Africa Briefs

28 November 2018 | Economics

Ramaphosa signs minimum wage bill into law

South Africa's president Cyril Ramaphosa has signed into law the national minimum wage bill, his office said on Monday, part of efforts by the government to tackle wage inequality in Africa's most industrialised economy.

The National Minimum Wage Act sets South Africa's minimum wage at R20 an hour, equal to R3 500 per month. The law will come into force on a date to be determined by Ramaphosa, the presidency said.

Supporters of the minimum wage say it will reduce inequality and stimulate economic growth as workers spend more.

But critics say it could lead to increased unemployment, already at record highs, because some employers won't be able to afford higher wage bills.

Thousands of union members protested against the proposed minimum wage in April, saying it was too low. – Nampa/Reuters

Portugal to help Angola recover ‘unexplained assets’

Portugal promised on Friday to help the government of Angola repatriate funds obtained through corruption and deposited in the Iberian country, as Luanda steps up its drive to clamp down on alleged fraud by the previous administration.

Many rich Angolans live or own property in Portugal, its former colonial master, and president João Lourenço has approved a law to confiscate any "unexplained assets" held by Angolans abroad from January 2019.

"We will give all collaboration to Angolan authorities to help in the fight on corruption ... and to recover capital which is wrongly obtained," Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa said.

A year ago, Lourenço sacked Isabel dos Santos, the former president's daughter and Africa's richest woman, from her position as head of Angolan state oil company Sonangol. She has various investments in Portugal, including in oil company Galp, telecoms firm NOS and Banco BIC Portugues. – Nampa/Reuters

Congo approves clinical trials for Ebola treatments

Congolese authorities have authorised clinical trials for four experimental Ebola treatments, which will allow researchers to collect valuable data about their effectiveness, the health ministry said.

Health workers have already administered therapeutic treatments to more than 150 Ebola patients since August in an effort to contain the worst of Democratic Republic of Congo's 10 outbreaks of the hemorrhagic fever since 1976.

But until now doctors have decided which treatment to use on a case-by-case basis. In the clinical trial, the choice of treatment will now be randomised. Treatment will still be free of charge.

As of two weekends ago, 151 patients had received one of the four drugs. Of those, 76 had recovered, 44 had died and 31 were still hospitalised - a mortality rate of 37%.

By contrast, among those who had not received treatment, the mortality rate was close to 80%. – Nampa/Reuters

Tunisian union calls new national strike

Tunisia's powerful UGTT union called another national strike for January to press its demand for higher wages after the government said on Saturday it would seek a realistic pay deal.

About 650 000 public sector workers went on strike and thousands joined protests across Tunisia on Thursday over the government's refusal to raise wages amid threats from international lenders to stop financing Tunisia's tattered economy.

The state Institute of Strategic Studies says real purchasing power has fallen by 40% since 2014.

The government had said it does not have the money to pay for the increases strikers want, worth about 2 billion Tunisian dinars (US$690 million) in total.

Under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a deepening political crisis, Tunisia is battling to cut the budget deficit to about 4.9% of GDP this year and 3.9% in 2019 from 6.2% last year. – Nampa/Reuters

Egypt on track to achieve its financial targets

Egypt's state revenues grew by 35.5% in the first quarter of this fiscal year, putting the government on track to achieve its targeted primary budget surplus of 2%, the finance minister said.

Government investment rose 85% while tax collection increased by 39.8%, Finance minister Mohamed Maait said in a statement.

Maait attributed the positive results to Egypt's economic reforms programme, part of an IMF loan deal signed in 2016.

Under the IMF deal Egypt devalued its currency and has been gradually cutting fuel subsidies, putting the finances of tens of millions of Egyptians under strain.

Egypt is pushing ahead with the economic reforms which it sees as essential in attracting foreign investment. – Nampa/Reuters

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