Africa’s largest economy set to join region-wide free-trade agreement. Nigeria is almost certain to join the African Continental Free Trade Area, according to South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa. In a meeting with the Wall Street Journal in New York, Mr. Ramaphosa, who had just spoken to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, said, “President Buhari told me they are in the process of convincing people, particularly the manufacturers and the unions. I have no doubt they will sign on to the treaty.”
Nigeria had held off joining CFTA, which was launched in March 2018, because Mr. Buhari believed it wasn’t clear Africa’s largest economy would benefit from the agreement or if it would undermine manufacturers and other businesses in the country.
- South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa believes his country can take a more active leadership role in the region.
- Elmond Jiyane
Mr. Ramaphosa also committed to South Africa’s taking a more prominent role in the region. “People are beginning to re-trust us, to say, ‘here, we would like you to play this role?’ largely because our economy is slightly bigger and slightly stronger than others. We firmly believe in multilateralism. We want to grow together, to move forward together with other countries, and where we are required to take a leading role, we will certainly do so,” he said.
Zambia seeks to increase revenues from minerals. Zambia announced new taxes on minerals and hiked royalties on Friday as it pushes for a bigger share of revenue from its mining industry amid soaring debt, Nicholas Bariyo writes. Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe said in a budget report that Zambia would impose a 5% tax on copper and cobalt concentrate imports and charge a 15% tax on the export of precious metals. Africa’s second-biggest copper and cobalt producer will also hike royalties, currently floating between 3% and 9%, by 1.5 percentage points.
“It is vital to structure an effective fiscal regime for the mining sector to ensure that Zambians benefit from the mineral wealth our country is blessed with,” Ms. Mwanakatwe said.
Zambia is the latest African nation to hike taxes on minerals amid an improving global metal environment. Its neighbor the Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s top cobalt producer, introduced a new mine code in June and increased taxes and royalties, ignoring pleas from miners including Glencore and Randgold.
Tech firm focuses on Africa for AI and blockchain. Sub-Saharan Africa presents the “perfect market” for blockchain and artificial intelligence investments, according to Bruno Wu, the co-CEO of U.S.-based technology firm Ideanomics. Speaking at Africa House, a pop-up venue created for Africa-focused visitors to New York during the United Nations General Assembly week, Mr. Wu said his firm was ramping up investments into financial technology products for Africa, with an initial focus on creating a blockchain-based commodities trading platform.
Deploying the blockchain-based platform would simplify the process of trading commodities—and particularly commodity derivatives—enabling producing nations to capture more of the value from their commodities, Mr. Wu told the Journal.
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Georgia to boost use of blockchain in government services.Georgia is also committed to increasing its use of blockchain technology, the country’s Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze told the Journal in an interview on the sidelines of the UNGA. “Georgia was the first country to introduce blockchain technology into its public services—in real-estate registration—and the results were extraordinary. We cut operational costs by 30% and increased productivity,” he said.
- Georgia’s Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze.
- Dan Keeler, The Wall Street Journal
“Now we are focused on digitalizing healthcare and education and will use blockchain in both,” he added. “Blockchain technology and philosophy can significantly increase the level of services provided by government and by public organizations, and we are trying now to generalize it in all major fields.”
—Read next week’s newsletter for a full report on our interview with Georgia’s Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze.
Star performer Vietnam heading for a growth slowdown.Vietnam’s economy is likely to grow more slowly over the coming two years, according to Gareth Leather, senior Asia economist at London-based Capital Economics. The country, which has so far seemed immune to growing concerns over emerging-market economies’ stability, has become a firm favorite among frontier investors in recent years as reform efforts by the government have fed through into robust growth and strong increases in equity prices. But growth in the export-focused manufacturing sector—a key pillar in Vietnam’s economy—is showing signs of easing, Mr. Leather notes.
“While we think the economy will continue to expand at a decent pace over the coming years, the rate of growth will probably slow,” he said. “The worsening trade war between the US and China [also] poses a threat to Vietnam,” partly because it will drag on global growth, which could have an impact on Vietnam’s prospects, he added. Capital Economics expects GDP growth to slow from 7% this year to 6% in 2019 and 2020.
Papua New Guinea breaks bond-market jinx. Papua New Guinea kicked off its first U.S. dollar bond sale on Thursday—its fourth attempt since 1999 to sell hard-currency debt, and a test of investor appetite toward the world’s riskier borrowers, Manju Dalal and Julie Wernau report. The Pacific nation of about eight million people sold bonds offering an 8.375% coupon, lower than the initial guidance, with an order book at roughly $3.8 billion, according to investors, or nearly 20% of the nation’s gross domestic product.
- The conference center in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea’s capital, where the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit is set to take place later this year.
- Getty Images
U.S. Pledges Millions in Aid to Myanmar’s Rohingya. The U.S. said it would contribute an additional $185 million in humanitarian aid to Myanmar and Bangladesh to help minority Rohingya Muslims displaced by a government campaign that a U.N. report said amounted to genocide, Farnaz Fassihi reports. The Monday pledge came as diplomats met privately on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly to discuss ways to address the crisis and direct funds to critical emergency services like shelter, food and health care.
“We continue to call on the Burmese government to do more to hold those who have engaged in ethnic cleansing accountable for their atrocities, end the violence and allow full humanitarian and free press access,” said Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. The U.S. continues to call Myanmar by its former name, Burma.
Saudi royals turn to flag-waving and fireworks to marshal support. Saudi Arabia’s ruling monarchy is promoting a robust patriotismto foster support for the social changes and muscular foreign policy championed by its young crown prince, Margherita Stancati writes.
For decades, the House of Saud staked much of its legitimacy on religion, in its alliance with a clerical establishment that espoused an austere interpretation of Islam. Now, the kingdom is using patriotic displays to craft a different kind of nationalism. The push aims to enlist support for 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his vision, which includes a break with the religious zeal of the past.
- People arrive at Saudi National Day festivities in Riyadh on Sunday. Until a few years ago, celebrating the holiday was controversial; this year, the king extended it an extra day.
- Getty Images
“There is a move away from focusing on Islam, and particularly the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, as the glue that binds society,” said Bernard Haykel, a professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. On Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s National Day, the monarchy sponsored events across the country including concerts, a military air show and some 990,000 fireworks that lit up cities across the kingdom, according to the government’s own figures. The celebrations carried on into Monday, which King Salman, in a surprise announcement, declared a second day of public holiday.
Iran struggles with unrest in pivotal oil hub. Militant attacks on security forces and unrest in Iran’s main oil hub threaten the country’s economic engine as the regime struggles to cope with tighter U.S. sanctions, a falling currency and growing regional tensions, Benoit Faucon and Sune Engel Rasmussen report. On Saturday, gunmen killed more than 25 people at a military parade of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the southwestern province of Khuzestan. It was the third attack on security forces in the province in the past three years; five people died in the prior attacks, according to the government. Last month, Iran’s intelligence ministry announced it had foiled attacks being prepared in Khuzestan, which borders Iraq and holds about 70% of Iran’s estimated reserves of oil, the country’s main revenue source.
While the attacks so far haven’t visibly impacted Iran’s oil industry they are piling further pressure on a regime struggling to contain unrest across the country over persistent double-digit inflation and unemployment.
Ukrainian leader offers blistering critique of U.N. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko delivered a fiery condemnation of the international community in a speech to the UNGA, accusing the U.N. of failing in its core mission to prevent wars of aggression, Chris Gordon reports. “Ukraine made its sovereign decision to live its way and to promote the free world based on democratic values and rules,” Mr. Poroshenko said. “Russia punishes Ukraine for this decision.”
- Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko: “Your silence is exactly what the Kremlin weaponized against Ukraine and ultimately against all of us.”
- Zuma Press
Mr. Poroshenko called the U.N. a broken institution because Russia has been able to partially shield itself from punishment, admonishing his audience for what he said was their tepid response. “Your silence is exactly what the Kremlin weaponized against Ukraine and ultimately against all of us,” he added.
Greek PM promises to ratify ‘North Macedonia’ name deal.Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras vowed to ratify a landmark pact with neighboring Macedonia regardless of domestic political risks, Nektaria Stamouli and Marcus Walker report. The move is part of a strategy to stabilize the Balkan region in cooperation with the U.S. and European Union.
Macedonians are expected to back the agreement with Mr. Tsipras’s government to rename their country “North Macedonia” in a referendum on Sunday. In return, Greece, which has long objected to its neighbor using “Macedonia”—a name that dates back to the ancient Greek kingdom of Alexander the Great—has promised to lift its veto on the small country’s joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and, eventually, the EU.
Argentina’s central bank president resigns. Argentina central bank President Luis Caputo resigned on Tuesday, the second departure from the top job at the bank in less than four months, complicating the country’s already difficult economic situation, Jeffrey T. Lewis reports. Mr. Caputo will be succeeded by Guido Sandleris, a specialist in finance, macroeconomics and the international economy and a former top finance ministry official, Ryan Dube writes.
- Luis Caputo cited personal reasons for quitting, according to the central bank.
The Argentina peso, which lost about half its value in the year through Aug. 31, had been relatively stable since the announcement of the austerity measures and the new talks with the IMF. In the wake of the announcement that Mr. Caputo was leaving the bank, the currency plunged by about 5%.
U.S. adds Venezuela’s first lady to sanctions list. The U.S. and several South American countries on Tuesday sharpened their stance toward Venezuela’s government, with Washington imposing sanctions on the country’s first lady and three top officials, Samuel Rubenfeld and Kejal Vyas report. At the same time, the country’s neighbors are readying a push for an international investigation into the Maduro regime’s alleged crimes against humanity.
President Trump called the situation in Venezuela—where hyperinflation, spreading hunger and the government’s growing authoritarianism is prompting a mass exodus—a “human tragedy” during his speech before the United Nations General Assembly. He urged other countries to join in ratcheting up pressure against “a repressive regime.”
Mr. Maduro surprised many on Wednesday when he announced via Twitter that he had landed in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly. He surprised very few with his speech to the assembly, though, which was 50 minutes long and mostly repeated what he says on state TV daily, Vyas writes.
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IMF Expands Aid Package for Argentina
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