All eyes on monetary and fiscal managers

Nigeria

Despite the apprehension hovering over the political terrain on account of the forthcoming general elections in Febriary, Year 2019 has ushered in a lot of expectations for better fortunes, given the doldrums, misses and near-successes that characterised 2018.
Analysts are hopeful that the economic managers through better monetary and fiscal policies would be able to sustain inflow and outflow of activities notwithstanding the environment upheavals and still be able to sustain growth and attract the requisite investments.
In retrospect, various issues across sectors actually shaped the economy in the out gone year, even as every segment felt the pinch as captured below:
Year in, year out, not only does the economy suffer from undue delay of the passage of the Appropriation Bills, eventual executions of the Acts are almost always below average.
Indeed, the national budgets have received some of the worst criticisms under the Buhari administration given its rift with the legislative arm, and the 2018 budget in particular got more than its fair share of bashing. The budget was delayed, the longest in history, and was only passed into law in May.
It became operational in June, just in time to prevent a government shutdown. Unlike the previous sessions, the National Assembly traded words with the executive over the failure of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to defend the budget before the Committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Initially, it looked like the usual blackmail from the lawmakers but when the situation got clarified, the Presidency had to issue orders to the MDAs to ensure their budget defense at the National Assembly. It was the first time such would be happening since the restart of democracy in 1999.
In 2019, besides being an election year, the foundation appeared also to have been laid for another round of budgetary delay. First, the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) submitted to the lawmakers in November, was not passed until December 19, when the lawmakers eventually received the 2019 budget, they proceeded on recess.
That recess would last till mid-January 2019, when electioneering campaigns for the Presidential and National Assembly elections would be at the head.
The economy faced a record debt profile of N22.43 trillion ($73.213 billion) as at September 30, according to the Debt Management Office (DMO), which for analysts mostly assumed a more disproportionate weight against Nigeria’s growth, as the cost of servicing them leaves nothing for development initiatives, a situation that would dispose the country to perpetual borrowing.
While government claims huge investment in infrastructure, the challenges facing the real sector operators still remain, with financial service providers citing the same environmental risk factors, leaving many to doubt the authenticity of the claims.
The country’s dependence on oil sector offerings as major revenue earner and “sneezes” at every turn of event in the industry continues to betray claims of diversification, whilst 2018 ushers the economy into another brand of headwinds this year, courtesy of oil prices.
To further sanitise the foreign exchange market, the regulator, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), on December 10, made good its threat and increased items on the prohibition list to 42, with the addition of fertilizer, to raise local production of the product and save the foreign exchange expended on importation.
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had at the 2018 Bankers Dinner in Lagos, hinted of the move to increase the prohibition list, and warned that it would collaborate with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in investigating abuses, with sanctions in view.
The policy, which has been backdated to December 7, according to the apex bank, was also in continuation of efforts to sustain the achievement recorded from the classification of the 41 import items that are “not valid for foreign exchange” in the country’s foreign exchange market.
In September, the licence for Skye Bank Plc was revoked and became Polaris Bank Limited as one of the latest distressed financial institutions in the country, under the direct intervention of the CBN and Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), but managed by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
In the takeover, a fresh N786 billion soft and long-term financing at single digit interest rate was injected to keep the operations ongoing and rejuvenated.
Emefiele said the result of examinations and forensic audit of the bank revealed that it required urgent recapitalisation and could no longer continue to live on borrowed times with indefinite liquidity support from the apex bank, which the shareholders were unable to provide.
He said even if AMCON could not find new investors for the bank before 2024, the bank would continue to be under CBN’s management, being the major stakeholder in AMCON.
Similarly, after months of speculations, Diamond Bank Plc and Access Bank Plc finally admitted to merger talks that will transform the banks into the biggest financial institution in Nigeria and sub-Sahara Africa
While many believed the move was to bail Diamond Bank out of its current liquidity challenges, Access Bank insisted that the merger was for mutual benefits.
Nigeria marked as poverty capital Perhaps the most significant situation that indicated that although out of recession, the Nigerian economy was still in the woods was the ranking of the country as the poverty capital of the world. The Brookings Institution, a Washington-based economic think-tank, had in October published a report of its latest projections, stating that Nigeria had overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extremely poor people.
The Brookings report suggested that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty by May 2018 compared to India’s 73 million. The report corroborated that of the National Bureau of Statistics which in 2016 reported that no fewer than 112 million Nigerians live below the poverty line.
The latest projection casts doubt on the ability of Nigeria to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to end extreme poverty by 2030. The report also affirmed the failure of government over the years to provide employment and lift out its citizens out of extreme poverty.
It’s no secret that the Nigerian economy is dependent on petro-dollar, yet it became a big surprise President Muhammadu Buhari withheld assent to the harmonised Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), which sought to sanitise operations in the oil and gas sector.
The presidential aide on National Assembly Matters, Ita Enang, said the decision was for constitutional and legal reasons. The Senate had on June 8, 2018 sent to the President for final assent into law the harmonised draft Bill earlier approved by the House of Representatives in January.
But, the President declined assent to the draft law initiated to update the outdated Petroleum Act, and replace its provisions with a more comprehensive and current legal framework that aligned with global standards.
Going forward, international oil companies (IOCs) and some indigenous layers say the continued delay in passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill will continue to create uncertainties in the sector. The uncertainties, they noted, would delay the take off of fresh projects worth several billion of dollars that would grow industry capacity and reserves.
It may not be all thumbs down for the economy, as news broke in November that contrary to speculations, Nigeria had surpassed the 30 per cent broadband target by nine per cent. As at the period under review, there were 58,965,478 active broadband subscriptions on 3G and 4G platforms.
The country with active mobile subscriptions hitting 169 million in November, recorded 120 per cent teledensity.
The National Bureau of Statistics puts the contributions of telecommunications and information services to GDP from Q1 to Q3, 2018 at N4.7 Trillion. It however, put the Q3 figure at N1.5 Trillion.
But earlier in August, the CBN had demanded the refund of $8.1 billion from South Africa’s telecommunications firm, MTN in arrears of Certificate of Capital Importation (CCI) that the service provider failed to remit as and when due.
While that matter raged on, the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation also came out to demand $2 billion tax arrears from the embattled telecommunications firm. After a long battle, which also involved the court, news filtered in December that the matter has been settled but MTN would need to pay $53 million (N19 billion).

Nigeria Air
In July, the Federal Government through the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, unveiled the branding for a new national carrier to be called Nigeria Air at a news conference during the Farnborough Air Show in London, and said the airline would be inaugurated before 2018 end.
The minister had stated that they obtained a Certificate of Compliance from the Nigerian Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, adding that the branding and naming of the national carrier came after a social media campaign was undertaken by his ministry.
But in September, the minister also announced the cancellation of the project, owing to some yet to be revealed matters. The cancellation, according to him, was because the Economic Management Team (EMT), chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo did not approve it when it was launched.
The cancellation announcement came barely two months after it was unveiled on July 18. But the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed had disclosed that Nigeria Air was suspended due to investor’s apathy, adding that investors who were supposed to partner with the government on the project backed out.
It was an avalanche of strikes among the workers’ unions in various sub-sectors. In September, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and Trade Union Congress (TUC), declared an indefinite nationwide warning strike to demand for increase of the monthly minimum wage from N18, 000. Another strike called by the unions was aborted after government invited them for a meeting, which ultimately yielded no concrete results.
The workers originally demanded an increase to about N50,000, but while the Federal Government appears willing to pay N30,000, the states have indicated their helplessness to do so due to paucity of funds, insisting on reducing their staff strength if they must pay.
The report of the joint negotiation committee is yet to be presented to the National Assembly for enactment into law for a new wage to take effect.
And since it was not factored into next year’s Appropriation Bill before the National Assembly, there are fears that the issue would continue to linger, even as a national strike looms early this year.

W. Africa Crude-New Egina crude hits the market, MRS issues sell tender

LONDON, Dec 27 (Reuters) – Spot activity was muted due to the Christmas holiday period but a new Nigerian grade has been added to the February loading programme, while Nigeria’s MRS issued a sell tender.
* The first cargoes from Total’s newly producing Nigerian offshore field, Egina, will load in February
* Total, China’s CNOOC and Nigeria’s NNPC will each have a cargo of Egina in February, traders said. No offers have yet been seen
* Angola’s state oil firm Sonangol was offering two cargoes of Dalia at dated Brent minus 30 cents a barrel loading Feb. 17-18 and Feb. 23-24
* Sonangol earlier sold its cargo of Saturno loading Feb. 7-8 to a Chinese refiner
* Nigerian oil marketing firm MRS issued a sell tender for a cargo of Forcados loading Feb. 14-15 and a cargo of Amenam loading Feb. 10-11. The tender closes on Jan. 31

RELATED NEWS

* Sixteen oil and gas firms have submitted applications for one or more of five Ghanaian offshore blocks in the West African country’s first exploration licensing round, its energy ministry said
* Sinopec has suspended two top officials at its trading arm Unipec and is evaluating details related to certain crude oil transactions that have incurred some losses, the Chinese state oil company said on Thursday

South Africa's MTN pays $53 mln to settle $8.1 bln Nigeria dispute

Nigeria

* Pays $53 million to settle dispute
* Nigeria is MTN biggest, most lucrative market
* MTN says its tax affairs in Nigeria are up to date (Adds MTN statement, details)
LAGOS/JOHANNESBURG, Dec 24 (Reuters) – South African telecoms operator MTN Group has agreed to make a $53 million payment to resolve a dispute in Nigeria, it said on Monday, ending a four-month multi-billion dollar dividend repatriation row that has hammered its share price.
Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market, accounting for a third of the African telecoms heavyweight’s annual core profit, but it has proven problematic for the company in recent years.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had ordered MTN and its lenders to bring back a total of $8.1 billion it alleged the company had illegally repatriated using improperly issued paperwork between 2007 and 2008.
“The CBN upon review of the additional documentation concluded that MTN Nigeria is no longer required to reverse the historical dividend payments made to MTN Nigeria shareholders,” MTN said in a statement.
However, the central bank has found that a 2008 private placement remittance worth around $1 billion was based on certificates that did not have final approval.
SPONSORED STORIES
As such, MTN said it had been instructed by CBN to implement “a notional” reversal of that transaction by making a $52.6 million payment.
“MTN Nigeria and the CBN have agreed that they will resolve the matter on the basis that MTN Nigeria will pay the notional reversal amount without admission of liability,” MTN said in a statement.
The CBN confirmed the outline of the agreement with MTN, without mentioning the $53 million payment. The agreement would lead to an “amicable disposal of the pending legal suit between the parties and final resolution of the matter,” it said in a statement.
MTN and the CBN had filed a claim and counter-claim in a Nigerian court over the dispute. The legal case has been adjourned several times as lawyers said talks were under way on a settlement.

TAX BILL

The settlement comes around two years after MTN agreed to pay a more than $1 billion fine for missing the deadline to cut off unregistered SIM cards.
Shares in MTN have fallen by around 20 percent since the end of August when the CBN asked the company to return the money.
The stock, which closed 2 percent higher on Monday, is also under pressure from a separate dispute with the attorney general of Nigeria (AGF), who has slapped the company with a $2 billion tax bill.
MTN has gone to court seeking to block the attorney general from taking further action regarding the order for back taxes. The matter was adjourned last month until next February.
“MTN Nigeria continues to maintain that its tax matters are up to date and no additional payment, as claimed by the AGF, is due, and consequently no provisions or contingent liabilities are being raised in the accounts of MTN Nigeria for the AGF back taxes claim,” the company said.
Additional reporting by Camillus Eboh in ABUJA and by Alexis Akwagyiram and Didi Akinyelure in LAGOS; Editing by Jason Neely and Adrian Croft

NPA moves to decongest Apapa, Tin Can ports

Nigeria

The Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) has taken steps to reduce the congestion at the Apapa and Tin Can Island ports.
In a statement yesterday, it said henceforth, there will be an increase in rent-free period for cargoes housed in the terminals.
It added that from the current period of three free days before commencement of rent charges, it will now be 21 free days before commencement of rent charges and this would be for a period of four months.
NPA also said there will be an increase in the demurrage free period on return of empty containers from the current five days period to 15 days, also for a period of four  months.
“Shipping companies should immediately deploy sweeper vessels to evacuate empty containers from the port to clear the backlog of empty containers littering the country within four months. The Authority encourages the use of Onne Ports for such sweeper vessels,” the statement read.
“The Nigerian Customs Service is urged to immediately commence the process of auctioning of overtime cargoes.  This is imperative as the ports are meant to be transit and not storage facilities. These auctions should be carried out on the spot at port locations and every buyer would be given a stipulated short period to evacuate the cargoes out of the ports after which they will be re-auctioned.
“Terminal operators are however encouraged to negotiate and grant waivers to consignees to facilitate the evacuation of these cargoes to mitigate against the auctioning which will result in a total loss of revenue by the terminal operator and the loss of cargo by the consignee.
“The Authority wishes to state that these measures are emergency steps taken to immediately reduce the financial burden of congestion on citizens as the Federal Government proceeds to permanently resolve the congestion through the following: reconstruction of the port access road, the provision of trailer park and holding bays with e-call up system, the enhancement of cargo evacuation using rail transportation and inland waterways with barges among others.”

Ryanair sacks ALL pilots and cabin crew in the Netherlands after they refused to re-locate to bases such as Morocco and Belarus

Ryanair has fired all its pilots and cabin crew members based in the Netherlands after they did not agree to be ‘voluntarily’ relocated to bases as far-flung as Morocco and Belarus.

The Irish low-cost airline officially filed for the collective firing of all personnel at the Dutch Employee Insurance Agency (UWV), an autonomous government administrative authority which handles unemployment benefits.

Ryanair cites bad economic results for their Dutch base at Eindhoven, which was closed on 5th November, as the reason for the mass-dismissal.

Unions VNV and FNV, which represent the pilots and flight attendants respectively, said they will appeal the mass-firing with the government body.

Chairman Joost van Doesburg of pilot union VNV said he is surprised that the UWV accepted Ryanair’s application to fire all of its employees in the first place.

He said that Ryanair would need to come forward with proof of the bad economic numbers for the firing of all the employees to be accepted, which according to him the low-cost airline has not yet done.

According to the unions, Ryanair decided to close its Eindhoven base and get rid of its Netherlands-based employees as a retaliatory measure after pilots went on strike in early October for two days.

Sixteen angry Ryanair pilots even started a court case against the airline in the Southern Dutch city of Den Bosch, asking the judge to ban the airline from transferring them to bases in far-flung cities in North Africa and Eastern Europe.

A VNV union spokesman said: ‘The goal was not higher wages or more days off, but a change in culture and a guarantee of basic rights for employees in accordance with Dutch standards.

‘Ryanair has to stop with the divide-and-conquer culture, and has to respect employee’s fundamental rights. However, our actions have made Ryanair decide to close its Eindhoven base.

‘That means that the pilots are being forced to move to southern or eastern Europe or even to North Africa.

According to the union, while it means that most Ryanair flights to and from Eindhoven will not cease, they will however be covered by aeroplanes and cabin crew stationed at bases in countries with less restrictive labour laws.

A pilot told the Dutch court: ‘Ryanair is a brilliantly organised dictatorship. As long as you keep your mouth shut it is alright. However, when you cross the line you have to be careful.’

The court ruled in November in favour of the pilots, saying they are not obliged to accept a move abroad and that Ryanair has to keep paying their salaries.

However, the low-cost airline also claimed victory after the case, sending a letter just a few days after the ruling giving them four days to decide whether to be voluntarily relocated or fired.

According to the VNV, Ryanair is ‘searching for employees for their new bases, for example in Minsk (capital of Belarus)’.

Ryanair employees said that the company is also pushing them to accept a transfer to Ryanair hubs in Morocco, Romania, Bulgaria or in the Azores located in the middle of the Atlantic, 850 miles from the Portuguese coast.

Asmae Hajjari, head of the FNV Aviation Union which represents the flight attendants, said that ‘Ryanair has no respect for their employees’ as they give zero financial support or assistance to deal with the situation.

Hajjari said: ‘The cabin crew has rental agreements, insurances, subscriptions and other arrangements which they cannot cancel in two and a half weeks.’

Besides the 16 pilots, 98 cabin crew members are affected by Ryanair’s decision to fire all Netherlands-based personnel.

Ryanair spokesman Yann Delomez previously said that their pilots ‘have been offered jobs elsewhere in the network’.

Delomez told Central European News: ‘If they choose not to transfer, then we will respect their wishes, but there will be no jobs remaining at Eindhoven.’

Naira Gains Marginally Across Market Segments

Nigeria


The naira appreciated slightly against the United States dollars across various segments of the foreign exchange (forex) market yesterday on sustained supply of the greenback by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Specifically, on the Bureau De Change (BDC) segment, the local currency strengthened by 0.82 per cent to close at N361 to a dollar, amid sustained series of special interventions by CBN.
Also, the naira appreciated at the parallel market segments by 1.09 per cent to close N364 to a dollar on Friday.
In addition, on the Investors and Exporters’ forex window (I&E), the naira chalked up 0.03 per cent to close at N365.23, amid increased dollar supply.
Analysts at Cowry Asset Management Limited, disclosed this in a report.
However, the nation’s currency depreciated slightly on the interbank foreign exchange market by 0.02 per cent, to close at N359.24 to a dollar, despite the injections of a total of $509.82 million by CBN into the foreign exchange market.
A breakdown of the intervention showed that the regulator sold a total of $210 million via the Secondary Market Intervention Sales (SMIS) of which: $100 million was allocated to wholesale SMIS, $55 million was allocated to SMEs and $55 million was sold for invisibles.
In addition, as of Friday it sold another $299.82 million via SMIS and CNY143.60 million.
Furthermore, the Cowry Assets report showed that the naira/USD exchange rate fell (that is the naira appreciated) for most of the foreign exchange forward contracts as the 2-month, 3-month and 6-month fell by 0.01 per cent, 0.06 per cent and 0.03 per cent respectively, to close at N372.80/$, N376.30/$ and N387.07/$ respectively. However, spot and 1-year forex rate rose by 0.02 per cent and 0.18 per cent to close at N306.90/$ and 415.27/$respectively.
“In the new week, we expect stability in the naira/USD rate in most market segments, especially at the BDC Segment, as CBN sustains its special interventions,” the report stated.
Bond Market
The value of FGN bonds traded at the over-the-counter (OTC) segment moved in mixed directions across maturities tracked. That is, the 20-year, 10% FGN JULY 2030 note and 7-year, 16.00% FGN JUN 2019 paper increased by N0.25 and N0.09 respectively.
Their corresponding yields moderated to 15.73% (from 15.79%) and 14.66% (from 14.87%) respectively.
However, the 10-year, 16.39% FGN JAN 2022 debt and 5-year, 14.50% FGN JUL 2021 bond prices decreased by N0.13 and N0.02 respectively; their corresponding yields rose to 15.06% (from 15.01%) and 15.78% (from 15.76%) respectively. Elsewhere, the value of the FGN Eurobonds traded at the international capital market rose for all maturities tracked amid renewed bullish activity.
For instance, the 10-year, 6.75% JAN 28, 2021 bond, the 10-year, 6.38% JUL 12, 2023 note and the 15-year, 6.50% NOV 28, 2027 paper increased by $1.12, $2.19 and $2.40 respectively. Their corresponding yields fell to 7.24% (from 7.54%), 8.57% (from 8.91%) and 8.88% (from 9.14%) respectively.
Interbank Naira Market
The CBN sold treasury bills worth N128.18 billion through open market operations (OMO) last week.
The outflows partly offset the inflows from the matured treasury bills worth N551.36 billion. The net inflow majorly contributed to the fall in the Nigerian Interbank Offered Rate (NIBOR) for overnight funds and 3-month tenor buckets amid financial liquidity ease to 25.19%, (from 26.17%) and 15.21% (from 15.32%) respectively.
But NIBOR for 1-month and 6-months rose to 15.38% (from 14.95%) and 15.24% (from 15.23%) respectively, amid a standing Lending Facility worth N862.65 billion, which outweighed the Standing Deposit Facility (SLF) worth N80.83 billion. Meanwhile, increase in NITTY for most maturities tracked was sustained as investors continued to demand for higher yields amid increased risk environment.
The report showed that yields on 1-month, 6-month and 12 months rose to 14.90 per cent (from 14.78%), 14.42% (from 14.33%) and 17.55% (from 17.33%) respectively.
However, yield on 3-months fell to 14.34% (from 14.80%).
This week, treasury bills worth N497.82 billion are expected to mature both in the primary and secondary markets. This is expected to boost financial system liquidity and result in a corresponding downward trend in NIBOR as the expected N60 billion bond auction would not be sufficient to dry up the liquidity from the maturing treasury bills.
Meanwhile, provisional estimates for Nigeria’s Balance of Payments (BOP) in the third quarter (Q3) 2018, showed the overall BOP swinging into a deficit of US$4.542 billion, compared to surpluses of $503.97 million and $2.787 billion recorded in the preceding quarter and corresponding period of 2017, respectively.
This meant that the country’s imports of goods and services in the period under review outweighed its exports.
The central bank of Nigeria disclosed this in its ‘Third Quarter Brief on Balance of Payments Statistics report.
According to the report, the current account balance (CAB) also worsened from a surplus of $4.453 billion in Q2 2018, to a deficit of $3.105 billion in the review period.
The financial account balance indicated an increased net incurrence of financial liabilities of $10.724 billion in the review period as against $2.576 billion recorded in the preceding period.
In a related development, the consumer price index (CPI), which measures inflation increased to 11.28 percent (year-on-year) in November compared to 11.26 percent in the preceding month, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The 0.02 per cent points increase resulted from price increases in all the divisions that constitute the Headline index.
Food inflation stood at 13.30 per cent compared to 13.28 per cent in October while Core Inflation was recorded at 9.80 per cent from 9.90 per cent in the preceding month.
According to the CPI report for November, urban inflation rate increased by 11.61 percent (year-on-year) in November from 11.64 percent recorded in October while the rural inflation rate increased by 10.99 percent in November 2018 from 10.93 percent in October.

U.S. to counter China, Russia influence in Africa – Bolton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States plans to counter the rapidly expanding Chinese and Russian economic and political influence in Africa, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said on Thursday, calling business practices of the two nations “corrupt” and “predatory.”

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) greets U.S. national security adviser John Bolton during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia Oct. 23, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

Washington’s No 1. priority will be developing economic ties with the region to create opportunities for American businesses and protecting the independence of African countries along with U.S. national security interests, he said in a speech at the Heritage Foundation. 

“Great-power competitors, namely China and Russia, are rapidly expanding their financial and political influence across Africa,” Bolton said. 

“They are deliberately and aggressively targeting their investments in the region to gain a competitive advantage over the United States.” 

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, leaders of the world’s two largest economies, have been trying to resolve trade disputes that have roiled markets. 

“China uses bribes, opaque agreements, and the strategic use of debt to hold states in Africa captive to Beijing’s wishes and demands. Its investment ventures are riddled with corruption,” Bolton said. He had equally harsh words for Russia.

“Across the continent, Russia advances its political and economic relationships with little regard for the rule of law or accountable and transparent governance,” he said. 

He accused Moscow of selling arms and energy in exchange for votes at the United Nations “that keep strongmen in power, undermine peace and security, and run counter to the best interests of the African people.” 

Bolton said “predatory practices” by China and Russia stunt economic growth in Africa and threaten nations’ economic independence. 

He said the United States was developing the “Prosper Africa” initiative to support U.S. investment in Africa and a growing middle class in the region. He gave no details. 

Landry Signe, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative in Washington, welcomed the administration’s focus on trade and investment as opposed to security, but wanted details on planned U.S. action. 

“The Trump administration’s new Africa Strategy reflects a more accurate understanding of the fast-changing dynamics within Africa,” he said, “but the strategy doesn’t seem sufficient to effectively address the United States’ threatened economic, security, and influence interests.” 

Judd Devermont, director of the Africa Programme at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said release of an Africa strategy was welcome after two years of “conflicting narratives” by the administration. 

Devermont said he was disappointed that China dominated Bolton’s presentation, which lacked details on U.S. plans. 

“China loomed over everything, and loomed over really important issues on trade and investment, and transparency,” said Devermont. “We didn’t get many details on what the ‘Prosper Africa’ approach looks like and how it would be resourced. Those should have been the headlines of the strategy.” 

“We need a greater articulation on what are the sectors that the U.S. government wants to prioritise in Africa for U.S. investment,” Devermont said, “They should be transparent with the Africans to explain why certain countries are getting the bulk of the investment.”

China’s policies in Africa have concerned Washington as the United States seeks to ramp up development finance in the face of China’s global ambitions. 

In July, the head of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp (OPIC) said China was saddling poor nations with unsustainable debt through large infrastructure projects that are not economically viable. 

Bolton said the American approach contrasted with China’s “bait and switch” policies. “The way we do business is much more straightforward.” 

In October Trump signed legislation overhauling the way the federal government lends money for foreign development, creating a $60 billion agency intended largely to respond to China’s growing influence. The new U.S. International Development Finance Corp combines OPIC and other government development organizations. 

Xi’s “Belt and Road” initiative, unveiled in 2013, aims to build an infrastructure network connecting China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. 

Bolton said the lack of economic progress in Africa has created a climate conducive to violent conflict and the proliferation of terrorism.

He said the United States has little to show for the billions of dollars it has poured into Africa. He said the administration will work to ensure U.S. aid is used more efficiently and effectively, with investments in health, education, government and fiscal transparency measures and rule of law. 

“We will make certain that ALL aid to the region – whether for security, humanitarian, or development needs – advances U.S. interests,” he said, adding that Washington will also re-evaluate its support for U.N. peacekeeping missions.

Non-oil sector grows Nigeria’s GDP to 1.8%, says NBS

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has shown that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew to 1.81 per cent (year-on-year) in real terms in the third quarter of 2018, driven mainly by the non-oil sector, which contributed 90.62 per cent.
When compared to the third quarter of 2017, which grew by 1.17 per cent, the NBS in a report released yesterday said this year’s figure represents an increase of 0.64 per cent.
It added that the second quarter of 2018 witnessed a growth rate of 1.50 per cent, an increase of 0.31 percentage point, stressing that quarter-on-quarter, real GDP growth stood at 9.05 per cent.
The NBS also said that in the quarter under review, aggregate GDP stood at N33, 368, 049 million in nominal terms, pointing out that the performance is higher when compared to the third quarter of 2017, which recorded a GDP aggregate of N29, 377, 674 million.
This, it explained, represented a positive year-on-year nominal growth rate of 13.58 per cent.
“This growth rate is higher relative to growth recorded in the third quarter of 2017 by 2.88 per cent and higher than the preceeding quarter by 0.01 per cent with growth rates of 10.70 per cent and 13.57 per cent respectively.
“The Nigerian economy has been classified into the oil and non-oil sectors. In the third quarter of 2018, the nation recorded an average daily oil production of 1.94 million barrels per day (mbpd).

Qatar to withdraw from OPEC as of January 2019, minister says

  • Qatar’s Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi told a news conference Monday that the country would withdraw from OPEC on January 1, 2019.
  • The country’s energy minister said the move represents a “technical and strategic” change, Reuters reported, and was not publicly motivated.

The OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) logo
announced plans to pull out of  on Monday, just days before a crucial meeting between the influential oil cartel and its allies.
Speaking at a news conference, Qatar’s Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi said the country would withdraw from OPEC on January 1, 2019, ending a membership which has stood for more than half-a-century.
The decision comes after Qatar reviewed ways in which it could improve its global standing and plan its long-term strategy.
The country’s energy minister said Monday that the move represents a “technical and strategic” change, Reuters reported, and was not politically motivated.
OPEC and non-OPEC members are due to meet in Vienna, Austria on Thursday, with the aim of reaching an accord over possible output cuts.
The Middle East-dominated group’s final meeting of the calendar year is now expected to be Qatar’s last as an official member of OPEC. It has been a member since 1961.
International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $62.25 a barrel at around 6:40 a.m. London time, up around 4.7 percent, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood at $53.53, more than 5 percent higher.

Nigeria, Korea seal economic development deal

THE NATION

Nigeria and Korea Republic are committed to working together to achieve sustainable economic development in Nigeria, the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed has said.

She  spoke in Abuja  during the signing of the Framework Agreement for Grant  Aid Projects between the Federal Government and the Republic of Korea.

Mrs. Ahmed signed on behalf of the Nigeria while the Korean Ambassador to Nigeria, Maj General In-Tac-Lee (rtd) signed for the Korean government.

The minister said the agreement captures projects that are in line with Nigeria’s development priorities as encapsulated in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

Accordingly, she said the Korean government, through the Korea International Corporation Agency (KOICA), has executed several projects in the country in various sectors of the economy, cutting across Information Communication Technology (ICT), health, education and agriculture.

“Some of these projects include the establishment of a modern integrated rice milling complex in Niger State, cassava processing centres in Enugu, Ogun and Kogi states, donation of rice milling machines to Benue, Bayelsa and Kogi states, equipment and tool kits for HIV/AIDS to Kogi state as well as the establishment of a model school for primary and junior secondary school education in Abuja at the cost of $15million,” she said.

Mrs. Ahmed added that the Korean government had played a key role in the development of the e-Government Master Plan, a working document for e-government policies and project implementation in the country which is being implemented by the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology.