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18th February 2022 Trade & Financial Services Round Up

KENYA 

Joint Statement of the Heads of Competition Authorities Dialogue on Regulation of Digital Markets

The Heads of Competition Authorities of the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA); the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK); the Competition Commission of Mauritius (Competition Commission); The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) of Nigeria and the Competition Commission of South Africa (CCSA), during the Digital Markets Dialogue on 17th and 18th February 2022, in Johannesburg, South Africa have agreed to collaborate to:

  1. Scoping the conduct in digital markets, that has been the subject of investigation in other jurisdictions, on African consumers, businesses and economies with the purpose of fair regulation and enforcement in Africa (where applicable);
  2. Researching the barriers to the emergence and expansion of African digital platforms and firms that may contribute to enhanced competition and inclusion in these markets for the benefit of African consumers and economies;
  3. Cooperating in the assessment of global, continental, and regional mergers and acquisitions in digital markets, including harmonizing the notification framework; without prejudice to confidentiality commitments;
  4. To share information in accordance with existing laws and applicable protocols;
  5. Sharing knowledge and build capacity to deal with digital markets. 

24 pension schemes raise Sh2bn to finance Mandera-Wajir road

Pension schemes have lined up Sh2 billion to partly finance the construction of a key road in northern Kenya, making it the first major project under the public-private partnership (PPP) model to be funded through retirement savings.

A consortium of 24 retirement schemes says it is looking to invest in the 143km road project which runs through Wajir and Mandera counties by participating in an upcoming bond to be issued through private placement.

The Kenya Pension Funds Investment Consortium (KEPFIC) has identified the project, whose total cost is estimated at $188.88 million (Sh21.46 billion), as a viable option for its members who are said to control about Sh500 billion in assets under management.

The project, which is being constructed under the Treasury’s road annuity programme, is part of alternative investment options, largely in infrastructure development, worth Sh16 billion that KEPFIC has identified this year.

The consortium, launched in October 2020, is championing “diversification of local pension portfolios and the need for greater private infrastructure funding”.

Under the annuity financing model, contractors access loans guaranteed by the State from banks and other sources, enabling them to design, construct and maintain the roads.

The Treasury will repay the loans in equal installments (annuity) from the time the road is completed.

The PPP project, which the Treasury awarded to GVR-Hass Consortium, consists of a 68km Wajir-Samatar stretch and a 75km Rhamu-Mandera section.

GVR-Hass Consortium comprises Hass Infrastructure (a unit of Hass Petroleum), India’s GVR Infra Projects and China’s Shandong Hi-Speed Group.

Robert Murai, the head of debt capital markets at Stanbic Bank Kenya, an advisor for GVR-Hass Consortium’s road annuity project, said the bond will have a tenor of eight years with a return benchmarked against interest rate for the government’s eight-year securities.

(Source: Business Daily) 

KRA loses Sh5.6bn fight with Coca-Cola bottlers

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has lost a historical case involving a Sh5.6 billion tax dispute with local Coca Cola bottlers after the Supreme Court declined a request to reopen the litigation that started over 10 years ago.

KRA wanted the top court to review the decision to dismiss the case.

But judges rejected the request and upheld an earlier decision dated September 22, 2021, on grounds that reopening the dispute, which started in 2012, is not only unconscionable but also insensitive and cruel.

“We note that the dispute commenced in the High Court in October 2012, 10 years ago, then moved to the Court of Appeal, over nine years ago in July 2013,” said a five-judge bench presided by Chief Justice Martha Koome.

“To start the case all over again, for no fault of the respondents, is not only unconscionable but also insensitive and cruel.”

The dispute involved the question of whether the soft drink company should pay taxes on costs incurred during washing and sanitising of returned bottles.

KRA was demanding tax arrears, penalties and interest for the period 2006 to 2009 relating to excise tax on returnable containers.

It had sued Coca-Cola’s local franchises -Mount Kenya Bottlers, Rift Valley Bottlers, Nairobi Bottlers and Kisii Bottlers.

The taxman had moved to the top court after three judges of the Court of Appeal overturned a High Court decision dated October 26, 2012, which allowed KRA to levy tax on returnable containers.

The Supreme Court judges unanimously held that KRA has not only been “injudicious (in the dispute) but also brazen” in flouting the directions of the court’s Deputy Registrar.

The court also ruled that KRA had not taken the matter with the seriousness deserved. 

(Source: Business Daily)

TANZANIA

Tanzania, Kenya trade approaches $1 billion mark

Bilateral trade between Tanzania and Kenya hit $905.5 million in the first 11 months of last year as their trade relations improved.

Records indicate that total trade between the two states for January to November 2021 trade picked up, enough signs of measures taken on long standing trade disputes.

Kenya imports from Tanzania stood at $501 million and exports $403.9 million during the period which followed President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s official visit to Nairobi last May. “The economies of the East African Community (EAC) region had also manifested resilience to the Covid-19,” the regional business body said yesterday.

The encouraging signs of increased trade between the two countries emerged on Wednesday during a trade facilitation forum at the Namanga border post.

Tanzania’s total increased marginally by 3.7 percent to $14.5 million in 2020 from $14 million in 2019.

The country’s main export destinations in the EAC during the year were Kenya at $230.2 million, Rwanda at $208 million, Uganda $191.3 million and Burundi at $179 million.

However, trade in services declined from the fourth quarter of 2019, hitting a decline of 67.9 percent in the third quarter of 2020, from a negative growth rate of 0.69 percent in 2019.

According to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) station manager at Namanga, Mr Joseph Moywaywa, the border clears an average of 250 trucks daily, most of them from Tanzania into Kenya.

“This is a three-fold increase in comparison to May last year,” he told a meeting attended by officials of trade facilitation agencies from both countries, traders and other business stakeholders.

(Source: The Citizen) 

Bond Yields to Sink Further

The government bond yields have continued to sink further in the first six weeks of the year, dropping faster than many forecasts.

The debt market analysts forecast a further decline in yields and prices increase as the 20-year Treasury bond goes for hammer today.

The analysts have it that the curves for the longer tenure bonds have already seen a sharp fall as  25-year paper yields dropped to an average of 13.41 per cent lower than the 20-year average yield of 14.07 per cent.

This had a knock-on 15-year paper, being the next attractive yield. Zan Securities Chief Executive Officer Raphael Masumbuko said in the fixed income market there has been immediate price adjustment along the yield curve, post primary auction results.

“We expect the auction for 20-year bonds to oversubscribe with yields further falling as investors demand for long term papers increases,” Mr Masumbuko said adding: “Activities in the secondary market slightly reduced [last] week with yields continuing to fall across the yield curve. The trades for the 15-year bonds have increased since the perpetual drop in yields of the 20 and 25-year bonds at the secondary market.”

Therefore, in today’s (Wednesday) auction debt market forecasters are expecting yields to further fall on the onset of the 20-year Treasury bond under reopening schedule. Vertex International Securities Chief Executive Officer Mateja Mgeta said the last Treasury bills auction results went against their expectation as the yield for 364-day bills decreased due to huge investors’ appetite.

“[However], we expect next week’s 20-year bond to oversubscribe with a further decrease in yields and a shoot in minimum successful price,” Mr Mgeta said. Zan further warned that the market will likely be going to a humped curve as the long end curve continues to fall while intermediate bonds increase. “As yields on the long end of the yield curve continue to fall we are likely going to see a humped yield curve,” Mr Masumbuko said.

(Source: Daily News)

UGANDA

BoU projects economy to grow at 6.5%

In the Monetary Statement issued by Bank of Uganda deputy governor Michael Atingi-Ego, the Central Bank said after assessing macroeconomic and balance of risks outlook, they had decided to keep the Central Bank Rate at 6.5 percent, which is consistent with meeting inflation target of 5 percent sustainably in the medium term while supporting economic growth recovery.

However, Dr Atingi-Ego warned that lower global growth, continued supply chain disruptions, and tighter global monetary and financing conditions could constrain external demand thus noting that recovery might remain fragile and uneven across sectors.

The Central Bank also noted that risks to growth outlook remain, resulting from uncertainty about the evolution of the pandemic and uncertainty in public investment.

Dr Atingi-Ego said slow execution of public investments and delays in oil investments could dampen growth outlook, exacerbated by a global economic slowdown, prolonged supply chain bottlenecks, and geopolitical tensions.

The Central Bank noted that local inflationary pressures remain subdued, but warned inflation could accelerate in months ahead owing to a rise in energy and food prices.

Household spending, particularly on services, is forecast to be higher due to the full reopening of the economy thus presenting the threat of a rise in inflation but will remain below the 5 percent target.

(Source: The Monitor) 

Govt fails to get firm promised land, writes off billions in taxes

Government failure to provide land to Oil Refinery Company has resulted in large tax write-offs and losses, the Auditor-General has said.

In April 2003, according to the Auditor-General’s report for the year ended June 2021, the government entered into an agreement with Oil Refinery Company for the development and enhancement of Uganda’s oil palm industry.

Under the agreement, the government was required to provide 26,500 hectares of land but has since failed to fulfill contractual obligations thus requiring massive tax write-offs.

According to the report, the government had in the agreement indicated that it would pay VAT on the products of all companies envisaged under the project from the first year of the project activities ending after a period of 11 years from the year of handing over the 26,500 hectares of land.

The company would then, the report notes, refund value added tax paid by government with interest over a period of eight years in eight equal installments, including accrued interest starting in the twelfth year.

However, due to the government’s failure to provide the balance of the required land, the Ministry of Finance, Mr Muwanga noted, has continued to settle all tax obligations on behalf of the company, writing off arrears worth UShs194 billion in the 2019/20 financial year while accumulated arrears worth Shs79.8b in the year under audit (2020/21).

The Auditor-General also expressed concern over continued buildup of government tax arrears. According to the report, as of June 30, 2021, a total of UShs212.7b has already accumulated in tax arrears, which continues to negatively impact revenue collection efforts by Uganda Revenue Authority.

During the period ended June 2019, the report noted, the Ministry of Finance wrote off tax arrears for different projects worth UShs809.7 billion.

(Source: The Monitor)

RWANDA

Deputies vote on the revised budget for 2021/2022

The General Assembly of the Chamber of Deputies voted on the bill amending Law No 031/2021 of 30/06/2021 determining the state budget for the year 2021/2022, in which the revised budget Rwf633.6 billion or 16.6%.

The budget voted for by Parliament in June 2021 amounted to 3,806.9 billion, an increase of Rwf633.6 billion, an increase of 16.6%; This increase in the total budget of Rwanda for the year 2021/2022 will amount to Rwf4,440.5 billion.

The current budget has gone from Rs 2,413.6 billion to Rs 2,784.9 billion, which is an increase of Rs 371.2 billion or 15.4%.

Some of the activities that have led to the increase include the launch of embassies that will cost 6.9 billion, some of which will be given to various leaders in car care centers which will cost 11.9 billion, there will be 5 billion that will be used to fill the gap in the school feeding program, Rwf4 billion will be used to pay for tuition. of the health insurance scheme, as well as an additional Rwf341.5 billion   for the payment of public debt and more .

The development budget has gone from Rwf 1,393.2 billion to Rs 1,655.6 billion, which is an increase of Rwf 262.4 billion or 18.8%.

Nearly $80 billion will be spent on various infrastructure projects such as water supply, electricity, roads, hospital construction, technology infrastructure and more.

The budget for public investment has gone from Frw 541.6 billion to RWf 498.1 billion FRW which means that it has been reduced by 43.6 billion or 8.1% mainly due to the change in the timing of donors’ funds.

(Source: Rwanda Broadcasting Agency)

Central Bank explains rising commodity prices

Food and commodity prices have been going up in recent months across the country raising concern among retailers and consumers on how it could impact the cost of living.

Increased food and commodity prices have consequently driven up inflation to 4.3 per cent in January 2022, according to the Central Bank. New projections show that it could rise past the 5 per cent threshold to around 7.5 per cent in 2022.

According to the Central Bank, among the key drivers of inflation include the global rise in fuel and petroleum prices, food items as well as education fees.

As the global economy recovers and activity peaks, demand for fuel and food items have driven up prices. Among the ways the Central Bank is responding to the challenge is by revising the Key Repo rate from 4.5 per cent to 5 per cent.

Adjusting  its key repo rate to 5 per cent, is a signal to banks to tighten lending which will  have an effect of reducing liquidity consequently curbing inflation.

Central Bank Governor John Rwangombwa allayed concerns on the depreciation of the franc against the dollar noting that the depreciation experienced was a result of trade imbalance as imports remain significantly high keeping the demand for the dollar high and consequent depreciation.

As a country that is investing in multiple industries and sector, he said that there is demand for multiple capital goods consequently demand for the dollar.

As a consequence to the depreciation trends and the structure of the Rwanda economy, the depreciation of the franc leads to a scenario whereby imports are not cheaper than locally produced goods and hence do not stifle emergence of the Made in Rwanda initiative.

(Source: The New Times)

ETHIOPIA

Ethiopia Generates 7,668GWh Power in 6 Months

Ethiopia has generated 7,668GWh (gigawatt-hours) of electricity during the first months of the Ethiopian fiscal year that started on July 8, 2021, Ethiopia Electric Power (EEP) related, showing a two percent decline compared to the same period the previous year.

The decline in two percent, EEP noted during its assessment of its six-month performance, has to do with the conflict in northern Ethiopia, which made it difficult to get data from Tekeze Hydropower Station and Ashegoda Windfarm, which are located in the conflict area. 

Regardless, EEP pointed out, it has achieved 84.4 percent of its power generation target during the period.

Out of the total 7,668GWh power generated, hydropower contributed the lion’s share of 7,372 GWh, followed by 271 GWh from wind, and 25 GWh from geothermal sources, EEP indicated

(Source: 2merkato)

Ethiopia  Earns Over 658 Million USD from Coffee, Tea and Spices Exports

The nation has earned 658.1 million USD from coffee, tea and spices export, exceeding the planned 461.81 million USD during the past seven months of the Ethiopian budget year.

Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority said it planned to export 451.321.73 tons of coffee, tea and spices to secure 461.81 million USD.

It exceeded the planned exports by exporting 169,748.30 tons, which is up 143 percent from the target.

Compared to the same period last year, 52.43 percent increase in amount and 302.51 million USD in revenue has been registered.

Of the total exports, the lion’s share went to coffee and 162,818.04 tons of coffee was exported, earning 645.10 million USD.

Germany is the largest buyer of Ethiopian coffee, followed by Saudi Arabia and Japan.

Rise in coffee prices, rise in productivity, improved control system and solving problems promptly in collaboration with stakeholders contributed to the achievements.

(Source: Ethiopian News Agency)

SOMALIA

Famine Stalks Nation as Malnutrition and Water Crises Take Hold

The U.N. Children’s fund warns that famine is stalking Somalia, as years of climate-related disasters have destroyed crops, dried up water sources and created an environment in which deadly diseases are flourishing.

Somalia is facing a food, malnutrition, and water crisis after three years of consecutive drought, compounded by heavy flooding, and an infestation of desert locusts. The U.N. Children’s Fund, UNICEF, reports that more than four million people, a quarter of the population, need humanitarian food assistance.

It says 1.4 million children are acutely malnourished, including 330,000 at risk of dying if they do not receive special treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

Additionally, UNICEF’s chief of communication in Somalia, Victor Chinyama, said millions of people need emergency water supplies. Speaking from the capital, Mogadishu, he said lack of water is leading to serious outbreaks of diseases, such as measles, and diarrheal diseases including cholera.

He urged the international community to act now to support Somalia and avoid a repeat of the 2011 famine, which killed an estimated quarter-million people.

UNICEF is appealing for $48 million to carry out its humanitarian operation. It says $7 million is urgently needed by March to purchase high energy vitamin fortified food. It says the lives of 100,000 severely acutely malnourished children depend upon receiving this treatment.

(Source: Voice of America)

SUDAN 

Sudan farmers continue to face junta clampdown

Farmers in Sudan’s Northern State have met with the head of the Sovereignty Council, Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, in an attempt to break the impasse. Military forces broke up the barricades in the Abri area of Sudan’s Northern State Wednesday afternoon. The forces then proceeded to open the Sheryan El Shimal road (Artery of the North), which links Sudan with Egypt, in order to let lorries pass.

In a meeting led by the head of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council,Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, the government came to an agreement with protesters on the matter of the electricity price hike. The agreement outlined that the agricultural sector would be exempt from the raised electricity tariff until the end of the winter season on April 30, on condition that the blockade is lifted. The agreement also stated that after April 30, a new set of conditions would be agreed upon with the farmers.

Activists reported to Radio Dabanga that the road continues to be closed at several points in Northern State, amid fears that the authorities will break up the barricades using force.

The authorities earlier tore down barricades near the Hafir Mashho and Kubri El Hamdab.

Since January 9, farmers and members of Resistance Committees in Northern State have continued to close the Sheryan El Shimal (Artery of the North) road in El Borgeig, Abri, and other points, to protest the military coup of October 25 and to demand the abolition of the new electricity tariff.

Last year, the Ministry of Finance planned a significant increase in electricity prices for 2022, as it decided to continue with lifting subsidies on consumer goods, in order to meet the demands of the World Bank. In early January 2021, the power tariffs already increased by 500 per cent.

(Source: Radio Dabanga) 

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