#Africa #Markets | 17 Jul

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Global Markets

  • Asia stocks sag after oil slides, dollar steady before Fed speech
  • MSCI Asia-Pacific index down 0.5 pct, Nikkei adds 0.5 pct
  • Prospect of supply increase weighs on crude oil
  • Currencies await Fed Powell’s first congressional testimony

Oil Markets

  • Oil prices rise from 3-mth low as more Norwegian oil workers strike
  • Brent crude futures up 0.5 pct at $72.20 per barrel (0106GMT)
  • US WTI crude futures up 3 cents at $68.09 per barrel

Precious metals

  • Gold prices flat as dollar steady ahead of Fed speech
  • Spot gold steady at $1,239.60 an ounce (0039GMT)
  • US gold futures for August delivery unchanged at $1,239.70 an ounce

Grains

  • Soybeans firm 1 pct to hit 5-day high on USDA condition report
  • Most active CBOT wheat futures up 0.5 pct at $4.91 per bushel (0059GMT)
  • Most active corn futures up 1.2 pct at $3.59-1/2 per bushel
  • Most active soy futures up 1.0 pct at $8.54-1/4 per bushel
  • Most active rice futures down 0.3 pct at $12.02 per hundredweight

Key African events or data releases today
[Posts & comments at my Twitter handle @DrRafiqRaji]

  • Barack Obama in South Africa for Mandela lecture today, day before 18 July Mandela Day. [Mr Obama was in Kenya yesterday]
  • South Africa consumer confidence data for Q2 2018 expected [prev. 26]
  • Nigeria’s Buhari in The Netherlands, to address International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague today on the 20th anniversary of its adoption of the ICC Rome Statute
  • South Africa’s central bank 3-day MPC meeting starts today (17-19 July)

Key African events or data releases yesterday & early a.m today
[Posted & commented on some headlines below at my Twitter handle @DrRafiqRaji]

  • In job-short South Africa, ‘dating service’ gets young people into work
  • Mass radio campaign saves thousands of child lives in Africa
  • South Africa’s talks tough on mine safety, says to engage tribal chiefs on land
  • Bank of Ghana annuls Belstar Capital purchase of control of ADB
  • Egypt passes law that could shield top military brass from prosecution
  • Liberia’s Weah takes steps to tackle inflation, poverty
  • Thousands of Congolese threatened by national park oil plans – activists
  • Egypt’s ex-military chief of staff Sami Anan in “critical” condition – sources
  • Africa Crude – Angolan programme emerges, Nigerian progs awaited
  • About 20 Nigerian soldiers missing after Boko Haram clash – sources
  • Kenya Power’s CEO charged in court over economic crime
  • Egypt to offer citizenship to foreigners for $400k deposit
  • South African rand firmer in scramble ahead of rates decision, stocks sag
  • France expels Islamist to Algeria
  • Kenya Power appoints an acting CEO after incumbent charged with economic crime
  • Gunmen kill 14 civilians in northeast Mali village
  • Obama urges Kenyan leaders to soothe ethnic tensions
  • South Africa’s Solidarity union on verge of wage settlement with Eskom – source
  • Strike halts gold production at Randgold’s Ivory Coast mine
  • Angola reopens May 2048 dollar bond
  • Wheaton in streaming deal with gold miner Sibanye
  • Russia may borrow $1 bln from BRICS devpt bank – minister
  • Eritrea reopens embassy in Addis Ababa in fresh sign of thaw with Ethiopia
  • Wheaton to pay Sibanye $500 mln for some gold, palladium assets
  • 8 migrants found dead in lorry container in western Libya
  • IMF team due in Zambia to discuss its debt levels
  • Namibia’s economy to grow by 1 pct in 2018 – finmin
  • Ugandan shilling extends gains on interbank sell-off
  • Kenya Power’s board says operations not affected by arrests
  • Kenyan shilling strengthens against the dollar
  • Amplats expects first-half profit to more than quadruple
  • New products, standards buoy Islamic trade finance business

N.B. Full stories of above headlines are available on Reuters

macroafricaintel | Reporter’s Notebook: At the Afreximbank annual meetings (#AfreximAM18)

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

In the week past, I was in Abuja for the annual meetings of the Cairo-based African Export-Import Bank (11-14 July.) Afreximbank was also celebrating its silver jubilee; it was established in 1993. It was a hectic four days. Even so, I still managed to do a few things outside of the meetings. To do so, I had to forego what turned out to be some good speeches or panel discussions, however. Otherwise, one would never get the time or the opportunity to do so; especially as with almost all events, the schedule is dynamic – as the presence of invited special guests are confirmed or not, for instance. Thankfully, there were more than a tad eminent personalities that graced the occasion. I wish Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo were able to attend, though. But as the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, opened the meetings, it was just as well I guess.

Tweets matter
I was a little surprised by how relatively few participants live-tweeted the meetings. Monitoring the news and markets from my workstation in Lagos most of the time, I have found such generous tweets to be most helpful for following key international events; the IMF/World Bank meetings, for instance. Thus, I make it a point to do likewise whenever I attend one. And I did; to the extent I could. Since not everyone can attend these often exclusive events, tweets from participants tend to be much followed by those either not attending or cannot attend. I do not know if it is a deliberate refrain by Nigerian media practitioners, but there is a lot that is missed even for participants otherwise. For even if the entire event were to be filmed the entire time – as indeed this one was – and the videos readily available, it is doubtful anyone other than the video editors would have enough time to watch them all.

Ironically, people from these parts often bandy about aphorisms like “no man is an island” and so on; often to serve a selfish purpose. But the egalitarianism that is supposed to be the consequence of such a lesson is rarely put to action by most. The key question is what is the best way in media to be of service to as many people as possible in the most efficient way. Before the internet and social media, there were not that many options. Privileged journalists, analysts and the like, who hitherto were amongst the very few that could “let other people in” into these exclusive events wielded their power often to their benefit. With social media, that privilege is now available to anyone who wishes it.

Even so, I have observed a certain level of conservatism amongst some journalists from these parts. Not all of them. On the final day (14 July) of #AfreximAM18, as I sought a good position to get a good picture snap of the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, as he exited after his speech, it was the not so conservative few in the room that enabled me get a sense of what was happening inside the hall before. Why was I outside? I arrived late; deliberately. The only key event of interest to me that final day was the president’s speech. However, I thought, as is often the case in these parts, the VIP would arrive late. Mr Buhari was prompt. And in line with protocol, the doors were shut once he got inside. It was a pleasant surprise. “Nigerian time”, the deliberate tardiness of Nigerian VIPs has become such an institution that it is taken for granted. How did that come about? During the military era, and even now, secret service agents (or other security or private agents of VIPs) would survey a venue ahead of the arrival of their principals. This was done (and still is) for security reasons and social ones as well; if the event is not well-attended, the VIP might choose not to attend, for instance.

Threads for those interested
If you are interested in getting a good feel of the 4-day meetings, you could go to my Twitter handle (@DrRafiqRaji) or search these two hashtags together (“#RR #AfreximAM18”). In the thread, you will find slides from some very excellent presentations. You would certainly find the one on “Nigeria’s Trade & Investment Prospects” quite useful. Another, on the “Investment Prospects for ECOWAS under the AfCFTA”, is also quite rich. You might also want to check my live-tweets (#RR #AdebayoAdedeji”) of the memorial symposium held in Lagos on 7 July 2018 by the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in honour of their former executive secretary, Prof. Adebayo Adedeji, who died recently. If God wills, I should do a reporter’s notebook on it in due course. But now, I have articles to write. Till next time.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays)

#Global #Markets | 17 Jul

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

(GMT+1)

CALENDAR
09:00 South Africa Consumer Confidence 
09:00 Poland Employment Growth YoY 
09:00 UK BoE Gov Carney Speech 
09:15 Nigeria Inflation Rate YoY 
09:30 UK Average Earnings incl. Bonus 
09:30 UK Unemployment Rate 
09:30 UK Claimant Count Change 
09:30 UK Employment Change 
14:15 US Industrial Production MoM 
14:15 US Industrial Production YoY 
15:00 US NAHB Housing Market Index 
15:00 US Fed Chair Powell Testimony 
21:00 US Overall Net Capital Flows 
21:00 US Net Long-Term Tic Flows
NEWS
China Q2 Industrial Capacity Utilization Rises Slightly 
No Strong Case for A Near-Term Rate Adjustment: RBA 
Singapore NODX Rises Less than Expected in June 
New Zealand Inflation Rate Climbs in Q2 
New Zealand Services PMI at 66-Month Low 
Peru Economy Expands 6.4% YoY in May 
UK Shares Slump Amid Falls in Commodity Stocks 
Botswana Trade Deficit Widens in April 
Oil Prices Drop 3% 
US Business Inventories Rise 0.4% in May 
Russia Industrial Output Growth Slows to 6-Month Low 
Sri Lanka Service Activity Rises the Most in 6 Months 
Sri Lanka Manufacturing Growth Eases in June 
Dominican Republic Inflation Rate Highest Since 2013

Source: Trading Economics, Macroafricaintel Research

#Africa #Markets | 16 Jul

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Global Markets

  • Asian shares fall on soft China data, trade war fears
  • MSCI Asia ex-Japan -0.3 pct
  • Shanghai Composite -0.5 pct, CSI300 -0.5 pct
  • China Q2 data shows slowing growth, weaker industrial output

Oil Markets

  • Oil prices dip as markets eye potential supply increases
  • Brent crude futures down 0.4 pct at $75.07 per barrel (0057GMT)
  • US WTI crude futures down 0.4 pct at $70.74 a barrel

Precious metals

  • Gold prices buoyed by weaker dollar, Asian stocks
  • Spot gold up 0.2 pct at $1,243.36 an ounce (0345GMT)
  • US gold futures for August delivery up 0.2 pct at $1,243.40 an ounce

Grains

  • Soybeans rebound near 10-year low, trade war tensions cap gains
  • Most active CBOT wheat futures down 0.5 pct at $4.94-3/4 per bushel (0100GMT)
  • Most active corn futures down 0.3 pct at $3.53-3/4 per bushel
  • Most active soybean futures up 0.5 pct at $8.38-1/2 per bushel
  • Most active rice futures up 0.1 pct at $12.00 per hundredweight

Key African events or data releases today
[Posts & comments at my Twitter handle @DrRafiqRaji]

  • Nigeria inflation data for June 2018 expected [fcst. 11.0% yy, prev. 11.6%]

Key African events or data releases over the weekend & early a.m today
[Posted & commented on some headlines below at my Twitter handle @DrRafiqRaji]

  • Tunisia’s president says PM should quit if crisis continues
  • Five miners killed in fire at South African copper mine
  • Kenya Power CEO under arrest over allegations of economic crimes – police
  • Tens of thousands protest in Morocco over jailed Rif activists
  • At concert, Ethiopia, Eritrea leaders preach peace, love, unity
  • Nigeria’s ruling party unseats opposition in southern Ekiti state
  • Algeria deports nearly 400 migrants back to Niger
  • Congo’s Kabila appoints army chief under US, EU sanctions for alleged violence
  • China willing to invest $3 bln in Nigerian oil operations – NNPC
  • Botswana may put elephants in cross-hairs as it moves to lift hunting ban
  • Post-Mugabe Zimbabwe set to frustrate eager investors
  • Telecom Egypt, Liquid Telecom sign MOU to complete fibre network from Cape Town to Cairo
  • Egypt uncovers mummy burial site near Great Pyramids
  • Libya’s Sharara oilfield cuts output after workders abducted
  • Morocco offers corporate tax break to spur industrial investments
  • Africa’s richest man signs $650 mln Afreximbank loan for oil refinery project
  • Eritrea’s president hails thaw in relations in return to Ethiopia
  • Eritrea president says during Ethiopia visit: “History is being made”
  • Shell confirms end to force majeure on Nigerian Bonny Light crude exports
  • UN countries agree on pact to manage mass global migration
  • Malta rebuffs Italy, says not responsible for migrant boat
  • Congo opposition leader Bemba nominated for presidential election
  • At least 58 injured as train derails in Egypt
  • Ethiopian dissident awaits news of captured brother after Eritrean thaw
  • Law head of South Africa’s $150 bln state pension fund quits
  • Workers resume at MTN Nigeria after days of labour unrest
  • Ghana’s 91-day bill dips to 13.31 pct
  • Africa Crude – FM lifted on Bonny Light, Sept. programmes awaited
  • UN Security Council imposea an arms embargo on South Sudan
  • Spot London cocoa commands large premium as supplies dwindle
  • Eight black rhinos die in Kenya during relocation between parks
  • Putin to take part in BRICS summit in South Africa – Kremlin
  • Zimbabwe suspends top prosecutor – state media
  • South Africa launches notes and coins for 100th anniversay of Mandela’s birth
  • Eritrea to reopen embassy in Ethiopia’s capital on Sunday
  • South Africa’s MeerKAT to help unlock mysteries of universe
  • Uganda shilling extends gains, helped by charity groups flows
  • Swiss unblock some funds seized in Angolan probe

N.B. Full stories of above headlines are available on Reuters

#Global #Markets | 16 Jul

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

(GMT+1)

CALENDAR
07:30 India WPI Inflation YoY 
08:00 Turkey Unemployment Rate 
09:00 Italy Balance of Trade 
09:15 Nigeria Inflation Rate YoY 
10:00 Euro Area Balance of Trade 
11:00 Israel GDP Growth Rate QoQ 3rd Est 
13:30 US Retail Sales Ex Autos MoM 
13:30 US Retail Sales MoM 
13:30 US NY Empire State Manufacturing Index 
15:00 US Business Inventories MoM 
01:00 Japan EU-Japan Summit 
02:30 China House Price Index YoY 
09:00 South Africa Consumer Confidence 
09:00 Poland Employment Growth YoY
NEWS
China Retail Sales Rise More than Estimated in June 
China June Industrial Output Rises the Least in 3 Months 
China H1 Fixed Asset Investment Growth Matches Estimates 
China Economy Expands 1.8% QoQ in Q2 
Israel Inflation Rate Highest in Over 4 Years 
Week Ahead 
Moody’s Changes Qatar’s Outlook to Stable 
US Stocks Edge Up on Friday 
Ivory Coast Consumer Prices Rebound in June 
Kazakhstan Industrial Production Loses Steam in June 
US Consumer Sentiment at 6-Month Low 
Tunisia Industrial Output Falls 0.1% YoY in April 
India Trade Deficit Highest since 2013 
US Import Prices Post Biggest Drop in Over 2 Years

Source: Trading Economics, Macroafricaintel Research

macroafricaintel | Regulating social media: Necessity or mischief?

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Without the tweets, I wouldn’t be here”, American president Donald Trump told the Financial Times in early April. That the most powerful man in the world sees his Twitter account as his most powerful communication tool speaks to how much the world has changed. Media, news, and communications will never be the same again. Ordinarily a conservative bunch, African heads of state are moving with the times on this one. It is now normal for the continent’s big men to make policy pronouncements via social media. So yes, African leaders appreciate the power the platform wields. And the threat it poses to their often less than democratic rule. Incidentally, even the established democracies on the continent, South Africa, say, are becoming increasingly irritated by how real and imaginary opponents have been able to effectively make them more accountable through social media. Naturally, more than a few African governments want more control over it. But information technology is evolving so fast, and so easily within reach of the average individual, that having been so empowered, the average African cannot now be so easily fed with government propaganda like in the past. Access to alternative narratives is so pervasive that most African governments feel somewhat enervated. Knowledge and skills required to master internet tools are also within reach of most Africans. That is why programmers trained in Lagos could easily get hired by American software firms and those else where without even the slightest doubt about their competence.

Unsurprisingly, African authorities’ attempts at regulating social media and the wider internet have been met with quite innovative responses. Sooner than authorities block one means, numerous other means emerge. When Egyptian authorities shut down the internet in 2011 to restore order as nationwide protests (“January 25 Revolution”) halted almost all economic activities, the citizens found ways to circumvent them. They used proxy servers in place of domain name servers (DNS) blocked by the government. Since local internet service providers (ISPs) were bound to obey the government’s shutdown order, those who could make long-distance phone calls dialled up ISPs in other countries – the government could not possibly shut down all landline phone access without putting its own national security at risk surely. And in a show of solidarity, some foreign ISPs offered their services for free. Even so, some African governments remain undeterred.

Determined folks
In early March, South African state security minister David Mahlobo revealed the authorities were considering the regulation of social media. “There is a lot of peddling that is going on”, he asserted then about the medium. He was referring to increasing incidents of so-called “fake news” and other unseemly reputation-damaging activities of some social media influencers. But how is that to be curbed before the act with stymieing free speech? Besides, are current laws not encompassing enough to prosecute infractions by social media users and influencers? In a clear change of tact, Mr Mahlobo told the South African parliament later that month that his emphasis is on cybercrimes or crimes that the internet is used to facilitate like human trafficking, defamation, child pornography and so on. Put that way, the proposed Cyber Crime and Cyber Security Bill should pass easily. The potential downside is that the powers that the law would vest in the authorities could easily be used by them for less than noble means. At least, there would be a debate on the issue before the bill is passed. In some African countries, that would not be an option.

Authoritarian African regimes in Ethiopia, Cameroon, Gabon, Chad, Egypt, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere simply shut down the internet at will, especially ahead of elections or when anti-government protests are about. More recently, authorities in Cameroon shut down the internet in the English-speaking Southwest and Northwest provinces (residents of which have been engaged in protests against the government over what they consider official bias against them by a deliberately francophone system) of the country in March 2017, crippling activities in the technology start-ups hub city of Buea. These regimes might actually be a little bemused by all the fuss around the formal enactment of laws targeted at social media in more tolerant African countries. When Ethiopian authorities arrested the award-winning blogging group, “Zone 9 bloggers” – who were increasingly becoming effective critics of the government – in April 2014, they simply charged the six members they arrested with terrorism-related offences. The authorities’ heavyhandedness was widely condemned: In July 2015 and just three weeks ahead of then American president Barack Obama’s visit to Ethiopia, the bloggers were released and acquitted of all charges.

Much ado about nothing
Existing libel laws and regulations governing mainstream media could easily be applied to erring social media practitioners and users. Little wonder it is suspected that the real object of African authorities is to stifle free speech and dissent. This reasoning is not farfetched. Current administrations in Nigeria and Ghana came to power through the usage of social media tools to force transparency on opponents in government and also for their propaganda. Now in government, they realise the same tools could easily be used against them. Being intimately familiar with the power of social media tools, as they are beneficiaries themselves, naturally they seek to control it. But would they succeed? The official position of the Nigerian government is that there are no plans to regulate social media. This much was acknowledged by Nigeria’s information minister Lai Mohammed in November 2015: “We are not about to regulate or stultify the social media”, he said. Mr Mohammed advocates self-regulation instead.

At a gathering of the country’s top social media influencers that he summoned in the same month, Mr Mohammed urged caution on their part, however, saying “We’ll respect freedom of speech, but social media influencers must tread carefully”. And when the legislature proposed a bill to regulate social media in late 2015, the government was quick to resist the move. “The president won’t assent to any legislation that may be inconsistent with the constitution of Nigeria”, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in statement released to the press. Had it passed, the Frivolous Petitions Prohibition Bill proposed by Bala Ibn Na’allah, the deputy majority leader of the Nigerian Senate, would have been an unprecedented clampdown on free speech, a basic human right. The part targeted at social media users read as follows: “Where any person through text message, tweets, WhatsApp or through any social media posts any abusive statement knowing same to be false with intent to set the public against any person or group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law shall be guilty of an offence and upon conviction, shall be liable to an imprisonment for two years or a fine of N2,000,000.00 [US$6,557] or both fine and imprisonment”.

After vociferous protests by all and sundry, the Nigerian Senate eventually bowed to popular will in May 2016 and stopped further consideration of the bill, arguing most of its provisions were already covered by existing laws. And less than a year later, a court sentenced someone to nine months in prison for insulting a Nigerian state governor on social media. While this is proof that existing laws suffice to make social media users accountable, it is also points to potential abuse. Besides, African authorities have also wizened to the wisdom of prevention: it is better to prevent the damage from being done in the first place. So in addition to shutting down the internet when it suits governing authorities, they also employ their own armies of social media influencers, who not only scan social media for articles of interest, but immediately deploy counter-narratives to neutralise those deemed unfavourable. Perhaps then African governments with social media regulation laws in the works are simply trying not to waste a good opportunity.

(An edited version was published by New African magazine in May 2017)