The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is eyeing a new wave of expansion into sub-Saharan Africa and new parts of the Middle East in the coming years that could raise its lending by as much as a third, its President told Reuters.
Established in 1991 to invest in the ex-communist economies of eastern Europe and owned mainly by big Western governments, the EBRD has been rapidly expanding over the last decade to operate in more than 30 countries from Morocco to Mongolia.
But with capital still abundant, the bank is looking to advance further south and plans to get the ball rolling when its shareholders gather in Jordan next month for their annual meeting. Suma Chakrabarti, who has led the EBRD for six years, said there would no decision made at the upcoming meeting on the expansion but said he aimed to kick off the discussion.
“The debate is starting with our shareholders: ‘Would you like us, gradually, incrementally to go to a few more places maybe in sub-Saharan Africa in particular’” Chakrabarti said in an interview. New countries of operation would have to be democracies or at least committed to becoming a democracy, and they must also aim for the kind of market-based economies that the development bank has always focused its efforts on.
“I would be surprised if we didn’t get some positive noises because there are quite a lot of countries who have very strong commercial links into the neighbouring countries of the Maghreb and Sahel,” Chakrabarti said, referring to the area from the top of Africa to the bottom of the Sahara desert.
If shareholders give the nod next month, it would take around a year of analysis on what would be required financially, he added. If that all works out, the final green light could then be given at its 2020 annual meeting.
The move would represent the latest evolution from the EBRD’s post-Soviet era roots and come as Cold War-style tensions between the EBRD’s main Western shareholders and Russia — for a long time the bank’s largest market — are rising. Having already stopped new investments in Russia in 2014, Chakrabarti said there was no talk of any further punitive measures following the recent ratcheting up of U.S. sanctions.
The bank has no exposure to any of the entities targeted by the latest sanctions, he added.
Tincan Customs chief to implement 48-hour cargo clearance
Customs Area Controller (CAC), Tin Can Island Port Command, Musa Baba Abdullahi has reiterated the command’s unshaken commitment to achieve 48hour cargo clearance from the port without compromising revenue collection and national security.
The customs chief said efforts are being put in place to maximise benefits of technology and build the command’s manpower to meet with the growing challenges of modern trade.
While addressing maritime journalists in his Apapa office, Musa identified swift dispute resolution as a key component to facilitate trade. He said the command has put in place a faster mechanism to address any area of disagreement in interpretations of guidelines for duty collection and other related matters.
He added that a committee put in place for disputes resolution meets as soon as any dispute arises to avoid port users incurring costs caused as a result of delays in resolving such disputes.
According to him, there is a quicker process of bringing issues to his attention and contacting the headquarters where necessary to avoid delays associated with such disagreements. He said the command has stepped up efforts at keeping officers and relevant stakeholders abreast with the use of technology for the purpose of customs operations.
The Controller disclosed that senior officers and licensed customs agents are being trained at the command’s Information Communication Technology (ICT) Centre on the latest Nigeria Customs Information System (NICIS 2) in batches.
Musa said the training and retraining of customs personnel and stakeholders will continue with a view to getting as many persons as possible knowledgeable in the workings of the system.
He also stressed the need for all stakeholders to increase their levels of compliance with rules and improve on their knowledge as ways of achieving seamless flow of trade thereby achieving faster clearance of goods from the port.
The Controller also advised the maritime media to uphold the ethics of their profession and be fair and truthful in all they do.
Early rainfall to boost Nigeria’s cocoa mid-crop
Nigeria’s mid-crop cocoa output for 2017/18 could rise by 15 per cent from last season, helped by a mix of rainfall and sunshine in the main growing regions which has helped the trees, President of Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN) Sayina Riman said in a recent interview with Bloomberg.
Drought cut last season’s mid-crop harvest by 40 per cent. The dry weather continued into the main crop of the new season.
Riman said the drought affected the trees, reducing output of between 300,000 tonnes and 320,000 tonnes projected at the beginning of the 2017/18 season.
He said that early rains in March and April have helped boost the mid-crop, which could see the season’s output close at around 290,000.
Riman farms on a 170 hectare cocoa plantation in Nigeria’s second-biggest region of Cross Rivers.
The cocoa season in Nigeria runs from October to September, with an October-to-February main crop and a smaller light or mid-crop that begins in April or May and runs through September.
“Despite the drought of last year which affected cocoa we believe we would be close to 290,000 tonnes for 2017/18 season,” Riman told Reuters.
The International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO), however, gives much lower estimates of Nigerian cocoa output. It forecast last season’s production at 225,000 tonnes.
Riman did not give a reason for the discrepancy. Nigerian government production figures are also significantly higher than ICCO estimates.
Nigeria has recently emerged from recession and a currency crisis which caused a chronic dollar shortage, forcing exporters to under-invoice their goods in order to use the foreign exchange black market to get premium for their hard currency.
The action caused the West African country slip to the sixth producer of cocoa in the world at the peak of the crisis. Riman said Nigeria was getting back to number four grower as exporters now use the official currency markets.
Riman said Nigeria was working on improving its bean quality especially with renewed demand from Europe.
However, bean count, a measure of the number of beans needed to produce 100 grams of cocoa, reached as high as 140 for the main crop.
Rising Nigerian bonds drags yields down
Nigeria’s local-currency bonds are on a roll, rising for the last eight days and driving their yields below Turkey’s for the first time in more than two years.
The average rate on Nigerian government bonds has fallen around 400 basis since an August-peak to 13 per cent. Yields are now 100 basis points below the Central Bank of Nigeria’s benchmark interest rate of 14 per cent, where its been held since July 2016.
Investors have piled into the naira market thanks to slowing inflation, a stable currency and rising Brent crude prices, which climbed about 25 per cent in the past six months to more than $70 a barrel. In contrast, they’ve turned bearish on Turkey, which has the worst-performing local bonds in emerging markets this year, because of accelerating inflation and loose monetary policy.
Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, may be tempted to commence his long-touted easing cycle and help revive the economy that has faltered since the 2014 oil crash. While that would reduce the attractiveness of naira assets, Nigerian yields are still high relative to other major emerging markets. Aside from Turkey, Argentina and Egypt’s bonds are the only ones to yield more in the Bloomberg Barclays EM Local Currency Index.
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