Most people seem to think that intra-African trade could be substantially larger than it currently is. This would explain the recent statement of the heads of the African Union to “boost” intra-African trade substantially and to create an Africa-wide Free Trade Area by 2017.
Macroeconomics and Economic Growth
A week hardly goes-by without one or more international investors announcingmajor investment interests in Nairobi, or other African capital cities.
Nokia, Nestle, and IBM are some of the companies which intend to position themselves more strongly in (East) Africa. True, their investments may still be low by international standards, but they are increasingly becoming noticeable.
On a macroeconomic level, the new Africa momentum has also been evident. Africa has weathered both the global financial crisis, and the turbulence in the Euro zone. According to World Bank’s latest economic outlook, Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to grow above 5 percent in 2012 and 2013. This would be higher than the average of developing countries (excluding China), and substantially, above growth in high-income countries. This means that at some point in this decade, Africa could grow above the levels of Asia. A few years ago, it would not have been possible for economic observers to consider such a scenario. Once Africa becomes the fastest growing continent in the world; this will also be the true turning point for Africa’s global perception.
UPDATE (May 15th, 2012) Caroline Freund, World Bank Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa has joined the debate. See her remarks.
The Chief Economists of all the regions where the World Bank implements programs got together recently to exchange thoughts about the current state of development economics.
You can read a summary of our views related to Africa, South Asia, and Europe and Central Asia here.
And we hope you can participate in this debate by sharing your own views via the comments section below.
Latest business surveys for the Euro Area suggest that the nascent recovery in activity in the region may be shortlived. Recent data suggests that Euro-Area deleveraging has had a negative impact on trade finance, but that trade finance availability should firm during 2012. Developing countries have made substantial progress toward reducing global poverty, but progress reducing child and maternal mortality rates (two factors closely linked to nutrition) has lagged.
|Headwinds from Euro Area likely to persist through the second quarter of 2012. After Euro Area industrial production accelerated through February 2012, recent business surveys have taken a turn for the worse, suggesting that the recovery in activity may be short lived. Markit’s Purchasing Manager’s Index for both manufacturing and services in the Euro Area dipped deeper into contractionary territory in April. Although not conclusive, the decline suggests that the ongoing banking sector deleveraging, fiscal consolidation, rising unemployment, high-oil prices, and recent renewed concerns on Euro Area sovereign debts will continue to weigh on real sector activity in Q2. Continued European weakness bodes ill for developing country exporters. |
|Trade finance for firms in developing countries appears set to firm after recent weakness. European banking-sector deleveraging cut into trade finance flows as measured by Dealogic in the second half of 2011. Europe (includes both high-income and developing European economies) had been hardest hit, with Q1 2012 flows well below the levels observed even in Q4 2011, when European trade activity was falling at a 29.5 percent annualized pace. In developing regions the story is more mixed. In East Asia and Latin America the data shows some pick up perhaps reflecting entry of regional banks into the trade finance arena. In the Middle East the dissipation of some of the turmoil associated with political change in North Africa has supported flows. Trade finance flows to Africa are also up slightly. However, in South Asia, which witnessed a sharper Q4 2012 trade contraction, flows remain down. A recent ICC-IMF survey observed that the majority of respondents expected an improvement in the outlook for trade finance in 2012. |
|Developing countries make progress towards the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). Two of the MDGs (benchmark development objectives for the year 2015 set by the UN in 2000) have been met, with a halving of global poverty rates and of the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water. However, MDGs closely linked to food and nutrition are lagging. One conservative estimate suggests that over 200 million children under five years of age in developing countries fail to reach their cognitive development potential because of risks of poor nutrition and poor health. Despite its critical role, only about 0.3% of aid flows are oriented toward nutrition. In recent years, progress has been further complicated by high food prices, which affect diet quality, real-incomes and access to quality of care for infants and young children. |
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First, the good news: The world has become considerably less poor. Today, 43 percent of people are considered to be living in poverty—that is, living on less than $2 per day—compared to 30 years ago when almost three-fourths of the developing world was doing so. Even more heartening is that extreme poverty—that is, living on less than $1.25 per day to meet the most basic human needs—has declined even more.
Optimism about Africa’s future is no longer scarce. The continent’s growth has been exemplary in recent years. Yet it is just as easy to find signs of distrust in the global economy.
Multilateral agencies insist that international integration offers opportunities for accelerating economic growth. Official parlance has become tame since the heyday of structural reforms in the early 1990s, but they have found subtle ways to argue that trade is good. The World Bank recently launched “Defragmenting Africa,” providing an exhaustive and exhausting list of policies to increase international trade within the continent.
Unsurprisingly the prescriptions can be costly. Removing import taxes might improve economic efficiency and enhance consumer welfare, but revenues can fall in countries with limited public resources. Although Africa harbors some of the highest trade taxes in the world (World Development Report 2009), the point is that there are tradeoffs. The same applies to policies that entail investments in infrastructure for “trade facilitation.”
What would Africa get in return?
Over half the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa subsidize fuel to protect consumers from high and volatile prices. But fuel subsidies are neither cheap nor likely to be sustainable (see the full analysis in the new Africa's Pulse).
Data for 2010-11 show that fuel price subsidies consumed, on average, 1.4 percent of GDP in public resources: The fiscal cost in oil exporters was almost two-and-a-half times that in oil importers. In the face of high (and rising) world fuel prices, a number of countries have raised domestic prices to stem fiscal costs.
For example, Ghana raised fuel prices by about 30 percent in January 2011. The Nigerian government removed the subsidy on gasoline this January, although a portion of the subsidy was subsequently reinstated. With oil prices likely to remain elevated, fuel subsidies will continue to weigh on government budgets in Africa.
But who benefits from fuel price subsidies?
Expenditure data for seven African countries show that the distribution of these subsidies is disproportionately concentrated in the hands of the rich. Richer households spend a larger amount on fuel products, and, consequently, benefit more than poorer households from any universal subsidy on these products. On average the richest 20% receive over six times more in subsidy benefits than the poorest 20%.
One of the most distressing aspects of the frail economic recovery from the global crisis has been lagging job creation. In developed and developing countries alike, millions of people remain unemployed (some 200 million by ILO estimates), and many who still have jobs live in fear of losing them or seeing their incomes and benefits stagnate. Fortunately, the worst may be over in several parts of the world.
Can Africa claim the 21st century? When the World Bank’s Africa department published this book in April 2000, most observers were doubtful that African countries would ever be in a position to become emerging markets. That year, The Economist called Africa “The hopeless continent” and global attention was focused mainly on Africa’s problems: HIV/Aids in Southern Africa; the relentless war in Somalia; and, droughts in the Sahel—which gave the pessimists plenty of ammunition.
But over the last several years, something remarkable has happened: Africa’s fragile and conflict-affected countries remain a major development challenge, but besides these, a Stable Africa has emerged. Most of this Stable Africa has experienced continued high growth for a decade, and major improvements in social indicators. Africa is becoming an investment destination, and there is hardly a week which goes by without a major investor dropping by my office, to discuss the region’s economic fundamentals.
How has Africa changed over the last decades?
This piece was co-authored with Günther Schulze1.
Kenya may have found oil in Turkana that could change the development trajectory for the country. In 2011, Kenya spent US$ 4.1 billion on oil imports, equivalent to approximately 100,000 barrels per day. For Kenya to become a net oil exporter, the resources in Turkana would need to be substantial and similar to those of Sudan or Chad.
If indeed Kenya has substantial oil reserves, will they benefit the country in the long-term?
Some observers are predicting similar problems as in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and many other resource-rich African countries where corruption has been amplified.
Others argue that this need not be the case. Countries as diverse as Botswana, Chile and Norway have shown that natural resources can be a blessing. If managed well, they can even support the fight against poverty by providing the resources needed to scale up the delivery of public services. In the last ten years, many of the world’s fastest growing economies, including in Africa, have benefitted from exporting natural resources.
So who should we believe?
|Investors have jumped back into emerging-market equity and bond mutual funds, bringing quarterly inflows up to about $40 billion—well above the 7-year average. Unemployment rates are retreating in most countries, but continue to rise from an already elevated level in high-spread Euro Area countries. Increased grain planting area announced in the U.S. suggest that, if normal weather conditions prevail, grain markets are likely to be wellsupplied. However, increased plantings were achieved at the expense of soybeans—which could bring price pressures to edible oil markets. |
|Investors have returned to emerging markets (EM) equity and fixed-income mutual funds in the first quarter of 2012, although the pace of inflows has decelerated recently. Emerging market bond funds received total inflows of $14.4 billion in inflows during the first quarter, while equity funds posted inflows of $25.6 billion. This follows a very weak second half of 2011 when investors redeemed positions equal to some $9.6 and $17.6 billion in the third and fourth quarters respectively. Despite recent declines, monthly inflows during March exceeded 7-year averages by 10.8 percent for equities and are almost 4 times higher for bonds.|
|Unemployment rates continue to rise in high-spread high-income European countries, while in developing and other high-income countries they are declining. So far this year the aggregate unemployment rate in high-spread high-income European countries has risen by 1.1 percentage points and now exceeds 15 percent. This contrasts with Germany where the unemployment rate continues to fall and is now well below pre-crisis levels. Elsewhere in Europe unemployment rates are also declining, but only gradually and unemployment remains well above pre-crisis levels. Unemployment is also declining among high-income countries outside Europe, notably in the United States, although there too the unemployment rate is still almost 3.5 percentage points above its pre-crisis average. Among the 27 developing countries reporting data, unemployment inched down to 7.2 percent of the labor force as of February 2012—regaining its pre-2008-crisis level, and significantly below its 20-year average of 8.8 percent.|
|Global wheat and maize prices remain relatively low, despite lower than expected stocks. Maize and wheat prices are at broadly the same level as two weeks ago, despite sharp fluctuations in the run-up to and following recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports on planting intentions and grain stocks. The reports indicated that U.S. maize and wheat stocks on March 1st were 8 and 16 percent lower than a year ago, well below expectations and earlier estimates. As a result, futures prices jumped 6.6 and 7.9 percent on March 30th regaining the losses incurred earlier in the week in anticipation of a more upbeat outlook. The USDA also reported that US maize and wheat plantings are expected to rise 4 and 3 percent in 2012. As a result, if normal weather conditions prevail, grain markets will likely be well-supplied in 2012/13. However, most of the increased planting area will be at the expense of soybeans—which could put edible oil markets under upward price pressure, given weather-related late plantings in South America, cyclical declines in East Asian palm oil output, and increased demand for biodiesel production.|
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Supporters of social entrepreneurship often cite examples of “heroes” who have successfully built organizations to solve social problems on a global scale. But social entrepreneurship also includes many efforts to fix targeted, local problems rather than working toward large-scale global change. An increasing number of social entrepreneurs are experimenting with ways to use commercially generated revenue to grow and maintain their social impact.
These findings are part of one of the most robust quantitative studies of social enterprise to date. Undertaken by Harvard Business School Associate Professor Julie Battilana and her colleague Matthew Lee, a doctoral student at Harvard Business School, they analyzed 6 years worth of applicant data from Echoing Green. The purpose of the study is to expand the field of vision beyond “heroic stories” that dominate the discussion on social entrepreneurship. In this interview, they share some initial findings from their research.
Important developments today:
1. Japanese Yen strengthens as the country’s current account turns to surplus again
2. Japan’s current account returns to surplus in February
Perhaps it is not surprising that trade with emerging economies is often more complicated, time consuming, and costly than one would want. In addition to lacking some of the necessary physical infrastructure to transport goods, emerging economies frequently have complex and opaque regulatory requirements that create additional delays and increase transaction costs at their borders.