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Anglophone West Africa’s brightening economic prospects

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Anglophone West Africa’s brightening economic prospects

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is at last moving out of recession, Ghana’s growth continues to be strong

The economic forecast for Anglophone West Africa is looking brighter according to analysis by Ecobank’s (www.Ecobank.com) research team in the newly published Anglophone West Africa section of its flagship financial website, AfricaFICC (https://goo.gl/CduKLQ). Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is at last moving out of recession, Ghana’s growth continues to be strong, and the region’s smaller countries are picking up as they shake off the lingering effects of the Ebola outbreak in 2013-16.

Anglophone West Africa, which stretches from Gambia in the West to Nigeria in the East, is the second regional section of the website to go live. It covers six countries – Ghana (https://goo.gl/txuyNx), Guinea (https://goo.gl/uLzR4Q), Liberia (https://goo.gl/33n7h1), Nigeria (https://goo.gl/uWqwtg), Sierra Leone (https://goo.gl/nAzSa7) and The Gambia (https://goo.gl/38tdBP) – and encompasses the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), which draws together the mostly English-speaking countries of West Africa.

Data for the region shows that Nigeria accounts for an estimated 90% of regional GDP and exports (mostly crude oil). The outlook for both Nigeria and Ghana, the second key member of the block, is good in 2018: Nigeria is improving oil production, Ghana is getting a boost from an expansionary 2018 government budget and rising energy production; Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are on the up as their recovery from the effects of Ebola gathers pace; and the positive political outlook in The Gambia is driving economic prospects.

Key factors in the region are:

  • Outside oil and gas, Anglophone West Africa is a major producer of soft commodities – cocoa, cashew nuts, natural rubber and wood – both for regional consumption and for export to world markets.
  • The region is an important exporter of hard minerals, including gold, diamonds, and manganese, iron and aluminium ores, with Ghana the leading gold producer.
  • The region is also a financial hub, having an estimated 39% of Middle Africa’s banking assets in 2015 (mostly in Nigeria). Nigeria and Ghana host two of the largest stock exchanges in Africa, in Lagos and Accra, respectively.
  • Nigeria has developed the world’s largest sugar refining complex in Lagos, and has successfully phased out imports of packaged and refined sugar.

Dan Sackey, Regional Executive for Anglophone West Africa & Managing Director of Ecobank Ghana, commented: “West Africa is coming out of a difficult period where it has faced many challenges – recession, Ebola, falling oil and other commodity prices – but we are now back on a growth trajectory. The recovery in commodity prices, notably oil and cocoa, has given a boost to economic growth, especially in Nigeria and Ghana, lifting the entire region. It is essential that West Africa uses this opportunity to press ahead with the diversification of the economy away from dependence on oil and minerals, with a focus on increasing output and processing of soft commodities, improving logistics and using the region’s financial and stock market leadership. Provided West Africa’s governments can maintain fiscal discipline, the growth outlook is very positive.”

“Ecobank understands regional and local business customs, regulations and country-specific risks better than any other bank in Africa because we operate on the ground in 33 markets,” said Dr Edward George (https://goo.gl/A2dHnj), Ecobank’s Head of Group Research. “Our new website offers reliable and comprehensive economic, currency, banking, commodity and trade data on markets in Sub-Saharan Africa, helping both us and our clients to make investment and other financial decisions as part of our seamless service,” he said.

Ecobank’s flagship Africa Fixed Income, Currency and Commodities (FICC) on-line resource – https://Ecobank.com/AfricaFICC – provides key facts for businesses and investors on the economies of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and the key sectors of activity. The website gives a country-by country analysis, including the general economic outlook (https://goo.gl/mQVTyF), details of the FX, FI and banking sectors (https://goo.gl/tcJS2P), and overview of the energy (https://goo.gl/zQ8jra) and soft commodity (https://goo.gl/SnZHvG) sectors, as well as of key trade flows (https://goo.gl/z2Tf46).

Country profiles for Anglophone West Africa are now published and available online.

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Bitcoin, ether hit fresh highs

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Bitcoin, ether hit fresh highs 1

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Bitcoin hit a fresh high in Asian trading on Saturday, extending a two-month rally that saw its market capitalisation cross $1 trillion a day earlier.

The world’s most popular cryptocurrency rose to an record $56,620, taking its weekly gain to 18%. It has surged more than 92% this year.

Bitcoin’s gains have been fuelled by evidence it is gaining acceptance among mainstream investors and companies, such as Tesla Inc, Mastercard Inc and BNY Mellon.

Ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization and daily volume, hit a record $2,040.62, for a weekly gain of about 12%.

Ether is the digital currency or token that facilitates transactions on the ethereum blockchain. In the crypto world, the terms ether and ethereum have become interchangeable.

Ether futures contracts launched on derivatives exchange CME earlier this month.

(Reporting by Vidya Ranganathan; Editing by William Mallard)

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World Bank pushing for standard vaccine contracts, more disclosure from makers

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World Bank pushing for standard vaccine contracts, more disclosure from makers 2

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The World Bank is working to standardize COVID-19 vaccine contracts that countries are signing with drug makers, and is pushing manufacturers to be more open about where doses are headed, as it races to get more vaccines to poor countries, the bank’s president said on Friday.

World Bank President David Malpass told Reuters he expected the bank’s board to have approved $1.6 billion in vaccine funding for 12 countries, including the Philippines, Bangladesh, Tunisia and Ethiopia, by the end of March, with 30 more to follow shortly thereafter.

The bank is working with local governments to identify and fill gaps in distribution capacity, after they purchase vaccines under a $12 billion World Bank program, and also to standardize the contracts they are signing with manufacturers, he said.

The bank’s International Finance Corp, its private financing arm, has $4 billion to invest in expanding existing production plants or building new ones, including in developed countries, but needs more data on where current production is headed, he said.

“We are eager to be investing in new capacity, but it’s hard to do because you don’t know how much of the existing capacity is already committed to the various off-takers,” Malpass said in an interview with Reuters. New or expanded plants could be used to produce other types of vaccinations in the future, he said.

The bank’s funds could be used to expand plants in advanced economies, if the production was earmarked for developing nations, he said.

Malpass welcomed Friday’s pledge by the Group of Seven rich countries to intensify cooperation on the pandemic, saying it could help jump-start deliveries of vaccines to poorer countries, which are lagging far behind rich countries in getting shots in arms.

Data compiled by Our World In Data, a scientific online publication, showed Israel was leading the world in COVID-19 vaccinations, with nearly 82 of 100 people vaccinated, while India and Bangladesh reported less than one person per 100, Many African countries have not started at all.

Malpass said he was heartened by news about new vaccines coming down the road, and about Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE seeking permission to store their vaccine at higher temperatures, which would ease another obstacle to deliveries in lower-income countries.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Heather Timmons and Leslie Adler)

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Google to evaluate executive performance on diversity, inclusion

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Google to evaluate executive performance on diversity, inclusion 3

By Paresh Dave

(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google will evaluate the performance of its vice presidents and above on team diversity and inclusion starting this year, the company said on Friday in one of several responses to concerns about its treatment of a Black scientist.

Timnit Gebru, co-leader of Google’s ethical artificial intelligence research team, said in December that Google abruptly fired her after she criticized its diversity efforts and threatened to resign.

Alphabet and Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai ordered a review of the situation. While Google declined to share specific findings, the company announced on Friday it will engage human resources specialists during sensitive employee departures.

Pichai in June said that by 2025, Google aims to have 30% more of its leaders come from underrepresented groups, with a focus on Black, Latinx and Native American leaders in the United States and female technical leaders globally. About 96% of Google’s U.S. leaders at the time were white or Asian, and 73% globally were men.

As a result of the investigation, the company also expanded a commitment announced in June to devote more resources to retaining and promoting existing employees, including by expanding a team addressing disputes among workers and their managers.

The diversity component of executive performance reviews was not previously announced, and the company did not immediately share details about what would be measured and how pay would be affected.

Alphabet for years had rejected proposals from shareholders and employees to set diversity goals and tie executive pay to them.

Irene Knapp, a former Google employee who advocated for one such proposal at a 2018 shareholder meeting, said on Friday, “I am pleased that they met our demand from 2018, which was a bare minimum that should have been easy to do immediately.”

Evaluating managers on diversity goals is becoming more commonplace. McDonald’s Corp on Thursday tied executive bonuses to diversity.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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