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In spite of depression woes, S’Africa’s banking system gets stable outlook

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It may not all be sad for news for South Africa’s economy which has just fallen into depression.

Moody’s has changed its outlook for the country’s banking system from negative to stable, the ratings agency said in a report issued on Tuesday.

In its report, Moody’s said the banks’ creditworthiness would remain resilient over the next 12 to 18 months, although they will face weakening operating conditions.

“Slow economic growth will hold back the banks’ new business and revenues,” the report read.

Economic growth is expected to remain weak given poor consumer spending, volatility in emerging market currencies as well as inflationary pressures. Moody’s recently cut the growth forecast for 2018 from 1.5% to between 0.7%.

Moody’s said SA bank credit risk profiles and problem loans would remain stable until the end of 2019. Capital is also expected to remain strong for the period. Further, funding and liquidity conditions will be stable.

However a challenging operating environment will suppress business opportunities and loan demand, exerting pressure on banks’ loan quality. Loan growth slowed to 2.1% in May 2018, compared to 2.5% in May 2017, according to Moody’s.

“We expect growth to remain subdued in 2018/19 because of weak demand, particularly as growth in mortgage loans has slowed. We also believe that banks have further tightened their lending criteria in response to the weak economy, which will further dampen loan growth by making it harder for borrowers to take on new credit,” Moody’s explained.

Read also: Nigeria may be headed for another recession as economy slows in Q2 2018

The lower loan growth is likely to impact net interest income. Increased costs for staff and digitalisation will also drag down net profitability, the report said.

Overall, earnings will be strained by slower revenue growth and higher operating expenses.

Although profitability has remained resilient, the low economic growth, rising competition from larger banks and fintechs could curb pricing power, and drive down revenue growth.

Moody’s expects return on assets and return on equity to come under pressure in 2018/19.

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AFDB approves $1.5 billion emergency food fund for 20 million African farmers

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In what is considered a swift reaction to looming food insecurity in the continent, the African Development Bank has approved a $1.5 billion emergency food production facility for 20 million African farmers.

Disruption of food supplies keeps arising as one of the many fall-outs of the Russia/Ukraine war. Thereby, Africa faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially wheat, maize, and soybeans imported from both countries.

As a result of the war-caused challenge, African farmers urgently need high-quality seeds and inputs before the planting season begins in May to immediately boost food supplies.

In an official announcement on its website, the AFB says its $1.5 billion African Emergency Food Production Facility is an unprecedented comprehensive initiative to support smallholder farmers in filling the food shortfall.”

African Development Bank Group President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina said: “Food aid cannot feed Africa. Africa does not need bowls in hand. Africa needs seeds in the ground, and mechanical harvesters to harvest bountiful food produced locally. Africa will feed itself with pride for there is no dignity in begging for food…”

The price of wheat has soared in Africa by over 45% since the war in Ukraine began. Fertilizer prices have gone up by 300%, and the continent faces a fertilizer shortage of 2 million metric tons. Many African countries have already seen price hikes in bread and other food items. If this deficit is not made up, food production in Africa will decline by at least 20% and the continent could lose over $11 billion in food production value.

The Russia/Ukraine war has contributed to global food shortage with the two countries accounting for a significant amount of certain food supply globally, especially wheat.

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Zimbabwean farmers get ‘whiff’ of cannabis boom as President commissions $27m Indian hemp processing plant

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Indian hemp farmers in Zimbabwe are in for a huge financial boost following the commissioning of a $27 million medical cannabis farm and processing plant set up by Swiss Biocieuticals Limited in conjunction with the government.

The state-of-the-art medicinal cannabis processing plant commissioned last by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the country’s western province of Mount Hampden, is aimed at stimulating bio-medical solutions and pharmaceutical products for both local and international markets.

While commissioning the plant, the President said it was important for “investors to quickly operationalise their permits and licences for the benefit of the economy in general and people in particular, in line with Government’s set national targets and the desire to have an upper middle income economy by 2030.”

The development, Mnangagwa said,
dovetails into his ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business’ mantra, is expected to enhance foreign currency generation for the country.

“I challenge other players within the medicinal cannabis sub-sector to speedily set up their enterprises, with focus on value addition and beneficiation.

“It is disappointing that since 2018, only 15 out of the 57 entities issued with cannabis operating licences are operational.

“Such licences should not be held for speculative purposes and those not using them risk Government invoking the ‘use-it or lose-it principle’.

“All licences, permits, claims and other such instruments issued to investors must entail that national assets and resources are used for the benefit of our economy and ultimately improving the quality of life of our people,” President Mnangagwa said.

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Ghana begins bulk purchase of gold to strengthen its currency, Cedi

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As part of its many initiatives to rescue the country’s dwindling economy, the government of Ghana has started a bulk purchase programme to buy gold locally to raise the gold component of its reserves.

The programme was announced on Tuesday by the Central Bank Governor, Ernest Addison who revealed the move is in a bid to strengthen the cedi currency without increasing inflation.

“We have started a bulk purchase program, domestic, where we buy gold locally and try to raise the gold component in our level of reserves. This is where the current focus is,” Addison said at a conference.

Ghana’s economic setback after the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the World Bank, Ghana’s rapid growth was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the March 2020 lockdown, and a sharp decline in commodity exports. The economy had grown at an average of 7 percent in 2017-19, before experiencing a sharp contraction in the second and third quarters of 2020.

Statista reports that gold reserves in Ghana stood at a volume of 8.74 metric tons from the first quarter of 2015 to the third quarter of 2021. Moreover, gold mine production in the country reached a volume of 150 metric tons in 2020, an increase compared to the previous year. Ghana did not suspend its production of gold in 2020 amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Gold is Ghana’s top-earning source, it is, therefore, understandable why the country chooses to increase its reserve amidst the current economic downtime. In 2020, the government of Ghana accumulated income from gold that reached approximately 7.2 billion U.S. dollars. Compared to other minerals, gold generates the highest revenue in the country.

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