Here are three big stories from Africa’s business and policy landscape you (probably) didn’t miss but should keep in mind this week:

Kenya Passes Finance Bill Amidst Public Resistance

Despite widespread protests across the country, the Kenyan Parliament passed the Finance Bill 2024 during its second reading by a vote of 204 to 115. This development means the bill will now proceed to the committee stage, followed by a third reading, before being sent to the president for assent. The bill faced significant resistance from citizens concerned about its potential economic impact due to the inclusion of various new tax measures.

Introduced in May, the Finance Bill 2024 proposed increased taxes and levies. This included a 1.5% digital tax on local platforms offering services like online jobs, rentals, food delivery, and ride-hailing, subject to parliamentary approval. The bill also included a value-added tax (VAT) on electric bikes, buses, and solar and lithium-ion batteries. This raised concerns from the Nairobi-based Associated Battery Manufacturers (ABM), who feared it would increase the cost of a 60-kilogram solar battery in Kenya by $312 (45,000 Kenyan shillings). Additionally, the proposed introduction of a 6% Significant Economic Presence (SEP) Tax caused an uproar among ride-hailing companies. They feared it would hinder their operations and potentially force these ride-hailing apps to leave the country.

While concerns about the bill mounted, the president viewed the new taxes as a way to improve the country’s tax environment and pay down its debt. However, according to reports, the presidency announced the removal of several controversial aspects of the bill, including taxes on bread purchases, car ownership, mobile money transfers, vegetable oil, and financial and foreign exchange transactions. The announcement came amidst threats by the hacking group Anonymous to expose “corrupt deals involving members of parliament (MPs)” if they voted to approve the bill.

Paradigm initiative uncovered sale of Nigerian citizens’ data

Last week, Paradigm Initiative, a digital rights organization, revealed that several unauthorized platforms had been holding and selling sensitive personal and financial data of Nigerian citizens for as low as ₦100. This development constituted a major breach of fundamental privacy and data privacy rights, according to a press statement issued by the organization. The statement specifically named AnyVerify.com.ng as one of the platforms engaged in this illegal commerce. Paradigm Initiative alleged that AnyVerify.com.ng, which had been involved in the commercial distribution of personal and private data of Nigerians since November 2023, offered a range of data services through a drop-down menu on its website.

These alleged illegitimate services included access to personal data such as National Identity Numbers (NINs), Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs), virtual NINs, Driver’s Licenses, International Passports, company details, Tax Identification Numbers (TINs), Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs), and phone numbers. Paradigm Initiative claimed the website sold each piece of this personal information to anyone willing to pay ₦100.

The full extent to which this data breach, compromises the sensitive data of millions of Nigerians collected during various government exercises remained unclear. However, information presented by Paradigm Initiative suggested that AnyVerify.com had received significant traffic, with 567,990 visits in February 2024 and 188,360 visits in April 2024. This revelation came shortly after another data breach reported by Fij. ng, which alerted the public and the government to an unauthorized private website, www.XpressVerify.com that had been accessing and monetizing the data of registered Nigerians. Following the publication of that story, the website was taken down. However, with this new revelation, it seemed another platform had emerged to take its place, raising concerns that there might be many more such websites. The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) subsequently flagged five websites for allegedly collecting Nigerians’ data without permission. These websites are: idfinder.com.ng, and Verify. Ng, championtech.com.ng, trustyonline.com, and anyverify.com.

Nigeria’s Public Debt Increased Significantly in Q1 2024

The Debt Management Office (DMO) of Nigeria announced a significant increase in the nation’s total public debt, reaching N121.67 trillion (approximately $91.46 billion) as of March 31, 2024. A statement from the DMO clarified that this figure represented the combined domestic and external debts of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), the thirty-six state governments, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). For comparison, the total public debt stood at N97.34 trillion (approximately $108.23 billion) at the end of December 2023. This translates to a substantial increase of N24.33 trillion or 24.99% within three months. It’s important to note that despite the increase in Naira terms, the total debt decreased in dollar terms by $16.77 billion or 18.34%. This decrease was primarily driven by the Naira devaluation.

The breakdown of the total debt as of March 31, 2024, revealed that domestic debt accounted for N65.65 trillion (approximately $46.29 billion), while external debt amounted to N56.02 trillion (approximately $42.12 billion). This means that over half (53.96%) of the total debt was owed to domestic creditors. The DMO’s statement further explained that excluding the impact of Naira exchange rate movements in the first quarter of 2024, domestic debt still saw a significant increase. It rose from N59.12 trillion at the end of December 2023 to N65.65 trillion by N6.53 trillion, representing an 11.05% increase. This rise was attributed to new borrowing undertaken to partially finance the 2024 Budget deficit and the securitization of a portion of the N7.3 trillion Ways and Means Advances at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

ICYMI: Market roundup

  • Nigeria’s equities market went downwards over a 5-day trading week, with the NGX All-Share Index depreciating by 0.18% to close at 99,743.05 points. The top gainers were Champion Brew Plc. (25.00%), Veritas Kapital Assurance Plc. (23.73%), Chams Holding Company Plc (22.45%), Thomas Wyatt Plc (20.00%), and John Holt Plc (15.73%). The top decliners were Nem Insurance plc (-21.57%), Regency Assurance (-13.64%), Transcorp Hotels Plc (-11.21%), Multiverse Mining and Exploration Plc, (-10.85%), and Caverton Offshore Support Group Plc. (-10.71%).
  • The naira closed the week at ₦1485.53/$1 on Friday at the investor’s and Exporters’ window.
  • Brent crude closed the week at $85.24. While the US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude closed at $80.60.
  • The global cryptocurrency market cap stood at $ 2.24 trillion, as of 2 pm Monday, the 24th of June. Bitcoin stood at $61,357.52, a 6.24%, decrease over the week, Ethereum decreased by 5.55% to trade at $3,312.22, while Binance coin increased by 5.50% over 7 days, to trade at $565.40
  • Last week, Paris-based VC firm Breega secured commitments for around 70% of the capital of its $75 million in the first close.
  • Nigerian fintech startup Regxta was named winner of the fourth edition of the Pitch2Win startup competition, bagging $10 K in equity-free funding.

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