25 Jan

Gambia Leader Favors Former Dictator Facing Abuse Charges

Gambian President Adama Barrow said he will favor the extradition of his predecessor, Yahya Jammeh, if a commission of inquiry into human-rights abuses during the former ruler’s 22-year reign recommends that he stands trial.

Jammeh’s two-decade rule of the tiny West African nation came to an end in January last year after Senegalese troops and Nigerian fighter jets were sent to the capital, Banjul, to enforce the outcome of Barrow’s election victory the month before.

The country’s parliament passed a law in December to establish a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission to probe state crimes committed during Jammeh’s reign, which was characterized by a violent clampdown on dissent and opposition parties and pledges to kill homosexuals.

“I stand for justice for all crimes committed against the population. No one is above the law,” Barrow said in an interview in Banjul on Wednesday.

If the commission recommends a trial then Jammeh “will face the full force of the law.”

Read more: Dictator’s legacy looms large in Africa’s smallest nation

In July, Barrow initiated a separate commission of inquiry to identify Jammeh’s assets and probe whether they were legally acquired.

Jammeh, 52, who’s now in Equatorial Guinea, was sanctioned last month by the U.S for alleged human-rights abuses and corruption during his reign. Gambia doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Equatorial Guinea.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-24/gambia-president-to-favor-former-leader-s-extradition-for-abuses

25 Jan

Ramaphosa Sees Progress in South Africa’s ‘Mammoth’ Corruption Fight

South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said the authorities are intensifying their attack on pervasive corruption in the state and are having “positive” discussions with investors about the future of Africa’s largest economy.

“The wheels of change are moving now and they are going to start speeding up,” Ramaphosa said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“Cleaning up clearly is going to be quite a mammoth task, but we have to start somewhere. Our people are clamoring for a clean government, and that is what we are going to give them.”

Ramaphosa, 65, was elected leader of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress last month, positioning him to succeed President Jacob Zuma, whose almost nine-year tenure has been marred by scandal.

While Zuma’s second term is due to end in mid-2019, the ANC has said its newly elected top six leaders will determine when he should step down.

“We have taken a view that this is a very, very difficult matter,” Ramaphosa said, when asked if Zuma would serve out his term.

“We have decided we are going to manage this transition very carefully. What we don’t want to see is him treated with disrespect. We will manage it so well so that it does not divide the nation.”

Increasing Influence

The rand has rallied on optimism Ramaphosa can bring in change and revive an economy that sank into its second recession in a decade last year.

It’s the best performing currency tracked by Bloomberg since he won the party leadership, trading stronger than 12 to the dollar on Wednesday for the first time in almost three years.

A lawyer and one of the richest black South Africans, Ramaphosa has already shown his increasing influence over the government.

His office announced sweeping changes to the board of cash-strapped state power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. on Jan. 20, including the appointment of Jabu Mabuza, one of Zuma’s most outspoken critics, as chairman.

To read the full article, click here. 

25 Jan

Rand Cracks 12 per Dollar First Time Since ’15 as Optimism Grows

South Africa’s rand traded below 12 per dollar on Wednesday for the first time since May 2015, extending a rally sparked by an improving domestic political environment and supported by global risk-on sentiment and the greenback’s retreat.

The currency advanced as much as 0.9 percent to 11.9265 per dollar, and traded 0.7 percent stronger at 11.9462 by 11:52 a.m. in Johannesburg. That brings gains in the past three months to 15 percent, the most out of 31 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

The yield on rand-denominated government bonds due December 2026 fell four basis points to 8.32 percent, the lowest since March.

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as head of the ruling African National Congress in December, setting him on a path to take over from President Jacob Zuma, has fueled optimism South Africa may avert further credit-rating downgrades as the new leadership takes steps to root out corruption and stimulate the ailing economy. Inflows into the nation’s stocks market are running at record levels.

“Investors are loving us at the moment,” said Phillip Pearce, a trader at TreasuryOne Ltd. in Johannesburg. “The dollar is taking a pounding and global markets are still on the hunt for yield. There’s not a lot of risk going now. South Africa seems like a good bet.”

The rand could appreciate to as low as 11.50 per dollar if Zuma is removed from office, Pearce said. The probability of the rand reaching that level this quarter rose to 49 percent on Wednesday, from 19 percent a month ago, according to Bloomberg’s forecast model based on prices of options to buy or sell the currency.

‘Better Space’

South Africa is in a “much better space” now than when previous credit-rating actions took place, and can avert further downgrades this year as lawmakers assert their authority to hold the executive to account, South Africa’s central-bank governor, Lesetja Kganyago, said on Wednesday.

To read the full article, click here.

24 Jan

Ex-Nigerian President Asks Buhari Not to Seek Re-Election

Former Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo asked President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek re-election next year, saying he has failed in his management of Africa’s most populous country.

“I only appeal to brother Buhari to consider a deserved rest at this point in time,” Obasanjo said on Tuesday in an emailed statement.

“President Buhari does not necessarily need to heed my advice. But whether or not he heeds it, Nigeria needs to move on and move forward.”

Obasanjo, who served two terms as an elected president from 1999 to 2007, backed Buhari in his 2015 election and defeat of then President Goodluck Jonathan by the All Progressives Congress to effect the first democratic transfer of power in the country of more than 180 million people.

“The situation that made Nigerians to vote massively to get my brother Jonathan off the horse is playing itself out again,” Obasanjo said.

Africa’s top oil producer is scheduled to hold presidential elections in February next year as well as vote for lawmakers and state governors.

While Buhari hasn’t said if he’ll run, his potential candidature remains a subject of much interest after he spent a total of more than five months in London last year receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment.

‘Changed Irrevocably’

“The character of the 2019 election has changed irrevocably, it’s going to be extremely difficult for Buhari now,” Jideofor Adibe, a professor of political science at Nasarawa State University, Keffi, near the capital, Abuja, said by phone.

“This will embolden a number of people to challenge Buhari and it could also set him thinking whether seeking re-election is really worth it.”

After three failed attempts to win the presidency from 2003 to 2011, Buhari mustered a coalition of opposition parties that merged to become the ruling APC party.

That coalition is now in tatters, with many members accusing the president of adopting a non-inclusive style and appointing cronies instead of competent people to key positions.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who was Obasanjo’s number two and backed Buhari in 2015, left the APC last month and rejoined the People’s Democratic Party, accusing Buhari of ignoring senior party members and relying on a core of personal aides to govern. Abubakar is widely seen as a potential presidential candidate in the coming vote.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-23/ex-nigerian-leader-obasanjo-asks-buhari-not-to-seek-re-election

24 Jan

It Would Be a Pitch Like No Other: Zimbabwe Eyes Bond Market

It’s a sales pitch as tough as they come: the economy has halved since 2000, unemployment’s at 90 percent and bank withdrawals are capped at $40 a week.

What’s more, the government’s behind on World Bank loan payments and some officials have been sanctioned by the U.S. and Europe.

Welcome to Zimbabwe, where new president Emmerson Mnangagwa wants to sell debt to revive one of the world’s worst-performing economies and end its isolation from international capital markets. The odd thing is, the pitch might just work.

“It is a tall order, but no longer out of the question with the change in leadership,” said Hasnain Malik, the Dubai-based head of equities research at Exotix Partners LLP, who covers Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa, 75, is mingling with the elite of the capitalist world at Davos this week, two months after replacing Robert Mugabe.

Under Mugabe, 93, who ruled the southern African nation for almost 40 years until the military ousted him in November, Zimbabwe turned from one of the continent’s most promising economies into a virtual pariah state.

His sanctioning of violent takeovers of white-owned farms from 2000 crushed agriculture, the mainstay of the economy, and caused investors to flee.

Inflation surged to 500 billion percent, according to the International Monetary Fund, as Mugabe printed money in a desperate attempt to get out of the hole he’d created.

Hyperinflation only ended in 2009 when Zimbabwe scrapped its worthless dollar and adopted the U.S. version, which is still the dominant currency among a basket of notes accepted as legal tender.

While Mugabe’s exit paves the way for Zimbabwe’s reintegration into the global financial system, bond investors will first want to see credible elections, evidence of more fiscal discipline and a deal with the IMF for financial help, Malik said.

Spy Chief

Mnangagwa, a former spy chief who was close to Mugabe throughout his presidency and the nation’s liberation war before that, plans to hold elections within five months and invite international observers, he said in an interview with Bloomberg in Harare, the capital, last week. He’s confident he’ll win.

To read the full article, click here.

24 Jan

Steinhoff Finds $1.1 Billion Under the Mattress. Is It Enough?

Steinhoff International Holdings NV’s quest for cash has yielded about $1.1 billion from asset sales as the embattled retailer struggles to stay afloat. The question is whether the relatively small steps it’s taken can forestall more radical ones.

Since revelations last month of accounting irregularities, Steinhoff sold the company jet, shed stakeholdings and sought to refinance debt to free up funds. It even ended its sponsorship of the rugby team at Stellenbosch University, the alma mater of former Chief Executive Officer Markus Jooste.

“Scrambling around to find relatively small amounts of money points to the extent of the problems,” said Charles Allen, a London-based analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.

In its largest move so far, the company on Monday sold 7.1 billion rand ($590 million) of stock in South African financial-services firm PSG Group Ltd. Steinhoff, which snapped up French furniture retailer Conforama, British discount chain Poundland and Mattress Firm of the U.S. in the past decade, may have little choice but to begin unwinding that buying spree, said Syd Vianello, an independent retail analyst in Johannesburg.

“Selling smaller assets that are not essential to its operations is part of its strategy,” said Vianello, an accountant by training who has followed the industry for about 30 years. “But I don’t think it will stop there. Banks will want their money and want it quickly, so there will be big sales forced on them.”

Steinhoff shares have fallen 84 percent since Dec. 5, the day it announced the discovery of the accounting problems and the departure of Jooste as CEO.

Seven weeks on, investors are still in the dark about the scope of the irregularities. Since hiring auditor PwC to investigate, Steinhoff has said it may have to restate earnings going back to at least 2015. Questions over the accounts and the company’s sprawling operations are complicating efforts to estimate its cash needs.

To read the full article, click here.

23 Jan

Pence Defends Trump on Disparaging Comments About Africa

Jerusalem (AP) — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Monday defended President Donald Trump over his recent comments disparaging immigration from Africa and Haiti, telling The Associated Press that the president’s “heart” is aimed at a merit-based system that is blind to immigrants’ “race or creed.”

Pence, in an interview with the AP from Jerusalem, said the president was intent on implementing a merit-based system that encourages immigration by those who will “contribute to a growing American economy and thriving communities.”

“I know the president’s heart and I know that what President Trump wants to do is reform immigration to make our system one that puts the interests of America first,” Pence said.

He added that immigrants should be considered on their merits, “regardless of what country they come from or what their race and creed is.”

He was responding to reports that Trump, in a private meeting with legislators earlier this month, challenged immigration from “shithole” African countries, disparaged Haiti and said the U.S. should welcome more immigrants from countries like Norway.

The vice president also dismissed an adult film star’s account of a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, questioning its validity.

“I’m just not going to comment on the latest baseless allegations against the president,” Pence said. “My focus is on serving the president, advancing the priorities of the administration, advancing American interests and that’s where it will stay.”

The Wall Street Journal last week reported that Trump’s personal lawyer brokered a payment to pornographic actress Stormy Daniels in October 2016 to prohibit her from publicly discussing the alleged affair before the presidential election.

Daniels’ real name is Stephanie Clifford. Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, has denied there was any relationship. He gave the Journal a statement from a person identified as Stormy Daniels denying receiving “hush money.”

The AP reported that a tabloid magazine held back from publishing her 2011 account of their relationship after Cohen threatened to sue.

To read the full article, click here.

23 Jan

African Development Bank to Add $2 Billion to Nigeria Loans

The African Development Bank plans to increase its loans to Nigeria by more than $2 billion next year with investments in energy, infrastructure and agriculture, its President Akinwumi Adesina said.

“The total portfolio we have in Nigeria is $6 billion,” Adesina said in a Jan. 18 interview in Abuja, the capital. “We expect that by the year 2019, we will grow that into a little bit over $8 billion.”

The Abidjan, Ivory Coast-based lender will pump more than $800 million into Nigeria this year, most of which will fund investments in power. Among them is a $250 million support to revamp power-transmission lines and electricity sub-stations as well as fund a $200 million solar power project in Jigawa state in the north, Adesina said.

The $400 million balance from a $1 billion loan for budget support will be disbursed directly to industries identified by the government after projects have been vetted by the bank, he said.

Africa’s most populous country, with more than 180 million people, is recovering from its worst economic slump in 25 years. It will also receive budget support and public financial management assistance from the lender, he said.

Agribusiness Clusters

The AfDB forecast Nigeria’s economy will grow 2.1 percent this year as the output of and the price of oil, its main export, recovers. The country depends on crude exports for two-thirds of government revenue and most of its foreign income.

Brent crude, which compares with Nigeria’s export grades, has gained 26 percent in the past year, helping the recovery. It traded at $69.40 a barrel as of 7:18 a.m. in London.

As Nigeria seeks to reduce its dependence on oil by boosting agricultural production, the AfDB plans to help set up “staple crop processing zones” and create agribusiness clusters across the country to curb harvest losses of as much as 70 percent for some crops, Adesina said.

“These zones will change our rural economy,” he said. “You will be able to create markets for farmers and reduce massive post-harvest losses. You will change the structure of agriculture itself because people will see it as a business as opposed to a subsistence activity.”

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-22/african-development-bank-to-increase-nigeria-loans-by-2-billion

23 Jan

Infighting Plagues South African Opposition Ahead of Elections

South Africa’s main opposition party is proving to be its own worst enemy as it bids to topple the ruling African National Congress from power in next year’s elections.

Instead of capitalizing on voter antagonism toward the ANC and President Jacob Zuma over a succession of scandals, the Democratic Alliance has stumbled, with its mayors’ performance drawing criticism in several of the biggest cities it runs, including Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The party is also struggling to deal with a severe water crisis in Cape Town and improve services in municipalities where it wrested control from the ANC in 2016.

“The DA has been shooting itself in the foot,” said Xolani Dube, a political analyst at the Xubera Institute for Research and Development in the port city of Durban. “Its internal problems are doing serious damage to its image and will undermine its attempts to portray itself as a viable alternative to the ANC.”

Personality clashes and disagreements over policy have already cost the DA control of one major town, Mogale City, northwest of Johannesburg, and its mayor in Cape Town risks being ousted by her own party in the coming weeks.

The timing for the DA’s woes is awful. While it capitalized on anger over Zuma to win 27 percent of the vote in the 2016 municipal elections, up from 22 percent in a national ballot two years earlier, it’s now up against a ruling party that’s been revitalized under new leadership.

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa to replace Zuma as its leader in December will probably reduce the odds of the ANC’s support dropping below the 50 percent mark in 2019. The party has won every vote outright since apartheid ended in 1994 when Nelson Mandela led it to power.

Cape Town Crisis

In Cape Town, which the DA has controlled since 2006, Mayor Patricia de Lille faces an official probe after being accused by her fellow party members of poor administration and a high-handed management style — allegations she denies.

To read the full article, click here. 

22 Jan

Zimbabwe President Seeks to Woo Lenders by Paying Loan Arrears

Zimbabwe is committed to repaying arrears to external lenders so that it can resume support programs with institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and end years of isolation from global capital markets, said the country’s president.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the 75-year-old who took over as leader of the southern African country in November after the military pressured Robert Mugabe into resigning, said one of his priorities is reintegrating his country into the global financial system.

The economy has halved in size since 2000, credit lines from most lenders have been withdrawn and infrastructure has crumbled.

 Zimbabwe owes about $9 billion to lenders such as the World Bank and African Development Bank and has fallen behind in payments, with arrears recently amounting to about $1.8 billion.
If his bid to revive the economy is to succeed, Mnangagwa will need access to billions of dollars of support.
“There are limitations to engaging with Bretton Woods institutions — the limitations are as a result of our arrears with those institutions but they are giving positive indications that they would want to accommodate us,” he said in an interview in his office in the capital, Harare, last week.
“We shall recommit ourselves to paying our debts, our arrears. I believe that they will embrace us in the same manner they are embracing other countries.”
Re-engaging with international lenders would be a first step for the Zimbabwean government, which is also considering a debut international bond sale so that it can invest in infrastructure.
“If this succeeds, we would really need a substantial injection into our economy, in particular into the productive economy,” he said.
“Basically a capital injection into capital projects. Infrastructure development is what we want: dams, roads.”
Still, the Zimbabwean leader demonstrated little appetite for cutting costs in the manner that the IMF and other lenders have urged.
The country’s more than 500,000-strong civil service accounts for about 90 percent of budget expenditure, crowding out investment in much-needed projects such as restoring the capital’s water supply and fixing its roads.
To read the full article, click here.