09 Mar

Sierra Leone Elects New Leader in Close Race

Voters in Sierra Leone are going to the polls to elect a successor for President Ernest Bai Koroma in a campaign where an unprecedented number of political parties is making the outcome too close to call.

As Koroma nears the end of his second five-year term, 16 parties are competing in the elections in the West African nation. His successor will face the tough challenge of reviving an economy that’s struggling to recover from the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola and an iron-ore slump.

“There are certain things that aren’t going right,” Adama Deen, 38, said as he stood in line to vote at a polling station in the capital, Freetown. “We need change.”

Koroma chose former Foreign Affairs Minister Samura Kamara as the ruling All People’s Congress candidate to compete against the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party’s Julius Maada Bio.

While the two parties have dominated politics since independence, a newcomer, the National Grand Coalition, is expected to win a significant amount of votes, raising the probability of a runoff as no candidate is expected to secure 55 percent in the first round.

“The grip on power that the APC has is under threat,” Jamie Hitchen, an independent analyst, said by phone from Freetown. It is difficult to forecast “what will happen in the likely event of a runoff; it’s really hard to know how the other political parties will realign themselves,” he said.

Most polling stations opened by 7 a.m. on Wednesday. The outcome is likely to be announced by the weekend.

In 2012, Sierra Leone was sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest-growing economy as Chinese and U.K.-based investors began shipping iron ore, which took over from diamonds as the country’s biggest export.

But the double shock of a commodity price slump and the Ebola epidemic the following year triggered the collapse of the two iron-ore mines in the country and left the economy in ruins. The government’s also dealing with the aftermath of a huge mudslide in Freetown last year that killed about 1,100 people.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-07/sierra-leone-elects-new-leader-in-poll-seen-too-close-to-call

07 Dec

It’s Only Been Two Months, But Angola Leader’s a Bond-Market Hit

He’s only led Angola for a couple of months, but bond investors already like what they’ve seen from Joao Lourenco.

Angola’s $1.5 billion of bonds due in 2025 have returned 8 percent since Lourenco was sworn in as president on Sept. 26, replacing Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who had ruled the OPEC member and former Portuguese colony since 1979. That’s a better performance than any other country in the Bloomberg Barclays Emerging Markets USD Sovereign Bond Index, which includes debt from more than 70 nations.

It’s not just down to oil prices rising about 5 percent in the period — the bonds of other major producers such as Mexico, Russia and Saudi Arabia have barely budged. Overall, Eurobonds issued by emerging-market governments returned an average of 0.3 percent.

Lourenco, 63, has moved fast to assert his authority in Angola, which relies on crude for about 90 percent of exports and ranks among the 15 most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International. He has replaced the heads of the central bank, state oil company Sonangol and diamond firm Endiama, and started opening up the telecommunications sector to more competition.

The central bank, under new Governor Jose Massano, raised the main interest rate by 200 basis points to 18 percent last week as it looked to combat inflation of almost 30 percent. It may be a precursor to a weakening of the kwanza, according to Standard Bank Group Ltd., which says the currency is overvalued.

“While one could point to market ebullience due to elevated oil prices as a factor underpinning these bonds, the market might be getting more constructive on the policy outlook,” Dmitry Shishkin, the head of quantitative strategy at Standard Bank in London, said in a Nov. 28 note. The government has “hit some of the right notes, pointing to a desire to improve debt sustainability, cut some expenses, issue another Eurobond and continue with the reform of Sonangol.”

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-06/it-s-only-2-months-but-angolan-leader-a-hit-with-bond-investors