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What we learned from the Regional Conference on Financial Sector Development in African States Facing Fragile Situations? - Part 6

08.11.2016Amadou Sy, Director of Africa Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution

In June 2016, leaders from the public and private sectors and development partners gathered in Abidjan to discuss the links between fragility, resilience and financial sector development in Africa. This event, a joint initiative created by the Making Finance Work for Africa Secretariat (MFW4A), the African Development Bank (through its Transition Support Department, Financial Sector Department and the Initiative for Risk Mitigation), FSD Africa and FIRST Initiative also provided an opportunity to explore prospects for partnerships, innovative policies and private sector-led solutions to accelerate financial sector development in fragile situations in Africa.

In this last instalment of a six-part series, Amadou Sy, Senior Fellow and Director of the African Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution, looks at the different innovative solutions, instruments and other opportunities to strengthen the capacity of financial institutions operating in fragile contexts in Africa.

In case you missed it, you can read parts One, Two, Three, Four, and Five.

Strengthening Capacity

Mr. Cedric Mousset of the World Bank stressed that capacity is a big constraint in fragile countries and there are no easy solutions. Capacity building should be done when there are incentives for financial institutions to reform such as incentives to leverage market opportunities and improve markets. The supervisory and regulatory framework is key as it allows for adequate competition, restructuring, and the adoption of international standards such as the Basel standards.

Mr. Paul Musoke of FSD Africa stressed the importance of developing scale and sustainability in the financial system in Africa. To do so, his institution favours a catalytic strategy. In particular, FSD's Market Building Approach assesses the environment, looks at the core where demand is meeting supply, assesses the market failures in the supply side and builds capacity within the supply side. Such an approach requires stakeholders to look at support functions such as information, infrastructure, and skills development. It also requires a good grasp of rules such as informal norms, standards, laws, and regulations. Its goal is to build a sustainable market that continues to operate once FSD exits and that crowds-in other players.

Instruments available from development partners

Ms. Kilonzo of the African Development Bank (AfDB) noted that the landscape of African finance is dominated by small and fragmented financial systems with limited access to basic financial services. The AfDB's priorities include not only broadening access to finance but also supporting "green" growth, infrastructure development, regional financial integration, governance, entrepreneurship and innovation, and financial skills development. These priorities can be articulated in the Bank's new "High Fives" areas-Light up and power Africa, Feed Africa, Integrate Africa, Industrialize Africa, and Improve quality of life for the people of Africa.

Finance is an integral part of the Bank's strategy and is based on two pillars: access to the underserved, youth and women (Pillar I) and broadening and deepening Africa's financial systems (Pillar II). The Bank's operations and products cater to a diverse set of financing priorities, including financial institutions, trade finance, and financial markets.

Mr. Nikolaos Milianitis of the European Investment Bank (EIB) shared that the EIB has EUR1 billion per year in new activity in Africa, covering both the public and private sectors through a range of instruments such as loans, equity, guarantees, and technical assistance. The EIB brings best practices from its worldwide operations and a particularity of its operations is that they all include a sectoral expert and a banking expert.

Mr. Musoke discussed FSD's Market Systems Approach which focuses on building services that are critically missing: (i) executive coaching so as to assess environment and respond to environment; (ii) e-learning as a cost effective education tool and as a way to tap experts, working with content providers and platform deliverers, and learning for financial institutions; (iii) data analytics so as to use information that is available e.g. financial diaries in Kenya. FSD tries to develop local supply so banks can tap into these services and hopefully think differently about their markets.

Change management is critical for financial sector development and FSD Africa identifies banks that are ambitious about serving the under-banked and helps them assess existing constraints and solve them. To make the change, it offers funding, research, and technical assistance over a 4-5 years period. For instance, FSD is working on establishing a Financial Frontiers Challenge Funds to identify 23 financial institutions, including in fragile states, so as to support an analysis of the environment, help them develop proposals that can be funded for GBP 500,000.

Finally, Mr. Mousset flagged the Conflicted Affected States in Africa (CASA) initiative through which the IFC provides assistance to fragile African states to rebuild their financial sector and improve the business environment.

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You can download all presentations on the conference website.

You can view a selection of photos here.

You can watch the conference in our YouTube channel here.

What we learned from the Regional Conference on Financial Sector Development in African States Facing Fragile Situations? - Part 5

25.10.2016Amadou Sy, Director of Africa Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution

In June 2016, leaders from the public and private sectors and development partners gathered in Abidjan to discuss the links between fragility, resilience and financial sector development in Africa. This event, a joint initiative created by the African Development Bank, the Making Finance Work for Africa Partnership (MFW4A), FSD Africa, FIRST Initiative and the Initiative for Risk Mitigation in Africa (IRMA), also provided an opportunity to explore prospects for partnerships, innovative policies and private sector-led solutions to accelerate financial sector development in fragile situations in Africa.

In this fifth instalment of a six-part series, Amadou Sy, Senior Fellow and Director of the African Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution, looks at how innovative instruments and partnerships can help mitigate the risks facing financial institutions in fragile situations in Africa.

In case you missed it, you can read parts One, Two, Three and Four.

What Role for Risk Mitigation?

Participants noted that the perception of the risk of doing business in Africa is higher than warranted by recent economic progress such as the relatively higher GDP growth in many countries. As a result tools to help mitigate risks can play a role in financial sector development.

Ms. Cécile Ambert of the African Development Bank (AfDB) presented the AfDB Credit Enhancement Facility (CEF), which was established in 2015 to increase private investment in countries perceived to be high risk, especially for long dated investment. The facility is part of the AfDB's strategy to increase its loans to non-sovereigns including in fragile countries. It uses a risk sharing model rather than risk mitigation because risk is not lowered but shared, which allows the AfDB to take more risk on its balance sheet. Initial seeding was used as cash collateral to take exposures that are off-balance sheet exposures for the Bank. That cash collateral served as the equity base that was leveraged three times. Risk-taking capacity stands currently at about $700m with 19 transactions ($300m) approved at the board. The facility does not provide payment insurance but default guarantee as it only pays when there is default. Risk and revenues are shared to ensure sustainability and the facility is now seeking diversity in terms of regions, sectors, size, and maturity.

A lesson from the establishment of the CEF is the need to manage the risk of maintaining an arm's length relationship so as to avoid having only bad assets allocated to the facility. Without an arm's length relationship, the sustainability of the facility would be at risk. Also, to achieve the objective of scaling up the CEF, it will be necessary to balance its exposures and not focus only on one sector, be it fragile countries or renewables only or women only investments. The challenge is to mitigate the propensity to layer objectives over objectives.

The CEF does not focus only on fragile countries. Its main objective is to provide capital relief with a view to stretch the balance sheet. The same project that consumes four times in a fragile capital consumes three times in a low-income country (LIC) in terms of risk premium. The vehicle is leveraged so had it focused only on fragile countries, it would have not have been able to leverage as much as it did. Also its projects are large scale e.g. power plants which requires scale. It also needs to achieve a risk rating and for that needs to establish a track record. Ultimately the objective of the facility is not to subsidize the AfDB's loans.

Mr. Henry Morris of the Africa Finance Corporation noted the prevalence of short-term finance instruments and the dearth of tools to mitigate the risks of medium term project finance. He stressed the need to consider the level of coverage for the different phases of a project. In particular, the construction phase is the riskiest part of the project cycle and instruments and enhancements are critically needed at the early phases of projects. He added that Africa is in need of infrastructure but bankability is a problem. As a result, it is crucial to think about the type of support needed at the developmental stages of projects. In short, the focus should be not just on transactions but also on development. Mr. Morris suggested that because risk sharing and participation can come in various forms, stronger partners should take a wider stake in the risk participation and not on a pro-rata basis.

There is a need to think beyond the typical infrastructure sectors and developmental projects need to be widened in their definition. For instance, exploration for crude and gas could be included in this category as gas-to-power projects are also important for infrastructure. Concession-type projects like in a public-private partnership (PPP) could be encouraged as was done for the Henri Konan Bedie Bridge in Côte d'Ivoire. Finally, Mr. Morris stressed that liquidity risk can be important in fragile countries such as in the Nigerian foreign exchange markets.

Mr. Cedric Mousset of the World Bank stressed that capacity is a big constraint in fragile countries and there are no easy solutions. Capacity building should be done when there are incentives for financial institutions to reform, such as incentives to leverage market opportunities and improve markets. The supervisory and regulatory framework is key as it allows for adequate competition, restructuring, and the adoption of international standards such as the Basel standards. Mr. Mousset flagged the Conflicted Affected States in Africa (CASA) initiative through which the IFC provides assistance to fragile African states to rebuild their financial sector and improve the business environment.

Mr. Franck Adjagba of the GARI Fund noted that the Africa Guarantee Fund-the largest guarantee fund in Africa-recently purchased the GARI fund. The AfDB and UNECA helped to establish the AGF in order to help micro, small, and medium enterprises access finance. AGF offers two types of products to banks and private equity firms: portfolio guarantees and individual guarantees (for instance for large infrastructure projects). AGF also helps banks raise long-term funds including through guarantees.

Ms. Consolate Rusagara of the FIRST Initiative also discussed the role of credit guarantee schemes in a context where governments intervene in sectors that are deemed as risky such as SME finance. How do authorities design public guarantees that are sustainable? How do they design them so as not to create the wrong incentives by destroying the credit culture? How can we help design public guarantees?

The principles for public credit guarantee schemes (CGS) sponsored by the First Initiative and the World Bank Group help governments answer such questions. The 16 principles cover four key areas: (i) the legal and regulatory framework (foundations for a CGS); (ii) corporate governance and risk management (building blocks for effectively designed and independently executed strategy aligned with CGS mandate and objectives); (iii) the operational framework (provide essential working parameters); and (iv) monitoring and evaluation (how CGS should report on their performance and evaluate the achievement of policy objectives).

A survey of key stakeholders has highlighted a number of important issues:

  • Most CGS were founded as public enterprises but it would be good to have CGS as public-private schemes.
  • Who supervises CGS? The board? The central bank? It is important to have a supervisory authority.
  • Mandate of CGS is not very clear: supporting SMEs? Agriculture? Typically there is mission creep and layers are added to layers. It is important to include a very clear mandate.
  • Claim management process needs to be very clear to avoid the death of the credit culture.
  • Performance evaluation: accountability by management is needed and performance should be measured.

In short, CGSs are important instruments for risk sharing but the role of government and its objectives need to be clear and funding should be sustainable. CGSs are only one tool to manage risks and should not be used by governments for subsidies. CGSs do not replace prudential regulation. Instead, credit risk management by banks and microfinance institutions should be adequate.

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You can download all presentations on the conference website.

You can view a selection of photos here.

You can watch the conference in our YouTube channel here.

What we learned from the Regional Conference on Financial Sector Development in African States Facing Fragile Situations? - Part 4

11.10.2016Amadou Sy, Director of Africa Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution

In June 2016, leaders from the public and private sectors and development partners gathered in Abidjan to discuss the links between fragility, resilience and financial sector development in Africa. This event, a joint initiative created by the African Development Bank, the Making Finance Work for Africa Partnership (MFW4A), FSD Africa, FIRST Initiative and the Initiative for Risk Mitigation in Africa (IRMA), also provided an opportunity to explore prospects for partnerships, innovative policies and private sector-led solutions to accelerate financial sector development in fragile situations in Africa.

In this fourth instalment of a six-part series, Amadou Sy, Senior Fellow and Director of the African Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution, looks at the potential of digital finance to achieve broad financial sector development in countries facing fragile situations.

In case you missed it, you can read parts One, Two and Three.

What is Special about Digital Finance?

The number of individuals with mobile accounts in fragile countries is higher than the number of individuals with bank accounts. But what explains the rapid and broader adoption of digital finance in fragile countries?

Mr. Laurent Marie Kiba of Orange Senegal noted that two preconditions are needed for the rapid adoption of mobile finance. First, that the technology is available in fragile countries. Fourth generation wireless technology (4G) is available in Guinea Bissau. Second, mobile payment is no longer a project as populations have adopted it. Mobile operators recognize that mobile payment services are a branding tool and this helps strengthen the adoption of mobile financial products. Mr. Mathieu Soglonou of UNCDF stressed that mobile technology is a unique solution because it allows fast, large scale, secure transactions in a market environment and is a resilient technology.

Comparing mobile money with traditional brick-and-mortar banking, Ms. Aurélie Soulé of GSMA identified three benefits that mobile money offer in fragile countries. First, mobile money can be deployed rapidly because the associated capital expenditure is lower. Opening a branch can cost up to $400,000 and an ATM can cost $20,000 compared to no cost for a mobile agent. Second, proximity is high as the network of agents is in the community. And third, the security costs of moving money to branches, especially in countries with a sparse population, are not as relevant.

Going forward, solutions need to be developed to go beyond mobile money and offer a broad range of services akin to what a traditional branch would offer. Regulatory constraints such as those associated with KYC can be overcome with technology such as digital fingerprints. Crowdfunding solutions including with the diaspora and equity participation are options that should be considered.

Are the promises of digital finance exaggerated? Mr. Sasha Polverini of Gates Foundation noted that there is very little scale and less coverage in rural areas. He stressed that digital finance can be an effective solution for financial inclusion and development. Its success, however, depends on the nature of the crisis we are facing. Are we facing an economic crisis, a human crisis, a migrant crisis? What are the sources of fragility? The impact of digital financial services will depend on the answers to these questions. While many participants agreed with this observation, they noted that although the two can overlap, it was important to distinguish between financial sector development in fragile countries and financial inclusion in crisis situations.

Many participants asked about policies to reach the "last mile" of cashless transactions for the poorest. Panelists noted that we are still far from the true last mile although the acceptance of digital payments is progressing. It was noted that governments are big payers and having them adopt digital payment would be a big push. Mr. Kiba mentioned the experience of an oil company that managed to have 40 percent of purchases at its gas stations paid digitally. _________________________________________________________________

You can download all presentations on the conference website.

You can view a selection of photos here.

You can watch the conference in our YouTube channel here.

What we learned from the Regional Conference on Financial Sector Development in African States Facing Fragile Situations? - Part 3

26.09.2016Amadou Sy, Director of Africa Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution

In June 2016, leaders from the public and private sectors and development partners gathered in Abidjan to discuss the links between fragility, resilience and financial sector development in Africa. This event, a joint initiative created by the African Development Bank, the Making Finance Work for Africa Partnership (MFW4A), FSD Africa, FIRST Initiative and the Initiative for Risk Mitigation in Africa (IRMA), also provided an opportunity to explore prospects for partnerships, innovative policies and private sector-led solutions to accelerate financial sector development in fragile situations in Africa.

In this third instalment of a six-part series, Amadou Sy, Senior Fellow and Director of the African Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution, looks at some of the major takeaways of the conference, including the role for governments, financial institutions and investors.

In case you missed it, you can read here Part 1 and Part 2.

What are governments doing to address the challenges of financial sector development?

Participants noted that macroeconomic stability is a precondition for financial sector development (FSD). Against this background, fragile countries have elaborated FSD strategies along with or including strategies for microfinance and financial inclusion. FSD strategies typically start by "cleaning up" the banking system to address nonperforming public banks. Bank resolution typically takes the form of public asset management companies ("good" vs. "bad" bank) and privatization. FSD strategies also aim at addressing the lack of product diversification by encouraging new activities such as leasing and supporting the development of capital markets. FSD strategies also focus on broadening access to credit, including through mobile finance.

The existence of an FSD strategy is not a guarantee of success however and participants discussed the importance of strategy implementation. In this regard, Mr. Koné (Government of Côte d'Ivoire) stressed the need to identify needs and formulate strategies, involve key stakeholders, and execute FSD strategies while leveraging strong leadership. As an example, a new financing lease law was passed in Côte d'Ivoire within 5 to 6 months from the time of the elaboration of the draft law to its passing in parliament.

What Role for financial institutions and investors?

Private sector participants stressed that they should be consulted and that they are too often ignored in spite of their impact. Mr. Koroma (Union Trust Bank) noted the role of banks in reducing employment and contributing to economic growth. For instance, opening a branch involves expensive decisions in terms of staffing, telecommunication and electricity infrastructure. Fragility can also be an opportunity for capacity building as for instance when local staff is trained by domestic firms and multinationals.

Many participants highlighted that the difficulties inherent to operating in a fragile environment can be managed. Mr. Lodugnon (Emerging Capital Markets) noted that for private equity firms and regional banks, a portfolio approach can help in reallocating capital in support of fragile countries when there is a shock (for instance after a Boko Haram attack in Chad or after the Ebola pandemic in Liberia). Similarly, Mr. Diarrasouba (Atlantic Business International) explained the very difficult operating environment in Côte d'Ivoire during the conflict. There were de facto two governments and banks, including the regional central bank's national agency, were being nationalized. ATMs were being attacked and banknotes in agencies needed to be stored outside the central bank agency. Bankers were not allowed to travel out of the country. He noted that in such a situation of "force majeure," regulators should be supportive to banks. This was for instance the case recently in Mali where the repatriation of banknotes from the north of the country to the south was facilitated by the regulator. In contrast, Mr. Diarrasouba noted that bank regulation remained unchanged during the Ivorian conflict although clients were accumulating government arrears and asset quality was deteriorating.

It was also noted that the private sector could play an important role in helping intermediate remittance flows to fragile countries.

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You can download all presentations on the conference website.

You can view a selection of photos here

You can watch the conference in our YouTube channel here.

What we learned from the Regional Conference on Financial Sector Development in African States Facing Fragile Situations? - Part 2

05.09.2016Amadou Sy, Director of Africa Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution

In June 2016, leaders from the public and private sectors and development partners gathered in Abidjan to discuss the links between fragility, resilience and financial sector development in Africa. This event, a joint initiative created by the African Development Bank, the Making Finance Work for Africa Partnership (MFW4A), FSD Africa, FIRST Initiative and the Initiative for Risk Mitigation in Africa (IRMA), also provided an opportunity to explore prospects for partnerships, innovative policies and private sector-led solutions to accelerate financial sector development in fragile situations in Africa.

In this second instalment of a six-part series, Amadou Sy, Senior Fellow and Director of the African Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution, looks at some of the major takeaways of the conference.

In case you missed it, you can read the first part here.

Who are the stakeholders in fragile countries?

Ms. Anderson (Mercy Corps) stressed the need to better understand the nature of market participants in fragile countries. For instance, on the consumer side, people in fragile countries are typically more risk averse, invest less and if they do, they invest in safer activities. Related issues include understanding the consumers' negative coping mechanism: when faced with a shock, do they sell their assets or did they diversify their assets ex-ante? What financial products are appropriate and for whom? Even among fragile countries, situations differ. For instance, the usage of mobile money is very country specific and it is high in Somalia and lower in Central Africa. Agriculture and the informal sector were identified as being key to increasing financial inclusiveness in fragile countries. Similarly, non-resident citizens offer a potential for FSD through the remittances they send.

Domestic governments in fragile countries face a particularly difficult environment. Challenges to FSD include weak implementation, weak commitment to reform, high turnover of staff, and lack of data for diagnostics. As a result, governments and other stakeholders need to prioritize, sequence, and consider quick wins as well as measures to build long term capacity. Participants noted, however, that the particular context in which governments operate is important. For instance, governments in conflict countries face different constraints and policy options compared to those in transition countries.

Official development finance (ODF, which includes bilateral official development assistance and multilateral support) is particularly important in fragile countries where it typically exceeds foreign direct investment. In spite of its importance, many participants argued that procedures and processes to access ODF are particularly long and fastidious, and discourages banks from tapping multilateral institutions. Addressing such bottlenecks could support financial sector development in fragile countries. The timing of aid delivery was also questioned. For instance, aid is particularly valuable when there is a lack of liquidity in a crisis and nonperforming loans are higher. Ms. Anderson (Mercy Corps) noted that the high level of market distortion that humanitarian aid could bring in fragile countries when it crowds out existing financial institutions. Going forward, it will be important to identify ways in which ODF can play a stronger role in financial inclusion and how it can be leveraged to support FSD. For instance, the public sector and donors can partner with the private sector to help develop the financial sector and large infrastructure projects could be an important channel for such cofinancing.

Participants also noted that foreign governments should address the collateral damage on fragile countries from global financial regulation (Basel III and AML-CFT). Indeed, fragile countries are particularly exposed to actions by global banks to reduce the cost of regulatory compliance for instance through "derisking" activities (such as the closing of correspondent banks accounts).

Domestic financial regulators can play an important role in supporting financial sector development but at times limit the role that the financial sector can play through overly excessive regulation in the specific context of fragile countries.

Some participants stressed the need to view the financial sector as an ecosystem comprising many subsectors with different challenges (for instance banks, microfinance, leasing, housing finance, project finance, mobile finance, capital markets, and insurance). For instance, the development of micro insurance should consider the role of banks, insurance companies, and mobile operators as agents for insurance.

Mr. Sy (Brookings) noted that learning from successful developments in fragile countries was useful to help refine and prioritize stakeholders' strategies. For instance, while many stakeholders have prioritized institution building in fragile countries, it is a slow process. At the same time, digital inclusion has progressed at an unexpectedly rapid pace. As a result, policies should be balanced enough to continue the slow and long process of strengthening governance and at the same time capture the opportunities that digital financial solutions offer. At times, both policies can sustain each other. For instance, the provision of functional identification helps speed up the adoption of mobile payments and other digital solutions. At the extreme, having no phone but just a SIM card and proper identification could be enough to be financially included.

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You can download all the presentations on the conference website.

You can also view a selection of photos here.

 

 

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