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Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Ivory Coast will trim its 2017 budget spending by around 50 billion CFA francs ($84 million), a government spokeswoman said on Wednesday, less than the 200 billion CFA francs ($335 million) of cuts announced by President Alassane Ouattara last month.

Ouattara said last month that a sharp drop in global prices for cocoa, a major export from the West African country, meant spending plans would have to be scaled back sharply.

Government spokeswoman Anne Ouloto did not immediately give an explanation for the latest budget revision.

"Economic growth for 2017 was revised to 8.5 percent from 8.9 percent," she added.

($1 = 597.4800 CFA francs)

(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Emma Farge; editing by John Stonestreet) - Reuters

Published in Economy

Africa’s economy is this year expected to grow by 2.6 but that will not be enough to keep up with the continent’s growing population, the International Monetary Fund said in a report released Tuesday.

The region’s growth slowed sharply in 2016, averaging 1.4 percent, the lowest in two decades as about two-thirds of the countries in the region which account for 83 percent of the region’s GDP, slowed down. Sub-Saharan population growth averaged 2.7 percent, according to a 2015 World Bank estimate.

In its latest Regional Economic Outlook report the IMF said growth in the region will barely deliver any per capita gains and urged African governments to implement strong and urgent policy reforms to boost growth.

Countries like Senegal and Kenya are expected to continue to experience growth rates higher than 6 percent while Zimbabwe is forecast to grow at 2 percent. In a previous outlook published last October the IMF had forecast a contraction of 2,5 percent in Zimbabwe’s economy.

The IMF warned that “economic and social vulnerabilities are expected to increase further in Zimbabwe, despite some rebound in agricultural production.” “Recent improvements in commodity prices, while providing welcome breathing space, will not be sufficient to address the existing imbalances in resource-intensive countries…….Some other commodity exporters, such as Ghana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, are also grappling with larger fiscal deficits in a context of already high debt levels and concerns about growth,” reads the report.

“The delay in implementing critical adjustment policies is leading to higher public debt, creating uncertainty, holding back investment, and risks generating even deeper difficulties in the future.”

The report also noted the growing importance of the informal sector as a safety net providing employment and income. “The informal economy is an important component of most economies in the region, contributing between 25 and 65 percent of GDP and between 30 and 90 percent of total nonagricultural employment”.

“International experience suggests that the informal economy in sub-Saharan Africa is likely to remain large for many years to come, presenting both opportunities and challenges for policymakers”.


- The Source

Published in Economy

Recent media reports of an avocado shortage have hipsters and foodies horrified the world over. Prices are at a record high as a result of a classic supply and demand situation. Harvests from major producers in Mexico, Peru and California, have been poor, which has reduced supply. Meanwhile, demand has surged. And not just in the affluent West, Chinese consumers are developing an insatiable taste for them too.

The sheer number of people in China has long made the Chinese market a dream for exporters to crack. And it seems that China’s aspirational middle class has a lot in common with its Western counterparts. Especially when it comes to food fads.

I remember, as a teenager, the first time I ever heard about avocados. It was 1977 and I was watching Abigail’s Party, a Mike Leigh play on the BBC. It was a wicked and rather tragic comedy of manners, which poked fun at the insecurities of the aspirational lower middle classes.

The central character, Beverly, wanted to impress her guests by insisting that they try her avocados, olives and various other international delicacies, which were considered new and exotic at the time. The sound of romantic Demis Roussos songs on the stereo, added to the “sophisticated” ambience that Beverly thought she was creating. Upstairs, she probably also had an avocado bathroom suite. We all laughed at Beverly, even if many of us recognised something of ourselves in her attitudes and behaviour.

Conspicuous consumption

Abigail’s Party satirised the early symptoms of a trend that would be accelerated during the Thatcher years of the 1980s: conspicuous consumption. New and affordable luxuries made it possible for everyone to extend their self-image through what they bought and express their dreams of upward mobility. The academic Russell Belk wrote about this phenomenon in 1988 in his landmark marketing article, Possessions and the Extended Self.

Now avocados are in fashion again, but this time mainly for their supposed health benefits. Some regard it as a “super food” and it is included in various fad diets. Thousands of blogs, Facebook posts and Instagram pictures of smashed avocado on toast also diffuse around the world, sating our narcissistic desire to tell everyone how healthy we are or hope to be. Beverly could only impress a handful of guests in the 1970s. Now we can try to impress thousands. Belk has even updated his original article to consider the “extended self in a digital world”.

These displays of conspicuous consumption are just as prevalent in China, which has a rapidly growing middle class of more than 100m people. Avocados – or “butter fruit” as they are known – are also relatively new there, having only been available in exclusive outlets for a few years. So avocado demand there is being doubly driven, not only by their promised health benefits, but equally by their newness, exclusivity and symbolic, aspirational value to the burgeoning middle class.

Of course, the sheer size and potential of the Chinese market means that when their consumers get a taste for something, it can have a really big impact on supplies and prices around the rest of the world. A market that took 40 years to evolve in the West is being replicated in a fraction of the time in China.

Suppliers have tried to ramp up production to meet the demand. China itself is looking to establish its own domestic production in the south of the country. The problem is that avocados are difficult to grow, requiring deep aerated soil, warm conditions and huge amounts of water. Where new crops can be grown, this is leading to deforestation and pressure on water supplies.

So a super food it may be, but a huge increase in avocado production is not very good for the environment. If the current growth in demand proves to be a relatively short-term fad, then a lot of long-term damage will have been done to satisfy it. There are probably more sustainable ways of eating healthy food and achieving social one-upmanship.

However, as the West has led the way in creating consumer desires based on aspiration and status anxiety, it is a bit rich to then criticise the Chinese middle class consumer for doing the same. There are more things that unite us than divide us – not least a love of avocados.

David Harvey, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, University of Huddersfield

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

Published in Agriculture

Bidding for the sale of the second largest diamond ever found in Serra Leone – the star of Sierra Leone Mk2, is open for another twenty-four hours, as the 36 days extension put in force by the president on Wednesday, 5th of April 2017, comes to an end on Wednesday, 10th May.

The government of Sierra Leone was forced to extend the bidding process for the sale of the 709 carat diamond, so as to allow potential buyers from Belgium, Israel, South Africa and the Middle East to make an offer the government cannot refuse.

So far, only a handful of offers have been received and are believed to be well under the expected price the government anticipates. The public auction will take place on Thursday, 11th May, 2017, at the Bank of Sierra Leone.

Named ‘the Star of Sierra Leone Mk2’ by the Sierra Leone Telegraph, the diamond has generated a lot of controversy about its ownership and whether in fact it has already been sold by State House.

The 709 carat diamond was reported to have been found in Kono by a 39 year-old local pastor – turned miner – Emmanuel Momoh, who decided last month to hand over the gem to the government to carry out the sale on his behalf.

Speaking to reporters after handing over the gem to the government, Momoh said: “I also had an opportunity to escape with the diamond to Belgium through a local dealer, but I was convinced that the government is committed to helping our people, so I handed it over to the government,” Momoh said at a press conference in Freetown on Wednesday.

“I have been part of all the processes in the weighing, bidding and cleaning of the diamond, and it has been transparent, and I’m very satisfied with the process so far,” he added. But the Sierra Leone authorities lack the necessary equipment for properly cleaning and polishing the uncut stone, which currently appears to be coated by a reddish stain.

The Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources (Photo) said it had tried to clean the diamond “by boiling (it) in hydrofluoric acid and nitric acid for 72 hours,” but it was not enough to be able to set an accurate estimate of its value. “We had to do with what we have to ensure that the diamond is sold with quality to the highest bidder as soon as possible,” said Sahr Wonday, Director General of the National Minerals Agency.

“We want more individuals or companies to bid for the diamond so that we can get the best price” for what is expected to be between the 10th- and 15th-biggest diamond ever found.”

The people of Sierra Leone, opposition parties and the media are watching developments very carefully. They want to ensure that the government is held to its pledge of organising a “transparent” bidding process and use the proceeds of the sale to develop Kono. “The president is keen to use proceeds of the diamond to develop Kono and other parts of the country,” said Abdulai Bayratay, the government spokesman.


- Sierra Leone Telegraph

Published in Engineering

Egypt's annual urban consumer-price inflation hit a three-decade high in April, adding pressure on the government to lower prices before the holy month of Ramadan begins at the end of the month.

Food demand usually grows during Ramadan because of heavy consumption following the dawn-to-dusk fasting. Ramadan begins on May 27.

Annual urban inflation rose in April to 31.5 percent from 30.9 percent in March, the official statistics agency, CAPMAS, said on Wednesday. The figures are the highest since June 30, 1986, when it reached 35.1 percent, according to Reuters data.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is under increasing pressure to revive the economy, keep prices under control and create jobs to avoid a backlash from the public.

Import-dependent Egypt abandoned its currency peg to the U.S. dollar on Nov. 3, and since then the currency has depreciated roughly by half, causing prices of goods to soar.

Floating the pound helped Egypt secure a $12 billion International Monetary Fund loan to support the country's economic reforms, which include subsidy cuts and introducing a value-added tax.

An IMF delegation is in Cairo to review Egypt's progress with the reforms, a condition for disbursing the second instalment of the loan program.

Jihad Azour, the new head of the IMF's Middle East department, said earlier this month that lowering inflation is key to keeping the country's economic reform program on track.

Egypt's central bank raised interest rates 3 percent when it floated the pound in November, in an effort to fight price pressures. But inflation is expected to keep rising as the government pushes on with more economic reforms.

The central bank left rates unchanged at its last four monetary policy meetings, but bankers and economists say more rate increases are likely as inflationary pressures rise with the implementation of reforms.

The central bank's monetary policy committee is due to meet on May 21 to discuss interest rates.

(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Larry King) - Reuters

Published in Economy

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