Africa

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said his administration’s drive to turn the economy around will be protracted and is being frustrated by the rapid spread of the coronavirus around the globe and other factors beyond its control, Bloomberg News reported. “These are trying and testing times,” Ramaphosa said at a two-hour briefing to journalists in Cape Town on Tuesday. “I like to believe that we have entered an era where there is no longer any objection to reforms and transformation. We are going to reform.

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The Congress of South African Trade Unions expects a plan that it’s proposing to save Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. from its debt burden to be ready within weeks, said the labor federation’s parliamentary coordinator, Bloomberg News reported. The labor group, an ally of the ruling African National Congress, has proposed using the state pension fund manager, the Public Investment Corp., and government-owned development finance institutions to cut the power utility’s debt by 254 billion rand ($16.3 billion) to 200 billion rand.

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Administrators for South Africa’s loss-making state airline have been given an extra month to complete a turnaround plan, Bloomberg News reported. The so-called Business Rescue Practitioners can now file their report on South African Airways by the end of March, they said in a statement on Friday. A majority of creditors agreed to the extension. Bloomberg News earlier reported the development. South Africa’s government placed SAA into a local form of bankruptcy protection late last year, a move designed to end a cycle of state bailouts and mounting losses.

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Kenya’s government agreed to loan its cash-strapped national carrier 5 billion shillings ($49.5 million) for working capital and to enable it carry out a scheduled engine overhaul for its E190 Embraer fleet, Bloomberg News reported. Kenya Airways Plc., which is 48.9% owned by the government, is in discussions with the state and other entities in the nation’s aviation industry that include a “possible restructuring of the operations and corporate structure of KQ,” the company said in an emailed statement. The deal is subject to regulatory approvals, it said.

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South Africa’s government has announced plans to slash its public sector wage bill, setting President Cyril Ramaphosa on a collision course with the country’s powerful trade unions as he seeks to fix the biggest ever fiscal deficit in the post-apartheid era and avoid another ratings downgrade, the Financial Times reported. Tito Mboweni, Mr Ramaphosa’s finance minister, said in a budget speech on Wednesday that the state plans to cut 160bn rand ($10.5bn) from civil-servant pay in the next three years in order to halt a rapid rise in public debts between 2020 and 2021.

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Latin American and sub-Saharan African countries have taken out at least $152 billion in oil-, mineral- and metal-backed loans from China since 2004, easy money that has contributed to crippling debt levels, an NGO report said on Thursday, Reuters reported. The Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) calculated that, including loans from other countries such as Russia and global commodity traders, the total amounted to $164 billion. Two Chinese state banks, China Development Bank and Eximbank, alone accounted for 77% of the loans, NRGI said in its report.

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South Africa almost doubled the level of funding for the national airline to 16.4 billion rand ($1.1 billion), cash that will go toward supporting a restructuring plan for the technically insolvent carrier, Bloomberg News reported. The bailout will be used to service and pay debt previously guaranteed by the state over the “medium term,” Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said in his budget speech in Cape Town on Wednesday. The amount compares with 9.2 billion rand earmarked for South African Airways in October.

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Domestic Ivorian cocoa exporters fear going bankrupt because they cannot compete with the higher prices multinational companies are paying for beans, the Ivory Coast’s traders association (GNI) told Reuters, Reuters reported. Western chocolate companies such as Lindt, Hershey and Ferrero pay a premium for sustainable cocoa made with fair trade certification, buying mainly from multinational companies such as Cargill, Olam and Barry Callebaut.

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Ghana is considering to buy out the debts of independent power producers as a step toward restructuring contracts and reducing its power bill, according to people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg News reported. West Africa’s second-biggest economy currently pays as much as $500 million per year for power it doesn’t consume and is in talks to end the practice. Deals that obliged the government to pay for power regardless of whether or not the supplies were needed, have left the country with almost double the generation capacity it requires to meet peak demand of 2,700 megawatts.

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Hard-currency bond investors have already downgraded South Africa to junk. The premium investors demand to the country’s dollar debt rather than U.S. Treasuries climbed above the emerging-market average in October, shortly before Moody’s Investors Service cut the country’s credit outlook to negative, Bloomberg News reported. It has now been above the mean for the longest period since Bloomberg started tracking the data in 1997. Previously, South Africa’s sovereign spread crossed above the average for brief periods only during times of stress.

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