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Financing African SMEs: can more of the same help bridge the gap?

24.10.2017Rodrigo Deiana, Junior Policy Analyst & Arthur Minsat, Head of Unit, OCDE

This post was originally published on the OECD Development Matters website.

African firms don’t have it easy. Among the many constraints faced by formal companies, access to finance consistently ranks as a top issue. Almost 20% of formal African companies cite access to finance as a constraint to their business.[i] Overall, African micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face a financing shortfall of about USD 190 billion from the traditional banking sector.[ii] African firms are 19% less likely to have a bank loan, compared to other regions of the world. Within Africa, small enterprises are 30% less likely to obtain bank loans than large ones and medium-sized enterprises are 13% less likely.[iii]

To bridge this gap, governments and market players need to strengthen existing credit channels as well as expand new financing mechanisms.

Various innovative financing instruments are currently expanding or present strong growth potential across Africa. Private equity funds invested a total of USD 22.7 billion in Africa across 919 deals between 2011 and 2016, although less transactions took place in the last months. Most took place in capital-intensive sectors such as telecommunications and energy.[iv] Asset-based lending can ease some stringent conditions associated with traditional credit. Experiences in Burkina Faso (with Burkina Bail) and South Africa suggest that commercial banks and other financial operators can engage in factoring and leasing services, without the need for additional legislation.[v]

At the same time, many entrepreneurs can directly harness new financing mechanisms such as crowd-funding or venture capital within and outside Africa. Togolese entrepreneur Afate Gnikou successfully used crowdfunding to raise the capital for a prototype 3D printer from recycled electronic waste selling at an affordable price of less than USD 100. Nigeria’s online movie entrepreneur Jason Njoku, for one, raised USD 8 million in venture capital from African and global investors. Andela, a pan-African start-up launched in 2014 that pairs coders with global companies, recently obtained USD 40 million in funding from an African venture capital fund.[vi] This opens the door for African entrepreneurs to look for funding within the continent rather than in Europe or North America. Return migrants are using remittances, expatriate savings or loans to fund their businesses. More international equity funds are providing seed or venture capital to African SMEs, often by specialising in African markets with a mix of private and public funds.[vii]

Many other instruments can help fill SMEs’ financing gap: microfinance for SMEs, direct support from development partners (e.g. the African Development Bank’s Souk At-Tanmia initiative, providing financing and mentoring services to entrepreneurs), and philanthropic finance (the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s support to start-ups in Africa regularly makes the headlines; other initiatives are also growing such as the think tank Land of African Business).

However, these innovative financing solutions are out of reach for the majority of small businesses operating in the informal economy. To bridge the financing gap, we must also improve traditional credit channels by expanding best practices in the financial sector.

Some emphasise the role of traditional instruments, such as credit guarantee schemes (CGSs). CGSs are guarantees by third parties -- governments or development partners -- that can cover a portion of the lenders’ losses from loans to SMEs, significantly reducing default risk for banks. CGSs can benefit small businesses that have little collateral, no credit history or are perceived as too risky. Policy experiences outside Africa (from Turkey and Malaysia) have shown that CGSs can avoid creating market distortions.[viii] A set of key principles can guide the design of effective guarantee schemes without incentivising lending to high-risk borrowers. They can also contribute to reducing poverty. In Tanzania, for instance, several of these guarantees effectively channelled funds to the more vulnerable groups otherwise unable to access credit, such as smallholder farmers as well as micro and small entrepreneurs.[ix] CGSs can also work on a larger scale, as shown by the African Guarantee Fund’s experience. Commercial banks leveraged the Fund’s USD 230 million in guarantees to lend out double that amount to 1 300 SMEs, generating 11 000 jobs. The Fund reached break-even point and started turning profits in just three years, quadrupling its revenue.[x] 

Many solutions exist to bridge the financing gap faced by Africa’s SMEs. Finding a balance between traditional and innovative financing depends on each country’s context. While the 54 African countries are very diverse, three main issues stand out. First: developing regulations and policies (e.g. on tax compliance, contract enforcement) that are flexible enough for innovation by African entrepreneurs. Second, broadening and widening financial solutions that are accessible to the most vulnerable groups. For example, Rwanda’s financial sector has been able to diversify despite its small size, with banks, savings cooperatives, microfinance institutions all tailoring their products to different target social groups. Finally, governments must aim to ensure macro-economic stability by avoiding market distortions and excessive risk taking. In this sense, the establishment of SME Authorities may help reduce information asymmetries and reduce lending risks. To achieve these objectives and increase the financial sources available to small African businesses expanded co-operation between governments, development partners and the private sector will remain vital.


[i] AfDB/OECD/UNDP (2017) African Economic Outlook 2017: Entrepreneurship and Industrialisation: 210, calculations based on The World Bank Enterprise Surveys. World Bank Enterprise Surveys cover firms in the formal sector with at least 5 employees.

[ii] Based on data from IFC’s Enterprise Finance Gap Database

[iii] AfDB/OECD/UNDP (2017): 225, based on Beck and Cull (2014), “SME finance in Africa”, Journal of African Economies, Vol. 23 (5), pp. 583-613

[iv] AVCA (2017), 2016 Annual African Private Equity Data Tracker

[v] Based on evidence from factoring and leasing services in Burkina Faso (through the financial company Burkina Bail) and South Africa (through the commercial banking sector), the Bank of Namibia argued for the possibility of successfully replicating such services in Namibia. See AfDB/OECD/UNDP (2017): 226 for further information.

[vii] Severino, J.-M. and J. Hajdenberg (2016), Entreprenante Afrique, Odile Jacob, Paris.

[viii] IFC (2010), Scaling-Up SME Access to Financial Services in the Developing World

[x] AfDB/OECD/UNDP (2017): 226, based on African Guarantee Fund, 2015 Annual Report

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About the Authors

Rodrigo Deiana is a Junior Policy Analyst in the OECD Development Centre's Africa Unit as part of the UN's JPO Programme financed by Italy. He contributed to the 2017 edition of the African Economic Outlook (AEO), and among other topics works on policy aspects of international trade and financial sector development in Africa. Before joining the OECD, Rodrigo was an economist in the Government of Rwanda as part of the ODI Fellowship, advising on regional integration, trade policy, and private sector development. He also worked as consultant to the World Bank Group in Kigali on matters of agricultural policy. Prior to that, he worked at the European Central bank in Frankfurt and at the World Trade Organization in Geneva. Rodrigo holds a Master's degree from the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics and a BA in International Economics from the University of Nottingham.

Arthur Minsat leads the OECD Development Centre's Africa Unit. He is responsible for the African Economic Outlook (AEO), a partnership with the African Development Bank and UNDP, and the Revenue Statistics in Africa, a joint publication by OECD, the African Union Commission and the African Tax Administration Forum. As lead economist, Arthur drafted the thematic chapters of the AEO 2017 on Entrepreneurship and Industrialisation, AEO 2016 on Sustainable Cities, AEO 2015 on Regional Development. Before joining the OECD, Arthur contributed to the UNDP's flagship Human Development Reports. He worked in Abidjan during the electoral crisis in 2010 and 2011, monitoring West Africa's economic outlook for the United Nations Operations in Côte d'Ivoire (ONUCI). Prior to that, he taught economics and international relations in several British universities and gained private sector experience with Wolters Kluwer Transport Services. Arthur holds a PhD from the London School of Economics (LSE) and a Franco-German double diploma from Sciences-Po Lille and the University of Münster.

Message from the MFW4A Partnership Coordinator

30.01.2017David Ashiagbor

Dear Readers,

Let me begin by wishing you all a very happy and prosperous 2017, on behalf of all of us at the MFW4A Secretariat.

2016 was a rewarding year for MFW4A. We were proud to host the first Regional Conference on Financial Sector Development in African States Facing Fragile Situations (FCAS) in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, jointly with the African Development Bank, FSD Africa, and FIRST Initiative. The conference attracted some 140 policy makers, business leaders, academics and development partners from over 30 countries, to discuss the role of the financial sector in addressing fragility. The conference has already led to several initiatives by MFW4A and our partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Somalia. We expect to build on this work in 2017.

Our support to the Conférence Interafricaine des Marchés d'Assurances (CIMA), the insurance regulator for francophone Africa, helped them to secure financing of EUR 2.5 million from the Agence Française de Développement. The funding will help to expand access to insurance in a region where penetration rates are less than 2% - well below the average for the continent. We worked closely with a number of our funding partners to help define their strategies in Digital Finance and Long Term Finance. These results are a clear demonstration of how the Partnership can directly support the operations of its membership.

With the support of our Supervisory Committee, we took steps to ensure the long term sustainability of the Partnership. The approval of a revised governance structure which fully integrates African financial sector stakeholders, public and private, was a first critical step. The ultimate objective is to expand membership and build a true partnership of all stakeholders in Africa's financial sector.

2017 will be a year of transition for the Partnership. It marks the end of MFW4A's third phase, and the beginning of its transformation into a new, more inclusive partnership, with an expanded membership. We will focus on revamping our value proposition to provide more focused, needs based services with the potential to directly impact our current and potential membership. In so doing, we hope to consolidate MFW4A's position as the leading platform for knowledge, advocacy and networking on financial sector development in Africa.

In closing, I must, on behalf of all of us at the MFW4A Secretariat, thank all our funding partners, stakeholders and supporters, for your constant support and encouragement over the years. We look forward to working together to strengthen our Partnership.

With our best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2017,

David Ashiagbor
MFW4A Partnership Coordinator

Private Equity for Africa’s Transformation: What Governments Can Do

07.09.2015Excerpt from Innovative Financing for the Economic Transformation of Africa*

African Governments have a key role to play in promoting private equity as one of the major potential sources of investments for enhancing growth and development in their countries. Areas for government intervention include the following:

Improving the legal and regulatory environment: The private-equity industry needs policies and regulatory frameworks that foster its growth. Policymakers need to have deeper understanding of the industry in order to develop these policies. Most private-equity funds on the continent are registered in countries with good regulations, and flexibility in the free flow of funds. No player wants to set up a holding company in a country with fund transfer restrictions.

Building the talent pool: Private equity is effective only when managers are prudent in using capital to grow businesses in a sustainable manner. In Africa, however, the industry is still new and the continent lacks adequate skilled and experienced fund managers. Governments should create the enabling environment for Africa to attract and retain more talent in the form of skilled and experienced managers, specifically with operational experience, in order to make the industry grow.

Creating awareness among key private-equity players: There is limited knowledge about the industry in a number of countries, as well as very little or no engagement between private equity industry players and regulators, resulting in communication gaps between them. Policymakers need to understand the issues affecting the industry, including political risk. There is, therefore, a need for greater engagement between policymakers and private-equity actors.

Improving availability of funds for the private equity industry: Finding adequate financial resources for the private-equity industry remains one of the major challenges in many African countries. This calls for an urgent need to explore how Governments could facilitate the flow of capital into private equity. Normally pension funds are restricted in what they can invest in for reasons of prudence, including even restrictions in investing in companies that are listed on stock markets. African Governments should find a way to ensure that these pension funds are invested in private equity, albeit wisely and responsibly. They are also encouraged to explore co-financing and co-sharing opportunities with other private-equity investors, in sectors such as infrastructure financing (for example energy, telecommunications and water). The Ghana Venture Capital Trust Fund is a good example of such a public-private partnership initiative, partly financed by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.

Encouraging investment of local African capital into private equity: Building up private equity in Africa entails accelerating development of the ecosystem and sourcing investments from local capital markets and funds. There is a need to improve the knowledge of local African investors through education, better understanding of the asset class, incentives and the regulatory framework. Significant sources of local capital (pension funds, family offices, sovereign funds, high net worth individuals, diaspora) can be tapped both for investing and exiting private equity assets.

Encouraging more impact investments: Adequate consideration should be given to investing in sectors that could positively change the lives of many people, while making decent returns for the investors. In this regard, Governments should provide special incentives for private equity firms to put their money into sectors such as agriculture, where the majority of the poor are actively involved.

Other enabling measures to enhance the role of Governments

Enabling measures need to be specific to each country. Private equity is not exclusively driven by the size of an economy or opportunity. Some countries have policies that are friendlier to private equity-friendly than other countries. Governments need to maintain policies that allow them to foster growth. The macro, political and socioeconomic situations are the driver for an enabling environment.

Governments should therefore make the effort to implement and sustain strong macroeconomic reforms. Governments should strengthen the bond and equity markets by introducing securities-lending, encouraging new listing requirements and supporting companies for listing and post-listing, especially as there are not many companies listed in sectors such as agriculture and oil and gas. Governments are also urged to open sectors such as telecommunications, banking and insurance services for investment, as these provide key opportunities for private equity investors.

African investors cannot move around as easily as foreign investors. This deters local investment. Governments should enact policies that encourage local investors and foreign investors alike. In this regard, implementing protocols on the free movement of people and capital across the continent will be very beneficial.

Furthermore, efforts to accelerate the achievement of the objectives of Africa's regional integration in areas such as trade facilitation and infrastructure networks can greatly boost the ecosystem for private equity and for investments in general.

 

*If you find value in this excerpt, you may enjoy reading the full book, Innovative Financing for the Economic Transformation of Africa, a publication of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Investment banks in Africa

09.02.2015Estelle Brack, Economist, Groupe BPCE

Africa represents a small percentage of the global investment banking business, but the activity is expected to expand in the years to come in view of already apparent economic opportunities.

According to Thomson Reuters, the commissions generated by investment banking activities in Africa amounted to $318 million in 2013, of which $232 million was in South Africa alone. This is modest when compared to the levels in the rest of the world, which generated $82.6 billion in commissions in the same year, returning to its levels of 2007. Globally, the five largest investment banks are based in the United States, and their market share increased by 2.5% in 2013. JP Morgan is the leading global investment bank, generating $6.4 billion in commission (7.8% of the total), followed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch ($5.8 billion), Goldman Sachs ($5.1 billion), Morgan Stanley ($4.7 billion) and Citi ($4.2 billion). The investment banks operate mainly with major clients (companies, investors and governments) providing advisory services (mergers and acquisitions), intermediation (loans) and long term financing operations (IPO, issuing of debt in the form of bonds). Here, we distinguish between corporate finance, global capital markets and structured finance operations.

The continent's outlook for economic growth makes it an attractive place for investment banks

The continent's economic growth quite logically feeds financing operations, the development of the capital markets, and advisory services, all areas of which investment banks are actively involved in. Many activities will require the intervention of investment banks with the arrival of multinationals, the restructuring of the banking and telecommunications sectors, the exploitation of new mining deposits and the launch of major public investment programmes.

Africa, like the rest of the world, is experiencing a change in its strategy to financing for development. Traditional donor interventions are often inadequate to meet the financing needs for infrastructure, while the traditional means of mobilising resources at the country level (taxation, etc.) face major challenges. As a result, the continent is increasingly turning towards local and global capital markets to access new financial sources.

The world leaders in corporate banking (BNPP, SGCIB, Natixis, HSBC, Citibank and Standard Chartered) as well as investment banking (Rothschild, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and Crédit Suisse) are very active on the continent. Alongside them, local players such as Standard Bank, Rand Merchant Bank, Renaissance Capital, EFG Hermes and Attijari Finances Corp are well established. These are followed by new players who have recently entered the market, including United Bank for Africa (UBA), First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) and Ecobank, all of which have created their own specialised subsidiaries (UBA Capital, FBN Capital and Ecobank Capital). Currently, African banks dominate the mobilisation of funds in local currency.

In order to adapt to market changes and the new opportunities presented, many banks have announced the repositioning of their investment banking activity in markets outside South Africa. Nedbank, for example, merged its corporate and investment businesses, while Standard Chartered Bank redeployed in Africa, and Barclays Africa has announced that it has high expectations of its African markets outside of South Africa, which remains the most attractive location to date.

Today, we observe that the international banks in Africa carry out their investment banking activities in Anglophone and Francophone countries, unlike the retail-banking sector where we see a certain linguistic preference in their regional expansion strategies.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A)

The volume of announced M&A deals in the continent increased by 30% between the first half of 2012 and 2013. According to Mergermarket Group, M&As targeting sub-Saharan African companies totalled $26.7 billion in 2013, an increase of 20% over 2012. The traditionally targeted companies in natural resources, minerals, oil, gas and infrastructure were replaced in 2014 by targets in the telecommunications, media, banking, insurance and consumer goods sectors. 2013 was marked by a record level of operations, with the sale of 28.6% of ENI East Africa to the Chinese company CNPC for $4.2 billion, and the acquisition of 20% of the Rovuma Offshore Area 1 Block (off the coast of Mozambique) by Indian company ONGC Videsh for a total of approximately $5 billion. Alongside conventional industrial investments, private equity operations are expanding through funds such as Helios, Emerging Capital Partners, Abraaj and African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM). In the first eleven months of 2014, the share of M&As carried out inside the African markets reached $29.2 billion for 413 operations, whereas M&A operations targeting Africa amounted to $40.7 billion for a total 730 operations. There were some major market operations in late 2014, such as the takeover of Pepkor, a south African retailing giant, by Steinhoff for $5.7 billion, in Chad, the state bought Chevron assets ($1.3 billion), the takeover of the South African and Nigerian assets of Lafarge by Lafarge Wapco (now known as Lafarge Africa Plc) for $1.35 billion, or the sale of several oil wells to Nigeria for $5 billion by Shell.

A necessary rationalisation

According to Konrad Reuss, in charge of the sub-Saharan Africa department at Standard&Poors, "the heady days of international bonds issued by new players or from frontier markets, such as those of the African countries over the past two years, are over. The periods when we witnessed oversubscription are no longer with us". The reduction of the quantitative easing policy of the US administration is also partly responsible. The new policy is changing the bond issue conditions for countries whose economies are in difficulty, according to S&P, which is anticipating an increase in the cost of eurobonds. For Miguel Azevedo, "The Africa of the past was more a land of pioneers and adventurers. Today, the major players are returning. It is becoming much more mainstream". Recent history has shown that governmental agencies are ready to intervene in Africa (World Bank, AFD, AfDB, EIB, KfW, etc.), as the risks in Africa are not, in the end, much higher than in other places (the United States or Europe). The profitability level remains very attractive for projects to be funded on the continent.

Dr Estelle Brack Estelle Brack is an economist, specialising in banking and finance in developed and in developing countries.

Message from the Coordinator

12.01.2015Stefan Nalletamby

Dear Readers,

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones! 2014 was an important year for the MFW4A Partnership Secretariat, characterised by substantive progress in the implementation of our 2012 - 2014 Strategy and our move from the African Development Bank's (AfDB) temporary home in Tunis to the Bank's statutory headquarters in Abidjan. The move was made possible thanks to the resilience and goodwill of our staff who worked hard to ensure business continuity.

The third Partnership Forum in Dakar, Senegal, in June 2014 was a significant milestone for us. The event provided a unique opportunity for African opinion leaders, financial sector stakeholders and development partners to take stock of progress in Africa's financial systems, share experiences, exchange best practices, and discuss innovative approaches to challenges facing African financial systems. All of us at the Partnership Secretariat are grateful for your enthusiastic support as evidenced by the participation of more than 350 delegates from over 40 countries. Our thanks also go to the Organising Committee for putting together such a rich event. You can view a selection of photos from the Forum on Flickr, and download the full Forum report from our website.

In 2014, the Secretariat placed special emphasis on its work with African financial sector stakeholders. The Advisory Council was revamped and reconstituted as a smaller body with a mandate to provide advice and effectively support and contribute to the Partnership's strategic objectives. We look forward to engaging with our new Advisory Council members in 2015. Last year also saw the establishment of the African Pension Funds Network (APFN), a platform for the exchange of knowledge and expertise amongst industry participants across the continent. The network already counts several achievements, including the release of a joint publication Pension Funds and Private Equity: Unlocking Africa's Potential, with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association (EMPEA).

We also continued to strengthen our existing networks, including the Community of African Banking Supervisors (CABS), whose 2014-2016 work plan and budget was endorsed by the Association of African Central Banks (AACB) Bureau. In agricultural finance, we supported the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) through institutional support projects. We hired an agricultural finance expert with the support of GIZ to help with the policy process in the CAADP implementation. GIZ also funded a study to review the status of agricultural finance policy coordination across five African countries. You can download the Synthesis Report in both English and French.

Another cornerstone of our success in 2014 was our commitment to support regional and pan-African networks. We launched programmes to support the Conference Interafricaine des Marches d'Assurance (CIMA), the insurance regulator covering 14 francophone countries in West and Central Africa; and, the Conseil Régional de l'Epargne Publique et des Marchés Financiers (CREMPF) the capital markets regulator for the West African Monetary Union (WAMU), to raise funding for their respective market development strategies.

We also continued to coordinate donors' efforts to support financial sector development. The Housing Finance Donor Working Group (DWG) initiated discussions on the launch of a training programme for the francophone participants, in collaboration with Cape Town University and under the leadership of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). Moreover, work plans were endorsed for both the Digital Finance and Remittances DWGs with plans to launch joint donor interventions in 2015 that respond to the priorities of Africa's financial sectors.

Our website was upgraded in 2014 to provide an enhanced browsing experience. The high and continuously increasing usage of the website, blogs, social media, newsletters, press digests, and the knowledge centre that houses publications confirm the value of MFW4A's knowledge products and services. We have also developed an Online Collaborative Platform (OCP) designed to facilitate interactions among MFW4A working group members, foster knowledge sharing and promote peer-to-peer learning. Last but not least, we have been maintaining a comprehensive Donor Projects' Database that is proving useful for our stakeholders seeking information on financial sector related projects in Africa.

Our Annual Supervisory Committee (SC) Meeting was held in December 2014, hosted by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in their headquarters in Bonn, Germany. MFW4A SC members, staff, and some Advisory Council members discussed the Partnership's new three-year Strategy, expected to be endorsed at the end of January, 2015. The 2015-2017 Strategy will put the Secretariat and the Partnership in a stronger position to deliver the change that Africa's financial sector needs. Specifically, the Strategy aims to:

  • Transform MFW4A from a partnership of donors to a partnership between donors and African financial sector stakeholders;
  • Elevate the Partnership from its current position of a knowledge hub into an effective catalyst for positive change in the financial sector landscape; and
  • Ensure long-term financial sustainability for the Partnership and the Secretariat.

The achievements of the MFW4A Partnership Secretariat are the result of hard work and commitment of our partners and African financial sector stakeholders. I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation for all of your support and engagement with our vision. MFW4A has become a key voice on financial sector development in Africa, and a lot of the interaction and the sharing of the knowledge and experiences in the field stem from the Partnerships' initiatives. Let's continue to keep this positive momentum going!

Stefan Nalletamby
MFW4A Partnership Coordinator

 

 

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