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China-style State-led Growth Won’t Work in Africa, Okonjo-Iweala Warns

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  • China-style State-led Growth Won’t Work in Africa, Okonjo-Iweala Warns

China has funnelled billions of dollars into aid, loans and business deals on the African continent in recent years.

But as ties continue to strengthen, former Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has warned that Beijing-style economic governance will not work for Africa.

“China has been very helpful,” particularly with building much-needed infrastructure in Africa, the two-time former finance minister told CNBC recently.

But while less economically advanced countries may wish to emulate China’s economic success, the Chinese approach of state-led development would prove unsuccessful for the majority of Africa, she said.

“In most African countries, it has been shown that state-led growth — pure state-led growth — has really not worked,” Okonjo-Iweala said, citing the example of Nigeria’s “vibrant private sector”.

In her view, the Nigerian government, through state-owned enterprises, has not shown itself capable of managing its manufacturing and heavier industries, for example.

Corruption could result from increased government intervention in business, Okonjo-Iweala said. “Some of our governments, when they get into the direct provision of jobs and services — that’s where corruption creeps in because it’s not well-handled, the institutions of state are not strong enough, the checks and balances are not strong.”

Okonjo-Iweala served as Nigeria’s finance minister twice, from 2003-2006 and most recently during 2011-2015 under previous President Goodluck Jonathan. She is a former director at the World Bank and is currently an adviser at the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank.

Nonetheless, one African country known for its economic partnership with China is Ethiopia. Infrastructure, as well as industrial parks to boost the manufacturing sector, have been built as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, a multi-billion dollar spending plan to resurrect ancient trading routes centred on China.

Ethiopia, an East African country that has seen double-digit gross domestic product (GDP) growth as recently as 2017, has echoed China’s state-led development style.

“This approach will only work in countries where the power is highly centralised,” Anna Rosenberg, research director at emerging market advisory firm Frontier Strategy Group, told CNBC. Besides Ethiopia, she cited Mozambique and Rwanda as suitable examples.

Nigeria’s entrepreneurial society is less conducive to China-style economic management, she said.

History could also play a role, Rosenberg suggested. While Cold War allegiances to the Soviet Union may be present in some African countries, Nigeria, by contrast, is a former British colony and therefore more espoused to a free market system.

“I think China sees Africa as a strategic continent that it wants to be a partner with,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “Africa does have the natural resources that China lacks in many ways.”

But she added that in her view, this partnership extends beyond pure economic deals. “I believe strongly there is overarching political and soft power that is involved.”

For Okonjo-Iweala, it is important to demonstrate the fruits of African business deals with China to the public. She described Beijing-funded new airport terminals in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, as an example of this because “people will be able to see them, and witness them, and know that the money went into something concrete”.

Last week, China’s state-run news agency Xinhua reported that Nigeria had signed a deal with the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation to build a railway from its economic hub Lagos to Kano, a commercial hotspot in the north of the country.

African countries must enter business deals with China “with our eyes open,” Okonjo-Iweala said, to capitalise on its manufacturing expertise and technological development.

Africa is in the process of expanding its manufacturing sector in an attempt to bolster economic development. Nigeria, as part of an attempt to wean itself off oil dependence, has grown its manufacturing base from just 2.5 per cent of value added to GDP in 2009 to 8.8 per cent in 2016, according to the World Bank.

But with regards to regulating Africa-China business deals, “we are absolutely not there,” Okonjo-Iweala said, although she added that this is varied among African countries. Providing that fair and transparent agreements are drawn up, “we can work with China – why not?”

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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Crude Oil

Fed’s Decision to Hold Rates Stalls Oil Market, Brent Crude Slips to $82.17

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Oil prices faced a setback on Thursday as the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to maintain interest rates dampened investor sentiment.

The Federal Reserve’s announcement on Wednesday indicated a reluctance to initiate an interest rate cut, pushing expectations for policy easing possibly as late as December. This unexpected stance rattled markets already grappling with inflationary pressures and economic uncertainty.

Brent crude, the international benchmark for Nigerian crude oil, saw a drop of 43 cents, or 0.5% to $82.17 a barrel, reflecting cautious investor response to the Fed’s cautious approach.

Similarly, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil also slipped by 46 cents, or 0.6% to settle at $78.04 per barrel.

Tamas Varga, an analyst at PVM Oil, commented on the Fed’s decision, stating, “In the Fed’s view, this is the price that needs to be paid to achieve a soft landing and avoid recession beyond doubt.”

The central bank’s move to hold rates steady is seen as a measure to balance economic growth and inflation containment.

The Energy Information Administration’s latest data release further exacerbated market concerns, revealing a significant increase in U.S. crude stockpiles, primarily driven by higher imports.

Fuel inventories also exceeded expectations, compounding worries about oversupply in the oil market.

Adding to the downward pressure on oil prices, the International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a bearish report highlighting concerns over potential excess supply in the near future.

The combination of these factors weighed heavily on investor sentiment, contributing to the decline in oil prices observed throughout the trading session.

Meanwhile, geopolitical tensions in the Middle East continued to influence market dynamics, with reports of Iran-allied Houthi militants claiming responsibility for recent attacks on international shipping near Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeidah.

These incidents underscored ongoing concerns about potential disruptions to oil supply routes in the region.

As markets digest the Fed’s cautious stance and monitor developments in global economic indicators and geopolitical tensions, oil prices are expected to remain volatile in the near term.

Analysts suggest that future price movements will hinge significantly on economic data releases, policy decisions by major central banks, and developments in geopolitical hotspots affecting oil supply routes.

 

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Crude Oil

Nigerian Oil Loses Ground to Cheaper US and Russian Crude

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Crude oil

Nigeria’s once-thriving oil industry is facing a significant challenge as traditional buyers increasingly turn to more affordable alternatives from the United States and Russia.

This shift has led to France emerging as the leading buyer of Nigerian crude, marking a significant change in the global oil market dynamics.

Top Nigerian crude grades like Bonny Light, Forcados, and Brass have long been favored by refineries in Europe and Asia due to their low sulfur content.

However, the country’s primary customers, including India and China, are now opting for cheaper US and Russian oil.

This trend poses a substantial risk to Nigeria, which relies on oil exports for more than half of its foreign exchange earnings.

Data from BusinessDay reveals a stark decline in India’s purchase of Nigerian crude. In the first quarter of 2024, India bought N1.3 trillion worth of Nigerian oil, a significant drop from the average of N2 trillion purchased between 2018 and 2021.

“Buyers are increasingly turning to cheaper alternatives, raising concerns for the country’s revenue stream,” said Aisha Mohammed, a senior energy analyst at the Lagos-based Centre for Development Studies.

The latest tanker-tracking data monitored by Bloomberg indicates that India is buying more American crude oil as Russian energy flows dwindle amid sanctions.

India’s state-owned oil refiners and leading private companies have increased their imports of US crude, reaching nearly seven million barrels of April-loading US oil. This shift is the largest monthly inflow since last May.

Russian crude flows to India surged following the invasion of Ukraine, making Russia the biggest supplier to the South Asian nation.

However, tighter US sanctions have stranded Russian cargoes, narrowing discounts, and prompting India to ramp up purchases from Saudi Arabia.

“Given the issues faced with importing Sokol in Russia, it’s no surprise that Indian refineries are turning toward US WTI Midland as their light-sweet alternative,” explained Dylan Sim, an analyst at industry consultant FGE.

As a result, France has overtaken the Netherlands to become the biggest buyer of Nigerian crude oil, purchasing products worth N2.5 trillion in the first quarter of 2024.

Spain and India occupied second and fourth positions, with imports valued at N1.72 trillion and N1.3 trillion respectively, as of March 2024.

The sluggish pace of sales for Nigeria’s May supplies highlights the market’s shifting dynamics. Findings show that about 10 cargoes of Nigerian crude for May loading were still available for purchase, indicating a reduced demand.

Rival suppliers such as Azeri Light and West Texas Intermediate have also seen price weaknesses, impacting Nigerian crude demand.

“We’ve got much weaker margins, so Nigeria’s crude demand is taking a hit,” noted James Davis, director of short-term oil market research at FGE.

Sellers seeking premiums over the Dated Brent benchmark have found the European market less receptive, according to Energy Aspects Ltd.

“May cargoes were at a premium that didn’t work that well into Europe, but lower offers have seen volumes move,” said Christopher Haines, EA global crude analyst. “Stronger forward diesel pricing is also helping.”

Some Nigerian grades are being priced more competitively, including Qua Iboe to Asia and Bonny Light to the Mediterranean or East, with the overhang slowly reducing, according to Sparta Commodities.

However, the overall reduced demand could lead to a decrease in revenue from oil exports, a major source of income for the Nigerian government.

“Reduced demand could lead to a decrease in revenue from oil exports, a major source of income for the Nigerian government,” warned Charles Ogbeide, an energy analyst with a Lagos-based investment bank.

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Commodities

Refiners Predict Petrol Prices to Fall to N300/Litre with Adequate Local Crude Supply

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The pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), commonly known as petrol, could drop to N300 per litre once local production ramps up significantly, according to operators of modular refineries.

This projection hinges on the provision of sufficient crude oil to domestic refiners, which they say would undercut the exorbitant costs currently imposed by foreign refineries.

Speaking under the aegis of the Crude Oil Refinery Owners Association of Nigeria (CORAN), the refiners stressed the urgency for the government to ensure a steady supply of crude oil to local processing plants.

They argue that the reliance on imported petroleum products has been economically disadvantageous for Nigeria.

Eche Idoko, Publicity Secretary of CORAN, emphasized that the current high costs could be mitigated by boosting local production.

“If we begin to produce PMS in large volumes and ensure adequate crude oil supply, the pump price could be reduced to N300 per litre. This would prevent Nigerians from paying nearly N700 per litre and stop foreign refiners from profiting excessively at our expense,” Idoko stated.

The potential price drop follows the model seen with diesel, which experienced a significant price reduction once the Dangote Petroleum Refinery began its production.

“Diesel prices dropped from N1,700-N1,800 per litre to N1,200 per litre after Dangote started producing. This is a clear indication that local production can drastically reduce costs,” Idoko explained.

In a previous statement, Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, affirmed that Nigeria would cease importing petrol by June 2024 due to the Dangote Refinery’s capacity to meet local demand.

Dangote also expressed confidence in the refinery’s ability to cater to West Africa’s diesel and aviation fuel needs.

Challenges and Governmental Role

However, achieving this price reduction is contingent on several factors, including the provision of crude oil at the naira equivalent of its dollar rate.

CORAN has advocated for this approach, citing that it would bolster the naira and reduce the financial burden on refiners who currently buy crude in dollars.

The Nigerian government has shown some commitment towards this goal. Gbenga Komolafe, Chief Executive of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), confirmed that a framework has been developed to ensure consistent supply of crude oil to domestic refineries.

“We have created a template for the Domestic Crude Oil Supply Obligation to foster seamless supply to local refineries,” Komolafe stated.

Industry Reactions

Oil marketers have welcomed the potential for reduced petrol prices. Abubakar Maigandi, President of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), expressed optimism about the Dangote Refinery’s impact on petrol prices.

“We expect the price of locally produced PMS to be below the current NNPC rate of N565.50 per litre. Ideally, we are looking at a price around N500 per litre,” Maigandi noted.

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