IMF Staff Completes 2017 Article IV Visit to Swaziland

  • The IMF estimates 2016 growth to stagnate, with a muted recovery envisaged in 2017, as the weaker fiscal position weighs heavily on the outlook.
  • Significant fiscal adjustment is needed to ensure macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability.
  • Structural reforms to address the lack of skilled workers, simplify business regulations, and strengthen the institutional environment have the potential to boost investment and employment.

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff team led by Mr. Geremia Palomba visited Mbabane from June 7-19, 2017, to conduct the 2017 Article IV Consultation discussions with Swaziland.

At the conclusion of the visit, Mr. Palomba made the following statement:

“Swaziland faces a challenging economic environment. In 2016, a prolonged drought and a sharp decline in revenue from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) severely hit the economy. An expansionary fiscal policy weakened the fiscal accounts and led to the accumulation of domestic arrears. Against this background, based on preliminary data, the IMF estimates 2016 growth to stagnate. A muted recovery is envisaged in 2017, as the weaker fiscal position weighs heavily on the outlook. Risks to this outlook are tilted to the downside and include further tightening in budget financing, volatile SACU revenue, lower demand for key exports, and tightened global monetary conditions.

“Swaziland’s key challenge going forward is to preserve macroeconomic stability against low SACU revenue and sustain growth to make inroads in reducing high unemployment and income inequality. The government and the Central Bank of Swaziland have taken some steps to contain the fiscal deficit and counter the still high inflation. However, heightened fiscal and external vulnerabilities call for additional actions.

“In light of the macroeconomic outlook, significant fiscal adjustment is needed, starting in fiscal 2017/18, to ensure macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability. Policies need to be carefully designed to address the main sources of recent fiscal deterioration and include both expenditure and revenue measures that can support long-term growth. Strengthening public financial management and improving the management of public entities outside the central government is critical to implement fiscal adjustment plans. To this end, the IMF team welcomes the authorities’ intention to consider additional actions to contain the 2017/18 fiscal deficit within the original budget limit (8.2 percent of GDP) and start fiscal adjustment in next year budget.

“The financial sector remains sound and the authorities are taking steps to monitor and manage possible risks and advance key financial sector reforms. Heightened monitoring and supervision of financial sector risks is warranted given the links with the government, the banking sector’s vulnerabilities and relatively high household debt, and complex and extensive linkages across financial institutions.

“The government has taken actions on various fronts to support growth, tackle high unemployment and reduce poverty and income inequality. Structural reforms to address the lack of skilled workers, better align wage and productivity dynamics, simplify business regulations and strengthen the institutional environment have the potential to significantly boost investment and employment. Focusing reform efforts in this direction appears the most promising way to deliver stronger more inclusive growth.

“The team met with Minister of Finance, Martin Dlamini, Minister of Public Service, Owen Nxumalo, Central Bank of Swaziland Governor Majozi Sithole, other senior officials, and financial market, business and union representatives. The team would like to express its gratitude to the authorities and their staff for the productive and open discussions.”

Distributed by APO on behalf of International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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IOM Launches First Online Consular Service for Stranded Migrants in Libya Hoping to Return Home

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) has launched an online consular service to make the consular process easier to access and navigate for vulnerable migrants hoping to return home.

The first online consular session was conducted on 5 June via Skype in close cooperation with the Ghanaian Embassy in Tripoli. The remote consular service connects the migrant to his or her embassy’s representative online in order to receive the necessary information ahead of IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return Assistance (VHRR).

Thanks to the service, one Ghanaian migrant in the Shahat Detention Centre in the city of Shahat, 250 km from Benghazi, was able to receive travel documents. The session was organized by IOM’s team on the ground in Benghazi and the consular staff of the Ghanaian Embassy in Tripoli, who support IOM’s new remote consular initiative.

“We thank the Ghanaian Embassy for their cooperation and flexibility. We hope that more Embassies will come on board this new innovative initiative,” explained Ashraf Hassan, IOM Libya Project Manager.

Recognizing the vast demand for the VHRR, IOM identified a need for a more functional approach, not only optimizing the duration of the travel documentation process, but also reaching a larger number of vulnerable migrants.

IOM conducts field visits with the relevant embassy representatives to migrant detention centres in Libya to facilitate the procedure of issuing proper travel documentation to migrants preparing for voluntary return to their countries of origin. These consular visits require significant coordination with the detention centres, local authorities and embassies. These visits are also only possible within Tripoli and with some difficulties in Gheryan (90 kilometers south of Tripoli) and Misrata (around 200 kilometers east of Tripoli). They are not possible in other major cities such as Al Zawia, Subarata, Surman, Benghazi and Sebha, where IOM has identified a high demand among migrants to return home.

This operational constraint has notably affected IOM’s assistance to stranded migrants as up until now these visits have been crucial to the voluntary return operation. The longer they get delayed, and sometimes cancelled due to security or operational challenges facing the embassies, the longer migrants are detained in the detention centres or stranded in urban settings in Libya. This new online service will save both embassies and IOM time and resources that are required in coordinating and arranging the escorted field visits of embassy personnel to the detention centres, as well as ensure that they can reach migrants outside of Tripoli.

“Due to security issues and no means of transportation, migrants in remote areas have difficulty getting their papers processed. We hope this service will give many more stranded migrants an opportunity to return home, if they wish to do so,” Ashraf Hassan added.

Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

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Nigerian Finance Minister wants the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and government to rollout youth agric program nationally

The Nigerian Minister of Finance, Honorable Kemi Adeosun, says the country will benefit by signing up for the African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org) funded ENABLE Youth (Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment) (http://APO.af/276D5p) Program.

Nigeria’s signatory to the ENABLE youth program will make the oil-rich country the third African country coming behind Cameroon and Sudan to benefit from funds under the AfDB Feed Africa initiative.

The ENABLE youth program is modelled after the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) (www.IITA.org) Youth Agripreneur (IYA) program which has seen a lot of success.

The program is expected to create business opportunities and decent employment for 1000 young women and men along priority agricultural value chains of various enterprises (aquaculture, crops farming, marketing, processing, etc.) per state, including Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, according to the Director General of IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga today.

Mrs Adeosun said that she was inspired and impressed with the concept and the testimonials of the young agricultural entrepreneurs.

“We came here – IITA – to assess a project (ENABLE Youth) being considered by the Federal Government. From what I have seen today, I am extremely impressed and inspired! We should work on how we can roll out this project nationally,” the Minister said during a visit to IITA in Ibadan on 10 June.

Like several other African nations, Nigeria is caught in between rising youth employment and food insecurity. In 2012, Dr Sanginga initiated a youth in agriculture program to serve as a model for African nations to emulate and prosper. Under the model, youths are trained – both in theory and practice – and mentored with a view to changing their mindsets towards agriculture. In the end, they key into startups in the agricultural value chains.

Dr Sanginga said the IYA model was a template that would help African countries tackle the challenge of unemployment on the continent and create wealth.

“We have tested it in IITA, Nigeria, and several countries and it is working,” he said.

Testimonials on how the IYA program is creating jobs, wealth, and transforming agriculture abound. For Mercy Wakawa from Biu, Borno state, the training provided by IYA through N2Africa project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 2 years ago had helped her establish a medium scale groundnut oil processing industry that provides employment for seven other youths and supports the local groundnut industry.

Ajibola Olaniyi leads a team of two other young people who ventured into catfish farming. Without prior knowledge about fish farming but with support from IITA, Ajibola and her team resuscitated four abandoned ponds and later expanded to 17 with a capacity of 150 tons of fish production per year. The expansion of the business also created jobs for short-term staff who work with the team in managing the ponds. The business is growing with clients coming from the various geo-political zones in Nigeria to patronize the products.

TOFAN Foods is a subsidiary of IITA Youth Agripreneurs. The business, which is owned by three young people who were trained under the processing unit of IYA, is producing Tidbit. The snack is made from high quality cassava flour and cowpea. TOFAN Foods has been established in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, and will be scaling out the technology learned during the incubation period in IYA.

Oyindamola Asaaju, another Agripreneur, used to serve tables at a restaurant, but after getting involved with IYA, she now leads a group of Agripreneurs in Onne, Rivers State. The group is using the IITA Station in Onne to develop new agribusiness enterprises in poultry, catfish, and micropropagation of plantain, and serve as an incubation center for young people.

Distributed by APO on behalf of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

For more information, please contact:
Godwin Atser
Communication & Knowledge Exchange Expert
G.Atser@CGIAR.org

About IITA:
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) (www.IITA.org) is a not-for-profit institution that generates agricultural innovations to meet Africa’s most pressing challenges of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and natural resource degradation. Working with various partners across sub-Saharan Africa, we improve livelihoods, enhance food and nutrition security, increase employment, and preserve natural resource integrity. IITA is a member of CGIAR, a global agriculture research partnership for a food secure future.

Source:: Nigerian Finance Minister wants the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and government to rollout youth agric program nationally

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Priti Patel: UK efforts save more lives in Somalia and Ethiopia

International Development Secretary Priti Patel today called for a new concerted global push to prevent millions of people losing their lives across East Africa to the threat of starvation and disease.

As the first Cabinet Minister to visit Africa since the General Election, Ms Patel saw how UK leadership has saved the lives of many facing the risk of extreme hunger.

But she warned that the crisis had reached a critical point and that a loss of momentum in the international response could rapidly reverse the progress made, cost lives and further destabilise the already fragile region.

She made clear that the UK will continue to set the pace. The quick response from the UK earlier this year to the growing food crisis in East Africa – including pledging £110 million for Somalia, £11.5 million for Ethiopia and matching £10 million of public donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s (DEC) appeal – led the international response. This support has been integral to preventing starvation in Somalia and Ethiopia, but the risk is far from over.

In Somalia – a country plagued by civil war and terrorism where millions have fled their homes – our support is not only helping people survive, it will help give them a choice about their lives and their futures, so they aren’t forced to turn to extremism or make the dangerous journey to Europe. This in turn means a safer UK.

The Ethiopian Government showed strong leadership in the 2016 drought and put forward more than US$700 million to meet the needs of their own people. We are working with the Government to ensure they respond effectively this year, to prioritise, plan effectively and step up their own finance for the response.

International Development Secretary Priti Patel said:

Global Britain is leading the way in providing a lifeline for millions of people in Somalia and Ethiopia who are at risk of starving to death as extreme hunger stalks East Africa.

I’ve seen UK aid in action, doing what it does best – saving and changing lives. This is also helping to stabilise the world’s most fragile countries and giving vulnerable people a chance to build lives closer to home and therefore increasing the UK’s security.

The UK stepped up early with support and lobbied others to do more which has prevented the spread of famine. We are showing our continued leadership with more food, more water and more medicine for those at imminent risk of dying from drought and conflict.

The world must follow our lead and act now to put an end to humanitarian crises that threaten our global stability and help accelerate progress on peace, security and prosperity – which is firmly in everyone’s interest.

Ms Patel has also pressed international partners – including the World Bank – to disburse funding more quickly. The Bank has since pledged $1.8 billion to respond to the crises, including $50 million to Somalia and $100 million to Ethiopia to help people in drought affected areas access food assistance, water and health services.

The world has faced an unprecedented number of humanitarian crises in 2017, including a famine in parts of South Sudan, the first declared globally since 2011.

Severe drought conditions, cholera and measles outbreaks, losses of livestock and increasing numbers of people fleeing their homes have put people in Somalia and neighbouring Ethiopia back on the brink of starvation, threatening millions of lives.

Half the population of Somalia have no reliable access to food and are facing the possibility of a third famine in 25 years.

The UK continues to work with the Governments of Somalia and Ethiopia, and partners such as UNICEF, World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organisation, and NGOs to ensure aid reaches those most in need.

While in the country, Ms Patel saw crates of UK aid ready to be loaded onto aircraft at Mogadishu airport, to reach people across the country. Following the London Somalia Conference earlier this year, Ms Patel reaffirmed the need for the international community to continue to support Somalia, not just through emergency aid but also by strengthening security to keep Somalia on course for increased peace, stability and prosperity.

For Ethiopia this is the second severe drought in two years. As the second largest refugee hosting country in Africa, Ethiopia’s resources are being stretched to the limit with 880,000 refugees who have fled war and violence in neighbouring countries. The UK is working with its international partners to improve the infrastructure, local services and job opportunities in Ethiopia to help the country cope with the increase in refugees and prevent onward migration.

As part of her visit, the Secretary of State announced a £90 million package of urgently needed support which will help more than 2 million more people in desperate need of clean water, food, and basic medical supplies in Somalia and Ethiopia. This includes £60 million in new funding for Somalia, and a £30 million allocation for Ethiopia.

Priti Patel visited a food distribution centre in Ethiopia to see first-hand how UK aid is supporting people at risk of hunger and to meet the UK aid workers on the front line. She also visited a health centre, one of many UK aid is supporting across Ethiopia, to see how malnourished children are receiving life-saving support, including an innovative peanut paste which gives them vital nutrients.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Department for International Development (DFID).

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