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The gap between the maximum lending rate and savings deposit rate in the banking sector widened by 22.14 per cent in July.

Banks savings deposit rate rose slightly to 5.24 per cent in July from 5.18 per cent and 5.13 per cent in June and May, according to figures from Central Bank of Nigeria.

Figures obtained on money market indicators from the apex bank also revealed that the maximum lending rate fell slightly to 27.38 per cent in July, from 28.94 per cent in June.

The CBN revealed that prime lending rate rose to 13.98 per cent in July from 13.85 per cent in June.

It revealed that 12-month, six-month, three-month, one-month deposit rate, and savings deposit rate in July were 7.83 per cent, 8.54 per cent, 7.68 per cent per cent, 7.15 per cent and 5.18 per cent respectively.

Treasury bills rate rose to 4.45 per cent in July, from 3.87 per cent in June.

The monetary rate and inter-bank call rate were 18.75 per cent and 6.73 per cent respectively.

At the last Monetary Policy Committee meeting in July, the Acting Governor, CBN, Folashodun. Shonubi, said after the meeting, members decided to “Raise the MPR by 25 basis points, from 18.50 to 18.75 per cent; Adjust the asymmetric corridor to +100/-300 basis points around the MPR; Retain the CRR at 32.5 per cent; and retain the Liquidity Ratio at 30 per cent.”

He said, the committee remained cautious in arriving at a policy decision as members noted the need to continue to support investment which will ultimately lead to the recovery of output growth.

The balance of these arguments, he noted, was in favour of a moderate rate hike, to sustain efforts at anchoring inflation expectation, narrow the negative real interest rate gap, and improve investor confidence.



British police said on Tuesday they had charged former Nigerian oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke with bribery offences, saying they suspected she had accepted bribes in return for awarding multi-million pound oil and gas contracts.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and top oil producer, has one of the most corrupt political systems in the world and its former colonial ruler Britain has been a destination of choice for Nigerian kleptocrats seeking to enjoy their wealth.

Alison-Madueke, 63, served as petroleum minister from 2010 to 2015, under former President Goodluck Jonathan. She also acted as president of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 2014-2015.

"We suspect Diezani Alison-Madueke abused her power in Nigeria and accepted financial rewards for awarding multi-million pound contracts," said Andy Kelly, Head of the National Crime Agency's (NCA) International Corruption Unit.

"These charges are a milestone in what has been a thorough and complex international investigation."

Alison-Madueke was arrested in London in October 2015, a few months after leaving office, and has also been the subject of investigations in Nigeria and the United States.

She has previously denied allegations of corruption but could not be reached on Tuesday. A London lawyer who was acting for her in 2015 did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The NCA said she was currently living in St John’s Wood, an upmarket area of west London, and would appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Oct. 2.

It said Alison-Madueke was accused of benefiting from at least 100,000 pounds ($127,000) in cash, chauffeur-driven cars, flights on private jets, luxury holidays for her family, and the use of multiple London properties.

Charges against her also detail financial rewards including furniture, renovation work and staff for the properties, payment of private school fees, and gifts from high-end designer shops such as Cartier jewellery and Louis Vuitton goods, the NCA said.

It added that assets worth millions of pounds relating to the alleged offences had been frozen, and that it had provided evidence to the U.S. Department of Justice that enabled them to recover assets worth $53 million linked to Alison-Madueke.

Nigerian courts have also ordered the seizure of tens of millions of dollars' worth of assets including properties, cars, large quantities of jewellery and a gold iPhone in a series of rulings in recent years.

News of the British charges comes a month after a London court ordered the confiscation of $130 million from a former Nigerian oil state governor, James Ibori, in an unrelated but equally high-profile case involving political corruption in Nigeria.

With its highly developed legal and financial industries and lucrative property market, Britain is a global money-laundering hub and the NCA's anti-corruption unit is part of the authorities' effort to stem the tide of dirty money.

($1 = 0.7853 pounds)



A West African bloc mediator sent to meet Niger’s junta leaders following a July 26 coup says a peaceful way out of the crisis remains possible.

Last week’s visit to Niger “has opened an avenue to start talking,” Abdulsalami Abubakar, a former Nigerian president, told reporters in the capital, Abuja. “Hopefully diplomacy will see the better of this.”

The Economic Community of West African States has said it stands ready to use force if talks fail.

Abdourahamane Tiani, the coup leader, has proposed a return to democracy within three years, but the bloc does not want any prolonged transition, Abdel-Fatau Musah, an Ecowas commissioner, told BBC on Sunday.

“Nobody wants to go to war,” said Abubakar after briefing Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who’s the current Ecowas chairman.

The African Union, which suspended Niger, is studying the economic and security implications of the bloc’s deployment of a standby force.

The coup in Niger - the sixth in West Africa in three years - has brought condemnation from Western nations including France and the US, which together have troops stationed in the country.

The landlocked nation has been a key international ally in the global fight against jihadists in the region. If successful, the coup would create a belt of military-run countries from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, most of which are friendlier to Russia than the West.


The Cable

Wednesday, 23 August 2023 04:37

BRICS: De-dollarization irreversible – Putin

The US dollar is losing its global role in an “objective and irreversible” process, the Russian president told participants at the BRICS Summit in South Africa on Tuesday. Vladimir Putin spoke via videolink, after choosing not to attend the event in person.

De-dollarization is “gaining momentum” Putin declared, adding that members of the group of major emerging economies are seeking to reduce their reliance on the greenback in mutual transactions.

The Russian leader claimed the five BRICS members – Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa – are becoming the new world economic leaders, adding that their cumulative share of global GDP has reached 26%.

He noted that if measured by purchasing power parity, BRICS has already surpassed the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations – accounting for 31% of the global economy, compared to 30% for the G7.

Over the past 10 years, mutual investment between the BRICS member states has increased by six times. Their total investments in the world economy have doubled, while cumulative exports account for 20% of the global total, Putin said.

Moscow is focusing on re-orienting its transport and logistics routes towards “reliable foreign partners,” including BRICS members, to ensure an uninterrupted supply of energy and food to the international market.

Russia’s primary goals include developing the Northern Sea Route and the ‘North-South’ transport corridor, Putin stated. The first, passing through the Arctic Ocean, along Russia’s northern coastline, will ensure faster goods deliveries between Europe and the Far East. The second will connect Russia’s northern and Baltic ports to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, facilitating cargo movement between Eurasian and African nations.

We are consistently increasing fuel, food and fertilizer supplies to the states of the Global South,” and actively contributing to global food and energy security, the Russian leader said. He blamed the current international food crisis on the West’s unilateral sanctions, describing them as “unlawful.”

Illegitimate sanctions… seriously weigh on the international economic situation,” and the “unlawful freezing of sovereign states’ assets” constitutes a violation of free trade and economic cooperation rules. 

The resource deficit and growing inequality worldwide are a “direct result” of such policies, the Russian president argued. He highlighted skyrocketing grain and food prices as the latest manifestation of this process, primarily affecting the most vulnerable nations.

Moscow is represented at the Johannesburg summit, which runs from August 22 to 24, by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Putin opted not to attend the event after a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue a warrant for his arrest in March. The court based the order on Ukraine’s allegation that the Russian evacuation of children from the conflict zone amid hostilities between the two nations amounted to “unlawful population transfers.

South Africa is a signatory of the Rome Statute of the ICC, and the US and its allies had pressured it to detain Putin should he travel to the country. Moscow has repeatedly denied the ICC’s allegations and stressed that it does not recognize the court’s authority, declaring the warrant legally null and void. 

Although South African President Cyril Ramaphosa repeatedly stated that he would not carry out the order, claiming it would amount to a “declaration of war,” Moscow ultimately decided to send Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the BRICS summit to represent Russia.


Russia Today

United Nations children's agency, UNICEF, plans to commit $270 million to Nigeria's humanitarian and poverty alleviation efforts and pledged to help set up an emergency operation centre, its executives said on Tuesday.

The government of President Bola Tinubu wants to lift 133 million citizens out of poverty, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation Betta Edu told UNICEF executives Christian Munduate and Eduardo Celades at a meeting in Abuja.

Edu did not provide a timeline for achieving the target.

UNICEF said the agency will support the establishment of a humanitarian emergency operation centre that will help monitor, mitigate and prevent emergencies, and also help the ministry build capacity for its staff.

Edu said the government will target about 71 million "extremely poor Nigerians" who live on less than $1.95 a day because "time is of essence."

"We need to run at the speed of light to roll out social programs that will bring relief to the burdens of the poor," she said.

Africa's largest economy is struggling with record debt, unemployment, and insecurity that have contributed to years of anaemic growth.

Sluggish growth, low human capital, labour market weaknesses, and exposure to shocks are holding Nigeria’s poverty reduction efforts back, the World Bank said in report last year.




West ‘perplexed’ by Ukraine’s strategy – NYT

Ukraine’s counteroffensive is struggling because some of Kiev’s best troops are “in the wrong places,” the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing senior US and UK officials speaking on condition of anonymity. 

Kiev's main objective is to reach the Sea of Azov, cutting Crimea off from the Russian mainland. Yet, Ukraine currently has more troops on the eastern front – facing Artyomovsk, also known as Bakhmut – than in the “far more strategically significant” south, according to the Times.

“American planners have advised Ukraine to concentrate on the front driving toward Melitopol… and on punching through Russian minefields and other defenses, even if the Ukrainians lose more soldiers and equipment in the process,” the newspaper claimed.

The Russian Defense Ministry has estimated Ukraine had lost 45,000 dead and over 5,000 vehicles in the past two months of fighting, without penetrating Russian defenses.

“Only with a change of tactics and a dramatic move can the tempo of the counteroffensive change,” a US official told the newspaper, while other sources cited in the article argued that even that may be too little, too late.

Kiev’s insistence on keeping a large force in the east is particularly “perplexing” to American and British officials, as Western doctrine calls for commitment to a clear main effort. They argue that a smaller force could serve to pin down the Russian defenders, and while Ukraine theoretically has enough troops to retake Artyomovsk, doing so would “lead to large numbers of losses for little strategic gain.”

General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, his British counterpart Admiral Tony Radakin, and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe Christopher Cavoli all urged Ukraine’s top general Valery Zaluzhny to focus on the southern front in an August 10 call, the Times said. Zaluzhny supposedly agreed. 

Just five days later, however, President Vladimir Zelensky was touring the “Soledar sector” near Artyomovsk, visiting the neo-Nazi ‘Azov’ unit and speaking about the importance of the eastern front.

According to the Times, Ukraine has started to redeploy some units to the south, but “even the most experienced units have been reconstituted a number of times after taking heavy casualties.” 

Kiev is currently “tapping into its last strategic reserves,” and unnamed Western analysts worry that Ukrainian forces “may run out of steam” by mid-September, even before a change in weather turns the ground into impassable mud. 

The Times itself noted that US criticism comes from the perspective of officers “who have never experienced a war of this scale and intensity,”and that the US war doctrine “has never been tested in an environment like Ukraine’s, where Russian electronic warfare jams communications and GPS,” and there is no air superiority.

Ukraine launched its much-hyped offensive in early June, but has so far failed to gain any significant ground, losing many Western-supplied tanks and armored vehicles in the process.

** Russian president comments on Kiev’s battle tactics

Ukraine is senselessly turning its own soldiers into cannon fodder for Russian troops, President Vladimir Putin has said, while reflecting on the methods employed by Kiev during its ongoing offensive. 

“As you can see, the situation on the contact line is currently stable,” the Russian leader said, during the meeting with Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) acting head Leonid Pasechnik in the Kremlin on Wednesday.

Putin went on to comment on Kiev’s recent tactics, which have failed to yield any significant territorial gains, but cost heavy losses of Ukrainian troops and armor. 

“They are throwing [Ukrainian soldiers] on our minefields, under our artillery fire, acting as if they are not their own citizens at all. It is astonishing,” Putin said.

Despite Kiev’s public optimism regarding its offensive operations, which were launched in early June, international media has reported that Western officials were growing concerned and frustrated over the lackluster results achieved by the Ukrainian military, as well as the loss of NATO-supplied equipment, including heavy tanks. 

Ukrainian armored units have been struggling to get past dense Russian minefields and had failed to break through fortified positions. The New York Times cited unnamed US and British officials on Tuesday as saying that the planners in Kiev had made the mistake of dispersing their attacking units across the long front line rather than focusing on a concentrated strike in a single area.



US says it does not support Ukrainian strikes inside Russia

The United States does not encourage or enable attacks inside Russia, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said after Russian authorities said they downed drones that tried to attack Moscow early on Wednesday.

It is up to Ukraine to decide how it chooses to defend itself from the Russian invasion that began in February last year, the State Department spokesperson said, adding Russia could end the war any time by withdrawing from Ukraine.

Drone strikes deep inside Russia have increased since two unmanned aircraft were destroyed over the Kremlin in early May. Drone strikes on the Russian capital have become increasingly common in recent months.

The United States, which has supplied Ukraine with massive assistance in the form of weapons and other military equipment to combat the Russian invasion, has consistently said it does not support attacks inside Russia.

The Russian defence ministry said early on Wednesday that air defence systems downed three drones that tried to attack Moscow.

One drone hit a building under construction in central Moscow early on Wednesday, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on his channel on Telegram, a messaging app.

Moscow airports suspended flights early on Wednesday, Russia's TASS news agency reported. Major airports around the Russian capital have repeatedly closed for departing and arriving flights in recent days due to Ukrainian drone activity.

Russia also shot down two Ukrainian drones over the Moscow region with no casualties and brought down a further two drones over the Bryansk region that borders Ukraine, the Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.

Ukraine typically does not comment on who is behind attacks on Russian territory but it appears to have stepped up such raids since two drones were destroyed over the Kremlin in early May.

Such attacks have briefly disrupted flights and caused mostly minor damage to buildings.

** Alongside modern Western arms, Ukraine uses custom-built 'mini-Grads'

Ukraine has an arsenal of high-tech Western arms to fight Russian forces, but is also deploying custom-built mini-rocket launchers that use parts taken from a Soviet-era system.

The "mini-Grad" uses pipes from Soviet-designed BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers developed in the 1960s, and can be mounted on pickup trucks, providing additional mobility for the counteroffensive Kyiv began in early June.

"We have equipment that we call the mini-Grad. It is made of BM-21 Grad pipes placed on top of a pickup truck, which makes it easily transportable," a Ukrainian serviceman with the call-sign "Gall" told Reuters in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia.

"We try to make them more precise compared to Grads. They have the same firing pattern but, thanks to extra mechanisms to take aim and the shorter distance (they are fired at), we try to make the mini-Grad more precise."

Gall, a member of Ukraine's 108th Separate Territorial Defence Brigade, said the mini-Grads were not as accurate as the advanced HIMARS rocket systems Kyiv has received from the United States but made it possible to get closer to enemy lines.

[1/3]Ukrainian servicemen of the 108th Separate Brigade of Territorial Defence fire small multiple launch rocket systems toward Russian troops, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, near a front line in Acquire Licensing Rights Read more

"I cannot say that we hit targets with higher precision compared to the BM-21, but we can drive closer (to the target)." he said.

A colleague with the call sign "Luka" said the mini-Grad has a timer, helping protect those operating it, and volunteer launch station constructor Yurii Osokolanskyi said there was room for three rockets - fewer than the BM-21 Grad.

"Why? Because we are sure that three rockets will land where we need them to. It is rather ineffective to fire 10, eight or two rockets at one target," he said. "We fire three rockets precisely. The soldiers then can change their position, recharge, and continue to fire at different targets."

Ukrainian military analyst Oleksandr Musiyenko said there were three advantages in using mini-Grads -- their mobility enables them to move fast, units that have them can fire on a target without waiting to summon artillery from elsewhere, and they offer extra firepower for lightly armed infantry units.

He said the development of such weaponry was designed to "give an advantage to units which typically do not have this type of weapon."

As brands everywhere strive to be noticed and heard, many invest millions in crafting a distinctive identity. Yet authentic brands don't need to be photoshopped, perfected, or polished to stand out. Leaders can learn much about authenticity from the late singer-songwriter Sinéad O'Connor. 

Being authentic is the most powerful brand asset you have. Consumers have grown weary of vacuous virtue-signaling. That's why 86 percent insist on authentic brands.  

As a former chief marketing officer, I've built numerous brands, witnessing both success and failure. Exceptional brands harness three factors that hold true for musicians and marketers alike – identity definition, emotional resonance, and consistent inconsistency.

1. Identity Definition

Whether you're a singer or a startup, authenticity isn't forced or fabricated. It flows from who you are –even if you can't always define it. It starts by respecting your real identity rather than curating an avatar ideal.

A courageous voice is not just respected, it's envied. Many secretly covet being true to themselves, even though a public face is selectively necessary. Icons like Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, and John McEnroe effortlessly surpass this hurdle.

O'Connor understood who she was and how it set her apart. Her unique product reflected a blend of styles. Her brand revolved around non-conformism, frequently opining about politics, race, and religion. "I didn't want to be a pop star," she said. "I wanted to be a protest singer."

Knowing your audience is branding 101. 

As expanding businesses learn, mistakes happen. Things can go horribly wrong when you grow or achieve fame too quickly. O'Connor's decision not to play the Star-Spangled Banner before a 1990 concert was ill-judged. Underestimating her audience sparked outrage.

Yet she sold over 15 million records and, in 1991, earned a Grammy for Best Alternative Performance – an event she boycotted for political reasons.

2. Emotional Resonance

Consumers are the ultimate fans. If you don't inspire emotion, you have no brand. Positive connection humanizes your message and translates into repeat purchases and loyalty.

Maximizing brand power comes from sharing a backstory. Curious customers want to understand the challenges and triumphs. We might marvel at the meteoric rise of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson or ponder the fate of Alibaba's Jack Ma or Zappos's Tony Hsieh.

Sinead O'Connor always elicited an emotional response. This Irish trailblazer simultaneously thrilled, shocked, and moved audiences. Her stirring backstory defined her musical product.

Her haunting voice evoked a lifetime of pain and struggle. Screaming into the microphone about her own mother's cruelty, she exuded the trauma of a lost child. Last year, the world empathized with her as a desperate mother appealing to save her suicidal son. The outpouring of empathy was a testament to the power of her brand.

Human nature cheers the wounded as much as the underdog. It's a narrative many entrepreneurs adopt.

3. Consistently Inconsistent

Consistency of performance underpins success from L'Oréal shampoo to Red Bull. Leading brands don't compromise values. For every pair of glasses sold, eyewear company Warby Parker donates to someone in need.

While laggards resist change by adhering to the status quo, others thrive on reinvention like Nike and Lady Gaga. Successful brands are intentionally provocative – the art of surprise adds to the X factor.

A bundle of contradictions, brand O'Connor was consistent in her inconsistency – singing from a whisper to a scream, converting from Catholicism to Tridentine priestess to Islam. Her trademark image continued long after Nothing Compares to You, the symbolic shaved head an early protest against misogyny.

Authenticity isn't without risk. Ben & Jerry's is unapologetically passionate about fair trade, climate, and justice. It used its authentic voice, courageously suing parent Unilever. It took a stand.

O'Connor took a stand and spoke the truth. But the world wasn't ready to hear it. In a brand-defining gesture, O'Connor ripped a picture of Pope John Paul II on live TV, protesting against child abuse in the Catholic Church. Cassandra was canceled, scorned, and vilified. History proved her right.

Authenticity sets brands apart, positively or negatively. Brand building is more effective and less effortful when emanating from within but it must be managed.

All Things Must Pass

Occasionally, leaders encounter goal-conflict between pursuing truth and commercial gain. Should they invest short-term or long-term? Should they prioritize profits or the planet? 

On the other hand, O'Connor had a clear sense of purpose. Her autobiography reflects a desire to "inspire people to be who they really are."

When global audiences describe a brand consistently, it signals authenticity. Sinead O'Connor's super brand legacy remains intact -- hailed as witty, controversial, and uncompromising. She is feted as "a mesmerizing talent who bared her heart and took on the world." 

She once adorned a wall with the phrase "I just want to be heard."

Her brand message has now echoed far and wide, immortalized for those who choose to draw inspiration from it. 



JP Morgan, an American multinational financial services firm, estimates that Nigeria’s net foreign exchange (FX) reserves fell to $3.7 billion as of the end 2022.

This is contained in the firm’s latest report titled ‘Nigeria: Reform pause rather than fatigue’.

Gross FX reserves represent the government’s total holdings of foreign currency reserves. Net FX reserves deduct foreign currency liabilities from gross foreign currencies reserves. According to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) data, the country’s gross FX reserves was $36.61 billion as of end of 2022.

Nigeria’s FX reserves play a crucial role in defending the naira and covers the country’s huge import bills.

In its report, JP Morgan said the $3.7 billion figure is significantly lower than prior estimates, owing to larger-than-expected currency swaps and borrowing against existing reserves.

“Based on partial information from the audited financial accounts, we estimate that CBN’s net FX reserves were around US$3.7bn at the end of last year, from US$14.0bn at end-2021,” the report reads.

The firm clarified that it arrived at $3.7 billion by making some assumptions which if incorrect would change the estimated figure.

“In arriving at said estimate we make a few assumptions which if incorrect would substantially change the picture. They include: (i) an addition of US$5.0bn in IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDR) to external reserves in order to arrive at total gross FX reserves of US$37.8bn, broadly in line with the 30-day moving average of US$37.08bn previously published on the central bank’s website,” the report further reads.

(ii) adjusting the gross external reserves with three key FX liability lines that include FX forwards (US$6.84bn), securities lending (US$5.5bn) and currency swaps (US$21.3bn); and (iii) estimating currency swaps by backing out FX forwards and outstanding OTC Futures balances from an overall aggregate published in the financial accounts.”

JP Morgan, however, said that although low net FX reserves mean continued FX market pressures, the CBN still has the ability to source FX at commercial and semi-commercial rates.

“Given the highly profitable nature of the currency swap arrangements between the CBN and domestic commercial banks, we expect these to continue for sometime, albeit in smaller sizes and arguably more punitive rates,’ the report adds.

“Furthermore, authorities are in the initial stages of identifying assets for sale, which may provide some medium-term relief. For example, the President’s policy advisory council has recommended the government sell down its stake in the most joint-venture oil and gas assets, a proposal that is estimated to bring in up to US$17bn.

“In addition, the recently announced US$3bn loan to NNPC could help partly improve FX liquidity conditions in the market. We expect NNPC to sell the dollars to CBN and remit the naira proceeds to the government as upfront payments for oil revenues and taxes. That being said, the large external financing needs of the private sector will sustain FX pressure.”


JP Morgan said it expected that headline inflation will still remain elevated, particularly due to higher food costs.

“We believe July’s inflation print is early evidence of the impact of the fiscal and FX reforms which are likely to continue pushing headline inflation higher over the coming months,” JP Morgan said in its report.

“Higher parallel market rates in recent weeks are also likely to have an impact on August’s inflation reading and will be most notable in higher food and core prices. The core inflation measure (excluding food and energy costs) rose by 20.5% in July, from 20.1% recorded in June. We now see headline inflation rising towards 28%oya by year-end.”

The firm said President Bola Tinubu’s decision to keep a cap on petrol prices is likely to provide some relief but the exchange rate is likely to remain on a depreciating path and put further pressure on prices.


The Cable

Member states of the BRICS, the emerging market group of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, are widely anticipated to deepen financial cooperation in an upcoming gathering, in particular in the payment and currency sectors to counterbalance the hegemony of the US dollar, which has left emerging economies and developing countries struggling financially.

Based on the trade scale of the BRICS members and the increasing willingness of more countries to join the bloc, the process of de-dollarization, which has become an irreversible trend, will be accelerated, experts told the Global Times.

Data from China's General Administration of Customs showed that China's trade with other BRICS economies kept expanding in the first seven months of this year, a potent driving force for the recovery of the overall global economy.

China's trade with other BRICS members totaled 2.38 trillion yuan ($325.7 billion) over the period, up 19.1 percent year-on-year. This segment of trade accounted for 10.1 percent of China's overall foreign trade during the period, up 1.6 percentage points from last year.

Chinese shipments to BRICS members reached 1.23 trillion yuan, up 23.9 percent year-on-year, while imports rose 14.3 percent to 1.15 trillion yuan.

Since its establishment, the multilateral cooperation mechanism of BRICS has provided development tools based on partnership and joint growth, in comparison with the Western model that pursues its own interests.

In the upcoming BRICS 2023 summit scheduled from August 22 to 24 in South Africa, discussion of financial cooperation including the use of more local currencies for trade settlements, exploration of a parallel payment system to counter the dollar's hegemony and a common currency is highly anticipated.

The nations will discuss deepening the use of local currencies in trade, which is "firmly on the agenda," and a technical committee is likely to be formed to start considering a potential joint currency, South Africa's BRICS Sherpa Anil Sooklal said in an interview with Bloomberg last week.

"The rising use of local currencies has become a widespread alternative to the dollar. It's a long-term trend, although its influence is still limited at present," Niu Haibin, director of the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies from the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Global Times.

The New Development Bank, created by the BRICS in 2015, has set a target to increase local currency lending from about 22 percent to 30 percent by 2026.

China and Russia have taken a leading role in promoting local currency settlement. More than 80 percent of trade settlements between Russia and China have been conducted in Russian rubles and the yuan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the opening of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit on July 4, according to a report by Russian news agency TASS.

In terms of the payment system within BRICS, Wang Youming, director of the Institute of Developing Countries at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday that "it is not very difficult at the operational level, given sufficient study of multiple banks."

There has been an ongoing discussion within the BRICS to accelerate the rollout of a payment system, and the need became particularly urgent after the US removed some Russian banks from the SWIFT global interbank payments system and forced other economies to pay for its economic problems with sizeable financial tightening.

Furthermore, Wang said that the BRICS members could move to establish a version of their own monetary fund on the basis of the existing BRICS emergency reserve arrangement mechanism. "The rollout of the fund, in answer to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that is mainly led by the West, is also not that difficult at the operational level," he noted.

However, in terms of a potential joint currency within the BRICS, the expert said it is not likely to materialize in the short term.

Undeniably, the BRICS countries differ substantially in terms of economic composition, monetary policy, trade, growth and financial openness. "The lack of a unified market among the BRICS members is a major stumbling block for the exploration of the joint currency," Wang said.

Although it's not possible to shake the dominant status of the dollar in global trade and settlement at the current phase, experts stressed that the greenback's hegemony could not be sustained, with more countries seeking to reduce reliance on the currency.

Concerns in the US are mounting with such global energy powers as Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela having expressed interest or applied to join the BRICS bloc.

"If they are in, the chance of de-dollarization in global oil trading will be much higher," Wang said.

According to the government of South Africa, more than 40 countries have expressed interest in joining the bloc.

The BRICS members represent nearly 42 percent of the global population and account for about 26 percent of the global economy, according to media reports.


Global Times

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