06 Apr

The resurgence of Sudan: From zero to…

Sudan has for long been the skunk in Africa. The International Criminal Court issued two arrest warrants against its president, Omar Al-Bashir: five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes and three counts of genocide. Sudan was also involved, for all practical purposes, in a civil war in Darfur. In 2011, South Sudan voted to secede from Sudan. This was an economic disaster for Sudan as the rich oil fields were in South Sudan. The country has long been struggling, given amongst others, the economic sanctions the USA imposed against it.

According to Trading Economics, Sudan has the sixth-largest GDP in Africa, in spite of US and EU sanctions and embargoes. It has a population of approximately 40 million people. While it has a somewhat subdued GDP growth rate of only 3.5% (relative to some of its neighbours), what is worrying is its inflation rate of 52.4%. It also has an unemployment rate of 13.3%. Its balance of trade is close to negative US$1bn in January 2018.

This article addresses the very recent past of the developments regarding a perceived renewal of interest in Sudan as an investment destination. It will be addressed against the backdrop of the interest shown by China and the USA.

Sudan and the USA
The United States recently lifted a number of sanctions on Sudan, motivated by the perception that Sudan had begun addressing concerns about terrorism and human rights abuses against civilians in its Darfur region. The lifting of sanctions rescinds measures imposed in 1997 related to terrorism concerns and other steps put in place in 2006 in connection with the conflict in Darfur. The sanctions were temporarily eased in January just before President Barack Obama left office, with his administration citing the same progress the Trump administration noted. In July 2017, President Trump extended the review for three months, angering the Sudanese, who stopped some lower-level meetings with USA officials in retaliation, but maintained contacts between senior officials (Morello, 2017).

Lifting the sanctions and ending an economic embargo came after the Trump administration removed Sudan from the list of countries whose citizens are subject to travel restrictions. Other sanctions, however, are still in place for the time being, including those against individuals with arrest warrants related to atrocities committed during the conflict in Darfur. Sudan is also still on the list of state sponsors of terrorism (Morello, 2017).

Read more at How We Made It in Africa

05 Apr

Africa Signs Free-Trade Deal to Replace Existing Agreements

African leaders signed accords setting up a continental free-trade area that’s expected to boost commerce within the 55-member African Union and eventually supplant a patchwork of existing agreements.

More than 40 nations signed the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, or AfCFTA, which commits governments to removing tariffs on 90 percent of goods and phasing in the rest in future. The agreements will still require ratification by the individual governments and will only come into force when ratified by at least 22 countries.

“The promise of free trade and free movement is prosperity for all Africans, because we are prioritizing the production of value-added goods and services that are Made in Africa,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame said before the leaders began signing the agreements. “The advantages we gain by creating one African market will also benefit our trading partners around the world.”

Intra-Africa trade stands at about 16 percent of the continent’s total, compared with 19 percent in Latin America and 51 percent in Asia, according to the AU. The agreement could increase this by half for Africa, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates.

Read more at Bloomberg.com

07 Mar

Tillerson Heads to Africa With Security, Not Aid, as U.S. Focus

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson begins his first official trip to sub-Saharan Africa with a pledge to help shore up trade, civic freedom and good governance in countries that President Donald Trump has harshly criticized.

U.S. budgetary priorities tell a different story. Tillerson heads to the continent with the Trump administration advocating cuts of more than a third in aid to African countries and programs, along with deep reductions to global health initiatives.

With several U.S. allies struggling to rein in Islamist extremist groups, and China increasingly making inroads on the continent, the U.S. security relationship will be the focus.

While the top U.S. diplomat has a broad itinerary on his five-nation trip, Africa experts say Tillerson’s planned stops in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Chad and Nigeria underscore the emphasis on security — and away from the traditional U.S. role as advocate and partner for good governance and development.

“The common thread among them all is a security partnership,” said Jennifer Cooke, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The substance of what he conveys may be more diverse, but given the signals coming out of the White House and administration to date, I imagine that security is top of the order, along with cementing relationships with partners that the U.S. considers important security players.”

While Tillerson announced $533 million in new aid to fight famine and food insecurity on the continent in a speech Tuesday before his departure, State Department officials have downplayed the possibility of big announcements or new initiatives during the trip.

Adding to a sense of drift, U.S. exports to Africa in 2017 hit their lowest since 2006, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures, while senior State Department posts for the continent remain unstaffed.

 

To read the full article, click here.

16 Jan

Miraa exporters to Mogadishu boycott trade over high prices

Miraa exporters serving the Mogadishu market have started a boycott on the trade citing high farm gate prices. Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) Chairman Kimathi Munjuri said the traders resolved to boycott buying the twigs to force farmers to lower the prices.

According to Mr Munjuri, a 100kg sack of miraa is now selling at Sh160,000, up from at least Sh20,000 during the rainy season. This means a 1kg bundle (bunda) of the medium quality miraa is selling at Sh1,600.

The high prices are due to low supply caused by the dry spell that started early December.“Only traders serving other parts of Somalia shipped their commodity on Monday night. Traders who export to Mogadishu feel that it is not sustainable to buy 100kgs at Sh160,000 because buyers cannot afford it.

TRADERS MEET

He said the traders met in Eastleigh on Sunday and resolved that they would not buy miraa from farmers. “This means about 30 tonnes of miraa has not been delivered to Mogadishu,” Mr Munjuri said.

Mr Joseph Muturia, a member of the Miraa report implementation committee, said the premium quality miraa known as ‘Mbaine’ is selling at Sh6,000 a kilo while ‘kisa’ is retailing at Sh4,000.

“I currently sell miraa locally because residents understand the quality of this type of miraa,” Mr Muturia said. Mr Josiah Mugo, a miraa consumer, said he could no longer afford to chew daily after prices spiked from mid-December.

“A small bundle (surba) of the best quality khat is now retailing at more than Sh400 from Sh150 last month. I am considering shifting to muguka but its quality is not good. I am now chewing occasionally so as not to stretch my budget,” Mr Mugo said.

BOYCOTT FUTILE

However, Nyamita termed the move by the traders as futile saying the miraa prices are determined by market forces.

To read the full article, click here. 

24 Nov

Global Chocolate Binge Has Olam Predicting Smaller Cocoa Surplus

The world just can’t get enough chocolate.

With “tremendous” demand in emerging markets looking set to continue this season, the world’s third-largest cocoa processor is projecting a sharply smaller global surplus. Excess cocoa supplies that reached a record last season will probably drop to about 50,000 metric tons, said Gerry Manley, head of cocoa at Olam International Ltd.

Demand has picked up in Asia particularly, where countries including the Philippines, Indonesia, India and China are consuming more cocoa powder used in products like cookies and ice-cream, Manley said. And while West African growers may reap a second year of bumper crops, top producer Ivory Coast is unlikely to repeat last season’s record harvest.

“We are very positive on demand,” Manley said in an interview at the company’s London offices Thursday. “We are seeing good demand for cocoa powder across the world, but mainly emerging markets are in a leading position there.”

Benchmark cocoa futures traded in London tumbled 23 percent last year, the biggest decline since 2011, as output climbed to a record in Ivory Coast, while Ghana, the No. 2 grower, also reaped a big crop. The large African harvests helped push the global surplus to 371,000 tons, according to estimates from the Abidjan-based International Cocoa Organisation.

This season, global cocoa processing will probably rise by more than 3 percent, Manley said, adding that the forecast is conservative. Processing exceeded 5 percent growth in 2016-17. About 8,000 new products were launched in the confectionery market last year, Manley said.

Lower costs are boosting demand, with the global chocolate confectionery market expanding 2.3 percent in the three months to June and 2.2 percent the following quarter, the world’s top cocoa processor Barry Callebaut AG said earlier this month, citing data from analytics firm Nielsen. The rebound came after at least six consecutive quarters of contractions.

Underestimating Growth

Changing consumer habits mean some traders may be underestimating growth. Trends including online shopping as well as the rise of artisan shops and bakeries are often missed by traditional data sources, Manley said.

Global cocoa powder demand is forecast to grow at 5 percent and Olam is looking to capitalize on that. The Singapore-based company is investing to increase its capacity to mill cocoa cake into powder in Asia and is also planning a new milling facility just outside Chicago, Manley said. The factory should be commissioned later this month.

Demand for cocoa butter and cocoa liquor, used to make chocolate bars, is also growing and the market is tight despite last season’s record surplus, Manley said. That has helped boost cocoa-processing margins, with the so-called combined ratio — the price of cocoa products relative to beans — reaching the highest in more than a decade this year, according to KnowledgeCharts.

To read the full article, click here. 

22 Nov

South Africa Awaits $7 Billion Ratings Double Jeopardy

South Africa will confront the threat of a $7 billion debt selloff this week as it awaits two concurrent judgments on its credit status.

Opinion among economists is divided as to how stark a danger that is. Fifty-six percent of respondents in a Bloomberg survey said S&P Global Ratings will reduce its assessment on rand-denominated debt to the highest non-investment grade on Friday. Moody’s Investors Service, which is scheduled to make a decision, will likely leave it unchanged, according to three-quarters of those asked.

Should both companies cut, rand debt would fall out of gauges including Citigroup Inc.’s World Government Bond Index, sparking outflows of 80 billion to 100 billion rand, Citigroup economist Gina Schoeman said. This would raise borrowing costs for the nation that’s selling more debt to plug a widening budget gap.

Conflict in the ruling party in the run-up to its leadership election next month has hamstrung efforts to bolster the Africa’s most-industrialized economy, which had its second recession in less than a decade earlier this year. Business confidence is near the lowest in more than three decades amid allegations of corruption against state companies’ managers and politicians including President Jacob Zuma.

“Given the fraught political context in which South Africa finds itself, alongside the negative repercussions of downgrades in triggering ejection from key bond indices, we believe that the rating agencies will not rush to cement decisions to downgrade this month,” said Phoenix Kalen, director for emerging-markets strategy at Societe Generale SA in London.

The sustainability of the nation’s debt will be at risk unless government presents a credible fiscal-consolidation plan in 2018, Moody’s said after the mid-term budget last month.

While the outcome of the ruling African National Congress’s elective conference next month will be of interest to ratings companies, it’s the February budget that they’ll be watching for clues on the country’s debt direction, said Annabel Bishop, the chief economist at Investec Bank Ltd.

Read more: South Africa Awaits $7 Billion Ratings Double Jeopardy

 

20 Nov

Nigerian Economic Growth Quickens to 1.4% in Third Quarter

Nigeria’s economic growth accelerated in the third quarter as oil output increased. The gross domestic product of Africa’s largest crude producer expanded 1.4 percent in the three months through September from a year earlier, compared with a revised 0.72 percent in the second quarter, the Abuja-based National Bureau of Statistics said Monday in an emailed report. The median of 13 economists’ estimates in a Bloomberg survey was for 1.5 percent growth.

The economy contracted 1.6 percent in 2016, the worst annual slump in 25 years. The International Monetary Fund forecasts GDP growth of 0.8 percent this year and 1.9 percent in 2018 as output of oil, Nigeria’s biggest export, increases and as more foreign currency becomes available for factory imports.

Oil production increased to 2.03 million barrels a day in the third quarter from a revised 1.87 barrels a day, the statistics office said. The crude sector contributed 10.04 percent to real GDP, according to the NBS.

President Muhammadu Buhari asked lawmakers to approve a 16 percent increase in spending to 8.6 trillion naira ($23.9 billion) for 2018. Buhari wants to invest about one third of the budget in roads, rail, ports and power to boost the economy.

Read more: Nigerian Economic Growth Quickens to 1.4% in Third Quarter

 

10 Nov

Exporting to Nigeria: Tips and insights

Nigeria is still, by a slim margin, the biggest economy in Africa, despite the economic woes of the past two years. A population of anything between 180 million to 200 million people makes its consumer market in particular of great interest to investors, manufacturers and exporters around the world. The country manufactures relatively few of the products it consumes and despite efforts to increase local industry, it remains largely import dependent.

However, despite the multitude of opportunities that Nigeria presents to exporters, getting a product into the market can be a challenging exercise.

Nigeria’s main port complex is in the commercial capital of Lagos, a city of an estimated 20 million people – a major market in itself – but also the shipping gateway for imports and exports for the whole nation.

The facility, comprising the Lagos Port Complex and Tin Can Island Port in the Apapa area of Lagos city, is one of the busiest in Africa. It is also by far the main portal for trade into and out of this large country, processing 97% of containers. The only other port of size, Onne, is focused on the oil and gas industry around Port Harcourt, and there are a few other, smaller, ports.

As a result, there is usually serious congestion at Lagos. The high volumes are just part of the problem. Other challenges include poor infrastructure, inadequate and often poorly functioning equipment, the demands of different agencies located there, onerous bureaucracy and general issues related to officialdom.

Clearance time in Lagos port is between seven and 14 days. Once clearance is complete, it takes, in a best-case scenario, 48 hours to get the product out of the port. However, this can take longer depending on other factors, as currently being experienced with the rebuilding of the access road to the port, and any problems in the manifest or other documents.

Having a competent cargo clearing and forwarding company is vital to navigate the process. Exporting to Nigeria requires detailed knowledge of requirements. A simple mistake in documentation or process can lead to cargo sitting in port for weeks or even months, with hefty demurrage charges.

It is important for an exporter to be on top of any changes in documentation and import requirements. Do not wait for the importer in Nigeria to alert you to what is needed; rather do your own homework.

Read more: Exporting to Nigeria

09 Nov

Aviation as a catalyst for growth in Africa

While Africa has one of the biggest populations in the world, its aviation industry is still small, representing only 2% of the global market. Despite all the major challenges ahead, this is an industry that has very big potential for future growth in Africa.

One of the reasons why African countries seem unable to attract a large amount of foreign investments, is that there is no direct airline connection to reach them. As a result, business travel and costs of doing business become prohibitive. Foreign investors are less likely to travel to distant and not easily accessible places, even if there are great opportunities. As a result, aviation in Africa should be considered a priority sector by the respective African governments so that it can boost the economic development of their countries.

Aviation as a pillar for economic growth 

Being the biggest pan-African airline, Ethiopian Airlines has greatly contributed in making the Addis Ababa Bole Airport an aviation hub and a gateway to Africa. Similarly, for Kenya Airways, the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi is a springboard to access not only the east African region, but also the central and western part of Africa. As for South African Airways, from its Johannesburg base at OR Tambo International Airport, it covers most of the southern African region. Except for South Africa, where its economic growth stagnated in 2016 and eventually fell into recession in the first quarter of 2017, Ethiopia and Kenya grew at a very fast rate of 7.5% and 5.8% in 2016
respectively. In the north, Casablanca, Algiers and Tunis are the major gateways for Europe to access both the Maghreb region and the western African region.

As for the Middle East countries, Cairo is the major gateway to access the major African cities in the northern, eastern and western regions. All these aviation hubs in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt have contributed to the high growth rate of passenger traffic, increasing by 94%, 95%, 75% and 108% respectively from 2005 until 2015, according to data from the World Bank. Aviation is the critical link that not only connects Africa to the world, but also builds bridges among the various African countries. It is only when there are better airline connections, enabling the movement of goods and people, that business activities can flourish. With lower business travel costs, countries can then better attract foreign investors and create better business opportunities.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the top-five African countries that had the biggest stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2016, are South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco and Angola, with US$136.8bn, $102.3bn, $94.2bn, $54.8bn and $49.5bn respectively. Of the five countries, only South Africa, Egypt and Morocco have a major national carrier.

Read more: Aviation as a catalyst for growth in Africa

31 Oct

Private equity: Consumer staples a prominent theme for investors

Africa’s consumer-driven sectors, which includes agribusiness and food production, attracted strong interest from private equity investors in the first half of 2017, according to recent data by the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA).

Private equity firms typically try to improve the financial results and prospects of the companies in which they buy a stake, in the hope of reselling the business to another firm or cashing out via an initial public offering (IPO). The value created is then passed on to the investors in the fund.

“Consumer staples (including investments in the African packaged food industry) saw a rise relative to 2016. Telecoms and materials also showed an increase in terms of deal values as a result of a handful of large transactions in the first half of 2017,” says AVCA in its latest African Private Equity Data Tracker report.

The total value of disclosed private equity investments over the period was $1bn, with the median deal size about $15m. Some 68% of the total deal value was from private equity transactions between $100m and $250m in size.

Tapping into Africa’s agribusiness and food opportunity

One prominent agribusiness transaction during the period was an investment by Sahel Capital, managers of the Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN) and CardinalStone Capital Advisers (CCA), in Crest Agro Products, an integrated cassava processor based in Nigeria’s Kogi State.

Cassava is a woody shrub with an edible root resembling a large sweet potato. It is widely grown in many parts of Africa, predominantly by small-scale farmers. Although cassava roots can be processed into a variety of products – including cassava flour, starch, ethanol and glucose syrup – the crop has not been a great commercial success in the continent.

Crest Agro’s aim is to become a major producer of food-grade cassava starch for industrial users in Nigeria and the broader West Africa sub-region. There is a strong demand for starch in the fast-moving consumer goods, brewing and pharmaceutical sectors. It is expected that as the Nigerian middle class grows and more companies look to enhance their ability to source raw materials locally, this demand-supply gap will widen substantially.

A major food-industry deal during the first half of 2017 was the tie up between Africa-focused private equity firm Helios and Barcelona-based multinational GBfoods, to create GBfoods Africa. The new entity has acquired assets from different African companies, including brands such as Jumbo (bouillon), Gino and Pomo (tomato paste), and Jago (milk powder and mayonnaise), as well as Bama (mayonnaise) distribution rights for Africa.

Read more: How We Made It in Africa