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IMF projects 4 % economic growth for Sub Saharan Africa

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts show that Sub Saharan Regional Economic Growth will pick up from 3 percent in 2018 to 3.5 percent in 2019, before stabilizing at close to 4 percent over the medium term.

The Washington Based global economic observer makes these projections in their 2019 Sub Saharan Africa Regional Economic Outlook launched in Abuja Nigeria on Tuesday 30th April 2019. Headlined “Recovery Amid Elevated Uncertainty”, the report says the economic recovery in sub-Saharan Africa continues, with about half of the region’s countries mostly non resource intensive countries expected to grow at 5 percent or more, which would see per capita incomes rise faster than the rest of the world on average over the medium term.

In depth the IMF says about 21 countries, mainly the region’s more diversified economies, are the once expected to sustain growth at 5 percent or more and remain on the impressive per capita convergence path they have been on since the early 2000s. On the other hand, 24 other countries, most of which are resource dependent economies, including the largest economies of Nigeria and South Africa, the growth will remain anemic in the near term.

“With about two -thirds of the region’s population residing in these countries, this implies much slower improvement in standards of living for the lion’s share of sub-Saharan Africans. Against the backdrop of a complex and less-supportive external economic and geopolitical environment, the implications for policies in the broadest of terms are twofold,” explains the report overseen by Anne-Marie Gulde-Wolf Deputy Director of IMF Africa.

IMF Africa further notes that for the fast-growing economies, there is need to hand over the reins of growth from the public to the private sector. According to the Regional Outlook, high growth in many of these countries has in part been spurred by higher levels of public investment, leading to a steady increase in public debt levels, notwithstanding rapid growth.

“This is a sign that fiscal policy has been procyclical, and the focus should switch toward limiting the increase in public debt and looking for alternative approaches to create fiscal space for further development spending, including through higher revenue mobilization, strengthening public financial management, and enhancing the efficiency of public investment,” says Papa N’Diaye Deputy Division Chief in the IMF Strategy, Policy, and Review Department.

Furthermore, the Sub Saharan economic outlook highlights that in the more resource-intensive countries and slower growing economies, there is a pressing need to complete the required fiscal and external account adjustments to lower commodity prices, for reforms to facilitate economic diversification, and to promptly address the policy uncertainties that are holding back growth particularly in Nigeria and South Africa. “Weaknesses in public and private balance sheets are weighing on credit to the private sector and growth,” observes IMF economists.

For all other countries, mostly resource-intensive countries, the International Monetary Fund says improvements in living standards will be slower explaining that most countries share the challenge of strengthening resilience and creating higher, more inclusive and durable growth. “Addressing these challenges requires building fiscal space and enhancing resilience to shocks by stepping up actions to mobilize revenues, alongside policies to boost productivity and private investment,” advices the global finance cooperation foster.

On current plans the IMF say Sub Saharan Africa macroeconomic policies are reasonably well calibrated in most countries in the region observing that most sub-Saharan African countries have either a neutral or a tight monetary policy stance and have announced fiscal consolidation plans, which if implemented would contain their debt trajectories. “These macroeconomic policies may need to be recalibrated to support growth in the event downside external risks materialize”. In addition the outlook recommends that countries would need to ensure that any shift in their policy stance is consistent with credible medium-term macroeconomic objectives, available financing, and debt sustainability

When launching the outlook in Abuja Nigeria on Tuesday Director of IMF Africa Department, Abebe Aemro Selassie shared that fast-growing countries that face elevated debt vulnerabilities would need to prioritize rebuilding their buffers. He said in the face of shocks that are deemed temporary, slow growing countries could seek additional financing to accommodate a more gradual macroeconomic adjustment adding that where this additional financing is not available, they should design the composition of macroeconomic adjustments with the least damage to near- and medium-term growth prospects.

“Such policies, together with measures to raise productivity growth and ensure more equitable sharing of the benefits of increased prosperity, would help sub-Saharan African countries strengthen resilience and create the conditions for sustained high and inclusive growth,” said Aemro Selassie. IMF envisions elimination of tariffs on most goods, liberalization of trade of key services, addressing nontariff obstacles that hamper intraregional trade, and eventually creating a continental single market with free movement of labor and capital.

The international Monetary Fund also observes that Africa’s new trade proposition, The African Continental Free Trade Area will likely have important macroeconomic and distributional effect in the year 2019 and beyond. IMF Africa Director Abebe Aemro Selassie says it can significantly boost intra-African trade, particularly if countries tackle nontariff bottlenecks to trade, including physical infrastructure, logistical costs, and other trade facilitation hurdles. “The picture is not uniform,” reads the report.

Furthermore, IMF says more diversified economies and those with better logistics and infrastructure will benefit relatively more from trade integration. “Fiscal revenue losses from tariff reductions are likely to be limited on average, with a few exceptions. Moreover, deeper trade integration is associated with a temporary increase in income inequality,” observed Aemro Selassie.

The AfCFTA agreement envisions elimination of tariffs on most goods, liberalization of trade of key services, addressing nontariff obstacles that hamper intraregional trade, and eventually creating a continental single market with free movement of labor and capital. The IMF suggests that, in addition to tariff reductions, policy efforts to boost regional trade should focus on reforms to address country-specific nontariff bottlenecks. “To ensure that the benefits of regional trade integration are shared by all, policymakers should be mindful of the adjustment costs that integration may entail” said IMF Africa Head on Tuesday.

Abebe Aemro Selassie said less developed and agriculture-based economies, trade policies should be combined with structural reforms to improve agricultural productivity and competitiveness advising that governments should facilitate the reallocation of labor and capital across sectors. “Active-labor market programs such as training and job-search assistance, and measures that enhance competitiveness and productivity and bolster safety nets income support and social insurance programs to alleviate the temporary adverse effects on the most vulnerable”.

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Gambling Authority tender dangles as a jittery lottery quandary

30th November 2020
SEFALANA MD: CHANDRA CHAUHAN

Lucrative and highly anticipated national lottery tender that saw several Batswana businessmen partnering to form a gambling consortium to pit against their South African counterparts, culminates into a big power gamble.

WeekendPost has had a chance to watch lottery showcase even before the anticipated and impending national lottery set-up launches. A lot has been a big gamble from the bidding process which is now set for the courts next year January following a marathon legal brawl involving the interest of the gambling fraternity in Botswana and South Africa.

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The uncertainty of getting the next meal in Botswana

30th November 2020
uncertainty of getting the next meal

Households representing more than half of Botswana’s population-mostly residing in rural areas- do not know where their next meal will come from, but neither do they take into consideration the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume.

This is according to the latest Prevalence of Food Insecurity in Botswana report which was done for the 2018/19 period and represents the state of food insecurity data even to this time.
The Prevalence of Food Insecurity was released by Statistics Botswana and it released results with findings that the results show that at national level 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity in 2018/19, while 22.2 percent of the population was affected by severe food insecurity only.

According to the report, this translates to 27 percent of the population being food secure that is to say having adequate access to food in both quality and quantity. According to Statistician General, Burton Mguni, when explaining how the food data was compiled, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is custodian of the “Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU)” and “Prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in the population based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES)” SDG indicators, for leading FIES data analysis and the resultant capacity building.

“The FIES measures the extent of food insecurity at the household or individual level. The indicator provides internationally comparable estimates of the proportion of the population facing moderate to severe difficulties in accessing food. The FIES consists of eight brief questions regarding access to adequate food, and the questions are answered directly with a yes/no response. It (FIES) complements the existing food and nutrition security indicators such as Prevalence of Undernourishment.

According to the FIES, with increasing severity, the quantity of food consumed decreases as portion sizes are reduced and meals are skipped. At its most severe level, people are forced to go without eating for a day or more. The scale further reveals that the household’s experience of food insecurity may be characterized by uncertainty and anxiety regarding food access and compromising the quality of the diet and having a less balanced and more monotonous diet,” says Mguni.

The 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana which was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity are characterized as people experiencing moderate food insecurity and face uncertainties about their ability to obtain food. These people have been forced to compromise on the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume according to the report on food insecurity.

Those who experience severe food insecurity, the 22.2 percent of the population, are people who have typically run out of food and, at worst, gone a day (or days) without eating. According to the statistics, rural area population experienced moderate to severe food insecurity at 65 percent while urban villages were at 46.60 percent and cities/town were at 31.70 percent. Those experiencing the most extreme and severe insecurity were at rural areas making 33.10 percent while urban villages and towns were at 11.90 percent and 17.50 respectively.

According to a paper compiled by Sirak Bahta, Francis Wanyoike, Hikuepi Katjiuongua and Davis Marumo and published in December 2017, titled ‘Characterization of food security and consumption patterns among smallholder livestock farmers in Botswana,’ over 70 percent of Botswana’s population reside in rural areas, and majority (70%) relies on traditional/subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods.

The study set out to characterize the food security situation and food consumption patterns among livestock keepers in Botswana. “Despite the policy change, challenges still remain in ensuring that all persons and households have access to food at all times. For example, during an analysis of the impacts of rising international food prices for Botswana, BIDPA reported that food prices tended to be highest in the rural areas already disadvantaged by relatively low levels of income and high rates of unemployment,” said the study.

According to the paper, about 9 percent of households were found to be food insecure and this category of households included 6 percent of households that ranked poorly and 3 percent that were on the borderline according to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) definition of food security.

Media reports state that the World Bank has warned that disruption to production and supply chains could ‘spark a food security crisis’ in Africa, forecasting a fall in farm production of up to 7 percent, if there are restrictions to trade, and a 25 percent decline in food imports.

Food security in Botswana or food production was also attacked by the locust pandemic which swept out this country’s vegetation and plants. The locust is said to have contributed to 25 percent loss in production.

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Solid demand for diamonds towards the ‘gift’ season

30th November 2020
Diamonds

Global lockdown have been a thorn in diamonds having shiny sales, but a lot of optimism shows with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the precious stones will be bought with high volumes towards festive season. The diamond market is however warned of the resurgence of Covid-19 in key markets presents ongoing risks amid the presence and optimist about the new Covid-29 vaccines.

The latest findings published as De Beers Group’s latest Diamond Insight ‘Flash’ Report, which looks at the impact of the pandemic on relationships and engagements, has revealed that in the US that more couples than ever are buying diamond engagement rings. Bridal sales is mostly the primary source of diamond jewellery demand in recent months, De Beers said.

According to De Beers, interviews with independent jewellers around the US revealed that the rate of couples getting engaged has increased compared with the period when Covid-19 first had an impact in the US in the spring.

“In addition, despite challenging economic times, consumers were spending more than ever on diamond engagement rings – often upgrading in colour, cut and clarity, rather than size. Several jewellers speculated that with consumers spending less on elaborate weddings and/or honeymoons in the current environment, they had more to spend on choosing the perfect ring,” said De Beers.

According to De Beers, a national survey of 360 US women in serious relationships, undertaken in late October in collaboration with engagement and wedding website, The Knot. This survey is said to have found that the majority of respondents (54%) were thinking more about their engagement ring than the wedding itself (32%) or the honeymoon (15%), supporting jewellers’ hypothesis that engagement ring sales were benefiting from reduced wedding and travel budgets in light of Covid-19 restrictions.

When it came to researching engagement rings, online was by far the predominant channel for gaining ideas/inspiration at 86% of consumers surveyed, with 85% saying they had saved examples of styles they liked, according to De Beers. According to the survey, only a uarter of respondents said they had looked in-store at a physical location for design inspiration.

“For many couples, the pandemic has brought them even closer together, in some instances speeding up the path to engagement after forming a deeper connection while experiencing lockdown and its associated ups and downs as a partnership. Engagement rings are taking on even greater symbolism in this environment, with retailers reporting couples are prepared to invest more than usual, particularly due to budget reductions in other areas,” De Beers CEO Cleaver said.

According to De Beers Group, its Diamond Insight Flash Report series is focused on understanding the US consumer perspective in light of Covid-19 and monitoring how it evolves as the crisis evolves. Also, the company said, it is augmenting its existing research programme with additional consumer, retailer and supply chain touch-basis to understand the pain points and the opportunities for stakeholders across the diamond pipeline.

Demand for diamonds is as hard and resilient as the precious stone itself. De Beers pocketed US$ 450 million in its recently held ninth rough diamond sales cycle, and the company says it is more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the ninth sales cycle of 2020, with the Sight event extended beyond its normal week-long duration.

“Steady demand for De Beers Group’s rough diamonds continued in the ninth sales cycle of the year, reflecting stable consumer demand for diamond jewellery at the retail level in the US and China, and expectations for reasonable demand to continue throughout the holiday season. However, the resurgence of Covid-19 infections in several consumer markets presents ongoing risks,” said De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver recently.

High expectations are on diamonds being a sentimental gift for holiday season or as the most fetished gift. However the ninth cycle was lower than the eighth which registered US$ 467 million. For the last year period which corresponds with the current one, De Beers managed to raise US$ 400.

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