It might be one of the world’s tiniest stock markets, with only six listed companies, but a seventh addition has just doubled the value of the Rwanda Stock Exchange. This week, Kenya’s mighty Equity Bank, with a market capitalisation of $2bn and 9.2m customers across the region, has cross-listed in Kigali. Backers of the exchange are cock-a-hoop.

“Cross-listing is important because it gives Rwandans an opportunity to participate in the progress of their bank,” Robert Mathu, chief executive of Rwanda’s capital markets authority, tells beyondbrics, adding that Equity turned a profit in Rwanda within three years of market entry. “It’s a sign of integration within east African markets – a lot of progress has already been made.” Read more

When some of the world’s biggest law firms start circling your borders, you know your country’s on the up and up. Baker & McKenzie, which with more than 4,000 lawyers is the world’s second biggest law firm, is trying to break into Kenya.

“We’re all hunting in the same place,” Chris Hogan, a partner at Baker & McKenzie, tells beyondbrics of big law firms’ growing appetite to expand into Africa. “We are trying to get in ahead of the market…it’s quite a competitive environment.” Read more

As South Sudan’s war drags into the beginning of its second year, campaigners are warning of the economic risks of a prolonged conflict, hoping to press the region into action during the African Union meetings at the end of January after months of failed peace talks.

According to a study by Frontier Economics, a UK-based consultancy, the war could cost $158bn over two decades, even if oil production comes back at full capacity 10 years from now. Humanitarians also say they need $1.8bn to reach more than 4m people in 2015 alone. Two million people have already fled the fighting, which has killed tens of thousands. Read more

Tanzania has become the third east African country in as many months to discover the size of its economy is bigger than previously thought, benefiting from a surge of investment from gas explorers.

Tanzania joins neighbours Kenya and Uganda in their hefty upward revisions. Statisticians say the new estimate for the size of the economy in the country of 51m people is $41bn, 32 per cent more than previously estimated and the highest revision leading the east African pack, followed by Kenya (which rose 25 per cent at the end of September) and Uganda (13 per cent, also this month). Read more

As if South Sudan hasn’t enough to contend with, now it has the reprove of the usually buttoned-up IMF. Following a review of the oil-dependent economy, the IMF outlines the “acute challenges” facing the new country, which started tearing itself apart in a civil war just three years after achieving hard-won independence from the Khartoum regime to the north.

In the first Article IV Consultation with South Sudan since the country became an IMF member in April 2012 – jargon for the IMF’s overarching macroeconomic assessment – the Fund paints a sorry state for the country with the highest per capita income in the region bar Kenya. Read more

What links a middle-income powerhouse growing at 5 per cent a year with a failed state limping in with a $2.6bn economy and a jihadi insurgency? The answer is: a border. Kenya and Somalia are among the two most extreme bedfellows in the Horn of Africa, a region that is home to 240m people in eight countries, the prospect of economic riches, oil exports and – worryingly – four conflicts.

That’s one of the reasons five sets of donors, from the European Union to the Islamic Development Bank, have today said they will put $8.1bn towards the region over the next few years. Read more

Kenya’s conservative but fast-growing $7.8bn pension fund industry has just taken a pioneering step. For the first time since the 1990s, a leading Kenyan pension fund is putting its cash into a private equity fund.

The pension fund for Kenya Power and Lighting Company, which has 6,000 workers and $300m under management, will invest $4m with Ascent Capital, a new regional private equity fund that makes its first close this week with $50m and will back companies in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya. Read more

If you want something done, do it yourself. That’s the approach taken by the Nairobi Securities Exchange, which, despite such appeal that it attracts 60 per cent of its value from foreigners, managed not a single IPO last year. That hardly fits with ambitious growth plans for the bourse of 60 or so stocks.

But, at last, the first listing of this year is nigh. And who should it be? The NSE itself. Read more

Source: Thomson Reuters. Click to enlarge

Pity Tanzania’s stockbrokers. For the first time in years, it looked as if the country’s famously closed and illiquid markets might be about to open up to foreign investment. But, in classic Tanzanian style, “procedure” has called a halt. Read more

International bond investors may have given Kenya a vote of confidence when the east African regional hub launched the continent’s biggest debut Eurobond this month, but the World Bank has a decidedly less rosy view.

Its six-monthly economic update, out today, offers a sharply different growth trajectory to the one predicted by Kenya itself.

While finance minister Henry Rotich, who led the bond roadshow that wowed investors, says Kenya will grow at 5.8 per cent this year and 6.4 per cent next year, the World Bank forecasts it will grow at 4.7 per cent both this year and next. That’s a downgrade on its earlier 5.3 per cent prediction for this year. Read more

Henry Rotich, Kenya’s finance minister, said just about everything the country – and foreign investors – wanted to hear on Thursday when he announced Kenya’s new 2014/15 budget.

And no wonder – it comes at a sensitive time. Rotich is in the middle of trying to drum up $1.5bn-2bn from international investors for the east African hub economy’s debut eurobond. He abandoned his own much-delayed roadshow mid-trail on Wednesday night, flying in from London after days of presenting to investors across the US and will tonight fly back to rejoin his team. Pricing is expected early next week and, so far, investor appetite looks strong. Read more

When a self-styled “twiplomat” – a.k.a the UK’s High Commissioner to Kenya – throws a tweet-while-you-eat dinner party for the twitterati of Nairobi, then a milestone of sorts may have been passed in Africa’s social networking journey.

Christian Turner, who has just shy of 30,000 Twitter followers, hosted the evening – called #EatTweet2 – to emphasise the growing importance of social media in Kenya’s political and social life. Attendees were encouraged to juggle forks and smartphones to keep a running commentary on Twitter as the conversation ebbed and flowed over curry and cheesecake. Read more

Kenya is extending a $600m syndicated loan due for repayment on Thursday by three months, following an eleventh-hour agreement after weeks of prevarication.

A Treasury official said negotiations with the three international banks underwriting the loan – Citigroup, Standard Bank and Standard Chartered – were concluded only on Tuesday, two days before the repayment date. Read more

It might be behind schedule by several years and tax wrangles when it comes to pumping out its prodigious oil finds, but Uganda’s $20bn economy is nevertheless picking up speed.

Not only has it emerged from the doldrums of three years ago, when annual growth rates fell to 3.4 per cent and the country failed an IMF review; the IMF today applauds the country’s prospects, saying growth should reach 6.1 per cent for the 2014/15 fiscal year, up from an expected 5.7 per cent this fiscal year, with inflation on target to come in below 5 per cent in the near future. All this despite civil war in neighbouring South Sudan, which despite its underdeveloped state is a market Ugandan traders rely on for selling everything from plastic pots to tomatoes; a slowdown in agricultural output at home, which occupies three quarters of the country’s 36m population; and the ire of donors, who have held back more than $110m in aid after Uganda passed a controversial law against homosexuals earlier this year. Read more

The first time the bidding reached one million up went a cheer. Some delivered bids by phone; others waved their paddles or just a pair of specs; others still jiggled their legs as they decided whether to break upper limits decided in cooler moments. After all, the champagne was flowing, the warm room turned febrile and bidding resembled competitive volleys.

By the time the auctioneer put his gavel down on all 47 works, it was clear that east Africa’s first art auction – held in Nairobi this week – was a huge hit, exploding into impromptu applause and whoops in stark contrast to usually poorly attended and rarefied western counterparts. Read more

Addis Ababa: hello PE

When I heard about the US investor, Gabriel Schulze, who’d gone out on a limb and started up Ethiopia’s first private equity fund, I couldn’t wait to meet him.

The feeling wasn’t mutual. Famously reticent, it took me more than a year to convince him to meet me. But when we did, we ending up busting our two-hour time slot over tea and coffee at a private members’ club in London and speaking for six hours. You can now read the interview from that meeting, Portrait of a frontier investor, on Read more

Lower-than-hoped growth rates in the second quarter of the year is the last thing Kenya needs following last week’s terror attack.

The national statistics bureau said on Tuesday that Kenya grew at 4.3 per cent in the second three months of the year, lower than the first quarter’s 5.2 per cent and well below IMF earlier predictions of at least 5.5 per cent for the year overall. Read more

Ethiopia’s government is famously protective of its economy, especially telecoms, banking and retail. So when the late prime minister, Marxist-influenced Meles Zenawi, met senior Walmart executives face to face last year, it might have seemed an incongruous pairing.

But rising food inflation, combined with traders hoarding goods to avoid government-imposed price caps, made the prospect of big stores arriving to deliver cut-price goods appealing.

Negotiations are continuing with the American giant under Meles’s successor Hailemariam Desalegn (pictured). But progress is slow. Read more

Africa’s sugar industry will become all the sweeter if predictions about its growth come off.

Edward George, head of soft commodities research at Ecobank, tells beyondbrics he expects that even though domestic demand is rising, Africa will become a net exporter of sugar within seven years if it boosts production as planned, depriving Brazil of a key export market. Read more

The Central Bank of India is on the hunt for business in Kenya. A government-controlled commercial bank whose branch network runs to 4,200, Mumbai-based CBI has become the east African country’s sixth foreign bank authorised to establish a representative officeRead more