Over the next three weeks, several African central banks will have monetary policy meetings. Most will have to decide on interest rates, which will be crucial for their economies’ fourth-quarter performances.
Notably, this trend is also happening on the global stage. Seven of the world’s ten most-traded currencies —including the dollar and the euro— will start seeing a flurry of borrowing rate decisions over the next week. These decisions will influence the next move for many African countries since many of them need these foreign currencies in their reserves and for trade. Here’s what we know about the countries set to make interest-rate decisions in the coming weeks.
Last month, inflation in Africa’s third largest oil producer soared to 13.5%, up from 12.1% in July. This was the highest monthly percentage increase in at least five years.
The government’s decision to stop supporting the kwanza in May and to slash gasoline subsidies in June triggered the inflationary spike. These measures caused the currency to weaken, and the pump prices nearly doubled. The country had some of the lowest gasoline prices in the world before the subsidy cut.
Hence, Banco Nacional de Angola will likely hike interest rates to curb inflation, boost the kwanza and reduce the country’s money supply.
Mauritius currently has a 4.5% benchmark interest rate, one of the lowest in Africa. And the Bank of Mauritius will likely keep it that way because it’s not under inflationary pressure. Inflation has been on a downtrend and reached a two-year low of 5.9% in August. The Bank of Mauritius’ main worry will be currency weakness which can trigger a new wave of inflation.
Seychelles’ central bank has a unique problem to tackle. The country is going through its longest phase of deflation in seven years. Consumer prices declined by 2.44% in August after a 1.98% slump in the previous month. It was the fourth consecutive month of consumer deflation and the steepest since March 2016.
The problem for Seychelles’ central bank is determining borrowing costs in this period. Prolonged deflation often puts central banks under pressure to cut interest rates, but in Seychelles, they are already at a record low of 2%.
The South African Reserve Bank has increased rates by a cumulative 475 basis points since November 2021. In July, it halted its hike streak at a 14-year-high of 8.25% after inflation slowed to 5.4%. However, Lesetja Kganyago, the central bank governor, made a disclaimer that it wasn’t the end of the road for rate hikes.
Yet there’s a likelihood that the apex bank waits a little longer before resuming the cycle. Inflation is now at 4.7%, its lowest reading since July 2021.
Eswatini and Lesotho, whose inflation is also slowing and have their currencies pegged to South Africa’s rand, may match the Reserve Bank’s move by month-end.
Egypt’s central bank surprised everyone with a 100 basis point interest rate hike in August to 19.25%. That is its highest borrowing rate since 2006, surpassing the previous peak reached during the currency crisis of 2016-2017. It did so because inflation has been through the roof in recent months, reaching 37.4% in August. But because it made such a sharp increase at once, there’s less tendency for it to continue the next month.
Last month, inflation in Africa’s third largest oil producer slowed to 4.9%, a three-year low. About a year ago, it peaked at nearly 13%. So the country has good reason to loosen its interest rates from its current 17.25% in its next meeting. However, rising oil prices might be a cause for caution since it might spike inflation.
Zimbabwe’s annual inflation is currently around 77%, one of the highest globally. But the signs the country is showing are that it won’t yet change its interest rates in its first monetary policy meeting since its presidential election. Zimbabwe’s reelection of Emmerson Mnangagwa on August 23rd-24th was the first sign that it was leaning toward the status quo. Also, the Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube, who is retaining his office, recently said that the current tight fiscal and monetary policy stance will continue. Borrowing rates are currently at 150%.
Ghana’s central bank has been hiking interest rates continuously since November 2021. Since then, borrowing rates have gone up by 16.5 percentage points. Inflation rates were volatile till they became steady in April. Recently, Ghana’s inflation dropped to 40.1% from 43%, the first inflation drop since April. This rate is far from the 9.98% it had in 2021, but it’s still progress in the short term. The central bank now has good cause to pause its hiking cycle in its forthcoming meeting.
Kenya’s inflation rate slowed to 6.7% in August from July’s 7.3%, putting it firmly within its inflation range target of 5% +/- 2.5. So the central bank is not under pressure from inflation to increase lending rates. However, Kenya’s currency has been depreciating fast, and that might trigger inflation again.
Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund urged Morocco to adopt more monetary tightening if it was to meet a lower inflation target for 2024. But Morocco just got hit by an earthquake that killed thousands. So the country’s focus will be on recovering from this devastating event. The Bank al-Maghrib has doubled interest rates since October 2022 to its current 3%. Also, Morroco’s inflation rate was 4.9% in July, one of the lowest in Africa.
Nigeria has hiked interest rates eight consecutive times since 2022, but inflation has refused to cower. Inflation reached a new 18-year high of 25.8% in August after climbing for eight consecutive months. Nigeria’s decision to remove fuel subsidies and reform the exchange rates added fuel to the fire of its inflation woes. The Central Bank of Nigeria believes that increasing interest rates has helped in “moderating the rate of inflation.” So, it is likely it will keep doing so until inflation eases.