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Currency Swap Deal With China’ll Support Naira — Ecobank

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  • Currency Swap Deal With China’ll Support Naira — Ecobank

The $2.5bn bilateral currency swap deal between Nigeria and China is likely to reduce further the strong demand for the United States dollar and support the naira, analysts at Ecobank Capital have said.

The Central Bank of Nigeria early this month signed the deal with the People’s Bank of China, making Nigeria, the third country in Africa (after South Africa and Egypt) to sign such a deal with China.

The agreement will allow the two countries to swap a total of 15 billion renminbi for N720bn, or vice versa, in the next three years. The deal can be extended by mutual consent.

The currency swap was calculated at the CBN’s interbank rate of N305:$1, rather than the Nigerian Foreign Exchange Fixings rate of N338.7:$1.

“This implies that we are unlikely to see any unification between Nigerian exchange rates anytime soon,” the analysts said in a note.

The deal aims to facilitate bilateral trade and investment, and to promote financial stability and broader economic cooperation between the two countries.

The analysts said it would also help the Nigeria to position itself as a trading hub with China in the West African sub-region.

They noted that the agreement would provide naira liquidity to Chinese firms looking to do business with Nigeria and provide the RMB liquidity to Nigerian firms looking to do business with China.

This, according to the analysts, would help in achieving effectiveness and efficiency in trade transactions between the two countries, without being exposed to the challenge of seeking another foreign currency.

“In terms of the impact, we believe that pressure on Nigerian importers who need the US dollars to import goods from China is likely to dissipate, improving the CBN’s management of the country’s foreign exchange reserves,” they said.

Nigeria’s forex reserves have improved over the past year and stood at $47bn as of April 2018 from $30.9bn a year ago, reflecting improved oil receipts alongside significant foreign portfolio investment flows via the Investor and Exporter window introduced in April 2017.

The CBN has also diversified its forex reserves away from the dollar by switching into yuan, which currently represents approximately a tenth of its total reserves, according to the analysts.

They noted that with improved trading activity, stronger forex reserves and continued CBN support, the official exchange rate had been static at N360:$1.

“In the light of this new currency swap, we expect a strengthening bias on the naira in the near term as this agreement is likely to improve forex liquidity and lead to higher flows from China.”

According to Ecobank, the CBN is likely to retain its exchange rate at N305-306:$1 and maintain interventions in the Secondary Market Intervention Sales windows at the NIFEX exchange rate of N327-340:$1.

“By year end, our expectations of lower oil prices and increased FPI exits from naira assets ahead of the 2019 elections are likely to offset some of the gains, resulting in softer naira and bearish activity in the bonds market,” the analysts added.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Economy

African Economy Set for Steady Growth: 4% Projected for 2025

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Experts are forecasting a robust growth trajectory of 4% for the continent in 2025.

This optimistic projection was highlighted during the ongoing Afreximbank annual meetings, incorporating the Africaribbean Trade and Investment Forum, held recently in Nassau, The Bahamas.

Yemi Kale, Group Chief Economist and Managing Director of Research and International Cooperation at Afreximbank, presented the 2024 African Trade Report and Economic Outlook, saying the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is significant in driving economic integration and growth.

The projected growth rate of 4% for 2025 reflects a steady recovery path for Africa, building on the expected 3.5% growth anticipated for 2024.

This positive outlook comes at a crucial time when African economies are navigating challenges posed by global economic dynamics, including inflationary pressures and supply chain disruptions.

Kale underscored the resilience of intra-African trade, which expanded by 3.2% in 2023 despite a 6.3% overall contraction in Africa’s trade volumes.

This resilience is a testament to the AfCFTA’s potential to bolster regional trade ties and reduce dependency on external markets.

The Afreximbank report also delved into macroeconomic environments, trade patterns, and sovereign debt sustainability dynamics, providing policymakers and business leaders with actionable insights to navigate complexities in global markets effectively.

Nomusa Dube-Ncube, Premier of Kwazulu-Natal, highlighted Africa’s modest share of global GDP and manufacturing output, emphasizing the untapped potential within intra-African trade.

She noted that while Africa currently accounts for only 3% of world trade, intra-regional trade is steadily increasing, indicating a growing economic ecosystem within the continent.

Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC), echoed the sentiment, advocating for enhanced trade between Africa and the Caribbean.

The ITC projects trade in goods and services between these regions to reach $1 billion by 2028, underscoring the mutually beneficial opportunities for economic expansion.

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Nigeria Sees 95% Surge in Food Imports Despite Emergency on Food Production

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Nigeria’s food import bill has surged to a five-year high in the first quarter of 2024, despite the federal government declaring a state of emergency on food production.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reveals a 95.28 percent increase in food imports to N920.54 billion from January to March, compared to N471.39 billion in the same period last year.

This alarming rise comes amid soaring food inflation, which hit a record 40.5 percent in April, reflecting a 15.92 percent year-on-year increase.

The sharp inflation has left many Nigerians struggling to afford a balanced diet, exacerbating the food security crisis in Africa’s most populous nation.

In March, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu emphasized the government’s commitment to self-sufficiency in food production, stating that Nigeria would not rely on imports to stabilize prices.

“We will not allow the importation of food but rather turn the lack in the country into abundance,” Tinubu declared. However, the latest import figures suggest that this goal remains elusive.

The NBS Foreign Trade Statistics report highlights that the value of food imports via maritime, air, and land routes surged 29.4 percent from N711.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Major agricultural goods imported included durum wheat from Canada and Lithuania, valued at N130.26 billion and N98.63 billion, respectively. Frozen blue whitings from the Netherlands accounted for N16.67 billion.

Wheat imports alone constituted N519.75 billion of the total food import bill. The average cost of wheat imports, a significant driver of the food import value, increased by 33 percent compared to the previous quarter’s value of N391.01 billion.

The rising importation of wheat reflects its popularity among Nigerian consumers amid skyrocketing prices of close substitutes like garri and rice.

Overall, Nigeria’s total imports for Q1 2024 amounted to N12.64 trillion, representing a 39.65 percent increase from N9.05 trillion in Q4 2023 and a 95.53 percent rise from N6.47 trillion in Q1 2023. Food imports accounted for 7.3 percent of total imports during the period under review.

The bulk of Nigeria’s imports came from Asia, China, Europe, America, and Africa. Mineral fuels topped the import category with N4.44 trillion, representing 35.09 percent of total imports.

Machinery and transport equipment followed with N3.17 trillion, contributing 25.08 percent, and chemicals and related products at N1.79 trillion, making up 14.13 percent of total imports.

Despite the federal government’s initiatives to boost local food production and reduce dependency on imports, the latest data underscores the persistent challenges facing Nigeria’s agricultural sector.

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Ethiopia Boosts Spending by 21%, Eyes IMF Program for Economic Relief

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Ethiopia has announced a 21% increase in its 2025 budget, marking the first budget since defaulting on a Eurobond payment and committing to economic reform discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The nation’s Finance Minister, Ahmed Shide, revealed the new budget details to lawmakers on Tuesday, outlining plans to spend 971.2 billion birr ($16.9 billion) in the fiscal year starting July 2024.

The increased budget reflects Ethiopia’s commitment to addressing its economic challenges head-on. Despite the heightened expenditure, the fiscal deficit is projected to remain stable at 2.1% of gross domestic product (GDP), unchanged from the current fiscal year.

Financing the Deficit

Minister Shide outlined a plan to cover the 358.5 billion-birr deficit through a combination of local and foreign borrowing.

The domestic borrowing component will be managed via government treasury bills and medium-term bonds. Shide emphasized that until substantial external donor support is secured, Ethiopia will continue to rely heavily on its domestic markets to finance budget deficits.

“While the government has secured some external financing from the World Bank and the European Union, negotiating an IMF program will be crucial to alleviate pressure on local banks and secure overall debt relief,” said Giulia Filocca, a senior analyst at Standard & Poor’s for sovereign and international public finance ratings.

IMF Program and Economic Reforms

An agreement with the IMF is seen as a pivotal step for Ethiopia. The nation failed to remit a $33 million coupon payment for its $1 billion bond in December 2023, leading to agreements with some creditors, including the Paris Club, to suspend debt repayments.

In exchange, Ethiopia is expected to reach a staff-level agreement with the IMF, which will likely include economic reforms such as devaluing the birr currency.

“Our expectation is that an IMF program will be signed this year, but the timeline remains unclear due to ongoing political developments and challenges over foreign-exchange reforms,” added Filocca.

Budget Highlights

The new budget includes 451.3 billion birr for recurrent spending, 283.2 billion birr for capital expenditure, and 236.7 billion birr allocated for regional subsidies.

The government projects income of 612.7 billion birr, with tax revenue expected to contribute 502 billion birr and non-tax income 61.6 billion birr. Sector budget support is anticipated to bring in 7.3 billion birr, with aid and grants expected to add 41.8 billion birr.

Economic Outlook

Ethiopia’s economy is forecasted to expand by 8.4% in the coming fiscal year, up from an expected 7.9% growth rate in the current period. The budget increase is designed to support this growth trajectory by enhancing public investment and stimulating economic activity.

“Our partnership with the IMF and other international financial institutions will be key to ensuring Ethiopia’s economic resilience and sustainable growth,” Minister Shide concluded. “We are committed to implementing the necessary reforms to secure a brighter economic future for our country.”

As Ethiopia navigates its economic challenges, the government’s proactive approach to increasing spending and engaging with the IMF reflects a strategic effort to restore fiscal stability and drive long-term economic development.

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