macroafricaintel Weekly | 9 Jul

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

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Date Data / Event Period Forecast Previous
12 Jul South Africa Manufacturing Production, % yy May 2018 -2.5 1.1
12 Jul South Africa Mining Production, % yy May 2018 -6.4 -4.3
Seychelles CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 3.0 (0.2) 3.6 (0.2)
Tanzania CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 4.0 (0.2) 3.6 (0.0)
Botswana CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 3.3 (0.2) 3.3 (0.1)
Namibia CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 4.0 (0.3) 3.8 (0.4)
Nigeria CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 11.0 (1.0) 11.6 (1.1)
Ghana CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 9.8 (0.9) 9.8 (0.9)
South Africa CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 4.6 (0.4) 4.4 (0.2)
Ethiopia CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 13.2 (0.7) 13.7 (0.7)
Mauritius CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 1.8 (0.0) 2.4 (-0.2)

macroafricaintel | [#StopTheKillings] Can Lake Chad be saved?

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Most Africans probably sometimes just wonder what the fuss about climate change is all about. The planet is getting hotter. So what? What difference does it make to their daily lives? It has always been hot here anyway. What difference would a one to two degrees increase in the temperature make to a people mostly preoccupied with getting their daily bread. Mention the Paris Accord, and some sentiments would probably be jealousy towards the African officials who got to participate in the negotiations while relaxing in the fabled city of love, as opposed to delight at the many laudable measures towards saving the planet in the agreement. But if you start the conversation from the increasing examples of the palpable negative effects of climate change like drought, floods, famine, and so on, on the continent, everyone’s antenna would probably suddenly shoot up.

A striking example is the drying up of Lake Chad in West Africa; which has had debilitating effects on the bordering countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria and a few further afield like Libya, Sudan and Algeria. Erstwhile fishermen have had to make do with less or simply change their vocation. Farmers who relied on the lake for natural irrigation of their farms have also suffered ill fortune. Expectedly, as misery tends to beget more misery, criminals and terrorists have stepped in to fill the vacuum. The costs to lives and livelihoods of the more than 90 percent depletion of the Lake Chad over the past five decades is almost unimaginable. But not until the insecurity it engendered began to make life difficult in much distant lands from the banks of the lake did the authorities in the environs begin to take proper notice. Not that action to save the lake was not taken hitherto. After all, the Lake Chad Basin Commission was established in 1964, more than five decades ago. But with myriad killings from terrorist groups in Nigeria, Niger and elsewhere going on unabated, the authorities had little choice, it seems, but to begin to address not just the symptoms of growing insecurity in their domains but the root causes as well.

Most recently, the efforts towards saving Lake Chad is encapsulated in “The Abuja Declaration” adopted at the International Conference on Lake Chad in late February in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Highlights of The Abuja Declaration revolve around restoration of the lake, resolution of the security issues emanating from its drying up, and funding for the initiatives towards its restoration. The most important and perhaps the most difficult is the “Inter Basin Water Transfer” (IBWT) project for bringing the lake back to its earlier much buoyant levels. Incidentally, the $14.5 billion IBWT project was first mooted in the 1960s. Considering how little progress has been made since then speaks to the difficulty of the endeavour. The plan entails diverting water from the Congo River more than a thousand kilometres away into Chari River, which feeds Lake Chad. Transferring water from the Congo-Oubangui-Sangha Basin to the Lake Chad Basin would also have benefits for the communities in between. The feeder dam to be built in Palambo in the Central African Republic (CAR) is expected to generate at least 700MW of electricity, for instance. The dredging of the Oubangui River in the CAR would also allow ships to transport goods from what is ordinarily a landlocked country. And expectedly, irrigation, drought mitigation and desertification control would be added benefits.

It begs the question then of how the longsuffering project would be able to break the seeming jinx on it this time around. On the face of it, the right measures are being put in place. A $50 billion Lake Chad Fund under the auspices of the African Development Bank is refreshingly assuring, for instance. Still, the participating countries have strained finances. With their authorities barely able to address burgeoning infrastructural deficits inland, the Lake Chad issue may become another African project that is never lacking in passionate backers with shallow pockets. Still, one should be hopeful.

An edited version of these thoughts was published in my Forbes Africa magazine column in June 2018

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/columnist/rafiq-raji/article/stopthekillings-can-lake-chad-saved/

macroafricaintel | Africa FX Monthly – Jul 2018

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Click here for PDF version

Currency   1 month

(31 Jul 2018)

3 month

(28 Sep 2018)

6 month

(31 Dec 2018)

12 month

(28 Jun 2019)

South African Rand (USD:ZAR) 13.7 13.3 14.0 14.3
Nigerian Naira (USD:NGN) 360.0 364.0 367.0 366.0
Ghanaian Cedi (USD:GHS) 4.9 4.6 4.4 4.5
Kenyan Shilling (USD:KES) 100.3 100.5 100.1 100.0
Ugandan Shilling (USD:UGX) 3,870.0 3,850.0 3,880.0 3,888.0
Tanzanian Shilling (USD:TZS) 2,271.0 2,270.0 2,273.0 2,275.0
Ethiopian Birr (USD:ETB) 27.5 27.6 27.8 28.0
Mauritian Rupee (USD:MUR) 34.7 34.9 34.3 35.0
Namibian Dollar (USD:NAD) 13.7 13.3 14.0 14.3
Botswanan Pula (USD:BWP) 10.1 10.3 9.9 10.5
Zambian Kwacha (USD:ZMW) 9.8 9.7 9.8 10.1
US Dollar Index (DXY) 94.5 95.0 93.7 95.3

macroafricaintel Weekly | 2 Jul

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

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Date Data / Event Period Forecast Previous
6 Jul South Africa Gross FX Reserves, US$bn Jun 2018 51.5 51.2
Seychelles CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 3.0 (0.2) 3.6 (0.2)
Tanzania CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 4.0 (0.2) 3.6 (0.0)
Botswana CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 3.3 (0.2) 3.3 (0.1)
Namibia CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 4.0 (0.3) 3.8 (0.4)
Nigeria CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 11.0 (1.0) 11.6 (1.1)
Ghana CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 9.8 (0.9) 9.8 (0.9)
South Africa CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 4.6 (0.4) 4.4 (0.2)
Ethiopia CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 13.2 (0.7) 13.7 (0.7)
Mauritius CPI, % yy (mm) Jun 2018 1.8 (0.0) 2.4 (-0.2)

macroafricaintel | Smart Lagos (6): Status, Prospects & Opportunities

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Silicon Valley already positioning itself
Global tech giants are expectedly following up on their top management’s newfound Africa bug. In late 2017, Facebook announced plans to facilitate training in digital and business skills for 50,000 SMEs. It would also be partnering with local innovation hub operators to set up tech hubs in major cities in Nigeria. In Lagos, together with Co-creation Hub, which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited in August 2017, Facebook announced the launch of NG_HUB in December 2017. Starting in 2018, NG_HUB would provide support to tech SMEs, product developers, coders, and the tech community at large. And the hub’s incubation programmes are quite ambitious. It aims to build local expertise and products in such advanced fields as artificial intelligence and machine learning, for instance. Considering NG_HUB would be Facebook’s first tech space in Africa, it speaks to the importance the American tech firm attaches to the tech opportunities in Nigeria and Lagos specifically. It is not just intuition. There are 22 million Facebook users in Nigeria. And 10 million of them log into their Facebook accounts daily via mobile devices. When Mr Zuckerberg visited Lagos in August 2017, he also announced the investment of $24 million in Andela, the software talent developer earlier mentioned.

Google led the way, though. Its own training initiative, launched in July 2017, aims to train 10 million Africans. Its flagship programme in this regard, the Google Developers Launchpad Start,” was first started in Johannesburg in 2017. In March 2018, Google launched the Lagos leg: “Launchpad Start Lagos,” a “1-week problem-solving bootcamp for early stage startups focused on product strategy, technology, marketing, business development and presentation skills.” The acceleration programme would provide equity-free support to promising tech startups with “a minimum viable product and little or no revenue or users,” with their teams also allowed access to Google engineers for support and mentoring. Incidentally, CcHub is also Google’s partner.

Conclusion
The tech startup opportunity in Lagos is promising. And judging from the recent strides of global tech companies towards seizing this opportunity, this is a fact. What is today a vibrant ecosystem, at first evolved organically with little or no government support. Tech talent is relatively cheap, and the market size is potentially the largest on the continent. There are challenges, of course. Infrastructure remains problematic, for instance. Taxation could be unpredictable and draconian. But clearly, that has not stopped local and international entrepreneurs from chasing the opportunity. Besides, unlike in the past, there is now government recognition and support for the technology sector. Just as Facebook and Google are setting up accelerator programmes to support tech startups, the government also launched its own, for instance. The focus, as has been argued, is for the focus to be on Lagos as a smart ecosystem in which the government’s “Lagos Smarty City” initiative is just one component.

The author, Dr Rafiq Raji, is an adjunct researcher of the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies, a trilateral platform for government, business and academia to promote knowledge and expertise on Africa, established by Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Business Federation. This article was specifically written for the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/columnist/rafiq-raji/article/smart-lagos-6-status-prospects-opportunities/

macroafricaintel Weekly | 11 Jun

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Click here for PDF version

Date Data / Event Period Forecast Previous
13 Jun South Africa Retail Sales, % yy Apr 2018 4.0 4.8
13 Jun Namibia Interest Rate, % 6.75 6.75
13 Jun Nigeria CPI, % yy (mm) May 2018 11.2 (0.7) 12.5 (0.8)
14 Jun Uganda Interest Rate, % 8.5 9.0
14 Jun South Africa Mining Production, % yy Apr 2018 0.2 -8.4
Botswana CPI, % yy (mm) May 2018 3.9 (0.7) 3.4 (1.3)
Namibia CPI, % yy (mm) May 2018 3.8 (0.3) 3.6 (0.3)
Ghana CPI, % yy (mm) May 2018 9.5 (0.7) 9.6 (0.9)
South Africa CPI, % yy (mm) May 2018 4.6 (0.4) 4.5 (0.8)