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Global Trade Partners in the 21st Century

Posted on 15 May 2013 by Africa Business

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Remarks

Robert D. Hormats

Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment

World Economic Forum

Pretoria, South Africa

May 14, 2013

 

 

As Prepared

 

Thank you Lyal for the kind introduction.

I am delighted to be in South Africa again. I visited last fall with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

What was most striking then, and continues to be the case today, is the extent to which the image of Africa has changed. According to the IMF, growth in sub-Saharan Africa will surge to 6.1% next year, well ahead of the global average of 4%.

Africa is booming in nearly every sector, ranging from massive energy developments in Mozambique, Tanzania, Ghana, and other countries; to the growth of Rwanda and Kenya’s information and communications technology sectors; to South Africa’s thriving auto industry. And, though far from declaring victory, Africa is reaching a turning point in its hard-fought battles against poverty and corruption.

Today’s Africa looks nothing like what, in 2000, The Economist referred to as the “Hopeless Continent.” It is critical that we concentrate the world’s eyes on the new image of Africa, that of progress and promise. Perspectives are evolving—in 2011, The Economist referred to Africa as the “Rising Continent” and, last March, as the “Hopeful Continent.”

Trade is at the heart of Africa’s economic resurgence. So, in this context, I will speak first about America’s vision for global trade in the 21st century and then, focus on implications and, indeed, opportunities for Africa. America’s global trade agenda in the 21st century is shaped by a foundation laid, in large part, in the mid-20th century. After World War II, American and European policymakers worked together to build a set of international institutions that embodied democratic and free market principles.

The GATT—which led to the WTO—World Bank, IMF, and the OECD were designed to foster international economic cooperation. These institutions were vital to the economic prosperity of the United States, and to the success of America’s foreign policy and national security for the next three generations.

As we move into the 21st century, a new multi-polar global economy has surfaced. The emergence of a new group of economic powerhouses—Brazil, Russia, India, and China, of course, but also countries in Africa—has created momentum (if not necessity) for greater inclusiveness in the global trading system.

At the same time, these new players must assume responsibilities for the international economic system commensurate with the increasing benefits they derive from the global economy. In addition to the geography of international trade, the nature of trade and investment has evolved to include previously unimaginable issues such as e-commerce and sustainability.

So, part of our vision for trade in the 21st century is to build a system that is more inclusive, recognizes the new realities of economic interdependence, and matches increased participation in the global trading system with increased responsibility for the global trading system.

We are making progress with bringing new players into the global trading system as equal partners. Free Trade Agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama entered into force last year.

And, we are continuing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership—or TPP as it is more widely known. With Japan’s anticipated entry into the negotiations, TPP will grow to include 12 countries of different size, background, and levels of development. The agreement, when finalized, will encompass nearly 40% of global GDP and one-third of global trade.

In addition to TPP, we are embarking on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union. TTIP—as it is being called—will strengthen economic ties between the United States and Europe, and enhance our ability to build stronger relationships with emerging economies in Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world.

TPP and TTIP are truly historic undertakings. Our objective is not only to strengthen economic ties with the Asia-Pacific and Europe, but also to pioneer approaches to trade and investment issues that have grown in importance in recent years.

These agreements will seek to break new ground by addressing a multitude of heretofore unaddressed non-tariff barriers, setting the stage for convergence on key standards and regulations, and establishing high quality norms and practices that can spread to other markets. TPP, for example, will raise standards on investment and electronic commerce, and afford protections for labor and the environment.

Our agenda also includes strengthening the multilateral trading system through the World Trade Organization. For example, the United States would like to see a multilateral Trade Facilitation Agreement, which would commit WTO Members to expedite the movement, release, and clearance of goods, and improve cooperation on customs matters. A Trade Facilitation Agreement would be a win-win for all parties—Africa especially.

Cross-border trade in Africa is hindered by what the World Bank calls “Thick Borders.” According to the latest Doing Business Report, it takes up to 35 days to clear exports and 44 days to clear imports in Africa. Clearing goods in OECD countries, in contrast, takes only 10 days on average and costs nearly half as much. Countries like Ghana and Rwanda have benefited tremendously from the introduction of trade facilitation tools and policies.

Ghana, for instance, introduced reforms in 2003 that decreased the cost and time of trading across borders by 60%, and increased customs revenue by 50%. A multilateral Trade Facilitation Agreement will create a glide path for increased trade with and within Africa.

Our views for 21st century global trade partnerships go beyond Europe and the Asia-Pacific, and efforts at the WTO. We are committed to supporting Africa’s integration into the global trading system. The cornerstone of our trade relationship with sub-Saharan Africa is the African Growth and Opportunity Act—known as AGOA. Of all of our trade preference programs, AGOA provides the most liberal trade access to the U.S. market.

Exports from Africa to the United States under the AGOA have grown to $34.9 billion in 2012. While oil and gas still represent a large portion of Africa’s exports, it is important to recognize that non-petroleum exports under AGOA have tripled to nearly $5 billion since 2001, when AGOA went into effect. And, compared to a decade ago, more than twice the number of eligible countries are exporting non-petroleum goods under AGOA.

South Africa, in particular, has made great strides in diversifying its exports to the United States. Thanks to AGOA, the United States is now South Africa’s main export market for passenger cars, representing more than 50% of exported value in 2012. Because AGOA is such an important mechanism for African countries to gain access to the U.S. market, the Administration is committed to working with Congress on an early, seamless renewal of AGOA. Our trade relationship with Africa goes beyond AGOA. For instance, AGOA represents only one-quarter of South African exports to the United States. The composition of South Africa’s exports to the United States, moreover, reflects complex interdependencies and industrial goods.

And, our trade relationship with Africa is not just about one-way trade. There is an immense opportunity for U.S. companies to do business on the continent.

We recently launched the “Doing Business in Africa Campaign” to help American businesses identify and seize upon trade and investment opportunities in Africa. The campaign was announced in Johannesburg, in part, because South Africa can play a prominent role in directing U.S. investment into other parts of the continent.

Although progress has been made on diversifying exports beyond energy, there is much more to be done. African ingenuity and entrepreneurship must be unleashed to drive innovation and growth throughout the continent. This requires closer integration to share ideas, transfer knowledge, and partner on solutions. Through AGOA and the “Doing Business in Africa Campaign”, we are promoting a business climate in Africa that enables and encourages trade and investment. However, realizing these goals is goes beyond trade preferences and commercial linkages.

Africa is also featured in America’s vision for global trade in the 21st century.

For example, we recently launched the U.S.-East African Community Trade and Investment Partnership—the first of its kind—to expand two-way trade and investment. The Partnership is designed to build confidence among the private sector by building a more open and predictable business climate in East Africa. We are considering a variety of mechanisms to accomplish this, including a regional investment treaty and trade facilitation agreement. The Partnership highlights our desire to help Africa integrate and compete in today’s global economy.

I will conclude with one final point. I began by saying that trade is at the heart of Africa’s economic resurgence. Trade is also at the heart of America’s economic recovery. We have a common interest and a common goal.

When it comes to enhanced trade, what is good for Africa is good for America. And what is good for America is good for Africa.

Thank you.


SOURCE

US Department of State

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IFC to Support Central Bank of Nigeria in Strengthening Sustainable Banking

Posted on 15 May 2013 by Africa Business

About IFC

 

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector. We help developing countries achieve sustainable growth by financing investment, mobilizing capital in international financial markets, and providing advisory services to businesses and governments. In FY12, our investments reached an all-time high of more than $20 billion, leveraging the power of the private sector to create jobs, spark innovation, and tackle the world’s most pressing development challenges. For more information, visit http://www.ifc.org.

 

 

ABUJA, Nigeria, May 15, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, today signed an agreement with the Central Bank of Nigeria to support the implementation of standards, policies and guidelines for environmental and social best practices in the Nigerian banking sector, with the aim of promoting sustainable and inclusive growth of the Nigerian economy.

 

 

As part of the agreement IFC will train Central Bank staff on how to supervise the financial sector in the implementation of the Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles and Sector Guidelines, passed by the Central Bank of Nigeria in July 2012 and signed by all Nigerian banks.

 

 

The Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles include commitments by the signatories to integrate environmental and social considerations into business activities, respect human rights, promote women’s economic empowerment, and promote financial inclusion by reaching out to communities that traditionally have had limited or no access to the formal financial sector.

 

 

Aisha Mahmood, Sustainability Advisor to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, said, “Working with IFC will help us further develop existing practices and capacities on environmental and social risk management among financial institutions. As regulators of the Nigerian financial sector, we recognize that financial institutions are key drivers in supporting sustainable economic growth.”

 

 

The partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria is part of IFC’s Environmental Performance and Market Development Program, which aims to encourage sustainable lending standards among financial institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa and to promote environmental and social standards at a market level.

 

 

Solomon Adegbie-Quaynor, IFC Country Manager for Nigeria, said, “Sustainable business practices are important to financial institutions as they effectively add value both to the banking sector and to the general economy. We will support the Central Bank of Nigeria in this key initiative by sharing knowledge and technical resources.”

 

 

IFC is a leading investor in Sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria, with a fast-growing, well-performing portfolio. IFC’s portfolio in Nigeria stands at $1.1 billion, the largest country portfolio in Africa and the eighth-largest globally.

 

 

SOURCE

International Finance Corporation (IFC) – The World Bank

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IMF Executive Board Concludes 2013 Article IV Consultation with Seychelles

Posted on 15 May 2013 by Africa Business

VICTORIA, Mahé, May 15, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ On May 8, 2013, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation with Seychelles. 1

Background

In the few years since the 2008 debt crisis, Seychelles has made remarkable strides, quickly restoring macroeconomic stability and creating room for private-sector activity. Macroeconomic developments in the tourism-based island economy have been favorable, despite the challenging global environment. Notably, growth held up as the tourism industry successfully attracted arrivals from non-traditional markets as European arrivals slumped, while a surge in foreign direct investment (FDI) supported construction in recent years. For the most part, inflation remained contained, and the external position improved markedly following liberalization of the exchange rate in 2008 and debt restructuring started in 2009.

In 2012, despite robust tourist arrivals, growth moderated to 2.9 percent as large investment projects were completed. Inflation spiked in July 2012 to 8.9 percent fueled by global as well as domestic developments, but has since abated as a result of successful monetary tightening. The external position continued to improve, albeit modestly. In particular, the current account deficit declined slightly, but remained high at around 22 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), but was fully financed by FDI and external borrowing, leading to a modest rise in reserves. Debt restructuring is nearly complete, with only one loan agreement awaiting signature.

Fiscal policy in 2012 continued to support debt sustainability. The primary surplus is projected to have risen to 6.2 percent of GDP, in part due to sizable windfall revenues which were partly saved. Buoyant revenue and grants paved the way for needed capital expenditure. Notwithstanding, public debt increased by over 3 percentage points of GDP due mostly to currency depreciation and the government assuming liabilities of Air Seychelles.

Monetary policy was tightened sharply in 2012 in response to rising inflation and an unhinging of the exchange rate, and has since been relaxed. Starting in late-2011, rising global food and fuel prices coupled with adjustments in administered prices pushed prices higher. This was reinforced by current account pressures resulting from lower exports of transportation services in the wake of the restructuring of Air Seychelles. The looming inflation-depreciation spiral was broken in mid-2012 by two small foreign exchange market interventions by the Central Bank of Seychelles and a tightening of monetary policy. By end-2012, inflation had fallen to 5.8 percent and the exchange rate had strengthened beyond its end-2011 level.

Broad-based structural reform over the past five years has worked to improve financial performance of the public sector and increase private sector participation in economic activity. Statistical capacity continues to be strengthened. Seychelles subscribes to the IMF’s General Data Dissemination Standard (GDDS) and is making progress at compiling higher frequency economic data which will support strengthened macroeconomic oversight and analysis.

Executive Board Assessment

Executive Directors commended the authorities for their strong policy implementation. Macroeconomic stability has been restored and growth has remained resilient. While the outlook is favorable, the economy is vulnerable to an uncertain global environment and domestic risks. Directors called for continued commitment to sound policies and structural reforms to preserve macroeconomic and financial stability, build policy buffers, and foster strong and inclusive growth.

Directors welcomed the steps to improve financial discipline at the central government level and the recent introduction of the VAT. They agreed that strengthening the oversight and financial position of parastatals, including through adequate price mechanisms, and further progress in public financial management will be key to ensuring fiscal sustainability. For the medium term, Directors supported the authorities’ fiscal policy stance which aims at targeting a primary fiscal surplus and reducing public debt to 50 percent of GDP. They welcomed that the debt restructuring is nearly complete and encouraged the authorities to exercise caution when contracting new external debt.

Directors called for continued efforts to improve the monetary framework in order to stabilize inflation expectations and policy interest rates. Absorbing excess liquidity over time will be important to strengthen the monetary anchor and monetary transmission mechanism. Directors considered that a further increase in international reserves, as market conditions permit, would provide a stronger buffer against shocks. Directors noted that the financial system is sound and welcomed the steps being taken to improve the functioning of the credit market.

Directors commended the efforts towards improving the business and investment climate, which is key to avoid a potential middle-income trap and to support broad-based growth. They encouraged the authorities to foster private sector-led growth by addressing infrastructure gaps, engendering lower cost and improved access to credit, correcting data weaknesses, and moving ahead with plans for greater workforce education and capacity building.

 

Seychelles: Selected Economic and Financial Indicators, 2010–14

 

2010    2011    2012    2013    2014

Actual    Actual    Est.    Proj.    Proj.

 

(Percentage change, unless otherwise indicated)

National income and prices

 

Nominal GDP (millions of Seychelles rupees)

11,746    13,119    14,145    15,292    16,461

Real GDP

5.6    5.0    2.9    3.3    3.9

CPI (annual average)

-2.4    2.6    7.1    4.5    3.4

CPI (end-of-period)

0.4    5.5    5.8    4.3    3.1

GDP deflator average

-3.6    6.4    4.8    4.6    3.6

(Percentage change, unless otherwise indicated)

Money and credit

 

Credit to the economy

21.4    6.2    2.5    13.0    …

Broad money

13.5    4.5    -2.3    0.1    …

Reserve money

34.7    -2.7    6.9    12.3    …

Velocity (GDP/broad money)

1.6    1.7    1.9    2.1    …

Money multiplier (broad money/reserve money)

4.2    4.5    4.1    3.6    …

(Percent of GDP)

Savings-Investment balance

 

External savings

23.0    22.7    21.7    23.2    18.4

Gross national savings

13.6    12.4    17.3    15.1    15.5

Of which: government savings

7.8    10.6    14.3    12.1    11.0

Gross investment

36.6    35.1    39.0    38.2    33.8

Of which: government investment

8.6    8.1    12.0    9.2    7.8


Government budget


Total revenue, excluding grants

34.1    35.8    37.6    36.4    35.6

Expenditure and net lending

32.5    35.7    40.2    38.5    36.0

Current expenditure

27.2    27.6    28.8    28.8    27.3

Capital expenditure and net lending

5.3    8.1    11.4    9.8    8.7

Overall balance, including grants

2.5    2.5    2.4    1.8    2.0

Primary balance

8.6    5.4    6.2    5.1    4.4

Total public debt

81.6    74.3    77.3    72.0    65.3

Domestic1

32.5    28.0    27.7    25.7    18.6

External

49.1    46.2    49.6    46.3    46.7

(Percent of GDP, unless otherwise indicated)

External sector

 

Current account balance including official transfers

-23.0    -22.7    -21.7    -23.2    -18.4

Total stock of arrears (millions of U.S. dollars)

30.3    9.0    2.7    …    …

Total public external debt outstanding (millions of U.S. dollars)

478    490    512    558    597

(percent of GDP)

49.1    46.2    49.6    46.3    46.7

Terms of trade (= – deterioration)

-6.7    -6.4    -0.4    0.6    1.2

Real effective exchange rate (average, percent change)

4.4    -7.4    …    …    …

Gross official reserves (end of year, millions of U.S. dollars)

254    277    305    317    326

Months of imports, c.i.f.

2.3    2.5    2.6    2.7    2.7

Exchange rate


Seychelles rupees per US$1 (end-of-period)

12.1    13.7    13.0    …    …

Seychelles rupees per US$1 (period average)

12.1    12.4    13.7    …    …

 

Sources: Central Bank of Seychelles; Ministry of Finance; and IMF staff estimates and projections.

1 Excludes debt issued in 2012 for monetary purposes (5.4 percent of GDP), as proceeds are kept in a blocked account with the Central Bank.

1 Under Article IV of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. A staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country’s economic developments and policies. On return to headquarters, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the Executive Board. At the conclusion of the discussion, the Managing Director, as Chairman of the Board, summarizes the views of Executive Directors, and this summary is transmitted to the country’s authorities. An explanation of any qualifiers used in summings up can be found here: http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/misc/qualifiers.htm

 

SOURCE

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

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IFC Promotes Mobile Financial Services in Cote d’Ivoire to Encourage Inclusive Development

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Africa Business

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, May 14, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and The MasterCard Foundation today convened key financial industry players to build further momentum for mobile financial services in Cote d’Ivoire. The event recognized the market’s enormous potential, especially for increasing access to finance for low income households, small scale businesses and in hard-to-reach areas.

 

Mobile phone penetration in Cote d’Ivoire is more than 90 percent, while only 14 percent of Ivoirians have access to financial services. Mobile network operators have registered more than two million mobile financial services customers in the past three years. The Ivorian market for mobile financial services is the largest and the most dynamic in the West African Economic and Monetary Union region.

 

Cassandra Colbert, IFC Resident Representative in Cote d’Ivoire,

said,”Improving access to finance is important for supporting shared prosperity in Cote d’Ivoire. IFC and The MasterCard Foundation want to help local financial institutions realize the opportunity in Cote d’Ivoire for the development of agent banking and mobile financial services that will accelerate the reach of financial services to those currently without banking services.”

 

At the seminar in Abidjan, IFC highlighted the business case for engaging in mobile financial services in Cote d’Ivoire. The workshop marked the beginning of the implementation of a four year program by IFC and The MasterCard Foundation to contribute to the development and expansion of mobile financial services in the country.

 

IFC and The MasterCard Foundation consider access to financial services a key tool in poverty alleviation that can dramatically change the lives of the economically marginalized.

 

About The Partnership for Financial Inclusion In January 2012 IFC and The MasterCard Foundation launched the $37.4 million Partnership for Financial Inclusion to bring financial services to an estimated 5.3 million previously unbanked people in Sub-Saharan Africa in five years. The program aims to develop sustainable microfinance business models that can deliver large-scale low-cost banking services, and provides technical assistance to mobile network operators, banks and payments systems providers in order to accelerate the development of low-cost mobile financial services.

 

About IFC

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector. We help developing countries achieve sustainable growth by financing investment, mobilizing capital in international financial markets, and providing advisory services to businesses and governments. In FY12, our investments reached an all-time high of more than $20 billion, leveraging the power of the private sector to create jobs, spark innovation, and tackle the world’s most pressing development challenges. For more information, visit http://www.ifc.org

 

SOURCE

International Finance Corporation (IFC) – The World Bank

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SA ECONOMIC GROWTH HIT BY MINING SECTOR

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Africa Business

Will the Chinese purchase divested mining interests?

South Africa’s economic growth is lagging somewhat behind that of its peers in the developing world. IMF forecasts for 2013 indicate that emerging and developing economies will grow by 5,5% while SA’s GDP is expected to grow between 2,5% and 3%.

Global ranking

Country Name

GDP in Millions of US dollars (2011)

27

South Africa

408,237

39

Nigeria

243,986

60

Angola

104,332

88

Kenya

33,621

105

Zambia

19,206

One of the key reasons for slower growth is SA’s foreign trade structure and reliance on Europe. President Zuma used the opportunity at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year to ensure foreign investors that South Africa is on the right track.

2012 will be remembered for the negative impact of labour unrest and resultant production stoppages in the mining sector. Mining reduced GDP by 0,5% in the first three quarters of the year. This excludes the biggest slump in the sector during the fourth quarter 2012.

Other significant features of the growth slowdown in 2012 were the slowdown in household consumption spending, poor growth in private fixed investment spending and a slump in real export growth.

South African’s inflation rate slowed to a five-month low in January 2013 after the statistics office adjusted the consumer price basket while food and fuel prices eased. In December, the inflation rate fell to 5,4% from 5,7% Statistics South Africa stated.

Government cut the price of fuel by 1,2% in January 2013, as a stronger rand in the previous month helped to curb import costs. Since then, the currency has plunged 4,8% against the dollar and fuel prices are on the rise, with prices increasing in March by a further 8%, adding to pressure on inflation.

South Africa’s strengths

· South Africa is the economic powerhouse of Africa, leading the continent in industrial output and mineral production, generating a large portion of the continent’s electricity.

· The economy of South Africa is the largest in Africa, accounting for 24% of the continent’s GDP in terms of PPP, and is ranked as an upper-middle income economy by the world bank.

· The country has abundant natural resources, well developed financial, legal and transport sectors, a stock exchange ranked amongst the top 20 in the world, as well as a modern infrastructure supporting efficient distribution of goods throughout the Southern African region.

South Africa’s weaknesses

· South Africa suffers from a relatively heavy regulation burden when compared to most developed countries.

· Increasing costs for corporates with rising wages.

· Poverty, inequalities sources of social risk mixed with high unemployment and shortage of qualified labour.

Mining

Output in the mining sector remained weak in December with total mining production down by 7,5% y-o-y after falling by a revised 3,8% (previously -4,5%) in November. On a monthly basis production rose by a seasonally adjusted 1,2% compared with 12,0% in November. Non-gold output was down by 5,0% y-o-y, while gold production slumped by 21,2% in December. For the fourth quarter, total mining production fell by a seasonally-adjusted and annualised 4,6% q-o-q as output of most minerals dropped.

For 2012 as a whole, mining volumes fell by 3,1% after contracting by 0,9% in 2011. Mineral sales were down by 15,6% y-o-y in November after falling 13,7% in October. On a monthly basis sales rose by a seasonally-adjusted 2,3% in November, but sales were down by a seasonally-adjusted 10,2% in the three months to November after declining by 6,8% in the same period to October. These figures indicate that the mining sector is still reeling from the devastating effects of widespread labour strikes in the third and early fourth quarters.

Prospects for the mining sector remain dim as the industry faces headwinds both on the global and domestic fronts. Globally, commodity prices are not likely to make significant gains as demand conditions remain relatively unfavourable. Locally, tough operating conditions persist. Rapidly rising production costs, mainly energy and labour costs, are likely to compel mining companies to scale back operations or even halt them in some cases.

This will have a negative impact on production, with any improvements coming mainly from a normalisation of output should strike activity ease. These numbers, together with other recent releases, suggest that GDP growth for the fourth quarter was around 2,0%, with overall growth of 2,5% for the year as a whole. Overall economic activity in the sector therefore remains generally sluggish while upside risks to inflation have increased due to the weaker rand.

Retail

Annual growth in retail sales slowed to 2,3% in December from 3,6% in the previous month. Over the month, sales rose by a seasonally-adjusted 1,0%, causing sales for the last quarter of 2012 to decline by 0,2% following 2,1% growth in the third quarter.

As a whole, 2012 retail sales rose by 4,3%, slightly down from 5,9% in 2011. Consumer spending is likely to moderate during 2013 as weak consumer confidence, heightened worries about job security and high debt, make consumers more cautious about spending on non-essential items. The overall economic outlook remains weak and fragile, while inflation may increase due to the weaker rand.

Manufacturing

Annual growth in manufacturing production slowed to 2,0% in December 2012 from 3,7% in the previous month, versus the consensus forecast of 2,9%. The increase in output was recorded in seven of the ten major categories. Significant contributions came from petroleum, chemical products, rubber and plastic products. Over the month, total production fell by 2,2% on a seasonally adjusted basis following a 2,6% rise in November.

On a quarterly basis, however, production improved by 1,6% in the final quarter of 2012 following two quarters of weaker growth. Both local and international economic conditions are expected to improve only moderately during 2013. A weak Eurozone will continue to hurt the large export-orientated industries.

The recent recovery in infrastructure spending by the public sector will probably support the industries producing capital goods and other inputs for local projects. But the growth rate will be contained by slower capital expenditure by the private sector in response to the bleaker economic environment both locally and internationally.

Therefore, while a moderate recovery in manufacturing production will continue in 2013, no impressive upward momentum is expected. Overall economic activity remains generally sluggish while upside risks to inflation have increased due to a weaker rand.

Infrastructure

A new economic plan, the National Development Plan (NDP), is likely to be adopted in 2013 promoting low taxation for businesses and imposing less stringent employment requirements. This a measure that the ANC is pursuing ahead of the 2014 national elections. The NDP will encourage partnerships between government and the private sector, creating opportunities in petrochemical industries, metal-working and refining, as well as development of power stations.

Construction companies are especially likely to benefit from government plans to invest $112-billion from 2013 in the expansion of infrastructure as part of the NDP. Some 18 strategic projects will be launched to expand transport, power and water, medical and educational infrastructure in some of the country’s least developed areas.

Energy companies will also benefit, following the lifting of a moratorium on licences for shale gas development. Meanwhile, there will be significant opportunities, especially for Chinese state-owned enterprises that have recently made high-profile visits to South Africa, to acquire divested assets in the platinum and gold mining sector as large mining houses withdraw from South Africa.

According to government reports, the South African government will have spent R860-billion on new infrastructure projects in South Africa between 2009 and March 2013. In the energy sector, Eskom had put in place 675 kilometers of electricity transmission lines in 2012, to connect fast-growing economic centers and also to bring power to rural areas. More than 200 000 new households were connected to the national electricity grid in 2012. Construction work is also taking place in five cities including Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Rustenburg, Durban and Pretoria to integrate different modes of transport.

Business Climate

Due to South Africa’s well-developed and world-class business infrastructure, the country is ranked 35th out of 183 countries in the World Bank and International Finance Corporation’s Doing Business 2012 report, an annual survey that measures the time, cost and hassle for businesses to comply with legal and administrative requirements. South Africa was ranked above developed countries such as Spain (44) and Luxembourg (50), as well as major developing economies such as Mexico (53), China (91), Russia (120), India (132) and Brazil (126).

The report found South Africa ranked first for ease of obtaining credit. This was based on depth of information and a reliable legal system.

Foreign trade

SA’s trade deficit narrowed to R 2,7-billion in December from R7,9-billion in November on account of seasonal factors. The trade balance usually records a surplus in December due to a large decline in imports. Exports declined 9,8% over the month. The decrease was mainly driven by declines in the exports of base metals. Vehicles, aircraft and vessels (down R1,1-billion), machinery and electrical appliances (down R0,9-billion) and prepared foodstuffs, beverages and tobacco (down 0,8-billion). Imports dropped 15,8% m-o-m.

Declines in the imports of machinery and electrical appliances (down R3,3-billion), original equipment components; (R1,8-billion), products of the chemicals or allied industries (R1,5-billion) and base metals and articles thereof (R1,2-billion) were the main drivers of the drop.

The large trade deficit for 2012 is one of the major reasons for the deterioration in the 2012 current account deficit forecast to 6,2% of GDP from 3,3% in 2011. South Africa’s trade performance will remain weak in the coming months on the back of unfavourable global conditions and domestic supply disruptions. Weak global economic conditions will continue to influence exports and growth domestically.

Skills and education

The need to transform South Africa’s education system has become ever more urgent, especially given the service delivery issues that have plagued the system. While government continues to allocate a significant amount of its budget to education (approximately 20%), it has not been enough to transform the schooling system. Coface expects the government to continue to support this critical sector, but that an opportunistic private sector will take advantage of government inefficiencies.

South Africa’s education levels are quite low compared to other developed and developing nations. South Africa began restructuring its higher education system in 2003 to widen access to tertiary education and reset the priorities of the old apartheid-based system. Smaller universities and technikons (polytechnics) were incorporated into larger institutions to form comprehensive universities.

Debt

The total number of civil judgments recorded for debt in South Africa fell by 9,8% year on year in November 2012 to 35 268, according to data released by Statistics South Africa. The total number of civil judgments recorded for debt decreased by 15,2% in three months ended November 2012 compared with the three months ended November 2011.

The number of civil summonses issued for debt fell 23,9% year-on-year to 70 537. During November, the 35 268 civil judgments for debt amounted to R414,1-million, with the largest contributors being money lent, with R142,5-million. There was a 21,9% decrease in the total number of civil summonses issued for debt in the three months ended November last year compared with the same period in 2011. A 23,9% y-o-y decrease was recorded in November.

South Africa maintains respectable debt-to-GDP ratios, although these grew to 39% of GDP by end-2012, substantially higher than the 34% for emerging and developing economies as a whole. When Fitch downgraded SA earlier this year, it specifically mentioned concerns about SA’s rising debt-to-GDP ratio, given that the ratio is higher than the country’s peers.

South Africa is uniquely exposed to foreign investor sentiment through the deficit on the current account combined with liquid and deep fixed interest markets. SA’s widening deficit on the current account is a specific factor that concerns the rating agencies and is one of the metrics the agencies will use to assess SA’s sovereign risk in the near future. Further downgrades are the risk – potentially driven by foreign investor sentiment about political risks.

Political landscape

Persistent unemployment, inequality and the mixed results of BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) intended to favour access to economic power by the historically disadvantaged populations have led to disappointment and resentment.

Social unrest is increasing. Recent events weakened the ruling coalition which came under fire for its management of these events. Tensions could intensify in the run up to the 2014 presidential elections. South Africa has a well-developed legal system, but government inefficiency, a shortage of skilled labour, criminality and corruption are crippling the business environment. South Africa also has a high and growing youth unemployment, high levels of visible inequality and government corruption so we would keep an eye on the escalating service delivery protest trends.

Labour force

The unemployment rate fell to 24,9% in the fourth quarter of 2012 from 25,5% in the third quarter, mainly reflecting an increase in the number of discouraged work seekers. Over the quarter, a total of 68 000 jobs were lost while the number discouraged work seekers rose by 87 000. The formal non-agricultural sector lost 52 000 jobs over the quarter, while the informal sector, in contrast, employed 8 000 more people. The breakdown shows that the highest number of jobs were lost in the private households category (48 000), followed by the trade and transport sectors, which shed 41 000 and 18 000 jobs respectively.

The agricultural sector led employment creation over the quarter, adding 24 000 jobs. Both local and international economic conditions are expected to improve only moderately during 2013.

Weak confidence and high wage settlement will make firms more cautious to expand capacity and employ more people this year. Government is likely to be the main driver of employment as it rolls out its infrastructure and job creation plans. The unemployment rate will therefore remain high in the short term.

Although the reduction in the unemployment rate is good news, it mainly reflects the large number of discouraged work seekers. Overall economic activity remains generally sluggish while upside risks to inflation have increased due to a weaker rand. Coface believes that this will persuade the Monetary Policy Committee to keep policy neutral over an extended period, with interest rates remaining unchanged for most of 2013. A reversal in policy easing is likely only late in the year or even in 2014.


 


Issued by:                                                                              Sha-Izwe/CharlesSmithAssoc

ON BEHALF OF:                                                   Coface

FURTHER INFORMATION:                                  Charles Smith

Tel:          (011) 781-6190

Email: charles@csa.co.za

Web:       www.csa.co.za

Media Contact:

Michele FERREIRA /
SENIOR MANAGER: MARKETING AND COMMUNICATION
TEL. : +27 (11) 208 2551  F.: +27 (11) 208 2651   M.: +27 (83) 326 2268
michele_ferreira@cofaceza.com

 

BUILDING D, DRA MINERALS PARK, INYANGA CLOSE

SUNNINGHILL, JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
T. +27 (11) 208 2500 –
www.cofaceza.com

About Coface

The Coface Group, a worldwide leader in credit insurance, offers companies around the globe solutions to protect them against the risk of financial default of their clients, both on the domestic market and for export. In 2012, the Group posted a consolidated turnover of €1.6 billion. 4,400 staff in 66 countries provide a local service worldwide. Each quarter, Coface publishes its assessments of country risk for 158 countries, based on its unique knowledge of companies’ payment behaviour and on the expertise of its 350 underwriters located close to clients and their debtors. In France, Coface manages export public guarantees on behalf of the French state.

Coface is a subsidiary of Natixis. corporate, investment management and specialized financial services arm of Groupe BPCE.. In South Africa, Coface provides credit protection to clients. Coface South Africa is rated AA+ by Global Ratings.

www.cofaceza.com

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IMF SAYS GAMBIA’S VAT IS KILLING THE ECONOMY, BUSINESSES

Posted on 13 May 2013 by Amat JENG

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says Gambia’s newly introduced Tax collection system — the Value Added Tax (VAT)- is killing the country’s ailing economy and businesses. “The outlook for the economy is generally favorable for 2013, but there are risks. Real GDP growth is expected to accelerate, if the recovery in crop production is sustained.

Also, by accessing new markets, the potential for growth in tourism looks good. Inflation, however, has picked up, partly due to side effects from the introduction of the value-added tax (VAT) at the beginning of the year. For example, although the VAT is applied to firms with a turnover of at least one million dalasis, we understand that many smaller businesses also raised their prices opportunistically. During the first quarter of 2013, government spending once again exceeded planned allocations, contributing to an uptick in Treasury-bill yields. Correspondingly high bank lending rates are discouraging private sector borrowing,” a report issued by an IMF delegation who just concluded discussions with the Gambian authorities on the first review of the ECF arrangement.

The IMF delegation led by David Dunn is also not impressed by Gambia’s recent economic performance. Inflation is on the rise while government spending is jumping the roof.

“The Gambian economy is still recovering from the severe drought of 2011. Real gross domestic product (GDP) grew by an estimated 4 percent in 2012, led by a partial rebound in crop production and strength in the tourism sector. Inflation remained under control, ending the year at just under 5 percent, despite the depreciation of the Gambian dalasi during the second half of the year. A substantial overrun in government spending late in the year resulted in higher-than-budgeted domestic borrowing (3½ percent of GDP),” Mr. Dunn said.

Mr. Amadou Colley, Governor of Gambia’s Central Bank earlier this week tried to mislead the press and the nation by depicting a wrong picture of the economy. Colley failed to share the IMF team’s fact finding mission’s report. He instead furnished the press with a different picture of the realities on the ground. His sources are questionable—given the fact that this administration’s reputation of trying to monopolize the truth is evident on their modus operandi.

CBG's governor Amadou Kolley

“The Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBoS), the Gambia economy is estimated to have grown by 6.3 percent in 2012 following a contraction of 4.6 percent in 2011; agriculture valued-added increased by 7.5 percent, industry (6.6 percent) and services (5.8 percent). Money supply grew by 8.8 percent in the year to end-March 2013, lower than the 14.9 percent in 2012. Both narrow money and quasi money grew by 16.3 percent and 2.7 percent compared to 7.8 percent and 9.3 percent respectively a year earlier,” Mr. Colley claimed.

“While reserve money grew by 3.4 percent, lower than the 8.7 percent in March 2012 and the target of 4.8 percent, he said the provisional data on government fiscal operations in the first quarter of 2013 indicate that revenue and grants amounted to D1.5 billion (4.6 percent of GDP) compared to D1.9 billion (5.9 percent of GDP) in the same period in 2012. “Domestic revenue totaled D1.4 billion (4.2 percent of GDP), higher than the D1.2 billion (3.7 percent of GDP) recorded in the corresponding period of 2012.”

Mr. Colley admitted that Gambia’s inflation is going out of hand. As such, Colley said, prices for basic commodities, utilities, and energy are going up.

“While consumer food inflation rose from 4.8 percent in March 2012 to 6.4 percent in March 2013 driven mainly by price developments in bread cereals, the consumer non-food inflation also rose to 4.1 percent in March 2013 from 2.7 percent in March 2012 partly reflecting the increase in the cost of energy. Core inflation, which includes the prices to utilities, energy and volatile food items, increased to 5.3 percent from 4.0 percent a year earlier,” Mr. Colley told the local press here.

But IMF’S David Dunn is not optimistic about the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The country’s past crop failure is impacting negatively on the economy. He said VAT is killing the private sector. Businesses are being overtaxed.

IMF’S David Dunn

“The outlook for the economy is generally favorable for 2013, but there are risks. Real GDP growth is expected to accelerate, if the recovery in crop production is sustained. Also, by accessing new markets, the potential for growth in tourism looks good. Inflation, however, has picked up, partly due to side effects from the introduction of the value-added tax (VAT) at the beginning of the year. For example, although the VAT is applied to firms with a turnover of at least one million dalasis, we understand that many smaller businesses also raised their prices opportunistically. During the first quarter of 2013, government spending once again exceeded planned allocations, contributing to an uptick in Treasury-bill yields,” Mr. Dunn stated.

While Central Bank Governor Amadou Colley is bragging about the so called performance of the banking sector, Mr. Dunn had a complete different view about Gambia’s banking industry.

“Correspondingly high bank lending rates are discouraging private sector borrowing,” Dunn said.

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Forest products critical to fight hunger – including insects / New study highlights role of insects for food and feed consumption

Posted on 13 May 2013 by Africa Business

ROME, Italy, May 13, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Forests, trees on farms and agroforestry are critical in the fight against hunger and should be better integrated into food security and land use policies, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today at the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition in Rome (13-15 May).

 

“Forests contribute to the livelihoods of more than a billion people, including many of the world’s neediest. Forests provide food, fuel for cooking, fodder for animals and income to buy food,” Graziano da Silva said.

 

“Wild animals and insects are often the main protein source for people in forest areas, while leaves, seeds, mushrooms, honey and fruits provide minerals and vitamins, thus ensuring a nutritious diet.”

 

“But forests and agroforestry systems are rarely considered in food security and land use policies. Often, rural people do not have secure access rights to forests and trees, putting their food security in danger. The important contributions forests can make to the food security and nutrition of rural people should be better recognized,” Graziano da Silva said.

 

Frittered critters – wild and farm-raised insects

 

One major and readily available source of nutritious and protein-rich food that comes from forests are insects, according to a new study FAO launched at the forests for food security and nutrition conference. It is estimated that insects form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people. Insect gathering and farming can offer employment and cash income, for now mostly at the household level but also potentially in industrial operations.

 

An astounding array of creatures

 

With about 1 million known species, insects account for more than half of all living organisms classified so far on the planet.

 

According to FAO’s research, done in partnership with Wageningen University in the Netherlands, more than 1900 insect species are consumed by humans worldwide. Globally, the most consumed insects are: beetles (31 percent); caterpillars (18 percent); bees, wasps and ants (14 percent); and grasshoppers, locusts and crickets (13 percent). Many insects are rich in protein and good fats and high in calcium, iron and zinc. Beef has an iron content of 6 mg per 100 g of dry weight, while the iron content of locusts varies between 8 and 20 mg per 100 g of dry weight, depending on the species and the kind of food they themselves consume.

 

First steps for the squeamish

 

“We are not saying that people should be eating bugs,” said Eva Muller, Director of FAO’s Forest Economic Policy and Products Division, which co-authored “Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security”.

 

“We are saying that insects are just one resource provided by forests, and insects are pretty much untapped for their potential for food, and especially for feed,” Muller explained.

 

Farming insects sustainably could help avoid over-harvesting, which could affect more prized species. Some species, such as meal worms, are already produced at commercial levels, since they are used in niche markets such as pet food, for zoos and in recreational fishing.

 

If production were to be further automated, this would eventually bring costs down to a level where industry would profit from substituting fishmeal, for example, with insect meal in livestock feed. The advantage would be an increase in fish supplies available for human consumption.

 

Bugs get bigger on less

 

Because they are cold-blooded, insects don’t use energy from feed to maintain body temperature. On average, insects use just 2 kg of feed to produce 1 kilo of insect meat. Cattle, at the other end of the spectrum, require 8 kg of feed to produce 1 kg of beef.

 

In addition, insects produce a fraction of emissions such as methane, ammonia, climate-warming greenhouse gases and manure, all of which contaminate the environment. In fact, insects can be used to break down waste, assisting in the composting processes that deliver nutrients back to the soil while also diminishing foul odours.

 

Enabling policies lacking

 

However, legislation in most industrialized nations forbids the actual feeding of waste materials and slurry or swill to animals, even though this would be the material that insects normally feed on. Further research would be necessary, especially as regards the raising of insects on waste streams. But it is widely understood by scientists that insects are so biologically different from mammals that it is highly unlikely that insect diseases could be transmitted to humans.

 

Regulations often also bar using insects in food for human consumption, although with a growing number of novel food stores and restaurants cropping up in developed countries, it seems to be largely tolerated.

 

As with other types of food, hygienic production, processing and food preparation will be important to avoid the growth of bacteria and other micro-organisms that could affect human health. Food safety standards can be expanded to include insects and insect-based products, and quality control standards along the production chain will be key to creating consumer confidence in feed and food containing insects or derived from insects.

 

“The private sector is ready to invest in insect farming. We have huge opportunities before us,” said Paul Vantomme, one of the authors of the report. “But until there is clarity in the legal sphere, no major business is going to take the risk to invest funds when the laws remains unclear or actually hinders development of this new sector,” he explained.

 

SOURCE

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

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Canada works to improve business environment for African agriculture

Posted on 13 May 2013 by Africa Business

CAPE-TOWN, South-Africa /African Press Organization (APO)/ The Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation, attended the World Economic Forum on Africa, Grow Africa Investment Forum, and G-8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition Leadership Council in Cape Town, South Africa, to promote private sector partnerships as a way to achieve innovative solutions to the challenges facing sustainable agricultural development, food security, and nutrition in Africa.

 

“Canada has long supported food security and sustainable agricultural development throughout the African continent and recognizes the key role the private sector plays in agriculture as well,” said Minister Fantino. “One of Canada’s key goals in Africa has been to create new partnerships with the private sector to drive agricultural transformation, improve nutrition, and encourage sustainable economic growth that will benefit people across Africa.”

 

Canada welcomes a greater role for the private sector in increasing food security, complementing core public sector functions. Canada is taking an active role in the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, launched in 2012 by the G-8, and is a strong supporter of the Grow Africa Investment Forum and the World Economic Forum on Africa, which aim to accelerate economic diversification, boost strategic infrastructure, and unlock Africa’s potential to facilitate new partnerships between African governments and the private sector to stimulate investment.

 

Canada remains committed to helping African people gain access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food. Agriculture is the engine for sustainable economic growth in many developing countries. Investments in agriculture help to provide people with a source of employment, which in turn increases food security and household income—key contributors to poverty eradication. Many of our initiatives support small-scale farmers, women in particular, to grow nutritious and diversified crops.

 

Canada is committed to sustainable agricultural development, especially strengthening food security and the resilience of vulnerable populations. Economic Action Plan 2013 reaffirms Canada’s commitment to international development investments in agriculture, food security and nutrition. The new Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development will maintain the mandate of poverty alleviation, and help achieve greater efficiency, accountability, and focus to continue to improve the lives of people in need around the world.

 

SOURCE

Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

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Africa can adhere to responsible, AMV-compliant mining practices

Posted on 13 May 2013 by Africa Business

CAPE-TOWN, South-Africa, May 13, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Key players in the mining sector attending an industry partnership meetingfor Mining and Metals session organized by the World Economic Forum and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) have underscored that the window of opportunity provided by rising commodity prices must correspond to a rise in revenues for African governments by equal measure. Held on 8 May, the session was aimed at examining how the Africa Mining Vision and its goal of facilitating transparent, equitable and optimal exploitation of mineral resources to underpin broad-based sustainable growth and socio-economic developmentcan be translated into national mining visions, developed from a fully transparent and inclusive process

While the index price of precious metals and base mineralshas increased by over 200% in the last decade, industry leaders and policy makers here agree that the current contribution of minerals to Africa’s economic development is not commensurate.Stressing the need forbeneficiation andvalue addition and linkages in the mineral value chain, ECA’s Executive Secretary, Carlos Lopes says, “minerals have to contribute to structural transformation – we have to see a strongermanufacturing sector in Africa going forward.”

According to industry experts, Canada, Australia and Chile have used the minerals sector for industrial transformation and the composition of their GDP has seen a growth in the contribution of manufacturing. “Commodities have not been a curse but rather a blessing for these countries – the diversified and rich mineral resource base can do the same for Africa,” notes Lopes.

A continental approach that steers the course of Africa’s minerals towards a path that derives development benefits is already in place. “The tripartite partnership of the African Union, African Development Bank, and the ECA is establishing the African Minerals Development Centre (AMDC) to help AU member states achieve broad-based social and economic development based on Africa’s mineral endowment as stipulated in the Africa Mining Vision,”say Senior officials at the ECA. The Centre aims to create the institutional and policy space for broad social and economic linkages and thusfacilitate a mineral-led industrialization process.

As underscored by participants here,the risks are changing in Africa due to increased macroeconomic and political stability in most countries and this offers opportunities for investing in the continent’s highly prospective geology. However, countries need to improvegovernance and capacity to negotiate contracts and to audit the mineral value chain.There is a need for amore sophisticated regulatory environment, clarity of policy, as well as consistency and transparency in the overall policy framework.

There is also concerted agreement among stakeholders on the need to domesticate the Africa Mining Vision. “It is the only way country-specific issues, such as inclusiveness and linking mining to the rest of the economy can be captured and addressed,” stress the experts. In this regard, piloting of the country Mining Visions in a few countries will provide important lessons for the rest of the continent in the rollout of the development of AMV-compliant policies.

Participants discussed the mineral value management tooldeveloped by the World Economic Forum, which could be utilizedin the process of developing country mining visions, as it facilitates the capturingand alignment of the often divergent views of all stakeholders on the value of the minerals sector.The toolcouldhelpto align the value perceptions of communities, the private sector and governments.

In addition, there is room to address capacity gaps at country-level, and within governments, according to experts. “Instead of having agreements on a project by project basis, in one country, a generalized template that specifies all the key parameters can be developed and then customized,” they stress.

“Mining development agreements can become a law in themselves and governments often lack capacity to monitor implementation of these complex agreements,” argue the experts, who stress that a robust legal and regulatory framework ormodel mining policy or agreement will suffice. The call here this week to governments is “legislate, do not negotiate.”

 

SOURCE

Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)

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Branding Africa and debunking the myths about its potential

Posted on 13 May 2013 by Africa Business

CAPE-TOWN, South-Africa, May 13, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Africa cannot continue to be marketed as a country, when it is a continent of 54 countries, which, by 2040 will have the largest workforce in the world. The statement was made by the Economic Commission for Africa’s Executive Secretary, Mr. Carlos Lopes at the World Economic Forum on Africa this week during a session aptly titled:Myth Busting; investing in Africa.

Mr. Lopes underscored that by 2040, Africa will be more urbanized‚ connected and educated. “It will be a very different picture from what is now,” he said.

Discussions underscored that perceptions on risks and uncertainties with respect to investing in Africa have been made to look like reality. “While some issues may be real, there are many advancements that bust perceptions of corruption, lack of growth and lack of capacity, among others.

The session underscored that Africa has a growing middle class. With increased incomes, the emerging picture shows a continent where two-thirds of its growth comes from consumption; as a result, Lagos has a much bigger purchasing power than Mumbai.

“Africa has twice as much per capita than India, more cell phones than India, less poor people than India, and we can go on and on! The mega trends are in favor of Africa,” stressed Lopes

But for the Continent to reap the demographic dividends, it must address the question of infrastructure, which is necessary for industrialization and for bringing the Continent’s rural areas to the global market. In this regard, a significant amount of money is needed to realize the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) and since markets do not invest in these kinds of projects, the session underscored the need for alternative sources of funding.

“The good news is that money exists in Africa – but a shift in mindset is needed to tap into the half a trillion dollars sitting in African Central Banks as reserves,” stressed the panelists. PIDA projects, participants noted, could be broken into ‘short-range projects’, all aimed at a long-term goal.

The session also addressed the perception that Africa is lacking in skilled personnel and underscored that Africa has been on the cutting edge of innovations. However, branding and marketing of these innovations fails beyond the borders.

“Many African economies are run by informal sector, where banks do not come to the party and so the entrepreneurs in these informal sectors do not grow,” said a participant, stressing that the myth that must be busted is that these informal entrepreneurs cannot grow into big business with appropriate financing. The session acknowledged, however, that the lack of depth in the capital markets is real and it limits the possibilities for innovations to grow.

On the question of “corrupt African leaders”, the session acknowledged that the weakness lies in the capacity to investigate and get convictions, as well as lack of consistency and leadership.

Participants highlighted that the lack of a strategic vision makes corruption lead the narrative and countries like Malaysia, Indonesia are able to project their narratives on their strategic visions and less on corruption.

The need for consistency in regulatory frameworks and policy was stressed, “as it reduces the meddling of government in areas where the private sector is meant to play.”

In addition, it was felt that consistency across administrations is also important to ensure that investors play fairly. “Investors do not always like regulations,” said a participant, highlighting that the commodity boom super cycle led to an increase in profits by mining companies “by at least 200 per cent, yet tax revenues in the affected countries increasing by only 30 per cent.”

Further, the perception that ’54 countries constitute one country where there are no positive stories to be told’ could be attributed to failure by the media and the lack of attention to marketing by African governments.

A key issue that emerged is the persistence of information gaps, created by lack of country assessments. In addition, participants wondered whether those doing business in Africa might be contributing to the myths. Doing so, they said, creates entry barriers for potential competitors, and keeps resident players laughing all the way to the bank with premium returns.

“It is important to be here in Africa to understand the context; one has to understand where to invest and why one is investing,” stressed an investor.

 

SOURCE

Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)

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