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Impact of COVID-19 on Debt Capital Markets in Africa



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Traditionally, corporates and states in Africa use debt capital markets to raise huge funding. As the coronavirus bites harder against the increasing debt-to-GDP ratios coupled with increasing risks in African countries, the pricing of new issuances in the international debt capital markets became relatively unattractive.

Consequently, African governments turned to other concessionary sources like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and Development Finance Institutions for funding.

Africa’s depiction of the international debt capital markets is dominated by sovereign issuances. While its debt capital markets offer investors better returns than in developed markets, its domestic markets remain shallow and least diversified compared to other emerging and frontier markets. Also, African corporates are less likely to raise substantial amounts of funding via debt capital markets due to various reasons including lack of depth in the domestic markets and institutional weaknesses.

Between 2014 and 2018, sovereign bonds accounted for 51.5 per cent of the total $140.3 billion raised from 437 international bond transactions in Africa. Within 2016 and 2018, African issuers raised about $120 billion of non-local currency debt which further culminated to $245.9 billion of non-local currency debt from 759 issues within the last decade. The largest sovereign issuer of non-local currency debt in 2019 was Egypt raising $8.2 billion. Next to Egypt is South Africa which raised $5 billion in September of the same year from its largest-ever Eurobond issuance.

However, in 2020, the effect of COVID-19 impacted the African economy resulting in a pullback from African markets as countries faced crisis on all levels including health and social services. These unprecedented shocks call for a temporary debt standstill for all African countries as economic fundamentals deteriorated. A 2020 study on the economic impact of COVID-19 by the African Union (AU) showed that while countries in Africa could lose up to $500 billion, they may be forced to borrow heavily to survive after the pandemic, hence the need for the debt standstill—suspension of debt service.

For example, Mozambique’s debt overtook its overall economic output as its debt-to-GDP ratio, which was 100 per cent in 2018 billowed to 130 per cent in 2020; even as the country struggles to repay its $14 billion external debt. Asides from Mozambique, there are other poor and highly indebted African countries with little fiscal space to provide a robust response and recovery from the pandemic. Some of these countries like Angola, Djibouti, Congo, Cabo Verde, and Egypt have a higher than 100 per cent external debt-to-GDP ratio, yet, they still seek more funds.

Consequently, the G-20 agreed to suspend debt repayment for the world’s 75 poorest countries until the end of 2020. UN Secretary-General António Guterres further advised that debt suspension should be extended to all developing countries, while the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) recommended a complete temporary debt standstill for two years for all African countries, without exception.

Over the years, there have been calls by multilateral institutions for debt forgiveness for Africa’s most impoverished states. However, some experts opine that such cancellation or debt standstill would be perceived as a default in today realities of the international capital markets and will greatly compromise the future access of African countries to international markets. For example, states like Benin and Ghana which were able to access capital markets over the past year at 5.75 per cent for 7 years (€500 million) and 8.875 per cent for 40 years ($750 million) respectively might find it difficult to do so if they are perceived to be in default. On the other hand, perception of default would likely also be priced into future borrowings by African countries.

Following the above, in April 2020, China, which accounts for most of the lending to African countries through its China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China, expressed a willingness to provide Africa debt relief, but not forgiveness. In June, China offered to cancel Africa’s interest-free loans, which is less than 5 per cent of Africa’s debt to China, based on bilateral negotiations.

With the already rising value of the total public debts in many African countries, to combat the prevailing crisis of the coronavirus, some African countries opted for multilateral financing. One of such countries is Nigeria. The country, in the second quarter of 2020, requested $6.9 billion of multilateral financing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB) to minimise the impact of the upsurge of the global pandemic.

debt capital markets

Source: NBS

Part of these funds was to establish a $1.2 billion COVID-19 crisis intervention fund to upgrade healthcare facilities across the country and to provide intervention funds to the 36 states including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Similarly, against the backdrop of the pandemic, the African Union launched several programmes, like the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) COVID-19 Response Plan to help countries fight the pandemic and recover better. Using Nigeria as a case study, activities in the domestic bond market significantly increased year-on-year given the relatively low yields in the market. In H1 2020, seven corporate bond issuances were raised to the tune of N152.7 billion compared to N54 billion raised in three issuances in the corresponding period of the previous year.

According to the data by the Debt Management Office (DMO), the nation’s debt stock data at the third quarter (Q3) 2020 showed that the total public debt portfolio of the federal and state government combined stood at N32.22 trillion ($84.57 billion), an increase of 22.9 per cent but a decrease of 1 per cent in dollar equivalent due to the different exchange rate values within the periods.

Nigeria’s total public debt showed that $31.99 billion (or 37.82 per cent of the debt) was external while $52.59 billion (or 62.18 per cent of the debt) was domestic. Further disaggregation of Nigeria’s foreign debt showed that $16.74 billion of the debt was multilateral; $502.38 million was bilateral (AFD) and another $3.26 billion bilateral from the Exim Bank of China, JICA, India, and KFW while $11.17 billion was commercial which are Eurobonds and Diaspora Bonds.

The debt conundrum leaves Africa in a dilemma considering the rising budget deficits coupled with the need to fund the deficits. If Africa is to stop depending on donors and multilateral funds to finance its economic development, it needs to evolve towards market-based financing for the quantum of financing required. In addition, African countries need to promote market-friendly policies that will attract capital to underserved sectors and allow the states to focus its limited financing on priority sectors such as education, health, and social services.


Bitcoin, Ethereum, Others Plunge as US Sues Binance, Founder



Bitcoin education

By Adedapo Adesanya

The cryptocurrency market is under fresh headwinds as the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused Binance and its Chief Executive Officer, Mr Changpeng Zhao, of mishandling customer funds, misleading investors and regulators, as well as breaking securities rules.

Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), and a host of other digital coins are now trading at their lowest in almost three months.

The US SEC complaint filed in a federal court in Washington, D.C., listed 13 charges against Binance, Mr Zhao, and the operator of its purportedly independent US exchange.

The agency laid out a range of alleged violations against the world’s biggest crypto exchange and its leader and warned that “The public should beware of investing any of their hard-earned assets with or on these unlawful platforms.”

The SEC alleged that Binance artificially inflated its trading volumes, diverted customer funds, failed to restrict US customers from its platform and misled investors about its market surveillance controls.

The SEC also claimed that Binance and its billionaire founder and one of the crypto industry’s highest-profile moguls, secretly controlled customers’ assets, allowing them to commingle and divert investor funds “as they please.”

Binance created separate US entities “as part of an elaborate scheme to evade U.S. federal securities laws,” the SEC also alleged, citing a number of practices first reported by Reuters in a series of investigations into the exchange published this year and in 2022.

From almost three years ago until June 2022, the SEC also alleged that a trading firm owned and controlled by Mr Zhao, Sigma Chain, engaged in so-called wash trading that artificially inflated the trading volume of crypto asset securities on the Binance.US platform. The SEC said Sigma Chain spent $11 million from an account on a yacht.

SEC Chair Gary Gensler said, “We allege that Zhao and Binance entities engaged in an extensive web of deception, conflicts of interest, lack of disclosure, and calculated evasion of the law.”

In a blog post, Binance, in its defence, said: “We intend to defend our platform vigorously,” adding that “because Binance is not a US exchange, the SEC’s actions are limited in reach.”

“All user assets on Binance and Binance affiliate platforms, including Binance.US, are safe and secure,” the blog post said.

In the statement, Binance said it had “actively cooperated” with the SEC from the start and respectfully disagreed with the SEC’s allegations.

Binance said it had been trying to find a “reasonable resolution” with the SEC, but the agency “at the eleventh hour” issued new requests and went to court, adding the SEC’s actions appeared to be an effort to “claim jurisdictional ground from other regulators.”

As the events continue to unfold, the market is reacting negatively as BTC has lost over 4.1 per cent in the last 24 hours to trade at $25,721.67 while ETH has lost 3.00 per cent to $1,817.01 while Binance Coin (BNB), Binance’s token, has lost nearly 8 per cent of its value as it trades at $277.33.

Other tokens like Cardano (ADA), Solana (SOL), Litecon (LTC), Polygon (MATIC), and Dogecoin (DOGE) have also lost more than 6-7 per cent of their respective values.

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BUA Cement Gets $500m for Two New Production Lines



BUA Cement

By Adedapo Adesanya

Nigeria’s second-largest cement producer, BUA Cement, has gotten a $500 million financing package from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to develop two new production lines in Sokoto State.

In what is IFC’s largest-ever investment in northern Nigeria, the financing package, which saw input from African and European partners to BUA Cement Plc, will help the company part-finance and develop two new, energy-efficient cement production lines that will create up to 12,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The funding includes a $160.5 million loan from IFC’s account, a $94.5 million loan through the Managed Co-Lending Portfolio Program (MCPP), and $245 million in parallel loans from syndication partners; the African Development Bank (AfDB) – $100 million, the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) – $100 million, and the German Investment Corporation, Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) – $45 million.

The financing was announced during the Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

It was disclosed that the plants would run partly on alternative fuels derived from waste and solar power. Each will produce about three million tons of cement annually when complete, serving markets in Nigeria, Niger, and Burkina Faso.

Speaking on this, Mr Abdul Samad Rabiu, Chairman and Founder of BUA Group, said that “BUA is delighted to partner with IFC and other esteemed institutions in securing this $500 million facility to develop energy-efficient cement production capacity and strengthen our equipment and logistics capabilities in northern Nigeria.

“In line with our commitment to sustainability and ESG principles, this investment will create jobs and contribute to economic and infrastructural development within Nigeria and the greater Sahel region.

“We are particularly pleased to have successfully gone through the rigorous process with IFC, AfDB, AFC, and DEG, which validates our responsible business practices. By focusing on greener fuels and enhancing our equipment and logistics platform, BUA Cement is building a foundation for sustainable infrastructure growth and a more inclusive society,” he said.

“We are pleased to join with our partners to support BUA with an investment that will boost industrialization, create jobs and deliver economic growth in northern Nigeria, a region with significant economic potential,” said Mr Makhtar Diop, IFC’s Managing Director.

Investing in northern Nigeria is integral to IFC’s strategy to promote sustainable development in underserved regions. This includes areas with limited opportunities and a need for increased private-sector engagement.

The new plants will provide local developers with a reliable and affordable source of cement, and bolster the construction of essential infrastructure, fostering economic growth and prosperity for the region.

The project is expected to create about 1,000 direct jobs and 10,800 indirect jobs. Direct jobs include those in manufacturing, engineering, and advanced automation systems. Indirect jobs include those in the cleaning, maintenance, mining, and transportation sectors.

The financing package will also allow BUA to replace some of its diesel trucks with vehicles that are run partly on natural gas, over time producing fewer emissions. As part of the project, IFC will also advise BUA on developing a gender-inclusive workplace strategy that creates more opportunities for women across its operations.

“Following an initial $200 million investment in BUA Group in 2021, we are proud to play another key role in this landmark manufacturing project to transform northern Nigeria’s construction sector and the entire country. Investing in this project will sustainably build Nigeria’s local manufacturing capacity, empower local communities, and create employment opportunities. AFC is committed to working with our partners to accelerate development impact through infrastructure solutions that support value addition, industrialization, and job creation throughout Africa,” added Mr Samaila Zubairu, CEO & President of Africa Finance Corporation (AFC).

“The African Development Bank is pleased to be partnering with IFC and BUA on this expansion project as it is aligned with our priority strategies of industrializing Africa and improving the quality of lives of Africans through the increase in cement production, which will lead to the development of additional affordable housing and critical infrastructure in Nigeria and neighbouring West African countries while supporting the use of cleaner energy at BUA’s Sokoto facility,” said Mr Solomon Quaynor, Vice President of AfDB’s Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization arm.

“DEG’s mission is to be a reliable partner to private sector enterprises as drivers of development and creators of qualified jobs. We are pleased to contribute to this transaction together with our development finance partner institutions. Together we support BUA in its transformation towards a more sustainable production by implementing innovative technology. The significant reduction of CO2 emissions and the creation of decent jobs in a region with many vulnerable households are key factors for DEG’s financing,” said Mr Gunnar Stork, Senior Director at DEG.

The investment in BUA is part of IFC’s strategy to promote diversified, inclusive growth and job creation in Nigeria, where IFC supports the manufacturing agribusiness, healthcare, infrastructure, technology, and financial services sectors. IFC has an active investment portfolio of $2.3 billion in Nigeria.

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Nigeria’s OTC Stock Market Depreciates by 1.40%



OTC Stock Market

By Adedapo Adesanya

The NASD Over-the-Counter (OTC) Securities Exchange opened the week in the negative territory as the bourse witnessed a 1.40 per cent loss on Monday, June 5.

This was influenced by the sole price loser, FrieslandCampina Wamco Nigeria Plc, which fell by N4.00 to sell at N71.00 per unit compared with the preceding session’s N75.00 per unit.

The milk-producing firm pushed down the efforts of Niger Delta Exploration and Production (NDEP) Plc and Industrial and General Insurance (IGI) Plc to lift the OTC stock market.

NDEP gained N1.16 during the session to finish at N246.21 per share versus N245.05 per share, and IGI Plc appreciated by 1 Kobo to 8 Kobo from 7 Kobo.

At the close of business, the market capitalisation of the bourse decreased by N14.30 billion to N1.008 trillion from N1.022 trillion, and the NASD Unlisted Securities Index (NSI) recorded a 10.35 points decline to wrap the session at 728.86 points compared with 739.21 points of the previous session.

Amid the weak sentiment, there was a 1,768.8 per cent rise in the volume of securities traded at the bourse yesterday to 22.7 million units from the previous trading session’s N1.2 million, the value of shares transacted by investors rose by 151.0 per cent to N142.9 million from the N56.9 million reported last Friday, as the number of deals surged by 500.0 per cent to 48 deals from eight deals.

Geo-Fluids Plc remained the most traded stock by volume (year-to-date) with 832.1 million units worth N1.3 billion, followed by IGI Plc with 628.3 units valued at N49.5 million, and UBN Property Plc with 395.9 million units valued at N336.6 million.

Similarly, VFD Group Plc was the most traded stock by value (year-to-date) with 11.0 million units valued at N2.5 billion, trailed by Geo-Fluids Plc with 832.1 million units worth N1.3 billion, and FrieslandCampina Wamco Nigeria Plc with the sale of 17.1 million units worth N1.2 billion.

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