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IMF chief, Kristalina Georgieva, commends Zambia, ‘confident’ of debt restructuring deal

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International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief, Kristalina Georgieva has maintained that the body remains interested in seeing Zambia overcome its debt challenges as well as achieve growth.

Georgieva made the position at a town hall meeting on a current trip to the country where she took questions from people gathered at the University of Zambia about her organisation’s work with the country.

“One thing I don’t wake up to worry about is that the IMF is a villain going to countries to take away their sovereignty because this is your IMF and we belong to you”, said Kristalina Georgieva, IMF’s managing director.

Georgieva said on Tuesday she was confident an agreement to restructure Zambia’s debt was within reach after engaging with the country’s creditors.

The IMF chief in a post on Tweeter noted that “Zambia is making tremendous progress on reforms to strengthen its resilience & to realize its enormous potential.”

Zambian President, Hakainde Hichilema hinted that his country risks being in a difficult situation if ongoing debt negotiations with creditors were not concluded by the end of the first quarter of this year.

The country has been on a quest to restructure its loans and rebuild an economy ravaged by mismanagement under previous administrations and COVID-19. It owes a significant amount of its $17 billion external debt to private lenders including bondholders, but also to China.

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Despite agreeing a $1.3bn bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund in 2021, talks with Lusaka’s lenders have dragged.

The IMF conditions were criticized by some as bad for the country.

Zambia

In 2020Zambia became the first African country to default on its foreign debt since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic after mostly western lenders refused to freeze interest payments.

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South Africa’s FM, Naledi Pandor, wants quick solution to Ghana, MTN tax dispute

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South Africa’s foreign minister Naledi Pandor wants the tax dispute between the tech company and the Ghanaian tax authorities solved.

The minister on Friday called MTN Group, which has a presence in 19 countries in Africa and the Middle East, and the Ghana Revenue Authority to find a solution to a $773 million tax dispute.

South Africa’s Department Of International Relations and Cooperation said in a statement, Minister Pandor was briefed on the issue this week and called “on the parties involved to do everything possible to find an amicable solution.”

Two weeks ago, the South African mobile operator giant revealed that its Ghanaian subsidiary has received a bill for back taxes of around $773 million. The billing came after the tax authority audited MTN for the years 2014 to 2018 and inferring that it had under-declared its revenue by about 30% during the period.

MTN said it disputes the “accuracy and basis” of the assessment and that it would fight it.

MTN Ghana is the largest company in Ghana by market capitalization as the annual data revenue of MTN Ghana (Scancom PLC) amounted to over 2.7 billion Ghanaian cedis (GHS) in 2021.

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Ivory Coast to increase cocoa processing capacity with new plants

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Ivory Coast, the largest cocoa-producing country in the world, has hinted that it will increase the amount of cocoa it processes domestically to 49%.

According to the head of the sector, the regulator said on Friday, the increase is projected to begin in production starting from October with the addition of several new plants.

The new plants will allow the country to process more than 1 million tonnes of cocoa annually, making it the world’s leading cocoa grinder,

Ivory Coast boasts of annual production of about 2.2 million tonnes with 35-40% processed in the country and the rest exported, but the government has a goal of increasing that to at least 50%.

The country recently signed a deal with the United Arab Emirates for the construction of a new plant in San Pedro with a grinding capacity of 120,000 tonnes, said Yves Brahima Kone, director general of the Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC), who was in Abu Dhabi this month to open a new CCC office.

“This permanent representation (in Abu Dhabi) is the fruit of our new vision for Ivorian cocoa that we want to export all over the world. This office will allow us to explore markets in Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa,” he told journalists

Ivory Coast also expects two new factories financed by China to enter into production in October, with a production capacity of 50,000 tonnes each, Kone said.

In November, the two biggest cocoa producers, Ivory Coast and West African neighbour, Ghana pushed for higher prices for their farm products under the Living Income Differential (LID) and vowed to charge a premium of $400 per tonne on all cocoa sales, starting with the 2020/21 harvest.

The lack of technology and industries to process its produce has fanned discussions about Africa being a raw material economy and extractive centers for industrial western countries that are advanced, able processed and positioned to maximize the resources.

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