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Zambia’s Finance Minister, Musokotwane, calls for IMF programme to restructure international debt

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In the latest push to ease state’s debt burden, Zambia’s Finance Minister, Situmbeko Musokotwane has called for an orderly debt restructuring process for the country.

The minister insisted that a restructuring will be hard to achieve without an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.

Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane said on Friday, as he confirmed China and bondholders would join negotiations.

The country’s debt profile has been spiraling in recent years owing to issues predating the pandemic, leaving creditors wrangling over who should take losses on loans.

Zambia opted to bow out of a $42.5 million eurobond repayment in 2020, becoming the first African nation to default on its debt in the Covid-19 era. The country was struggling with a debt burden of almost $32 billion, around 120% of its gross domestic product.

The Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema revealed last month during the first quarter 2022 Economic Conference in Lusaka, that China had come on board to commit and join other creditors in the country’s debt restructuring process.

By that, China, which holds $5.78 billion of Zambia’s debt, has offered to co-chair Zambia’s creditor committee at the meetings. South Africa and France have also offered to co-chair, South Africa’s finance ministry said.

The country’s creditors must now sit down together to agree on the debt relief they will offer, Musokotwane said.

“China finally agreed to come on board, to be part of the Common Framework. The other category of creditors, namely the bond holders have also expressed readiness to engage,” Musokotwane said.

Secretary to the Treasury, Felix Nkulukusa also revealed to journalist that Zambia is expecting a total of $564 million from the World Bank, of which $275 million in budget support will only be released when the IMF board approves Zambia’s programme,

Nkulukusa said Zambia expected further $654 million from the World Bank under another three-year programme starting in July this year.

Musokotwane had said Zambia’s debt restructuring process was “stalled” at IMF meetings last month, after the country secured a staff-level agreement on a $1.4 billion three-year credit facility with the fund in December.

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Somalia gives foreign banks licence to operate in decades

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The Somali government has announced the licensing of foreign banks for the first time in over two decades six weeks after President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud was sworn into office following an elections that took years to conduct following a lingering political crisis.

The announcement which was made on Monday by the governor of the Central Bank of Somalia (CBS) Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi, said the war-ravaged country has granted banking licenses to two foreign institutions to operate in the country after President Mohamoud had promised to open the country to international investment during his campaigns for the elections.

The first foreign banking institutions to benefit from the decision are Egyptian bank, Banque Misr, and Turkish bank, Ziraat Katilim, who have been allowed to operate in Somalia.

“The review of the applications of these two banks has been the subject of a lengthy process of several months.

“These are two strong banks that will add value to the development of Somalia’s financial sector and contribute to the growth of our economy,” the CBS governor said

Ranked one of the poorest countries in the world by the World Bank, the average Somalian lives on less than $1.90 a day as the country struggles to recover from decades civil war and and opening its doors to foreign investments is seen as President Mohamoud fulfilment of his pledge to improve the economic situation and provide basic banking services to the population.

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Egypt Suez Canal announces record $7bn profit in 2021-2022

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The management of the Egyptian Suez Canal has announced a record profit of $7 billion for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, which it said was as a result of repeatedly raising transit fees for ships through the crucial passage for world trade.

The Suez Canal Authority (SCA), said on Monday that between July 2021 and June 2022, about 1.32 billion tonnes of cargo transited through the canal, providing a $7 billion rent in transit fees, which is the highest in the history of the SCA, its Executive Chairman, Admiral Osama Rabie, said.

Rabie added that the Canal was able to increase its profit by 20.7% compared to the previous financial year where it made €5.5 billion.

The Suez Canal handles about 10% of the world’s maritime trade and is one of Cairo’s main sources of foreign currency and despite the war in Ukraine and the rise in the oil price which has affected shipping, the canal also recorded its highest monthly turnover in April, valued at €605 million according to Rabie.

“The international crises have demonstrated the importance of the Suez Canal for the stability of global supply chains,” Rabie said.

He added that the Canal has contributed significantly to the growth of the North African country’s economy which has been caught between inflation of over 15% and a recent devaluation of the pound by nearly 20%, which had increased transit fees for oil and gas shipments by 6% in February and then by 5 to 10% in March.

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