Many emerging market economies could begin defaulting on their bonds in the coming weeks. This is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to huge outflows from emerging market assets, thereby causing their foreign exchange reserves to plummet at an alarming rate.
Why it’s important: The series of defaults is unlikely to be confined to emerging market assets alone; it could greatly affect the global credit market crisis already forming in the world’s debt markets.
The massive outflows will be particularly damaging for emerging countries, that are heavily reliant on foreign capital such as Nigeria, especially as foreign direct investment inflows have been plummeting since last year due to the lingering China-US trade war.
The World Bank and International Monetary Fund have lately called for an immediate postponement of debt payments from International Development Association countries, which are classified as the world’s poorest countries.
The emerging markets are being battered on all angles by a pause in manufacturing, falling crude oil prices and poor global demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thelma Ugonna CFA, a financial analyst wrote in an email to Nairametrics, “Africa’s debt has been on the rise due to various factors such as the need for political leaders to fulfil campaign promises of infrastructure development, the after-effect of the global financial crisis of 2008 and reduction of commodity pricing among others.
“Although Africa’s debt is yet to reach the proportion that triggered the Highly indebted poor country (HIPC) initiative in 1987 i.e. debt to GNI ratio of 104%, there is increased worry that the continent would be unable to pay back its debt.
“As a result of the declining yields in developed countries, African Eurobonds have become very attractive to international investors seeking higher returns, however, the rate/scale of issuance keeps raising fear of a possible default.
“Worthy of note, is the fact that though it is cheaper for developing countries to borrow from multilateral creditors such as the IMF, World Bank; they have rather preferred to borrow from private investors as they get these loans without any demand on their economic policies.
“This preferred source of funding would mean that the possibility of debt cancellation if the need arises would be difficult to achieve.”
The suffering expected in developed countries like the U.S. and euro-countries will be compounded greatly in emerging markets, like those in Latin America, Africa, and Asia which are expected to boost the world’s growth.
Victor Silas, a financial investment analyst in a leading pension firm, stated in an email to Nairametrics that, “Rising sovereign debt levels in Africa amid global economics crisis brings concerns about possibilities of debt crisis in the region.
“According to data from trading economic, about 19 African countries are currently above 60% in their debt to GDP ratio. This indicates that such countries will have difficulties paying off their debts in hard times such as war, pandemic or economic recession as more borrowing will be needed to boost the economy.
“However, some schools of thought believe central banks can print more money to settle such debt, bringing issues such as hyperinflation and debt financing cost which may put the economy in a more depressed state.”
For years, countries have done little to tackle their rising debts. Now, with the global economy hit by COVID-19 pandemic and the price of crude oil, agricultural commodities and metal exports falling, lockdowns are affecting businesses negatively, both at home and in the markets they sell to. Nobody knows when the supply chains will return to normal.
Silas Ozoya, President of SUBA Capital also told Nairametrics that, “…these new debts we are getting into would trigger a huge economic crisis. It’s somewhere around 50% of GDP already, closing very fast in the 60% limit. This means increased poverty, especially at the grass-root level, creating huge negative social impact.
“There would be a redirection of taxpayers’ money to service those debt repayments, thereby reducing what goes into infrastructure, agriculture (provision of food), social amenities, job creation and technological innovation.
“So, poverty in all forms would increase, our currency value would keep dwindling and the extreme case would be ‘economical colonization’ by those we owe as a continent.
“This would slow down local development or better still give the control of whatever FDI development we have to foreign creditors in emerged markets as they might explore the build, operate and transfer (BOT) operation of debt repayment.”
Cameroon, Ghana, and Nigeria, all have their Eurobonds now trading at a spread of more than 1,000 basis points over American treasuries; that’s the point above which the Fixed Income instruments are considered to be distressed debt.
Anthony Okafor, Ph.D., ACCA, Head of Investments & Strategy at Vyne Investment Partners, in a phone chat told Nairametrics, “The COVID 19 pandemic has again exposed the fragility of the Nigerian economy, with foreign reserves down to $35 billion.
“The country is now facing her second recession in quick succession. A rebound in crude oil prices would perhaps do the magic and prevent the economy from slipping into recession in the third quarter. The loan requests earlier put in abeyance need to now be revisited, fast-tracked, and channelled to spur economic activities within the real sector.
“Rate cuts and tax cuts will have little effect on stimulating demand. Policymakers need to get creative in crafting policies to keep companies afloat and to fix the dwindling revenues.”
With COVID-19 pandemic raging on across emerged markets and in its infancy in Africa, there’s little relief on the horizon.
Major central banks around the world, including the U.S, China, Japan, Europe, have already added up more than $21 trillion on their respective balance sheets and are expected to add up more in the coming months.
In addition, in potential politically conflicted central banks such as the ones in some parts of Africa, such a program like quantitative easing carries a very huge risk of spiking inflation and eroding the credibility of policymakers.
Cement prices surge in South East as scarcity, price hike hit North East
Prices of cement have risen by 67% in many Southeastern states and by 40% as observed in northern states including Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, others.
The prices of cement have risen by 67% in the South-East states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo.
This is as some residents of the North-Eastern part of the country also complained of price hike of cement, which they attributed to the scarcity of the product and the activities of middlemen who try to capitalize on the situation.
According to a report from the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), a market survey conducted at various wholesale and retail shops in the eastern zone shows that the price of the product has almost doubled when compared to the price in 2020.
What the cement traders in the eastern states are saying
A cement dealer at Kenyetta Market in Enugu State, Mr Ifeanyi Amadi, said the increase in the price of the product which started last year was due to the Covid-19 pandemic and increase in dollar exchange.
He pointed out that a trailer load of Dangote cement with 600 bags, which sold for N1.5 million in 2020, sold for N2.3 million in the first quarter of 2021.
Another retailer, Samuel Uwakwe, noted that a bag of Dangote Cement now goes for N3,900, Unicem for N3,700; BUA Cement for N3,700 and Kogi Super Cement for N3,600.
While begging the suppliers to reduce the price and make the product available, Uwakwe expressed his reservations at few individuals being given the opportunity to supply the product noting that the prices would likely crash during raining season.
In Abia, a cross-section of residents of Umuahia, the state capital, also decried the high price of cement, which ranges from N4,000 to N4,100 per 50kg bag.
Those who spoke to NAN said the price hike had further dashed the hope of many Nigerians, wishing to own their personal homes.
A businessman, Mr Victor Ugwu, said he had to suspend his building project because of the current development as he could not afford to continue with the current price of the commodity.
He said, “I think the hike can be attributed to the monopoly being enjoyed by the cement producers in the country. Unfortunately, there may not be any respite until that monopoly is broken.”
However, a cement dealer, Mr James Ogbonna, said the price increase had nothing to do with the manufacturers of the commodity but rather put the blame on the activities of shylock distributors of cement.
He said, “In the first and second week of March, we sold a bag for N3,200, but within the third week we started selling at N3,500. By the end of March, the price moved up to N4,000 and now, we sell between N4,000 and N4100, depending on the brand.”
A cement dealer in Awka, Mr Kenechukwu Okoye, said before the #EndSARS protest in 2020, a 50kg bag of cement was sold at N2,500 bur rose to N3,000 immediately after the protest and from there to the current price of N4,000 and N4,100.
The survey also says that in Owerri, the Imo state capital, the price of cement is between N3,850 and N4300, depending on the brand.
At the building materials Market in Naze, Owerri North Local Government Area, Dangote and BUA cement are sold at N4,000 per bag while BUA and UNICEM are sold for N3,900.
Mr Okechukwu Okonya, a seller, said the cost could be attributed to the high cost of transportation as a result of fuel price increase adding that major dealers sometimes hoard the product in their warehouses to create artificial scarcity.
The survey report says that in Abakaliki, Ebonyi, prices of almost all building materials have gone up, with Dangote and Bua which sold for N2,500 earlier in November and December 2020 now selling for between N4000 and N4500.
Similarly, Unicem cement which also sold at N2,300 within the same period had also gone up to N4,000 and N4,300.
Similar price increase in North East
The survey report in Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Jigawa, shows an average of 40% increase in price.
According to the respondents, this could be attributed to the outbreak of Covid-19 which affected production in factories, while demand kept rising.
Others, however, blamed the hike on the high cost of transportation and other sundry activities associated with the business of procurement and sales of cement in the country.
Malam Ibrahim Sanusi, a cement dealer at the Gombe main market described the hike as outrageous when compared with the price of the same commodity the previous year.
He said that a bag of Dangote brand which he bought for N2,400 and sold for N2, 500, is bought for N4,000 from their depot in Gombe and sold for N4,200.
Carbon Tax: A market-based alternative to carbon emissions in Nigeria
A carbon tax is a way to have users of carbon fuels pay for the climate damage caused by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Fossil Fuel is hurting us. It is an undeniable truth. I have heard in many conversations more often than not a very solid support for the fossil industry. Rather simple conversations on its perils and disadvantages always end with resignation by the other party that “fossil has come to stay.”
While not doubting that premise, I rather believe a lot can be done to limit the harmful effect of what is here to stay with us. A lot can be said about how beneficial fossil fuel is to the economy and how it is initially cheaper and more available but, in truth, the harms still exists.
Sadly, these harms are more than good. The clarion call to stop these emissions has been on for a very long time, but the reality remains the attention span of the larger consumer population is very very short when it comes to that discourse.
I would say, the essence and need for us to look to further means to mitigate the harm from fossil fuel is not just for a cleaner environment but also for an environment to still exist. The constant clamour for a change in our perspective is not just for the growth of the alternative sector but also a struggle for survival, because we will all lose if we do not stop.
Now, since we have declared to ourselves that we wouldn’t stop, it only makes sense if we can effectively checkmate how we continue with fossil, adopt Carbon Capture techniques and in an attempt to make sure no one goes overboard, impose fines on the amount on those that burn beyond their limit and on fossil that enters the country. This is a concept that, rather thankfully, already exists. Carbon Tax.
A carbon tax is a fee imposed on the burning of carbon-based fuels (coal, oil, gas). A carbon tax is a way — the only way, really — to have users of carbon fuels pay for the climate damage caused by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
It is a market-based alternative that helps the government reduce the carbon footprint and also allows them make money as a government when there is a breach of this solemn oath to stay in check. In Nigeria, The Carbon Tax Act came into force on 1 June 2019. The carbon tax was designed to apply to direct emissions in the following categories as specified in the National Greenhouse Gas Emission Reporting Regulations:
- Fuel combustion, which relates to emissions released from fuel combustion activities;
- Fugitive emissions from fuels, which relates to emissions mainly released from the extraction, production, processing, and distribution of fossil fuels; and
- Industrial processes emissions, which relates to emissions released from the consumption of carbonates and the use of fuels as feedstock or as carbon reductants, and the emission of synthetic gases in particular cases.
It is trite to say that this entire scheme is altogether ineffective and barely surviving. It is sad to note because there are numerous benefits to Carbon Tax. The advantages of doing this asides still having a healthy civilization in the next 100 years are numerous. First, it would be creating a very profitable system of revenue for the government. Here, the government will not need to spend much on the initial cost of having this revenue stream in place. Aside from the need to establish an agency to enforce the limits and payment of fines and the adequate system of calculating and verifying the amount consumed, the expenses on the government is almost Zero. This agency unlike many others in this country will be more active than idle, considering the existence of various fossil burning industries in Nigeria and being largely oil-dependent.
Secondly, this would help Nigeria join the global effort to reduce the carbon footprint and in turn put Nigeria on the good pages of the global community as a contributor to green energy. This will birth a host of benefits for the Nigerian Community and also assist the domestic green energy advocates.
Furthermore, this system will help to promote the alternative energy industry. The renewable energy industry will from this initiative be able to sufficiently measure the actual impact of their activities on the environment and the economy as well as challenge the growth of new innovations to grow it. The campaigns will no longer be dependent on cancelling out the large emissions killing the environment since more revenue now streams for the government from them, but to the actual direct benefits of renewable energy.
This alternative will also assist the government in assessing the benefits of reducing emissions and growing the renewable energy industry. The implementation of this will serve as a step for the assessment and understanding of the dynamics, policies and funding needed for the full inevitable integration of Green Energy.
The advantages are numerous and as such need Carbon Taxing to be revived in the country. In all sincerity to the dynamics of Nigerian politics and due respect to our exalted government, it is almost too easy for these things to be put in place seeing they will also have a fresh channel to loot from while saving our dear lives and making the air cleaner. A Win-Win for all the parties involved.
Written by Ude Fortune Chiziterem
Nairametrics | Company Earnings
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- Nigerian Breweries publishes names of over 100,000 shareholders who are yet to claim their dividends.
- 2020 FY Results: Sovereign Trust Insurance Plc records a 37% increase in profit after tax.
- CSCS Plc posts profit after tax of N6.93 billion in FY 2020
- BUA Cement Plc announces Board Meeting
- Infinity Trust Mortgage Bank Plc records a 60% increase in profit after tax in Q1 2021.