Five southern African countries – Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland – and the European Union (EU) this week started a new chapter in their bilateral relations with the entry into effect of their Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
As of this week, the agreement will apply to trade between the EU and the five countries. Mozambique is in the process of ratifying the agreement and will join in as soon as the ratification procedure is completed.
Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: "When I visited Botswana in June for the signing ceremony, I saw first-hand how important it is to build a stable trade partnership between Europe and Africa. Today we’re taking a crucial step towards making that a reality. The agreement that we’re putting in place will support sustainable economic growth and regional integration in southern Africa and is designed to help lift people out of poverty in the years to come. Africa is the emerging continent and the Economic Partnership Agreements have been designed to maximise this dynamism."
The EPA takes into account the different levels of development of the partners. It gives Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Swaziland duty-free, quota-free access to the European market. South Africa will also benefit from enhanced market access, going beyond its existing bilateral arrangement with the EU.
The southern African markets will open only partially to EU exports, gradually over time, providing their industries with the intermediary goods they need to support growth. It also provides for a number of protective measures in these countries, for instance for nascent, fragile industries or for food security reasons. Furthermore, the agreement increases the flexibility of southern African producers to put together products with components from various other countries, without the risk of losing their free access to the EU market.
The SADC EPA Group consists of six out of 15 members of the Southern African Development Community (Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa). Angola has observer status and may join the agreement in the future.
The EU is the largest trading partner of the SADC EPA group. In 2015, the EU imported goods worth almost €32 billion from the region, mostly minerals and metals. The EU exported goods of nearly the same value, consisting mostly of engineering, automotive and chemical products. Total trade between the EU and the SADC EPA Group (including Angola) amounts to €63 billion.
In signing the agreement, participants commit to act towards sustainable development, including upholding social and environmental standards. Civil society will have a special role in monitoring the impact of the agreement. The Agreement is also of a new species in that it is the first trade deal that directly supports the economic integration of a specific region, favouring closer links within the six Southern African nations involved.
The EPA creates joint institutions to support dialogue, smooth handling of all trade issues, and monitoring of the impact of the trade deal. The EU will work with its SADC partners to ensure smooth implementation of the agreement, together with regional and national development cooperation bodies.
RIGHT CONDITIONS FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT
Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the EU and African,
Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries are the main pillar of ACP-EU trade cooperation, and aim at creating the right conditions for trade and investment. In this context, the EPA between the EU and the SADC (Southern African Development Community) EPA Group establishes a long-term and stable trade relationship between both Parties, in compliance with international trade rules.
The current population of the SADC EPA countries combined is 89 million people. The two largest countries are South Africa and Mozambique, accounting for respectively 61% and 30% of the region's total population.
The average GDP per capita is roughly 3,700 EUR. In purchasing power parities (PPP), this value is much higher, at about 8,400 EUR.
Behind this average hides significant variation.
Per capita GDP in the region's richest country, Botswana is approximately
15,700 EUR, which is roughly 14 times as high as it is in the region's poorest country, Mozambique. The regional average GDP per capita is about 25% that of the EU. Real GDP grew by an annualised 3% over the last decade, a period in which the corresponding figure for the EU was 1%.
In total, the EU imported about 23.7 billion EUR worth of goods from the region whereas its goods exports were 27.2 billion EUR.
THE RATIONALE AND CONTENT OF THE SADC EPA
The EU's trade relations with the ACP countries were historically framed by a series of conventions, which granted unilateral preferences to the ACP countries on the EU market. By the end of the 1990s, it was found that these conventions did not promote trade competiveness, diversification and growth as intended. They were also found to be in breach of the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) principles, as they established unfair discrimination between developing countries. A change was therefore required. EPAs were the response defined jointly by the ACP countries and the EU in the Cotonou Agreement signed in 2000. EPAs build a new reciprocal partnership for trade and development, asymmetric in favour of ACP countries. In keeping with the objectives set out in the Cotonou Agreement, sustainable development is a key objective of the EPA, which is explicitly based on the "essential and fundamental" elements set out in the Cotonou Agreement (human rights, democratic principles, the rule of law, and good governance). The joint EPA institutions are tasked with the function of monitoring and assessing the impact of the implementation of EPAs on the sustainable development of the Parties, also carving out a clear role for civil society and members of parliament.
In view of these objectives, the EPA differs from most Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) currently in place or negotiated by the EU with other trading partners: while it remains a reciprocal agreement, it weighs in favour of southern
Africa through specific provisions:
·Asymmetric market access: The EU has committed to opening its market more than the SADC EPA countries have committee to do. The agreement fully takes into account the differences in the level of development between the two regions.
·Safeguards: Under the terms of the agreement, SADC EPA countries continue to be able to protect their sensitive products from European competition either by keeping tariffs in place or, if necessary, by imposing safeguard measures. To support local agricultural production, the EU has also agreed not to subsidise any of its agricultural exports.
·Flexible rules of origin: companies in the SADC EPA region also have more flexibility to use foreign components while still benefitting from free access to the EU market. In the SADC EPA, the rules defining the origin are formulated in a way to support development of new value chains in the region. The so-called
"cumulation of origin" enables canned fruit exporters to source fruit from neighbour countries, or textile producers to use imported fabric. This type of flexible rules of origin will benefit companies in agri-food, fishery and industrial sectors.
·Development: The EU complements the market opening effort of its partners with substantial development assistance. This will contribute to development, sustainable growth and reducing poverty.
ESTIMATED EFFECTS OF TARIFF REDUCTIONS
The economic impact of the EPA was assessed using a dynamic general equilibrium model, tailor-made for trade policy analysis and adjusted to the specific characteristics which apply to the southern African countries. In a conservative manner, only the impact of the tariff reductions was assessed, i.e. what is easily quantifiable from the agreement. Essential provisions of the EPA (rules of origin, trade facilitation, cooperation on norms, and development assistance) were not considered in the model even though they weigh in favour of SADC EPA countries. The results presented in this study are therefore expected to be exceeded over time. Based on the simulation results,
SADC EPA countries' GDP will be positively affected by the agreement, albeit to a small extent: Individual countries see their GDP grow by between 0.01% and
1.18%, whereas the weighted average GDP increase, which is strongly dominated by South Africa, is about 0.03% (Importantly, all results refer to the situation in 2035 compared to a situation without the EPA).
The variation between countries reflects the extent to which the EPA and the baseline differ: in countries such as Namibia, the EPA provides duty-free quota-free access while the country, in the absence of EPA, would not benefit from a preferential treatment (hence the higher impact).
In Botswana, the main export items (e.g. diamonds) would still benefit from low duties without the EPA (hence the lower impact). For a least-developed country like Mozambique, which would still benefit from duty-free quota-free in the absence of EPA, the main benefits to be expected rather come from the flexible rules of origin, regional integration as well as cooperation on norms and standards to boost its exports (all factors which could not be quantified and therefore were not included in the model).Total exports from the SADC EPA Group to the world are positively affected by the EPA as are total imports.
SADC EPA exports are expected to increase on average by 0.13% and imports by 0.14%. In particular, SADC EPA exports to the EU are expected to increase by 0.91%. The agreement has no measureable impact on the EU's overall trade with the world. Exports to the SADC EPA countries are anticipated to increase by 0.73% against a scenario where there would be no EPA. The sectors with the highest expected increases in exports from SADC EPA countries are red meat (15.3%) and sugar (13.7%). Other sectors where an increase in exports is expected are beverage and tobacco, dairy products, fisheries, motor vehicles, "other food", textile, utilities, vegetable oil, vegetables and fruit, and white meat.
While several of the increases are sizeable, decreases are usually below 0.1%, with the exception of wearing apparel (-1.2%), cattle (-0.8%) and electronics (-0.4%). The increase and decrease reflect the comparative treatment of each sector under the EPA by comparison to the baseline: in many sectors, EU customs duties are already low in the baseline scenario (especially when it comes to inputs into the production or primary products), while EU customs duties on finished goods and agricultural goods are much higher in the baseline than in the EPA, hence the higher positive impact in those sectors.
The remuneration of the factors of production is generally positively affected by the EPA even if only to a small extent. Remuneration of labour and land is generally expected to increase, while other factors such as capital and natural resources offer a more mixed picture.
The SADC EPA is expected to modestly reduce the poverty headcount in the two countries observed (South Africa and Namibia). As a result of tariff reduction, SADC EPA countries will collect less import duties, but the decrease is on average not higher than 0.59% of total import duty collection at the end of the liberalisation period. Revenue loss is therefore expected to be limited.
The EPA paves the way for a stable and long-term bi-regional trade relationship between southern Africa and the EU. The outcome of the negotiations is a WTO-compatible Agreement that offers asymmetry in market access. The duty-free access to the European market for the Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland (BLMNS) countries will no longer be at the discretion of the EU but will be anchored in a treaty between the Parties. South Africa has also negotiated better access than currently granted under the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) between South Africa and the EU.
The EPA, including through its development cooperation pillar, is expected to facilitate intra-regional trade as well as the region's trade with the world. The SADC EPA will also re-establish the common external tariff of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and thereby renew the proper functioning of the oldest existing customs union in the world. The EPA creates a joint Council and a joint Committee in charge of the implementation of the agreement. It will be the task of those institutions to ensure that the EPA is properly implemented, as well as to make proposals for the review of priorities set out in the agreement. For that purpose, constant monitoring of implementation is paramount.
Cryptocurrencies have become the talk of the town, a major bone of contention for some and an opportunity towards new investment frontiers for others.
For many African economies, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have become major game-changers, allowing vendors to avoid the evils of inflation, and allowing new and dynamic African investors to take advantage of crypto’s soaring prices.
Outside of Bitcoin, other crypto projects have also taken precedent and provided investors with new frontiers within the cryptocurrency realm. In this article, we explore the four best crypto projects in 2022 for Africans to invest in.
Polkadot is often referred to as a ‘blockchain of blockchains’ whose main objective is to facilitate the building of new networks and make this easier for developers.
It allows users to develop new blockchains that work in concert with current ones without relying on complicated bridging protocols.
The network enables these chains to be entirely configurable without sacrificing the underlying security and safety. The most extensive capability of Polkadot, however, is powering the Web 3.0 revolution.
2. Yellow Card
Yellow Card was launched in 2016 by Chris Maurice and Justin Poiroux with the intention of enabling Africans at home and abroad to purchase and sell Bitcoin using their local currency via bank transfer, cash, and mobile money.
The firm was formally launched in 2019 in Nigeria where it has over 35,000 merchants and was believed to have processed more than US$165 million in crypto remittances in 2020 alone. That same year, it expanded operations to South Africa and Botswana and raised $1.5m seed capital to offer its services in Kenya and Cameroon.
In 2021, Yellow Card will be adding new capabilities to facilitate more frictionless transactions. The app will support some local languages, including Igbo, Arabic, Afrikaans, French, Hausa, Luganda, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Swahili.
Currently one of the fastest crypto networks around, Solana spearheads the research and implementation of contemporary technologies like dApps and smart contracts. It is one of the only tokens that can operate both on a proof-of-history and a proof-of-stake consensus scheme. The SOL network also handles more than 50,000 transactions every second, the quickest so far.
While Solana was not the first network to utilize smart contracts, it today has more than 350 distinct projects running on its network. It also restored more than 17,000 percent of its value in the previous 12 months, presently standing as one of the top 10 currencies by market cap, valued at $53 billion roughly.
4. Akoin City
Akon is creating a futuristic $6 billion Akon City in Senegal, which will use the akoin cryptocurrency (AKN) as its primary currency.
As of November 11, 2020, akoin began trading on Bittrex Global versus BTC and USDT as a pilot for Akon Metropolis and was made available for payment in a tech city in Kenya the next year.
Estimated 20,000 workers are expected to be paid in the akoin cryptocurrency by the end of 2021, with 35,000 citizens and more than 2,000 retailers expected to use the system.
Commercial Banks credit increased by 7.4 percent year-on-year in September 2021, higher than the 4.4 percent growth in the corresponding period in 2020, according to the Bank of Botswana’s Financial Stability report released last week. The acceleration in commercial bank credit growth was largely due to the higher growth in household credit over the review period.
In addition, credit growth has been trending upwards since the end of the 2021 first quarter, partly reflecting base effects associated with the fall in credit in the previous year 2020, and an improvement in demand for and supply of credit. Household credit increased to P44.8 billion in September 2021, from P41.3 billion in September 2020, on the back of a significant increase of 11percent in personal loans.
Business loans, on the other hand, increased by 5.5 percent over the period under review, due to an increase in credit to parastatals and finance sectors. However, loans extended to the mining, electricity and water, construction, trade, restaurants and bars, manufacturing and transport and communications sectors decreased. The share of business credit to total credit decreased from 35.2 percent in September 2020 to 34.6 percent in September 2021, while that of households increased from 64.8 percent to 65.4 percent during the same period.
Total credit as a percentage of GDP grew steadily between 2010 and 2020, at an average rate of 12.4 percent. The Bank of Botswana says Credit growth is in line with its long-term trend and thus not likely to overheat the economy. “In this context, there is scope for increased, disciplined and prudent credit extension to support economic activity” experts at the Central Bank noted. Commercial banks’ leverage ratio was 7.8 percent in August 2021, a decrease from the 8.5 percent in August 2020; but indicative of the banking sector’s strength to withstand negative shocks, according to BoB.
Furthermore, commercial banks’ average capital adequacy ratio was 18.5 percent in August 2021, thus according to the Bank of Botswana, indicating the sector’s resilience to unexpected losses. The BoB says the banking industry’s strong capital base is further augmented by the modest level of non-performing loans (NPLs) to total loans ratio of 3.7 percent in August 2021 (4.5 percent in August 2020). However, the full effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on corporate performance, banks’ level of NPLs, profitability and capitalization are yet to be observed.
Zooming into the household space the financial stability report observed that households’ vulnerability to sudden and sharp changes in financial conditions. Household credit grew by 8.5 percent in the twelve months to September 2021, higher than the 7.4 percent growth recorded in the year to September 2020. The relatively higher growth rate of household credit was due to base effects and an improvement in credit conditions, both supply and demand.
Credit to households continued to dominate total commercial bank credit, at P44.8 billion (65.4 percent) in September 2021 and was mostly concentrated in unsecured lending (72.5 percent). The proportion of unsecured loans to total credit remains higher than the 24.4 percent and 30.8 percent reported in South Africa and Namibia, respectively.
Experts at the Central Bank have cautioned that the significant share of unsecured loans and advances has the potential to cause household financial distress, given the inherently expensive and short-term nature of such credit. “Therefore, households remain vulnerable to sudden and sharp tightening of financial conditions” However, the BoB noted that household debt is aligned to trends in income. Household debt as a proportion of household income is estimated at 37.5 percent in the third quarter of 2021, a decrease from the 47 percent in the same period in 2020.
This ratio according to the BoB remains relatively low when compared to the 79.9 percent and 75 percent for Namibia and South Africa, respectively. “In this respect, domestic household borrowing is in line with trends in personal incomes, implying a relatively strong debt servicing capacity” the bank said Consequently, the ratio of household NPLs to total household credit was modest at 3.5 percent in June 2021, slightly lower than the 3.9 percent in June 2020 and significantly better than the industry average of 4.1 percent in June 2021.
Household borrowing also dominates credit granted by the Non-Banking Financial Services (NBFIs) sector, although the level of household exposure in the sector remains relatively low compared to that of commercial banks. The level of household indebtedness in Botswana is, however, considered low by international standards, at 24.9 percent of GDP in the first quarter of 2021, compared to, for example, 26.2 percent, 33.9 percent and 52.8 percent for Mauritius, Namibia and South Africa, respectively.
The quality of bank credit improved in August 2021 as indicated by the decline in the ratio of non-performing loans (NPLs) to total loans to 3.7 percent in August 2021, from 4.5 percent in August 2020. The Bank of Botswana advised that to maintain low to modest NPLs and help vulnerable groups in the context of COVID-19 induced economic disturbances, there is need to keep in place targeted support to illiquid but solvent firms and affected households and make the support state-contingent or conditional to reduce moral hazard.
Experts at the Bank underscored that overall, “there is no indication of excessive and rapid credit growth that could threaten the stability of the financial system” Average daily market liquidity in the banking system fell to P5.4 billion in October 2021 from P6.2 billion in September 2021. The fall in market liquidity is due to persistent foreign exchange outflows. Nevertheless, banks continued to comply with the minimum liquid asset ratio requirement of 10 percent and supported moderate growth in demand for credit, with a financial intermediation ratio of 81.3 percent in August 2021, which is slightly above the desired range of 50 – 80 percent.
Commercial banks’ funding structure continues to be concentrated in a few large depositors, mainly business deposits, highlighting potential funding risks due to the undiversified deposit base. This notwithstanding, funding risks are mitigated by the inherently long-term structure of bank deposits, mainly fixed deposits, thus giving banks an opportunity to respond accordingly in case of short-term funding shocks.
In August 2021, fixed deposits (including savings deposits) accounted for 46 percent of the deposit base and were further augmented by the 27 percent for checking/current accounts, which are behaviourally stable/core deposits. In terms of macro-financial interlinkages and contagion risk, banks continue to have significant linkages with the rest of the financial system and the real sector.
The strong interconnectedness between the banking system and NBFIs, as well as the non-financial sector (households and corporates) pose a risk of contagion in the domestic financial system, although effective regulation across the system, as well as proper governance and accountability structures moderate the risk. Furthermore, most of the retail and household loans have credit life protection, mortgage repayment policies and retrenchment cover policies provided by insurance companies, effectively shifting banking risks to the insurance sector.
As major mining companies leave the coal business, under pressure to comply with international campaigns of clean energy, local junior coal producer Minergy says it stands ready to rise to the occasion and service the demand in the regional market.
On Thursday, the company, which unearths thermal coal from its wholly owned Masama Mine near Medie village in the South East District of Botswana provided a market update to its investors and stakeholders for the six months period ending December 2021. Minergy is listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, backed by Government investment arms Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) and Mineral Development Company Botswana (MDC), the company started producing first saleable coal from Masama in August 2019.
The company said it expects the international pricing for Southern Africa coal to remain high, driven by the continued China/Australian standoff and Indonesian export restrictions. “Coal supply is under pressure, with demand increasing as several majors divest from coal given the negative coal narrative. Minergy expects an undersupply in the regional market as a result,” said a statement from the company. During the second half of the year 2021 substantial progress was made towards reaching nameplate capacity at the Masama Coal Mine.
Achievements included producing the highest six-monthly volumes across all disciplines since the inception of the mine. With support from its mining contractor, Minergy said is now capable of achieving nameplate capacity of 125,000 tonnes per month. Overburden volumes increased fourfold versus the comparative six-month period. A similar trend was evident in the amount of coal that was extracted, with growth of 100% being achieved. Record tonnage in excess of 110,000 tonnes of coal was mined in October 2021.
Stage 4 of the Processing Plant (Rigid Screening and Stock Handling section) was also successfully commissioned. Plant construction is thus complete, and is now fully operational as designed. Resulting benefits include savings in processing costs, a stabilised supply, and further support for achieving nameplate capacity. Daily average feed rates increased significantly and are being consistently achieved. Processed volumes increased in line with mining data, with yields remaining stable, and a record throughput of 108,000 tonnes was achieved in October 2021.
However, lower volumes were recorded during November and December 2021, impacted by the new COVID-19 variant and the related effect on workforce availability and border access, as well as by rain interruptions and lower regional sales as explained below. Minergy said with the nameplate capacity now achievable, going forward strategic focus will now be on sales to support the increased saleable product.
This will enable Minergy to generate sufficient cash flow to stabilise the business. Major cement and steel producers have, however, notified Minergy of plant shutdowns early in 2022. Alternative placement of product will be sought. In terms of the secondary listing, the company says the listing on an internationally recognised stock exchange remains an important strategic objective. “However, affordability and timing are key considerations, which are constantly being evaluated,” said Chief Executive Officer Morné du Plessis.
The ordinary share capital raise, approved by shareholders in February 2021, has garnered interest and Minergy is actively engaging with interested parties to progress this. Plessis noted that Eskom’s future strategy remains unclear, given the ambiguous messages broadcast by the power utility in recent months, and Minergy is waiting feedback on the requirements for coal supply into the South African power station market.
Minergy believes that countries such as Botswana and Namibia will pursue power independence from South Africa (illustrated by the Botswana tender and discussions with interested parties in Namibia) and finds itself located centrally to supply both South Africa and southern African countries. Minergy is also basing its fortunes on multibillion pula coal fueled power plant deal with Botswana Government.
The Botswana Government, through the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security (“MMGE”), has invited the Minergy and three other selected local bidders to tender for the design, finance, construction, ownership, operation, maintenance and decommissioning at the end of its economic life (minimum 30 years) of a 300MW (Net) Greenfields Coal-Fired Power Plant in Botswana, as an Independent Power Producer (“IPP”).
This forms part of the government’s 11th National Development and Integrated Resources Plan. It is expected that the power plant would be operational by 2026. The closing date for the bid is currently 30 March 2022. Minergy is partnering with Jarcon Power to submit the bid. If successful, Minergy Coal will be responsible for providing coal to the power plant for the duration of the Power Purchase Agreement of 30 years, and other income streams are also being envisaged.
This profitable sale of coal will have the benefit of ensuring a steady cash flow to Minergy, utilisation of current uneconomical coal seams and diversifying income streams. Importantly, Minergy is the only bidder to have an operational mine.