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FILE: A woman walks past almost empty bread shelves in a shop in Harare, Tuesday, Oct, 9, 2018.

HARARE - Zimbabwe’s economy grew by 4 percent last year, below an initial target of 4.5 percent, treasury said on Thursday, as the country struggles with a severe shortage of dollars and surging inflation.

Treasury said in its fourth quarter report ending December that the government’s foreign and domestic debt stood at $17.8 billion, with 46 percent of that amount owed to foreign lenders.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it has reached an agreement with Zimbabwean authorities on the implementation of critical policies and reforms designed to facilitate Zimbabwe’s reengagement with the international community.

In a statement following an IMF team’s visit to the southern African nation led by Gene Leon under a Staff Monitored Program (SMP), Leon said, “IMF staff and the Zimbabwean authorities have reached agreement on macroeconomic policies and structural reforms that can underpin a Staff Monitored Program.

“Zimbabwe is facing deep macroeconomic imbalances, with large fiscal deficits and significant distortions in foreign exchange and other markets, which severely hamper the functioning of the economy. In addition, Zimbabwe is facing the challenge of responding to the adverse effects on agriculture and food security of the el Nino-related drought, as well as the devastation from Cyclone Idai.”

He said the Staff Monitored Program, which will be monitored on a quarterly basis, aims to implement a coherent set of policies that can facilitate a return to macroeconomic stability.

“Successful implementation will assist in building a track record and facilitate Zimbabwe’s reengagement with the international community. The policy agenda to be monitored under the SMP is anchored on the authorities’ Transitional Stabilization Program and emphasizes fiscal consolidation, the elimination of central bank financing of the fiscal deficit, and adoption of reforms that allow market forces to drive the effective functioning of foreign exchange and other financial markets.

“In addition, the agreed policies - both macroeconomic and structural - can be expected to remove critical distortions that have held back private sector growth and to improve governance. The SMP also includes important safeguards to protect the country’s most vulnerable people … This staff-level agreement is subject to review by the IMF’s management.”

The IMF staff team met with Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor John Mangudya, other several government and RBZ officials, and non-government representatives. (Reuters, VOA)

Egypt will take on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe in Group A, opening their campaign against the latter at the Cairo International Stadium.

CAIRO (Reuters) - Hosts Egypt were handed a favourable draw for the 2019 Africa Cup on Nations finals on Friday, but continental powerhouses Morocco, Ivory Coast and South Africa were placed together in a tough group.

The draw for the expanded 24-team tournament, that runs from June 21 to July 19, was staged against the spectacular backdrop of the Sphinx and Pyramids on the Giza Plateau in Cairo.

Egypt will take on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe in Group A, opening their campaign against the latter at the Cairo International Stadium.

The top two teams in each of the six groups advance to the second round, along with the four best third-placed sides.

Group D features Morocco, Ivory Coast, South Africa and Namibia, and should be keenly contested between the first three sides.

It once again pits Morocco coach Herve Renard against the Ivorians with whom he lifted the trophy in 2015.

The teams also met in Gabon two years ago where Morocco beat the west Africans in their final group match to progress to the knockouts at their opponents’ expense.

Nigeria take on Guinea in Group B, as well as first-time qualifiers Madagascar and Burundi, and the Super Eagles will be heavy favourites to finish top.

Kenya are back at the finals for the first time in 15 years, while Tanzania last appeared in 1980, and both those sides will do well to advance from Group C that also includes Senegal and Algeria.

Tunisia and Mali look favourites in Group E, which includes Mauritania, another first-time qualifier, as well as Angola.

Group F is harder to call with holders Cameroon drawn alongside Ghana, Benin and Guinea-Bissau.

Egypt stepped in as 2019 hosts after Cameroon were stripped of the right to hold the event in late November over concerns at the slow pace of their preparations.

The North African nation is also the most successful in Cup of Nations history having won seven titles in the past.

The shift of dates for the tournament to the European summer will alleviate the club-versus-country battles that have marred previous editions.

The draw:

Group A: Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Zimbabwe

Group B: Nigeria, Guinea, Madagascar, Burundi

Group C: Senegal, Algeria, Kenya, Tanzania

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