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Nigeria has overtaken South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy after the government released updated figures that raised the country’s gross domestic product by 89 per cent to $509bn.

The re-calculation rightly put most Nigerian officials in celebratory mood. But Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the country’s finance minister (pictured), offered also a cautious note: the new figures do highlight some acute problems. Continue reading »

By Stephen Adams of Global Counsel

Events at west African lender Ecobank over the past six months have been widely and rightly interpreted as an important test for the credibility of African bank governance and regulation. A combination of internal whistleblowing, regulatory pressure and shareholder activism did for former CEO Thierry Tanoh and have prompted a fairly substantial overhaul of bank governance. All good news for African good governance.

But the bigger question for African banks like Ecobank is still unanswered. This is simply that as a cross-border African financial institution, Ecobank is evolving much faster than the institutions that supervise and regulate it. With operations in more than 30 sub-Saharan markets, Ecobank is a complex prospect for African bank supervisors and one that they are only just starting to get to grips with. Continue reading »

South Africa, the African continent’s largest economy, had better take note. West Africa, an area that includes Nigeria, has for the third time in three years notched up more private equity (PE) deals than Southern Africa.

West Africa had the highest reported value of deals ($545m) during 2013, surpassing Southern Africa ($491m) and Eastern Africa ($163m), according to the 2014 Deloitte’s East Africa Private Equity Confidence Survey, published this month. Continue reading »

South Africa and Nigeria are global mineral and oil suppliers, respectively, that have built up their specialist industries over decades. So they should also be well advanced in creating investor-friendly policies and attractive operating environments. Similarly, Kenya, as east Africa’s leading economy, could be expected to create an appealing framework as it looks to tap into its own natural resources. Continue reading »

If you’re looking for clues over whether Goodluck Jonathan is going to break party policy by running again for the Nigerian presidency, then his decision to suspend the highly-respected governor of the country’s central bank is a good place to start.

Booting out Lamido Sanusi is the latest in a string of attempts by Jonathan to assert power ahead of a vote in early 2015, which together suggest that the much-criticised leader will run again for the presidency. In doing so he would break an unwritten rule. Continue reading »

If Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s president, showed his ruthless side by removing central bank governor Lamido Sanusi on Thursday, ostensibly for “financial recklessness” (most observers think it was for blowing the whistle on misplaced oil funds), he showed a cannier side by subsequently nominating Godwin Emefiele (left) of Zenith Bank as the new governor.

Emefiele may be unable to do much in the interim about the fall in the naira, but his reputation for prudent financial management may well prove to be an asset. Continue reading »

Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan showed his teeth on Thursday, suspended central bank governor Lamido Sanusi with immediate effect, with his spokesman citing “various acts of financial recklessness and misconduct”.

Sanusi, a well-respected central banker internationally, had clashed with the government in recent days over oil subsidies, exposing huge shortfalls in oil revenues. And while the governor was due to leave office later this year, that’s clearly too long for Jonathan to have a government critic running the central bank. Continue reading »

Nigeria has been beloved of investors lately, the accessible face of an irresistible rising demographic in sub-Saharan Africa. But it faces challenges, and none more so than the paucity of its infrastructure.

A new report this week by Ecobank spells out just how big that infrastructure gap is, and how it is replicated widely almost everywhere in mid-Africa. And it does so at a vital moment, as Nigeria is about to move to the second stage in its privatisation programme, involving the completion and sale of 10 national integrated power projects (NPPs), with a target of the end of March. Continue reading »

It would be exaggerated to call Davos the “money Oscars”, as Jon Stewart did on the Daily Show. But this year, WEF participants did like to think of countries as winners or losers, especially among emerging markets. In this last roundup, beyondbrics summarises who, to paraphrase the FT, “was hot – and who decidedly not.” Continue reading »

Maritime piracy has fallen to its lowest level for six years, according to figures released on Wednesday by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). Overall, the number of actual and attempted attacks is down 40 per cent since Somali piracy peaked in 2011.

But there there are new reasons to be concerned. Piracy is spreading in west Africa and beyond. The number of armed robberies around the coast of Indonesia is at its highest level for 10 years. Continue reading »

Nigeria looks set to become Africa’s biggest economy in the medium term, and with its large population and growing consumer spending power, the west African country is top of the list for many investors looking to tap African growth. But 2014 will ask searching questions about the country’s political climate. Continue reading »

You tell a lot by a country’s electricity supply – in fact, some people prefer it to GDP when it comes to assessing China. So how is Africa doing?

A new Afrobarometer survey of 34 African countries – What people want from government – has named the best and worst countries in terms of power supply in Africa. Continue reading »

Africa is at the forefront of bringing financial services to the “unbanked” and new opportunities to seasoned investors. In Monday’s FT special report on Africa Banking and Finance, our correspondents examine the continent’s enormous potential and challenges, writes Justin Cash.

Africa editor Javier Blas looks at the growth of sharia-compliant investments across the continent, whilst Anousha Sakoui assesses bright new prospects for M&A activityContinue reading »

By Charles Okeahalam of AGH Capital

Tom Hank’s portrayal of Captain Richard Phillips’ encounter with the pirate Abduwali Muse aboard the MV Maersk Alabama has focused public attention on an issue threatening an industry that, according to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), handles more than 90 per cent of global trade. Continue reading »

That's flexible

Are fixed exchange rates bad for growth? Much of the economic literature suggests no causal relation between a country’s exchange rate regime and economic growth. But the IMF has produced a paper suggesting that sub-Saharan Africa may be different.

Manuk Ghazanchyan and Janet Stotsky, the authors, perform a random effects model and find that non-oil exporting nations that claimed to have a flexible exchange rate had significantly higher GDP per capita growth from 1999 to 2011. Continue reading »