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Popularizing e-money in Africa; looming layoffs at Kenyan banks

* African digital payments firm Wari and MasterCard agreed to a strategic alliance to promote the use of electronic money in 35 African markets, Agence Ecofin reports. Financial Afrik also reports.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

* First Takaful Insurance Co. -KSC (Public) CEO Hussain Al-Attal said the insurance sector in Kuwait is still immature compared to other markets in the region, adding that it requires more support from the government and all companies involved in the insurance sector, Al Rai writes.

* The aggregate profit of Saudi banks rose 1.3% year over year to 3.21 billion riyals in November. Saudi commercial banks, including 12 listed lenders and 11 branches of foreign banks, posted 39.33 billion riyals in profit since the beginning of 2016, compared to the 39.32 billion riyals registered in the same period last year, Argaam writes.

* Assets held by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority fell by 42.4 billion riyals month over month to 2.08 trillion riyals in November, the lowest level in five years, Argaam writes.

* Saudi Arabia's general reserves rose slightly, by about 2 million riyals over November to 474.06 billion riyals. This is its first increase in 10 months, Argaam notes.

* National Bank of Oman SAOG said Singapore-based Treasure Fleet International Pte. Ltd. has written to it, proposing the acquisition of a stake in the Omani bank. The lender stressed that no legally binding commitments have been made, and the proposal is pending the board's review and approval.

* Oman Arab Bank SAOC concluded its issuance of Omani rial-denominated perpetual bonds, raising 30 million rials in an effort to increase its Tier 1 capital, the Times of Oman reports.

* Commercial Bank (Q.S.C.) said it will open subscriptions for a 1.5 billion riyal rights issue, running from Jan. 8 to Jan. 22, Reuters reports. The share offer will increase the Qatar-based lender's share capital to 3.85 billion riyals from 3.27 billion riyals.

* Saudi British Bank reappointed Khaled Suleiman Saleh Al-Olayan chairman of the board of directors for a new three-year term starting Jan. 1, 2017. The lender named Khalid Abdullah Al-Molhem vice chairman.

* Data from Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics showed a 3.8% growth in the country's economy this year due to stronger exports, consumer spending and investment, but predicted slower growth next year, Reuters reports.

* Egypt plans to list 27 public companies in the local stock market in the first half of 2017, according to Minister of Investment Dalia Khorshid, Al Masry Al Youm writes.

* The Central Bank of Egypt left its key interest rates unchanged, keeping the overnight deposit rate at 14.75%, the overnight lending rate at 15.75% and its main operation rate and the discount rate at 15.25%. Annual headline inflation rose to 19.4% in November, up from 13.56% in October. Reuters has a report.

* Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Egypt dismissed rumors that Governor Tarek Amer will resign before the end of his four-year term, Daily News Egypt reports.

* Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir appointed Hazem Abdul-Gadir Ahmed Babiker central bank governor, replacing Abdul Rahman Hassan Abdul Rahman, Sudan News Agency reports. Al-Gaili Mohammed was also relieved of his duties as second assistant of the governor of the central bank.

* Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika signed Finance Law 2017 that will see an increase in taxes to offset the decline in the country's oil revenues, Agence Ecofin reports. El Watan notes that the law will lead to a universal price increase.

EAST AND WEST AFRICA

* Rwanda's central bank intends to bolster its monitoring and supervision roles and work more closely with financial institutions to help reduce the rise of nonperforming loans in the banking sector, The New Times reports.

* Rwandan central bank Governor John Rwangombwa said the regulator is in the final stages of approving Commercial Bank of Africa Ltd.'s license to operate in the country as a microfinance institution, The New Times reports. The Kenya-based lender is expected to begin operations in Rwanda next year.

* Kenya-based Choice Microfinance Bank is poised to sell new shares to investors in a bid to raise the 60 million shillings it needs to fund a nationwide expansion and convert its license to national from community bank, Business Daily Africa reports.

* Kenya's banking sector is expected to cut more jobs next year as lenders seek to protect their profit margins amid the new law capping interest rates and a tough economic environment, Business Daily Africa reports. Several banks have indicated plans to reduce their workforce, including Consolidated Bank of Kenya Ltd. and National Bank of Kenya Ltd.

* The Central Bank of Nigeria sold approximately $1 billion of 30-day and 60-day forwards at a special auction last week to clear a backlog of dollar obligations in selected sectors, insiders tell Reuters.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

* Angola's central bank kept its benchmark lending rate unchanged at 16%, citing declines in headline inflation, Reuters reports.

* Separately, Angolan central bank Governor Valter Filipe said on Rádio Nacional de Angola that indicators show that the country will achieve its inflation and exchange rate targets next year, Reuters reports.

* The president of Mozambique, Filipe Nyusi, named Victor Pedro Gomes vice governor of the central bank, O País reports.

* Data from Zambia's statistics office showed that the country's inflation slowed to 7.5% year on year in December from 8.8% in November, with the monthly inflation rate decreasing to 0.9% in December from 1.5% in November, Reuters reports.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Asia-Pacific: Mackenzie to buy China Asset Management stake; RBI to set up NBFC ombudsman

Europe: African bond sale haunts European banks; US to sanction Russia on election hacks

Latin America: Itaú completes BMG stake purchase; Cielo to pay 247.8M reais interest on equity

North America: FOMC 2017 includes 1st-time voters; SEC finds no violations at Emergent Capital

North America Insurance: 3 CEOs make list of most influential people in insurance industry

Xana Kakoty, Henni Abdelghani, Pádraig Belton and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.

The Daily Dose Middle East and Africa has an editorial deadline of 5 a.m. London time. Some external links may require a subscription.