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Africa Business in Brief


issue 382 | 13 Dec 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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

Africa: Africa is better equipped to deal with a potential second wave of COVID-19, leveraging on measures adopted in tackling the pandemic’s initial adverse health effects, experts affirmed during a special session on the second day of the 2020 Africa Economic Conference. As the world gears up for new COVID-19 vaccines, the World Bank has unveiled a USD12-billion financing package to help developing countries procure the vaccines. Dr Feng Zhao, practice manager of Strategy, Operations and Global Engagement at the World Bank, said Ethiopia is leading Africa’s vaccine initiative. While noting that Africa lags behind other regions in developing COVID-19 vaccines, which some developed countries have begun administering to their citizens, the experts lauded African governments for speedily adopting diagnostic measures against the outbreak. Within a year, at least six countries – Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal and Morocco – have developed diagnostics for the disease. Clare Omatseye, president of the West African Health Federation, emphasised the need for a strategic partnership between the public and private sectors to deal with the pandemic effectively. One such area of collaboration is in bringing about behavioral change, especially about misconceptions around the disease. Public-private partnerships could also help increase testing, data collection and capacity building, she said, urging governments to create an enabling environment to allow the private sector to manufacture protective equipment.

Source: African Development Bank

Africa: The 2020 African Economic Conference ended on an upbeat note on Thursday, 10 December as the continent’s policymakers, leading researchers, economists and other experts called for a united approach to beating the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting called on the private sector to take up the opportunity to fill the gap in declining foreign direct investments to meet the critical needs of the continent. “Though it has been challenging, COVID-19 has given Africa the opportunity to rethink development paradigms, reimagine the future, reposition the private sector, and reassess the way we utilise technology,” said Raymond Gilpin, chief economist and head of the Strategy, Analysis and Research Team, at the United Nations Development Programme. “For too long we have seen how the private and public sectors have worked in opposite directions. There is a huge opportunity to work more closely.” Participants rallied around a theme considered the most important and timely in the current crisis, ‘Africa beyond COVID-19: Acceleration towards inclusive and sustainable development’. Researchers presented papers on a wide array of topics related to the theme, including governance, the African Continental Free Trade Area, foreign direct investment and health.

Source: African Development Bank

Africa: Heads of four regional development banks (RDBs) reaffirmed their commitment to working together to build back better in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting was hosted by African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina, the outgoing chair of the group. He was joined by Odile Renaud-Basso, new president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); Masatsugu Asakwa, president of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and Mauricio Claver Carone the new president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). During the one-hour conversation, the RDB heads discussed key areas for mutual cooperation and to boost their regions’ economies post COVID-19. These included debt, climate resilience financing, the importance of resilient infrastructure, health infrastructure, and access to and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. To mitigate the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 and to assist member countries, Adesina said that RDBs had so far collectively disbursed about USD230-billion, but insisted they needed to work even more closely together, as the world experienced a second wave of the virus, and given the looming debt crisis. Adesina described the conversation as an opportunity to share lessons on the current pandemic, climate, what is being done, the work environment and attracting investments by the private sector.

Source: African Development Bank

East / Southern Africa: The economy of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region is projected to grow by 0.6% in 2020 down from 5.2% attained in 2019, according to a report. The low projected growth in 2020 reflects largely the impact of COVID-19 containment measures that include quarantine, lockdowns, travel restrictions and border closures, which have badly affected trade between the members of the bloc. The projections considered the development in economic growth, monetary policy and exchange rate, external current account including grants, overall fiscal balance, government debt, inflation rate, reserve accumulation, medium term prospects and recommendations and risks to outlook. According to the report, external current account including grants improved slightly in the region, averaging about -4.8% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 as compared to -5.2% in 2018. The report notes that the region’s average fiscal deficit including grants as a percentage of GDP widened slightly from -4.3% in 2018 to -4.9% in 2019 as the region continued to increase infrastructure investment. The bloc’s average inflation rate was 13.3% in 2019 as compared to 9.2% in 2018. The COMESA region is projected to rise to 15.2% in 2020 due to food supply chain disruptions.

Source: Business Daily

Angola: Angola expects to receive five million COVID-19 vaccines in February 2021 and the remaining seven million in April in partnership with COVAX, the country's Health minister Silvia Lutucuta said Thursday, 10 December. Lutucuta added that the vaccination priority will be given to people at risk, such as health professionals, the elderly, patients with diabetes, obesity, cancer, and kidney disease, and people living with HIV/AIDS. Besides Pfizer's vaccines, the minister said, the country may also acquire other vaccines that were certified and authorised by competent health agencies. The World Health Organization representative in Angola, Djamila Khady Cabral, said earlier that COVAX intends to facilitate access to two billion vaccines against COVID-19, to cover 20% of the African population by 2021.

Source: Xinhua

Botswana: Air Botswana has announced plans to resume flights to Zambia disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an official said. Chief executive officer, Geteneh Woldemichael said the inaugural flight will take off on 17 December 2020, according to a release from the Zambian embassy in Botswana. In a letter to the Zambian embassy, the official said the airline will operate a triangular route that will link Botswana's capital to Lusaka non-stop on Thursdays and Saturdays with a return to Gaborone via Harare in Zimbabwe.

Source: Xinhua

Comoros: The World Bank Board of Directors approved a USD10-million development policy financing (DPF) grant to protect the poor and vulnerable by supporting the government’s immediate COVID-19 response program and to support reforms that will help economic recovery and enhance resilience in the future. The DPF will also help the government meet emerging fiscal and external financing gaps resulting from the pandemic, as the country experiences lower remittance inflows, a reduction in export earnings (especially tourism-related), and lower fiscal revenues at the same time that public expenditures are growing. This operation supports the government’s emergency response to the pandemic as well as structural reform measures to foster a resilient recovery. The operation is structured around two strategic pillars: protecting poor and vulnerable households and enhancing the resilience of firms, and strengthening policies and institutions for rebuilding better.

Source: World Bank

Kenya: Kenya launched a KES10-billion (about USD90-million) credit guarantee scheme to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Ukur Yatani, cabinet secretary of the National Treasury and Planning, told journalists in Nairobi that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted MSME businesses and lending institutions. He added that the government has considered and approved a total of USD90-million to be released over the current and next financial year for onward lending to small firms. He noted that commercial banks participating in the credit guarantee scheme will be compensated in the event that small firms are unable to repay the loans. The National Treasury said that Kenya is keen to enhance access to affordable credit by MSMEs because of the critical role they play in the country's economic development and employment creation.

Source: Xinhua

Kenya: Kenya will defer interest payments on government securities to free cash to address socio-economic challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Treasury said. This is one of the main financial strategies the east African nation is using as it seeks to raise funds for use in rebuilding the economy post the pandemic, the National Treasury said in a strategy document. "This will involve deferment of interest payment on securities held by insurance companies and pension funds for one year. The deferred interest will be amortized and paid with interest due to be paid in subsequent years," the document says. Treasury cabinet secretary, Ukur Yattani said the government will implement various measures, including reverting to pre-pandemic pay, to mitigate adverse socio-economic effects of the pandemic and reposition the economy on a steady and sustainable growth trajectory.

Source: Xinhua

Mozambique: The Government of the Republic of Mozambique, represented by the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), and German Financial Cooperation, through the Development Bank – KfW, signed contracts for the following projects in Maputo: COVID-19 emergency grant mechanism for MSMEs; credit line for MSMEs and agricultural finance; and Fund to Support the Education Sector (FASE). The COVID-19 emergency grant mechanism has a volume of EUR6-million and will be channelled as a non-refundable grant contribution in local currency to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) affected by COVID-19 in order to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on MSMEs in Mozambique. The funds will be channelled via the Bank of Mozambique and participating partner financial institutions. The funds were designed to help MSMEs to meet cash flow needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, including, but not limited to, wage payments and other fixed costs.

Source: Club of Mozambique

Namibia: Ministry of Health and Social Services’ Kalumbi Shangula has established a technical team to implement the requirements for the storage, transport and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. “Once these (requirements) become known, the ministry will put them in place. Namibia has been following closely the development of vaccines in the world. The health ministry established a technical team for this purpose,” he said. Namibia, like many African countries without the best COVID-19 vaccine storage infrastructure, will need to dig deeper into its pockets to cater for the remedy, which needs to be stored under extra cold conditions of between minus 20 to minus 80 degrees Celsius. This will be on top of the approximately NAD29-million that Treasury paid as deposit to show commitment for accessing the COVAX facility meant to allow poor-to-middle-income countries access to the COVID-19 vaccine when mass distribution commences. With the vaccine, the country targets 20% of the population, mainly healthcare workers and vulnerable Namibians.

Source: The Namibian

Nigeria: In the next three years, an average Nigerian could see a reversal of decades of economic growth and the country could enter its deepest recession since the 1980s. The latest World Bank Nigeria Development Update (NDU) argues that this path could be avoided if progress in the current reforms is sustained and the right mix of policy measures is implemented. The report “Rising to the Challenge: Nigeria’s COVID response” takes stock on the recently implemented reforms and proposes policy options to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and foster a resilient, sustainable, and inclusive recovery. The latest World Bank NDU projects that the economy could shrink up to 4% in 2020 following the twin shocks of COVID-19 and low oil prices. The pace of recovery in 2021 and beyond remains highly uncertain and subject to the pace of reforms.

Source: World Bank

Rwanda: The Rwandan government plans to offer free COVID-19 vaccination to citizens after the country receives the vaccine next year, Health minister Daniel Ngamije said. "We will start with health personnel because they are part of people at high risk of being infected, people with comorbidity as well as the elderly aged 65 years and above. These are the groups that are priority for getting the vaccine at zero cost," Ngamije said in an interview with public broadcaster Rwanda Television. The health ministry is working to ensure it is ready to receive the vaccine when it is rolled out and the first batch of the vaccine could be received around March 2021, said Ngamije.

Source: Xinhua

Rwanda: World Bank’s private sector lending arm has advanced USD10-million loan to I&M Bank (Rwanda) Plc to support enterprises facing COVID-19-related liquidity challenges. The loan is Rwanda’s first one through the International Finance Corporation’s global USD8-billion COVID-19 facility launched in March 2020 to help businesses maintain operations during and after the pandemic. The International Finance Corporation said the loan was availed to help I&M Bank (Rwanda) increase lending to thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), many of which are facing COVID-19 cash-flow challenges.

Source: Rwanda Today

Uganda: Uganda's ministry of health said it has ordered 9 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine amid surging new infections in the country. In a statement, the ministry said that the vaccines will cover 20% of the country's total population of 45 million people. "Plans are underway to secure additional doses of the vaccine to cover more people," said the statement. Uganda said it had applied through the GAVI Alliance (Global Alliances for Vaccines and Immunization) to secure the COVID-19 vaccine from drug maker AstraZeneca.

Source: Xinhua


IRENA and AfDB partner to scale up renewable energy investments in Africa

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) have agreed to jointly support investment in low carbon energy projects, a move expected to advance Africa’s energy transition. The two entities signed a Declaration of Intent to coordinate on a range of activities, including co-organising renewable energy investment forums as part of IRENA’s contribution to the Climate Investment Platform, and collaboration on the Bank’s annual flagship Africa Investment Forum event. The partnership will also focus on enhancing the role of renewable energy in African countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Accord and other sustainable development objectives. The pact is also expected to pave the way for collaboration on the AfDB’s Desert to Power Initiative, which aims to mobilise public and private funding to install 10 GW of solar power by 2025 in 11 countries in Africa’s Sahel region.

Source: AfDB


Visa openness solutions can boost Africa’s economic recovery, the 2020 Africa Visa Openness Index reveals

The upward trend in African countries liberalising their visa regimes and welcoming African travellers continues, according to the 2020 Africa Visa Openness Index published by the African Union Commission and African Development Bank (AfDB). This fifth edition of the Index shows that a record 54% of the continent is accessible for African visitors, who no longer need visas to travel or can get one on arrival, up by 9% since 2016. In 2020, The Gambia joins Seychelles and Benin in allowing visa-free access for all African travellers. In addition, 20 countries moved upwards in rank on the Index, while 50 countries improved or maintained their scores. The report shows a significant rise in e-visas, offered by 24 countries in Africa. Notwithstanding the gains made, findings show that African citizens still need visas to travel to 46% of African countries. Countries in East and West Africa rank highest among the top performers. The Index’s findings reinforce the benefits of prioritising visa openness solutions in large and small economies, with the biggest gains accruing to business, investment, innovation and tourism. Further, facilitating the free movement of people, goods and services, becomes even more important with the start of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on 1 January 2021.

Source: AfDB


Chief regional administrators pledge to support exporters

Chief regional administrators of Oromia, Amhara and Sidama states have expressed their commitment to provide all the necessary support to investors engaged in export business. The officials made the pledges at a half-day workshop held to deliberate on ways of encouraging investors to boost export. Oromia regional state chief administrator, Shimelis Abdissa said revising the policy and strategy on manufacturing is crucial to bring a fundamental change in the sector. The region has been working attentively to diversify export products and boost quality and quantity. Trade and Industry minister, Melaku Alebel noted that Ethiopia has earned USD1.1-billion from export in the last four months. Even if the performance is encouraging, the revenue is low when compared to the country’s huge agricultural, industrial and mining potentials, the minister noted. The low performance of export is mainly associated with low quality and quantity of export products in addition to structural, policy and implementation problems.

Source: ENA


Moody’s switches Gabon’s rating outlook to Stable from Positive

Moody's Investors Service has revised the outlook from Positive to Stable on Gabon’s Caa1 long-term issuer rating. The primary triggers for the switch in the outlook were more-limited institutional improvements than previously envisaged combined with intensifying liquidity pressures amid the COVID-19 crisis and weaker oil prices. In its press release on the outlook change on 4 December, Moody’s points to Gabon’s failing governance, particularly with regards to payments management, amid the current shock emanating from the COVID-19 pandemic and low global oil prices. Moody’s argues that the measures implemented by the Gabonese authorities in 2018 to manage debt service are unlikely to prevent the accrual of new arrears on outstanding domestic and external debt through the short term. Moody's forecasts Gabon’s government debt will reach 70% of gross domestic product (GDP) by the end of 2020, before retreating to its 2019 level by 2024. Moody’s further assesses that debt affordability remains reasonable, with interest payments accounting for 17% of government revenue in 2020, up from 12% in 2019.

Source: IHS Markit


Court halts Kenya duty on glass imports

The East Africa Court of Justice (EACJ) has halted the implementation of a 25% excise duty on imported glass bottles into Kenya from other East Africa Community (EAC) partner states after a Tanzanian firm challenged the decision. In March 2020, Kenya amended its Excise Duty Act, 2015 by imposing a 25% duty on imported glass bottles, save for glass bottles that are used to package pharmaceutical products. Kioo Ltd – a Tanzanian firm engaged in the manufacture of glass containers for beverages and the food industry in East Africa – challenged the decision in the EACJ, arguing that the amendment would discriminate against glass products manufactured in the other EAC partner states against similar products manufactured in Kenya. The regional court granted an interim order to prohibit the government of Kenya from implementing the amendment.

Source: The Citizen


Kenya eVisa system to be extended from 2021

The Kenya eVisa is being extended to travellers from all countries as part of a shift towards digitalisation. Previously, the Kenya eVisa had been available to people from select nations only. From 1 January 2021, however, all nationalities that require a visa will benefit from the electronic system. This is good news for travellers. The online application offers a faster and more efficient way to get the essential permit, with no need to attend an embassy or consulate at any point during the application process. The Kenya eVisa will be a mandatory entry requirement for non-exempt passport holders and will replace other visitor visas for Kenya. Increased use of the electronic visa will also boost security. New biometric technology is being introduced at airports in preparation for a full transition to the Kenya eVisa.

Source: Business Daily

Kenya / Ethiopia

Kenya, Ethiopia border point to boost trade ties

Kenya and Ethiopia have signalled an intent to deepen integration with a new border crossing after years of struggling to conduct robust bilateral trade under a regime of poor infrastructure. Officials see the Moyale One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) as an important signal to start implementing several key trading agreements reached between the two countries but which had largely been untouched. President Uhuru Kenyatta and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed were in Moyale, a town that straddles the border between the two countries where they opened the OSBP built with funding from the African Development Bank and the United Kingdom government. Also launched was the 500km Hawassa-Hagere-Mariam–Moyale road. The new border crossing consolidates clearances for travellers and transporters under one roof so that they do not have to undergo two processes for approval. President Kenyatta asked the business community in the two countries to take advantage of the infrastructure being developed to enhance trade and investment.

Source: Business Daily


RBM moves to boost digital payments

The Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) says it plans to implement a regulation mandating business operators to adopt at least one digital financial services channel. Speaking during the 2020 Financial Technology (Fintech) Conference and Exhibition in Mangochi, RBM national payment systems director Fraser Mdwazika said in a speech made available to Business News that the regulation, which was already gazetted, seeks to provide convenience to customers to pay for goods and services digitally. Over the years, RBM has formulated various legal instruments to ensure a sound legal and regulatory framework to support the modern payments infrastructure. Mdwazika said while the country has registered progress in the digitalisation process enabled by the modern payments infrastructure, cash dominates the day-to-day payment needs of many individuals in the country.

Source: The Nation


Fitch Affirms Mozambique at 'CCC'

The 'CCC' rating reflects limited financing options combined with high fiscal and external financing needs that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 shock, high general government (GG) debt and ongoing unresolved public-sector debt liabilities. Fitch expects real gross domestic product (GDP) to contract by 1% in 2020, after muted GDP growth in 2019 of 2.2% due to the damage caused by two cyclones. The projected contraction reflects Fitch’s expectation that moderate growth in the agricultural sector will have only partially offset weak performance in the extractive sector, affected by lower prices and demand for Mozambique's mining exports. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the tourism sector, and containment measures are having an adverse impact on domestic demand, as in other countries in the region. Fitch expect a gradual economic recovery in 2021, with growth picking up to 2.8% and 3.3% in 2022.

Source: Fitch Ratings


Moody’s downgrades Namibia’s credit risk rating to Ba3

Moody’s instigated the downgrade of the Namibian government’s long-term issuer and senior unsecured rating to Ba3 (Ongoing Uncertainty) on a rising public-sector debt burden and weakening debt affordability amid a sluggish gross domestic product (GDP) growth profile. The credit rating agency left the rating outlook unchanged at Negative. Moody’s expects Namibia’s fiscal deficit to widen sharply to 9.6% of GDP in fiscal year (FY) 2020/21, remaining elevated at 8.3% of GDP in FY 2021/22. This will push up the public-sector debt burden to an estimated 72% of GDP by end-2020 and 74% of GDP by end-2021, nearly triple the level at end-2014. Namibia’s debt affordability will also weaken, with interest costs expected to take up 15.5% of government revenue in FY 2020/21, from 5% five years ago. Moody’s expects Namibia’s GDP to contract by 6.9% in 2020 and grow by 2.4% in 2021. Output in the mining and tourism industries are expected to remain suppressed, while agricultural production could rebound after a prolonged and devastating drought. The weak growth profile will continue to pressure government revenue, exacerbated by the forthcoming decline in Southern African Customs Union (SACU) receipts in the next two years.

Source: IHS Markit


NCC suspends SIM card registration by network operators

Acting on the directive of the Federal Government, which called for an audit of the Subscriber Registration Database in the country, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) directed all mobile network operators (MNOs) to immediately suspend registration and activation of new Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards. The Commission said the objective of the audit exercise is to verify and ensure compliance by MNOs with the set quality standards and requirements of SIM card registration as issued by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy as well as the NCC. Accordingly, “MNOs are hereby directed to immediately suspend the sale, registration and activation of new SIM cards until the audit exercise is concluded, and government has conveyed the new direction.” The regulator, however, said that where it is absolutely necessary, an exemption may be granted in writing by the Commission following approval from the Federal Government. It noted that violation of the directive would be met with strict sanctions, including the possibility of withdrawal of operating licences.

Source: The Guardian


Ships risk detention over cybersecurity

Ships that fail to comply with the cybersecurity code of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) may face detention from 1 January 2021. This comes as the IMO identified the management of cybersecurity as a key aspect of safety as technology becomes essential in ship operations. The group has identified cybersecurity as a major risk to be addressed in safety management systems. The handling of the risks is to be verified in audits from 1 January 2021. Director of Maritime Safety at the IMO, Heike Deggim, told the Safety@Sea webinar that “there is a strong need to balance the benefits of new technologies with safety and security concerns, in particular, cybersecurity.” Also, the United Nations report on a review of maritime transport 2020 stated that many issues may be identified on-board ships that make them more vulnerable to cyber attacks, including unsecured networks and software, lack of seafarer training and insufficient protection of data. It however stated that shipping companies would need to consider these issues and include cyber risk into their safety management systems, so they know how to deal with and approach a cyber incident.

Source: The Guardian

South Sudan

South Sudan taps into gum arabic exports to diversify economy

South Sudan has announced the country's first export of gum arabic into the European market. A local South Sudanese company is set to export 22 tonnes of gum arabic to Germany, officials said in Juba. Justine Tobrin Okomi, the chief executive officer of B-Yor General Trading Company, a firm tasked with promoting South Sudan's gum arabic, said he is looking forward to securing more gum arabic customers in the international market. South Sudan has large quantities of the gum arabic trees in the central, western and northern parts of the country. However, the country currently relies on its northern neighbour, Sudan for gum arabic exports. James Wani Igga, vice president who heads the economic cluster, said the country's entry into the European gum arabic market offers enormous opportunities for the country to expand its production. Igga said the government of South Sudan is seeking to promote gum arabic exports in a bid to diversify the country's struggling economy, which has been battered by years of civil war and hyperinflation.

Source: Xinhua


IMF completes high-level staff visit to Zambia

Following Zambia’s request for a financing arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Mr Abebe Aemro Selassie, director of the IMF’s African Department, and Mr Alex Segura-Ubiergo, mission chief for Zambia, visited Lusaka from 7 to 9 December 2020 for high-level discussions with the Zambian authorities on their Economic Recovery Plan and their request for a Fund-supported program. At the conclusion of the visit, Selassie in a statement said “given the deep-rooted challenges faced, policies would need to be calibrated to restore sustainability while protecting the vulnerable and creating more inclusive growth. The authorities reiterated their intention of restoring the credibility of the budget, increasing debt transparency, strengthening public financial management, as well as improving governance and preserving financial stability. We look forward to the presentation of the government’s home-grown economic strategy, and will be assessing in the coming weeks how the IMF could support the authorities’ reform efforts through a possible Fund program.”

Source: IMF


Zimbabwe plans to establish base metal refinery for platinum: Minister

Zimbabwe plans to establish a base metal refinery in 2025 and a precious metals refinery by 2027 to process platinum from all the country's platinum mines, Mines Minister Winston Chitando said. Appearing before a Parliamentary Committee on Mines and Mining Development, Chitando said consultations between his ministry and the Chamber of Mines and Platinum Producers Association are taking place with regard to setting up of the refineries. "The platinum players have made a commitment that by 2025 there will be a base metal refinery and by 2027 there will be a precious metal refinery and that position has not changed," Chitando said. He said the platinum producers had engaged an international consultant to give advice on the implementation of the refineries.

Source: Xinhua