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Africa Business in Brief


issue 430 | 12 Dec 2021

East Africa

Rising shipping charges a concern in East Africa

Business captains in the East African Community (EAC) region say they are concerned by escalating maritime transport costs. They said while intra-regional trade has kept on rising, businesses continue to encounter high transaction costs related to shipping and allied logistics. This emerged on Tuesday, 7 December during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the East African Business Council (EABC) and the Inter-Governmental Standing Committee on Shipping. The agreement is intended to ease and reduce high transaction costs related to maritime, shipping, transport and trade logistics in the EAC bloc. “The cooperation delves into joint advocacy for the conducive policies for the maritime and shipping industry to reduce high transaction costs and ensure seamless flow of trade,” said EABC executive director John Boso Kalisa. He stated that congestion, delays, complex freight clearance procedures, inadequate storage and berthing facilities, piracy and terrorism are among the challenges at the East African ports. The cooperation inked at the EABC head offices in Arusha also focuses on training, information sharing and supporting shippers (importers and exporters) and other players in the shipping logistics.

Source: The Citizen

East / Southern Africa

Promoting energy access and trading in Eastern and Southern Africa

The African Minigrid Association (AMDA) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote sustainable energy access and minigrid development across Eastern and Southern Africa. AMDA’s CEO Jessica Stephens said “The signing of the MoU is part of our efforts as AMDA to create the right policy and finance environment that will help African nations meet their growing energy and climate resilience needs.” Through the MoU, AMDA and COMESA agree to enhance the quality of data collection and dissemination about the minigrid sector in the region; support the availability of financial instruments that increase the sustainability to the sector; and support programmes that build synergies with the agriculture, health and education industries. This will be supported by AMDA’s overarching commitment to work with COMESA states across the regions, to develop and implement policies and regulations which support minigrids as a tool to help Africa achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7 of universal access to affordable and clean energy by 2030.

Source: ESI Africa

West Africa

ECOWAS ministers propose reopening of land borders next month

Sectoral ministers of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) manning the Interior, Health, Finance, Trade and Transport ministries and other experts have recommended the mutual recognition of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and reopening of land borders from 1 January 2022. They made the recommendations at the end of the virtual meeting of the body held in collaboration with the West African Health Organization in Abuja. Beyond the impact on GDP, the raging COVID-19 pandemic led to disruptions in demand and supply, as well as investments in key economic sectors. Also, the tertiary services and primary (agriculture) sectors experienced a considerable decline on account of restrictions on travel and movement due to the closure of borders, disrupting supply chains and market access for small and medium-scale businesses. In addition to the closure of the gateways, member states facing challenges had also tightened checkpoints. The consequence on the economy was a cumulated decline by 6.7% of GDP of ECOWAS countries between 2020 and 2021, amounting to approximately USD50-billion.

Source: The Guardian

The Gambia

MCC grants USD25-million for renewable energy electrification

The United States government's Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and Gambian authorities have signed a USD25-million investment programme to accelerate solar energy production in The Gambia. This is the result of negotiations that began at COP26 on climate change in Glasgov, Scotland. The funding will allow for a focus on renewable energy sources, particularly solar photovoltaic. According to The Gambia’s Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Mambury Njie, this project will help reduce poverty and promote sustainable economic growth through more reliable and clean electricity. This will help the West African country meet its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. MCC also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire in June 2021, as well as a cooperation agreement with the West African Power Pool, for energy interconnection between these two West African countries. In The Gambia, universal access to energy by 2025 is one of the government’s priorities. To achieve this goal, Banjul is implementing The Gambia Electricity Restoration and Modernization Project (GERMP) to connect 685 communities to the national grid.

Source: AFRIK 21


Ghana NTE earnings remain strong despite COVID-19 challenges in 2020

Revenue from Non-Traditional Export (NTE) earnings remained strong in 2020, amounting to USD2.846-billion, despite the disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the supply chain, the Ghana Export Promotions Authority (GEPA) has said. The amount shows a slight dip of 1.84% over the 2019 earnings of USD2.899-billion due to the impact of COVID-19 on global trade and a downward trend in the processed and semi-processed product sector’s performance, particularly cocoa-butter and canned tuna. GEPA’s CEO, Dr Afua Asabea Asare, at a ceremony to launch the report on the analysis of NTE statistics, said it was a solid performance considering the ravages of the pandemic. She said during the pandemic, GEPA continued to play its role of trade facilitation, product development and promotion to ensure NTEs still chalked successes. The report showed that the manufacturing subsector of the NTEs, comprising processed and semi-processed products, accounted for 83.71% and amounted to USD2.38-billion in 2020, compared to USD2.46-billion in 2019, representing a fall of 2.94%.

Source: Ghana Business News


Kenya's president signs law change to regulate digital lenders

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta approved a change in law that will allow the central bank to regulate digital lenders, his office said on Tuesday, 7 December, a move that will give the bank power to rein in lenders who violate consumer privacy. Kenyatta's office said in a statement that he had signed into law the Central Bank of Kenya (Amendment) Bill. "The amended Central Bank Act, 2021, gives the Central Bank of Kenya powers to license digital lenders in the country as well as ensure the existence of fair and non-discriminatory practices in the credit market," it said. The law gives the central bank power to control lenders following complaints from borrowers who can pay annualised interest rates of more than 100%. Users of mobile phone-based micro-lenders have surged to two million in 2019, from 200 000 in 2016, the central bank says. Up to now, the dozens of lenders were not covered by any of the existing laws. Apart from charging high interest rates, consumers say the digital lenders have been infringing on their data privacy by bombarding the contacts they have saved on their mobile phones with calls and messages when they default.

Source: Reuters


NAMRA waives NAD7.9-billion in penalties

Were it not for the leniency of the taxman, Namibian taxpayers would have paid a whopping NAD7.9-billion in tax penalties, said the receiver of revenue. The Namibia Revenue Agency (NAMRA), through its electronic filing tax relief programme that is underway, is assisting taxpayers with outstanding tax amounts to become tax compliant, said the agency's spokesperson, Tonateni Shidhudhu on Monday, 6 December. “The relief provides for the waiver of 100% of penalties and 75% of interest on the settlement of the capital outstanding tax amount, which will end on 31 January 2022,” he said. As at 30 November 2021, Shidhudhu said, over 264 710 taxpayers owed the receiver of revenue NAD162.8-billion. Shidhudhu said over the past months, there has been a slight increase in the number of taxpayers visiting the tax office to enquire about the relief, as taxpayers use the opportunity to ensure that they benefit from this relief and become tax compliant. To date, over NAD7.9-billion in penalties and NAD265.6-million in interests were waived in favour of 23 008 businesses and 11 683 individual taxpayers, who participated in the relief between January and November 2021.

Source: The Namibian


Non-banking assets increase to NAD347-billion

The assets of 618 financial institutions under the supervision of the Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (NAMFISA) have increased both on a quarterly and annual basis to NAD347.3-billion during the second quarter of 2021. According to a quarterly statistics bulletin for the second quarter released by NAMFISA, the increase in assets is mainly due to improved performance in the equity markets after uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020 financial year. The report says the long-term insurance industry's total assets increased by 1.2% quarter-on-quarter, and 8.1% year-on-year to NAD63.5-billion during the period as at 30 June this year. “Growth in the value of the industry's receivables contributed to the quarterly movement, while increases in the industry's investment mainly contributed to the yearly growth in total assets,” the report says. The receivables were attributed by improved reinsurance recoveries and premiums while growth in investment emanated from better performance of the international equity/share markets.

Source: The Namibian


Using minigrids to scale up energy access in Nigeria

Husk Power Systems has launched six solar hybrid minigrids in Nigeria. This is the first time the rural clean energy services company rolls out multiple minigrids in one go under the Nigerian Electrification Project (NEP). The World Bank funds the NEP initiative, which Nigeria’s Rural Electrification Agency implements. Engineer Abdullahi A. Sule, Nasarawa State Governor said “The completion of six minigrids by Husk Power Systems in Nasarawa State is an important step in scaling rural electrification and achieving energy access for all Nigerians.” A seventh hybrid solar minigrid will come online in 2022, along with a large pipeline of projects. Manoj Sinha, Husk Power CEO said they are proud to contribute to Nigeria’s government’s vision of public-private partnership to provide clean, quality, reliable electricity that can power economic opportunities for small businesses and households.”

Source: ESI Africa


UTM, Afreximbank sign USD5-billion financing MoU for Nigeria’s first FLNG

Nigeria’s marine and services group, UTM Offshore Limited, and the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) on Tuesday, 7 December, in Abuja, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to raise USD5-billion for the development of Nigeria’s first floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) project. The deal that is in two parts would see the continental bank raising USD2-billion to support the first phase with a commitment to fund the second phase of the project by another USD3-billion. Signed by the Group managing director/CEO of UTM Offshore, Mr Julius Rone, and president and chairman of Afreximbank, Dr Benedict Okey Oramah, the MoU paves the way for additional collaboration between the two entities to support a future final investment decision (FID) on the project, which UTM has been studying and conceptualising since 2020. UTM Offshore Limited was granted a Licence to Establish (LTE) by Nigeria’s former Department of Petroleum Resources for the installation of an FLNG unit on oil mining lease 104 in February 2021. Preparations for the project are now in full swing and benefit from robust global and technical expertise.

Source: This Day


Rwanda gets USD100-million from the World Bank for broadband connectivity

The World Bank Group has approved USD100-million in financing under the International Development Association’s (IDA) Scale-Up Window to help the Government of Rwanda increase access to broadband and selected digital public services, and strengthen the digital innovation ecosystem in Rwanda. According to a press release from the international financial institution, the funds will be managed by the government-run Rwanda Digital Acceleration Project. The new Digital Acceleration Project will support the government to expand digital access and adoption by spearheading a series of innovative digital access and inclusion initiatives, including supporting 250 000 households with financing to help acquire smart devices as well as training three million people in basic digital literacy (with targets for girls and women). Rolande Pryce, the World Bank’s Country Director for Rwanda, said: "Expanding digital access and adoption, improving digital public service delivery, and promoting digital innovation is essential for Rwanda’s digital transformation, which in turn can contribute to a strong post-COVID-19 recovery."

Source: Developing Telecoms


Bank of Tanzania gives ‘all-clear’ to fourth bureau de change

The Bank of Tanzania (BoT) has awarded a licence to a fourth bureau de change since closure of most of them in 2018. Fast Forex Bureau joins three others which are currently operating. In September, the central bank said it received five applications which are being scrutinised and the owners will be given operating licences if they meet all the criteria to operate a bureau de change in the country. Reports show that the BoT had closed down almost all bureaus that were operating in the country by 2018. Subsequently, the central bank conducted a physical supervisory compliance review of the bureaux de change in Tanzania. The review resulted in the closure of all bureaux de change in the country to pave the way for compliance review and re-licensing. Several reasons were mentioned for the closure of the bureaux de change. Some bureaux de change outlets were said to be sources of money laundering, tax evasion and poor compliance with Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations on foreign exchange, namely the Foreign Exchange (Bureau de Change) Regulations, 2019 (Government Notice No. 450 of 2019) published on 7 June 2019.

Source: The Citizen


Uganda tops African Development Bank’s Electricity Regulatory Index for fourth consecutive year

For the fourth consecutive year, Uganda’s electricity sector is Africa’s best regulated across a number of key metrics, according to the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) 2021 Electricity Regulatory Index. Other strong performers include East African neighbours, Kenya and Tanzania, as well as Namibia and Egypt. The 2021 Electricity Regulatory Index, an annual report, covered 43 African countries, up from 36 in the previous edition, and assessed their impact on the performance of their electricity sectors. The index covered three countries in the North Africa region; 14 in West Africa; six in Central Africa; seven in East Africa; and 13 in the Southern Africa region. Among the 2021 report’s key highlights are that regulatory independence is one sub-indicator where African countries have room to improve; in 93% of sampled countries, governments, and stakeholders exercise influence over regulatory authorities. In terms of regulatory substance, participating countries scored lowest on adequacy of their tariff setting and frameworks, as well as licensing frameworks when compared with best practice.

Source: AfDB


Zambia may seek extension to repay debts, finance minister says

Zambia may seek talks with creditors to extend its debt repayments after reaching a preliminary deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a USD1.4-billion facility, Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane has said. Zambia, one of the world's largest copper producers, became Africa's first COVID-19-era sovereign defaulter in November 2020 after years of chronic government over-borrowing drove its debt burden above 120% of annual economic output. Musokotwane also said in a speech delivered in parliament that Zambia's current tax revenues were not enough pay for government salaries and service debt. "The heavy debt burden that Zambia carries is at the core of some of the serious socio-economic problems witnessed in Zambia in the last few years," Musokotwane said. Zambia has more than USD14-billion of external debt, including guaranteed loans to state-owned enterprises. Of that, USD3-billion is Eurobonds, around USD6-billion is owed to Chinese entities and the remaining USD5-billion is a mix of commercial, multilateral and bilateral borrowing.

Source: Reuters