Africa Briefs

12 March 2019 | Economics

SA bond demand at 6-month high

Demand for South Africa's short-term bonds hit a six-month high at an auction on Friday just 24-hours after president Cyril Ramaphosa said government would go ahead with plans to nationalise the central bank.

Ramaphosa on Thursday told lawmakers he would push through his ruling African National Congress's (ANC) decision that the bank be state, rather than privately owned, contradicting the bank's head who has warned against government interference.

On Wednesday Central Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago, who's five-year term expires in November, repeated his opposition to the move and switching mandates, saying it was unrealistic for the central bank to target specific employment levels.

The government's benchmark 10-year bond remained bid at a yield of 8.665% and the large demand at an auction of short-term debt suggested investors were happy to pocket the high yield while they assessed the impact the move would have.

Bids at the National Treasury's weekly auction of short-term bills saw investors offer over R7.3 billion for government's three-month bills, pushing the bid-to-cover ratio to its highest since September 2018. – Nampa/Reuters

Zim to allow foreign platinum miners control of local operations

Zimbabwe will scrap a law that denies foreign platinum mining companies control of their operations in the country, the mines minister said on Thursday.

Foreign platinum and diamond miners have been restricted to only 49% ownership of their Zimbabwe operations by the black economic empowerment law introduced during Robert Mugabe's rule. The law was aimed at increasing black Zimbabweans' stake in the mining sector, but foreign investors said its implementation was often murky and open to abuse.

Zimbabwe holds the world's second-largest known platinum reserves behind South Africa.

Asked to confirm a Bloomberg report that Zimbabwe will scrap the black empowerment rules for platinum, Winston Chitando told Reuters in a WhatsApp message: "Confirmed. It's part of continued review of [the] Zimbabwe is open for business mantra."

On when the amendments will be brought to parliament, Chitando said that dates would be announced soon.

Algeria orders early university holiday

Algerian authorities on Saturday ordered an early start to the spring university holiday, an apparent attempt to weaken two weeks of student-led protests against president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

The higher education ministry's decision came a day after tens of thousands of demonstrators packed central Algiers to challenge the veteran leader's 20-year-old rule in the biggest protests in the capital in 28 years.

Without giving a reason for the move, the ministry said in a decree that the spring break would be brought forward by 10 days, starting on Sunday instead of March 20.

Algerians desperate for jobs and angry at unemployment, corruption and an elderly elite seen as out of touch with the young have taken to the streets since February 22 to protest the 82-year-old's plans to seek a fifth term in an April 18 election.

Many of the demonstrations - the largest since 1991 when the army cancelled elections Islamists were poised to win - started at university premises before spilling out onto the streets. – Nampa/Reuters

Egypt's urban inflation jumps to 14.4%

Egypt's annual urban consumer price inflation increased to 14.4% in February from 12.7% in January, the official statistics agency CAPMAS said on Sunday, confounding some analysts' expectations of an imminent easing cycle.

Inflation had cooled to 12% in December after an increase in fuel, electricity and transportation prices last year had sent the rate up to a high of 17.7% in October.

Prices in the transport sector rose 32%, CAPMAS said, while food and beverage prices increased 15.3% year-on-year.

Egypt has implemented a series of tough austerity measures to help meet the terms of a US$12 billion IMF loan programme it signed in late 2016.

The central bank, which is targeting inflation of 13% plus or minus 3 percentage points, made a surprise cut to its overnight interest rates last month. It cited a strong drop in inflation and an improvement in other macroeconomic indicators.

Sudan says Port Sudan terminal deal under review

Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir Friday said that a deal to transfer the container terminal at Port Sudan to a Philippines company is under review after workers held a strike against the contract.

Hundreds of workers at Port Sudan, a vital economic hub of the east African country, went on strike for days last month to oppose Khartoum's decision to transfer control of the terminal to the foreign firm International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI).

The presidency's media office also confirmed that Bashir had ordered a review of the contract.

The company said on its website that the tender process had been led by Sudan's state-run Sea Ports Corporation (SPC) and had attracted bids from several international operators.

Port Sudan workers have opposed the contract and hundreds of them went on strike last month at a time when nationwide demonstrations have rocked Bashir's rule stretching back three decades. – Nampa/AFP

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