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Algerian President Approves Budget with Huge Deficit

The budget which was approved by President Tebboune on Thursday, after it was passed by the two chambers of parliament, forecasts a deficit of 2,700 trillion dinars (around $20.4 billion, 17.6 billion euros), or 14 percent of GDP.

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The president of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Thursday approved a 2021 budget which foresees a deficit of around 14 percent of GDP, the presidency said, as the oil-rich country struggles with economic challenges.

The North African country’s economy has been heavily hit by tumbling crude oil prices, a liquidity crisis, inflation, as well as the coronavirus pandemic which has brought many economic sectors to a halt.

Algeria, which is Africa’s third biggest oil producer, has also faced negative growth, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasting that the country’s economy will shrink 5.2 percent this year and that it will have one of the region’s highest budget deficits.

Oil and gas account for around 90 percent of Algeria’s total exports, and the revenue generated from this export is used to subsidise fuel, water, health care, housing and basic goods.

Early in 2020, the president of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune acknowledged that the country was vulnerable due to its failure to diversify its oil dependent economy for decades.

The budget which was approved by President Tebboune on Thursday, after it was passed by the two chambers of parliament, forecasts a deficit of 2,700 trillion dinars (around $20.4 billion, 17.6 billion euros), or 14 percent of GDP.

Furthermore, the country’s hard currency reserves have taken a plummeted from more than 162 billion euros in 2014 to less than 57 billion euros as at late 2019.

President Tebboune has already ruled out seeking loans from the IMF or other international financial agencies, but pledge to launch an economic recovery plan.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune returned to the country on Tuesday after a two-month absence in Germany, where he received treatment for Covid-19, just in time for the signing off on the 2021 budget.

The country has recorded just close to 100,000 cases of the novel coronavirus of which 2,756 have resulted in deaths.

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Business News

MTN Donates $25M to the African Union

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Telecommunication giant, MTN, has announced a donation of $25million to support the African Union COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Ralph Mupita, President and Chief Executive Officer of MTN Group, on Wednesday in Johannesburg, said that the donation will help secure up to seven million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for health workers across the continent.

This he said will contribute to the vaccination initiative of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

“The devastating impact of COVID-19 has been unprecedented and profound, therefore, Public and private partnerships are needed if we are to succeed in the fight against the pandemic.

“The sole objective is to restore social and economic norms for our continent and our communities and most importantly the determination to bring lasting solutions to the disease,

“On Jan. 14, President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairperson of the African Union, announced that the African Union had secured a provisional 270 million COVID-19 vaccine doses on behalf of its Member States.

“Through advance procurement commitment guarantees of up to US$2 billion to the manufacturers by the African Export-Import Bank.

“This was an important milestone in efforts to ensure equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine for Africa’s people,’’ Mupita said.

He added that with a population of about 1.3 billion, Africa requires many more doses to achieve at least 60 per cent herd immunity.

Contributions by private organisations, like MTN, are therefore essential to help the continent reach its target.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, MTN has made significant contributions to help limit the spread of the disease and save lives and livelihoods within its African market.

This donation is another example of MTN’s efforts to help find lasting solutions to solve the challenges facing the continent and to guarantee a healthy Africa, for all Africans.

“We believe ongoing collaborations with key stakeholders across sectors are essential as vaccines are deployed in all our markets, with communication tools, technology and digital services being vital support infrastructure.

“Therefore, for a successful mass vaccination programme. in the coming months, MTN Group will look at similar support commitments for the markets in which we operate in the Middle East.”Mupita said.

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Conservation News

Kenya, Tanzania Plan to Conduct Wildlife Census

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Kenya and Tanzania are set to conduct a joint cross-border count of rhinoceros and other large mammals in the shared Mara-Serengeti ecosystem.

The census is one of the resolutions reached by a joint meeting dubbed ‘the Greater Serengeti Society Platform’

Chaired by chairperson of Tourism and Natural Resources Management Committee of the Council of Governors Samuel Tunai, it had in attendance key tourism industry players from the two countries.

The forum also deliberated on successes in conservation of the Greater Serengeti Ecosystem, as well as challenges and the interventions needed.

Attendees at the workshop facilitated by the European union included senior managers and directors from Kenya Wildlife Services, Tanzania National Parks, and Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority.

Others are Narok County, Maasai Mara game reserve warden, Frankfurt Zoological Society, Tanzania Association of Tour Operators, Grumeti & Friedkin and the Maasai Mara Wildlife Associations.

The meeting saw to the constitution of the committee tasked with the cross-border census. It involved Kenya Wildlife Service, Narok county government rangers, Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, Wildlife Division of Tanzania and Tanzania National Parks and Environmental activists.

The aerial census seeks to establish the wildlife population, trends and distribution as well as foster cross-border collaboration on wildlife monitoring and management between the two East African countries.

Tunai said data from the census will be used for planning and preparing the management for possible wildlife security and human-wildlife conflict eventualities in the ecosystem.

Researcher Grant Hopcraft said the Tanzanian government has moved about 8,000 persons out of the Speke Game Controlled Area in a bid to conserve Serengeti’s ecosystem as it faces shortfalls in rainfall.

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West Africa Business News

Nigeria’s Central Bank Retains Lending Rate at 11.5 Per Cent

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Nigeria's Central Bank governor named for second term

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), on Tuesday, held the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) at 11.5 per cent and retained the Cash Reserves Ratio at 27.5 per cent as it battles to combat rising inflation and a recession.

Speaking at the apex bank’s first Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in 2021, CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said all 10 members of the committee voted to stick with the current rate.

Also retained are the Liquidity Ratio which was left at 30 per cent; and the Asymmetric corridor which was left at +100 and -700 basis points around the MPR.

Emefiele also disclosed that the CBN has secured approval from President Muhammadu Buhari to restructure the Nigeria Commodity Exchange.

The CBN governor said the Bank can no longer sit back and watch unscrupulous commodity merchants hoard commodities and force the prices of commodities to be high.

The bank cut rates twice last year to try to stimulate an economy that has been hobbled by the COVID-19 pandemic and an oil price crash.

The bank is facing the challenge of stimulating growth at the same time as trying to curb double-digit inflation while also propping up the ailing naira currency, hit by lower oil receipts, Emefiele said.

Africa’s biggest economy fell into its second recession in four years in the third quarter.

Nigeria, the continent’s top oil exporter which relies on crude sales for 90% of foreign-exchange earnings, was last in recession in 2016. It emerged the following year, but growth has remained fragile since.

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