The new year started with a host of commodity price crashes, runs on currencies and warnings about mounting debts.
Bankers' bets, based on glossy analytical reports about Africa's lion economies and a doubling of its gross domestic product by 2025, were discreetly torn up last year. In their place are downbeat prognoses about Africa's position in a much harsher global economic and political climate (AC Vol 56 No 1, HYPERLINK "http://www.africa-confidential.com/article/id/11408/New_ideas%2c_harder_times_and_a_few_surprises" New ideas, harder times and a few surprises).
For the irrepressible optimists, this year's hard times will concentrate minds. Take Nigeria, where President HYPERLINK "http://www.africa-confidential.com/whos-who-profile/id/2606/Muhammadu_Buhari" Muhammadu Buhari's government says it is determined to combat the falling oil prices with an expansionist or Keynesian programme of capital investment and to restructure the economy to end its chronic dependence on oil exports.
It would certainly help if Nigeria's top industrialist, HYPERLINK "http://www.africa-confidential.com/whos-who-profile/id/2622/Aliko_Dangote" Aliko Dangote, has as much success with his oil refining and petrochemical businesses as he has with cement production. Thanks to Dangote's astute financial calculations and political diplomacy, he has made Nigeria a net exporter of cement. He plans to do the same with petroleum products and petrochemicals, if he can hold his nerve. The value of his investments have already fallen by over 20% on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
Business people and oppositionists chant similar mantras about restructuring in South Africa and Angola, and there is more interest in the dirigiste model of economic restructuring developed by Ethiopia, Morocco and Rwanda, and the more market-led developments in Kenya.
World Bank economists reckon that the downward trajectory started in 2014, when average GDP growth in Africa fell to 4.6% and its latest report notes a further slowing to 3.4%. For this year, the Bank offers a modicum of optimism with a forecast rise to 4.2%.*
Five developments fuel the gloomier outlook for Africa. Firstly, China's economic rebalancing and slowdown. By some measures, China is already the world's biggest economy and for Africa, it is certainly the most influential one by dint of the more than US$200 billion annual trade account with the continent's 55 economies. As agile as any Western spin doctors, Chinese officials went to great lengths at last December's Forum for China-Africa Cooperation to promote a new package of $60 bn. worth of investment and loans to Africa, as they explained some of the consequences of their country's economic restructuring. As trade between China and Africa slows in the short term, Beijing's officials made much of the prospects for cooperation on big industrial projects on the continent. That, though, is very much a medium-term prospect.
Secondly, the commodity price crash cannot all be blamed on China and it is not blighting all Africa's exports. For example, export earnings from cocoa, coffee and tea look set to hold up in both the increasingly lucrative specialist markets and in the traditional bulk purchase markets. In other areas, the commodity news is undeniably grim: the millions of extra barrels of oil on the international market seem destined to push down prices further, short of a spectacular political shock such as the collapse of the monarchy in Saudi Arabia. With United States' and European sanctions lifted against Venezuela, Iran and perhaps Russia, the prospects are for yet more and cheaper oil.
Mining companies are laying off workers across Africa: at least 50,000 people in South Africa and tens of thousands in Congo-Kinshasa and Zambia. Here, the forecast demand for copper, cobalt and iron ore is more complicated because of the long lead-time to develop a mine. More optimistic analysts argue that India – now the fastest growing big economy in Asia – could replace China as the most important metals buyer for Africa.
Again, that is more of a medium-term prospect. Just as international oil companies are cancelling exploration and production operations in Africa and elsewhere, big mining projects, such as the Simandou iron ore project in Guinea, will struggle to raise finance (AC Vol 56 No 22, HYPERLINK "http://www.africa-confidential.com/article/id/11291/Cond%c3%a9_consolidates_as_opposition_regroups" Condé consolidates as opposition regroups).
Thirdly, the Western-dominated financial sector will impose tougher terms on African borrowers and raising finance for big capital projects will get harder still. With a stronger dollar and higher domestic interest rates, more cautious financiers are returning to the US markets. Not only will African countries have to pay higher interest rates on fresh sovereign bond issues, the costs of servicing existing debts are likely to rise sharply. Already, the vulture funds of Wall Street are eagerly surveying the market for bargains.
Fourthly, the political and security climate is scaring off Africa's many short-term investors and fair-weather friends. More liquid equity and money markets such as South Africa's have lost billions in value over the past year, partly because of self-inflicted wounds but also due to growing corporate nervousness about the reality behind those Panglossian reports about Africa's fast growing middle classes.
More robust responses from governments and institutions such as the African Development Bank to counter to some of the nonsensical swings in international sentiment on Africa could help. So could much better data and statistics, as well as an African ratings agency that can evaluate political risk with inside knowledge, rather than long-range speculative assessments.
Although Africa's security crises are most serious in the Horn, the Sahel and Libya, few foreign assessments make those distinctions. Accordingly, the tourism and service industries have been heavily hit by the wave of Islamist attacks over the past couple of years and the growing sense of threat across the region. In places such as Kenya's Coast Province, this reinforces a cycle of economic and political insecurity when terror attacks close down tourist facilities, weakening local economies and exacerbating grievances.
Fifthly, the extreme weather – longer droughts and heavier flooding – associated with climate change is doing increasingly serious damage to agriculture in Africa as well as worsening social conditions more generally. Despite the celebrations around the climate change treaty in Paris in December, there were few guarantees of new money to enable African economies to adapt to global warming. However, some of the bolder sustainable energy projects in Africa – such as solar power in West Africa and the 'green energy corridor' in East Africa – point the way to new economic strategies which could give the commodity-dependent countries a much needed boost.
How are African governments likely to react to the tougher conditions?
Some politically vulnerable governments are planning more social protection schemes while others are looking for ways to pull in more foreign investment. We hear that Nigeria's new Trade and Investment Minister, Okechukwu Enelamah, wants to cut through the country's business bureaucracy (AC Vol 56 No 23, HYPERLINK "http://www.africa-confidential.com/article/id/11334/Buhari_resets_the_clock" Buhari resets the clock). Currently, Nigeria is 169th out of 189 countries surveyed by the World Bank's 'Ease of Doing Business' ratings.
Central bankers, too, will look much harder at the viability of the commercial banking sectors as bad debts grow, in some cases due to mounting payment arrears on state contracts. State treasuries will face their own problems in coping with rising foreign debt burdens, made heavier by a stronger dollar and rising interest rates. The IMF warns of a decline in the competitiveness of Africa's economies and poor performance of its manufacturers, hit by unreliable power, poor transport links and again, bureaucracy.
The IMF believes inadequate infrastructure, despite falling transport cost, high wages and over-valued exchange rates are partly to blame. It adds that most governments lack the financial buffers that they had in 2009 to weather that financial crisis. Then, substantial reserves and modest deficits allowed governments to introduce projects and programmes – counter-cyclical spending – to protect the poorest. This time, those buffers don't exist.
The IMF also reckons that oil producers such as Angola and Nigeria will have to make 'sharp fiscal adjustments' and will see growth levels sharply down (see Chart). It also predicts growth of more than 6% for several countries, such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Rwanda, Côte d'Ivoire, Congo-Kinshasa and Chad.
* Global Economic Prospects, Spillovers and Weak Growth, the World Bank, Washington, 2016.
Botswana’s economy showed slight growth signs in the first quarter of 2021, following a devastating year in 2020.
During 2020, the entire second quarter was on zero economic activity as the country went on total lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
Diamond trade plummeted to record low levels as global travel restrictions halted movement of both goods and people and muted trade.
The end result was a significant decline for the local economy, at an estimated 7 percent contraction, just marginally below the 2008/09 global financial crises.
According to figures released by Statics Botswana this week, the country’s nominal Gross Domestic Product for the first quarter of 2021 was P47.739 billion compared to a revised P45.630 billion registered during the previous quarter.
This represents a quarterly increase of 4.6 percent in nominal terms between the two periods.
During the quarter, Public Administration and Defence became the major contributor to GDP by 18.4 percent, followed by Wholesale & Retail by 11.4 percent. The contribution of other sectors was below 6.0 percent, with Water and Electricity Supply being the lowest at 1.6 percent.
Real GDP for the first quarter of 2021 increased by 0.7 percent compared to a contraction of 4.6 percent registered in the previous quarter.
The improvement in the first quarter 2021 GDP reflected continued efforts to reopen businesses and resume activities that were postponed or restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The real GDP increased by 0.7 percent during the period under review, compared to an increase of 1.2 percent in the same quarter of 2020.
The recovery in the domestic economy was observed across majority of industries except Accommodation & Food Services, Mining & Quarrying, Manufacturing, Construction, Other Services and Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing.
The overall slow performance of the economy was mainly due to the impact of measures that were put in place to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Non-mining GDP increased by 4.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 4.0 percent increase registered in the same quarter of the previous year.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry decreased by 2.0 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2021, relative to a contraction of 5.2 percent registered during the same quarter of 2020.
The main driver of the unfavorable performance stems from a decrease in real value added of Livestock farming by 3.0 percent.
Mining and Quarrying registered a decrease 11.4 percent in the real value added, this was mainly influenced by the drop in the Gold and Diamond real value added by 17.5 and 12.5 percent respectively.
Diamond production in carats went down by 12.1 percent while the tonnage of Gold produced went down by 17.5 percent.
The poor performance of the diamond sub-industry is attributed to the reduction in production due to a lower grade feed to the plant at Orapa in response to heavy rainfall and operational issues, including continued power supply disruptions.
With regard to Gold is due to diminishing resource base which affect production.
The Manufacturing industry recorded a decline of 7.4 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2021, compared to a decrease of 2.3 percent registered in the corresponding quarter of 2020.
The deep low performance in the industry is observed in the two major sub-industries of Beverages & tobacco and Diamond cutting, polishing and setting by 57.0 and 38.5 percent respectively.
The reduction in Beverages is attributed to alcohol sale ban imposed during the quarter under review in order to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. On the other hand, exports of polished diamonds went down by 24.9 percent compared to a decrease of 11.5 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year.
The construction industry recorded a decline of 4.8 percent compared to an increase of 4.3 percent realized in the corresponding quarter in 2020.
This industry comprises of buildings construction, civil engineering and specialized construction activities. The industry is still showing signs of the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic. The industry recorded a negative growth of 7.4 percent in the previous quarter.
Water and Electricity Water and Electricity value added at constant 2016 prices for the first quarter of 2021 was P506.2 million compared to P378.2 million registered in the same quarter of 2020, recording a growth of 33.8 percent.
In the first quarter of 2021, Electricity recorded a significant growth of 62.4 percent compared to a decrease of 67.6 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2020.
The local electricity production increased by 22.4 percent while Electricity imports decreased by 33.3 percent during quarter under review. The water industry recorded a value added of P231.3 million compared to P209.0 million registered in the same quarter of the previous year, registering an increase of 10.7 percent.
Wholesale and Retail Trade real value added increased by 11.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to an increase of 5.5 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year. The industry deals with sales of fast moving consumer goods.
Diamond Traders recorded a significant growth of 112.7 percent as opposed to a decline of 22.7 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter last year. The positive growth is due to improved demand of diamonds from the global market.
The Transport and Storage value added increased by 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2021, compared to a 2.4 percent increase recorded in the same quarter of the previous year.
The slight improved performance of the industry was mainly attributed to the increase in real value added of Road Transport and Post & Courier Services by 4.3 and 2.1 percent respectively.
The slow growth was influenced by a significant reduction in Air Transport services of 69.7 percent due to reduced number of passengers carried. Rail goods traffic in tonnes went down by 6.4 percent and passenger rail transport was not operating during the quarter under review.
Accommodation and Food Services Accommodation and Food Services real value added declined by 31.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to a decrease of 4.4 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year. The reduction is largely attributed to a decrease of 42.1 percent in real value added of the Accommodation activities subindustry.
The suspension of air travel occasioned by Covid-19 containment measures impacted on the number of tourists entering the borders of the country and hence affecting the output of Hotels and Restaurants industry. COVID-19 restriction measures resulted in reduced demand for leisure and conferencing activities, as conferences are largely held through virtual platforms.
Finance, Insurance and Pension Funding industry registered a positive growth of 8.3 percent due to the favorable performance from monetary intermediation and Central Banking Services by 16.4 and 5.4 percent respectively during quarter under review.
It is still tough in the tourism industry — big players in this sleeping giant are not having it easy, but options are being explored to keep the once vibrant multibillion Pula sector alive until the world gets back to normalcy.
One of the primary measures against the spread of Covid-19 is to stay home; this widely pronounced precaution against the global contagion that has claimed over 4 million lives across the world is however a thorn in the flesh of one of the major industries in the global economy — the tourism sector .
This sector is underpinned by travel – an act which is the virus‘ number one mode of spread, especially across borders.
Chobe Holdings Limited, one of Botswana’s leading high end eco-tourism giants said its survival strategies are underpinned by well-crafted stakeholder engagements in the mist of these unprecedented times of muted trading activity.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Chobe continued to invest in and strengthen its relationships with key stakeholders in both its traditional markets and the SADC region,” the company directors updated shareholders this week.
To keep the business afloat, the company which owns and operates some of the exquisite tourism destinations along the banks of the mighty Chobe said it has triggered its existing available debt financing avenues.
Chobe revealed that its current overdraft of BWP 25 million has been extended on favourable terms.
The company shared that it has negotiated a further USD 1.5 million (over P16 million) standby loan with a flexible settlement terms and preferable cost implications to the bottom line.
“We are confident that the Group has sufficient cash inflows, cash reserves and un-utilized prearranged borrowing in place to settle any liabilities falling due and support the smooth recovery of operations in the short and medium term,” the company directors said, noting that they will retain the flexibility to vary operations should market conditions change.
Early this year, Chobe announced that the ongoing crisis in the tourism industry forced the company to draw from its prearranged overdraft facility of P25 million to the extent of P11.6 million.
Last year Chobe’s occupancy levels around its lodges and hotels went down 89 percent. This resulted in unprecedented revenue decline of 93% to P27.78 million from the P373.94 million in the previous year ended February 2020.
Operating profits went down 159% with profit after tax down 170%, mirroring a loss of over P67 million.
Chobe management said during the last half of the financial year they have done all they could to contain costs across the company’s operations.
During the last half of the year Chobe’s marketing and reservations teams continued to pursue the “don’t cancel but defer policy”.
“We thus continue to hold advance travel receipts, to the value of about P34 million at the financial year end,” the company revealed early this year.
Chobe said it continues to engage Government, through HATAB and BTO to prioritize the vaccination of workers in the tourism sector.
“Throughout the pandemic we have ensured that employees are trained in and comply with COVID-19 infection mitigation protocols as well as ensuring that all visitors to our remote camps and lodges as well as our staff and contractors are tested for COVID-19 before reaching the camp or lodges,” the company said.
However, the company said vaccinating the tourism staff will provide the best way to ensure that both employees and guests are protected from the virus.
“We continue to manage our cashflow through stringent cost control measures, balanced against the protection of the Group’s physical assets and the wellbeing and retention of its people,” the company said.
Chobe has successfully retained its top management through the pandemic. To this end the company directors continue to closely monitor the Group’s recovery from COVID-19 and adjust salary reductions to support operations and aid retention.
Domestic and regional travel resumed during the second quarter of the 2020/21 financial year with the Group opening a strategic mix of camps and lodges.
A comprehensive domestic, regional and international marketing plan was put in place to support these openings.
International travel resumed in the first quarter of the 2021/22 financial year with occupancies forecast to steadily increase, albeit from a low base, through the second quarter.
The company is optimistic that forward bookings are strong for the 2022/23 financial year.
“There is pent-up demand from our traditional source markets to travel now, but this is tempered by uncertainty and access constraints,” the company stated.
“Both the domestic and international markets are sensitive to such uncertainty, and it is critical that both the private and public sector work together to develop and publish clear, authoritative and consistent travel information in order to build confidence”
Chobe entered the pandemic with the Shinde camp rebuild in progress — one of its high end camps and this was completed in the first half of the 2020/21 financial year accounting for the majority of the Group’s capital expenditure for that period.
De Beers Group, the world’s leading rough diamonds producer by value and Botswana’s partner in the diamond business, ramped up its production in the second quarter of 2021, in response to stronger demand for rough diamonds in the global markets.
The London headquartered diamond mining giant revealed in its production report this week that rough diamonds output increased by 134% to 8.2 million carats in the three(3) months of quarter 2 2021, “reflecting planned higher production to meet stronger demand for rough diamonds”.
This was against the backdrop of curtailed demand in the same quarter last year, mirroring the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns across southern Africa during that period.
In Botswana, where De Beers sources majority of its rough diamonds through partly government owned Debswana, production increased by 214% to 5.7 million carats. The percentage jump mirrored planned low production in the second quarter of 2020 where output was adjusted to market demands and implemented Covid-19 protocols.
Debswana operates four (4) Mines: Jwaneng Mine- being its flagship producer and largest revenue contributor. Jwaneng Mine which is the wealthiest diamond mine in the world by value is envisaged for multi-billion expansion to an underground operation in future to stretch its existence by few more decades.
The underground project which is anticipated to cost a whooping P65 billion will be the world‘s largest underground diamond mine.
The company which accounts for over 65 % of De Beers’s global production also operates Orapa Mine- one of the world’s largest by area, Letlhakane Mine currently a tailings treatment operation and Damtshaa Mine which is under care and maintenance following market shrink in 2020.
Namibia production decreased by 6% to 0.3 million carats, primarily due to planned maintenance of the Mafuta vessel which was completed in the quarter and another vessel remaining demobilized. In Namibia De Beers sources diamonds both in land and marine through Namdeb and Debmarine respectfully.
In South Africa-the spiritual home ground of De Beers Group, production increased by 130% to 1.3 million carats, due to planned treatment of higher grade ore from the final cut of the Venetia open pit, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown in Q2 2020.
Production in Canada increased by 14% to 0.9 million carats, primarily reflecting the impact of the Covid-19 measures implemented in Q2 2020.
De Beers said consumer demand for polished diamonds continued to recover, leading to strong demand for rough diamonds from midstream cutting and polishing centers, despite the impact on capacity from the severe Covid-19 wave in India during April and May.
Rough diamond sales totaled 7.3 million carats (6.5 million carats on a consolidated basis), from two Sights, reflecting the impact of the reduced Indian midstream capacity on Sight 4, compared with 0.3 million carats (0.2 million carats on a consolidated basis) from two Sights in Q2 2020, and 13.5 million carats (12.7 million carats on a consolidated basis) from three Sights in Q1 2021.
The H1 2021 consolidated average realized price increased by 13% to $135/ct (H1 2020: $119/ct), driven by an increased proportion of higher value rough diamonds sold.
While the average price index remained broadly flat, the closing index increased by 14% compared to the start of 2021, reflecting tightness in inventories across the diamond value chain as well as positive consumer demand for polished diamonds.
Full Year Guidance Production guidance is tightened to 32–33 million carats (previously 32-34 million carats (100% bases)), subject to trading conditions and the extent of any further Covid-19 related disruptions.
When commenting to 2021 quarter 2 production figures, Mark Cutifani, Chief Executive of Anglo American- De Beers parent, said the entire Anglo American Group delivered a solid operational performance supported by comprehensive Covid-19 measures to help safeguard the lives and livelihoods of its workforce and host communities.
“We have generally maintained operating levels at approximately 95% of normal capacity and, as a consequence, production increased by 20% compared to Q2 of last year, with planned higher rough diamond production at De Beers” he said.