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Africa in Business: fracking and farming

STORY: Here are five business stories making headlines in sub-Saharan Africa this week.

1. The International Monetary Fund's executive board on Wednesday (May 17) approved a $3 billion, three-year loan program for Ghana - unlocking an immediate disbursement of about $600 million.

It's a potential path out of the worst economic crisis for a generation in the West African country, which the IMF said is now targeting $10.5 billion of external debt service relief from 2023-2026.

2. South Africa will auction at least 10 new onshore blocks for shale gas exploration in the environmentally sensitive Karoo region, a government official has said, as the country eyes alternative energy sources amid its worst-ever power crisis.

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Fracking in the Karoo Basin, a vast area covering more than half of South Africa's land surface, has been shelved for a decade because of resistance from environmental activists and farmers as well as regulatory uncertainty.

3. Uganda said on Thursday (May 18) that construction of its much delayed $2.2 billion Standard Gauge Railway will start this year.

That's a welcome development for importers and exporters who have long-endured sky-high transport costs in the landlocked country.

4. Kenya-based commercial bank Equity Group Holdings announced on Tuesday (May 16) a pretax profit jump of 10% in the first quarter of 2023 to 16.9 billion Kenyan shillings, or $124 million.

Equity, which operates in several countries in Central and East Africa, said that was as its loan book rose by just over a fifth.

5. And finally, the African Development Bank is proposing to "fast track and front load" $3.5 billion in compensation to white farmers whose land in Zimbabwe was taken away from them during the Mugabe era, the bank's president said on Monday (May 15).

Akinwumi Adesina said the new proposal, after farmers turned down an initial deal, would "help leverage the capital markets to fund the compensation without adding debt to Zimbabwe" but he did not provide further details.