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.