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North Africa

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.

Libya's UN-backed government, central bank to cooperate in 2017

President of Libya's Government of National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj, speaks during the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly. Photo: Frank Franklin II/AP/SIPALibya's Government of National Accord (GNA) and central bank in Tripoli say they have agreed to work together to tackle urgent economic problems in 2017, creating a potential lifeline for the United Nations-backed GNA.


Egypt mourns victims of church bombing, angry survivors say security lax

Coptic Christian woman leave after a funeral service for victims of a Sunday cathedral bombing, at the Virgin Mary Church, in Cairo. Photo: Nariman El-Mofty/AP/SIPAMourners packed an Egyptian church on Monday for a funeral service for 24 people killed in the bombing of Cairo's main Coptic cathedral, while angry survivors accused authorities of security lapses.


Egypt central bank governor says intervention in currency market is "history"

Egyptians walk past a poster showing a US dollar outside an exchange office in Cairo, Egypt, 3 Nov, 2016. Photo: Amr Nabil/AP/SIPAEgyptian Central Bank Governor Tarek Amer has said nothing would prompt him to intervene to prop up the pound after floating the currency in a dramatic move last month, calling those policies "history".


Tunisia ushers in new economic era after raising $14bn

Tunisia drummed up billions of dollars of support for its young democracy at the Tunisia 2020 conference. Photo: Hassene Dridi/AP/SIPATunisia's Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has heralded the return of his country to the global economic stage after an international investment conference* attracted more than $14bn in funding.


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