Africa Finance Forum Blog
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Agricultural finance has been deemed a "policy orphan" in Africa. The lack of coordination among stakeholders further deters the process of establishing common guidelines that are necessary to pull the required public and private resources towards the achievement of a common goal: providing adequate and affordable financial services to the agricultural sector.
Access to agriculture financial services remains a challenge throughout Africa, affecting both the capacity of smallholders to generate sustainable income from their farming activities, and the ability of countries to attain food security and self-sufficiency. An overall financial systems approach to agricultural finance, rather than a "funding agriculture" approach, should be adapted to unleash the potential of the agricultural sector. As such, there is need for a strong agricultural finance policy coordination to guide the often-fragmented interventions that are ineffective among government ministries, regulatory and supervisory authorities.
To address the challenges facing access to agriculture financial services, the Making Finance Work for Africa (MFW4A) Partnership has been supporting the implementation of the Kampala Principles, a set of 11 policy principles that suggests the actions most urgently required to unlock agricultural finance in Africa. Since the first Kampala Principle called for the existence of "a single entity as the advocate of agricultural finance", it became apparent to examine the state of agricultural finance policy coordination in Africa, in order to assess not only the different policy frameworks of the various countries, but also the level of coordination for the potential establishment of agricultural finance policy in these countries.
A recent study commissioned by MFW4A, in collaboration with GIZ, drew on the agricultural finance policy case study experiences in five African countries across different sub-regions. It suggests recommendations to enable country-level stakeholders to strengthen agricultural finance policy coordination, and provides the relevant background and orientation for the Partnership and its Agricultural Finance Stakeholder Working Group (AFSWG) for future advocacy and implementation activities in agricultural finance. The result of the study confirms the lack of agricultural finance policy coordination across case-study countries, despite the existence of well-articulated agricultural sector policy documents. The study also reveals the strength of agricultural development policy documents drafted as a result of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) process. However, key players such as central banks and other financial sector regulatory and supervisory authorities, private sector financial institutions, agribusinesses and civil organisations along value chains have often not been involved in the drafting process of the CAADP investment plans. Moreover, agricultural development policy documents do not address the key issues of access to finance in a holistic way, failing to take into considerations constraints to access agricultural finance faced by smallholder producers and institutions.
Lack of collateral, high transaction costs, weak legal and regulatory frameworks, limited appropriate financial instruments, high perceived risks of agricultural loans, weak financial infrastructure, limited financial literacy of clients are some of the shortcomings to agricultural finance. While these constraints are common to most African States, each country uses different mechanisms to address them, and are often fragmented.
A dedicated policy response is necessary to address the challenges posed by agricultural finance. This will result in building a sound financial system able to increase financial intermediation in favour of the agricultural sector. A policy response will also serve as the basis on which financial institutions and the private sector would develop adequate products, tools and mechanisms to meet financial needs of various actors along the agricultural value chains.
In the process of developing an agricultural finance policy, the role of a coordinating body becomes even more important. Such an entity will not only bring all the relevant stakeholders from the public and private sector around the same table, but it will also ensure that elements of agriculture and elements of finance are both considered when establishing an agricultural finance policy framework. The juxtaposition of agricultural development and financial systems policies in one policy document will result in responding to specific needs expressed by the agricultural sector.
The National Agricultural Investment Plans (NAIPs) developed as part of the CAADP process highlight issues of agriculture finance in some countries. While the CAADP process could offer a coordination avenue to address agriculture finance in a holistic way, NAIPs have tended to focus primarily on public sector investments. The active participation of the private sector in the CAADP process could lead to successful agriculture finance mainstreaming in the NAIPs, provided key aspects of sound-practice agricultural finance policy are integrated in the process.
Erick Sile joined GIZ/MFW4A in November 2014 as the Agricultural Finance Senior Advisor to support NEPAD/CAADP. Previously, he worked for the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) as Regional Technical Advisor, helping to promote financial inclusion. As Program Manager and Project Director at the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), he worked in several countries in Africa developing policies and procedures, implementing various methodologies of reaching out to the unbanked. Erick holds an MBA in Finance and Information Systems from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA.
This post was originally published on the FSD Africa website.
Last quarter saw the launch of one of the most in-depth pieces of research FSD Kenya has ever undertaken. We tracked the financial lives of 300 low income Kenyan households for over a year. The resultant 'financial diaries' gives us some exceptionally rich insights into what it means on a day-to-day basis to be poor. There is more detail on the study in FSD Kenya's latest newsletter. The findings resonate with much other research in which FSD Kenya and others have been involved in the last few years. These converge on a sobering conclusion: we remain far from a point at which we can say that financial markets are working for the poor.
This isn't to say that the innovations we've seen don't represent important and laudable achievements. The problem is the disconnect which exists between how poor people see and manage their finances and what is offered by financial institutions. In part, of course, this simply reflects familiar challenges. You can't afford to pay much to manage an income of KShs 2,000 per month. Average transaction costs have to come down dramatically if greater usage is to become an option. But suppose we were miraculously able to exploit the full potential of technology and reduce costs to near zero. How much real value would the participants in the diaries study see in mainstream products currently on offer?
There is much talk of late about the need for client-centricity in financial inclusion. But how do we go beyond an attractive sounding catchphrase to action? One modest suggestion, echoing work by independent researcher Ignacio Mas, is to stop all this talk about financial products. It seems doubtful that the people whose lives are so vividly depicted in the financial diaries think they want any financial products. Rather they need solutions to real world problems - juggling competing demands, challenges and opportunities in conditions of scarcity, risk and downright uncertainty. Perhaps we need to start by thinking hard about how some of the stories in the diaries could have had better outcomes. Only then should we start trying to create the tools which could help make this happen. FSD Kenya will be devoting considerable effort in the coming months to applying this approach. As ever, we are looking for partners in this endeavour.
This post was originally published on the CGAP website.
Thanks to the support of The MasterCard Foundation, since 2012 CGAP has been involved in the development of an ecosystem for digital financial services in the WAEMU region - a customs and monetary union between the countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo. When we started our work, we thought the conditions were right for digital finance to significantly advance financial inclusion in the region. Two years later, it is a good opportunity to reflect on the state of play.
Very early on, the regional central bank (BCEAO) understood the potential for alternative electronic delivery channels to advance financial inclusion. In 2006, the BCEAO issued a regulation on electronic money, creating opportunities for nonbanks to offer e-money solutions. Since then, the ecosystem expanded quite rapidly with currently 25 mobile money deployments registered. The BCEAO is also reviewing 30 or so requests for new e-money issuers or partnerships for the use of e-money solutions. As in other African countries, the ecosystem is dominated by mobile network operators (in partnership with banks).
However, in contrast to developments in other markets in WAEMU technology providers have emerged as an important player issuing e-money as means to offer digital payments solutions. Money transfer providers, banks and microfinance institutions (MFIs) are also getting interested. This diversity offers promising innovations and creates a dynamic market with diverse options available to customers. However, there are still important obstacles to be addressed if digital finance is to reach its full potential in WAEMU. Distribution networks are poorly developed in rural areas. Services continue to be focused on traditional offerings such as money transfers, bill payments and airtime top-ups, and are not customized enough to the needs of the low income population. Customers are not sufficiently empowered to become active players in the ecosystem. With growth and competition, new issues are also emerging such as interoperability and access to USSD channels.
While all WAEMU countries share the same regulation for e-money, the ecosystem is developing unevenly across the eight markets. Each market displays different dynamics, financial access structure, challenges, and customer needs, which open the door to different opportunities and country-specific responses. Achievements on digital finance in Cote d'Ivoire are quite impressive and it is an interesting success story in WAEMU. Take also the case of Senegal. It has the most crowded and diverse provider ecosystem for digital finance. Yet, providers have not managed to reach large scale and demand-side data confirms that mobile money usage among the low-income population is low. It will be interesting to watch how providers progress by offering a broader range of financial services and leveraging the existing distribution infrastructure offered by money transfer companies, postal networks and MFIs. But what about digital finance in a country like Niger with very low levels of financial inclusion and mobile money penetration (approximately 1% of adult population with a mobile money account)? The current challenges are probably bigger, but so is the potential upside. The question is, where do you start?
There is no doubt that some interesting strides have been made developing digital finance in WAEMU but the journey towards financial inclusion continues. By highlighting some of the recent developments, sharing lessons, and documenting aspirations for the future, we hope this blog series will contribute to further develop the digital finance ecosystem.
Estelle Lahaye leads experimentation and research activities to help create an effective and innovative ecosystem for digital financial services in the WAEMU. Before joining CGAP, she worked as an account manager in Luxembourg at Banco Itaú Europa, the international private banking division of Banco Itaú, Brazil. Lahaye holds a master's degree in business administration from San Francisco State University and a bachelor's degree in banking, finance, and insurance from the University of Nancy 2 in France. She speaks fluent English, French, Portuguese.
Financial inclusion institutions in emerging countries are increasingly important as expansive savings and investment vehicles for households and the public in general. A large part of these institutions carry out financial activities that play the part of bank credit, but within a regulatory framework that is either non-existent or much more lax than that which exists for formally-constituted banking institutions. The same thing happens with regulation of new financial inclusion instruments - such as electronic and mobile phone banking - which in many countries is limited or non-existent.
In order to guarantee the stability of the financial system, it is necessary to do more than provide greater financial access to the population. The nature and characteristics of access and use, the so-called quality dimension of financial inclusion, is a key element in ensuring that greater access and use do not endanger financial stability. This dimension is related to the change in the nature and risk levels entailed by the new financial inclusion instruments and institutions, as well as new clients. Although concrete indicators still do not exist, it is commonly accepted that the referential framework to measure this dimension ought to take into account the existence of: i) adequate regulation and supervision of new financial inclusion instruments and institutions, ii) effective financial consumer protection policies, and iii) programs of financial education. In general, this dimension takes on greater relevance in more advanced stages of financial inclusion, when the problem of access is eventually resolved.
The fundamental measures that should accompany greater access and use, in order that they not endanger stability, might seem to be related to those that were outlined after the crisis for the most advanced stages of financial development: prudential regulations, financial consumer protection policies and financial education. Nevertheless, the risks and frictions associated with financial inclusion are different to and less pronounced than those associated with financial development in its most advanced stages, as are the measures to be applied.
In this regard, it is important to specify what type of state intervention or regulation is necessary in the particular case of financial inclusion, rather than automatically applying measures derived from the financial crisis. The application of standards and other measures that guarantee financial stability might prove to be a setback to the inclusion processes, hence, a key element is the application of the principle of proportionality: the balance of risks and benefits in the face of the welfare costs of regulation and supervision of different financial inclusion instruments and institutions . An example of the application of this principle is delegated supervision, which seems to be the most recommendable alternative, as in the case of federations and confederations for the supervision of cooperatives.
It seems fitting to conclude by highlighting the need to continue studying the potential links between financial stability and inclusion through the development of theoretical frameworks, evaluated with adequate empirical methodologies. The theoretical framework of traditional financial markets could be extended to give space to new, stability-endangering frictions related to greater access to and use of financial markets. In addition, there are enormous gaps in the information on financial inclusion institutions, given that a large part of them are outside the regulatory perimeter of state authority. It is also necessary that databases be developed that contain information on the nature of financial inclusion institutions and instruments, as well as regulatory and supervisory structures.
 Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (2015), Range of practice in the regulation and supervision of institutions relevant to financial inclusion, January.
María José Roa is Researcher in the Economics Department at the Center for Latin American Monetary Studies, CEMLA (www.cemla.org). Her research is mainly on economic growth, financial inclusion, behavioral finance, personality psychology in economics, and financial education. She has been teaching for almost 20 years in different universities around the world. Her work has appeared in refereed international journals. She coordinates the Financial Inclusion and Education Program in Central Banks at CEMLA, and she is member of the Research Committee of the OECD/INFE. She is originally from Madrid, Spain, but she lives in Mexico City.
African banking sectors have witnessed significant changes in their structure over the past several decades with the penetration of regional cross-border banks. We have investigated whether these changes have led to more competition in the banking industry.
The entry of foreign banks increases the number of players and therefore, is likely to increase competition in the banking sector. Moreover, cross-border banks have a comparative advantage when entering new markets in terms of better access to capital, risk diversification, scale economies, skill and management expertise. In particular, foreign banks that originated from Africa have an additional competitive advantage in dealing with countries sharing similar institutional, cultural and economic characteristics. These banks could thus adopt more aggressive strategies to gain market shares.
Several factors, however, may limit the ability of African cross-border banks to increase competition in host markets. The effect of foreign banks entry on competition is conditional to market strategies and the degree of engagement of the regional banks in host countries. For instance, the entry of new banks can exert no effect on competition if these banks follow their clients abroad or focus on a fringe demand that is not financed by domestic banks. Thus, a foreign bank might become a dominant player and reduce contestability. In addition, the multi-market contact theory documents that firms interacting in several markets have more incentives to collude. Therefore the fact that cross-border banks interact in different national markets may reduce their willingness to compete.
To investigate how the expansion of regional banks in Africa has affected banking sector competition, we compared the evolution of competition and the market share of African cross-border banks over the period 2002-2009 in a sample of seven West African countries (Benin, Burkina-Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo). We used 3 different measures of competition: the Lerner index, the Panzar-Rosse H-statistic and the Boone indicator. Countries under consideration in this study, which are all members of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), have a major advantage for our purpose. Since the mid-2000s, the WAEMU banking landscape has changed dramatically with the arrival and expansion of new banks from Africa. African cross-border banks began their expansion in the WAEMU ten years ago, whereas this change has occurred very recently elsewhere in the continent.
The findings of this study reveal that the penetration of regional banks goes hand-in-hand with more competition among banks. The results show that the degree of competition has increased since the mid-2000s.
Put differently, the expansion of regional banks seems to spur competition in Africa. These preliminary results should be confirmed by a more rigorous test including more African countries. In addition, further research should analyse the consequences of the development of cross-border banks on banking efficiency, stability and inclusion in Africa.
This blogpost is based on the paper "Has competition in African banking sectors improved? Evidence from West Africa", prepared by Florian Léon from the University d'Auvergne - CERDI.