By Antonio Guerrero
Africa has emerged as one of the key casualties of the global economic slowdown, after newly released figures show its exports to China plummeted this year. Trade between Africa and China, the continent’s largest trading partner, declined by 30.5% year-on-year during first-half 2009, to $37.07 billion. The figure was $48 billion in first-half 2008. The drop was caused mainly by lower African exports and weakened commodity prices, though Chinese demand also declined. China-Africa trade has grown at an annual average of 3.5% since 2000. Key African exports to China include Zimbabwean tobacco, Ugandan coffee and South African wines.
The influence of the African Development Bank (AfDB) is set to grow sharply over the next year. AfDB is almost doubling its loan commitments to $11 billion in 2010, compared to this year’s $5.8 billion. Funds will be used for budget support operations, infrastructure development, liquidity programs and a $1 billion trade finance facility. The bank’s board has also approved a plan to triple the AfDB’s general capital to some $100 billion. The bank is funded mainly through donor-country contributions.
The government of Rwanda is preparing to sell its 69.07% controlling stake in the Rwanda Housing Bank, a primary mortgage lender, by year-end. The aim is to convert the bank into a mortgage liquidity facility to finance other mortgage lenders. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the multilateral lender, is among institutions said to be interested in the deal. There is currently no indication of the price Rwanda’s government is expecting.
The IFC also entered into a $150 million funding arrangement with the Absa financial group, which is controlled by Barclays. The IFC is using funds earmarked for infrastructure investment in sub-Saharan Africa to help the bank develop the telecommunications, oil and gas, and power and energy sectors. Investments will be handled through Absa Capital, the group’s investment banking division. Absa is also exploring expansion opportunities throughout Africa, capitalizing on Barclays’ strong regional presence.