Africa

Investors in Ethiopia’s Eurobonds are losing out on the rally in emerging-market debt. The country’s 2024 dollar securities dropped for a fourth day on Monday as conflict in the northern Tigray region continued, Bloomberg News reported. Clashes between government soldiers and fighters loyal to the region’s ruling party stoked fears of a broader civil war at a time when the government is struggling to end ethnic violence shaking Africa’s second-most populous country.

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Zambia is doing everything possible to avoid a sovereign debt default later this week, including sharing information on its Chinese debt with holders of its dollar-denominated bonds, its finance minister told Reuters on Monday, Reuters reported. Sources close to the main committee of bondholders, however, said little progress had been made in debt talks. Even before the coronavirus pandemic caused a global economic slowdown, Zambia was struggling with mounting debt due to low prices for copper, its main export.

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Money owed to aircraft lessors and some creditors of South African Airways is not covered by a 10.5 billion rand ($665 million) government bailout, SAA’s administrators said, Reuters reported. South Africa’s government allocated the latest cash injection for SAA in last month’s mid-term budget, but says it will not put further money into the airline. SAA’s administrators told Reuters on Thursday that 1.7 billion rand owed to lessors and 600 million rand which it owes to creditors from before the airline went into administration nearly a year ago would not be covered.

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Kenya is holding talks with the International Monetary Fund on a new lending facility as the East African nation faces huge budget deficits worsened by the coronavirus crisis. The government has abandoned expensive commercial debt to cut back on ballooning repayments at a time when its revenue collection has been squeezed by the pandemic, Reuters reported. Tobias Rasmussen, the IMF’s resident representative in Nairobi, told Reuters on Tuesday that the new facility was being discussed following a Kenyan request that preceded the pandemic.

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When South African president Cyril Ramaphosa recently extolled in parliament his government’s provision of R500bn ($31bn) to steer the nation’s battered economy through the pandemic, there was some awkward fine print for the country’s banks, the Financial Times reported.

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Holders of Zambia’s Eurobonds plan to reject a government request to defer payments on its sovereign dollar debt, according to four sources, pushing the country closer towards a protracted debt overhaul and possible hard default, Reuters reported. Zambia, which was struggling with mounting debts even before the coronavirus pandemic as a result of the plunge in prices for copper, its main export, has three outstanding dollar-denominated Eurobonds with a total face value of $3 billion.

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Like the coronavirus crisis itself, the response of the world’s governments has been on a scale never seen before, the Financial Times reported. The IMF estimates that fiscal spending and tax cuts worldwide add up to more than $11.7tn so far, on top of a monetary policy response in which trillions of dollars have been pumped into the global financial system by the US Federal Reserve and other central banks. Old policy prescriptions have been torn up. Once the guardian of austerity, the IMF has urged countries to spend as much as possible.

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South Africa’s Competition Tribunal on Friday approved a rescue deal for struggling airline Comair on condition that the carrier freezes job cuts for three years and investors allocate shares to a special purpose black empowerment vehicle, Reuters reported. Comair, which operates the British Airways franchise in South Africa and budget airline Kulula.com, was forced into a form of bankruptcy protection in May after South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown halted its operations two months earlier.

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Chinese financial institutions, not only the country’s official creditors, are working to help ease the debt woes of African nations, which have worsened due to the pandemic-induced global economic downturn, Beijing’s top Africa diplomat said on Friday, Reuters reported. China, Africa’s largest creditor, has agreed to take part in a World Bank and International Monetary Fund-supported initiative to suspend debt service on official bilateral debt for poorer countries.

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The South African government pledged to freeze public sector wages for the next three years to contain a yawning budget deficit but forecast that debt would peak at a higher level in a mid-term budget unveiled on Wednesday, Reuters reported. Africa’s most industrialised economy was already in recession before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and one of the world’s strictest lockdowns has exacerbated its woes. The wage-freeze plan raises the risk of strikes by the country’s 1.3 million civil servants and follows a pledge in February by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to curb a rising wage bill.

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