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Private sector concerned as Nigeria’s central bank raises interest rate to 26.25% 

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The decision of Nigeria’s central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee to raise the country’s benchmark interest rate has alarmed members of the organized private sector and economists alike, some of whom believe it will severely impair the ability of business operators to repay their debts.

The decision of the committee was declared by Olayemi Cardoso, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and chairman of the MPC, after the latter’s 295th meeting on Tuesday.

The interest rate was increased by 150 basis points by the MPC, from 24.74% to 26.25%. The benchmark interest rate increased for the third time this year on Tuesday with the MPR boost.

The policymakers raised the MPR by 750 basis points since the MPC reconvened in February. In February, the MPR jumped from 18.55% to 22.75%, a 400 basis point rise. In March, it was raised by 200 basis points to 24.75%.

Cardoso said, “The key focus of the MPC at this meeting remained to achieve price stability by effectively using tools available to the monetary authority to rein in inflation. Members observed that while year-on-year headline inflation in April 2024 rose moderately, the month-on-month measures of headline, food and core all declined significantly. This follows a decline (month-on-month) of headline and food measures in March 2024, suggesting that the recent tight monetary policy stance of the Bank is beginning to yield the desired outcomes.”

Cardoso added, “For the first time since October, we have seen a relatively significant moderation in the rate of increase and that is working. I believe very strongly that the tool that the central bank is using is working. I have said it before, there is no magic wand, these are things that need to take their own time. I’m confident and the figures show that we are beginning to get some relief and I believe in a couple of more months, we will see some positive reports on the effects of what the CBN is doing.”

Cardoso defended the decision to raise the MPR once more during a press conference on Tuesday following the MPC meeting. In the face of an uncertain economic environment, the MPC has remained hawkish in its approach to combating inflation.

Nigeria’s inflation rate increased to 33.69% in April. As compared to the headline inflation rate for March 2024, the National Bureau of Statistics reports that the headline inflation rate for April 2024 increased by 0.49 percentage points.

According to the NBS, the headline inflation rate increased by 11.47 percentage points year over year from the 22.22% rate reported in April 2023. In April 2024, food inflation was 40.53%. Cardoso stated that the MPC has connected the ongoing naira volatility to the principles of the free market.

“Members further observed the recent volatility in the foreign exchange market attributing this to seasonal demand, a reflection of the interplay between demand and supply of a freely functioning market system. The committee also noticed the marginal increase in the foreign reserve between March and April 2024,” he said.

Segun Kuti-George, National Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Association of Small-Scale Industrialists, denounced the Interest Rate Increase by MPC. At a time when many firms were depending on loans to operate, Kuti-George argued it was callous to keep rising interest rates.

He said, “That is the only thing they know. The only thing they know is to increase the interest rate. As long as the industrial sector cannot access cheap funds, we are joking. We cannot be talking about economic development.”

In addition, Gabriel Idahosa, the president of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who disagreed with the rate hike, charged that the CBN was employing the incorrect measure to combat inflation.

Idahosa said, “The CBN is like a farmer that does not have any other tool. So, they are stuck with one tool. We just came out of a consultation session and this was the issue. The CBN is driving a metric that is not related to the problem.

“The problem is the cost of production. It has nothing to do with interest rates. It is not advisable to keep raising the interest rates, but they have run out of ideas and they don’t want to be seen to do nothing.”

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Nigerian govt opens bid for 17 new oil blocks

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The Nigerian government has declared that 17 deep offshore oil blocks would be included in the 2024 Nigerian Oil Fields Licensing Round.

This was revealed at the pre-bid conference for the 2024 licencing round in Lagos by Gbenga Komolafe, the chief executive officer of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission.

In a statement he signed and released in Abuja on Tuesday, Komolafe provided updates on the 2022/2023 and 2024 licencing rounds, stating that 17 deep offshore blocks had been added to the 2024 Licensing Round.

He said, “In pursuit of the commission’s commitment to derive value from the country’s abundant oil and gas reserves and increase production, the commission has been working assiduously with multi-client companies to undertake more exploratory activities to acquire more data to foster and encourage further investment in the Nigerian upstream sector.

“As a result of additional data acquired in respect of deep offshore blocks, the commission has added 17 deep offshore blocks to the 2024 Licensing Round. Further details on the blocks can be found on the bid portal.”

He further revealed that “by the published guidelines, we had earlier indicated that some of the assets on offer should be applied for as clusters, namely: PPL 300-CS & PPL 301-CS, PPL 2000 and PPL 2001. Bidders are hereby advised that they may, at their option, bid for those blocks as clusters or as single units.”

Several deep offshore blocks were recently offered for the 2022–2023 mini-bid round, and the Nigeria 2024 Licencing Round also included offers for other blocks that cut between onshore, continental shelf, and deep offshore terrains.

In the 2024 marginal fields bid round, the government specifically requested investors to submit bids for 12 oil blocks and seven deep offshore assets on May 8. It was also announced on June 12, 2024, that the Federal government has raised the number of oil blocks for grabs in the 2024 marginal bid round.

The head of NUPRC added that the schedule for the 2024 Licencing Round has been adjusted to enable interested investors to take advantage of the increased chances.

He said, “Registration/submission of pre-qualification documents which was initially scheduled to close on June 25, 2024, has been extended by 10 days and will now close on July 5, 2024.

“Data access/data purchase/evaluation/bid preparation and submission which was initially scheduled to open on July 4, 2024, and close on 29/11/24 will now start on July 8, 2024, and close on 29/11/24 as previously scheduled.

“All other dates in the published 2024 licencing round schedule remain the same unless otherwise communicated.”

The current government intends to increase Nigeria’s oil production to 2.6 million barrels per day by the year 2027. Only 1.5 million barrels per day is the nation’s current Opec+ objective.

Nigeria began an international roadshow for the new licensing cycle in the United States on May 7 in Houston, Texas, with a stop in Miami, Florida on May 14.

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Central bank official says Botswana’s 4.2% growth target under threat

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Citing both internal and international limitations, a top central bank official warned on Tuesday that Botswana’s economy might not develop at the 4.2% annual rate set by the government.

In a budget speech given in February, Finance Minister Peggy Serame predicted a 4.2% increase in GDP and stated that the government anticipated growth to pick up speed starting in 2023 as a result of the diamond sector’s improved performance. The GDP increased by 2.7% in 2023.

Nonetheless, Botswana’s mining industry, which is primarily focused on diamonds, is still having difficulty, which is indicative of the weak worldwide market.

In the first quarter of 2024, sales at Debswana Diamond Company, a joint venture between the government of the southern African nation and Anglo-American’s De Beers business, decreased by almost 48% year over year.

“From what we have seen in the first half of the year, unfavourable global economic conditions … as well as domestic structural constraints, one would expect that we are unlikely to attain the projected economic growth,” Innocent Molalapata, the central bank’s director of research and financial stability, told an economic briefing.

“A downward revision of the growth target might therefore be required,” Molalapata stated, noting that the first quarter’s mining output fell by almost 27%.

The finance ministry is usually the one to provide accurate GDP growth projections, not the Bank of Botswana. According to IMF projections, Botswana’s GDP will expand by 3.6% in 2024.

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