Sep 182014

GENEVA, Switzerland, September 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, will make an official visit to Italy from 22 to 26 September to collect first-hand information from Eritrean refugees and migrants on the human rights situation in Eritrea.

Ms. Keetharuth has made several official requests to visit Eritrea since her appointment in November 2012, which have so far not been granted. She has repeatedly urged the Eritrean authorities to cooperate with her to address the country’s human rights challenges.

“As I have so far been unable to visit Eritrea, I have been meeting Eritrean refugees and migrants, and all those concerned by human rights in Eritrea. These include people who consider themselves to be victims of human rights violations, human rights defenders and other members of civil society,” she said.

During her mission, the Special Rapporteur will interview Eritrean refugees and migrants about the situation of human rights in their home country to corroborate allegations of widespread and systematic violations of human rights that she has received from different sources.

“The creation of a Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea by the Human Rights Council earlier this year offers an adequate platform for the investigation of the most egregious human rights violations in the country,” said Ms. Keetharuth, who will be one of the three members on the panel.

The Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea will investigate all alleged violations of human rights in Eritrea, namely cases of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, inhumane prison conditions, violations committed in the context of the indefinite national service, and lack of freedom of expression and opinion, assembly, association, religious belief and movement.

Ms. Keetharuth expressed her appreciation that Italy has agreed to provide her with access to interview the Eritrean refugees and migrants residing in the country.

The result of her findings, strictly limited to the situation inside Eritrea, will be reflected in her third report to the Human Rights Council in June 2015.

Sep 182014

JOHANNESBURG, South-Africa, September 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Increased Internet access will generate more consumer spend than any other media product or service in the next five years in the South African entertainment and media industry, according to a report issued by PwC today ( South Africa’s entertainment and media market is expected to grow by 10.2% compounded annually (CAGR) from 2014 – 2018 to a value of R190.4bn. By far the largest segment will be the Internet. Combined revenues from Internet access and Internet advertising will account for an estimated R71.6bn in 2018, accounting for 37.6% of total revenues, according to PwC’s South African Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2014-2018 (‘The Outlook’).


Photo: (Vicki Myburgh, Entertainment & Media Industries Leader for PwC South Africa)

Vicki Myburgh, Entertainment & Media Industries Leader for PwC South Africa, says: “Growth in the South African entertainment and media industry is largely being driven by the Internet and by consumers’ love of new technology, in particular mobile technology, such as smartphones and tablets, as well as applications powered by data analytics and cloud services. Technology is increasingly being driven by consumers’ needs and expectations.”

The fifth edition of PwC’s ‘South African Entertainment and Media Outlook’ presents annual historical data for 2009-2013 and provides annual forecasts for 2014-2018 in 12 entertainment and media segments.

The Outlook includes historical and forecast data on the Internet, television, filmed entertainment, radio, recorded music, consumer magazine publishing, newspaper publishing, consumer and educational book publishing, business-to-business publishing, out-of-home advertising, video games, and sports. It gives a detailed breakdown of these sectors.

The Outlook also includes detailed information for South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya in each of the 12 industry segments.

Aside from the Internet, The Outlook predicts that the fastest growth will be seen in video games and radio, which will enjoy growth rates at 9% and 8.2% respectively. “Video games has made the greatest transition to digital, largely due to the popularity of mobile gaming, but also because of the increased potential for digital distribution of console games,” adds Myburgh. The study projects that 27% of console revenues are forecast to be digital in 2018.

The slowest growing segment in the E&M industry will be the music industry, according to the survey. Annual revenue is forecast to grow marginally by a CAGR of 0.5% to remain relatively flat at R2.18bn in 2018.

Television is the second-largest segment, with combined revenues from TV subscriptions and advertising projected to reach R39.6bn in 2018. The study shows that advertising accounted for 38% of revenue in the E&M industry in 2013, although this share is expected to fall to 33% in 2018, largely due to internet access increasing its market share significantly over the same period.

The strongest drivers of growth in the sports segment will come from sponsorships and media rights. South Africa will see total sports revenues of an estimated R20.5bn in 2018, up from R14.8bn, and rising at a CAGR of 6.7%.

End-user spending, consisting of spending by consumers and other end-users on products and services produced by the entertainment and media industry, will rise at 12% CAGR over the next five years from R72.8bn in 2013 to reach an estimated R128.1bn. Although there is a significant change in the way consumers spend their money, digital revenues in other segments remain relatively small. Nevertheless digital is on the rise both in terms of consumers and advertising revenues. The study also shows that revenue in the film industry is expected to grow by a 7.1% CAGR over the next five years to reach R3.4 billion in 2018. Electronic home video is also catching on rapidly in the film segment. Far less digital take-up is being seen in the magazine, newspaper and book segments, with digital revenues for each forecast to be under 7% of the total, even in 2018. Although consumers may be browsing newspapers and magazine-style websites online, monetising these consumers presents much more difficulty for E&M businesses.


Nigeria’s entertainment and media revenues will reach an estimated US$8.5bn in 2018, more than doubling from the 2013 figure of US$4.0bn at a CAGR of 16.1%. This represents one of the fastest growth rates in the world. The Internet will be the key driver for Nigeria, where the number of mobile Internet subscribers is forecast to surge from 7.7 million in 2013 to 50.4 million in 2018.

Television in the form of advertising and subscriptions and licence fees, will also become a US$1 billion-plus market in 2018, while the market will grow steadily.


Kenya recorded US$1.7bn in entertainment and media revenues in 2013, and this is forecast to rise to US$3.1bn in 2018. Once again, it is Internet access that is driving growth Television and radio will account for combined US$1 billion-plus of revenues at the end of the forecast period.

PwC Africa Connectivity Index

The objective of the PwC Country Connectivity Index is to measure the state of connectivity for all markets in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) with a population of over 10 million. The findings presented in the Index highlights those markets that offer the greatest potential for the future consumption of entertainment and media services because of their relative maturity in terms of connectivity.

As the most mature of Africa’s markets, it should be no surprise that South Africa tops the Index as it offers significant potential as a strong entertainment and media market. Although South Africa scores highly (83%) across current connectivity and quality of connectivity, there is still room for improvement. Mobile broadband services are still expensive for consumers with almost 0.5% of a South African consumer’s average GDP per capita going towards mobile broadband services.

Kenya (75%) also performs well in the rankings with the continued rise in its international bandwidth usages.

Although broadband penetration may be high – as in the case of Nigeria- this does not necessarily mean that a country scores highly. At 0.6% of the average GDP per capita in Nigeria, the cost of mobile broadband services is too high.

The next wave of growth markets in SSA

Highlighted below are three snapshots of SSA markets with a particular focus on their TV and broadband markets and assessment of the scope for growth in their entertainment and media sectors.


Much of the media in Angola is government-controlled. Deregulating the media is a gradual process and the handful of emerging ‘private’ radio and newspaper operations are mostly bankrolled – so limiting their independence. Among TV households, pay-TV penetration is high at 75%. TV currently comprises 28% of advertising spend, a figures that is likely to drop by two percentage points over the next five years. Angola is comparatively well connected, with about one in ten Angolans able to access the Internet by way of a mobile network and two percent of households also able to access fixed broadband services. However, international bandwidth is still scarce. If the country’s Internet market is to be better penetrated, greater infrastructure investment will be required.


A relatively mature TV and Internet infrastructure in Ghana assists in making it a market in which consumers are more receptive to advertising. At the end of 2013, 58% of households had access to a TV set, according to the study. The leading four terrestrial channels comprised 96% of audience time and 12% of TV households were digital. In spite of a decline in 2011, total advertising revenues are now on the rise again with total spend reaching GHS245.6 million (US$73.3 million) in 2012. Ghana scores well in the Connectivity Index. The Government appears committed to supporting growth plans for broadband services which are relatively affordable compared to other markets in the continent.


As at the end of 2013, 13% of Tanzanian households had access to a TV set, according to independent analyst and consultancy firm Ovum. This number has dropped slightly in the last two years as a result of the state’s decision to proceed with an analogue terrestrial switch-off before the public was ready, leading to many households actually losing their access.

Ovum forecasts another fall in TV adoption in 2015 when national analogue switch-off takes place, but the numbers of those with access to TV will rise again to one in five of the population in 2019.Radio dominates the advertising sector in Tanzania, contributing just over 50% of revenues, with TV accounting for about 30%. Of the three markets covered in our studies, Tanzania ranks highest. The Government has embraced competition and the role of the private sector in improving economic and social development.

Myburgh concludes: “The future may well be digital in South Africa, as with the rest of the world – many of its products and services can already be delivered in digital form. But we believe that progress in the South African E&M market will be gradual and that there are still plenty of opportunities for ‘old’ and ‘traditional’ media yet.”

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC).


Vicki Myburgh: Entertainment & Media Industries Leader for PwC South Africa

Office: + 27 11 797 4305



Sunet Liebenberg: Senior Manager, PwC

Office: + 27 11 797 5310



Lindiwe Magana: Media Relations Manager, PwC

Office: + 27 11 797 5042


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Sep 182014

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, September 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Panel of the Wise of the African Union (AU), which is one of the pillars of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) as provided for in the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the AU, held its 14th meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 16 and 17 September 2014. This meeting took place in the wake of the adoption, by the 23rd Ordinary Summit of the AU Assembly held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea on 26 and 27 June 2014, of a decision regarding the appointment of new members of the Panel of the Wise following the recommendations made in this regard by the Chairperson of the AU Commission. The five new members of the Panel are: Dr Lakhdar Brahimi from Algeria (representing North Africa), Mr Edem Kodjo from Togo (representing West Africa), Dr Albina Faria de Assis Pereira Africano from Angola (representing Central Africa) and Dr Specioza Wandira Kazibwe from Uganda (representing East Africa) and Madame Luisa Diogo from Mozambique (representing Southern Africa).

In addition to the outgoing Chairperson of the Panel Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, the meeting was attended by the following outgoing members of the Panel of the Wise who will now become members of the Friends of the Panel group: Madame Marie Madeleine Kalala-Ngoy, Dr Mary Chinery Hesse and Madam Elisabeth Pognon.

The opening ceremony of the meeting which inaugurated the new members of the Panel, was marked by addresses delivered by the following personalities: Ambassador Smail Chergui, Commissioner for Peace and Security, African Union Commission; the Chair of the Peace and Security Council for the month of October 2014; and, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, outgoing Chairperson of the Panel of the Wise.

During his opening address, Ambassador Smail Chergui, Commissioner for Peace and Security welcomed the new members of the Panel to the African Union family. The Commissioner thanked them for their commitment to our Continent and to the African Union, their readiness to support the Union on its quest for peace, stability and development for all peoples of Africa, emphasising their experience, knowledge and expertise which will undoubtedly strengthen the Union’s efforts in the prevention, management and resolution of violent conflicts in Africa.

The Commissioner noted how since its inception, the Panel of the Wise has captured African and international curiosity and imagination because the AU created, at the heart of its decision-making on conflict prevention, management and resolution, an institution inspired by the centuries’ old practice of African elders’ centrality in dispute and conflict resolution. In creating a Panel of the Wise, the Commissioner noted, the AU has in many ways recognised the importance of customary, traditional conflict resolution mechanisms and roles and the continuing relevance of these mechanisms in contemporary Africa. Independence, experience, maturity, respect – these are but some of the characteristics of Panel members since its inception.

Ambassador Chergui also highlighted some of the considerable achievements of the Panel of the Wise. Reflecting on the pioneering work of the first and second Panels, the Commissioner emphasised the challenges in the operationalisation of the Panel and how a considerable amount of members’ time and energy were spent in creatively devising steps to transforming the Panel’s Modalities of Operation into realities on the ground, thereby establishing the Panel’s modus operandi and gradually testing the best ways to connect with the Union’s institutions, namely the Peace and Security Council, the Office of the Chairperson and other APSA pillars. The Commissioner also highlighted the importance of “horizon scanning” as an activity of the Panel, the thematic reports on key peace and security issues, and above all to the Panel’s preventive diplomacy and other forms of peacemaking particularly in cases of election-related violence. Finally, the Commissioner highlighted the importance of PanWise, an umbrella network bringing together similar mechanisms at the level of the RECs and Regional Mechanisms, AU’s High Level Representatives and Special Envoys, the Friends of the Panel, and importantly, individual meditators and institutions engaged in mediation activities at national and subnational levels.

During the opening address, the outgoing Chairperson of the Panel of the Wise, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim reflected on the direct and indirect costs of war and the importance of conflict prevention which should remain a top priority “If armed conflicts cause millions of direct casualties, indirect deaths as a result of armed conflict are on average 14 times greater than deaths occurring in combat. Fourteen times greater!”.

The first working session of the meeting was devoted to the adoption of the agenda as well as the election of the New Chairperson of the Panel of the Wise, H.E. Mrs. Luisa Diogo of Mozambique.

In her statement, the new Chairperson paid tribute to the outgoing members of the Panel, emphasising their pioneering role in establishing the Panel of the Wise as a central pillar of the APSA. In her tribute, the new Chairperson noted with gratitude that it is to former members of the Panel that we owe a Panel of the Wise that has contributed with real added value to the prevention activities of our Peace and Security Council and our Chairperson; a Panel of the Wise that has brought to the table issues and themes which may have otherwise been overlooked (on impunity, justice and reconciliation; on women and children; on governance and democratisation); a Panel of the Wise whose role in the prevention of election related disputes has been proven, again and again, of critical importance. The new Chairperson profoundly thanked Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, President Kenneth Kaunda, Madame Marie Madeleine Kalala-Ngoy, Dr Mary Chinery Hesse, late President Ahmed Ben Bella, President Miguel Trovoada, Dr Brigalia Bam and Mme Elizabeth Pognon, considering that their continuing support as Members of the Friends of the Panel is an assurance for all new Members that their experience and wisdom will continue to support the activities of the Panel.

The second working session of the meeting was devoted to the theme “The Panel of the Wise in a Networked Environment. During this session, presentations by staff of the AU Commission staff as well as experts were made focusing on: a review of the achievements and challenges of the Panel of the Wise since its launch in 2007; a comprehensive presentation and discussion on the African Peace and Security Architecture; the legal and normative provisions of the Panel of the Wise and a reflection on enhancing the Panel’s interaction with the Peace and Security Council. At this session, the Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU) briefed Panel members on policies and practices of UN/AU collaboration on preventive diplomacy and mediaton.

The Panel of the Wise reflected on the state of peace and security in Africa during the second working session of the meeting, when a series of presentations and discussions were held on “The Panel of the Wise and Africa’s Peace and Security Landscape: From diagnosis to Action”. This session, designed to enable Panel members to substantively discuss and reflect on the current and future peace and security situation on the Continent (“horizon scanning”) saw several presentations made by AU Commission staff from the Peace and Security) as well think tanks and experts. Presentations included “The role of the Panel of the Wise in mitigating emerging threats to peace and security”; “The role of the Panel of the Wise and early preventive action: From early warning to early response”, “The role of the Panel of the Wise in preventing election related disputes and promoting good governance”, and “The Pan-African Network of the Wise (PanWise): Background, rationale and potential”.

On Day two, the Panel members also discussed and reflected on strengthening their capacity for early action, which was the principal area of focus during the working session with the Chairperson of the Commission, Dr. NKosazana Dlamini Zuma. The Panel’s positioning in the wider context of African Union mediation and related peacemaking activities (ie. linkages with the African Union Commission’s Special Envoys, Special Representatives and Chief Mediators, as well as other APSA pillars) will be properly contextualised.

During the first session of day 2, a series of presentations by experts were made on issues as varied as entry-points (fact-finding, solidarity visits, shuttle diplomacy and facilitated dialogues), preventive diplomacy, communication and the role of the Panel’s Chairperson and Spokesperson, and the importance of nurturing local and national peace infrastructures, research and knowledge generation, among others.

During the meeting, members also took note of the final version of its report on “Mitigating Vulnerabilities of Women and Children in Armed Conflicts”.

Finally, members of the Panel discussed the Panel’s Strategic Framework 2014-2017.

The Panel agreed that its 15th meeting will be held in early January 2015 in Addis Ababa.

Sep 182014

LONDON, United-Kingdom, September 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Foreign Secretary announces further support to tackle Ebola in West Africa, including the UK leading on provision of 700 treatment beds in Sierra Leone

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond chaired a meeting this afternoon of the Government’s COBR emergency committee, on the UK’s response to the Ebola crisis. After the meeting the Foreign Secretary said:

“The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is already an unprecedented humanitarian emergency for the affected countries. If we fail to act now it could become a global catastrophe with disastrous consequences.

“Following today’s meeting I can announce a significantly increased package of UK support to tackling Ebola in West Africa, closely coordinated with the UN. At the heart of the package is a commitment to lead and underwrite the provision of a total of 700 treatment beds.

“More than 200 of these beds are already in the delivery pipeline. The UK will now deliver a further 500 beds over the coming months, working with partners to provide and train the international staff and support needed to operate those beds.”

This approach will use the experience that the UK already has in Sierra Leone to allow other countries to provide support that can be quickly turned in to effective aid.

The UK Armed Forces have played a pivotal role in delivering the current construction pipeline and will continue to play a critical role in the UK’s response. Military personnel will work with the government of Sierra Leone to identify sites for the additional beds and to provide engineering, logistics and planning expertise to support its wider efforts, including through training.

The Foreign Secretary said:

“Bringing this outbreak under control needs significant international cooperation. The UK has committed to taking a leading role in Sierra Leone, a country we know well. We will establish the beds and the operating framework, and encourage the international community to step forward to meet the international staffing requirement, in coordination with the UN. I look forward to discussing this with other UN Member States next week at the UN General Assembly, and the UK will host a pledging meeting in London in early October, at which partner nations will be able to confirm their contribution to Sierra Leone.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said:

“Health teams in Sierra Leone, including many funded by the UK, are working tirelessly to contain this disease but it is clear that the international community needs to do much more.

“Britain is increasing dramatically our support to the Government of Sierra Leone to 700 beds, a surge bringing Ebola treatment beds in country to 1,000 in order to save lives and contain the spread of disease.”

Sep 182014

PARIS, France, September 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) confirms that one of its international staff members in Liberia has been diagnosed with Ebola haemorrhagic fever.

The French MSF staff member currently on assignment in Monrovia was placed in isolation on Tuesday, September 16, after she developed a fever. Laboratory tests performed on the same day confirmed an Ebola infection.

Following MSF medical evacuation procedures, she will be soon transferred to a specialised treatment centre in France.

“MSF applies very strict protocols of protection for its staff – before, during and after their time in a country affected by the current Ebola outbreak”, said Brice de le Vingne, MSF Director of Operations. “This dramatically reduces the risk of transmission of the disease. However, the risk is part of such an intervention, and sadly our teams are not spared.”

The circumstances under which the contamination took place have not been determined at this time. This is being investigated by MSF teams, under the standard management procedures for such events.

For reasons of medical confidentiality and to preserve the privacy of its staff member and her family, MSF will not provide any further comment at this time.

MSF has been responding to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa since March 2014. More than 2,000 MSF staff are currently working in the region, including some 200 international staff.

Sep 182014

NEW YORK, September 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma announced today the appointment of Abiodun Oluremi Bashua of Nigeria as Deputy Joint Special Representative for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).

Mr. Bashua brings to the position a wealth of knowledge on the political context and operating environment in Darfur. He has served in UNAMID since August 2009 at various senior levels, including as Director of Political Affairs and most recently as Director of the Joint Support and Coordination Mechanism. Mr. Bashua has extensive experience in several United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Africa, including Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sudan. He has also served as Secretary to the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Mr. Bashua holds a Postgraduate Diploma in French Language from the University of Besancon, France and a Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Sociology from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

Mr. Bashua was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, in 1951.

Sep 172014

KHARTOUM, Sudan, September 17, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team headed by Mr. Edward Gemayel visited Khartoum from September 3-16, 2014, to conduct the second review under Sudan’s 2014 Staff-Monitored Program (SMP) and the 2014 Article IV Consultation discussions.

Mr. Lodewyk Erasmus, the IMF’s Resident Representative in Sudan, issued the following statement in Khartoum at the conclusion of the mission:

“Economic conditions are mixed. Preliminary data suggest that economic growth, at 3.1 percent, supported by gold extraction and a strong harvest, is broadly in line with expectations for the year. Fiscal consolidation is helping to contain the large deficits and reduce reliance on central bank financing of the deficit. External imbalances are gradually declining as a result of last September’s exchange rate adjustment and the improvement in the fiscal position. However, monetary policy needs to be further tightened. Inflation through the end of August has remained high at about 46 percent. Though this is partly due to the one-off effect of the September 2013 price adjustments of fuel prices, the injection of excess liquidity by the central bank through gold purchases at the parallel market rate is significantly contributing to inflation while also adding to the wide gap (52 percent) between the parallel and official exchange rates.

“Performance under the authorities’ economic reform program is broadly satisfactory. All of the end-June quantitative targets, with the exception of the indicative target on reserve money growth, were met. Also, the authorities have met their end of June structural benchmarks, with the exception of the restructuring plan of Omdurman bank, which is underway. The mission welcomes the authorities’ commitment to meeting the program’s objectives. They include implementation of the required measures to ensure the end-year target on reserve money will be achieved, as well as fully implementing exchange rate flexibility to gradually close the gap with the parallel market. Full implementation of these policies is critical for achieving the authorities’ objective of restoring macroeconomic stability.

“The implementation of the government’s medium-term program faces challenges, including a lack of access to external financing, an unsustainable external debt burden, and economic and financial sanctions against the country. In addition, the impact of recent actions against a major international bank for violating U.S. financial sanctions is having a significant impact on foreign correspondent banking relations with Sudan, which could have a negative implication on medium-term growth.

“Resolving Sudan’s unsustainable external debt is of paramount importance for the successful adjustment to the impact of South Sudan’s secession, implementation of the government’s poverty reduction policies, and for supporting inclusive growth. While Sudan has made some progress toward meeting the requirements for debt relief, the mission reiterated the importance of securing broad support for comprehensive debt relief from Sudan’s bilateral external creditors. In this regard, the mission urged the authorities to reach out to their external creditors, including under the framework of the Joint Approach with South Sudan and the African Union High-level Implementation Panel. The mission welcomes the agreement between the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to treat the deadline for the “zero option” with flexibility.[1]

“The mission thanks the authorities for their hospitality, cooperation, and the frank and constructive discussions.”

The mission met with Minister of Finance and National Economy Bader Eldin Mahmmood Abbas Mukktar, Governor of the Central Bank of Sudan Abdelrahman Hassan Abdelrahman Hashim, and other senior government and central bank officials. The mission also met with members of the Finance and Budget Committee of the National Assembly, as well as donors and members of the business community.

[1] In September 2012, Sudan and South Sudan reached the so-called “zero option” agreement under which Sudan would retain all the external liabilities after the secession of South Sudan, provided that the international community gave firm commitments to the delivery of debt relief to Sudan within two years. Absent such a commitment, Sudan’s external debt would be apportioned based on a formula to be determined.

Sep 172014

BANJUL, Gambia, September 17, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A mission from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) led by Bhaswar Mukhopadhyay, visited Banjul from September 4 – 17, 2014. The mission assessed the authorities’ progress in implementing policies since its April visit as part of the second review of the government’s reform program supported by an Extended Credit Facility arrangement with the IMF.1 The first review was completed in May 2013. Policy slippages in the second half of that year have delayed the completion of the current review.

The mission held discussions with Vice-President Isatou Njie Saidy, Finance Minister Kebba S. Touray, Central Bank Governor Amadou Colley, other senior officials, members of parliament, senior officials in public enterprises, the banking sector, and development partners.

At the end of the mission Mr. Mukhopadhyay issued the following statement:

“The macroeconomic environment stabilized in early 2014, with a successful tourism season leading to improved revenues, a stable exchange rate, and moderate inflation. Government spending was contained and interest rates appeared to be edging downward slowly. Since that time spending pressures have reemerged, led by financial difficulties of the public utility provider (NAWEC), as well as some spending in excess of budgeted levels. These borrowing needs have kept interest rates high while putting pressure on the Dalasi. Public debt, which stood at more than 80 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at the end of 2013, is projected to exceed 90 percent of GDP by the end of this year. The burden of government borrowing will exert further pressure on inflation, international reserves, and the exchange rate.

“The Gambia remains Ebola-free, but news from the subregion appears to be deterring tourists and this will pose an additional challenge. At the same time the delayed start of the rainy season will have a substantial impact on the harvest. Agriculture is The Gambia’s largest economic sector and its second largest exporter, after tourism. Together the impact of these two external shocks will be felt on economic growth, the government budget, trade, and the banking system, though more information is needed to quantify these risks.

“In light of substantially higher borrowing by the government and looming risks, it is imperative to reinforce corrective measures and to make bold choices about spending priorities. The target of limiting net domestic borrowing to 2.5 percent in 2014 is no longer realistic but efforts will be required to limit borrowing and steer the budget toward zero net domestic borrowing in the medium-term. Moving forward, a deeper restructuring of the government budget would be required to limit the sources of spending pressures and make space for priority spending.

“Implementation of reforms is also urgently needed to put NAWEC on a sound financial footing and limit its strain on the state budget. The mission welcomes the authorities’ commitment to implement recommendations of a comprehensive energy sector study being conducted with the help of consultants and the World Bank to restructure the energy sector. It will equally be important to ensure that other public enterprises are operated on a sound financial basis, to minimize contingent fiscal risks and provide effective support to private sector activities.

“Commendable progress has been made in liberalizing fuel imports, reducing the size of fuel subsidies, and improving revenue collection. The authorities are encouraged to sustain such progress, ensuring that competition drives lower prices for businesses and consumers, and strengthen the social safety nets that better target vulnerable populations. These reforms promote competitiveness and investment, and allow the government to focus resources on those who need it most.

“The Mission thanks the authorities for the candid and constructive discussions during the mission, and looks forward to an active and continued dialogue with the aim of restoring macroeconomic stability as a foundation for economic development in The Gambia.”

1 The Extended Credit Facility (ECF) is the Fund’s main tool for providing medium-term support to low-income countries, with higher levels of access to financial resources, more concessional financing terms, more flexible program design features, as well as streamlined and more focused conditionality.