East Africa: Tanzania demands study on impact of EU trade deal
(The East African)
Tanzania wants a study conducted on the impact of the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union on the East African Community, ahead of the Summit of Heads of State scheduled for next month. The demand reiterates Tanzania’s position that Kenya and Rwanda should not have signed the EPA last year and, given the inadequate time before the summit, there won’t be much progress on the matter before April 1, when the EU expects the EAC to sign up to the accord. In an EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers’ meeting on trade, industry, finance and investment held in Arusha this month, Tanzania demanded that the EAC Secretariat conduct an analysis on the effects of the EPA on the Community. This, Dar es Salaam said, would bring about regional perspectives on the concerns they have raised with Burundi. “The results will guide the ministers’ and presidents’ decision on the EPA in the next summit or even at a later stage. Signing a bad EPA will set a bad precedent, which will compromise the region’s interests in subsequent Free Trade Area negotiations,” said Tanzania in the sectoral council’s meeting report. Tanzania further asked: “What is the rationale of Burundi signing the EPA while the EU has imposed an embargo on its exports? How will EAC partner states avoid such scenarios of the EU unilaterally putting embargoes on trade under the EPA while Article 136 of the EPA still refers to the same agreement that the EU has used to put an embargo on Burundi. How will the EAC partner states operationalise the free movement of goods while there is no free circulation of goods in the region and no refund mechanism for Customs duty paid to another partner state?”
Botswana: Film gives Botswana a pulpit for racial harmony
(The Washington Post)
The tiny landlocked African country of Botswana doesn’t often preach to the world. But David Newman, Botswana’s white ambassador in Washington, thinks the majority-black country with a reputation for racial harmony has something important to say these days. It has a bit of attention thanks to “A United Kingdom,” a new Oscar-buzzy film about Botswana’s first president and the interracial love story that helped set the country on its unusual path to peace, good governance and ethnic harmony. The entire embassy staff went to see it last week at E Street Cinema. “I had already seen it twice, so my wife and I went next door to see ‘Lion,'” said Newman, who came to Washington with his wife, who is black, and their four children in 2015. “The kids saw [the movie] with the staff, and they found it very emotional,” Newman said. “Botswana has a very good story to tell, and a very timely one.” Newman, British-born and the only white member from a sub-Saharan country at the monthly African Ambassadors’ Group meeting, knows he is not a dominant player on the State Department’s diplomatic list of 167 ambassadors and 23 charges d’affaires. (Newman said an assistant secretary of state once lamented not seeing him more frequently, saying, “We just don’t have any issues of concern with you.”) But on a cultural level, the family arrived in the United States at a fraught moment. Newman presented his credentials to the country’s first African American president, but police shootings of unarmed black men had given birth to Black Lives Matter protests and racial tensions were inescapable. A historically divisive election year followed, with the candidacy of Donald Trump boosting the profile of the alt-right, white nationalists who seek a whites-only state. It has been an eye-opening move for a multiracial family from a quiet corner of the Kalahari Desert. “I’m used to flourishing in an environment that embraces diversity and different cultures,” Newman said. “I see diversity celebrated here, but what I also see in certain communities is fear.” That’s one reason that a feature-length look at the way things started back home has been a pleasure, even if it makes the Newmans a little homesick.
Gambia: World Bank pledges $60 million to help fill empty coffers
The World Bank’s Vice President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, said on Saturday he had agreed to give Gambia $60 million in budget support after government allegations that former ruler Yahya Jammeh took tens of millions of dollars in public money, leaving it heavily indebted. Diop told reporters after meeting with the new government that he had pledged to give $40 million before June with the remainder to follow later. Jammeh fled into exile last month after regional leaders convinced him after marathon talks that he should accept defeat in a December election. Since then Gambia’s new pro-Western government has alleged that Jammeh committed fraud on a massive scale including siphoning off tens of millions of dollars in public money into various bank accounts not in his name but from which he withdrew cash, including at the central bank. “All parastatals, especially the National Water and Electricity Company, GAMTEL (telecommunications) and Gambia Public Transport, are bankrupt and the government coffers are empty,” said finance minister Amadou Sanneh, who was one of more than 100 political prisoners pardoned at the end of Jammeh’s rule. “We need real help from donors to sustain the country,” he added. The World Bank has several projects in Gambia although direct budget support had previously been suspended over the former government’s alleged manipulation of exchange rates, a finance ministry official said.
Kenya: Country Approved for direct flights to US
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration says Kenya has complied with international safety standards and can have direct flights to the U.S. after waiting for more than a decade. The FAA in a statement Thursday said Kenya has received a category 1 rating under the agency’s International Aviation Safety Assessment Program. With that rating, Kenyan air carriers can establish service to the U.S. Kenya’s transport minister James Macharia described the category 1 status as a major milestone in the country’s aviation industry. Kenya is East Africa’s largest economy. Kenya transformed its main airport after a 2013 fire destroyed its international terminal because the airport had only one fire engine working. Some rescuers, including police, looted ATMs and foreign exchange bureaus instead of fighting the blaze.
Nigeria: World Bank to grant $500m loan to assist out- of-school children, says official
(The Nigerian Observer )
The World Bank has offered to give Nigeria a $500 million-loan to mop up out -of-school children, according to an official of the bank. The News Agency of Nigeria ( NAN) reports that a Senior Education Specialist with the bank, Dr Olatunde Adekola, disclosed this in Sokoto on Sunday. Adekola, who led a five-man team of the bank on a courtesy call on Gov. Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, added that the loan would be given under its `Better Education-For-All (BEDA)’ Project. He said that the project would, specifically, focus on the northern parts of Nigeria, specifically to bolster the girl-child education. Adekola said: The project will be results oriented, ensure that children are able to read and write, This is to help the government to strengthen its service delivery mechanisms to children, girls, women and other vulnerable groups. Most of the challenges in the country are education related and the five-year project is aimed at reversing the ugly trend.” The World Bank official, however, expressed satisfaction with the efforts so far made by Tambuwal to move the education sector forward in the state. Adekola lauded the state for allocating about 27 per cent of its annual budget to education in 2016 and 2017 fiscal years. He said: The state government also deserves a pat on the back for ensuring the prompt payment of teachers’ salaries. We have also noted an unlimited appetite by parents in the state for the education of their children.” Responding, Gov.Tambuwal promised to sustain the existing partnership between the bank and the state government.
Somalia: Pentagon seeks to expand fight against extremists in Somalia
The Pentagon wants to expand the military’s ability to battle al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia, potentially putting U.S. forces closer to the fight against a stubborn extremist group that has plotted attacks against America, senior U.S. officials said. The recommendations sent to the White House would allow U.S special operations forces to increase assistance to the Somali National Army in the struggle against al-Shabab militants in the fragile Horn of Africa nation, the officials said. They said the proposal would give the military greater flexibility to launch airstrikes against extremists that appear to be a threat. Beefing up the military effort in Somalia fits with President Donald Trump’s broader request for a Pentagon plan to accelerate the U.S.-led battle against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and defeat other extremist groups, including al-Qaida and its affiliates… U.S. concerns about al-Shabab escalated in recent years as young Americans from Somali communities traveled to training camps in Somalia, raising fears they might return to the United States and conduct terror attacks. Somalia was one of the seven predominantly Muslim countries included in Trump’s travel ban last month. The executive order has since been suspended by federal courts. Somalia is “our most perplexing challenge,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of U.S. Africa Command, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
South Africa: More looting in Johannesburg after wave of anti-immigrant attacks
About 100 people ransacked shops in Johannesburg overnight, police said on Monday, in the latest of a wave of looting incidents in South African cities. Doors and windows were smashed in, and food and other items were strewn on the floor in stores believed to belong to immigrants in Jeppestown, an area in the central business district, a Reuters witness said. “We’ve been stuck inside here until the police came,” Abdul Ebrahim, a Somali shop owner, said after emerging from his store, where a number of his colleagues had barricaded themselves. “No one told us what they were looking for,” he added when asked why the mob had attacked his shop. At least one person was arrested. “We are following up on leads and we are expecting to make more arrests,” police spokesman Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said. She said she did not know the nationalities of the shopkeepers and police were waiting for owners to come forward, so that they could open cases of violence and damage to property. Similar incidents have taken place in Pretoria this month, but police have been reluctant to characterize the attacks as being directed against foreigners. Anti-immigrant violence has flared sporadically in South Africa against a background of near-record unemployment, with foreigners being accused of criminal activity and taking jobs from locals. Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba last week acknowledged violence had flared up against foreigners this year, saying that “unfortunately, xenophobic violence is not new in South Africa.” On Friday, police fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse marches by hundreds of anti-immigrant protesters in Pretoria, after mobs looted stores believed to belong to immigrants. More than 150 people were arrested.
Tanzania: Economic slowdown hits Tanzania’s key sectors
Tanzania’s ongoing economic slowdown has hit hard key sectors, including agriculture and manufacturing, with commercial banks curtailing new lending to businesses, and thus casting a shadow on prospects for growth of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), a new report from the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) has revealed. Economic data from the central bank’s latest monthly economic review show that credit to the private sector has fallen sharply over the past year, raising fresh alarm bells on the future direction of the economy. “All major economic activities recorded a considerable decline in growth of credit (in 2016) relative to the corresponding period in 2015, with manufacturing, agriculture, and transport and communication experiencing negative growth,” BoT said in its report. The BoT data shows that growth of credit to the agriculture sector, which is the mainstay of Tanzania’s economy, slumped to -5.7 per cent last year from an increase of 11.1 per cent in 2015. Similarly, growth of credit to the transport and communication sector fell to -4.1 per cent in 2016 from an increase of 33.1 per cent a year ago. Credit to the manufacturing sector declined to -4.0 per cent last year from 22.3 per cent previously. The manufacturing sector, which in recent years overtook gold exports to become the second-biggest earner of foreign exchange in the country after tourism, has now been pushed back to the number three spot due to under-performance. The central bank said earnings from the manufacturing sector fell to 1.092bn dollars in 2016 from 1.364bn dollars in 2015, representing a decline of a whopping 272m dollars (625bn shillings) in just one year. Credit to the private sector refers to financial resources provided to the private sector, such as loans and advances. Likewise, credit to building and construction companies fell to -0.1 per cent in 2016 from 12.3 per cent a year ago. The access of credit facilities to companies in the hotels and restaurants business fell to 2.3 per cent last year from an increase of 18 per cent in 2015. Trading companies saw credit declining to 8.8 per cent from 16 per cent previously, while personal loans grew at a slower pace of 9.1 per cent from 29.8 per cent previously. According to economists, access to credit for the private sector is one of the biggest drivers of economic growth. BoT said the slow pace of domestic credit last year was caused by a reduction in government borrowing from the banking system and slow growth of credit to the private sector by banks. “Government borrowing decreased by 12.3 percent in 2016 compared with an expansion of 33.7 percent in 2015,” it said. The reluctance of banks to grant credit to the private sector comes amid an increase in non-performing loans (NPLs). Surge in bad loans
Zimbabwe: Country is staring at currency chaos again
Celebrating his 93rd birthday on Saturday at a lavish party in the Matopos Hills near Bulawayo, President Robert Mugabe made it clear: he is going nowhere and intends to fight next year’s presidential election.
The frontrunner to succeed him, vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, promised his continuing support, pledging that the Zanu-PF party “will rule forever”. Many Zimbabweans, especially business people, hoped but did not expect that after 37 years in office the president would signal his intention to step down. They fear the economic consequences of a continued leaderless drift as the country faces its most severe economic challenges since dollarisation in 2009, which put an end to a decade during which per capita incomes halved. Now, Zimbabwe is again staring down the barrel of currency chaos. One set of numbers says it all: at the end of 2016, the country’s commercial banks were holding $1.35bn in treasury bills — equivalent to 180 per cent of bank capital — issued by a government unable to pay its way either at home or abroad. The country appears to be facing another economic meltdown, scarily reminiscent of the lost decade to 2008. Today, bank lending to government and its agencies totals 42 per cent of domestic credit — up from just 13 per cent when the ruling Zanu-PF party returned to monopoly control after the dissolution of the shortlived government of national unity in mid-2013. The central bank, which has no deposits of its own to speak of, virtually trebled its lending to the state to $970m last year.
(Africa News Bureau <firstname.lastname@example.org>)
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