Battered by falling metal prices and labour unrest, the South African rand touched a four-year low on Thursday of 9.3836 to the US dollar.
And with the mining industry suffering strikes, the economy sluggish and credit rating agencies nervously eyeing the country’s finances, the currency could have further to fall. Continue reading »
A rising middle class, expanding population and stagnant local agricultural production are driving up Africa’s food imports. Bad luck is partly to blame. Weather-related damage has hit rice crops in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Niger and Madagascar. Foot and mouth disease has hurt Egypt’s bovine sector, and cassava – one of Africa’s major offerings to world agricultural trade – is being felled by a fast-spreading virus.
But policy volatility is also at fault. Nigeria – Africa’s largest rice importer – announced a hike in import taxes last year which prompted a sudden rise in purchases. And across Africa, weak infrastructure hinders agri-markets. Continue reading »
Alongside the riches, Ghana’s oil boom has also ushered in a string of woes, including huge infrastructure needs and the stubborn problem of rampant public expenditure. So, at a time when investors are displaying appetite for sub-Saharan African bonds, it’s little surprise then that the country is planning to issue a Eurobond worth up to $1bn. Continue reading »
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. Continue reading »
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. Continue reading »
South African mining firms are in a delicate position. Squeezed by falling commodity prices, production problems and labour unrest, they are trying to push on with plans to cut costs while treading carefully to keep workers onside.
On Friday, top global platinum producer Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) announced its decision to slash 6,000 jobs, a far cry from the 14,000 originally planned – but the main union AMCU rejected the announcement, and Amplats may find itself dragged back to the drawing board. Continue reading »
Africa has the lowest internet penetration rate globally, but some of the world’s tech giants think they may have touched a magic formula for the rollout of broadband on the continent.
The ‘white spaces’ technology being deployed by Microsoft could bring “almost 80 per cent of Kenya’s population online over the next three years,” according to Fernando de Sousa, who heads up the company’s 4Afrika initiative.
Bearing in mind that Kenya’s population has grown to just over 40m, that’s a fairly substantial number. Continue reading »
“What’s The Economist?” asks Trevor Manuel with a smile when questioned about the newspaper’s recent criticism of South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment programme (BEE). The article claimed BEE was enriching a tiny black minority, but failing to engineer the broad socio-economic transformation that it intended.
Manuel, South Africa’s planning minister, is no blind follower of ANC policy – recently attracting criticism after chiding his colleagues for blaming South Africa’s woes on apartheid. But he argues that employment equity is a “constitutional imperative”, and criticises the “malignant compliance and foot-dragging” of some companies in the past. Continue reading »
Smiles all round on the faces of those officials of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development who successfully lobbied for their role to be broadened from their traditional stamping grounds in eastern Europe to Turkey, North Africa and beyond.
As any visitor to the organisation’s annual meeting in Istanbul on Friday would have seen, top officials from the likes of Poland, Ukraine and Russia were notable for their absence. But there to fill the gap were the prime ministers of Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan, not to mention the host, Turkey’s premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In the ex-Communist bloc, the EBRD is now old hat. In and around the Mediterranean, it still makes news. Continue reading »
When a short seller launches a public attack on a company, the resulting storm can lead to a big dip in share price as investors digest the charge sheet – see Muddy Waters on Olam.
But African Bank, South Africa’s biggest household lender, saw its shares climb on Thursday despite a highly critical presentation by David Stemerman of Conatus at a conference in New York on Wednesday. A less-than-convincing case by the short seller? Or a question of the bad news already being out there? Continue reading »
Zimbabwe this week started consultations on proposed new mining policies aimed at increasing the state’s role in the industry in everything from environmental management to marketing.
The move echoes the controversial indigenisation and empowerment law, requiring companies to divest 51 percent of their shares to indigenous (black) investors. The approach is different – with officials intending transparent in contrast to the secretive methods of the political radicals who pushed through indigenisation. But there is still much to worry the mining industry. Continue reading »
Botswana may be the world’s top diamond producer, but it is keen to diversify its exports away from precious stones. The country has been steadily mapping out a plan to develop what it says are its huge coal resources.
The benefit would be clear: in addition to boosting domestic energy supplies, a coal industry would be able to export to countries such as China and India in the future. The question is, just what is the size of its reserves? Continue reading »
When it comes to interest rates, Kenya is hard to predict. Having cut interest rates from 18 per cent in mid-2012 in great chunks of 150, 200 and 350 basis points to 9.5 per cent, Tuesday’s central bank rate decision was something of a guessing game.
In the end, the bank cut by another 100bp to 8.5 per cent, having held at its previous meeting in March. Around half the analysts polled in advance by Reuters and Bloomberg had predicted a hold in rates. At least no-one was predicting a rise. Continue reading »
It may be having a rough time at home, but South African Airways still has friends overseas – and the latest is Etihad Airways. The airlines announced a strategic partnership on Monday, including a route-sharing partnership on flights to Abu Dhabi and beyond.
SAA and Etihad will also look at joint procurement and maintenance opportunities, according to the statement. In return, Etihad gets access to 10 cities in South Africa and other parts of Africa. Continue reading »