Kingsley Ibokette

Kingsley Ibokette

Kingsley Ibokette BT

Finder’s repo rate panel expects the South Africa Reserve Bank (SARB) to hold the repo rate this week but over a third (36%) think the Bank should cut the rate.

BER chief economist, Hugo Pienaar, is the only panellist out of 15 forecasting a rate cut. He thinks the Bank will decrease the rate by 25bps, but is in favour of a deeper 50bps cut.

  • 93% of economists say the SARB will hold the repo rate but over a third (36%) think the Bank should cut the rate
  • Nearly three quarters (73%) don’t think the rate will increase in 2021
  • 50% think the SARB will be forced to buy more bonds 

“With a benign inflation outlook, monetary policy has space to provide some moderate further stimulus to the economy at a time when fiscal policy is heavily constrained to do so,” he said. 

Independent economist, Elize Kruger, is one economist who expects the Bank to hold, but is in favour of a 25bps rate cut.

“The SA economy is still bleeding amid the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis, while consumer inflation remains well under control in the medium term forecast, thus a small window of opportunity has opened for further stimulation,” she said.

STANLIB economist, Ndivhuho Netshitenzhe, also called for a 25bps decrease, noting inflation remains under-control.

That, along with the weak domestic economic environment that is expected to continue at least into early 2021 (as a result of increased lockdown measures), gives the SARB some room to be more expansionary in its monetary policy. 

“Despite this, however, the SARB is aware that although SA consumer inflation is still expected to remain comfortably below the midpoint of the inflation target over the next 6 months, base effects could push SA inflation somewhat higher in 2021, especially during the middle of 2021”.

However the majority of the panel (64%), including Economist at RMB, Mpho Molopyane, think the Bank should and will hold the rate.

“The growth and inflation outlook has not significantly changed since the November 2019 meeting to warrant a change [to] interest rates. GDP is going to take a while to return to pre-covid levels, with inflationary pressures relatively contained. This will enable the SARB to keep monetary policy accommodative and the repo rate unchanged in contrast to the tightening bias projected by the QPM at the November 2019 MPC meeting,” she said.

Nearly three quarters (73%) of the panel don’t think the rate will increase this year. 47% say a hike will occur in the first half of 2022, 20% are forecasting an increase in the second half of 2022 and 7% in 2023.

IQbusiness chief economist, Sifiso Skenjana, is one panellist who thinks the rate will increase in the first half of next year due to inflation.

“We are seeing early signs of tapering off on monetary easing / accommodative policy in some of the developed economies which may suggest that we may see higher levels of inflation in those economies by year end 2021.” 

Do you think the SARB will be forced to buy more bonds?

The panel is equally divided on whether the SARB will be forced to buy more bonds (50%-50%). 

SARBs

BNP Paribas chief economist, Jeff Schultz, thinks the Bank will be forced to buy more bonds in the short term, commenting it is only likely to do so in response to further deterioration in economic conditions or market dislocations.

The SARB is likely to keep as much powder dry as possible and assess the outlook for the economy and bond market first before making any preemptive purchases. Right now the bond market continues to function well, having recovered from the massive sell off seen in March/April last year. This should limit the SARB’s willingness to aggressively re-enter its SAGB buying right now,” he said.

22% of the panel think the Bank will be forced to buy more bonds in the short term, 14% in the medium term, 7% long term and 7% permanently.

Alexander Forbes chief economist, Isaah Mhlanga, thinks the Bank will need to buy bonds over the long term, noting that bond buying programs will become mainstream in emerging markets.

“Bond buying programs were unconventional monetary policy tools in the advanced world a decade ago and they are now mainstream tools and no longer unconventional. Bond buying programs are still unconventional in emerging markets like South Africa, however, over time, they will likely be mainstream tools along the path followed by advanced economies.”

Uganda's long-time President Yoweri Museveni has been re-elected, electoral officials say, amid accusations of vote fraud by his main rival Bobi Wine.

Mr Museveni won almost 59% of the vote, with Bobi Wine trailing with about 35%, the Electoral Commission said.

Thursday's poll may turn out to be the "most cheating-free" in the history of the African nation, the president said.

Bobi Wine, a former pop star, vowed to provide evidence of vote-rigging when internet connections were restored.

The government shut down the internet ahead of voting day, a move condemned by election monitors.

They said confidence in the count had been damaged by the days-long cut. A government minister told the BBC on Saturday evening that the internet service would be restored "very soon".

In a phone interview with the BBC World Service, Bobi Wine said he and his wife were not being allowed to leave their home by soldiers.

"Nobody is allowed to leave or come into our house. Also, all journalists - local and international - have been blocked from accessing me here at home," he said.

Dozens of people were killed during violence in the run-up to the election. Opposition politicians have also accused the government of harassment.

The result gives President Museveni a sixth term in office. The 76-year-old, in power since 1986, says he represents stability in the country.

Meanwhile, Bobi Wine - the stage name for 38-year-old Robert Kyagulanyi - says he has the backing of the youth in one of the world's youngest nations, where the median age is 16.

The result gives President Museveni a sixth term in office. The 76-year-old, in power since 1986, says he represents stability in the country.

Meanwhile, Bobi Wine - the stage name for 38-year-old Robert Kyagulanyi - says he has the backing of the youth in one of the world's youngest nations, where the median age is 16.

The opposition candidate earlier said: "I will be happy to share the videos of all the fraud and irregularities as soon as the internet is restored."

But speaking after being declared the winner, Mr Museveni said: "Voting by machines made sure there is no cheating.

"But we are going to audit and see how many people voted by fingerprints and how many of those voted by just using the register."

Mr Museveni also warned that "foreign meddling will not be tolerated".

The EU, United Nations and several rights groups have raised concerns. Aside from an African Union mission, no major international group monitored the vote.

Earlier this week the US - a major aid donor to Uganda - cancelled its diplomatic observer mission to the country, saying that the majority of its staff had been denied permission to monitor polling sites.

Senegal is the hotspot for energy investment in West Africa right now, owing to a string of huge offshore hydrocarbons discoveries since 2014 (as well as its compelling renewables potential).

The emergence of Senegal as a regional energy power is an exciting story. But for almost two decades, in fact, the country has been producing its own natural gas onshore, an hour’s drive from Dakar. Further investment could unlock Senegal’s onshore potential.

Introducing Onshore Senegal

Fortesa International, led by CEO Rogers Beall, started exploring in Senegal in 1997 and from the start, Beall aimed to create a business that was fully Senegalese. Today, the company has a staff of 125, with two expatriate mentors and some African expatriate staff, but the vast majority (around 98 percent) is Senegalese nationals. Beall has continually advocated for Senegal with U.S. companies and now serves on the U.S.- Africa Committee for the African Energy Chamber.

As AOP drove out to the Fortesa production site this week, Beall pointed to a plateau in the far distance, while we passed through a shallow valley. That, he said, is the edge of the 120-square-kilometer Thiombane Dome geological formation. It sits on the eastern side of the carbonate shelf edge that runs north to south along the coast of West Africa.

The emergence of Senegal as a regional energy power is an exciting story

Volcanic eruptions in the sea 175 million years ago, joined up by sand blown in from the Sahara, created the Dakar peninsula. That same feature on the carbonate shelf edge extends deep into the Atlantic Ocean, and this is the basis for the massive offshore oil and gas fields generating so much excitement globally. This is where North America used to connect to Africa, and where we are driving now used to be the state of Georgia before it was the deep ocean bed. The African plate itself never moved.

“The single place between Morocco and Guinea where that shelf comes onshore is east of Dakar,” says Beall. Here, on land and a short drive from the capital, Fortesa is operating seven wells (one out of service temporarily due to an accident – the company’s first serious one – on December 20, 2020) tied back to a gas processing plant. The manifolds and tanks were built in Senegal, the whole facility was assembled by a local team, and on our visit, we met with dozens of Senegalese workers who had trained with Fortesa and were operating the facilities.

The Gadiaga field usually produces 3 million cubic feet (mcf) per day and could produce 7 mcf per day. This small field has produced just over $95 million of natural gas. But, as Beall says, “This is small potatoes compared to what Senegal needs.” The geology says that Gadiaga may sit next to a much larger gas field situated on the edge of the shelf in the Thiombane Dome. This strong potential is what Fortesa wishes to explore and develop, with fellow investors.

Natural Gas Could Do More

Fortesa’s operation may look familiar in the Niger Delta, where local companies have been producing onshore from marginal fields since 2002. But in this region, Fortesa’s gas production business is unique, and like the most effective Niger Delta marginal field companies, it enjoys the support of the local community to staff and safeguard the well sites, pipe yard and processing plant.

Energy independence is the key to Senegal’s success, says Beall. Energy poverty is a trap that ties people down to subsistence living from Senegal to Somalia. Natural gas, available in abundance onshore as well as far out to sea, can be a fuel to remove those limits.

“Right now, this country is paying $14 per mcf by using heavy fuel oil. [In doing this] they are making six times the pollution, six times the negative effect on the planet, and nearly double the cost,” says Beall. “We are able to make the investment and take the risk of drilling onshore, and [in this region] only Fortesa is doing this.”

Natural gas is cleaner and cheaper than the alternatives. It provides direct and indirect jobs for hundreds at Gadiaga, and more of it is available onshore. The company is keen to expand within its acreage to find and develop the onshore elephant that the geology points to, as well as optimizing current production. But with European and other Western financing institutions now shutting down funding for hydrocarbons, few options are available to fund expansion.

The Foundation Is Already There

Fortesa built a foundation for Senegal’s emergence as an energy player. Beall believed in the potential of Senegal before many in Europe and North America had thought to examine the country’s subsurface. His company worked with or trained many of the people now going on to run the sector or work at the national oil company Petrosen and others.

Onshore gas growth is possible and would lead to direct job creation and sustainable energy provision to households and businesses – and save on costly and high-polluting fuel oil imports.

“This is one of the most cost-effective operations in Africa. Fortesa has essentially unlocked the value of Senegal’s energy resources. The projects run by Rogers and his team are sound and are an example of projects that can generate cash and deliver the return on capital that investors are looking for,” said NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, to AOP. “I see a team that is focused on improving asset-level economics, reducing capital outlay, and stretching their dollars to do more with less.”

AOP’s mission is to bring investment to African energy of all kinds, with a view to making life better for people and businesses. Issues of climate change and sustainability must be addressed urgently. But comparatively clean natural gas and the people that produce it (and industries that can use it) should not pay the price for Western institutions’ opposition to funding hydrocarbons. “We need to give a chance to people to advance,” Beall told us. “Let’s do things that work.”

Bobi Wine, the main challenger of incumbent Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in the election, said early on Friday that Thursday’s vote had seen “widespread fraud and violence” but the opposition leader remained positive as ballots are being counted under an internet blackout.

Uganda Elections 2021 Results: Bobi Wine vs Yoweri Museveni - Electoral Commission results show Museveni in early lead

“Despite the widespread fraud and violence experienced across the country earlier today, the picture still looks good. Thank you Uganda for turning up and voting in record numbers,” Wine tweeted shortly after midnight (21:00 GMT), managing to bypass the blockage.

The 38-year-old former pop star-turned-legislator did not give details about his accusations, which contradicted the government’s account that Thursday’s vote had been peaceful with no extensive cases of violence reported.

The Electoral Commission is expected to release the results within 48 hours.

The internet remained down for a third day as vote counting continued in the country. Results are expected by Saturday afternoon.

President Museveni is seeking a sixth term in office and Wine has been arrested multiple times during the campaigning, is his main competitor among 11 opposition candidates.

The election took place after one of the most violent campaigns in years, with harassment and arrests of the opposition leaders, attacks on the media and dozens of deaths.

The run-up to polling day was marred by a sustained crackdown on Museveni’s rivals and government critics and unprecedented attacks on the nation’s media and human rights defenders.

In November, at least 54 people were shot dead by security forces loyal to Museveni during protests against one of Wine’s numerous arrests.

The US, EU, UN and global rights and democracy groups have raised concerns about the integrity and transparency of the election.

Meanwhile, the African Union (AU), has sent monitors, along with an AU women’s group.

On Wednesday, the United States, a key aid donor to Uganda, announced it was cancelling a diplomatic observer mission after several of its staff were denied permission to monitor the election.

On Tuesday, Museveni announced the suspension of social media networks and messaging services like Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp in response to Facebook closing accounts linked to government officials that the technology giant said were spreading misinformation.

 

Source : AL Jazeera

Rwanda is a major destination for foreigners travelling in the East African region.

With a tourism industry that is developing day by day, an emerging conference industry; and an investment atmosphere characterized by increased ease of doing business, many foreign travellers have been, in the past years getting increasingly interested in coming to visit.

However, with the emergence of the pandemic, it is not business as usual.

Government has put in place a number of measures to prevent the spread of the virus and this has affected travel to and from the country.

Here are seven things that you should know about traveling to Rwanda during this time of the pandemic:

1. Filling a passenger locator form before traveling

Travellers arriving in Rwanda must complete a passenger locator form and upload a negative Covid-19 test certificate on www.rbc.gov.rw –the official website of Rwanda Biomedical Centre—prior to their arrival.

2. A negative RT-PCR test is mandatory upon arrival

All travellers arriving in Rwanda must have a negative Covid-19 certificate. The only accepted test is a SARS-CoV 2 Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) performed within 120 hours of departure. This means that travellers must be tested and get results within 5 days of their flight. Other tests, such as Rapid Diagnostics Test (RDTs) are not accepted.

3. All travellers are tested upon arrival. A test costs $60

After jetting in, it is mandatory for travellers to get tested again at the Kigali International Airport. The Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) in partnership with the airport established a Covid-19 testing within the airport.

The test done here is a Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), and a traveller has to pay $60 for it. This amount is prepaid using online means (rbc.gov.rw) before someone travels to Rwanda.

4. Waiting for results at transit hotels. Government negotiated special prices with the hotels ranging from $30 to $450

After testing at the airport, the travellers proceed to designated transit hotels where they have to wait for about 24 hours to get their results. A list of these hotels is available on rbc.gov.rw.

The Government of Rwanda negotiated special rates for the 24-hour waiting period at the hotels. The prices range from as low as $30 to $450.

5. Travellers whose tests turn out positive undergo treatment at their own cost

If the results of a person visiting the country return negative, they are allowed to continue with the business that brought them. But if the result is positive for (even if asymptomatic), they will be treated as indicated in the National Covid-19 Management Guidelines until they have fully recovered, at their own cost.

Rwanda Biomedical Centre encourages all travellers to have international travel insurance.

6. Screening at the borders for those who use land transport

Travellers from neighbouring countries traveling to Rwanda are taken to transit to designated transit hotels from where they are tested for Covid-19. A test costs $60.

7. Negative Covid-19 results required before departure, for all

All travellers departing from Rwanda must test negative for Covid-19. The only accepted test is a SARS-CoV 2 Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) performed within 120 hours before departure. Other tests, such as Rapid Diagnostics Test (RDTs), are not accepted.

RBC encourages travellers to book and pay for their tests at least 2 days prior to departure through the online platform available at rbc.gov.rw

 

Read More: newtimesrwanda

Niger’s ruling party candidate Mohamed Bazoum will face former President Mahamane Ousmane in a presidential election runoff in February, according to provisional results announced by the electoral commission last week.

Bazoum, 60, led the first round with 39.33 percent of the vote, falling short of the 50 percent plus one needed to win the first round.

Ousmane received 17 percent of the votes cast, the commission said.

Former prime ministers Seini Oumarou and Albade Abouba respectively came third and fourth with 8.95 percent and 7.07 percent of the ballots.

The second round is expected to be held on February 21 after the results of the first round have been validated by the constitutional court, which will hear any appeals.

Bazoum, who has been both interior and foreign minister, campaigned on promises of improved security and education and had hoped to clinch victory in the first round.

Bazoum’s Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) is also leading in the legislative vote held at the same time with 80 of the 165 seats and five diaspora seats remaining to be decided.

Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou is stepping down after two five-year terms, which is expected to lead to the West African country’s first transfer of power between two democratically elected presidents.

Almost 7.5 million people cast their votes on Sunday to choose a successor to Issoufou, who in a New Year radio address hailed the election as “a new, successful page in our country’s democratic history”.

Insecurity overshadowed the campaigning, with Niger battered by armed groups on its southwestern border with Mali as well as its southeastern frontier with Nigeria.

Five years of violence in the former French colony have cost hundreds of lives with many more displaced. Last month, 27 people died in an attack claimed by Boko Haram.

But security is not the only concern for the people in Niger, a country of 23 million people.

The country’s economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic with a fall in the price of its top export uranium.

It has also suffered due to the closure of the border with Nigeria, a key gateway for the import of essential goods.

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Niger’s capital city Niamey, said that discussions are now ongoing between the parties over possible coalitions.

“Most of the democratically elected governments in Niger have been coalitions,” he said.

Idris said the two presidential candidates are also courting support in the final round.

“The question is, will the voters come out? Already we’ve seen more than 30 percent of voters not turning out for this election,” Idris said.

 

Credit: AL JAZEERA

Oil prices rose on Wednesday to their highest since February 2020 after Saudi Arabia agreed to reduce output more than expected in a meeting with allied producers, while industry figures showed U.S. crude stockpiles were down last week.

Brent crude rose as much as 0.9% to $54.09 a barrel, the highest since Feb. 26, 2020. It was at $53.82 a barrel at 0757 GMT after jumping 4.9% on Tuesday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures climbed as much as 0.6% to $50.24 a barrel, also the highest since Feb. 26, before slipping to $49.96. The contract on Tuesday closed up 4.6%.

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, agreed on Tuesday to make additional, voluntary oil output cuts of 1 million barrels per day (bpd) in February and March, after a meeting with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other major producers that form the group known as OPEC+.

The reductions agreed by Saudi Arabia were included in a deal to persuade other producers in the OPEC+ group to hold output steady.

With coronavirus infections spreading rapidly in many parts of the world producers are trying to support prices as demand takes a hit from new lockdowns being put in place.

"Despite this bullish supply agreement, we believe Saudi's decision likely reflects signs of weakening demand as lockdowns return," analysts from Goldman Sachs said in a note, although the investment bank maintained its year-end 2021 forecast for Brent of $65 a barrel.

OPEC member Iran's seizure of a South Korean tanker in the Gulf on Monday also continued to support prices. Tehran denied it was holding the ship and its crew hostage after seizing the tanker while pushing for Seoul to release $7 billion of funds frozen under U.S. sanctions.

Meanwhile U.S. crude oil inventories dropped by 1.7 million barrels in the week to Jan. 1 to 491.3 million barrels, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed late on Tuesday. That exceed analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a decline of 1.3 million barrels.

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