macroafricaintel Weekly | 10 Dec [Update]

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Click here for PDF version

Date Data / Event Period Forecast Previous
10 Dec Nigeria GDP, % yy Q3 2018 0.8 [act. 1.8] 1.5
11 Dec South Africa Mining Production, % yy Oct 2018 -1.7 -1.8
11 Dec South Africa Manufacturing Production, % yy Oct 2018 -0.1 0.1
12 Dec South Africa CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 5.3 (0.3) 5.1 (0.5)
12 Dec South Africa Retail Sales, % yy Oct 2018 2.8 0.7
13 Dec South Africa PPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 6.8 (0.4) 6.9 (1.4)
31 Dec South Africa PSCE, % yy Nov 2018 5.2 5.8
31 Dec South Africa M3. % yy Nov 2018 5.7 6.0
Seychelles CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 4.1 (0.2) 3.4 (0.2)
Tanzania CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 2.9 (0.2) 3.2 (-0.3)
Botswana CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 3.8 (0.4) 3.6 (0.7)
Namibia CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 5.3 (0.4) 5.1 (0.4)
Nigeria CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 11.4 (0.9) 11.3 (0.7)
Ghana CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 9.2 (0.6) 9.5 (0.7)
Ethiopia CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 11.1 (0.3) 11.5 (-0.3)
Mauritius CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 2.7 (0.3) 2.8 (0.4)

macroafricaintel | Tanzania – Recent banking trends & outlook

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

“I will not give any money to failing banks.” In typical style, President John Magufuli has adopted a no-nonsense approach to the troubles of the Tanzanian banking sector. In March 2018, he ordered the central bank not to rescue any failing bank. Mr Magufuli’s angst towards bankers is underpinned by his view that previous government bailouts for the sector of about 40 banks currently were squandered or misused. In any case, it has been about a year since the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) announced new capital rules for banks, as non-performing loans rose sharply. How have Tanzanian banks fared since then? NPLs continue to rise, hitting profits. As a proportion of total loans, NPLs rose by almost a percentage point to 11.7 percent in December 2017 from 10.6 percent six months earlier; a deterioration from what was already double the offical cap of 5 percent. Most recently, though, in April 2018, NPLs to gross loans stood at 11.3 percent. The central bank has been wielding the big stick to stem the tide. It shut down 5 community banks in early January; namely: Covenant Bank for Women, Efatha Bank, Njombe Community Bank, Kagera Farmers’ Cooperative Bank and Meru Community Bank. The January move brought the number of such banks closed to eight. While this is laudable, it is the domineering few big banks that probably require greater scrutiny and supervision. Tightening of controls on foreign exchange has also been weighing on banks’ bottomlines. Return on assets declined to 1.7 percent in April 2018 from 2.2 percent only a year before. Return on equity dipped as well; to 7.2 percent in April 2018 from 10.1 percent in April 2017.

Interest rates falling, PSCE still low
Unsurprisingly, bank lending to the private sector has slowed. In mid-December, the IMF highlighted reduced public spending and policy uncertainty as some of the reasons why. The central bank gives the sector a clean bill of health, however; reporting in June 2018 that “the banking sector remained sound, stable and profitable with levels of capital and liquidity generally above regulatory requirements.” As at end-April, the BoT put banks’ core capital to total risk weighted assets and off-balance sheet exposures at 18.7 percent; well above the minimum 10 percent. Also, liquid assets to demand liabilities was 39.1 percent in the same period; well above the minimum 20 percent. The BoT did highlight a palpable deterioration in NPLs. Some of the measures it has put in place to remedy the situation is an insistence that banks compulsorily use credit reference bureau reports for the appaisal of loans; in addition to other strategies it wants banks to develop to “strengthen credit application processing, credit management, monitoring and recovery measures.”

To the BoT’s credit, though, a joint World Bank/IMF financial sector assessment programme (FSAP) vindicated its position on the soundness and stability of the Tanzanian financial services sector. They note the country’s payments, clearing and settlement systems are operating efficiently. In this regard, the central bank has begun engagement with relevant stakeholders to develop a national switch. While still far off, once in place, the national switch would greatly reduce the cost of payment services. Also to this end, the BoT is licensing more payment service providers. There has also been an increase in transactions in the banking system on the back of an increasing adoption of digital channels. And the BoT continues to make efforts to reduce interest rates. In this regard, it cut its discount rate by 300 basis points to 9 percent in the period between July 2017 to April 2018. Yields on government securities have certainly followed suit; easing to about 4 percent in April 2018 from a little above 13 percent a year before. By and large, interest rates on commercial loans eased as well; albeit still high at about 17-18 percent. But it is an improvement from about 22 percent hitherto. Encouraged by easing measures by the BoT, which in addition to slashing its discount rate also reduced the statutory minimum reserve requirement, one bank cut its interest rate by half to 11 percent from 22 percent previously. Consequently, private sector credit extension (PSCE) should improve. Still, PSCE growth of almost 1 percent in April 2018 is an improvement from negative growth rates in late Q3-2017 and early Q4-2017. Total assets have also been growing steadily; up 5.3 percent year-on-year to 29.9 trillion shillings in April 2018.

Moody’s, a rating agency, is similarly optimistic. In a mid-March 2018 research note, it avers the Tanzanian “banking system will remain resilient, with improving operating conditions, solid capital and liquidity, despite asset quality and profitability pressure.” Christos Theofilou, vice president and senior analyst at Moody’s explains further: “We expect operating conditions to gradually improve as private sector businesses adapt to higher taxes and liquidity in the system improves with the payment of government arrears and more focus on infrastructure and development plans by the authorities.” Moody’s also assesses the country’s banks’ capital buffers as “among the strongest in sub-Saharan Africa and globally.” However, it acknowledges their declining profitability “due to lower interest income, reduced business activity and rising loan-loss provisions.” It also believes NPLs might rise some more “due to the continued, delayed impact from last year’s public sector job cuts, a corporate liquidity crunch and lower corporate margins following a crackdown on tax collection.”

More consolidation expected
On its part, the government has been tidying up its act in the sector, approving the merger of two of the banks it owns in mid-May; Twiga Bancorp and TPB Bank. It is part of a broader planned consolidation of state-owned banks. BoT deputy governor Bernard Kibesse explained the authorities’ thinking to the media thus: “We will see more mergers of government-owned banks until we remain with one or just a few banks owned by the government.” The central bank would like to see more consolidation in the sector: “We would like more mergers and acquisitions to take place between the existing banks in Tanzania, including those that are privately owned, so that we remain with a few efficient banks”, Mr Kibesse added. Key stakeholders in the sector seem receptive to the idea. In about mid-April, Ineke Bussemaker, chief executive of National Microfinance Bank (NMB), the country’s largest bank, told Reuters “if there is a coordinated effort to do a consolidation in the banking sector….NMB will play a role.” And Bussemaker, who took over as CEO in 2015 from a role at Rabobank in The Netherlands, which owns a 34.9 percent stake in NMB, is not just buying into the idea of the government, which has a 31.9 percent stake in NMB, it believes consolidation has become a necessity; with its chief executive telling Reuters further that “there are a number of small banks that are struggling with a relatively small capital base…[and thus]…forsee some consolidation in the sector.”

An edited version was published in the Q3 2018 issue of African Banker magazine

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays)

macroafricaintel Weekly | 3 Dec

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Click here for PDF version

Date Data / Event Period Forecast Previous
4 Dec South Africa GDP, % qq saa Q3 2018 0.4 -0.7
4 Dec Botswana Policy Rate, % 5.0 5.0
5 Dec Namibia Policy Rate, % 6.75 6.75
6 Dec South Africa Current Account Balance, % GDP Q3 2018 -3.4 -3.3
Seychelles CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 4.1 (0.2) 3.4 (0.2)
Tanzania CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 2.9 (0.2) 3.2 (-0.3)
Botswana CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 3.8 (0.4) 3.6 (0.7)
Namibia CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 5.3 (0.4) 5.1 (0.4)
Nigeria CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 11.4 (0.9) 11.3 (0.7)
Ghana CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 9.2 (0.6) 9.5 (0.7)
South Africa CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 5.3 (0.3) 5.1 (0.5)
Ethiopia CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 11.1 (0.3) 11.5 (-0.3)
Mauritius CPI, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 2.7 (0.3) 2.8 (0.4)

macroafricaintel | Banking in East Africa: Recent trends & outlook

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

What are the recent trends in the East African banking industry? And what does the future portend for the sector in the region? For perspectives on these questions, African Banker got the views of two highly-esteemed Nairobi-based banking professionals: George Mutua, managing director and chief representative officer for the Kenyan office of Societe Generale, a French bank, and Elizabeth Ndungu, head of research at Genghis Capital Investment Bank. Expectedly, Kenya, the region’s largest economy, dominates. And government policy there is perhaps the most stifling for the sector at the moment. Good news is there are indications some of the measures might be reversed. First is the capping of interest rates on commercial loans at 4 percent above the central bank rate by the Kenyan government. Another is the recently introduced 0.05 percent “Robinhood tax” on cash transfers of more than 500k shillings from 1 July; which halved daily interbank volumes in the first week alone. A proposed Financial Markets Conduct Authority in Kenya also adds to increasing concerns about over-regulation. There is probably a need for stiffer rules, though. For instance, 10 Kenyan banks are currently under investigation for accepting stolen funds. But stronger rules could be self-defeating if they end up weakening the ability of central banks to rein in erring banks. For evidence, reformist Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) governor, Patrick Njoroge, put it bluntly: “The [Financial Markets Conduct] bill emasculates the central bank”, adding the CBK “…is under attack.” Without a doubt, there is increasing political interference in the region’s central banks and indeed elsewhere on the African continent. Curiously, Tanzania’s president John Magufuli, well-known for his heavy-handedness, does not plan to bail out struggling banks in his country: “I will not give any money to failing banks,” Mr Magufuli said earlier this year in March, adding “it’s better to have a few viable banks than dozens of failing banks.” The recurring theme is clearly one where on the one hand, governments in the region are more overbearing on banks with more regulations while on the other hand, in the Tanzanian case, for instance, not so supportive of those that flounder.

Reduced profits, rising NPLs
Undoubtedly, top-of-mind amongst bankers in East Africa is the expectation that the Kenyan government would repeal the law capping interest rates. Since the legislation, credit has slowed. Mr Mutua lets in on his expectations: “We expect the interest rate caps to be repealed through an act of parliament- sometimes in 2018. This should lead to more lending by commercial banks to the SME sector. Easier access to credit will drive economic growth and should improve GDP growth.” Ordinarily, banks were increasingly loading up their books with government securities. The rate cap made doing so more a necessity than a strategy. Should the rate cap be abolished, SG’s Mutua believes “banks would invest less in government securities and more in the private sector.” The move would be beneficial for banks’ bottomlines certainly with “interest margins to increase gradually as banks take more risk and charge relatively higher margins to the private sector,” Mr Mutua adds. Genghis Capital’s Ndungu provides additional insights: “The banking industry in Kenya has experienced a challenging operating environment over the past year. This has mainly been attributed to interest rate caps introduced in the third quarter of 2016 that has seen banks record reduced profitability on account of reduced net interest income. In response to this, we have witnessed banks adjust their business models through a combination of initiatives aimed at reducing costs such as cutting down branches, laying off staff and enhancing operational efficiency, coupled with revenue diversification so as to tap into non-funded income.” On interest rate caps, Ms Ndungu’s view is thus: “While the interest rate caps have been a pain to the banking sector in Kenya, the East African region has been grappling with increasing non-performing loans (17.4% in Burundi, 12.4% in Kenya, 8.2% in Tanzania and Rwanda, 6.2% in Uganda), primarily on account of the high interest rates in neighbouring countries and inadequate risk assessment, which could affect economic growth in the region adversely. Lending rates in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda range between 18.0% and 21.0%, which has seen borrowers suffer the full brunt of accessing credit and led to high default rates. This in turn has stifled private sector credit growth as banks enhance risk management to curb this trend.” On NPLs, for Kenya at least, SG’s Mutua observes “no major shift in NPL levels considering that banks have been forced to clean-up their books and make provisions in good tome by the Central Bank of Kenya,” however, and expects “credit growth in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, retail/FCMG- as banks come up with a lending mandate in support of the president’s Big Four [agenda]”.

Stiffer regulation, consolidation, regional expansion & new entrants
Even as it is expected the authorities would abolish interest caps in Kenya, they would continue to rein hard on banks who charge their customers disproportionalely. SG’s Mutua believes there would be “stiffer regulation on how and what banks charge to borrowers [with] the Central Bank of Kenya [insisting]…on transparency on the type and amount of financial cost”. Another development Mr Mutua expects is “…more consolidation in the banking industry – across the industry in the region. We still have too many small banks in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and there’s need for consolidation. It will be pushed by both business viability needs and regulatory requirements on adequate capital levels. We see the big local banks continuing to expand and deepen their presence across the region. [And] top local banks in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda will start looking for regional dominance.” Mr Mutua also sees “the continued adoption of mobile-money and digital solutions by banks over additional/new investments in brick and mortar network [and an] increase of the agency banking model. Furthermore, there should be “more and better market segmentation with a new emphasis on wealth management, financial planning solutions,” SG’s Mutua believes.

On the outlook for NPLs and banking in the East African region, Genghis Capital’s Ndungu says: “Going forward, we expect this trend to be managed as banks tow in line with the requirements of IFRS 9, that requires a forward looking approach in loan provisioning. This will force banks to be more prudent in their assessment and will also require fiscal consolidation (government support) in order to ensure that private sector credit growth in the region does not deteriorate as a result of the crowding out effect. With a population growth rate of 3.0%, compared to other developed countries below the 1.0% mark, coupled with increasing financial inclusion and more uptake of financial services products, the East African region offers an attractive proposition for long term investors looking to take advantage of the attractive valuations.” SG’s Mutua also sees the “entrance of new global and regional payers- the likes of JP want to establish a rep office covering East Africa in Nairobi. The replacement of Barclays by ABSA in Kenya and Tanzania. He also expects “more competition from local banks- empowered by mobile money solutions, agency banking, and digital banking- the “traditional” local banks will pose new competition to established international brands in the region.” In conclusion, Societe Generale’s Mutua sees “more and better regulation of banks in Tanzania, in terms of how they classify and provide for bad debt in their books, more focus on supporting/financing intra-Africa trade [as] banks in East Africa…target traders involved in exports and imports across Africa, better and stronger relationships with multilaterals, DFIs, insurance bodies, to put in place guarantees and de-risking solutions that will make certain sectors [like] agriculture, commodity trading more bankable.

An edited version was published in the Q3-2018 issue of African Banker magazine

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays)

macroafricaintel Weekly | 1 Oct

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Click here for PDF version

Date Data / Event Period Forecast Previous
4 Oct Uganda Policy Rate, % 9.0 9.0
5 Oct South Africa FX Reserves, $bn Sep 2018 49.7 49.9
Seychelles CPI, % yy (mm) Sep 2018 3.0 (-0.1) 2.8 (-0.2)
Tanzania CPI, % yy (mm) Sep 2018 3.1 (-0.1) 3.3 (-0.4)
Botswana CPI, % yy (mm) Sep 2018 3.0 (0.1) 3.0 (0.0)
Namibia CPI, % yy (mm) Sep 2018 4.3 (0.3) 4.4 (0.0)
Nigeria CPI, % yy (mm) Sep 2018 11.5 (1.1) 11.2 (1.1)
Ghana CPI, % yy (mm) Sep 2018 10.3 (0.4) 9.9 (0.0)
South Africa CPI, % yy (mm) Sep 2018 4.8 (0.4) 4.9 (-0.1)
Mauritius CPI, % yy (mm) Sep 2018 1.4 (-0.4) 0.9 (-0.4)

macroafricaintel | Africa FX Monthly – Oct 2018

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Click here for PDF version

Currency   1 month

(31 Oct 2018)

3 month

(31 Dec 2018)

6 month

(29 Mar 2018)

12 month

(30 Sep 2019)

South African Rand (USD:ZAR) 14.3 14.1 13.5 13.3
Nigerian Naira (USD:NGN) 364.0 367.0 366.0 370.0
Ghanaian Cedi (USD:GHS) 5.0 4.8 4.9 5.1
Kenyan Shilling (USD:KES) 101.0 101.3 101.1 100.7
Ugandan Shilling (USD:UGX) 3,831.0 3,827.0 3,830.0 3,829.0
Tanzanian Shilling (USD:TZS) 2,285.0 2,289.0 2,285.0 2,281.0
Ethiopian Birr (USD:ETB) 28.1 28.3 28.5 29.0
Mauritian Rupee (USD:MUR) 34.3 34.5 34.9 35.0
Namibian Dollar (USD:NAD) 14.3 14.1 13.5 13.3
Botswanan Pula (USD:BWP) 10.5 10.3 9.9 10.1
Zambian Kwacha (USD:ZMW) 12.3 12.1 11.8 11.5
US Dollar Index (DXY) 95.0 94.5 94.7 93.5

macroafricaintel | Tanzania – Recent banking trends & outlook

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

“I will not give any money to failing banks.” In typical style, President John Magufuli has adopted a no-nonsense approach to the troubles of the Tanzanian banking sector. In March 2018, he ordered the central bank not to rescue any failing bank. Mr Magufuli’s angst towards bankers is underpinned by his view that previous government bailouts for the sector of about 40 banks currently were squandered or misused. In any case, it has been about a year since the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) announced new capital rules for banks, as non-performing loans rose sharply. How have Tanzanian banks fared since then? NPLs continue to rise, hitting profits. As a proportion of total loans, NPLs rose by almost a percentage point to 11.7 percent in December 2017 from 10.6 percent six months earlier; a deterioration from what was already double the offical cap of 5 percent. Most recently, though, in April 2018, NPLs to gross loans stood at 11.3 percent. The central bank has been wielding the big stick to stem the tide. It shut down 5 community banks in early January; namely: Covenant Bank for Women, Efatha Bank, Njombe Community Bank, Kagera Farmers’ Cooperative Bank and Meru Community Bank. The January move brought the number of such banks closed to eight. While this is laudable, it is the domineering few big banks that probably require greater scrutiny and supervision. Tightening of controls on foreign exchange has also been weighing on banks’ bottomlines. Return on assets declined to 1.7 percent in April 2018 from 2.2 percent only a year before. Return on equity dipped as well; to 7.2 percent in April 2018 from 10.1 percent in April 2017.

Interest rates falling, PSCE still low
Unsurprisingly, bank lending to the private sector has slowed. In mid-December, the IMF highlighted reduced public spending and policy uncertainty as some of the reasons why. The central bank gives the sector a clean bill of health, however; reporting in June 2018 that “the banking sector remained sound, stable and profitable with levels of capital and liquidity generally above regulatory requirements.” As at end-April, the BoT put banks’ core capital to total risk weighted assets and off-balance sheet exposures at 18.7 percent; well above the minimum 10 percent. Also, liquid assets to demand liabilities was 39.1 percent in the same period; well above the minimum 20 percent. The BoT did highlight a palpable deterioration in NPLs. Some of the measures it has put in place to remedy the situation is an insistence that banks compulsorily use credit reference bureau reports for the appaisal of loans; in addition to other strategies it wants banks to develop to “strengthen credit application processing, credit management, monitoring and recovery measures.”

To the BoT’s credit, though, a joint World Bank/IMF financial sector assessment programme (FSAP) vindicated its position on the soundness and stability of the Tanzanian financial services sector. They note the country’s payments, clearing and settlement systems are operating efficiently. In this regard, the central bank has begun engagement with relevant stakeholders to develop a national switch. While still far off, once in place, the national switch would greatly reduce the cost of payment services. Also to this end, the BoT is licensing more payment service providers. There has also been an increase in transactions in the banking system on the back of an increasing adoption of digital channels. And the BoT continues to make efforts to reduce interest rates. In this regard, it cut its discount rate by 300 basis points to 9 percent in the period between July 2017 to April 2018. Yields on government securities have certainly followed suit; easing to about 4 percent in April 2018 from a little above 13 percent a year before. By and large, interest rates on commercial loans eased as well; albeit still high at about 17-18 percent. But it is an improvement from about 22 percent hitherto. Encouraged by easing measures by the BoT, which in addition to slashing its discount rate also reduced the statutory minimum reserve requirement, one bank cut its interest rate by half to 11 percent from 22 percent previously. Consequently, private sector credit extension (PSCE) should improve. Still, PSCE growth of almost 1 percent in April 2018 is an improvement from negative growth rates in late Q3-2017 and early Q4-2017. Total assets have also been growing steadily; up 5.3 percent year-on-year to 29.9 trillion shillings in April 2018.

Moody’s, a rating agency, is similarly optimistic. In a mid-March 2018 research note, it avers the Tanzanian “banking system will remain resilient, with improving operating conditions, solid capital and liquidity, despite asset quality and profitability pressure.” Christos Theofilou, vice president and senior analyst at Moody’s explains further: “We expect operating conditions to gradually improve as private sector businesses adapt to higher taxes and liquidity in the system improves with the payment of government arrears and more focus on infrastructure and development plans by the authorities.” Moody’s also assesses the country’s banks’ capital buffers as “among the strongest in sub-Saharan Africa and globally.” However, it acknowledges their declining profitability “due to lower interest income, reduced business activity and rising loan-loss provisions.” It also believes NPLs might rise some more “due to the continued, delayed impact from last year’s public sector job cuts, a corporate liquidity crunch and lower corporate margins following a crackdown on tax collection.”

More consolidation expected
On its part, the government has been tidying up its act in the sector, approving the merger of two of the banks it owns in mid-May; Twiga Bancorp and TPB Bank. It is part of a broader planned consolidation of state-owned banks. BoT deputy governor Bernard Kibesse explained the authorities’ thinking to the media thus: “We will see more mergers of government-owned banks until we remain with one or just a few banks owned by the government.” The central bank would like to see more consolidation in the sector: “We would like more mergers and acquisitions to take place between the existing banks in Tanzania, including those that are privately owned, so that we remain with a few efficient banks”, Mr Kibesse added. Key stakeholders in the sector seem receptive to the idea. In about mid-April, Ineke Bussemaker, chief executive of National Microfinance Bank (NMB), the country’s largest bank, told Reuters “if there is a coordinated effort to do a consolidation in the banking sector….NMB will play a role.” And Bussemaker, who took over as CEO in 2015 from a role at Rabobank in The Netherlands, which owns a 34.9 percent stake in NMB, is not just buying into the idea of the government, which has a 31.9 percent stake in NMB, it believes consolidation has become a necessity; with its chief executive telling Reuters further that “there are a number of small banks that are struggling with a relatively small capital base…[and thus]…forsee some consolidation in the sector.”

An edited version was published in the Q3 2018 issue of African Banker magazine