Africa Finance Forum Blog
What we learned from the Regional Conference on Financial Sector Development in African States Facing Fragile Situations? - Part 326.09.2016,
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.
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.
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.