- Kenya is working on a new credit facility with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a move to restore its credibility in the international market. A staff team from the IMF, visited Kenya from 10th to 20th December 2018, to hold discussions on a new IMF-supported program. The IMF reported that Kenya economy has continued to perform well, with real GDP growth accelerating to 6% in H1-2018 compared to 4.9% in H1-2017. The acceleration of growth is being driven by a strong recovery in agriculture due to improved weather conditions, resilient performance of services sectors, and sustained confidence in the economy.
- The housing deficit in Kenya stands at two million units and continues to grow at a rate of about 200,000 units a year. This is closely connected to the proliferation of slums, in which 61% of the urban population lives in overcrowded typically one-roomed houses with few or no amenities. It is also related to unemployment situation because unemployed Kenyans have no income to afford buying a house where only 8.1 million Kenyans have jobs and 19.5 million Kenyans are unemployed. The government, under the 'Big Four' agenda, proposes to construct "affordable" or "low-cost" houses for citizens. But regards unemployed Kenyans, there is no affordable house, therefore the government need to create more job opportunities which can only come from a robust economy.
- Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta stated that Kenya has managed to record impressive progress in e-commerce especially in areas such as mobile banking and e-government. Some of the breakthroughs are in sectors such as agriculture, health and money transfer. He added that the country has also made remarkable progress in the infusion of ICT technology in the delivery of health services.
- Uganda Tea Association will begin registering all tea farmers in 2019 to regulate their operations. The authorities will also carry out geo-mapping of tea gardens to create a national tea data bank. The exercise is estimated to cost 1.6 BN UGX (431,482 USD) with funding from the private sector and government. Uganda currently has 32 tea factories and tea is the second foreign exchange earner. Out of 32 tea factories, five are owned by small-holder farmers. The country produces 70,000 tons of tea annually and 90% of it is exported to other countries.
- Uganda Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda announced thatcoffee and tourism sectors play a fundamental role in achieving the country's economic objective. Coffee sector, generating approximately 18-20% of Uganda foreign exchange over the past 20 years while contributing to the income of millions of rural households. On the other hand, tourism is the highest foreign exchange earner. Therefore, combining these two priority sub-sectors will have a positive impact on the Ugandan economy which grew at 5.5% in 2017/2018
- Bank of Uganda reported that the country is presently enjoying trade surplus with all its neighbors' countries (Kenya, Tanzania, etc) due to improved agricultural productivity and stable macro-economic conditions.
- The World Bank long-term credit line to finance low-cost housing in Rwanda is expected to expand the banking industry mortgage book from 150 MM USD to 300 MM USD. The Rwanda government and the World Bank Group signed a 150 MM USD credit agreement to expand access to housing in Kigali. Banks to benefit from the credit line are expected to put up a 50% contribution by consequence this will create liquidity in the mortgage market. The credit line will be available to banks, individual home owners and property developers.
- In Rwanda, the cost of insurance is expected to increase in 2019 after the National Bank of Rwanda raised the minimum capital requirements for insurance firms. Under the new arrangement, general insurers will be expected to raise 3 BN RWF (3.3 MM USD) while life insurance firms are expected to have a minimum capital of 2 BN RWF (2.2 MM USD), up from 1 BN RWF (1.1 MM USD). The decision will be implemented on January 1, 2019. The aim of the National Bank of Rwanda decision is to align the operations of insurance firms with market conditions.
- Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir will adopt economic reform measures that would provide decent living for the citizens. He also called on the citizens not to listen to rumors and to be cautious over the attempts to create frustration, promising real measures to restore the citizens' confidence in the banking system. He assured his respect to the freedom of expression, warning that the abuse of public properties, terrorization of citizens and violation of their properties "is a red line."
- The South African rand is the fifth-worst performing emerging-market currency against the dollar in 2018, weakening more than 14% affecting by trade tensions between the US and China, South Africa the biggest trading partner. The currency posted a low of 15.69 ZAR/USD and a high of 11.51 ZAR/USD in 2018. More volatility is expected in 2019, with a South African election in May adding to local risks.
- The Central Bank of Kenya officially announced that the country new currency features images of Kenya wildlife, replacing the portraits of former presidents. However, it seems that a significant portion of the public feels that this is a move in the wrong direction. Following the terms of the country's 2010 Constitution, Kenya is set to issue currency that does not bear the image of individuals. The Central Bank of Kenya officially announced the new 1 KES, 5 KES, 10 KES and 20 KES coins that will bear the images of giraffe, rhino, lion and elephant, respectively.
- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta expressed his appreciation for the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which has helped to enhance the travel between the two Kenyan cities. The mega infrastructure project is a modern railway financed, constructed, and operated by China, is also a landmark project of China-Kenya cooperation. Moreover, it is an early result of the China-proposed #BeltandRoad Initiative, which aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa. But Kenyan government risks losing this lucrative Mombasa port to China fearing to fail in the repay of huge loans advanced by Chinese lenders.
- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has rejected a Chinese loan totaled 3.1 BN USD from Africa biggest loan lender and investor. The Kenyan president said that it will be difficult to run the country with all the loans they have received from China. Just Like Sierra Leone government under newly elected president Julius Maada Bio, who took office in April 2018 rejected 400 MM USD Chinese airport projects.
- In Kampala, Uganda capital, Atiak sugar project which is an agricultural industrial project jointly owned by the government, community members and a private investor in northern Uganda burnt in three consecutive days, destroyed close to 600 acres of mature sugarcane. The various concerns raised by the leaders are insecurity from neighboring South Sudan, indiscipline by some police officers deployed in the area, including a possibility of some residents who may not have benefited from the compensation and external sabotage by competitors against the projects expected to start work in April 2019.
- The Consultative National Road Safety Committee in Rwanda has authorized the issuance of short-term national driving license with validity not exceeding six months to people who have passed related practical test. This comes after widespread complaints from several Rwandans who have sat and passed definitive driving tests but have not yet obtained their driving permits since the beginning of 2018.
- Uganda Securities Exchange (USE) will start levying fees on market data early this year as it seeks to diversify its revenue sources, following in the footsteps of Nairobi stock market.
- The Nigerian Stock Exchange has suspended trading in the shares of the 6 companies.
- Kenya banking industry announced that there is a merger talks between NIC Bank and Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), a move that could affect the balance of power among the country's big banks and increase competition for deposits and government business. If successful, the merger between the two mid-tier banks would create the country's third-largest bank by assets at 444 BN KES (4.44 BN USD) with a customer base of 38 MM KES (373,280 USD).
- Uganda Education Ministry is planning to add Mandarin language lessons (compulsory Chinese lessons) to its secondary school curriculum at 35 schools with future plans to roll it out to more educational institutions as resources become available. The ministry has selected 35 teachers, who were trained over the last nine months, to lead the classes which will be compulsory for two years of senior secondary school but optional thereafter. The program is getting support from the Chinese government which has supplied materials including textbooks as well as some tutors.
- Tanzania Sunflower Oil Processors Association (Tasupa) needs a 10% tariff on imported crude palm oil (CPO) to be maintained or increased further to raise the price, which will eventually reduce domestic demand for palm-based products in favor of sunflower oil. The tariff will help the industry produce long-term health benefits to Tanzania on top of increasing internal sources of revenue and strengthening the value chain to sustain the market.
- Air Tanzania is the first airline based in Africa to operate GTF engines and the A220 aircraft after receiving its first delivery of Pratt & Whitney-powered Airbus A220 aircraft. The Tanzanian Government Flight Agency (TGFA) signed an agreement for two Pratt & Whitney GTF-powered Airbus A220 aircraft and one Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150-powered Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft in December 2016. Pratt & Whitney is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft and helicopter engines, and auxiliary power units. The GTF engines offer proven economic and environmental benefits with the ability to fly farther with less fuel, making Air Tanzania´s decision to expand their route network a viable solution.
- Tanzania signed deals with the Egyptian company El Sewedy Electric Co and Arab Contractors to build a 3 BN USD worth hydroelectric plant in a UNESCO world heritage site, the project will more than double Tanzania power generation capacity. The hydroelectric plant will have an installed capacity of 2,115 megawatts.
- In Zambia, Chabuka J Kawesha, Vice President Services in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ZACC) highlighted that 75% of the country GDP is influenced by SMEs. He added that mutual recognition agreements between countries can help facilitate trade more effectively in which it is the key of SMEs growth globally while countering challenges of product development, information flow and infrastructural bottlenecks.
- The Zambian government contracted the Chinese, thinking they were granting agreement to genuine terms but the whole thing just transformed into modern day colonialism. China is now proposing to take over the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport should Zambia Government fail to pay back its huge foreign debt on time. The issue of whether Zambia possesses the required economic fund to repay that debt. Moreover, the Chinese own 60% shares of the Zambian National Broadcasting corporation which means, Chinese have an influence over what should or should not be premiered on their sets.