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North Africa

Crackdown on fake cotton helps revive Egypt crop.

Egypt's most famous export, the silky soft cotton prized by makers of luxury bedding and clothing, has become so scarce as production has fallen that most supplies sold under its brand name last year were fake.


EU leaders meet in Malta for roundtable talks on African migration

Italy and the European Union (EU) have pledged to finance migrant camps in Libya run by the U.N.-backed government, an agreement showed on Friday, 3 February, as part of a wider European Union drive to stem immigration from Africa.


Tunisia needs $2.85 bln in external financing this year

Tunisia needs around $2.85 bn in external financing this year and plans to issue a Sukuk Islamic bond worth around $500m to help cover the deficit, Finance Minister Lamia Zribi told Reuters on Monday.


Egypt says committed to repaying $3.5bn to foreign oil firms

An Egyptian driver rests on his car as he refuels it at a gasoline station in Cairo. Photo: Amr Nabil/AP/SIPAEgypt is committed to repaying the $3.5bn it owes in arrears to foreign oil companies but a foreign currency shortage has made the drawing down of those debts more difficult, petroleum minister Tarek El Molla said on Tuesday.


Egypt's cost-of-living soars as currency dives

A woman looks at the view at Al-Azhar Park one of the bustling city's few public parks in Cairo. Photo: Nariman El-Mofty/AP/SIPAAnnual consumer price inflation in Egypt's cities soared to a second straight eight-year high in December, hitting 23.3% on the back of the government's decision to float the pound, effectively halving its value.


Morocco's central bank approves five Islamic banks

Traders watch the trading board at the Bahrain Stock Exchange in Manama, Bahrain, an Islamic banking hub. Photo: Hasan Jamali/AP/SIPAMorocco's central bank has approved five requests to open Islamic banks in the country and allowed three French banks to sell Islamic products, it said on Monday.

Islamic banks and insurers are setting up in Morocco after new legislation allowed them into the market, and the central bank has set up a central sharia board with a body of Islamic scholars to oversee the new sector.

The North African country had long rejected Islamic banking due to concerns about Islamist movements, but its financial market lacks liquidity and foreign investors, both of which Islamic finance could attract.

The central bank had said it received seven requests to open Islamic banks.

The regulatory approvals concern the three major Moroccan banks Attijariwafa Bank, BMCE of Africa and Banque Centrale Populaire (BCP), and two smaller lenders Credit Agricole (CAM) and Credit Immobilier et Hotelier (CIH).

Morocco's biggest private bank Attijariwafa won the approval while it is still in talks with a partner, the central bank said. The bank's managing director, Ismail Douiri, told Reuters in October that Attijariwafa was in advanced talks with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

Douiri said IDB would be a technical partner with a minority stake of between 10 and 20 percent.

Morocco's BCP has chosen Guidance Financial Group, BMCE has picked Bahrain-based Al Baraka Banking Group, while CIH is partnering with Qatar International Islamic Bank.

Moroccan state-owned bank Credit Agricole (CAM) has also won regulatory approval to create a unit with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), a subsidiary of the Saudi-based IDB.

The two partners have said they would inject 200m dirhams ($19.7m) of capital into the offshoot and raise that to 400m dirhams later.

Subsidiaries of French banks Societe Generale, Credit du Maroc and BMCI won permission to sell Islamic products.

Islamic finance, based on principles that ban interest and pure monetary speculation, has grown rapidly over the past decade.

Morocco will issue its first ever Islamic bond (sukuk) in the domestic market in the first half of 2017, the finance minister said last month.

However, parliament has yet to to approve a bill regulating Islamic insurance, or takaful.

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