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Zimbabwe reverses order freezing bank lending one week after policy change

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Barely a week after it banned banks in the country from lending money to government, businesses and individuals, the Zimbabwen government has reversed itself by lifting the freeze order, the Zimbabwean Central Bank announced in a statement on Tuesday.

The freezing order which came directly from President Emmerson Mnangagwa on May 7, was meant to arrest the currency’s depreciation, which he said was threatening the country’s economic stability.

The President, in a statement, had said the measure was also to stop speculations against the Zimbabwean dollar and to arrest its rapid devaluation on the black market.

“Lending by banks to both the government and the private sector is hereby suspended with immediate effect, until further notice,” Mnangagwa had said in a statement.

The government also said at the time that it had started investigating unnamed speculators for taking out Zimbabwe dollar bank loans to buy foreign currency on the black market, thus driving the local currency’s value lower.

But while announcing the reversal, the Central Bank said it would continue investigating the said speculators while the ban will be temporarily suspended.

“The Central Bank wishes to advise the public that the temporary suspension of lending services by banks has been lifted with immediate effect.

“We said the lending freeze was temporary. We have lived true to our word,” the statement said.

It added that only organisations being investigated for abusing loan facilities would not be allowed to borrow from banks.

The lending ban had drawn a lot of condemnation and criticism from business groups which warned that the freeze would hurt commerce and worsen Zimbabwe’s economic crisis.

The lending freeze had slowed the Zimbabwean dollar’s slide on the black market, although it had little effect on the official rate in an economy which had experienced a 500 billion percent hyperinflation in 2008, and is currently experiencing another episode of high inflation, with year-on-year inflation rising to 96.4 percent in April from 72.7 percent in March, driven by the rapid devaluation of its currency.

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COVID-19: Friendship renewed as Algeria opens land border with Tunisia

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Algerian President, Abdelmadjid Tebboune has announced that it will reopen the land border between the two countries in mid-July.

The border, which starts in the north at the Mediterranean coast, proceeding overland in a broadly southwards directions via a series of overland lines was closed in 2020 during the peak of Covid-19.

Abdelmadjid Tebboune made the announcement at Algiers airport alongside his Tunisian counterpart Kais Saied who was preparing to leave the country after attending the festivities marking the 60th anniversary of Algeria’s independence.

“We have taken a joint decision to reopen the land borders from July 15.”

Until the pandemic, more than three million Algerians travelled to Tunisia each year, according to local media.

Generally speaking, relations between Algeria and Tunisia have so far been homogenous. Although Algeria postponed the opening of it borders with Tunisia in May.

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The Gambia benefits from World Bank’s $68m grant to revive tourism industry

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The Gambia and the World Bank have sealed a $68m grant deal which will go to support the West African country’s tourism industry, hitherto the biggest contributor to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), before the Coronavirus pandemic hit the global tourism sector, causing a near economic meltdown.

World Bank’s Managing Director of Operations, Axel Van Trotsenburg, who announced the signing of the deal at a ceremony in Gambia’s capital, Banjul, on Tuesday, said the grant is meant to support the diversification and climate resilience of the country’s tourism after the pandemic and economic crisis.

Trotsenburg added that promoting the diversification and climate resilience of tourism will help protect the Atlantic coastline of The Gambia from the effects of climate change.

About 20 per cent of The Gambian economy depends on earnings from its tourism as it is the largest foreign exchange earner for the government but the advent of the pandemic had caused the country’s economic growth to contract by 0.2 percent in 2020, according to the World Bank.

This was as a result of the global restrictions on travelling between 2020 and 2021, which prevented tourists and visitors going to the country, leading to the tourism industry taking a huge hit.

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