Items filtered by date: Thursday, 30 March 2017

Nigeria plans to sell 234.89 billion naira ($765.99 million) of short-dated treasury bills at an auction on April 6, the central bank said on Wednesday.

The bank said it plans to sell 35 billion naira of three-month debt, 33.49 billion of six-month bills and 166.40 billion of one-year notes, using a Dutch auction system. Payment will be due the day after the auction.

Nigeria\'s central bank issues treasury bills twice a month to finance the budget deficit, help manage commercial lenders\' liquidity and curb rising inflation. Africa\'s top crude producer has in two consecutive auctions this month sold the one-year treasury bills at yields above the prevailing inflation rate, in a bid to lure investors to buy more of the debt.

The West African country expects its budget deficit to widen to 2.36 trillion naira this year as it tries to spend its way out of a recession, with more than half the deficit to be funded through local borrowing.

($1 = 306.65 naira)


- Reuters


Published in Bank & Finance

Cash-strapped Zimbabwe is trying to stop banks importing high-denomination US dollar bills - and that means you shouldn\'t see $100 notes in banks or supermarkets, state media is reporting.

With some banks now only giving customers their money in \'bond notes\', the special-to-Zimbabwe paper bills introduced last November, the deputy governor of the central bank Kupukile Mlambo has told the Sunday Mail that \"no-one is importing the 100 US note.

The reason? High value notes are easy to take out of the country because they take up less room, according to the report.

President Robert Mugabe\'s government still insists that Zimbabwes shortages of hard cash are less to do with the lack of production across the economy and principally due to locals - and foreigners - externalising hard cash.

Mlambo was quoted as saying: We don\'t want to see them (100 US notes) actually and we have discussed with the banks and they have agreed... If you see [them], it\'s maybe because someone went to the US and came carrying them.

Banks are not importing 100, even 50 US notes, he added in an interview with the paper.

With bond notes (and the bank accounts stuffed with them) arousing suspicion, some shops are now offering customers three different prices for the same goods depending on the way they want to pay.

Meantime some Zimbabwe banks are now allowing customers to withdraw up to 150 US in a single transaction, News24 has learnt. There\'s just one catch: the money is all in 2 and 5 denomination bond notes.


- News24

Published in Economy

The signing of the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community (EEC) 60 years ago in March 1957, came at a tumultuous time in relations between Europe and Africa.

Just weeks earlier Kwame Nkrumah had declared Ghana a republic, an event which was a turning point in the decolonisation of sub-Saharan Africa.

Nkrumah remarked that the treaty’s inclusion of colonial territories was to neocolonialism what the Berlin Treaty of 1885 had been to colonialism.

He had a point. Two of the six founding members of the EEC – Belgium and France – still held substantial colonial interests on the continent. Accession to the community thus posed the crucial question of what to do about them.

The question became contentious enough to threaten the collapse of the entire Treaty of Rome negotiation process. The other four members of the EEC were Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

France in particular was steadfast that its colonies be “associated” with the community. Paris envisaged that its preferential colonial terms of trade would be extended to the entire EEC. But Germany and the Netherlands were opposed, wary of being forced to share the financial and political responsibilities that came with trading with former colonies.

The French argument ultimately won, albeit with some compromises. The treaty’s association agreement would last five years and the preferences France enjoyed from its colonies would be gradually expanded to the rest of the EEC.

The agreement, inscribed into articles 131-136 of the treaty, served as the originator of Europe’s subsequent relationship with the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). This was codified in the Yaoundé Agreements, the Lomé Convention and today’s Cotonou Agreement.

So this 60th anniversary is not just about Europe. The treaty created a framework for multilateral relations between Europe and Africa.

The principles of trade and aid enshrined in the treaty’s association agreement form the basis of Europe’s development agenda in Africa to this day, even though relations have expanded into many more areas in the 21st century.

A common future

The Treaty of Rome laid out the blueprint for the creation of the world’s largest single market. It also contributed to the post World War II process of cooperation and reconciliation in Europe.

The push for European unity persisted for 37 years, culminating in the creation of the European Union (EU) under the Maastricht Treaty in 1993.

Although difficult to imagine amid the doom and gloom of Brexit, rising populism and the migration crisis, there is still reason to celebrate when you consider the region’s relationship with Africa.

The EU, for all of its troubles, has generally been a progressive partner to Africa, especially with respect to the establishment of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy and the unique programming efforts it has generated.

This of course does not negate instances of neocolonialism, nor the damage done by the clumsy promotion of the European Partnership Agreements (EPAs).

The EPAs in particular remain a sore point. Indeed, the preferential trade terms given to African countries by EU member states have been judged discriminatory and in contravention of World Trade Organisation rules.

Beyond the EPA debate, a number of factors have contributed to challenges facing some of the original asymmetries between the two sides.

For one, the global South, and China in particular, continues to alter global trade dynamics. African countries and regional organisations now have more trading partners to turn to.

In addition, Africa is in the middle of constructive upheaval, brought on by more than 20 years of robust growth.

The Africa of today is not the Africa of 1957. The African Union is also a more robust partner than its predecessor, the Organisation of Africa Unity.

Trade and aid

Back in 1957, the Treaty of Rome laid down the twin principles of EU-Africa relations throughout the 20th century and beyond: trade and aid. These principles were framed within the larger idea of development cooperation.

The association agreement provided reciprocal trading arrangements between 31 ‘overseas territories’ – including 18 African ones – and the ECC countries. An overseas development fund was also created, with all six EEC members contributing to it.

Controversially, the agreement served to perpetuate African dependency on Europe. Even the Lome Convention’s much touted “non-reciprocal” principle, which was supposed to nurture African industries, further attached them to Europe.

The convention eventually met strong criticism as a system of “collective clientelism”, which was perpetuating dependency and “elite capture” in Africa.

This contradictory relationship between dependency and progressive thinking has made Africans understandably circumspect.

What next for Europe and Africa?

The twin principles of trade and aid still exist. But the growth of the EU-Africa partnership since 2000 – outside of EU-ACP channels – has broadened the relationship into less traditional areas such as science and technology, higher education, private investment, infrastructure and continental integration.

But Kwame Nkurumah’s 1957 criticism is still being levied at the EU today for its alleged neocolonial promotion of the EPAs. Pundits in East and Central Africa have been vociferous in their opposition to the agreements.

However, EU officials have a dramatically different interpretation. The EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, described the 2016 EPA with six Southern African Development Community (SADC) members as helping to tap the economic potential of the private sector and increase trade.

With such contrasting perceptions, it is perhaps unsurprising that SADC is the only regional body to have signed an EPA with the EU despite more than 10 years of negotiation.

What is crucial is that both sides recognise how far they have come since the Treaty of Rome. And that they accept that a more equitable partnership requires continued commitment to cooperation.

John Kotsopoulos, Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation, University of Pretoria

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Published in Opinion & Analysis

Zenith Bank Ghana posted a pre-tax profit of GH¢202.6 million in 2016, the highest on record for the Bank. It also represents an increase of 76% over 2015 pre-tax income of GH¢115.1 million.

This remarkable performance means the Bank’s profit-before-tax margin rose to a remarkable 56.1%, after registering 30.5% in 2015. Return on assets (ROA) and return on equity (ROE) were respectively 4.1% and 24.4% in 2016, up from 3.3% and 19.1% in 2015.

The main factor underpinning the results was management’s commitment to pursue efficient banking operations with a view to reining in cost. In the light of this, total expenses fell by 39.4% to GH¢158.5 million and the cost-to-income ratio declined to 43.9% from 69.5% in 2015. Impairment loss on financial assets, which is a component of total expenses, was lower in 2016 at GH¢13.0 million, representing a 76.1% reduction from 2015. The Bank continues to invest to support growth in business, making major investments in information technology, people and branches.

Total operating income increased to GH¢361 million, representing a 75% increase over the 2015. Despite an unfavorable macroeconomic environment and declining margins experienced in the industry, the Bank was able to grow its non-interest income significantly by 268% to GH¢98 million.

In terms of balance sheet performance, total assets improved by 33.5% to GH¢3.4 billion, of which loans and advances to customers stood at GH¢1.0 billion after recording a growth rate of 2.9%. The stock of deposits mobilised from customers meanwhile increased by 30.6% to GH¢2.7 billion.

Commenting on the performance, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Bank, Henry Oroh, said: “Delivering strong annual financial results is one of the hallmarks of our Bank, and we’re happy to be continuing in that tradition with our 2016 figures. Our cost-containment and risk-management initiatives have borne fruits, ensuring that we maintain strong profitability even in the face of pressures on margins.”

Paying tribute to the Bank’s staff, clients and other stakeholders, he said: “Our financial success is the culmination of the contributions of all our stakeholders, including our staff, clients, shareholders and partners. Our commitment to these stakeholders is to continually strengthen our service delivery and financial position, as this enables us to increase our impact on their lives and businesses and to make the critical investments that put us in the lead within the industry.”

On the outlook, the MD/CEO stated: “We intend to use our 2016 performance as a springboard to build an even stronger Bank through leveraging our assets, including our human capital as well as the strengths and values of our brand.”

Highlights of Zenith Bank’s operations in 2016 include the launch of GlobalPAY, which is a secure web-based collection gateway for merchants such as supermarkets, shopping malls, and large and small companies to sell their products and services online and receive real-time authenticated card payments from customers all over the world.

The Bank also launched its partnership with MasterCard for the issuance of Zenith MasterCard Debit, Credit and Prepaid cards. The Bank’s MasterCards can be used locally and internationally for payment of goods and services and for withdrawals from over 120 million ATMs worldwide. This strategic partnership is in fulfilment of the Bank’s commitment to the advancement of the nation’s cash lite society agenda.

A Service Quality Honour Code for staff was also introduced by the Bank during 2016. The Honour Code reiterates the Bank’s commitment to exceptional customer service with a charge to all staff to ensure this commitment is upheld by being each other’s keeper and holding each other accountable for the attainment of excellent customer service.

The year 2016 was also prolific for the Bank in terms of the awards it won. These included winner of the Most Cashless Bank in Ghana at the 2016 Ghana Banking Awards; winner of the Best e-Commerce Bank Ghana, 2016, Best Customer Service Bank Ghana, 2016 and Best Corporate Bank Ghana, 2016 at the Global Banking & Finance Review Awards; as well as winner of the Best Banking Group Ghana, 2016 from the World Finance Awards. It is worth noting that the Bank has won all these awards for a second straight year, having won them previously in the year 2015. Additionally, Zenith Bank was ranked as the 7th most prestigious company in the 2015 Ghana Club 100 list by the Ghana Investment Promotions Centre.

Zenith Bank continues to strategically position itself as a forerunner in the competitive Ghanaian banking landscape. As one if its strategies, the Bank has and will continue to redefine the customer experience to positively impact customer perception through its unique product and service offerings.

The Bank is committed to delivering a more personalized experience to its cherished customers in a bid to add value to their businesses and investments.  This distinct value proposition is one the Bank identifies with and is reflective in its unique slogan for the year, ASPIRE.


Published in Bank & Finance

Hopes of progression along a reformist democratic path in some key sub-Saharan African states appear to be receding. Greater democracy, enhanced freedom of speech and the media have all suffered setbacks in some countries where hopes of long-term change were high.

A number of African political systems have appeared to slip back from the promise of the 1990s. Hopes of more democratic and accountable systems in which the people would be empowered and able to hold leaders to account have begun to fade.

That is what has become of the three 1990s poster boys of the new politics in Africa – Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia. For a period they were held up as the stars of the now increasingly discredited “Africa Rising” narrative. They became repositories of hope that decades of conflict and, in Rwanda’s case genocide, would be replaced by accountable governments and systems of rule. But today their political trajectories are clearly blocking the path to meaningful popular empowerment.

Over time their leaders have strengthened their hold on power, entrenched themselves and reduced accountability. In doing this, they have been able to play on Western security concerns in eastern and central Africa. This has replaced the earlier good governance mantras. The “War on Terror” and fear of instability are greater drivers of Western policy than encouraging the rule of law and democratic freedoms.

This trend is set out well in a new study of the links between insurgent authoritarianism and Western aid in Africa, and is captured well in the very interesting collection, “Aid and Authoritarianism in Africa”.

But the contributors also observe that it’s not all gloom and doom. There has been progress in empowerment and accountability in some areas.

Playing the security card

Take Uganda. Echoes of the good governance mantras of the late 1980s and 1990s can still be heard periodically in Western statements on aid to African states. But, in fact, the country’s President Yoweri Museveni and his supporters have militarised, centralised and personalised power. They have created a repressive system of government in which elections are held, fixed and used as just another way of entrenching power. State and informal coercive instruments have been used to

intimidate, harass and terrorise perceived opponents of the state [page 67].
David Anderson and Jonathan Fisher’s well-focused contribution sets out the success with which Museveni has deployed these various weapons. They explain how he has been able to play on Western fears of regional instability to retain budgetary and military aid that bolsters his ability to hold on to power. His latest comments on withdrawing Ugandan troops from Somalia by the end of 2017 may be part of a new attempt to put pressure on the West to maintain support for him, despite misgivings about the election and moves against opponents and the free press.

He wasn’t alone in doing this. The volume highlights the strategies that regimes in Rwanda and Ethiopia have also developed to deal with donors to ensure a range of favourable outcomes. These include:

that conditionality is on paper only;

that the contribution of those countries to ensuring stability in a volatile region stretching from Congo to Eritrea to Somalia is paramount; and

in presenting an image of planned and controlled development the regimes can demonstrate – in technical terms – efficient use of some of the aid.

The chapters on the three countries, along with Nicolas van der Walle’s well-argued conclusion, show how the good governance slogans and conditionality clauses were just paper tigers. They never had real bite, especially in the face of skilled and single-minded politicians like Museveni, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and former Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

They cottoned on from the start that lip-service was all that was really required. This was especially as they were restoring stability and security in their own states, and contributing to Western strategies for ending or limiting conflict in what had been a volatile region. They were able to argue that their non-party or ethnically inclusive approaches were long-term strategies for developing internal stability and indigenous democratic forms.

In fact they were using their political experiments to consolidate power. If this didn’t work, they would confront donors and in effect dare them to withdraw aid and see how far that got them.

Their ability to resist conditionality and continue to garner substantial budgetary and military support was bolstered by 9/11 and the launch of the War on Terror. They were able to argue that they were sources of stability and key military allies in a region that could provide a foothold for Islamist movements antagonistic towards Western interests.

The support they garnered enabled them to entrench power at home while being key links in the security chains the West wanted in place to shackle Islamist or other movements perceived as threats to regional stability. And to Western security.

Not all doom and gloom

But the book is not one bewailing the demise of democratic hopes in Africa or seeing all as gloom and doom. Van de Walle, as well as Nic Cheeseman in his nuanced look at democratisation in Africa, stress that there is no gainsaying that the region today enjoys a higher level of political competition and popular participation than at any time since independence.

This has coincided with a general reduction in the number of violent conflicts in Africa.

In “Democracy in Africa. Successes, Failures, and the Struggle for Political Reform” Cheeseman observes:

In the 2000s, elections and term limits replaced death and coup d\'état as the most common ways in which African presidents and prime ministers left office.
This is important given that commentators and journalists writing about Africa are inclined to see all as gloom and doom.

What the volume and Cheeseman’s book do is once again emphasise that there is not a one-size-fits-all model. There is also no timeline for political change in Africa. Each state develops according to its own historical, political, economic and social factors, and not to one Western-ordained pattern and speed.

It should also be remembered, when there are comparisons of political systems in Africa with those in Europe or North America, that it took from Magna Carta in 1215 to the passing of the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise Act) of 1928 for Britain to move from the absolute power of a monarch to a fully inclusive system of electoral representation.

Too often commentators have a very ahistorical view of political development and try to apply timescales and models that are not appropriate. There is a tendency always to demonstrate some failing on the part of people or states in Africa. The books referred to in this article do not and are valuable additions to the literature on political evolution in Africa and the relationship to aid and donor-based development. – The Conversation
By Keith Somerville
Keith Somerville is a Visiting Professor, University of Kent

Published in Opinion & Analysis

  1. Opinions and Analysis


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