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Afreximbank to Unveil Initiative Against Africa’s $50b Illicit Flows

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President, AfreximBank, Dr. Benedict Oramah
  • Afreximbank to Unveil Initiative Against Africa’s $50b Illicit Flows

African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has said it would soon unveil an online tracking scheme that would help to fight the perennial illicit financial flows in the continent now estimated at $50 billion yearly.

Tagged: “African Customer Due Diligence Repository Platform”, the regional trade bank said the initiative would provide a centralised source of primary data required to conduct customer due diligence checks on African counterparties.

The platform would also allow subscribers to conduct due diligences at a low cost, thereby decreasing the cost of trade finance in Africa.

The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning of Rwanda, Claver Gatete, at the third yearly Customer Due Diligence and Corporate Governance Forum organised Afreximbank, in Kigali, raised the alarm over the rising level of illicit flows from the continent.

The forum, which gathered bankers, regulators, and representatives of financial institutions and corporate entities from Africa, also attracted the International Anti-Corruption Academy in Vienna, the International Finance Corporation.

The minister said the yearly loss to the beleaguered region should be a source of concern to everyone, especially as access to finance and capital was a key constraint to growth and economic development.

According to him, over the last 50 years, Africa had lost in excess of $1.7 trillion to illicit financial flows and that amounted to roughly equalled all the official development assistance the region had received during the same period.

He stressed that illicit activities had significant implications for growth and economic development and for the financial soundness of banks and corporates.

Gatete pointed out that these activities undercut legitimate economic activities, discourage investments, breed suspicion and undermine government legitimacy.

He urged African financial institutions, regulatory bodies and governments to work together to establish mechanisms that would ensure a healthier financial landscape and help prevent financial crimes as well as strengthen investors’ confidence in the continent.

However, Afreximbank Executive Vice-President, Corporate Governance and Legal Services, Dr. George Elombi, affirmed that the high cost of conducting customer due diligence adversely affected the stability of the African financial sector and the productivity of corporate entities.

“Financial crimes, compounded by weak corporate governance capacity, have the potential to derail legitimate economic activity and slow down the development of financial markets essential for optimal allocation of capital to support the structural transformation of resource-constrained African economies,” he said.

Unveiling the plans of Afreximbank to support the fight against illicit financial flows, he said the institution was increasing awareness on the need to look inward for financial resources through its Africa Direct Investment Initiative.

The move, he said, was in addition to promoting the use of African credit rating agencies by African entities as a way to commoditise corporate and banking-related information for greater access to credit at reduced compliance costs.

Meanwhile, the bank has said that Africa must institute stronger financial control mechanisms and capacity building for customer due diligence and corporate governance.

This, it said, was to attract capital competitively and ensure greater financial stability and sustainable development.

Besides, strong corporate governance was unanimously assessed by participants, as critical to ensuring the integrity and credibility of systems, as well as reduction of vulnerability of African economies to instability and shocks.

Again, boards and senior management of African financial institutions were advised to assess the adequacy and accuracy of information, while government bodies and institutions are to foster initiatives that promote good corporate governance practices.

The Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, John Rangombwa, recalled that previous global financial crises had shown that weaknesses in governance contributed to systemic vulnerability and failures.

Given the fast-changing business dynamics and the growth of online banking, mobile payments and other electronic platforms, he said the need for a strong technology-driven approach to corporate governance and customer due diligence has become necessary.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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New COVID Variant: Brent Crude Sheds Over $10 to $72 Per Barrel

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Crude oil - Investors King

Brent crude oil extended decline by over $10 on Friday on concerns that a new COVID variant called B.1.1.529 could force economies to impose restrictions and slow down global demand.

Brent crude, against which Nigerian crude oil is measured, dropped from $82.55 per barrel it attained on Thursday to as low as $72.09 on Friday at 7:20 pm Nigerian time before it rebounded slightly to $72.98 per barrel as shown below.

Global financial markets plunged across the board following reports that two cases of the new heavily mutated COVID variant from South Africa have been reported in Hong Kong and that the United Kingdom, one of the most affected nations during COVID-19 with over 140,000 deaths has halted flights from six South African nations to prevent a potential breakout of the new COVID variant.

Experts are concerned that the new variant outbreak would slow down global growth and increase global risks going into the new year.

According to Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA, “Even without severe restrictions, people will adopt more caution which will weigh on demand, as OPEC+ has repeatedly stated and factored into their models.”

However, heavy crude oil-consuming nations like the United States, China and others that have been calling for more supply will now enjoy substantial price reduction if this continues, therefore, Joe Biden may not need to release millions of barrels into the global market.

“Crude is back at levels last seen at the start of October and if this risk aversion continues in the weeks ahead, there’s plenty of room to fall. While OPEC+ would likely have avoided altering production plans next week or in the months following in response to the SPR releases, it may soon feel its hand is being forced. Next week may come too soon but another major outbreak could see them slam on the brakes,” Craig Erlam added.

 

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Flight to Safety as Variant Fears Soar

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By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA

Risk assets are getting pummelled at the end of the week as a new Covid variant sparks fears of new restrictions and lockdowns.

The most worrying thing about the new strain at the moment is how little we know about it, with early indications being that it could be more problematic than delta. The biggest fear is that it will be resistant to vaccines and be a massive setback for countries that have reaped the benefits from their rollouts.

We’ll no doubt learn more in the days and weeks ahead but for now, fear of the unknown will weigh heavily going into the weekend and could carry over into next week. We’re seeing a typical flight to safety in the markets with equities, commodity currencies and oil getting whacked and traditional safe havens like bonds, gold, the yen and swissy getting plenty of love.

In times like this, we get a true sense of what investors consider to be real, reliable safe-havens. And bitcoin is off 8% today which has delivered a fatal blow to its safe-haven credentials, putting an end to another crypto myth that has surfaced over the years despite there being zero evidence to back it up. Maybe one day investors will have a different opinion but right now, when their cash is at stake, they’re sticking with safe-haven assets with a track record, as they should.

Pfizer has sought to calm nerves, stating that should a vaccine-escape variant emerge, it could produce a tailor-made vaccine in about 100 days. Three months can feel like a long time but when compared to where we were 18 months ago, that is very reassuring as a worst-case. It may not be quick enough to prevent more restrictions this winter though.

Erdogan standing firm on interest rates

Turkish President Erdogan is successfully talking down the lira once again, claiming there’s no turning back from the new economy program and that interest rates will decline. It’s incredible to see a President have such disregard for something that will have such a huge impact on so many people. It’s like he’s playing with the markets to see what he can get away with. In a sign of Erdoganomics fatigue, the currency has quickly recouped the more than 2% losses it incurred immediately following the comments. A sign that these antics are now expected and priced in, it seems.

Oil slides on variant concerns

Oil is among the assets taking a heavy beating on the variant news today, falling more than 5% as traders fret about the impact on restrictions and behaviour this winter. Even without severe restrictions, people will adopt more caution which will weigh on demand, as OPEC+ has repeatedly stated and factored into their models.

It seems the US and other consuming countries have played their hand too soon. Sure, Biden will score some political points ahead of the midterms as voters see prices at the pump fall, which was ultimately the goal. But should prices spike again early next year, what then?

Crude is back at levels last seen at the start of October and if this risk aversion continues in the weeks ahead, there’s plenty of room to fall. While OPEC+ would likely have avoided altering production plans next week or in the months following in response to the SPR releases, it may soon feel its hand is being forced. Next week may come too soon but another major outbreak could see them slam on the brakes.

Gold jumps on safe-haven appeal

Times like this are when gold shines and we’re seeing investors flock back to an old reliable friend today. It has pulled a little off its highs after hitting $1,815 earlier in the session but it remains above $1,800 at the time of writing. It’s an interesting one for gold and bonds, as the situation now is very different from last year.

Central banks can’t just turn on the taps again with a “whatever it takes” avalanche of cheap cash as they have before. Inflation is a real problem and lockdowns will exacerbate the problem. Sure, they may be a little more patient and hold off on raising rates next month in the case of some or accelerating tapering in the case of the Fed, but they can hardly ramp up their stimulus measures in any considerable way. Their hands are tied.

This should still be bullish for gold as, at the very least, central banks will delay tightening until they have a better idea of the risks to the economy. Allowing inflation to run hot unaddressed could increase the hedge appeal of gold again, particularly in these uncertain times.

Bitcoin remains a speculative risk asset, for now

In recent weeks we’ve seen that, in times of real uncertainty, bitcoin has not done well as an inflation hedge or a safe haven asset. There’s no doubt it’s a fascinating tradable instrument and a highly speculative one, but it’s quite clear now that it’s a risk asset and nothing more. Not at the moment anyway. Who knows what the future holds.

It’s taking a real beating today, off around 8% and looking vulnerable. Key support around $55,500 has fallen which will now draw attention back to $50,000. I’m sure soon enough the eternal crypto bulls will pile back in and smell a bargain but as we’ve seen so often in the past, bitcoin is capable of enormous gains and eye-watering corrections.

If this new variant triggers major risk aversion in the markets, it could come under serious pressure. Unless of course, the inflation narrative catches again. No sign of it yet but, as ever with crypto, it has an incredible ability to find the bullish case in anything. Maybe this will be next.

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Markets to Wobble Then Shrug-off New Covid Variant

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The new Covid-19 variant will temporarily wobble financial markets, but concerns will be quickly shrugged off by them, predicts the CEO of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory, asset management and fintech organisations.

The prediction from deVere Group’s Nigel Green comes as a new Covid-19 strain discovered in southern Africa weighed on global markets on Thursday.  Travel stocks, hospitality firms, and bank stocks were amongst the hardest hit.

The World Health Organization will meet on Friday to analyse the new variant. The meeting will determine if the B.1.1.529 strain should be designated a variant of “interest” or of “concern.” The variant, which was identified on Tuesday, is said to carry an “extremely high number” of mutations.

On Friday, Asia Pacific markets were down around 2%, European stock futures predict a more than 2% drop at opening trades. Meanwhile, U.S. stock futures are also set to open lower, trading only until 1p.m. after Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday.

Mr Green says: “Experts are determining whether the new variant is more transmissible or more deadly than previous ones.

“The fact that a new strain has been discovered and, critically, that at this stage we know little about it has caused jitters in the financial markets, which loathe uncertainty. The headlines have caused a knee-jerk reaction.

“In addition, Wall Street was closed yesterday meaning that a large bulk of global trades were missing, making other moves more pronounced.”

He continues: “This wobble is likely to be temporary with markets remaining bullish for the time being.

“Global shares have jumped 16% this year with investors focusing on the post-pandemic economic rebound. They largely shrugged off the Delta variant that caused a mini wave of market nerves in the summer.”

He goes on to add: “It’s likely that markets will do the same with this new variant.

“This is because, as Delta showed, mutations are now expected and we have more of a blueprint about how to deal with them.

“Instead, global financial markets will be focusing on other pressing issues including high inflation caused by supply side bottle necks and the likelihood of a quicker pull away from ultra-loose monetary environment.”

The deVere CEO concludes: “Markets will temporarily wobble on the uncertainty of this new Covid variant, but will remain bullish and largely focused on other issues.”

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