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Malawi, Mozambican Agree to Strengthen Economic Relations

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Mozambique Malawi economic relations

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Mozambique and Malawi, largely sharing borders, have agreed to forge cooperation in diverse economic sectors and take the advantages offered by the single continental market.

A number of African leaders have started looking at the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), as it aspires to connect all regions of Africa, to deepen economic integration and boost intra-African trade and investment. It aspires to create a single market for goods and services across 55 countries and our continent, creating a market of as much as 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion.

On November 22 to 24, President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi of Mozambique went on an official working visit to Blantyre, Malawi. It was to participate in the 5th SADC Industrialization Week in Lilongwe, according to a statement from Malawi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The first strategy for regional industrialization, he noted at the conference of the Industrialization Week, includes developing synergies linked to value chains, transport corridors, energy, and human potential. It will also involve bringing down barriers at the border to strengthen the economic identity of SADC. According to Nyusi, the impact of this strategy will be amplified through changes to the trade balance as exports are increased and imports substituted.

The second strategy is based on developing technology, employing thousands of people, creating a market to absorb agricultural surpluses from the rural population with a particular focus on women, agro-processing and associated logistics, which, he said, ends up becoming a “powerful weapon” for the well-being of the population and combating poverty.

While still in Malawi during the visit, Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera took his guest counterpart Filipe Nyusi to launch the construction works for the Mozambique-Malawi power transmission interconnection project at Phombeya in Balaka District. The power generation project planned to translate into improved access to electricity supply and ultimately strengthen the industrialization programmes in both countries.

Construction of the interconnection project includes laying transmission lines about 142km from Matambo substation and 76km into Malawi to Phombeya passing through Mwanza and Neno Districts – expected to be completed in 2023.

According to the Integrated Resource Plan of 2017, peak electricity demand will be 1,860MW by 2030 yet currently, Malawi’s installed electricity generation capacity is hovering at 50MW. The objectives of the interconnection project include supporting the economic growth of the region through sustainable power access by integrating the Malawi electricity market to the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) in order to balance the power deficit through regional power trading.

Phase 1 of the project included a technical and economic feasibility study that was completed in 2017, project definition and scope and environmental and social impact assessment that was completed in 2019.

In his remarks, President Chakwera said like the railway rehabilitation project that the two countries have embarked on to connect Malawi to the Sena Line across the border from Vila Nova de Fronteira to Marka, “this interconnection project is yet another milestone in the linkages between our two nations.” He reminded Nyusi, that during his visit to Songo Province in Mozambique last year, Chakwera was privileged to tour the Cabora Bassa Dam which is the hub of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).

“It was at that time that we agreed to hold this joint ceremony launching the construction of the electricity transmission line for Malawi-Mozambique Interconnection. I am, therefore, glad to see this coming to pass as a step in the direction of integrating infrastructure across SADC for sustainable economic development. The project aims at creating avenues for trade in the SAPP, with the prospect of more exchanges of trade and power in the future,” he asserted in remarks.

President Chakwera says Malawi and Mozambique are strategic development partners and there is a need for the two nations to continue exploring economic relations in the areas of trade, transport and mining for the mutual benefit of their people. Both presidents also identified areas of rail transport, energy and mining for developing bilateral partnerships.

With the construction of The Malawi-Mozambique Interconnector, it marches towards the goal of adding 1,000 megawatts to the national grid over the next four years is making steady progress. The project is co-funded by the World Bank- IDA Credit at $15 million; European Union through KFW Grant at $20 million and the Malawi Government at $3.5 million.

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World Bank Gives $300m Budget Support to Mozambique

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Mozambique

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

By June, the World Bank plans to provide $300 million to support the national budget of the Republic of Mozambique, according to the World Bank country director for Mozambique, Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough.

After a meeting with the Mozambican Minister of Economy and Finance, Max Tonela, the global lender’s country director said that priority sectors would include health, education, energy and agriculture. The budget support proposal will be presented to the World Bank board by June.

“We are talking about the first instalment of 300 million dollars, which we hope to take to our administration for approval by 30 June this year. Then we can consider other windows of financing for 2023 and 2024”, said Pswarayi-Riddihough.

International organizations and financial institutions have returned after the Government of Mozambique started to undertake necessary reforms.

In April, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also returned with a set of new funded programmes to Mozambique, six years after the lender halted its previous deals in the wake of a financial scandal involving three fraudulent security-linked companies, and two banks – Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, on the basis of illicit loan guarantees issued by the government under former President Armando Guebuza.

Popularly referred to as the “Hidden Debts” scandal involving $2.7 billion (€2.3 million), the financial scandal happened in 2013, and the case has since left an image of a corrupt country and brought high-level government officials to testify as witnesses in the controversial judicial trial. It prompted 14 foreign donors, including IMF, to cut off aid and simultaneously sparked a currency collapse and debt crisis.

The IMF said in a report that its funds would be used to support sustainable, inclusive economic growth and long-term macroeconomic stability, in the world’s third poorest country measured by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. The programmes will address transparency in debt management and the natural resource sector.

Unlike many of Mozambique’s other partners, the World Bank did not cut off financial assistance entirely after the scandal of Mozambique’s “Hidden Debts” became public knowledge in April 2016. World Bank aid continued, but in relatively small amounts, project by project.

Now the bank seems prepared to return to the modality of direct budget support. Pswarayi-Riddihough said that the improvement in good governance supposedly recorded in recent years contributed to the resumption of World Bank support. She claimed that this was an important step toward regaining the trust of the country’s partners.

Major work had been undertaken around questions of transparency and good governance, she alleged – but admitted that Mozambican civil society is continuing to demand greater advances in these areas. Mozambique’s new programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), she added, could give a strong signal to the market. Indeed, it will send a strong signal to all of Mozambique’s partners.

The agreement between Mozambique and the IMF, approved by the IMF Executive Board, will make $456 million available to the country. An amount of $91 million will become available immediately. At the time, Tonela said the agreement with the IMF marked the start of a new phase, leading to the resumption of sustainable growth of the Mozambican economy.

With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources but remains one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. It is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

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Adesina Seeks US Support to Fund $1.5bn Africa Food Plan

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AFDB Africa Food Plan

By Adedapo Adesanya

The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, has appealed to the United States to back the institution’s $1.5 billion emergency food production plan which seeks to avert a looming food crisis in Africa caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Mr Adesina was part of a team that testified about global food insecurity and persisting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic before the US Senate subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.

Senators Chris Coons (Delaware), Lyndsey Graham (South Carolina), Dick Durbin (Illinois), Chris Van Hollen (Maryland) and Roy Blunt (Missouri) also participated in the hearing.

Senator Coons, Chair of the Senate subcommittee, stressed that the US should move fast and provide sufficient funding, saying, “We should be concerned and even alarmed about the widening food security crisis that this war is causing for hundreds of millions far beyond Eastern Europe.”

On his part, Senator Graham expressed support for the establishment of a global fund for food security.

Speaking live via videoconference from Accra, Ghana, Mr Adesina said the proposed Africa Emergency Food Production Plan would result in the rapid production of 38 million tons of food across Africa over the next two years.

“The African Development Bank, with your support, is prepared to meet this new challenge and others head-on,” he said.

He explained that the plan is anchored on the provision of certified seeds of climate-adapted varieties to 20 million African farmers and with the disruption of food supplies arising from the Russia-Ukraine war, Africa faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially wheat, maize, and soybeans imported from the two countries.

Speaking further, the AfDB chief said the lender would invest $1.3 billion in the plan’s implementation and called on the US to make up the funding balance.

“With US support to reduce the $200 million financing gap – we can ensure the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan’s success,” he said.

The Africa Emergency Food Production Plan is currently before the bank’s Board of Directors for approval.

Also providing testimony were Mr David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme and Ms Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Chief Executive Officer of non-governmental organization Mercy Corps.

Ms McKenna said, “A perfect storm is leading to heightened global food insecurity, worse, much worse than the previous food crises over the past decade.” She cited the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change as factors sharpening the current food insecurity.

Mr Beasley said food insecurity had already begun to rise sharply before the war. He said 135 million people were acutely food-insecure before the onset of the pandemic. “COVID comes along and that number went from 135 million to 276 million people marching toward starvation.”

Mr Adesina, then, emphasized that the African Development Bank’s food production plan would foster the production of nutritious food rather than simply calories.

“One of the things we will be supporting through this emergency food production plan is bio-fortified foods. Sorghum fortified with iron. Nutritional supplementation is important,” he said

The bank’s president also said the AfDB was setting up meetings with international fertilizer companies to discuss ways to ensure that African farmers continued to have access to such inputs.

“If we don’t solve the fertilizer problem, we cannot solve the food problem.

According to him, the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan would have a long-term impact on Africa’s food productivity.

The initiative will “drive the structural changes in agriculture, to unleash the full potential of Africa to become a breadbasket to the world.”

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World

Elon Musk Puts Twitter Acquisition on Hold

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Elon Musk

By Adedapo Adesanya

In a new turn of events, Elon Musk on Friday put his $44 billion deal to acquire  Twitter Inc temporarily on hold.

The world’s richest man is carrying out the decision to put the Twitter acquisition on hold citing pending details in support of the calculation that spam and fake accounts indeed represent less than 5 per cent of users.

“Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,” Mr Musk tweeted on Friday.

This latest move sent the shares of the social media company falling 18 per cent to $37.10 in premarket trading, their lowest level since he disclosed his stake in the company in early April and subsequently made a best and final offer to take it private for $54.20 per share.

Twitter had earlier this month estimated that false or spam accounts represented fewer than 5% of its monetizable daily active users during the first quarter when it recorded 229 million users who were served to advertise.

Mr Musk, a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist, had said that one of his priorities would be to remove “spam bots” from the platform.

This is the latest drama ensuing from the deal after its General Manager of Consumer, Mr Keyvon Beykpour, was relieved of his job on Thursday as part of a major shake-up in the company heralding Elon Musk’s takeover.

The disappointed Beykpour took to the social medial platform to announce the termination of his appointment and said he got the shocking message while still on paternity leave.

According to him, the CEO of Twitter, Mr Parag Agrawal asked him to leave “after letting me know that he wants to take the team in a different direction.” Mr Beykpour, says he never imagined leaving Twitter in such a manner and time.

Mr Musk has other specific plans for Twitter products like verifying users who pay for Twitter Blue subscriptions, charging for embedded tweets, and other changes designed to grow Twitter revenue and users.

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