Zambia expects economy to grow 4% in medium-term, president says

By Chris Mfula

Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema presents his national statement as a part of the World Leaders’ Summit at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 1, 2021. Andy Buchanan/Pool via REUTERS

The Zambian government expects its economy to grow at 4% per year in the medium term and is focused on resolving the country’s debt crisis, President Hakainde Hichilema said on Friday.

According to the Bank of Zambia, the economy grew 3.6% in 2021 after a 2.8% contraction in 2020, when Zambia became the first African country to default on its sovereign debt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have put our economy on a positive growth trajectory in the last 12 months and we project the economy to bottom up from this negative growth,” Hichilema told parliament, and forecast an economic expansion of 4% in the medium term.

“Fiscal management was excessively deficient and was characterized by poor resource allocation and reckless borrowing, which increased the cost of debt service resulting, unfortunately … in a debt default,” Hichilema said.

However, the government has managed to stabilize the economy within one year, the president added.

“We have consistently subdued inflation,” Hichilema said.

Inflation stood at 24.4% in August 2021 but fell to a single digit of 9.8% as at August 2022, the official statistics agency, Zamstat said.

Hichilema said this had put Zambia “on a course to achieving our targeted inflation rate of 6-8% for the medium term.”

The kwacha currency was stable and foreign exchange reserves were up, he said.

The southern African country is seeking $8.4 billion of “cash debt relief” from 2022 to 2025, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday in a long-awaited report, adding that it needs to bring down its debt service-to-revenue ratio to 14% by 2025 and then maintain that level on average until 2031, compared to 61% now.

In late August, the International Monetary Fund approved a $1.3 billion, three-year loan to Zambia, a crucial step in the southern African country’s quest to restructure its debts. 

South Africa Q2 GDP contracts 0.7% q/q – stats office

Reuters News

Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters Image used for illustrative purpose only

South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted 0.7% in the second quarter in quarter-on-quarter, seasonally adjusted and non-annualised terms, data from the statistics agency showed on Tuesday.

GDP grew 0.2% year-on-year unadjusted in the second quarter, Statistics South Africa said.

Economists had predicted 0.8% quarter-on-quarter contraction and 0.6% year-on-year growth.

The floods in the KwaZulu-Natal province and persistent power cuts weighed heavily on economic activity during the period, hampering businesses and disrupting operations.

Seven industries contracted in the second quarter, a presentation from the statistics agency showed.

Statistics South Africa said manufacturing fell 5.9% quarter-on-quarter, while the trade, catering and accommodation category contracted 1.5% and agriculture, forestry and fishing 7.7%. Mining and quarrying contracted 3.5%.

President Cyril Ramaphosa promised sweeping reforms to strengthen Africa’s most advanced economy when he took office in 2018, but progress has been slow. (Reporting by Promit Mukherjee; Writing by Bhargav Acharya; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and James Macharia Chege)

Sasol partners with Japan’s Itochu for green hydrogen projects

Reuters News

Chemical symbols are displayed at a hydrogen station in Tokyo, Japan April 24, 2017. Image used for illustrative purpose. Issei Kato, Reuters

South African petrochemical firm Sasol on Friday said it was partnering with Japan’s Itochu Corp to explore the development of green hydrogen and green ammonia projects for shipping fuel and power generation.

Sasol is currently the world’s biggest producer of fuel products and chemicals from coal, but is transitioning away from the fossil fuel as part of its decarbonisation plan.

Green hydrogen, produced from splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, has been touted as a key carbon-free energy source for power generation, shipping fuel and fertilizer manufacturing.

Sasol said green ammonia, produced from green hydrogen, is also a key enabler of net-zero fertilizer manufacturing, and can be used as a zero-carbon bunkering fuel in the marine sector and for co-firing in thermal power generation.

“Green ammonia is an excellent energy carrier, especially over long-distances, and can be easily transported,” it added. “The product can also be ‘cracked’ back to hydrogen gas for further applications.”

The two firms signed a memorandum of understanding during the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 8) held in Tunisia on Aug. 27 and 28, Sasol said in a statement.

“This marks yet another milestone in our ambition to lead the energy transition in South Africa through decarbonisation, while stimulating industrial development,” said Priscillah Mabelane, Sasol’s executive vice president for energy.

Japanese conglomerate Itochu has been exploring the development of green hydrogen as a fuel in the marine sector and for power generation, Sasol said.

Egypt’s copper exports soar 47% YoY in H1 2022

Staff Writer, Arab Finance

Image used for illustrative purposes. October 07, 2019, Roscoe, Illinois. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Egyptian exports of copper and brasswork surged by 47% year-on-year (YoY) to $218 million during the first half (H1) of 2022 from $148 million, the Middle East News Agency reported on August 31st, citing a report by the Export Council for Building Materials, Refractory and Metallurgy Industries (ECBM).

Egypt exported copper to 37 countries in H1 2022, topped by Saudi Arabia whose copper imports from Egypt amounted to $118.347 million during the period, up from $1.763 million a year earlier.

Algeria ranked second with $23.994 million worth of copper imports from Egypt from January until the end of June, followed by Lebanon with imports valued at $21.253 million.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s copper imports from Egypt hit $4.013 million in H1 2022, with a growth rate of 70%.

on the other hand, Egypt’s exports of copper and brasswork to China dropped 28% YoY to $14.655 million in the six months ended June 30th.

Botswana awards Norway’s Scatec first large-scale solar plant contract

Staff Writer, Bizcommunity.com

Image used for illustrative purpose. Getty Images

State-owned Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has awarded Norwegian company Scatec ASA a contract to build a 50MW solar plant, the companies announced on Wednesday, 31 August. This is BPC’s first utility-scale renewable energy project as Botswana looks to boost power supplies and increase clean energy shares.

Under the terms of a Power Purchase Agreement signed on Wednesday, Scatec will finance, build, own and operate the solar plant and recoup its investment by selling electricity to BPC over 25 years.

“The plant is our first and largest utility-scale grid-connected solar PV plant and we expect the project to be operational by June 2024,” BPC CEO David Kgoboko said, adding that procurement of another large-scale solar plant was underway.

The plant will be located near the mining town of Selebi-Phikwe, 400 kilometres east of capital Gaborone.

Fossil fuels to remain dominant energy source

Botswana currently does not have any large-scale solar power generation and its 600MW national energy demand is predominantly met by state-owned coal-fired plants.

Endowed with over 212 billion tonnes of coal, fossil fuels are likely to dominate power generation in the near future but Botswana has a target of at least 18% of national production being generated from renewables by 2030.

In May, Botswana invited bids from independent power producers to build another 200MW power plant comprising two units of 100MW each, with the plants expected to be commercially online by 2026/2027.

South African factory activity expands in August – Absa PMI

Reuters News

Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters Image used for illustrative purpose only

South African manufacturing activity expanded in August as business output rose while new sales orders declined at a slower pace than before, a survey showed on Thursday.

The seasonally-adjusted Absa Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) was at 52.1 points in August from 47.6 points in July, rising above the 50-point mark that separates expansion from contraction.

“The business activity index rose back above the neutral 50 point mark for the first time since March. Since then, output was hampered by the flooding in KwaZulu-Natal and significant electricity supply disruptions,” Absa said in a statement.

“Domestic demand is likely continuing to benefit from the reopening effect, while some respondents also mentioned the return of production at Toyota’s flood-affected factory as supporting demand across the value chain.”

Italy’s Eni to execute 10-GW solar, wind power projects in Egypt

Staff Writer, Arab Finance

The logo of Italian energy company Eni is seen at a gas station in Rome, Italy September 30, 2018. Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters

Italy-based Eni is planning to carry out a number of solar and wind power projects with a total capacity of 10 gigawatts (GW) in Egypt within the upcoming years, according to a press release published on August 30th.

In a meeting between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and CEO of Eni Claudio Descalzi, they tackled Egypt’s vision to become a regional hub for natural gas, developing existing liquified natural gas (LNG) plants.

The Italian oil and gas giant is keen on boosting the production of natural gas through an “ambitious exploration and development campaign”.

This will bolster LNG exports to Europe through the Damietta liquefication plant.

Eni has been operating in Egypt since 1954 through its subsidiary IEOC. The company’s total output of natural gas in the country currently amounts to about 60%.

S.Africa’s Aspen, India’s Serum Institute sign vaccines deal for Africa

 Reuters News

FILE PHOTO: People wearing face masks walk past a logo of South African pharmaceutical major Aspen Pharmacare, at its Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine facility in Gqeberha, South Africa, October 25, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 31 (Reuters) – Aspen Pharmacare has signed a deal with the Serum Institute of India to manufacture and sell four Aspen-branded vaccines for Africa, as it seeks to utilise its near-idle COVID-19 vaccine production lines in eastern South Africa.

Aspen has a contract with Johnson & Johnson to package its COVID-19 vaccine into vials and earlier this year it extended its agreement to allow it to package, sell and distribute the vaccine under its own brand Aspenovax for Africa.

But it has not received a single order yet for the COVID vaccine and its J&J orders under its previous contract were also “dwindling”, putting at risk its 450-million-dose vaccine production line.

Aspen CEO Stephen Saad and other executives told Reuters early in August the company might look at pivoting the COVID vaccine lines to produce anesthetics or other products.

The vaccines under agreement with Serum will include hexavalent, pneumococcal, polyvalent meningococcal and rotavirus, Aspen said in a statement.

“Aspen SA Operations has secured a licence to the enabling know-how from the Serum Institute,” it said, adding the two sides might also discuss expanding the agreement to include new products or new versions of products.

Aspen will also contribute towards preparedness for future pandemics through rights to a share of its vaccine manufacturing capacity over a period of 10 years, it said in the statement.

The company is expecting grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations for the same project, it added. (Reporting by Promit Mukherjee; editing by Jason Neely and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Tunisia Hosts Japanese-African Economic Cooperation Meeting

VOA NEWS

From left, Senegal’s President Macky Sall, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied, and Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi look on, during the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Tunisia’s capital Tunis, Aug. 27, 2022.

TUNIS — African heads of state, representatives of international organizations and private business leaders gathered in Tunisia on Saturday for the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, a triennial event launched by Japan to promote growth and security in Africa.

Economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, a food crisis worsened by Russia’s war in Ukraine, and climate change are among the challenges facing many African countries expected to define the two-day conference.

Tensions among African countries also weighed on the meeting: On Friday, Morocco announced a boycott of the event and recalled its ambassador to Tunisia to protest the inclusion of a representative of the Polisario Front movement fighting for independence for Western Sahara.

The conference comes as Russia and China have sought to increase their economic and other influence in Africa.

While 30 African heads of state and government attended the event in Tunis, Tunisia’s capital, many key talks are being held remotely, including those involving Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the summit.

The Japanese government created and hosted the first TICAD summit in 1993. The conferences now are co-organized with the United Nations, the African Union and the World Bank. The summits have generated 26 development projects in 20 African countries.

This year, discussion around an increase of Japanese investments in Africa is anticipated, with particular focus on supporting start-ups and food security initiatives. Japan has said it plans to provide assistance for the production of rice, alongside a promised $130 million in food aid.

The Africa Center for Strategic Studies, an academic institution of the U.S. Defense Department, compared the conference’s format to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, “where government, business, and civil society leaders participate on an equal basis.”

However, this weekend’s summit has sparked controversy in Tunis, which faces its own acute economic crisis, including a recent spike in food and gasoline shortages.

Critics have spoken about the organizers’ alleged “white-washing” of the city, which has seen cleaner streets and infrastructure improvements in preparation for the conference summit. One local commentator said the North African capital looked like it had applied makeup to impress participants.

Meanwhile, the journalists’ union in Tunisia issued a statement Friday condemning restrictions on reporting and information around the summit.

Morocco’s complaint stemmed from Tunisia inviting the Polisario Front leader to attend. Morocco annexed Western Sahara from Spain in 1975, and the Polisario Front fought to make it an independent state until a 1991 cease-fire. It’s a highly sensitive issue in Morocco, which seeks international recognition for its authority over Western Sahara.

“The welcome given by the Tunisian head of state to the leader of the separatist militia is a serious and unprecedented act, which deeply hurts the feelings of the Moroccan people,” Morocco’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Morocco announced its withdrawal from the conference and the recall of its ambassador for consultations. But the ministry said the decision does not “call into question the commitment of the Kingdom of Morocco to the interests of Africa.”

China-built power plant transforms Botswana into electricity exporter

By XINHUA

Botswana has been a net importer of electricity over the years. However, the coal-fired power station Morupule B — built by the China National Electric Engineering Corporation (CNEEC) — is slowly but surely changing Botswana’s status quo, Professor Edward Dintwe, dean of the faculty of Engineering and Technology at the University of Botswana (UB), said in an interview with Xinhua.

For the past three months, both Morupule A and B power stations have been fully operational and dispatching over 800 megawatts of power per hour to the national grid, which is well above local electricity consumption, according to the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC).

“Sales have been made possible by improved plant availability at the flagship 600 megawatts Morupule B plant. So the surplus electricity should be sold to neighboring countries,” Lefoko Moagi, Botswana’s Minister of Minerals and Energy, told Xinhua.

As A landlocked country, Botswana is dominated by coal-fired power generation and had only one power station Morupule A before 2010.

To ensure energy security and increase electricity self-sufficiency, Botswana started the 600 MW Morupule B power Station project in 2010 with the CNEEC as the general contractor.

According to Zhang Xiangrong, CNEEC project manager, with the joint efforts of the Botswana government and the company, the plant operation is stable currently. The company started the renovation project of the power station in 2019. At present, the first unit has been renovated and the trial operation will be finished in September.

“Morupule B power plant is fully functioning with all the four units producing 150 megawatts of electricity each,” said Moagi, adding that Morupule A power plant is generating at least 232 megawatts thereby bringing Botswana’s power generation to 832 megawatts per hour.

According to Moagi, Botswana utilizes 580 megawatts during peak hours while only 360 megawatts are needed at off-peak hours. Botswana’s peak and off-peak hours are during the evenings as well as mornings and in the afternoon and during weekends when industries are not open.

Moagi said South Africa, whose public electricity utility in Eskom is facing generation problems, is willing to buy power from Botswana. The BPC has therefore started engaging Eskom to purchase the excess electricity supply generated during off-peak periods to protect plants against load management fluctuations and also ensure that surplus electricity has a secured market.

Speaking during a media briefing after the Botswana-South Africa Business Roundtable in Gaborone, capital of Botswana on Aug. 4, 2022, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said the willingness shown by Botswana to sell South Africa excess electricity will strengthen economic and trade ties.

By selling power to South Africa, Botswana hopes to realize its goal of becoming “a regional benchmark in power delivery” by 2026 with the Maduo26 strategy, a five-year plan unveiled last year.