South Africa’s consumers are reluctant to take the brake off spending even though inflation is at a four-decade low, according to retail trade sales data released on Wednesday by government agency Statistics South Africa.

Retail sales growth softened to 2.8 per cent year-on-year in March from a revised 3.9 per cent in February. Despite the fall, consumption remains robust and was stronger than the 2.4 per cent consensus in a Bloomberg survey of 16 economists

Investors in platinum hoping for a sustained bull run may be disappointed this year. Despite the labour unrest that keeps hitting South Africa’s miners, the biggest producers, supply and demand are pretty well balanced, says Johnson Matthey, the refiner in its annual review.

Even allowing for possible disruption, South African platinum output is expected to remain flat this year and Russian stockpiles – built up in the Soviet-era – are set to diminish. So, says Johnson Matthey, if investment demand grows a bit as it did last year, the global market for platinum may be in a “slight deficit” in 2013. That’s better than a glut, but given the general caution in precious metals markets, it’s unlikely to move prices much. 

Many of South Africa’s economic indicators have lagged recently on Europe’s downturn. And China’s economic slowdown could also take its toll on sub-Saharan exports to China.

But one indicator is up for Africa’s largest economy: tourism. And specifcally from the Bric nations. 

Zambia’s second bourse is hoping to kick off trading “in weeks”, giving investors a chance to trade derivative products alongside the bonds and equities available on the main Lusaka Stock Exchange (LuSE).

Peter Sitamulaho, deputy chief executive of the Bonds and Derivatives Exchange Zambia, or BaDEx, said the bourse is just waiting on getting its first clearing member, which would guarantee trades: “When the first bank signs, we will be able to trade.” 

The Seychelles Securities Exchange, which opened its doors at the end of 2012, has now got its first listing: the biggest insurance provider on the Indian Ocean island nation.

The State Assurance Corporation of Seychelles, known as SACOS Group, confirmed on Monday it will list in July on the Mahé-based bourse, known as Trop-X. 

Downtown NairobiLess than two years after independence, South Sudan is attracting the attention of insurance companies in east Africa. And it’s not the region’s only new frontier. CIC Insurance Group of Kenya is ready to expand in the country and into neighbouring Uganda.

Next year, CIC has its sights on Tanzania and Malawi, Joel Gatune, the insurer’s finance and investments manager, tells beyondbrics. “For us, we believe sustained growth is in micro-insurance,” he says. “We’ve come up with a micro-insurance blueprint.” 

Where are the best prospects among emerging nations? Not in the Brics countries, according to data on business optimism in 44 developed and emerging markets collated by Grant Thornton International, a network of business advisory firms. For the first time since it began collecting the data a decade ago, none of the Brics is among its top five countries. 

South Africa’s Sasol, the world’s biggest producer of motor fuels from coal, is pulling out of its five year natural gas exploration project in Papua New Guinea. The southeast Asian country’s potential reserves have attracted other big oil companies but Sasol’s experience has been more like trying to get blood from a stone than tapping gas from a brimming reserve. 

One month doesn’t make a recovery, as South Africa’s manufacturing index showed on Tuesday.

The Kagiso Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) dropped 4.3 points to 49.3 in March, back below the crucial 50 mark, and casting doubt over the next six months. 

It has been a tumultuous few days for shares in National Bank of Kenya, the country’s ninth biggest lender by market capitalisation. A lack of the price-setting power enjoyed by bigger banks meant it first spooked investors with a profit warning last week – and then sent them scurrying on Monday when it reported a 52.8 per cent fall in pretax profits for 2012. 

Already the third-largest online user base in the world, India has the potential to double its economic contribution from the internet in the next three years.

India could see a surge in the internet’s role in the economy from 1.6 per cent of the country’s GDP in 2011, to up to 3.3 per cent in 2015, putting it near developed countries on this measure, according to a McKinsey report. 

Egypt ConstructionThe Central Bank of Egypt raised its main interest rates for the first time since November 2011, prompted by the jump in February headline inflation and despite the slowdown in economic growth.

The bank raised the overnight deposit rate and overnight lending rate by 50 basis points to 9.75 per cent and 10.75 per cent, respectively, and raised its discount rate by 75bp to 10.25 per cent. 

South Africa’s Reserve Bank left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 5 per cent, out of concern that the recent decline in the rand is stoking inflation despite sluggish domestic economic growth.

The central bank surprised nobody, as analysts had expected no changes. And few envied the central bank governor Gill Marcus as she struggles to manage the risks to growth and the risks to inflation. 

A more hawkish tone from the Central Bank of Nigeria than many economists expected, but no change in the benchmark interest rate – yet.

The CBN on Tuesday held the benchmark at 12 per cent, in line with governor Lamido Sanusi’s earlier statement that his monetary policy committee would probably hold rates so as not to compromise the bank’s successes in fighting inflation. 

Procter & Gamble, the US consumer product company, is taking a bet on continued strength in South Africa’s retail market with a R1.6bn ($174m) investment in new manufacturing plant it expects to start building next year.

P&G said the project would create more than 500 jobs and manufacture goods for sale across southern and east Africa.