African nations eye Dubai Expo for image overhaul

While expectations are high, even the continent’s heavyweights acknowledge that selling a revitalized image at the Dubai Expo will be a challenge.
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Updated 10 May 2021

African nations eye Dubai Expo for image overhaul

  • Africa witnessed 25 years of growth before falling into a COVID-induced recession

DUBAI: African nations are attending this year’s Dubai Expo 2020 in force, hoping to project an image of a modern and ambitious continent and shed stereotypes of conflict and underdevelopment.

The six-month mega-event, delayed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, is a milestone for the wealthy Gulf emirate. It has spent some $8.2 billion transforming a barren stretch on the outskirts of the city into an eye-popping site bristling with high-tech pavilions.

As the huge project nears completion ahead of the scheduled October 2021 opening, African delegates touted their ambitions to generate trade and investment at a high-level meeting this week.

With nearly all African states represented for the first time, Expo provides a stage to advertise a “continent that is ready to move forward” and “a secure place to do business,” Levi Uche Madueke from the 55-member African Union (AU) said.

“The time has come for us to actually reach out to the world, and for the world to understand us, and also see how they can collaborate with us,” said Madueke, the AU’s head of strategic partnerships.

Since the first World Expo was held in London in 1851, global fairs have been used to showcase innovations and as a branding exercise for participating countries. And in its quest to gain influence on the international scene, the UAE has increased its political and economic presence in Africa in recent years, particularly in the eastern Horn.

Africa witnessed 25 years of growth before falling into a COVID-induced recession in 2020. It continues to dominate the bottom half of the global Human Development Index.

Aside from exceptions such as Rwanda, Morocco and Kenya, African states also fare poorly on indices that measure the ease of doing business. But Madueke said that despite the need to develop infrastructure and the existing barriers to international trade, Africa has “a lot to offer” thanks to its rich natural resources and youthful population.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, long seen as a country marred by conflict and corruption, is looking to attract investment from around the world.

“Often when we talk about Africa, about Congo, people will say — there is war in the east, there are rebels ... No!” said Eugene Manga Manga, DR Congo’s general commissioner for Expo 2020. “We have everything we need. If you go out at night in Kinshasa, life is good.” Known for its rich mineral resources, DR Congo will showcase its culture and landscape in promotional videos in a bid to attract tourists, from its pavilion that that will also promote the country’s agricultural potential.

“The Congo has 80 million hectares of arable land. We exploit only 10 percent,” Manga said, adding that the country has taken steps to ease property ownership hurdles and improve the business climate. “This image of Africa that is sold — of misery, suffering, war — that’s in the past!” he told AFP.

At the Dubai meetings, members of the Benin delegation said the country was working overtime to promote tourism by rehabilitating cultural sites and improving its business potential through economic reforms. “The objective is to sell the destination,” said Ines Monwanou, the country’s main delegate at Expo 2020.

While expectations are high, even the continent’s heavyweights acknowledge that selling a revitalized image at the Dubai Expo will be a challenge.

The Egyptian pavilion, featuring pyramids and hieroglyphics, will showcase the country’s ancient history and vast tourism appeal, but the main objective is to draw in business investment and cooperation, particularly in new technologies.

“The world has started to look at Africa and rediscover it,” said Ahmed Maghawry Diab, an official from Egypt’s Ministry of Trade and Industry who is representing the country at Expo 2020.

“The continent has a lot of difficulties, but it has also started to develop.”


Sterling set for worst week since Sept. 2020

Updated 19 June 2021

Sterling set for worst week since Sept. 2020

LONDON: Sterling extended its fall against the US dollar on Friday, dropping below $1.39, hurt by the US Federal Reserve’s hawkish surprise and an unexpected fall in Britain’s retail sales.
The pound dropped against a strengthening dollar on Thursday after the Fed surprised markets by signaling it would raise interest rates and end emergency bond-buying sooner than expected.
On Friday, it fell further against both the dollar and the euro. It was down 0.3 percent on the day at $1.389, having touched as low as $1.38555 — its weakest since May 4. It was on track for its worst week since September 2020.
Versus the euro, it was down around 0.3 percent at 85.78 pence per euro, on track for a small weekly fall.
“GBPUSD remains bogged down below the 1.39 handle by a confluence of broad USD strength and a slight deterioration in near-term data,” said Simon Harvey, senior FX market analyst at Monex Europe.
“The limited impact of the data on sterling is largely because retail sales volumes remain above pre-pandemic levels and a shift in consumption patterns toward services after the May 17th reopening was always likely.”
For cable, market participants are weighing up the Bank of England and the Fed’s relative pace of possible monetary policy tightening. The BoE next meets on June 24.
BofA strategists said in a note to clients that it changed its view on the central bank’s tightening trajectory.
and now expects a 15 basis point rate hike in May 2022, compared to previously expecting no hikes in 2022.
“Brussels’ patience with London’s having its cake and eating it is wearing thin. Indeed, there is a risk of protocols being triggered and tariffs being threatened more seriously,” wrote ING strategists in a note to clients.
“The next few weeks could thus be a vulnerable period for Cable, where a break of 1.3890 opens up 1.3800/3810 — the last stop before an extension to the March/April lows of 1.3675.”


Bahrain’s Batelco could be first stock to be dual listed on Tadawul

Updated 18 June 2021

Bahrain’s Batelco could be first stock to be dual listed on Tadawul

  • Samba has been hired as an adviser on the deal

RIYADH: Bahrain Telecommunications Co. (Batelco) is planning to become the first company to have a dual listing of shares on Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange (Tadawul), Bloomberg reported citing people familiar with the matter.

The investment arm of Samba Financial Group has been hired as an adviser on the deal, the people said, asking not to be identified for information privacy.

No decision has been made and the company may decide against the dual listing, they said.

A spokesperson at Batelco declined to comment, while Samba Capital didn’t respond to messages seeking comment, Bloomberg said.

Tadawul has been trying to encourage Middle Eastern firms to dual list for years, without success. Aluminium Bahrain had considered a dual listing in 2014, but it never occurred.


Saudi Arabia’s National Debt Management Center wins global awards for second year

Updated 18 June 2021

Saudi Arabia’s National Debt Management Center wins global awards for second year

  • Saudi office won Middle East and emerging market awards

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia won the Best Sovereign Public Debt Office in the Middle East and the Most Impressive Emerging Market Issuer Award at the 2021 Global Capital Bond Awards, for the year 2021, for the second year in a row, SPA reported.

The Global Capital Bond Awards honors the achievements of governments and companies of all sizes in the field of sovereign and regional finance, banking services, hedge funds, and many other areas within the financial services sector.

It also highlights the most prominent innovations and achievements within the financial services sector, globally.

Saudi Arabia sold SR8.27 billion ($2.20 billion) of riyal-denominated sukuk in June, up from $941 million in May, bunt down from $3.1 billion April, National Debt Management Center data show.

“Driving growth of the Kingdom’s capital markets will be an increase in bond issuance to help fund the SR12 trillion Vision 2030," said Khalid Al-Bihlal, head of S&P Global Ratings KSA. "We project a gradual rise in the use of Saudi Arabian riyal-denominated bond issuance as the local capital markets develop. The US dollar is currently the currency of choice for such bonds."


Saudi MoF electronically linked to SAMA

Updated 18 June 2021

Saudi MoF electronically linked to SAMA

RIYADH: The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) announced the completion of an electronic link with the Ministry of Finance to process requests relating to the bank accounts of government agencies held at Saudi commercial banks through the online portal Hesaab.

SAMA is seeking to improve and accelerate the procedures related to requests of government agencies’ bank accounts received from the Ministry of Finance, by implementing technical solutions with minimal human intervention, it said in a statement on Thursday.

The Hesaab portal is one of the National Transformation Program 2020 initiatives that improves the level of financial services, in line with Vision 2030.


Oil falls amid dollar strength; demand picture still bullish

Updated 18 June 2021

Oil falls amid dollar strength; demand picture still bullish

  • Prices remain close to multi-year highs
  • Dollar jumped since Fed moved rate-hike forecast forward

LONDON: Oil prices fell for a second straight session on Friday as the US dollar soared on the prospect of interest rate hikes in the United States, but they were on track to finish the week little changed and only slightly off multi-year highs.
Brent crude futures were down 64 cents, or 0.9 percent, at $72.44 a barrel as of 9:00 a.m. GMT, extending a 1.8 percent decline on Thursday. The contract is set to be largely steady for the week.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 53 cents, or 0.8 percent, at $70.51 a barrel, after retreating 1.5 percent on Thursday and is also set to be flat on the week.
On Wednesday, Brent settled at its highest price since April 2019 while WTI settled at its highest since October 2018.
“Oil markets retreated sharply overnight as a stronger US dollar and falling commodity prices elsewhere saw the overbought technical correction continue,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.
The dollar has rocketed in the two sessions since the US Federal Reserve projected possible rate hikes in 2023, earlier than market watchers previously expected. A rising dollar makes oil more expensive in other currencies, curbing demand.
The prospect of rate hikes also weighed on the longer-term growth outlook, which would eventually hurt oil demand, in contrast to the near-term outlook for growth in demand as COVID-19 related curbs on movement and business activity ease and road and air travel pick up, said Westpac senior economist Justin Smirk.
“The near term’s all very positive. The question is how much further can it rise, how much scope is there if you’re looking at an environment where interest rates are going to rise,” Smirk said.
Oil prices also fell after Britain on Thursday reported its biggest daily rise in new cases of COVID-19 since Feb. 19, with government figures showing 11,007 new infections versus 9,055 a day earlier.
Adding to negative sentiment were remarks from Iran’s top negotiator on Thursday saying talks between Tehran and Washington on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have come closer than ever to an agreement.