sequel to the consideration of a bill seeking to boost local content as well as strengthen the nation’s economy. The Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act (Amendment) Bill 2020, sponsored by Senator Teslim Folarin, All Progressives Congress (APC) Oyo Central scaled second reading. The bill was referred by the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, to the Senator Folarin led Committee on Local Content for further legislative work and report back at Plenary in four weeks. In his lead debate on the general principles of the bill, Senator Folarin who noted that the bill seeks to amend 38 sections of the extant Act while introducing six new sections, said that the essence of the bill is to bring the provisions of the sections to be amended into congruence with industry best practices.

Source: Vanguard

Nigeria

PPPRA clears oil marketers to import petrol

Private oil marketers have now joined the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in the importation of petrol. It was gathered from the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) on Tuesday in Abuja that permits had been given to several marketers to start importing petrol alongside the NNPC. Before the downstream oil sector was liberalised in March this year, the NNPC used to be the sole importer of petrol, a task it handled for more than two years. The general manager, Corporate Services, PPPRA, Kimchi Apollo, said the sole petrol importer status of the NNPC had changed, as his agency recently gave various oil dealers permission to import. He explained that the market had been liberalised, with both the NNPC and other marketers now shopping for refined petroleum products from international refiners. He said all qualified marketers who approached the agency and had the competence to import petrol were cleared for such operations. Apollo also noted that the agency had been working with the Central Bank of Nigeria to make foreign exchange available to marketers for petrol imports.

Source: Economic Confidential

Nigeria

NSIA launches call for tenders on a 10 MW solar power plant in Kumbotso

The Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) has issued a call for tenders for the construction of a solar photovoltaic power plant in Kumbotso in the northern Nigerian state of Kano. The plant will have a capacity of 10 MWp. The NSIA manages the Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Fund, into which surplus revenues from Nigeria’s oil reserves are deposited. The solar power plant will be established on a 24-hectare site, 16.5 km from the town of Kumbotso in the south of Kano State in northern Nigeria. The grid-connected facility will have a capacity of 10 MWp. Companies interested in its construction have until Wednesday 3 June 2020 to come forward. The plant will be owned by Haske Solar, a company jointly owned by the authorities of Kumbotso, Kano State and the Federal State of Nigeria.

Source: Afrik 21

Rwanda

Rwanda Space Agency to be operational in July

A cabinet meeting approved a draft law establishing the Rwanda Space Agency (RSA), signaling yet another step towards promoting advancement in earth observation technologies. Rwanda joins a few countries in Africa that have space agencies, including Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, South Africa, Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe. The new space agency is expected to be operational by July 2020, according to the Ministry of ICT and Innovation. Paula Ingabire, the minister of ICT and Innovation, highlighted that the “decision to establish RSA is informed by past investment we have made towards utilising outer space technologies.” Rwanda has laid ground for space technologies through the establishment of ESRI Rwanda, which provides mapping services and GIS solutions to government agencies, and the Centre of the Geographic Information System at the University of Rwanda. The RSA will support prediction and planning in agriculture, environmental monitoring, disaster preparedness, as well as urban planning through the utilisation of satellite data and imagery services. This comes a few months after the country launched its first satellite into space, thanks to the partnership between the Government and the Japanese Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA). The African space economy is now worth USD7-billion and is projected to grow at a 7.3% compound annual growth rate to exceed USD10-billion by 2024, according to last year’s African Space Industry report.

Source: The New Times

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe opens tender for solar power plants

Zimbabwe is inviting bidders to tender for the installation of 500 MW of solar power plants as the country aims to shift to renewable energy. The country’s power utility, Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution Company (ZETDC), advised in an official notice that it intends contracting the 500 MW of solar PV from varying capacities to be commissioned at identified strategic locations across the county. In March, Zimbabwe launched the National Renewable Energy Policy and the Biofuels Policy of Zimbabwe, hoping to attract investment. The policy grants all renewable energy projects National Project Status. They have tax holidays of 5% for the initial five years and 15% thereafter. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirements for projects of 5 MW and less have been relaxed. Licensing timelines for solar projects is currently six months, which has frustrated many investors. The new policy aims to reduce this, but gives no specific indications on the shortened licensing period.

Source: ESI Africa