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Opinion: Major World Economies are Becoming Increasingly Isolationist, Except Those in Africa

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The best word to describe the mood of the global economy these days is gloomy. The pessimism is closely tied to the loss of faith in free markets and free trade, the two forces that propelled the world economy for the past seven decades. The United States, long the staunchest supporter of these ideas, has moved into full-scale mercantilist mode. Britain, the original free trade superpower, is pulling out of the European Union, its largest free-trade relationship. China is striving to become less reliant on foreign firms and global supply chains. Everywhere the trend seems the same. Except in Africa.

Last month, unnoticed by much of the media, Africa’s leaders announced the creation of a continent-wide free-trade area that will potentially bring together 1.3 billion people in a $3.4 trillion economic zone. The success of this project hinges on whether nations actually do reduce tariffs and other trade barriers, but if they do, trade could rise by as much as 50 percent in the next few decades, according to theInternational Monetary Fund. As the IMF put it, “This could be an economic game changer for the continent.”

Africa has six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies. By 2050, a new African middle and upper class of 250 million people could stimulate a five-fold rise in demand for goods and services. The World Bank found that a third of all business-regulation reforms from 2017-2018 took place in sub-Saharan Africa, and the continent boasted five of the 10 most-improved economies in the institution’s annual Doing Business Index. More than 400 African companies already take in at least $1 billion in annual revenue. These data points come from a recent Brookings Institution op-ed, “The high growth promise of an integrated Africa,” by Landry Signé and Ameenah Gurib-Fakim.

One country that has bet big on Africa is China. In 2000, trade between China and the entire African continent was $10 billion. Today it’s $200 billion, making China its largest trading partner. Beijing has invested heavily in aid and loans for the region. President Xi Jinping hosted an African summit in Beijing last year and announced that China planned to spend $60 billion in credit, investment and development projects for the continent for the next three years.

Of course, there are many caveats to the rosy picture of Africa. It’s easier to announce the intention to reduce trade barriers than to actually enact such laws. Africa continues to face massive problems in the form of corruption and mismanagement, not to mention conflict. Some of the continent’s promising growth statistics reflect the simple fact that Africa is rich in natural resources, and a growing world economy has created high demand for these products.

The most encouraging aspect of today’s Africa is the striking rise in private business. The region has the highest rate of entre­pre­neur­ship in the world, with 22 percent of working-age Africans launching new businesses, compared with 13 percent of their counterparts in Asia and 19 percent in Latin America. Places such as Rwanda that are truly business friendly and have a strong rule of law are experiencing sustained economic growth and rising standards of living.

I witnessed firsthand the energy of African entrepreneurs on a recent trip to Nigeria. I was a guest of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, which has committed $100 million to train and assist 10,000 entrepreneurs across the continent. The energy and optimism of these young men and women, from all 54 of Africa’s countries, were infectious. Their only complaint was that the world was missing the big good news about their continent.

Africa will demand the world’s attention over the coming decades. It will add 1 billion people to its population by 2050 and 2 billion more by the end of the century, at which point more than one in three people on the planet will be African. That demographic boom could create enormous problems if it is not accompanied by job opportunities and political stability. But it could provide the world with energy and dynamism as populations age and growth slows in most of the rest of the world. Much of this will depend on Africa’s leaders, who will have to finally fulfill the promise of the continent and its people. Too many have stolen from their people for too long.

Africans know the price they have paid by being locked out of global markets and of living in countries with limited private enterprise. They understand that the only real and sustainable path out of poverty is expanding free markets that are, of course, well-managed and regulated by effective governments. Much of the world today could be reminded of that simple lesson.

Culled from Washington Post

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CBN Releases 16 Banking Transactions Not Affected by Cybersecurity Levy

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Following the Central Bank of Nigeria’s directive that all banks should commence charging a 0.5 per cent cybersecurity levy on all electronic transactions within the country, below are 16 banking transactions that are exempted from the CBN’s new cybersecurity levy:

  1. Loan disbursements and repayments
  2. Salary payments
  3. Intra-account transfers within the same bank or between different banks for the same customer
  4. Intra-bank transfers between customers of the same bank
  5. Other Financial Institutions instructions to their correspondent banks
  6. Interbank placements,
  7. Banks’ transfers to CBN and vice-versa
  8. Inter-branch transfers within a bank
  9. Cheque clearing and settlements
  10. Letters of Credits
  11. Banks’ recapitalisation-related funding – only bulk funds movement from collection accounts
  12. Savings and deposits, including transactions involving long-term investments such as Treasury Bills, Bonds, and Commercial Papers.
  13. Government Social Welfare Programmes transactions e.g. Pension payments
  14. Non-profit and charitable transactions, including donations to registered non-profit organisations or charities
  15. Educational institutions’ transactions, including tuition payments and other transactions involving schools, universities, or other educational institutions
  16. Transactions involving bank’s internal accounts such as suspense accounts, clearing accounts, profit and loss accounts, inter-branch accounts, reserve accounts, nostro and vostro accounts, and escrow accounts.

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CBN Directs Banks to Charge 0.5% Cybersecurity Levy on Electronic Transfer

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has directed banks and other financial institutions to implement a 0.5 percent cybersecurity levy on electronic transfers.

This is contained in a circular signed by Chibuzor Efobi, Director of Payments System Management and Haruna Mustafa, Director of Financial Policy and Regulation on Monday.

The directive was issued to commercial, merchant, non-interest and payment service banks, as well as mobile money operators.

CBN said the policy would take effect in two weeks and charges would be described as ‘Cybersecurity Levy’.

According to the apex bank, the deduction and collection of the cybersecurity levy is a sequel to the enactment of the Cybercrime (prohibition, prevention etc) Amendment Act of 2024.

“Following the enactment of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) (amendment) Act 2024 and under the provision of Section 44 (2)(a) of the Act, “a levy of 0.5% (0.005) equivalent to a half percent of all electronic transactions value by the business specified in the second schedule of the Act, is to be remitted to the National Cybersecurity Fund (NCF), which shall be administered by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA),” CBN said.

CBN said the charges would be remitted to the national cyber security fund, which would be administered by the office of the NSA.

“Deductions shall commence within two (2) weeks from the date of this circular for all financial institutions and the monthly remittance of the levies collected in bulk to the NCF account domiciled at the CBN by the 5th business day of every subsequent month.”

CBN said failure to remit the levy is an offence which attracts a fine of not less than 2 percent of the annual turnover of the defaulting business, amongst others.

“Finally, all institutions under the regulatory purview of the CBN are hereby directed to note and comply with the provisions of the Act and this circular.”

Meanwhile, earlier, banks announced the reintroduction of 2 percent charge on deposits above N500,000.

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Naira Slumps to N1,399/$1 in Official Window, N1,430/$1 in Parallel Market

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The Naira continued its slump against the American dollar for the seventh consecutive day on Friday, in both the official and parallel windows.

The domestic currency traded at N1,399.23/$1 and N1,430/$1 respectively.

This is according to data sourced from the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market (NAFEM) window.

At the end of trading on Friday, the Naira lost N89.35 against the dollar when compared to the previous exchange rate of N1,309.88/$1 on Thursday, April 26, 2024.

The intra-day high and low recorded during the day were N1,410/$1 and N1,05/$1 respectively, representing a wide spread of N359/$1.

Similarly, the Naira slumped against the dollar at the parallel section of the market for the seventh consecutive day to trade at N1,430/$1 representing a loss of N10 when compared to the N1,420/$1 it traded the previous day.

However, the Naira gained against the pound. The domestic currency appreciated by N50 against the British Pound to trade at N1,650/£1 as against the previous trading price of N1,700/£1 representing a gain of N50 for the local currency,

The Canadian dollar however closed flat against the Naira to trade at N1,000/CA$1 same as the previous trading day rate.

The Euro also slumped against the Naira to trade at N1,450/€1 as against the rate of N1,500/€1 the previous trading rate indicating a gain of N50 for the Nigerian currency.

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