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African Financial Markets Initiative (AFMI) hosts Annual Local Currency Bonds and Financial Sector Development Workshop in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire

13.12.2016Cédric Mbeng Mezui, Coordinator, African Financial Markets Initiative (AFMI)

The 5th Annual Local Currency Bonds and Financial Sector Development Workshop, hosted by AFMI and the African Development Bank (AfDB) will be held on 15-16 December 2016, at the AfDB's CCIA Building in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. MFW4A spoke to Cédric Achille Mbeng Mezui, AFMI Coordinator, to find out more about their flagship event.

Q1: What is the rationale behind this Annual workshop, and its importance?

The African Development Bank (AfDB) launched the African Financial Markets Initiative (AFMI) in 2008. AFMI contributes to the development of domestic bond markets in Africa through its two complementary pillars: i) the African Financial Markets Database (AFMD); and ii) the African Domestic Bond Fund (ADBF).

AFMD is a comprehensive database on African domestic bond markets, with a focus on treasury bills and bonds. AFMD includes data on the bond markets of 41 countries provided by AFMI's network of Liaison Officers, who are officials of their respective central banks. The data provided allows for a comparison across countries for both investors and issuers. The annual workshop provides AFMI's liaison officers the opportunity to get together and discuss developments in their various markets, exchange ideas as well as discuss how to improve the AFMD. The workshop will also be an opportunity for for the officers to further hone in their data collection skills, and to improve the quality whilst also increasing the amount of data collected in all of AfDB's Regional Member Countries.

This year we will also present the African Domestic Bond Fund (ADBF), the multi-jurisdictional first fixed income exchange-traded fund (ETF) in Africa. The AfDB Board approved a seed investment of USD 25 million in the ADBF on 7th December 2016. We will be presenting ADBF with a view to identifying potential investors.

Q2: Give us a brief overview of the workshop

The event will bring together more than 300 delegates including Central Bank Governors, Ministries of Finances, bank CEOs, pension funds, as well as over 60 liaison officers covering the debt market, pension, insurance, banks, and Senior Management of the AfDB. This year, we are expecting the workshop to spur interest and commitments from potential investors for the African Domestic Bond Fund (ADBF).

As a brief background, the ADBF was conceived as an integral part of AFMI, with the objective of contributing to the development of local debt markets in Africa, through investing in local currency-denominated debt. The ADBF coincidentally will be topic in the first session of Day 1, and this is where we are working to create awareness around the Fund. We are very excited about the ADBF, given its recent approval by the Board of Governors of the AfDB on 7th December 2016.

The second session will be a panel discussion with senior officials including, Honourable Minister Mr. Thierry Tanoh, CEO of the Mauritius Stock Exchange, Mr. Sunil Benimadhu, AfDB Finance Vice President, Mr. Charles Boamah, Representative of BCEAO, Governor M. Antoine Traore and the representative of the CEO of AfricaRe, Mr Kone Seydou. The aim of the session is to highlight the importance of local currency bond markets development, and how the Bond Fund could impact the development of the Bond Markets in Africa.

The third session aims to identify how investors can invest in the ADBF, and to address different issues related to the Fund, including access, transaction costs, risk/return asymmetry, liquidity and regulation. This session will comprise of a mix of panelists from the private sector, potential investors, including AfDB's Financial Sector Development Department Director, Mr Stefan Nalletamby, CEO of MCB Capital, Mr. Rony Lam, CEO Africa Re Representative - Director of Finance and Accounts, Mr Kone Seydou, Chair of the Nigerian Pension Funds Association, Mr David Uduanu, and Managing Director, Head of Africa- Public Sector - Citibank London, Mr Peter Sullivan. 

Day two will comprise of two closed thematic workshops. In the first session, there will be a presentation on AFMI as well as a presentation on the African Markets Database (AFMD). In the second thematic workshop of the day, the AfDB's Statistics Department, ESTA, will present the Open Data Platform, followed by a presentation of AFMI's Data portal and website.

CNBC Africa and Vox Africa will cover the event.

For more information and to register, please visit the AFMI website

Eurobond or Eurobomb?

07.03.2016Cédric Mbeng Mezui, Coordinator, African Financial Markets Initiative (AFMI)

Starting in 2007, a number of African countries have been issuing sovereign bonds in the international capital markets. Sub-Saharan African countries issued a total of $35.9 billion between 2005 and 2015. Ghana issued $3.45 billion, followed by Gabon ($ 3 bn) and Zambia ($ 2.9 bn).

This sudden rush to tap into the international markets was encouraged by a range of factors, including rapid growth and better economic policies in the region, high commodity prices, and low interest rates in developed countries, particularly in the US, Europe and Japan. Since 2009, as enthusiasm for risk assets improved and global interest rates further dropped, international investors carried on their search for yield in a low-interest rate environment, while African countries took advantage of the low international interest rates to fund themselves in global markets.

For African countries, the main reasons for issuing Eurobonds can be summarized as follows: flexibility in the use of resources compared to other types of financing (mainly from Development Financial Institutions); the larger size of funds raised compared to allocations from development partners in the context of the current declining trend of aid flows; sovereign's presence in the international capital markets.

Eurobond prospectuses often indicated that the proceeds will be used to fund infrastructure projects (mainly transport and energy); repayment of the external or domestic debt; easing budget financing pressures; etc.

However, the funds were often not used efficiently. Some of the targeted infrastructure projects were at the early stage (wish list of projects), and were not able to absorb the resources. Sometimes the funds were used to fund routine public expenditures. Currently, some countries that have issued Eurobonds find themselves paying high carrying costs pending the maturation of projects for funding.

Furthermore, the international market situation has changed with the rise of the Fed interest rates, continued sluggish growth in Europe, slowdown in Chinese growth, falling commodity prices, the apprehension of investors, etc. These factors have resulted in lower export revenues for African countries, depreciation African currencies and reduction in their GDP growth.

In such a context, will the repayment of Eurobonds lead to "eurobombs" that can affect the macroeconomic sustainability of these economies?

What needs to be done to prevent the build-up of a debt crisis on the continent?

Different countries, different situations

African countries issuing Eurobonds could be grouped into 3 categories: (i) "investment grade" countries, such as Morocco, South Africa and Namibia; (ii) countries with GDP growth rate higher than interest rate on the debt; and (iii) countries with GDP growth rate lower than the interest rate on the debt.

The cost of Eurobonds for "investment grade" African countries is typically lower compared to the cost for other issuing countries. Credit ratings is particularly important as it allows issuers to diversify the range of funding sources and at the same time, optimize the choices according to their priorities and opportunities. Getting a rating of "Investment Grade" requires implementing sound management of public finances, efficient public debt management and low political risk.

Countries in category 2, with GDP growth rate higher than interest rate on the debt, can still support their debt service as they create enough wealth to meet their obligations. The ratio debt/GDP could be sustainable. However these countries are still at risk if their economic growth rates slow. Countries in category 3 are in relatively vulnerable positions. They are currently under pressure to meet their debt service and the situation may become worse with the anticipated increases in the interest rates in the US. The combination of expensive debt and slow growth will lead to a deterioration of their external and fiscal positions, and then reduce the possibility of new borrowings. They will pay a high premium to gain access to the international capital markets again.

What needs to be done?

To prevent a new debt crisis on the continent, the urgency in 2016 is for International Financial Institutions (IFIs) to team up and provide a credit enhancement mechanism (CEM) and liquidity facilities (LF) subject to the implementation of structural reforms.

CEM should make it easier to secure better pricing and would contribute to reducing the risk perception of African credit through the provision of guarantee products. In exchange, the beneficiary countries would need to agree to implement reforms to reduce the perceived risk, increase macroeconomic discipline and target the achievement of "investment grade" rating on the medium to long term. LF should help to reduce the current pressure on the repayment of accrued interest and the principal of the Eurobonds already issued. The LF should have a longer maturity tenor, a grace period, a fast track processing and competitive pricing to provide headroom for macroeconomic sustainability. In exchange, the beneficiaries should explain the use of the proceeds of the issued Eurobonds and present a credible list of projects that may absorb the resources. Particular attention should be paid to projects that could generate high returns such as power, agribusiness and some transactions in the transport sector.

At the country level, a strategic agenda to unlock domestic financial systems should be implemented. We cannot build prosperous economies in the long term without efficient domestic financial systems. "I did a lot of infrastructure development in my life, to fund them with foreign currency is madness. OK? Madness" said Mr. Tidjane Thiam in October, 2015.

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About the Author

Cédric Mbeng Mezui has extensive experience in the African financial sector and is also an accomplished researcher and author in the sector. He was appointed Coordinator of the African Financial Markets Initiative (AFMI) in December 2013, and leads the implementation of the African Development Bank's (AfDB) local currency bond markets development programme. Cedric previously led innovative finance work for regional mega projects having worked on more than 30 investment transactions across Africa.  Cedric has a Master's degree in Banking and Financial Engineering from Toulouse Business School (France) and Master's degree in Money, Economy and International Finance from Claude Bernard University of Lyon (France).

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