Currencies in Africa: S/African rand leads laggards

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May 22, 2020/United Capital Report

The outbreak of COVID-19 is expected to halt global growth which has maintained a positive trend over the last 10 years.  According to the IMF, the impact of the world-wide lockdown is estimated to result in 3.0% decline in global GDP as the strength of even the most stable economies around the world is put to the test. Unsurprisingly, risk-off sentiment by investors in emerging markets and across African countries in particular as well as the historic downturn in commodity prices , is having a telling impact on currency rates.

Amid huge capital flow reversal driven by risk-off sentiment, currency rates of African countries under our coverage shows that the S/African rand is the worst hit, down 20.6% YTD. This is followed by the Angolan Kwanza which has depreciated by 16.1%YTD. Mauritius Rupee (-8.8% YTD), Nigerian Naira (-6.6%) and Kenyan Shilling (-5.3%YTD) followed in that order. Others include the Tunisian Dinar (-3.8% YTD), Morocco’s Dirham (-2.7% YTD) and the West African Monetary Union’s CFA franc (-2.3% YTD). Notably, the Egyptian Pound, up 1.3% YTD, remains the best performer across the region.

While an adjustment of the Nigerian naira from N360/$ to N385/$ broadly reflects the 6.6% weakness observed in the official market, it must be noted that currency depreciation at the unofficial market is much deeper, currently at N445/$ amid liquidity challenges in the official market. Looking ahead, the outlook for the local currencies across Africa is expected to remain relatively weak on the back of faltering global demand, weaker commodity prices and slower global trade.

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