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Africa’s Output Grew by 3.4% in 2018, Afreximbank’s Africa Trade Report 2019 Shows

Africa’s output grew by 3.4 per cent between 2017 and 2018 despite the slowdown in global growth during that period, a new report by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has shown.

The African Trade Report 2019: African Trade in a Digital World, launched today in Moscow during the 26th Afreximbank Annual Meetings, states that Africa’s total merchandise trade in 2018 had a value of over $997.9 billion, noting that the continent remained one of the fastest growing regions in the world.

World Trade Organisation estimates show that the volume of global merchandise trade grew by 3 per cent in 2018, down from 4.6 per cent in 2017.

According to The African Trade Report 2019, the findings highlight the resilience of Africa’s economies to global volatility at a time of rising uncertainty, escalating trade wars and tariffs between the United States, China and others. The resilience reflects the diversification of Africa’s trading partners in the context of South-South trade, growing fixed investment and public and private consumption, boosted by expanding urban populations and softening inflation. These factors reduce Africa’s exposure to the business cycles associated with individual countries and regions.

The report noted that while the European Union remained Africa’s main continental trading partner in 2018 – accounting for 29.8 per cent of total trade – African trade with the South grew significantly over the last decade to account for more than 35 per cent of the continent’s total trade in 2018. China and India further consolidated their positions as Africa’s first and second single largest trading partners, accounting for over 21 per cent of total African trade in 2018. Intra-African trade also increased steadily in 2018, growing by 17 per cent to reach $159 billion.

The report highlights that Africa has the potential to do more, noting that its contribution to global trade remains marginal at 2.6 per cent, up from 2.4 percent in 2017, and that, while intra-African trade rose to 16 per cent in 2018 from 5 percent in 1980, it remains low compared to intra-regional trade in Europe and Asia.

The report states that ongoing digitalisation is paving the way for a new African economy, with e-commerce platforms and internet penetration expediting transactions, reducing costs and leading to a new generation of transnational digital consumers.

The report urges African governments to further capitalise on the opportunities associated with digitalisation, by bolstering regulatory environments and supporting the development of digital ecosystems.

Digitalization, the reports states, can unlock Africa’s potential in driving economic development and the integration of African countries into the world economy. It can also reduce the region’s dependency on raw commodities and natural resources by helping economies diversify into more value-added products that can enhance extra-and intra-African trade.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank, said: “It is vital that Africa grasps the economic growth opportunities flowing from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, growing domestic demand and population and our ever-closer investment and trading links with emerging partners in the South. We must exert concerted action to ensure that we develop, industrialize and diversify our industries and supporting infrastructure to foster regional integration and participate fully in regional and global value chains.”

Chief Economist and author of the report, Dr Hippolyte Fofack said: “Intra-African trade, which grew by 17 per cent in 2018, more than three times the rate of growth of extra-African trade, was the major driver of Africa’s total merchandise trade in 2018.”

 

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.

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Operational Phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area Launches in Niger

The operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA has been launched after a day-long summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in the Nigerien capital.

The AfCFTA will be governed by five operational instruments, i.e. the Rules of Origin; the online negotiating forum; the monitoring and elimination of non-tariff barriers; a digital payments system and the African Trade Observatory.

Each one was launched by different Heads of State and Government that included President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi of Egypt who is current Chairperson of the AU; Mr. Moussa Faki Makamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission; and President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, who is the Champion of the AfCFTA.

The launch ceremony included “a roll call of honour”, at which the 27 countries that have ratified the instruments of the AfCFTA were announced, and those that have signed but not yet ratified were mentioned. A commemorative plaque of the signing was also unveiled.

The AfCFTA agreement was adopted and opened for signature on 21 March 2018 in Kigali. The AfCTA entered into force on 30 May 2019, thirty days after having received the twenty-second instrument of ratification on 29 April, 2019 in conformity with legal provisions.

“The speedy entry into force of the AfCFTA is a source of pride for all of us”, said AU Commission Chairperson Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat. He described the free trade agreement as one of the instruments for continental integration in line with the objectives of the Abuja Treaty and the aspirations of Agenda 2063.

The Chairperson also highlighted the importance of peace building and security on the continent, adding that “it would be a delusion to talk of trade and development without peace and security”. He also stressed that, for the AfCFTA to be effective, there is need to open borders to other Africans. In this light, host President Mr. Mahamadou Issoufou, said the free trade area will tear down borders inherited from Africa’s colonial past and ensure full continental integration.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi stressed the need for the establishment of linkages with the private sector and the business and investment communities, while also calling for the involvement of the youth who will “continue the march” towards development.

The United Nations Deputy Secretary General Ms Amina Mohammed noted that the AfCFTA is a tool to drive growth and innovation for Africa, and to create opportunities for sustainable development and realizing Agenda 2063.

The AfCFTA will be one of the largest free trade areas since the formation of the World Trade Organisation, given Africa’s current population of 1.2 billion people, which is expected to grow to 2.5 billion by 2050.

Meanwhile Ghana has been confirmed by the Heads of State and Government as the host of the secretariat of the AfCFTA, having prevailed over six other countries that had also expressed interest in hosting it.

 

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].

DHL eSHOP Brings Over 200 Global Online Stores to African Consumers

DHL Express has announced the launch of its new mobile and desktop app aimed at improving the online shopping experience for Africa-based consumers.

The new platform, DHL Africa eSHOP, enables customers to shop directly from more than 200 US- and UK-based online retailers, with all shipments delivered by DHL Express, to the shopper’s door.

DHL Africa eSHOP will be available in 11 African markets to start – South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Mauritius, Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, Malawi, Botswana, Sierra Leone and Uganda.

This solution was developed in partnership with Link Commerce – a division of Mall for Africa.

Hennie Heymans, CEO of DHL Express Sub Saharan Africa, says that the DHL Africa eSHOP app offers African consumers much greater access to international retailers on an easy-to-use platform.

“DHL Africa eSHOP provides convenience, speed and access for online customers in Africa. As the global leader in express logistics, DHL is well positioned to connect African consumers with exciting global brands. This is yet another opportunity for DHL to reaffirm its commitment to supporting the growth of e-commerce in the region.”

According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, the demand for world-class online shopping opportunities is growing exponentially in Africa’s leading economies, as urbanisation and incomes continue to rise.

Despite the growing demand, many US and UK-based retailers do not offer shipping to African countries, owing to the perceived logistical challenges involved such as high last-mile delivery costs and fraud concerns.

However, DHL Express was the first express operator to set up in Africa over 40 years ago, so we are well positioned to offer innovative and reliable solutions for on the continent.”

“E-commerce offers enormous potential for the region, and we are proud to provide this platform to further connect African consumers with global opportunities,” concludes Heymans.

For more information about DHL eSHOP, 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 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].