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Insights from our latest review

We bring you current and trending information.  Topline business and economic news not in the mainstream media.  We bring industry insights, category and product reviews and reflections from the retail sector.

Ghana – West Africa

Electioneering has already begun for the Presidential and parliamentary elections due on 7th November 2016. Current President John Mahama is seeking a second term and making election promises of creating “millions of jobs”. He continues: “Indeed, the next term of office will see a massive investment in the real sector. In the first term as president, I have been engrossed with trying to ensure macroeconomic stability and restoring the social and economic infrastructure. That has been my focus in the first term. The second term is going to see massive investment in the real sector and that is the sector that creates jobs across the country.” Economic watchers say that it is important that continued fiscal consolidation progress is made, as well as steps to avoid ritual election year budget overruns. Peaceful and credible elections are vital for continued stability and economic growth.

 

 

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East Africa - Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi & Rwanda

 

The EU and East African Community (EAC) are on course to ratify a treaty described by Brussels as “a new comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)” by October 2016. Most significantly for EU exporters, the agreement will lead to gradual decreases in import duties to zero for some products from the EU over the next 15 years. There will be rules of origin defining which products fall under the terms of the deal. Customs related provisions will seek to promote more harmonised customs legislation and procedures. Existing EAC product sanitary and phytosanitary standards will hopefully be harmonised with international standards.

 

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Southern Africa - Zimbabwe

In 2009, Zimbabwe dumped its inflation ravaged local currency, adopting a basket of foreign currencies which expanded over time to nine, among them the US dollar, South African rand, Botswana pula, Japanese yen, and the Chinese yuan. However, USD are most in demand, particularly with the announcement in late May that Zimbabwe was going to print its first bond notes since 2008, when inflation hit 500 billion percent due to rampant printing of cash. Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor has tried to reassure citizens and investors that the bonds are designed to boost exports and generate foreign exchange and not an attempt to reintroduce a Zimbabwean currency. Not all Zimbabweans are buying it though; many cash machines have run dry, queues days-long form at those left as people try to withdraw as much of their money as they can. The authorities have responded by imposing withdrawal limits. “The banks are emptying as we speak,” said a member of the board of a foreign bank in Harare.  “These new, so-called bond notes are Zimbabwe dollars which went to private school,” he quipped.

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North Africa - Libya

To add to its existing problems of seemingly endless political wrangling, insecurity and the growing threat of IS, Libya is now also facing a severe liquidity crisis. Due to the insecurity, businesses and individuals have been hoarding their cash rather than depositing it. Many banks have limited withdrawals to less than LYD 500 dinars while other banks remained closed. Market prices for basics have soared and many government employees have not been paid in recent months. The IMF recognises the Central Bank of Libya of the eastern government (who fled Tripoli in October 2014) but the UN and wider international community recognise the government in the West. However, there is currently further turmoil as the CBL in the East has just taken receipt of four billion dinars worth of banknotes (printed in Russia) whilst the CBL in the West is taking delivery shortly of 1.7bn dinars worth of banknotes (printed in the UK). The two currencies would have different serial numbers, security details and watermarks, diplomats say. The danger is two central banks flooding the country with conflicting currencies that are not interchangeable in banks. They are also likely to worsen inflation. The US Embassy has already declared the East’s notes counterfeit as diplomats are worried that the currency chaos, allied to expected longer and more frequent power cuts during Ramadan, will erode wavering support for the UN government.

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2016: A Year of Optimism Across Africa

As the world faces uncertainty and volatility this year, there are still huge opportunities for significant progress, particularly in Africa and despite falling commodity prices, increasing numbers of refugees, geopolitical tensions and the threat of violent extremism. The IMF is predicting sub-Saharan growth of 4.25% in 2016, up from 3.5% in 2015 and better than many first and second world economies predictions. Behind the gloom of the 24-hour news cycle, there are many reasons to be optimistic. 2016 will be a year of transformations — in energy, finance, technology and global partnership. These will have profound effects on Africa. Here are 10 scenarios that we are seeing unfolding this year.

 

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The Power of the Mall

 

Africa’s biggest cities are following in the footsteps of the South African – and to a certain extent North American – approach to retail development. While most Africans continue to source goods from local shops and informal stalls, more prosperous urbanites are increasingly concentrating their spending power on malls, attracted not just by the range and type of goods on offer but by the international lifestyle that they represent. For better or for worse, shopping malls are springing up across Africa in ever greater numbers, attracting international retail chains and providing a boost to local construction companies. In most African countries, retail development starts from a very low base. Although the African Development Bank (AfDB) puts the number of middle-class Africans at 350m, most don’t currently have a great deal of spending power. That middle class are individuals that spend more than $2.2 a day – just enough for a hot drink in most shopping malls.

 

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Stability & Investment

The head of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Donald Kaberuka, says achieving economic progress does not just depend on having impressive numbers of GDP growth, high-rise buildings or first-class highways. For development institutions like his and others looking to promote growth, they must also consider political factors.

 

When recent fighting erupted in South Sudan, the AfDB had just approved a US$25m electricity project. Neither Kaberuka nor his staff saw the conflict coming. Kaberuka says when conflicts erupt in countries, the Bank’s financing of development projects has to start all over again. “We did finance development in Somalia. We built roads, hospitals, but the country went back to shambles. I had an office in Bangui [Central African Republic]. We had offices in Juba [South Sudan], but when we go back to square one, I’ll be going further than my traditional mandate of economics and development. I’ll be looking closely at the political economy of the countries,” said Kaberuka.

 

In a recent report on the so-called fragile states of Africa, Kaberuka said Bank managers have not taken political risks into account when making development decisions. “[The report] concluded that fragility is a big risk for Africa. We looked at stable countries which suddenly erupt either because of bad elections, corruption,” he said. “We found that each one of our countries is at risk and by extension, Africa’s own prosperity at the moment is at risk.”

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Spotlight: Rwanda

Population – 11.78m

GDP – USD $638m

Inflation – 4.4%

Population Living in Poverty – 44.9%

Life Expectancy – 64 years

Rwanda is a landlocked East African country whose green, mountainous landscape has earned it the nickname “Land of a Thousand Hills.”

A country perhaps best known for its gorillas and 1990s genocide has become one of the most exciting economies in Africa; with broader regional integration allowing it to punch above its weight internationally.

History:

Rwanda was colonised by Germany in 1899, but it lost control of the territory after WW1 and Rwanda was handed over to Belgian administrators. English and French remain national languages. Traditionally, the Tutsis (14% of population) were considered to be of a higher caste than the Hutus (85% of population) but this began to change in 1959 during the so-called Hutu Peasant Revolution which signified the end of Tutsi dominance and sharpened ethnic tensions. A new cycle of ethnic violence continued after independence in 1962, particularly as Tutsis were politically dominant. By the end of the 1980s, some 480,000 Rwandans had become refugees.

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