Nigeria demands social media firms get local licence

By Reuters

Social media firms wanting to operate in Nigeria must register a local entity and be licensed, the country’s information minister said on Wednesday, the government’s latest move since it banned Twitter last week.

“We are insisting that for you to operate in Nigeria you must first be a Nigerian company and be licensed by the broadcasting commission,” said Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s information minister, of social media companies.

The new regulations will include conditions for continued operation, Mohammed said, without elaborating. The move comes amidst what critics say is a broader crackdown on freedom of expression in Africa’s most populous country that has drawn comparisons to Nigeria’s decades of military rule in the 20th century.

Nigeria’s government last week said it had suspended Twitter’s activities, two days after the platform removed a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish secessionists. Nigerian telecoms firms have since blocked access to Twitter.

Buhari is a former military ruler.

Mohammed did not give a deadline for registration and licensing, but said some firms were given notice, without naming the affected companies. He did not respond to calls and a message seeking details.

“Twitter has consistently made its platform available to those who are threatening Nigeria’s corporate existence,” said Mohammed, naming a separatist leader and anti-police brutality protesters.

The minister said Facebook and its subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp had not been suspended, but did not say whether they would need to register and get a licence.

Zimbabwe prices increase after government orders businesses to stop pricing in U.S. dollars

By Reuters

Prices of goods in Zimbabwe are spiraling again, threatening to halt a decline in consumer inflation, after authorities last week forced businesses to stop quoting prices in U.S. dollars in a bid to encourage more use of the faltering local currency.

Despite the re-introduction of the Zimbabwe dollar in 2019, most businesses have been charging in U.S. dollars, with customers having an option to pay using local money at rates higher than the official exchange rate.

After losing their pensions and savings during a decade of hyperinflation to 2009, Zimbabweans prefer using the greenback to their own currency.

The government issued regulations on Friday making it mandatory to quote prices in the local currency, with payment in dollars offered as an option using the official rate.

This has seen prices of goods from groceries to building materials go up, and more so in U.S. dollars, all of which risks pushing up inflation, which slowed to 162% in May from a decade high of 838% last July.

For goods that cost 10,000 Zimbabwe dollars last week, a customer could pay $83.33 because shops used a weaker exchange rate of 120 per dollar. This week, a customer needed $111.90 for the same goods using the official exchange rate.

The government said companies were buying dollars at the official foreign currency auction but pricing their goods using black market rates.

But the auction has not been able to meet demand, forcing businesses to source all or a portion of their forex on the black market. The Zimbabwe dollar trades at 84 to the greenback compared with between 120 and 135 on the black market.

Harare resident Justin Parehwa, who is building a house, said he had been quoted $3,350 for roofing material last week but when he returned to pay on Monday the price had gone up to $3,975.

“I do not have that extra money. This has ruined my plans,” he said.

The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries called for the immediate suspension of the regulations, which include jail terms and fines for businesses that refuse to comply.

“The immediate impact of applying the (regulations) would be that U.S. dollar prices will be hiked…. This means an immediate spike in U.S.D inflation, a component of our blended inflation rate,” the group said in a statement.

South Africa’s unemployment rate rises to 32.6% in first quarter

By Reuters

In the first quarter of 2021, South Africa’s unemployment rate rose to a new record high of 32.6%, from 32.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020, the statistics agency said on Tuesday.

This is the highest rate since the the quarterly labour force survey began in 2008.

According to Statistics South Africa, the number of unemployed people in the country stands at 7.242 million people in the three months to the end of March, up from 7.233 million people in the previous three months.

According to an expanded definition of unemployment that includes those discouraged from seeking work, 43.2% of the labour force was without work in the January-March quarter, from 42.6% in the final quarter of 2020.

Sudan’s national currency sharply declines amid rising inflation, continued prices hike

By XINHUA

Sudan is witnessing an accelerating economic decline amid continued deterioration in the exchange price of the Sudanese pound, a rising inflation rate and a great hike in the prices of essential commodities.

Sudanese economic experts have warned that the country could fall into economic recession due to the loss of purchasing power, uncontrolled commodity prices, and the collapse of the local currency.

“There is a clear economic deterioration, and the state must intervene through its mechanisms to stop the collapse of the (Sudanese) pound, curb the inflation and control the prices hike,” Kamal Ahmed Yousif, dean of faculty of commerce at Al Neelain University in Sudan, told Xinhua.

He attributed the decline in the exchange price of the Sudanese pound against other currencies to weakness of production and the donors’ failure to fulfil their promises to support Sudan.

“The productive sectors must be strengthened, cash exports be increased and unnecessary imported goods be reduced,” he added.

According to dealers in the foreign exchange market in the capital Khartoum, the Sudanese pound continued its decline against foreign currencies with an exchange rate of 505 Sudanese pounds per U.S. dollar on Sunday against its official exchange rate of about 420 pounds.

Al-Samawal Fadlessid, a Sudanese economic analyst, blamed the government for the decline of the local currency.

“The government is the biggest buyer of the dollars on the parallel market to secure its foreign exchange needs,” Fadlessid told Xinhua.

“There is a large monetary base moving outside the banking system for speculation in the prices of the dollar, where there is a steady increase in foreign currency exchange rates around the clock,” he added.

The expert expressed his concern that the situation would end up in economic collapse and a general recession, unless the government intervenes to redress the matter.

In the meantime, Sudanese Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim on Sunday accused unnamed parties of attempting to sabotage the national economy.

“The prices of the dollar in the parallel market are illogical and have nothing to do with the reality of the market. They are intended to cause more turmoil and confusion in the national currency market and to create problems that negatively affect the national economy,” said Ibrahim in a statement.

“The state is able to intervene to provide the required resources for the market of basic and strategic commodities,” he said, stressing the availability of foreign exchange in the Central Bank of Sudan and the ability to meet the demands of individuals.

The continued decline of the Sudanese pound against foreign currencies led to a great hike in the prices of necessary commodities, which has exacerbated the suffering of the citizens.

In February, Sudan’s transitional government sharply devaluated the national currency in a bid to end the economic and monetary imbalances. In March, according to a report of Sudan’s Central Statistics Bureau, the inflation rate in Sudan jumped to about 342 percent.

Sudan has been undergoing an economic crisis since the secession of South Sudan in 2011, due to which Sudan lost 75 percent of its oil revenues.

In 2012, Sudan approved five packages to remove bread and fuel subsidies, which sparked a series of protests.

In December 2018, worsening economic conditions sparked popular protests across Sudan, leading to the ouster of former President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.

Gold prices slip from 4-1/2 high

By Reuters

Gold prices retreated from a four-and-a-half-month high on Thursday, hurt by an uptick in the US dollar and bond yields, while investors awaited key economic readings out of the U.S. this week.

Spot gold was down 0.1% at $1,894.88/oz by 2:35 am GMT, after hitting its highest level since January 8 at $1,912.50 on Wednesday.

U.S. gold futures declined 0.3% to $1,898/oz.

“Gold prices reversed back in parallel with the rebounding U.S. dollar. What this suggests is that we are starting to see markets positioning ahead of Friday’s PCE [personal consumption expenditure] report,” DailyFX currency strategist Ilya Spivak said.

The dollar index rose to a one-week high against rivals, making gold more expensive for other currency holders.

Benchmark U.S. Treasury yields rose to 1.58%, increasing the opportunity cost of holding non-interest-bearing gold.

Market participants now await the monthly US PCE report due on Friday to gauge inflationary pressure. US GDP and jobless claims data is due later on Thursday.

Federal Reserve officials have recently downplayed rising price pressures and affirmed their support to keep monetary policy accommodative for some time.

“There are concerns that inflation will not be temporary and the Fed will be forced to begin to taper stimulus much sooner than they currently expect,” Spivak said.

On Wednesday, Fed vice-chair for supervision Randal Quarles said he was prepared to open talks on reducing the central bank’s emergency support measures, only to also stress the need to remain patient.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s central bank kept monetary policy unchanged on Thursday but upgraded its economic outlook as exports and inflation perked up.

Elsewhere, palladium fell 0.4% to $2,734.57/oz, silver slipped 0.5% to $27.56 and platinum dipped 0.4% to $1,185.99.

Nigeria’s economy grows in first quarter on oil price rise

By Reuters

Nigeria’s economy grew 0.5% in the first quarter, lifted by higher crude production and oil prices, the country’s statistics office said on Sunday, as activities slowly gain momentum after the gradual easing of coronavirus lockdowns.

Africa’s largest economy, exited its second recession since 2016 in the fourth quarter, despite a full-year contraction in 2020.

Nigeria had been grappling with low growth before the coronavirus pandemic triggered a recession and created large financing gaps, including dollar shortages and inflation.

“The Q1 2021 growth rate was slower than the 1.87% growth rate recorded in Q1 2020 but higher than 0.11% recorded in Q4 2020, indicative of a slow but continuous recovery,” The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said.

Nigeria is inoculating its 200 million citizens, but last month directed its regions to stop giving first doses of AstraZeneca vaccines once they use half their current stock, to safeguard supply for a second dose.

The NBS said the non-oil sector, which the government is trying to make the main growth sector, rose 0.79% in the first quarter. Telecoms, crop production, real estate, food manufacturing and construction lifted growth in the quarter.

Crude prices rose above $70/barrel on Tuesday but fell on Wednesday on renewed demand concerns as COVID-19 cases in Asia rose and fears that rising inflation might lead the U.S. Federal Reserve to raise rates, which could limit growth.

Oil, which accounts for around two-thirds of Nigerian government revenue and 90% of foreign exchange, contracted 2.21% in the first quarter as crude production rose to 1.72 million barrels per day from the fourth quarter.

With weak growth, few expect Nigeria’s central bank to alter interest rates next week.

The bank has pursued an accommodative stance by leaving interest rates on hold. However, dollar shortages have stoked inflation to a more than 4-year high, while a shrinking labour market and mounting insecurity have pressured households.

“While this points to the likelihood of firmer growth from the second quarter, it still does not allow for a more robust policy response to inflationary pressures,” Razia Khan, chief economist for Africa and the Middle East at Standard Chartered, said.

Zimbabwe’s central bank expects inflation to fall to 55 pct by July

By XINHUA

Zimbabwe’s central bank said Tuesday it expects annual inflation to further decline and reach a low of 55 percent by July 2021.

The bank was also satisfied with the disinflationary trend, as inflation had fallen from a peak of 837.53 percent in July last year to 194 percent last month, the monetary policy committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said in a statement.

“The committee reaffirmed its commitment to sustaining the disinflationary path to the end of the year and expects year-on-year inflation to go down to below 55 percent by July 2021,” the bank said.

Zimbabwe’s annual inflation has been on a downward trend since August 2020 following the introduction of a foreign exchange auction trading system in June of that year that has helped to bring stability to the foreign exchange market.

To support economic activity and the current stability in the economy, the central bank said it will maintain its main lending rate at 40 percent and the interest rate on the medium-term accommodation facility at 30 percent.

The bank also approved a financing facility for small and medium enterprises to boost productivity.

“The MPC reaffirmed its strong commitment to continue with the conservative monetary policy stance to ensure that the current price stability is maintained,” the bank said.

Sudanese pound retreats after temporary stability

By XINHUA

In this July 24, 2011, file photo, Sudan’s new currency sits behind a window at the central bank in Khartoum, Sudan. The country took the unprecedented but expected step of floating its currency Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, meeting a major demand by international financial insinuations to help transitional authorities overhaul the battered economy. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf, File)

Sudan’s national currency, the Sudanese pound, has depreciated after nearly two months of stability as the official authorities promised urgent intervention.

On Sunday, the exchange rate was 392 Sudanese pounds to one U.S. dollar in the parallel market. The currency had maintained its price within the range of 380 pounds per U.S. dollar since the Sudanese government implemented the unification of its exchange rate on Feb. 21.

The depreciation, according to dealers in the foreign exchange market in the capital Khartoum has been attributed to increased demand and scarce supply of the U.S. dollar and is expected to further decline during the coming days.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Sudan has promised urgent intervention to address the decline in the national currency.

“The bank has enough reserves of foreign currencies to meet the requirements of urgent strategic commodities within the framework of the exchange rate managing policy,” Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sudan, Mohamed Ahmed Bushra, said in a statement.

“The central bank will adopt a new policy that guarantees its intervention in the foreign exchange market through the provision of foreign currency resources for commercial banks to meet the strategic commodities in the market and cover the deficit in foreign currencies,” he added.

The continued decline of the Sudanese pound against foreign currencies negatively reflects on the prices of necessary commodities which escalate the suffering of the citizens.

According to a recent report of Sudan’s Central Statistics Bureau, the inflation rate in Sudan shot up to about 341 percent in March.

South Africa’s inflation rises to 3.2 percent in March

By XINHUA

South Africa’s annual consumer price inflation (CPI) rose to 3.2 percent in March, up from 2.9 percent in February, said Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) on Wednesday.

South African rand coins sit alongside a South African 100 rand banknote in this arranged photograph in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Patrick Kelly, Chief Director for Price Statistics, said the change was mainly contributed by the increase in prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages.

“Annual inflation for food and non-alcoholic beverages edged up to 5.7 percent in March from 5.2 percent in February. Products that recorded annual price rises above the 5.7 percent average included oils and fats,” he said.

He said that fuel prices in March were around 2.3 percent higher compared to the same month last year.

“This is the first time in 12 months that fuel prices have increased on an annual basis,” he said.

Housing and utilities increased by 2.2 percent year-on-year, while transport increased by 3.8 percent year-on-year.

Despite the increase, the CPI was still low, said Jannie Rossouw, Head of School of Economic and Business Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand.

“It might mean it would take a while before the interest rates are increased again, the target range for the Reserve Bank is between 3 to 6 percent,” he told Xinhua.

Angola mine to produce 20,000 carats of diamonds monthly

By XINHUA

The Lunhinga mine in Angola’s eastern province of Lunda Norte is expected to produce 20,000 carats of diamonds per month, the coordinator of the Lunhinga project told the press on Tuesday.

Aderito Gaspar said the mine, located in Xa-cassau commune in the municipality of Lucapa, will double its production from the current 10,000 carats monthly to 20,000 carats from the second half of this year.

He said that the increase in diamond production is due to the entry into operation of a new treatment plant, which is scheduled for the second half of 2021.

The project, which has a concession area of 32,500 hectares, will be explored over a period of five years.

The mine produced 322,730 carats of diamonds from 2017 to 2020, Gaspar said.