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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 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 Conference on Financial Sector Development in African States Facing Fragile Situations? - Part 1

19.07.2016Amadou Sy, Director of Africa Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution

Last month, 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 first 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.

What is fragility?

Using a "harmonized definition," the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank classify states as being fragile when they exhibit poor governance or when they face an unstable security situation. For practical purposes, governance is measured by the quality of policies and institutions (states with a CPIA score less than or equal to 3.2) and insecurity is assessed by the presence of United Nations or regional peace keeping operations (PKO). In sub-Saharan Africa most fragile states are also low-income countries (LICs).

While the focus of the "harmonized definition" is on institutions and insecurity, participants stressed that fragility is a multi-faceted concept. In particular, fragility implies weak state institutions, poor implementation capacity, underdeveloped legal and financial infrastructure as well as low social cohesion and the exclusion of a large share of the population from financial and other services. The nature of fragility is also fluid and fragile states face situations ranging from violent conflicts to post-conflict economic recovery. The sources of fragility go beyond poor governance, low GDP per capita, and conflicts to include vulnerability to commodity shocks and other macroeconomic shocks, and exposure to the risk of pandemics.

The need to broaden the definition of fragility was further explored with reference to a quote from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia "fragility is not a category of states, but a risk inherent in the development process itself". Mr. Sibry Tapsoba, Director of the Transition Support Department of the AfDB argued for a multidimensional approach, which applies a fragility lens to (i) look beyond conflict and violence; (ii) focus on inclusiveness and institutions; (iii) recognize the importance of the private sector; and (iv) recognize the presence of asymmetries in resources, policy, and capacity.

Participants also insisted on the need to go beyond the negative connotation of fragility and recognize instead that fragile states are in transition and present opportunities for human and financial sector development.

What role for financial sector development (FSD) in fragile countries?

Empirical evidence points to the positive role that financial sector development (FSD) can play in fragile countries. There is a positive correlation between financial sector and economic growth, poverty reduction, and inequality reduction. FSD can be a driver of growth through increased job creation and it can help mitigate risks through increased savings, loans, and insurance.

A key finding stressed by Ms. Emiko Todoroki, Senior Financial Sector Specialist at FIRST Initiative is that fragile countries fare worst in all macro and financial metrics, except one: the share of adults with mobile accounts. Digital financial services are offering solutions in fragile states and there is a need to understand better their role.

In the same vein, Ms. Thea Anderson, Director at Mercy Corps argued for the need to focus in on micro issues such as the role of delivery channels, payments infrastructure, insurance, and blended finance (including impact investment), and Islamic finance. As she noted, FSD is relevant even in the more volatile security situations. For instance, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) can be viewed as a market segment and their financial inclusion can be kick-started with the use of functional identification (which also help comply with Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements). Mr. Paul Musoke, Director of Change Management at FSD Africa also highlighted the role of markets and market building in a difficult context. He noted the need to look for scale, sustainability, and systemic change. As markets are dynamic and not predictable, taking a systems approach can be useful. Such an approach includes asking questions such as what factors are going to play a role in the future? Who is going to pay for infrastructure? What level of development should we target?

Lastly, Mr. Cedric Mousset, Lead Financial Sector Specialist, World Bank reminded the audience that governance remains a key dimension of fragility. Weak governance in fragile countries exposes them to a higher risk of non-compliance with regulations such as anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML-CFT) regulation. Improving governance, although it may be a slow process, is needed to support FSD. Measures to support political stability, improve the business and macroeconomic environment, ensure legal security, and build capacity remain important.

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You can download all the presentations on the conference website.

You can also view a selection of photos here.

For more information, please contact:

Pierre Valere Nketcha Nana
Email :p.nketcha-nana[at]afdb.org

Abdelkader Benbrahim
Email: a.benbrahim[at]afdb.org

Gravatar: Development Credit Authority, USAID

Innovative financing is crucial to the future of energy in Africa

17.05.2016Development Credit Authority, USAID

Challenge: Extended. How do you scale access to power in Africa? Power Africa is taking an innovative approach, drawing on USAID's Development Credit Authority's risk sharing mechanism to bring commercial debt to the sector.

Two out of three people in sub-Saharan Africa live without access to electricity. While some of these people will be connected to the electricity grid in the future, they may face a long wait as the infrastructure build-out across the region struggles to keep up with population growth.

One of the greatest hurdles to providing reliable electricity access in Africa is the availability of financing, specifically debt. Power Africa uses an innovative transaction-focused model to galvanize collaboration, engage in critical actions to accelerate deals and projects, and drive systemic reforms to facilitate future investment. As part of the initiative, USAID's Development Credit Authority (DCA) works to bring commercial debt to the sector by providing guarantees for lenders.

While typically used for grid-scale generation projects, this past year, Power Africa drew upon DCA to implement four new guarantees to help bridge the significant gap in access to financing. This work is expected to support new grid and off-grid connections, bringing energy access to hundreds of thousands of customers.

The first area of focus is to unlock debt capital for off-grid and small-scale energy solutions on the African continent, especially for those customers that are far from the electric grid. Sustainable, private sector-led business models for off-grid and small-scale energy solutions from companies such as Off-Grid: Electric, Mobisol and M-KOPA are beginning to succeed in the marketplace and meet the demand of sub-Saharan Africa's underserved populations - bolstered by decreasing costs of technology and innovative "pay as you go" financing options. However, funding for this type of business is mostly provided through grants, angel investors or subsidized money from development finance institutions.

While this approach has worked to pilot these solutions, there is a need for debt financing for companies that are ready to graduate from grants and concessional funding to more sustainable, longer-term commercial debt. To reach the 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa without access to energy, these businesses must be able to scale-up across the continent.

To achieve this goal, two of the four DCA guarantees will mobilize more than $80 million in financing to support companies providing small-scale renewable energy solutions to reach those who live beyond the grid. These companies, many of them Power Africa partners, most often provide solar home systems enabling customers to access services such as lighting, cell-phone charging, electric fans, and even television and refrigeration, at an affordable cost. These guarantees will support debt finance to the beyond the grid renewable energy sector, including the end users, to increase the uptake of these technologies and meet these companies' large working capital needs.

The other two DCA guarantees, mobilizing more than $60 million, support a second area of focus: financing new connections to existing grids. While many people live within sight of the electric grid, extending or building additional lines is costly for the utilities, which can also make the connection fee too high for customers. These two guarantees will support the financing needed to make the connections as well as upgrade the existing grids to provide even more new connections in the future.

These four Power Africa-DCA guarantees are a key tool for expanding energy access and demonstrate how USAID is responding to market demand. For the energy providers themselves, successful use of the financing provided through the guarantees will help them build up credit histories to continue to access commercial debt without the support of a guarantee. Over time, the success of these guarantees will also be a signal to local banks and commercial lenders that this sector is ready for investment.

Challenge: Accepted. Power Africa and DCA will continue to work together to share risk with financial institutions operating across the continent to sustainably mobilize debt financing to the energy sector.

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About the Author

Claire Everhart is Presidential Management Fellow with USAID's Development Credit Authority (DCA).

DCA is USAID's credit guarantee program and provides partial credit guarantees that unlock private sector lending in Africa. For the past fiscal year, USAID's DCA portfolio in Africa grew by 23%, marking the largest amount of financing that's ever been made available to African businesses through DCA.

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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