How can Africa create supportive environments for important innovations?

by Developed Africa 24. January 2017 10:55

Boosting transformational technology

  • Internet prices in sub-Saharan Africa vary wildly. Geography affects prices – landlocked countries pay more than coastal countries. Much of Africa gets its internet via undersea cables, so coastal countries have easier access. New initiatives to provide internet via low-orbit satellites and high-altitude balloons offer the hope of more accessible, cheaper internet for all, though still have a long way to go when it comes to cost and reach.
  • Tech hubs are popping up in Africa in different forms. These hubs enable Africans to gain skills and network through brainstorming sessions, workshops, and business- and technology-related trainings, among others. South Africa, Kenya and Ghana boast the greatest number of tech hubs.
  • For further progress and increased uptake of transformative innovations in 2017 what is required is further improvement in the regulatory environment.
  • Rules and guidelines should encourage prudent behaviour by both the financial institutions and market participants. Regulators should manage the orderly entry and exit of financial institutions in the market, minimising the potential for major disruptions in the financial system.
  • Digital finance has the potential to provide access to financial services for 1.6 billion people - more than half of whom are women - in emerging and developing economies. 

 

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Investor sentiment towards Sub-Saharan Africa to remain soft

by Developed Africa 8. December 2016 18:26

Ernst & Young, the global consulting giant, said that it expects investor sentiment towards Sub-Saharan Africa to remain soft, as foreign direct investment will slow over the next few years.

In the year-end update to its Africa Attractiveness Programme released on 7 December 2016, EY said the weakening investor sentiment towards SSA will be due to heightened geopolitical uncertainty around the world and greater risk aversion rather than the region’s deteriorating economic fundamentals. Beneath the averages and headlines, the growth dynamics across different individual countries and sub-regions are very mixed.

“Companies already doing business in Africa will continue to invest, but will probably exercise a greater degree of caution and be more discerning,” EY said. “Some of them will invest at a slower pace, looking to consolidate operations and drive profitability; while others are likely to double down on their investments, using this period of economic slowdown to further strengthen positions in key markets.”

EY further said that although SSA’s growth forecasts for 2016 have fallen to a two-decade low, the growth dynamics across different individual countries and sub-regions are very mixed. Outside of the sub-continent’s three biggest economies – Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola – many bright spots can be seen in the East, Francophone and North African regions. “Economic recovery in Angola, Nigeria and South Africa is likely to be a tough and gradual process,” EY said. “However, a diverse group of other economies – including Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Egypt are expected to sustain high growth rates over the next 5 years.”

The 'heatmap' below provides a snapshot of macroeconomic resilience across some of the key sub-Saharan African economies, and illustrates just how variable economic performance is across different parts of the continent. The color of each block represents the longer-term position for that metric - green being positive and red negative. The color of the circle in the block represents the current trend. 

It is clear from this illustration that the three largest economies in sub-Saharan Africa - Angola, Nigeria and South Africa - remain under pressure. In the six months since March 2016, the position of Angola and Nigeria in particular has deteriorated, with the Nigerian economy entering a recession and Angola forecast to register zero growth this year. Sustained low oil prices, and the subsequent deteriorating terms of trade that both economies have experienced since 2014, have led to a growing current account deficit and rising government debt levels. Although growth in South Africa remains low, there have been some improvements in key macro-economic indicators in the past six months - including the current account deficit and a somewhat stronger currency. This indicates at the very least that the economy has stabilised, and may in fact be a signal of a gradual recovery.

At the same time, and in contrast to challenging economic conditions in the big three, many of the East African and Francophone economies have remained resilient. Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Cote d'Ivoire and Senegal are among the African economies still expected to grow in the high single digits this year and next (and through 2021).

This partly has to do with the major exports of many of these economies being less impacted by declining terms of trade. In addition, investment in infrastructure, domestic consumer spending and the continued evolution of services and manufacturing, continues to spur growth in these economies.

The key to overcoming weak global demand lies in enhancing diversification policies. Economies that span a broad range of sectors tend to fare stronger in such periods. Nigeria and Angola provide strong evidence of reliance on a single commodity, as both economies either face or are already in recession. The resilience in certain African economies reinforces the need to accelerate the process of diversification in others. Diversification clearly requires structural economic reforms, and each country is at a different point along this path. This provides enormous opportunity for growth across the region, as investors respond to pragmatic policy reforms and seek opportunities across growing consumer, services and industrial sectors.

This article is an abstract from EY’s ‘Africa Attractiveness Program 2016: Year end update’.

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Some More Myths About Africa

by Developed Africa 29. November 2016 18:08

Euler Hermes debunks five more myths about Africa

Myth 6: No-one is going to finance African growth

Once the oil aftershock has worn off, Africa will resume growing at an average +3% a year. Some countries still post record growth rates higher than +5%, despite the hard shock. In addition, the financing and rebalancing of growth, including investments to be made, will be the key to a sustainable takeoff. The mix of funding will be crucial. In addition to external resources, particularly from foreign direct investment (FDI), some countries are already able to finance at least part of their growth with budgetary resources. This is the case in South Africa, Egypt and Senegal where they account for 25% and 30% of GDP in 2016. Household confidence and investor confidence will be indispensable to collect savings.

Nevertheless, the way ahead will be thorny: (i) budgetary revenues make up only 14.5% on average of the African GDP, compared with 30% in developed countries; (ii) FDI is only 2% of GDP, compared with 2.4% in developed countries.

Myth 7: African consumers are not bankable

Consumption growth in Africa is well under way. In 2016, Africa reports the highest consumption growth rates, led by Cote d'Ivoire (+6%), Uganda (+7%) and Nigeria (+5%), compared with +1.4% in OECD countries or +2% in Pacific Asia. Consumption development in Africa is driven by the continent's exploding urbanization: by 2045, African towns will be flooded with 24 million people, compared with only nine million in China and 11 million in India.

But African consumption development should follow a different path from that of developed countries. The wealth effect and internet access add to the volume growth of African consumption.

Consumers in Africa are going to skip some steps and force business sectors to reconsider their approach. This is especially striking in distribution, financial services or transports: for example, 70% of Moroccans have internet access (55% in China), and 14% of Kenyans use contactless payment cards (60% of French are still and always using bank checks).Euler Hermes has worked out a proprietary consumption potential indicator combining these three determinants. The verdict is final: Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt and South Africa are the leading pack, followed by Ghana, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Sudan and DRC.

Myth 8: It's hard to work with African companies

Given the payment terms granted by foreign suppliers to African companies, it is indisputable that stronger confidence would free considerable resources for growth. Out of EUR 800bn of goods imported every year by Africa, approx. 60% are paid cash. If transactions were settled at 30 days, this would free EUR 40bn of working capital requirements, equal to the GDP of Tanzania, or to 1.6% of the GDP of Africa.

This situation engenders a sort of vicious cycle for African companies. Their cash flow suffers from the multiplication of cash payments, and this makes them more exposed to possible economic risks. As for domestic trade, this calculation in a country like Nigeria generates EUR 10bn of additional cash flows: a foot on the ladder for growth-seeking SMEs.

Myth 9: Agriculture is a thing of the past

Agriculture is the driver of econom ic growth in Africa: it remains the first contributor to employment and lifts millions of people out of poverty every year. Nevertheless, what is needed is a true green revolution to accelerate the catalyst role of the farming sector, by focusing productivity, market access and technologic contents.

In terms of growth by value of agricultural exports from 2005 to 2015, Ethiopia and Ivory Coast (+30%), Kenya and Rwanda (+20%) have specialised in high-value cash crops. Other countries, such as Zambia, Senegal and Morocco, have managed to use mechanisation and technology to increase agricultural productivity.

Myth 10: It's hard to find entrepreneurs and talents in Africa 

Education levels are increasing in Africa. In particular, access to university education in Cameroon has grown from 4.6% in 2000 to 13% in 2013. However, even in South Africa, the most proficient student, the percentage of youth entering university is only 20% by age group. Furthermore, official statistics on entrepreneurship are disappointing: in South Africa, just to make an example, only two companies are set up every 1 000 inhabitants.

These low figures mask the rampant informal entrepreneurship that is set to remain the basis for human capital development in the short term. Therefore, attention should be focused just on this entrepreneurial environment, apart from access to education. In Nigeria and Uganda for example, the towns of Lagos and Kampala have only recently reformed their registry system, a big problem for all those wishing to start business.

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Lack of Information Halting Investment in Africa

by Developed Africa 9. July 2013 09:00

Developed Africa is designed to allow clear, concise information about commercial Opportunities in Africa. A new survey by FTI Consulting suggests that such a service is absolutely vital:

...on the eve of President Obama’s visit to Africa to bolster U.S. - African trade and political ties, eight of every ten, or 80 percent of institutional investors surveyed in the United States are largely unaware of investment opportunities on the continent."

As Obama's visit to Africa has now ended, some commentators have recognised the lack of attention paid to the continent by investors and may seek to heed Obama's call to "come on down" to Africa. As highlighted by FTI Consulting, their research suggests that communication might be the defining issue for investment in Africa,

Africa has the potential to be a destination of choice for U.S. institutional investors given its abundant natural resources, eco-tourism potential and favourable demographics. Many African countries already are capitalising on their various assets and have been identified as high-growth geographies by institutional investors. However, it is critical to sustained economic growth that key African messages are continually heard, expanded and understood so investors are aware of the investment opportunities in during a time of great global trade competition. Our research showed there still is work to be done in this regard.”

While there are some good examples of African business reporting in the mainstream press, services like Developed Africa are an exciting, interactive way of combating the issue of communicating business opportunities from African based commercial entities.

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