Visa to invest $1bln in Africa over 5 years to cash in on e-payments boom

Visa credit cards are displayed in Washington October 27, 2009.REUTERS/Jason Reed
Reuters Images

Visa has been investing in Africa for several decades to grow a truly local businessStaff Writer, Bizcommunity.com

Visa Inc plans to invest $1bn over the next five years in Africa to capitalise on the emerging economy’s rapid growth in digital payments, the company said at the US-Africa Leaders Summit on Wednesday.
US President Joe Biden is hosting dozens of African leaders for the three-day event, which started on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

“Visa has been investing in Africa for several decades to grow a truly local business,” chief executive officer Alfred Kelly Jr said in a statement.

The investments in Africa shine a new light on a major growth opportunity on the continent where cash is likely to be challenged in coming years as e-payments gain momentum, according to a McKinsey report in September.

Africa’s booming e-payments market is expected to see revenues grow by nearly 20% a year, reaching around $40bn by 2025, compared with about $200 bn in Latin America, the report added.

“It’s one of our fastest growing regions,” Andrew Torre, Visa’s regional president for central and eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, said in an interview on Wednesday.

The world’s largest payments processor has added over 50% more employees in the continent since the end of 2019, with the vast majority during the pandemic, he added.

The investments will scale Visa’s operations in Africa and deepen ties with governments, fintechs and merchants, according to the statement. It will also help “strengthen the payment ecosystem through new innovations and technologies”.

Among new technologies, the company recently rolled out Visa Acceptance Cloud, a platform which turns virtually any device into a payments terminal.

Ghana to default on most of external debt as economic crisis worsens

By Christian Akorlie and Cooper Inveen

ACCRA (Reuters) -Ghana said on Monday it would suspend payments on most of its external debt, effectively defaulting as the country struggles to plug its cavernous balance of payments deficit.

Its finance ministry said it will not service debts including its Eurobonds, commercial loans and most bilateral loans, calling the decision an “interim emergency measure”.

The government “stands ready to engage in discussions with all of its external creditors to make Ghana’s debt sustainable”, the finance ministry said.

The suspension of debt payments reflects the parlous state of the economy, which had led the government last week to reach a $3-billion staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Ghana had already announced a domestic debt exchange programme and said that an external restructuring was being negotiated with creditors. The IMF has said a comprehensive debt restructuring is a condition of its support.

The country has been struggling to refinance its debt since the start of the year after downgrades by multiple credit ratings agencies on concerns it would not be able to issue new Eurobonds.

That has sent Ghana’s debt further into the distressed territory. Its public debt stood at 467.4 billion Ghanaian cedis ($55 billion as per Refinitiv Eikon data) in September, of which 42% was domestic.

It had a balance of payments deficit of more than $3.4 billion in September, down from a surplus of $1.6 billion at the same time last year.

While 70% to 100% of the government revenue currently goes toward servicing the debt, the country’s inflation has shot up to as much as 50% in November.

Its gross international reserves stood at around $6.6 billion at the end of September, equating to less than three months of imports cover. That is down from around $9.7 billion at the end of last year.

The government said the suspension will not include the payments towards multilateral debt, new debts taken after Dec. 19 or debts related to certain short-term trade facilities.

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However, Kathryn Exum, who co-leads Gramercy’s Sovereign Research department, was hopeful about debt restructuring, noting that it should prove easier for creditors than other recent emerging market restructurings.

“It is more straight forward than the likes of Sri Lanka and Zambia, in the respect that there is not a lot of China debt,” Exum said on Friday in comments anticipating the external restructuring.

Ghana’s external bonds, which are trading at a deeply distressed level of 29-41 cents in the dollar, dropped with the 2061 bond losing 2.5 cents, Tradeweb data showed.

Nonetheless, some investors said the suspension of external debt payment was expected.

“It is in line with Ghana getting into talks about restructuring with various debt holders, so not coming out of the blue,” Rob Drijkoningen, co-head of emerging market debt at Neuberger Berman, which holds some Ghanaian Eurobonds.

It was not immediately clear if the debt service suspension would include a $1 billion 2030 bond that has a $400m World Bank guarantee.

“We will not be commenting on the specifics of any particular bond or debt owed at this time, but… we are fully engaging all stakeholders,” a finance ministry spokesperson told Reuters.

Egypt’s exports to European Union doubled in 2022, says head of EU Delegation

Ahmed Kotb , Thursday 15 Dec 2022

Egypt’s exports to the European Union (EU) have doubled in 2022 after reaching about 8 billion euros, up from 4 billion euros in 2021, said Christian Berger, the head of the EU Delegation to Egypt.

Christian Berger, the head of the European Union Delegation to Egypt


Berger added at a press conference on Wednesday that the EU is the leading importer of Egypt’s exports with about 30 percent of the country’s $27.4 billion-worth of exports. 

Egypt’s exports to the EU include machineries, chemicals, food and plastics.

Egypt is the largest receiver of the EU’s direct foreign investment in Africa, Berger added.

“We are currently in discussion with the Egyptian government over how to increase trade and investment,” he said.

The EU has an active portfolio of funded development projects in Egypt amounting to 1.3 billion euros.

“These funds and projects contribute to improving the lives of citizens, especially in poorer areas where the Hayah Karima (Decent life) initiative is operating,” Berger stated.

The EU and Egypt agreed on Wednesday on a 50 million euro project to upgrade the infrastructure and services, including schools, healthcare, and water access in informal areas, he noted.

Water remains on top of the Egyptian sectors receiving EU support, with 0.5 billion euros in grants and 7 billion euros in loans, Berger stated.

The EU supports the National Water Resources Plan of Egypt 2017-2037. Desalination, water treatment, irrigation, water networks and other infrastructure projects are the main areas of cooperation in this sector, according to Berger.

“Egypt is developing into an important water management hub, and the EU will continue to support the country in this key sector,” he added.

Berger reviewed other fields of cooperation between Egypt and the EU in 2022, including urban development, gender equality, digital transformation and artificial intelligence, research and development, human rights, and migration.

“We want to allow the flow of more investment from Europe to Egypt, and we are working with the Egyptian government to make the investment environment more attractive,” Berger pointed out, adding that Egypt has exerted a lot of effort in this regard, such as improving legislation, drafting an investment law, and developing the Suez Canal Economic Zone.

Berger stated that the EU has contributed to mitigating the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war by adopting an initiative for regional food resilience for 225 million euros, with the largest allocation of the sum going to Egypt with 100 million euros. 

“This initiative will help support Egypt’s strategic food security and address short and medium term needs for food resilience,” he stressed.

This year witnessed the signing of many agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoUs), such as the Partnership Priorities Agreement between Egypt and the European Union (2022-2027), and the MoU for the export of natural gas to the EU.

COP27

The 27th session of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP27), which took place in November in Sharm El-Sheikh, witnessed important discussions and key agreements signed between Egypt and the EU, the most important being an MoU on the research, production, development, marketing, and sale of green hydrogen.

“COP27 has served as a momentum for agreements and partnerships with Egypt… mainly in renewable energy, and other energy and environment related projects,” Berger told Ahram Online.

A whole series of agreements between the EU and Egypt are materialising in the fields of gas, renewable energy and hydrogen, serving as a beginning that will help Egypt to become a hub for renewable energy production and trade in Africa, Berger added.

“We have also agreed to support Egypt’s food, energy and water nexus. The EU, several countries, and international organisations have contributed up to 35 million euros to this initiative,” Berger stated, adding that this is a unique initiative because of its importance for the environment.

Other initiatives emphasise the cooperation between Egypt and the EU, such as in the field of digital transformation, he said.

“The energy and economic hardships in Europe are not hindering the cooperation and support of the EU to Egypt. On the contrary, we are reinforcing partnership,” he stated.

South African retail sales fall 0.6% year on year in October

Reuters

A shopper looks for items at Makro Store Riversands of South African retailer Massmart in Midrand, South Africa, August 28, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG, Dec 14 (Reuters) – South African retail sales fell 0.6% year on year in October after falling by a revised 0.4% in September, Statistics South Africa figures showed on Wednesday.

On a month-on-month basis, sales were up 0.4%.

Sales in the three months to the end of October were up 0.3% compared with the same period last year, the statistics agency said.

Reporting by Bhargav Acharya Editing by Alexander Winning

Ghana reaches $3 billion IMF deal

AFP , Tuesday 13 Dec 2022

Ghana on Tuesday agreed on a $3 billion credit deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as part of the country’s battle to end its worst economic crisis in decades.

President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa . AFP

West Africa has seen a resurgence of coups in recent months, and the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States has deployed “stabilizing” forces in Guinea-Bissau.

After talks with visiting Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embalo, Ramaphosa said Africa should emulate ECOWAS.

The continent has “a lot to learn in the way that ECOWAS is dealing with these matters much as it is experiencing a spate of these coups”.

“The determination and the decisiveness of the leadership in ECOWAS is something that stands out as a very good example for the rest of the continent.”

ECOWAS has deployed a “stabilizing support force” in Guinea-Bissau following a reported coup bid in February that claimed 11 lives.

The force includes troops from Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Senegal, according to Guinea-Bissau’s leader.

“ECOWAS has found a solution. In Guinea-Bissau, I have troops from ECOWAS. We are going to do the same in other countries,” Embalo told reporters.

Guinea-Bissau army spokesman Usmane Kuyate confirmed the arrival of a vanguard of the ECOWAS force.

“We have little information about this force, especially about its deployment on the ground,” he told AFP. “Some of it has already arrived, the rest is still on the way.”

ECOWAS previously deployed stability and security forces in Guinea-Bissau after the 2012 coup that overthrew prime minister Carlos Gomes Junior.

That force left the country in 2020.

Guinea-Bissau, a Portuguese-speaking coastal state of around two million people south of Senegal, had seen four military coups since 1974.

Egypt expecting approval of IMF package next week: deputy minister

Egypt’s finances remain fragile despite two major currency devaluations this year and the IMF package [Getty/archive]

Reuters – Egypt is expecting approval of a new $3 billion Extended Fund Facility package from the International Monetary Fund next week, Deputy Finance Minister Ahmed Kouchouk said on Wednesday.

Egypt’s finances remain fragile despite two major currency devaluations this year and the IMF package, which was announced in October as Egypt pledged to shift to “durable exchange rate flexibility” in line with long-standing IMF demands.

Since then, the gap between the black market exchange rate and the official rate has widened, raising speculation about the extent of exchange rate flexibility and the security of the IMF package.

Asked at a Euromoney conference in Cairo if it was correct to see the IMF executive board meeting scheduled for December 16 to be effectively a formality, Kouchouk replied: “Very accurate.”

Egypt was expecting an initial drawdown on the IMF loan of $750 million by the end of the July-June fiscal year, which would allow Egypt to “mobilise also a very decent package from other multilateral development banks as well as from the market,” Kouchouk said.

But he added that the government’s focus was winning support for comprehensive economic reform.

“We believe that we have a very ambitious plan that is hinging around catalysing the private sector role, about engaging the private sector, getting more FDI, enhancing the competitiveness of our economy,” Kouchouk said.

“We think that the funding shouldn’t be the main issue.”

Experts raise concerns as Nigeria limits cash withdrawals

In this photo released by the Nigeria State House, Nigeria’s central bank governor, …  –  Copyright © africanews
Sunday Aghaeze/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

By Rédaction Africanews with AP Last updated

Experts on Wednesday raised concerns over a new policy announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria that heavily limits withdrawals of money in a push for a cashless economy.

The monetary policy, which applies to ATMs, banks and cash back from purchases, follows the launch of the West African nation’s newly designed currency notes to control the money supply.

The central bank limited weekly over-the-counter cash withdrawals to 100,000 naira ($225) for individuals and 500,000 naira ($1,124) for corporations, with a processing fee required to access more.

When the policy takes effect in Jan. 9, ATMs will no longer dispense Nigeria’s high denominations of 1,000 naira ($2.25) and 500 naira ($1.10) while withdrawals from ATMs and point-of-sale terminals also will be limited to 20,000 naira ($45) daily.

“In compelling circumstances, not exceeding once a month, where cash withdrawals above the prescribed limits are required for legitimate purposes, such cash withdrawals shall not exceed 5,000,000 naira ($11,236) and 10,000,000 naira ($22,471) for individuals and corporations, respectively,” said Haruna Mustafa, the bank’s director of banking supervision.

Policymakers say the withdrawal limits and recent monetary initiatives from the central bank would bring more people into the banking system and curb currency hoarding, illicit flows and inflation.

But analysts worry that with digital payments often unreliable in Nigeria, the initiative could hurt daily transactions that people and businesses make.

“The policy is intended to cause discomfort, to move you from cash to cashless because they (the central bank) have said they want to make it uncomfortable and expensive for you to hold cash,” economic analyst Kalu Aja said.

“That is a positive for the CBN (because) the more discomforting they are able to achieve, the more people can move,” Aja said.

In Nigeria, the majority of people work in the informal sector — mainly activities outside of the legal framework and government regulation such as farming, street and market trade, and public transport. The economy is heavily dependent on this sector, and cash is usually preferred for transactions because many lack bank accounts.

Only 45% of adults in Nigeria have accounts with regulated financial institutions, according to the World Bank. In the absence of bank accounts, point-of-sale terminals have emerged as one of the fastest-growing areas of financial inclusion in the country.

Through the withdrawal limits, the central bank is “directly attacking” such agency banking services and “people will essentially begin to hoard their money,” said Tunde Ajileye, a partner at Lagos–based SBM Intelligence firm.

“It is not going to drive people to start to try doing electronic transactions. On the contrary, it is going to move people away from the financial institutions,” he said.

Growth of 5.7% in West African Economic and Monetary Union in 2022

The eight member countries of the union are Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso

The growth rate within the countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), amounted to 5.7% in 2022, down 0.4% compared to 2021, announced Monday the leaders of this organization meeting in Abidjan.

The eight member countries of UEMOA (Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso) have not been spared by “the deep crises that affect the whole world”, in particular “the consequences of the war in Ukraine”, at the same time as “our economies were recovering from the shock” of the crisis related to Covid, said Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara.

In addition to the growth rate, which has slowed from 6.1% in 2021 to 5.7% in 2022, inflation within the union has risen from 3.6% to 7.5% in 2022, Mr Ouattara said, adding that its member countries had nevertheless shown “resilience”.

Noting that the security situation was “worrying” because of “the increasing number of terrorist attacks” in several UEMOA countries, in particular Burkina Faso and Mali, he pointed out that some of the expenditure that should have been allocated “to education and health” had been allocated “to defence and security”.

The Abidjan summit was held the day after the Abuja summit of the fifteen member countries of ECOWAS, to which the UEMOA belong, which decided to create a regional force to intervene not only against jihadism but also in the event of a coup d’état, as the region has experienced several over the past two years.

Several West African countries are suffering from the spread of jihadism from northern Mali to central Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, and southwards to the Gulf of Guinea.

The national armies are largely powerless and cooperate with external actors, the UN, France and Russia.

Insecurity is a major factor in the military coups that have shaken the region since 2020 in Mali, Burkina Faso and, for other reasons, Guinea.

“ECOWAS leaders have decided to recalibrate our security architecture,” Omar Touray, chairman of the ECOWAS commission, said in Abuja. They are “determined to establish a regional force that will intervene when needed, whether it is for security, terrorism or restoring constitutional order in member states,” he said.

The world marks International Day of Banks

By Halligan Agade -2 hours ago

Photo by Getty Images.

December 4 is the official International Day of Banks, marked globally to recognize the significant potential of multilateral development banks and other international development banks in financing sustainable development. This is in addition to providing know-how, and the vital role of banking systems in contributing to the improvement of living standards.

The day was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2019.

Given the complex and ambitious set of transformations needed to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, coherence across policy areas is critical. There is a growing understanding of how financial regulations are affecting incentives for sustainable development investment.

The UN said there is less understanding of the impacts of social and environmental risks on credit quality and the stability of the financial system. Policies and regulations need to act together to create a sustainable financial system. The regulatory system needs to be congruent with the measures used to boost the sustainability of the private financial system, such as sustainability reporting and impact measurement.

Therefore well-run national development banks can help countries develop financing options for Sustainable Development Goal-related investments. Such banks should be aligned with the Goals in a holistic way and be considered in integrated national financing frameworks.

Collaboration between national development banks and multilateral banks, through co-financing or on-lending arrangements, can enhance Goal-related finance through the complementarity of international resources and local market knowledge.

According to the United Nations, achieving sustainable development in particular eradicating poverty, reducing inequality and combating climate change requires a long-term perspective, with Governments, the private sector and civil society working together to tackle global challenges.

More effort is needed at all levels to ensure that strengthened collective action can help reduce global uncertainty, while financial innovation can generate significant progress across the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

The global economy is facing heightened risks and financial volatility, with global growth likely to have peaked. Geopolitical factors, trade disputes, financial market volatility and non-economic factors, such as climate change risk further impeding growth, stability and development and worsening poverty, inequality and vulnerabilities. It is becoming increasingly urgent to address the systemic economic and financial risks and architectural gaps that threaten the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

(With input from UN News)

Nigeria aims to end imports of petroleum products next year

Nigeria flag and oil wells. Getty Images Image used for illustrative purpose.

Felix Onuah, Reuters News

ABUJA – Nigeria expects to stop importing petroleum products from before or around the third quarter of 2023, its oil minister Timipre Sylva said on Tuesday.

Sylva said a refurbished refinery in the city of Port Harcourt in the oil-producing Niger Delta would be delivering 60,000 barrels per day of refined crude by the end of December.

The minister also said he still expects the new Dangote refinery to come on stream in the first quarter of next year.

“We’re expecting that we will actually be exiting the importation of petroleum products from maybe about third quarter next year if I was to give it a longer timeframe, but I believe that even before the third quarter next year,” Sylva said.

Nigeria’s production of crude had improved to about 1.3 million barrels per day from under 1 million barrels previously, and that the country hoped to meet its OPEC quota by May of next year, Sylva told reporters in Abuja.

Oil is Nigeria’s biggest export earner, but crude theft and vandalism of pipelines have cut oil and gas output, knocking the country from its spot as Africa’s top producer.

Nigeria swaps its crude for refined petroleum products but is in the process of modernising the Port Harcourt refinery at a cost of $1.5 billion.

With high global oil prices, Nigeria wants to refine its own fuels. Its previous efforts to revamp its refineries stalled, leaving it reliant on imports.

(Reporting by Felix Onuah; Writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe and Estelle Shirbon; Editing by James Macharia Chege, David Evans and Alexander Smith)