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IMF: Sub Saharan Africa needs $900 billion to emerge out of COVID-19

IMF Africa Department Director Abebe Aemro Selassie

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) last week released its economic outlook for the Sub Saharan Africa region.

According to the document, titled ‘A difficult road to recovery’, the Washington based fund said the  region was  contending with an unprecedented health and economic crisis, one that, in just a few months, has jeopardized years of hard-won development gains and upended the lives and livelihoods of millions.

The IMF Africa experts have left the 2020–21 October outlook broadly unchanged from the June update, with activity in 2020 projected to contract by 3.0 percent, still the worst outcome on record. For 2021, regional growth is projected to recover modestly to 3.1 percent.

This outlook according to IMF Africa Department Director Abebe Aemro Selassie is however  subject to some key downside risks, particularly regarding the path of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resilience of the region’s health systems.

Key to this uncertainties and perhaps the regions’ main uphill task is raising the much needed funding to finance economic recovery and resuscitation plans following an unprecedented erosion of revenue lines across the continent.
Selassie says Sub Saharan Africa’s road to recovery will be made more difficult by uncertainty on the availability of external financing, with associated needs estimated at about $900 billion over 2020–23.

Off the estimated $900 billion needed, sources of about $130 billion to $410 billion are unidentified.

Overall, the region’s outlook will be shaped by the availability of additional financing and the transformative domestic reforms to promote resilience (including revenue mobilization, digitalization, and fostering better transparency and governance), lift medium-term growth, create opportunities for a wave of new job seekers, and progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The IMF says with this difficult recovery ahead, policy makers have fewer resources at their disposal as they cautiously lift restrictions and reopen economies.

“Transformative reforms are urgently needed for rekindling resilient growth, which will be difficult without external support” said the US based Fund in the outlook.

Abebe Aemro Selassie noted that onset of the pandemic was delayed in sub-Saharan Africa, and infection rates have been relatively low compared to other parts of the world.

He however said the resurgence of new cases in many advanced economies and the specter of repeated outbreaks across the region suggests that the pandemic will likely remain a very real concern for some time to come.

Amid high economic and social costs, African countries are now cautiously starting to reopen their economies and are looking for policies to restart growth.

With the imposition of lockdowns, regional activity dropped sharply during the second quarter of 2020, but with a loosening of containment measures, higher commodity prices, and easing financial conditions, there have been some tentative signs of a recovery in the second half of the year.

Selassie noted, “Overall, the region is projected to contract by 3.0 percent in 2020, the worst outlook on record. Tourism-dependent economies faced the largest impact, while commodity exporting countries have also been hit hard.”

He explained that growth in more diversified economies will slow significantly, but in many cases will still be positive in 2020.

Looking forward, regional growth is forecast at 3.1 percent in 2021. This is a smaller expansion than expected in much of the rest of the world, partly reflecting sub-Saharan Africa’s relatively limited policy space within which to sustain a fiscal expansion.

Key drivers of next year’s growth will include an improvement in exports and commodity prices as the world economy recovers, along with a recovery in both private consumption and investment.

“The current outlook is subject to greater-than-usual uncertainty with regard to the persistence of the COVID-19 shock, the availability of external financial support, and the development of an effective, affordable, and trusted vaccine.” Said IMF

Against this backdrop, Mr. Selassie pointed to a number of policy priorities going forward noting that where the pandemic continues to linger, the priority remains to save lives and protect livelihoods.

The IMF Africa Chief said for countries where the pandemic is under greater control, limited resources will mean that policy makers aiming to rekindle their economies will face some difficult choices.

He explained that both fiscal and monetary policy will have to balance the need to boost the economy against the need for debt sustainability, external stability, and longer-term credibility.

“Financial regulation and supervision will have to help crisis-affected banks and firms, without compromising the financial system’s ability to support longer-term growth. And these efforts must also be balanced against the need to maintain social stability while simultaneously preparing the ground for sustained and inclusive growth over the long term.”

In the outlook the International Monetary Fund said that navigating such a complex policy challenge will not be easy and will require continued external support noting that without significant assistance, many countries will struggle to simply maintain macroeconomic stability while meeting the basic needs of their population.

In this context, the IMF has moved swiftly and disbursed about US$17 billion so far in 2020 which is about 12 times more than we typically disburse each year to help cover a significant portion of the region’s needs and to catalyze additional support from the international community.

However looking ahead, the IMF says sub-Saharan Africa faces significant financing gaps.

The global Fund says If private financial inflows remain below their pre-crisis levels and even taking into account existing commitments from international financial institutions and official bilateral creditors, the sub-Saharan Africa could face a gap in the order of $290 billion over 2020-23.

“This is important, as a higher financing gap could force countries to adopt a more abrupt fiscal adjustment, which in turn would result in a weaker recovery,” warns IMF.

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Business

Pula smiles at COVID-19 vaccine

25th November 2020
COVID-19 vaccine

A squeaky and glittering metaphoric smile was the look reflected from the Pula against the greenback this week and money market researchers lean this on optimism following Monday’s announcement of another Covid-19 vaccine which is said to have boosted emerging market economies.

With other emerging market currencies, the Pula too reacted to optimism and fanfare on the new Covid-19 vaccine against the weakening US dollar which has been losing its shine since the uncertainty laden US elections.

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Choppies high on JSE rollercoaster volatility

25th November 2020
CHOPPIES

After bouncing back into the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) last week Friday, following a year of being in the freezer, the Choppies stock started this week with much fluidity.

Choppies was suspended in both the Botswana Stock Exchange and its secondary listing at the JSE for failure to publish financial results. Choppies suspension on Botswana Stock Exchange was lifted on 27 July 2020. On Friday last week, when suspension was being lifted, Choppies explained that this came into fruition “following extensive engagement with the JSE.”

Choppies stock, prior to suspension, hit a mammoth decline in value of more than 60 percent, especially in September 2018. Waking from a 24 month freezer, last week the Choppies share price was at R0.64 and the stock did not make any movement.

However, Monday was the day when Choppies stock moved vibrantly, albeit volatile. Choppies’ value was on a high volatile mood on Monday, reaching highs of 200 percent. At noon, the same Monday, the Choppies share had reached R1.05. Before taking an uphill movement, Choppies stock slightly slipped by 2 cents. But the Choppies share rode up high and by lunch time the stock had reached the day’s summit of R2.00 and that was at 13:30 when investors were buying the stock for lunch.

The same eventful Monday saw gloom on the faces of Choppies rivals, when Choppies gained by 220.31 percent around lunch time its rivals in the JSE Food & Drug Retailers sector were licking wounds. Spar lost 2.94 percent, Pick Pay fell by 2.43 percent, Shoprite 7.52 percent and Dis-Chem 1.98 percent. The only gainer was Clicks by a paltry 0.51 percent.

In an interview with BusinessPost, Choppies sponsors at the JSE PSG Capital Managing Director Johan Holtzhausen explained that the retailer’s stock was in high demand after a long suspension. He said when a company list or a suspension is lifted the market needs to find itself on the pricing of the share.

“Initially when the suspension was lifted there were more buyers than sellers. As far as we could see this created a shortage of shares so to speak and resulted in the price at which the shares traded going to R1.20 and eventually R2.05 before finding its level around R0.80 sent from a JSE perspective.

This is marked dynamics and reflect that there are investors that are positive about the stock in the long run. This is a snapshot over a short period and one requires a longer period to draw further conclusions,” said Holtzhausen in an interview talking about the Choppies stock.

On Monday this week where the Choppies value grew by 200 percent, the stock took a turn looking down, closing the day at R0.87 from a high of R2.00. According to local stockbroker Motswedi Securities on Monday while there was no movement by Choppies in the local stock exchange as the retailer appeared on the board as 141,000 shares traded at P0.60 each.

However in Choppies’ secondary listing the stock price rallied to over 200 percent during intraday trading on Monday before losing steam and declining to around R0.87 share.

Before press yesterday Choppies opened the market with the stock starting the day at R0.80 then went flat for few hours before taking a slide downward, dropping 5 cents in 30 minutes. Choppies then went flat at R0.75 for 50 minutes yesterday before going up at 10:20 am where it nearly recovered the open day price of 80 cents, but was shy of 1 cent. From 79 cents the price went flat until noon.

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Foschini-Jet merger, a class and rivalry conundrum dissection

25th November 2020
Foschini

Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA) has revealed that in its assessment of the Jet take over by Foschini, there were considerations on possible market rivalry and a clash in targeted classes.

According to a merger decision notice seen by this publication this week, high considerations were made to ensure that Foschini’s takeover of Jet is not anyhow an elimination of rivalry or competition or if the two entities; the targeted and the acquiring enterprise serves the same class of customers or offer the same products, to elude the anti-trust issues or a stretch of monopoly.

The two entities are South African retailers whose services stretched to Botswana shores.  Last month local anti-trust body, CCA, received an acquisition proposal from South African clothing retailer, Foschini, stating their intentions to take-over Jet.

South African government’s Business Rescue Practitioners earlier this year after finding out that Jet’s mother company, Edcon, is falling apart, made a decision that Foschini can buy Jet for R480 million. This means that Foschini will add Jet to its portfolio of 30 retail brands that trade in clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, homeware, cell phones, and technology products from value to upper market segments throughout more than 4085 outlets in 32 countries on five continents.

However the main headache for the CCA decision which was released this week, is distinguishing the targeted and the acquiring entity businesses and services.

When doing a ‘Competitive Analysis and Public Interest’ assessment, CCA is said to have discovered that Foschini is classified as a “standard retailer” which targets middle-to-upper income consumers and it competes with stores such as; Truworths and Woolworths. The targeted entity, Jet, is on the lower league when compared to its acquirer, it serves customers of lower classes and is regarded as a discount/value retailer targeting lower income consumers or a mass market. This makes Jet to be in direct competition with Ackermans, Pepkor, Cash Bazaar and Mr Price.

“Therefore, a narrower view of the market is that Foschini through its stores trading in Botswana is not a close competitor to Jet. Additionally, there exist other major rivals who will continue to exercise competitive constraints on the merged enterprise post-merger,” concluded CCA this month.

The anti-trust body continued to explain that in terms of the Acquisition of a Dominant Position, the analysis shows that the acquisition of the target business by Foschini Botswana will result in an insignificant combined market share in the relevant market.

This made CCA reach to a conclusion that there is no case of an acquisition of a dominant position in the market under consideration or any other market on the account of the proposed transaction.

What supports the merger according to CCA is that it is in compliance with regards to ‘Public Interest Considerations’ because the findings of the assessment revealed that the transaction is as a result of the need for a Business Rescue by the target enterprise. This is so because in the event that the proposed transaction fails, it will translate into the loss of the employment positions at the target business.

“On that note the Authority (CCA) found it necessary to ensure that the proposed merger does not result in any retrenchments or redundancies. In light of this, the assessment revealed the critical need to protect the employees of the merged entity from possible merger specific retrenchments/ redundancies,” said CCA.

Before making a determination that the recently proposed transaction is not likely to result in the prevention or substantial lessening of competition or endanger the continuity of the services offered in the relevant market, CCA said it then moved into a concern for public interest which is a protection enshrined in the Competition Act of 2018.

CCA’s concern was mostly loss of livelihood or employment by 126 Batswana workers at Jet stores, stating that possible retrenchments or redundancies may arise as a result of implementation of the proposed merger.

Much to the desire of trade union or labour movements in Botswana and across Southern Africa where the Jet stores are stemmed-who also raised concerns about the retail’s workers job security- CCA subjects Foschini to keep the target entity 126 workers.

“There shall be no merger specific retrenchments or redundancies that may affect the employees of the merged enterprises. For clarity, merger specific retrenchments or redundancies do not include (the list is not exhaustive): i. voluntary retrenchment and/or voluntary separation arrangements; ii. Voluntary early retirement packages; iii. Unreasonable refusals to be redeployed; iv. Resignations or retirements in the ordinary course of business; v. retrenchments lawfully effected for operational requirements unrelated to the Merger; and vi. Terminations in the ordinary course of business, including but not limited to, dismissals as a result of misconduct or poor performance,” said CCA.

CCA also orders that Foschini informs it about all the details of 126 Jet employees within thirty (30) days of the merger approval date. CCA should also know information of when Foschini is implementing the merger, within 30 days of the approval date.

Other conditions include Foschini sharing a copy of the conditions of approval to all employees of the Jet or their respective representatives within ten (10) days of the approval date.

“Should vacancies arise in the target, the merged enterprise shall consider previous employment at one of the non-transferring Jet stores to be a positive factor to be taken into account in the consideration of offering potential employment,” said CCA.

According to CCA, in cases of any job losses, for the Authority to assess whether the retrenchments or redundancies are merger specific, at least three months before (to the extent that this deadline can be practically achieved and in terms of the prevailing and legally required employment practices) any retrenchments or redundancies are to take place, inform the Authority of:  i. The intended retrenchments; ii. The reasons for the retrenchments; iii. The number and categories of employees affected; iv. The expected date of the retrenchments.

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