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Uganda’s government has been locked in a long-standing battle with companies over the development of its 3.5bn barrels of oil, mostly located around the Albertine Graben.

So it is with some relief that last week a memorandum of understanding was finally signed with UK-based Tullow Oil, Total of France and China National Offshore Oil Corporation, providing a framework for commercial production which builds on an April agreement. 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 »

Tapping bond markets is something of a trend for many African countries in the past year, including Gabon this month with a $1.5bn 10-year eurobond priced to yield 6.375 per cent.

But selling long-term debt is proving a hard game in east Africa, despite the presumable attractions of political stability and a favourable business environment. Interest costs for government securities are high, with long-term instruments maintaining yields of about 10 per cent or more, creating a growing concern for central banks. Continue reading »

Actis, a British private equity investor, wants to provide Cameroonians with power. On Thursday it agreed to pay $220mn to acquire 56 per cent of Cameroon’s national grid, Société Nationale d’Electricité (Sonel), and two power plants in the country, Kribi and Dibambe.

The grid’s current majority owner, US energy titan AES, is credited for giving Cameroon greater access to more reliable supply of power. Cameroon is now level with Spain in terms of ease of getting electricity according to World Bank data. Can Actis continue AES’s legacy? Continue reading »

Checking prices

When Ethiopia set up its commodity exchange in 2008, few observers foresaw the demand it would generate. But five years on, the ECX has shown that a bourse can help tackle food insecurity in poor nations, and countries are now falling over themselves to replicate its successes. Continue reading »

Bharti Airtel, the world’s fourth largest mobile services provider by subscribers, announced on Tuesday that it is set to buy Warid Telecom Uganda, the Ugandan business of Abu Dhabi-based Warid Telecom.

The Indian service provider is already Uganda’s second largest mobile phone operator with 4.6m customers. And by adding Warid’s 2.8m customers, it will be raise its market share to over 39 per cent. Continue reading »

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.” Continue reading »

After coming out on top against Heritage Oil in a tax appeal tribunal at home, the Ugandan Revenue Authority claims to be winning the away leg in London as it chases the Jersey-based company for a tax bill of $435m.

Heritage disputes the claim, and says the arbitration is still at a preliminary phase. A swift conclusion seems unlikely, but the case signals a determination on the part of the Ugandan government to ensure it gets a cut of the spoils in its nascent oil industry, and underlines the risks facing investors. Continue reading »

Ugandan council workers hang flags just outside KampalaFancy a bit of east African power? Umeme, the Ugandan power company, was successfully floated on Friday by Actis, a private equity group. So far, it’s been a hit, with the IPO oversubscribed and shares jumping 9 per cent on Monday.

But despite the investor thumbs-up, the stock is already rated by one analyst as a sell. Continue reading »

Independent and small-scale oil companies like to be quick on their feet, beating the energy giants time and again in the exploration race. But in some of Africa’s more promising energy areas, regulatory hurdles and resource nationalism are starting to hold things up. Continue reading »

The Bank of Uganda slashed 200 basis points from the benchmark interest rate on Tuesday, bringing it down to 13 per cent. This is the seventh rate cut this year, leading to a cumulative reduction of 10 percentage points in the central bank rate since February.

In a statement the bank explained the monetary easing as the result of disinflationary momentum; headline inflation fell from 11.9 per cent year-on-year in August to 5.4 per cent in September. Continue reading »

East Africa has just gained its 30th home-based private equity fund.

Progression Capital Africa’s first fund, which was launched in Nairobi on Thursday, will put $40m to work in microfinance across the region. Investing funds from three European state-backed development institutions, it’s ready to accept gains of only 10 per cent to 15 per cent – far less than the 30 per cent sought by private sector investors – as long as the projects generate decent social benefits. Continue reading »

As bond yields across Europe climb ever higher, one frontier African economy has managed to get a $409m bond issue away at a yield 150 basis points less than it paid a month ago.

Of course, Nigeria still had to offer an eyewatering yield of 16.5 per cent but any improvement on the even more painful 18 per cent it payed in October is welcome – particularly for an economy that is struggling with inflation, low growth and a high interest rate which is posing a dilemma oft repeated in the region. Continue reading »

Abdul Qadeer FitratConfusing Uganda for Afghanistan is not in your ordinary order of mistaken identity. After all, the two countries fall on different continents and even at a cursory first glance the basics are glaringly different: one is at war, one is not.

But as the Afghan central bank governor Abdul Qadeer Fitrat (pictured) fled Kabul reportedly in fear of his life, the Ugandan shilling was fast collapsing to ever new lows. Uganda’s central bank at least, thought the two events were decidedly related. Continue reading »