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Kenya’s Ruto reveals plans for Eurobond buyback in Feb/March

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President William Ruto of Kenya told journalists on Tuesday that the country was trying to buy back at least some of its $2 billion Eurobond in February or March, putting an end to any possibility that it would default.

Kenya’s capacity to repay the bond, which matures in June, has come under scrutiny due to declining hard currency reserves, a sharp decline in the value of the local currency, and revenue difficulties.

Ruto said that although the government’s transaction consultants had eventually advised against it, Kenya would buy back $300 million of the Eurobond before the end of 2023, as he had assured the parliament in November.

“What they have recommended is that we do a buyback in February or March, and then we go to the market,” he said in an interview in Rome on the sidelines of the Italy-Africa summit.

“Thank God they were right. In fact, the markets have opened for Kenya, as they have for most other countries,” Ruto said.

The yields on dollar bonds issued by frontier nations have begun to decline in recent months, following a two-year surge driven by worries about high interest rates and heavy debts in advanced economies. With two oversubscribed bonds this month, Ivory Coast was able to raise $2.6 billion.

 

Additionally, as previously announced, Ruto stated that the government was no longer depending on the Trade and Development Bank (TDB), an organisation that provides development funding in Africa, to arrange a $1 billion syndicated loan for Kenya.

 

The remaining monies had not yet been provided, according to the finance minister of Kenya, who stated earlier this month that TDB had lent Kenya $210 million of the total.

“Because of the situation that we now see in the market, we believe that it would be a lot easier for us to raise that money in the market rather than through syndication,” Ruto said.

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Ethiopia might devalue currency to secure IMF loan

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Ethiopia may need to decide on a big currency devaluation soon to get a rescue loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In December, East Africa’s most populous country went bankrupt, making it the third African country in as many years to not pay its debts. The country already had high inflation.

Ethiopia hasn’t gotten any money from the IMF since 2020, and its last loan deal with the fund fell through in 2021. In late 2022, the federal government and a rebellious regional authority made a deal to end a cold war that had been going on for two years.

Although the IMF has not said that currency reform is necessary for its backing, it however maintained that progress was made during its most recent visit. However, the Fund usually favours flexible, market-determined exchange rates. Ethiopia has requested $3.5 billion of support from the IMF, sources told Reuters last year.

The birr currently trades at between 117 and 120 per dollar on the black market, which is more than double the official rate of about 56.7. This is because there is a constant lack of foreign cash and the exchange rate is tightly controlled.

“It seems that the Ethiopian authorities have found accepting the demands of the IMF hard,” said Abdulmenan Mohammed, an Ethiopian economic analyst based in Britain.

“The Ethiopian authorities are worried about the devaluation of the birr, (which) would have serious negative economic repercussions, including soaring inflation… and surging foreign currency denominated debts in terms of birr.”

Early in 2021, Ethiopia asked the G20’s Common Framework to restructure its debt. This was set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to include new creditor countries like China and India. Other African countries like Tunisia and Zambia also suffered a similar fate with their foreign debt at the time.

As of the end of March, Ethiopia’s foreign debt totals $28.2 billion. According to Boston University’s Chinese Loans to Africa Database, the country’s biggest bilateral creditor, China, agreed to stop collecting its debts in August 2023. From 2006 to 2022, China promised to give the country $14 billion.

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Nigerian govt to save N1.5tn from removal of electricity subsidy

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The Nigerian government says a recent increase in the price of electricity for Band A customers to N1.5tn means it could save more this year.

The government also said that about 2.5 million meters would be installed this year to close the metering gap across the country and make sure that people pay the right amount for electricity.

The Federal Ministry of Power, in a document made public by Bolaji Tunji, who is the media assistant to the power minister, on Wednesday evening said that the recent tariff change would save the country N1.5tn.

It said, “FG (Federal Government) to save N1.5tn with tariff adjustment. FG still subsidising Bands below A. Pricing change will help improve liquidity to the NESI (Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry).

“Discos (power distribution companies) will be sanctioned for supplying less than 20 hours to Band A consumers.”

Electrical consumers in the Band A group, which makes up about 15% of the country’s 12.82 million power users, no longer get any subsidies on their bills. Those affected would now pay N225 per kilowatt-hour, which is about 240% more than the old rate of N68/kWh.

In reaction, manufacturers and organized labour spoke out against the tariff increase that about 1.9 million consumers will have to pay. The increase was passed and announced by the Federal Government on April 3, 2024.

For the past few months, the terrible state of the electricity supply has gotten even worse because gas producers to gas-fired thermal power plants have stopped sending gas to those plants because they owe $1.3 billion in debt.

Meanwhile, the argument around subsidies of essential products and services in Africa remains active with some analysts positing that the earning power and GDP of most countries in the continent puncture the likely gains of a no-subsidy regime, given the lack of economic means by a large percentage of the public.

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