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Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

Oil In Tanzania?

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Apparently, there are encouraging signs to suggest so:

Tullow Oil said Thursday that the Likonde-1 well, onshore Tanzania, has encountered thick sands with hydrocarbon shows. The well, which is now being plugged and abandoned, is the first of a two-well program within the prospective Ruvuma delta region. The encouraging results will be followed up with detailed technical work prior to selecting the next drilling location.


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April 1, 2010 at 11:59

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Deep Thought

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The Tanzanian government last year admitted to losing a third of its annual budget through graft and embezzlement.

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March 2, 2010 at 13:02

Dead Aid?

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Swahili Street calls out NGOs:

[T]ime and again funding NGOs, bilateral donors, ‘local’ NGOs claim credit for stuff that…. well…. they haven’t actually done.

I remember the discussion with someone who had got a lot of money to do Public Expenditure Tracking. He didn’t know how to do it, his staff didn’t know how to do it. They didn’t even know if it was worth doing or not in their District. I asked him to level with me. We looked at each other over our mugs of tea and he replied: “ah, si unajua dunia ya wahisani?” Don’t you know the donor world?

The whole post is worth reading. And this one too.

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January 27, 2010 at 11:49

The Hidden Costs of Democracy: Footing the bill for retired leaders

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Ever since the late Julius Nyerere stepped down from office in 1985, Tanzania has maintained a positive leadership tradition on a continent where succession is often problematic. Presidents serve for their full two terms- a decade- and then retire to live out the rest of their days as respected elder statesmen. Ministers and Prime Ministers and Vice Presidents serve at the pleasure of their Presidents and then either continue with their political careers as Members of Parliament, or they retire. Now, with all this retiring going on, Tanzania’s peaceful succession model has actually left her with a hefty maintenance bill for former public servants, so claims this story in today’s Tanzania Daima‘Vigogo wastaafu mzigo kwa taifa’ [Retired leaders a burden on the nation], (The link is unavailable. Their site appears to be down). 

There are a number of African countries that have put old presidents out to pasture with varying degrees of grace: Ghana, South Africa, Botswana and more recently Kenya come to mind. The well-intended Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership – set at 5 million USD- is meant in part as a financial incentive for African leaders not to accumulate retirement funds through abuse of power. How that negligible amount of money is supposed to distract incumbents from the temptations provided by having access to their national treasuries is not entirely clear. It may be instructive that in 2009 the prize went unclaimed as the Mo Ibrahim Foundation failed to find a worthy candidate – a President who had served within her or his term limits and retired within the past three years. 

One interesting angle that has been raised in the Tanzania Daima story is the issue of public servants who resigned due to corruption-related pressures. Edward Lowassa was mentioned as one of the leaders who are receiving a hefty government pension. Does this imply that Andrew Chenge, Grey Mgonja, Johnson Mwanyika, Basil Mramba and other recent ‘retirees’ are enjoying their rightful benefits as former public servants? And what message is the government sending its largest cohort of employees- school teachers- who have not received their relatively affordable salaries for a long time? In any case, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation should take note that President Jakaya Kikwete will be ripe for the Leadership Prize in the first quarter of 2016. 

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January 8, 2010 at 16:48

Serengeti in the Media: Budget 2009/2010

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Serengeti Advisers’ partner, Mr. Aidan Eyakuze, joined Hon. John Cheyo (DP-Bariadi) and the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Hon. Hamad Rashid Mohamed (CUF-Wawi) on the Hamza Kassongo Hour on Sunday 14th June to discuss the government’s 2009/2010 budget. For a summary of his comments, go here and here.

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June 16, 2009 at 15:19

Watching CRDB: an analysis of the effects of the financial crisis

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The leading story on the global economic crisis in The Citizen newspaper on May 6th, 2009 is important for two reasons.

First, it attempted to put some real numbers on the impact of the global economic crisis on Tanzania’s banking system. The East African Central Bank Governors concluded a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda on May 12th. In their joint statement, they: 

‘confirmed that the EAC economies did not experience severe first round effects of the global financial crisis. They however observed that the EAC Partner States are not immune to global events in general, as their economies are currently suffering from second and third round effects, notably decline in export demand, slowdown in FDI and remittances, and decline in foreign aid to government.’

First-round effects refer to the huge, negative impact on the health of global banks of the devastating drop in the value of the financial securities (the ‘toxic’ assets based on sub-prime loans) which initiated the global economic crisis in the first place. Since Tanzania’s banks did not have any such toxic assets, they did not suffer such losses.

But as the global banks panicked and stopped lending, international credit dried up, followed by the demand for exports which is financed by this credit. The result was a huge 20-30% drop in export sales for all of the major sectors and companies, huge job losses across economies, and the evaporation of consumer spending which drives the global economic engine. These are the second- (export demand), third- (drop in foreign investment and remittances) and fourth- (decline in foreign aid) round effects which are beginning to show up in Tanzania’s economy, via the banking system.

Consider the second-round effects. When export demand falls – due to a combination of fewer buyers with cash and much lower prices – Tanzania’s commodity exporters (cotton, fish, tea, flowers, horticulture), who borrowed from the CRDB and others in mid-2008, find it difficult to raise the cash to repay the loans. Borrowers’ problems pose the most direct risk to Tanzania’s banks and its banking system. The severity will depend on how big these potentially problematic loans are relative to the whole banking system.

That is why The Citizen’s analysis of CRDB’s position is so instructive and is the second reason for the story’s importance.

In December 2008, CRDB was Tanzania’s largest lending bank (TZS 836 billion in loans) and second largest bank by assets (TZS 1.5 trillion) and deposits (TZS 1.27 trillion). So, due its sheer size, CRDB is as good a bellwether of the health of Tanzania’s banking system as you can get. If it has a large number of problem loans, other large lenders may have similar troubles. Also if it holds a large amount of other banks’ cash as inter-bank deposits its ability to return that cash is crucial. Any doubt about CRDB’s financial strength may worry depositors and cause them to withdraw their funds, leading to a devastating, and sometimes contagious, bank run.

A closer look at CRDB’s financial position reveals a less alarming picture. First, it had a very small TZS 3.35 billion of other banks’ money in December 2008, so it has no problem repaying them. Second, its total loan book of TZS 848 billion was just two-thirds of its customer deposits. Indeed in 2008, the growth in loans of TZS 248 billion was just short of the growth in deposits of TZS 259 billion. This combined with its cash pile of TZS 295 billion suggests that CRDB is very unlikely to run into any cash crunch problems anytime soon.

Finally, the TZS 168 billion reported as problem loans to crop buyers amounts to almost 20% of the bank’s loan book. If it was to all go bad simultaneously, a highly improbable event, CRDB’s profits would evaporate and the bank remain in the red for at least the next three years. However like any prudent bank, CRDB is secured, in part by the crops which it financed. As the price of the commodity rises (cotton is up by 10% in April 2009 alone, tea prices are up 15% since November, Arabica coffee is up 12%, but Robusta is down 18%) so too does the value of the bank’s collateral and the borrowers’ ability to sell and repay the loans. It may take longer than normal to fully repay the crop loans, but as things stand, CRDB’s financial strength can probably outlast the economic downturn.

However, there is a sting in the tail of The Citizen’s scrutiny, and this concerns the timing of its publication. The first article appeared just two days before the last day of its initial public offer (IPO) period. This may have affected investors’ appetite for the CRDB share offer. Bad news during one’s IPO cannot be good for investor sentiment.

A value-driven investor looking to buy CRDB shares will have had to consider the implications of the problematic loans on the value of the shares she wants to buy. The shares’ fundamental value will be determined by CRDB’s profit performance in 2009. If the crop loans do sour, profits will be negatively affected by provisions which will in turn have a negative impact on the bank’s earnings per share. But this will not be known until later in 2009 or even early 2010 when CRDB reports its full year results.

The speculative investor is more concerned about price than value because he wants to profit from a rise in CRDB’s share price when it starts trading on June 17. His biggest worry is that the article may have discouraged potential buyers of his shares when trading begins. Recent experience may calm his fears about investor appetite for bank shares.

In September 2008, investors spent almost TZS 100 billion chasing after just TZS 63 billion of NMB shares. A few months earlier, the Dar es Salaam Community Bank found itself attracting TZS 5.2 billion for a small TZS 1.5 billion share issue. In this instance, Danida Investment Fund asked for a very modest TZS 18.8 billion for a five percent share of CRDB. Can one newspaper article stem the flood of cash that is likely to be attracted by one of Tanzania’s banking giants? We shall know on June 3rd when the results of the IPO are announced.

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May 19, 2009 at 17:11

Feeling the effects of the economic crisis

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Coming at the heels of news that the government has agreed a possible loan deal with the IMF, The Citizen reports today that local banks are starting to feel the strain of the global financial crisis as some creditors may be unable to pay-off their loans. Money quote:

The Citizen has reliably learnt that the Sh271 billion the bank lent to buyers of cash crops last season is at risk of not being repaid mostly due to falling prices of traditional exports in the international markets. 

By March, only 38 per cent of the cash borrowed to buy produce from farmers and facilitate export transactions had been repaid.  

The permanent secretary in the ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Mr Peniel Lyimo, said recently that CRDB Bank had reported having some Sh168 billion at risk due to traders’ inability to service their loans. 

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May 6, 2009 at 12:12