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Africa in 2019 Outlook Conference Highlights: Part 2

This is a continuation of the highlights from Deloitte’s Africa in 2019 Outlook Conference that recently took place in Johannesburg, South Africa. To read our first article on the conference, click here.

Free trade in Africa – How will the AfCFTA play out?

As one of the flagship projects of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) aims to create a single market economy to enable the free movement of goods, which may see over one billion people benefit from a combined GDP of almost US$3.3trn. Yet, with 49 countries having signed the consolidated AfCFTA agreement and only 18 out of the required 22 countries having ratified the agreement, Africa’s development impasse may be the result of a number of factors.

Political will

Political will is fundamental to achieving free trade across the African continent, as there needs to be a concerted effort from governments and politicians to drive regional free trade. If AfCFTA follows through with its mandate, it could have the potential to unlock value for companies such as the Mr Price Group, whose operations in 13 African countries may benefit from the logistical and manufacturing capabilities that a unified region would expose the South African-based retailer to. However, engagements between corporates and government are largely characterised by bureaucratic inertia, making it difficult to enable integration. In order to drive substantive outcomes, AfCFTA will require stakeholders to facilitate and stabilise economic growth across the continent.

Infrastructure and logistics

Africa’s infrastructure deficit remains a primary constraint to growth, and so too the resultant high costs of logistics. Although logistics is paramount to AfCFTA, its scale requires significant infrastructure investment and development across the continent, in order to drive structural reform. Infrastructure upgrades will facilitate more efficient trade between countries and across regions. The improvements will also provide an opportunity for countries to leapfrog to new efficient technologies, for investors to expand and diversify their customer base. Engagements with policy-makers and stakeholders will thus be fundamental to ensure infrastructure development across these markets.

Cost of doing business

The cost of doing business across African markets can be as high as 25% to 60% for certain products or services, as the costs associated with logistics, duties and permits tend to be much higher than those in developed economies. Investments in commodity dependent countries such as Nigeria are often characterised by high costs such as logistics, duties, electricity and dollar-funded property developments, which continue to stunt development prospects. With the grander political project of AfCFTA being the African monetary project, achieving regional financial integration and a regional monetary union will strengthen the continent’s bargaining power with global investors.

China in Africa

The presence of Chinese investment in Africa has driven infrastructure development, paving the way for new investments across the continent. Initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a global infrastructure development and integration project spearheaded by China – has had notable influence on the role of trade and development finance across the continent. The Chinese currency, the renminbi, has the potential to challenge the US dollar when it comes to the terms of payments for projects or business across the continent. The People’s Bank of China, is expected to facilitate further engagements with African central banks in this regard; but whether the Chinese currency will supplement the US dollar on the continent any time soon, remains to be seen.

Free movement of labour

Trading talent and skills is the low hanging fruit of the broader AfCFTA project, and companies will need to be ambitious in order to drive this growth forward. The skills-export economy will remain fundamental to gearing African economies for growth, as migration will have a significant bearing on boosting the economic integration of Africa. AfCFTA has the potential to unlock value on the continent, contributing to the broader African economy. However, gauging the appetite from African governments, more so those in the economic nodes of the continent, including Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia, will determine the success of the project in the long term.

A view on Africa’s economic and fiscal outlook in 2019

Political tensions continue to plague African economies in 2019, fuelling further speculation their economic prospects. According to the AfDB, GDP growth on the continent is projected to be 4% in 2019 and 4.1% by 2020. Key elements affecting Africa’s economic and fiscal outlook include the following:

Global economic growth

Global economic growth will underpin the development prospects of countries in Africa, however, the slowdown in China, which was supported by the announcement of a fiscal stimulus, is expected to have undue repercussions on the global economy. Moreover, the consequences of political uncertainty in the US will filter through to emerging markets. Similarly, the impact of Brexit as well as the European sovereign debt crisis are expected to underpin the demand and supply prospects from global markets in Africa.

Banking and financial inclusion

Over the past few years, banks have built up their capital buffers to maintain a solid funding base. In East Africa, this has deepened financial inclusion. However, banks in the region will have to align with international best practises and adopt provisions to support the rise of mobile banking. The increase of remittances has had a significant impact on financial stability within SSA banking systems, and in 2019 remittance growth is expected to continue. However, given that the region is affected by contrasting dynamics such as geopolitical risks and trade tensions, these will need to be addressed to determine the financial conditions of these states. Together with rising government debt, these factors will continue to put pressure on banking systems. Banking penetration in the rest of Africa remains low. As it stands, the ratio of banking assets to GDP is under 70%, while in South Africa it is 117%. Although the potential exists to grow this base, there are a number of constraints.

Size: The SSA banking sector is dominated by smaller banks, but in order to achieve scale and drive financial investments, larger banks will need to participate in stimulating financial inclusion. The influx of global players investing in micro enterprises will scale up inclusion in the banking sector.

Access to funding: When it comes to banks, size matters; and the bigger the bank, the more capacity they have to support consumers that do not have access to formal markets. PanAfrican banks have the capacity and strategies to tap into these markets and create new opportunities to promote inclusive growth. Private equity funds will continue to back financial inclusion initiatives across the continent.

Fiscal consolidation

Government finances have been affected by low commodity prices, and for commodity-dependent economies, this has seen the escalation of government debt. However, government guarantees to ailing state-owned enterprises need to be stabilised in order to close fiscal deficits.

South African elections

As South Africans approach the general elections in May, investors will be looking to the president to affirm the South African Reserve Bank’s (SARB) mandate. While investors have regained confidence in the South African economy, the consolidation of cabinet to reduce the expense of civil service and government finances is being scrutinised by credit rating agencies. However, a 2019 Investec GDP growth forecast of 1.9% anticipates that better governance will continue to pull through to aid domestic policies. While 2019 is expected to be a better year for South Africa, with minimal concerns of a further ratings downgrade, there needs to be an improvement on the country’s fiscal outlook to mitigate risks such as unforeseen increases in expenditure to fund infrastructure projects, rising government debt and political uncertainties.

To read the conference report, click here.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Africa in 2019 Outlook Conference Highlights: Part 1

Deloitte recently hosted the 2019 Africa in 2019 Outlook Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. A focus area was how Africa can improve on its ability to execute economic growth. Our Director, Rene Stegmann, attended on behalf of Relocation Africa. Below are some highlights from the conference.

US-Africa strategy countering China

At the end of 2018, United States (US) National Security Advisor John Bolton unveiled the Trump administration’s new Africa strategy. Known as the Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development (BUILD) Act, the policy move aims to ensure US competitiveness on the continent where extensive engagement has already been made by China. How this geostrategic competition between two great powers plays out for the continent is a key question.

Growing debt in Africa

African economies have witnessed rising debt levels as the continent continues to make use of borrowed funds to finance infrastructural development. With a significant sum of financing flowing from China, the average debt-to-GDP ratio on the African continent has risen to 57%. What is important, however, is not the amount, but the serviceability of the debt in question. African economies need to ensure that acquired infrastructure is used productively to create returns that can service the debt from which such infrastructure originated.

The year of politics

In 2019, 24 countries across the continent will hold a major election (presidential, general, legislative), which is significant given that the economies of frontier markets tend to be influenced by domestic politics. The outcomes of these elections will shape the future for many economies on the continent.

Nigeria and South Africa – will 2019 be a year of structural reform?

Nigeria and South Africa, two of Africa’s largest economies currently experiencing “structural limbo”, are in need of renewed growth drivers. It remains to be seen whether or not the requisite political will exists to reinvigorate growth in both economies.

Ethiopia

Referred to as the “African miracle” Ethiopia’s leadership has undergone significant restructuring to ensure that the economic changes currently taking place are supported by new political thought and leadership. Growth in Ethiopia has been driven by investment in fixed capital, giving rise to powerful domestic industries responsible for job creation. The future development of Ethiopia poses an interesting case study for the continent. Looking forward, 2019 is set to be the year of uncertain sentiment, most notably due to global trade tensions and protectionist strategies and their potential effect on the global economy. However, not all global crises are felt equally across geographic regions, as was the case with the 2008 global financial crisis.

Private capital as a force for development in Africa

Productive infrastructure is vital for development to take place in Africa, however, access to funding continues to be a significant issue facing multiple economies across the continent. According to figures published by the African Development Bank (AfDB), infrastructure needs across the continent amount to US$130bnUS$170bn a year, with a corresponding funding gap in the region of US$67.6bn-US$107.5bn. Furthermore, tightening fiscal conditions across the continent mean that the existing funding gaps will not be covered by government expenditure, placing infrastructure investment under stress. The introduction of private players in the infrastructure funding space, however, has been a significant development, particularly where infrastructure is concerned in countries in need of growth.

Intra-African trade – trade between African countries – currently accounts for 18% of overall trade on the continent, indicating the high degree of opportunity that still exists for the further integration of African economies. To this end, it is paramount that the necessary funding is available to develop African economies as well as support their ability to trade with each other. While private capital can be key enablers of such development, countries hoping to attract more private capital need to focus on developing growth incentives and an industrial base to drive investment.

To view the conference report, click here.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

International Tourist Arrivals to Africa Grew 7% Above the World Average in 2018: Report

Africa and Middle East Middle East grew above the world average while Asia and the Pacific and Europe grew at 6%; 2018 totaled 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals, consolidating 2017 strong results and proving to be the second strongest year since 2010; for 2019, UNWTO forecasts a 3-4% increase, in line with the historical growth trend.

International tourist arrivals grew 6% in 2018, totaling 1.4 billion according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. UNWTO’s long term forecast issued in 2010 indicated the 1.4 billion mark would be reached in 2020, yet the remarkable growth of international arrivals in recent years has brought it two years ahead.

UNWTO estimates that worldwide international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) increased 6% to 1.4 billion in 2018, clearly above the 3.7% growth registered in the global economy.

In relative terms, the Middle East (+10%), Africa (+7%), Asia and the Pacific and Europe (both at +6%) led growth in 2018. Arrivals to the Americas were below the world average (+3%).

“The growth of tourism in recent years confirms that the sector is today one of the most powerful drivers of economic growth and development. It is our responsibility to manage it in a sustainable manner and translate this expansion into real benefits for all countries, and particularly, to all local communities, creating opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurship and leaving no one behind” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “This is why UNWTO is focussing 2019 on education, skills and job creation.”, he added.

UNWTO’s long-term forecast published in 2010 predicted the 1.4 billion mark of international tourist arrivals for 2020. Yet stronger economic growth, more affordable air travel, technological changes, new businesses models and greater visa facilitation around the word have accelerated growth in recent years.

International tourist arrivals in Europe reached 713 million in 2018, a notable 6% increase over an exceptionally strong 2017. Growth was driven by Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+7%), Central and Eastern Europe (+6%) and Western Europe (+6%). Results in Northern Europe were flat due to the weakness of arrivals to the United Kingdom.

Asia and the Pacific (+6%) recorded 343 million international tourist arrivals in 2018. Arrivals in South-East Asia grew 7%, followed by North-East Asia (+6%) and South Asia (+5%). Oceania showed more moderate growth at +3%.

The Americas (+3%) welcomed 217 million international arrivals in 2018, with mixed results across destinations. Growth was led by North America (+4%), and followed by South America (+3%), while Central America and the Caribbean (both -2%) reached very mixed results, the latter reflecting the impact of the September 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Data from Africa points to a 7% increase in 2018 (North Africa at +10% and Sub-Saharan +6%), reaching an estimated 67 million arrivals. The Middle East (+10%) showed solid results last year consolidating its 2017 recovery, with international tourist arrivals reaching 64 million.

Based on current trends, economic prospects and the UNWTO Confidence Index, UNWTO forecasts international arrivals to grow 3% to 4% next year, more in line with historic growth trends.

As a general backdrop, the stability of fuel prices tends to translate into affordable air travel while air connectivity continues to improve in many destinations, facilitating the diversification of source markets.

Trends also show strong outbound travel from emerging markets, especially India and Russia but also from smaller Asian and Arab source markets.
At the same time, the global economic slowdown, the uncertainty related to the Brexit, as well as geopolitical and trade tensions may prompt a “wait and see” attitude among investors and travellers.

Overall, 2019 is expected to see the consolidation among consumers of emerging trends such as the quest for ‘travel to change and to show’, ‘the pursuit of healthy options’ such as walking, wellness and sports tourism, ‘multigenerational travel’ as a result of demographic changes and more responsible travel.
“Digitalisation, new business models, more affordable travel and societal changes are expected to continue shaping our sector, so both destination and companies need to adapt if they want to remain competitive”, added Pololikashvili.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].