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Sub-Saharan Africa debt level Surges – Moody’s

Following a sharp decline in government debt from multilateral debt-relief initiatives in the last decade, primary fiscal deficits, currency depreciation as well as the materialization of contingent liabilities in some countries, has driven an accumulation in SSA sovereign debt since 2012.

This is according to a report by Moody's Investors Service released last week. The Global think tank says while containing debt-servicing costs in the near term, relatively favourable financing conditions in recent years have encouraged spending and debt accumulation especially for infrastructure investment. “Between 2012 and 2018, government debt-to-GDP ratios increased by at least 15 percentage points in almost two thirds of the sovereigns we rate in SSA and by at least 30 percentage points in about one third.” Reads the report released from UK this week.

Moody’s says Government debt now exceeds 50% of GDP in more than half of the region's rated sovereigns. Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and the Republic of the Congo are among the sovereigns that have experienced the most rapid accumulation of government debt since 2012. The report further reveals that drivers behind the debt increase vary, including disclosure of hidden debt in the case of Mozambique, exchange rate depreciation inflating the foreign-currency denominated debt in the case of Angola and Zambia as well as persistent fiscal deficits.

Sub-Saharan African sovereigns' debt has increased and affordability has deteriorated, with government debt now exceeding 50% of GDP in more than half of the sovereigns we rate in the region," said Daniela Re Fraschini, a Moody's AVP-Analyst and the report's co-author.
"At the same time, a shift in creditor bases has increased credit risks in several countries. He said

Moody's Investors Service says although the debt burdens of most Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) governments will stabilize in 2020-21 after years of increase, several sovereigns are now increasingly vulnerable to a financing shock. Credit risks are highest in countries where unfavourable debt structures coincide with narrow external buffers, financing constraints on domestic banking sectors and weak debt-management capacity. The Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Zambia are most exposed, while Ghana, Angola and Kenya are also vulnerable but to a lesser extent.

With countries having greater access to capital markets, issuance on domestic and international capital markets has increased and the share of borrowing from multilateral lenders has fallen. Although this has diversified funding sources, fostered investor scrutiny on macro-fiscal policy and provided funding for development spending, Moody’s says it has also increased exposure to global financing conditions, amplified foreign-currency exposures and increased refinancing risk. At the same time, in some countries bilateral lending has shifted toward non-traditional creditors that usually offer less transparent and predictable terms.

Daniela Re Fraschini says the domestic banking sector remains the main holder of domestic bonds and a significant portion of total government debt and its absorption capacities may be limited, especially when the sector is small relative to the sovereign's financing needs. Fraschini however says its absorption capacities may be limited, especially when the sector is small relative to the sovereign's financing needs like in Kenya and government securities already account for a large share of assets.

In Ghana and Zambia, relatively high foreign participation in the domestic market intensifies the vulnerability to shifts in investor appetite. “Improvements in debt management have not been commensurate to the risks from higher debt levels and debt structures more exposed to financing shocks” he said

The composition of public debt in terms of maturity, interest rate and currency structure and the existence of explicit or implicit contingent liabilities determine a government's resilience to domestic and external shocks, and is an important consideration in our assessment of fiscal strength, government liquidity risk as well as external vulnerability risk.

Moody’s assessment of fiscal strength typically incorporates the vulnerability to adverse currency movements leading to an increase in the sovereign’s overall debt burden and a decrease in its debt affordability by measuring the share of foreign-currency debt. Debt affordability and contingent liabilities that pose substantial risks to a government’s balance sheet are also captured in the assessment of fiscal strength. Moody’s further assess government liquidity risk focusing on the sovereign's ease of access to funding, taking into account the maturity and cost structure, the currency mix and the creditor base.

Assessment of external vulnerability risk takes into account external imbalances, large reliance on short-term capital inflows to finance the current account deficit that can result in depreciation pressures and the adequacy of foreign reserve buffers to meet foreign currency payments.

Moody’s says amid favourable conditions in global financial markets and increased foreign interest in domestic debt markets, governments in SSA have shifted their borrowing strategies away from international financial institutions and traditional bilateral official creditors to private creditors.  The decline in the share of multilateral debt since 2012 has been most pronounced in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia. Sovereigns that have reported an increase in multilateral financing include Gabon and Niger

A total of 15 governments in SSA issued international bonds between 2010 and 2019, several on a repeated basis with sizeable issuances. “The eurobond issuance of the SSA sovereigns of countries rated by Moody’s reached a record high $19.2 billion in 2018, more than triple 2016 levels. Sovereigns across the region have tapped international bond markets for different reasons including supporting the development of the corporate bond markets in countries such as South Africa and Nigeria and mostly for financing the increase in public investment

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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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