Tag Archives: Africa

Spotlight on Cameroon

Things are looking up in the land of Bikutsi and Makossa.

The Africa Rising story often features a few high profile countries that have dominated investors’ attention: Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and a few others are where most of the deals seem to happen.

Meanwhile, flying under the radar is Cameroon. Lately we are seeing an increase in business and entrepreneurial activity in the public and private sectors that leads one to think that this market deserves a closer look.

ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL PROFILE

The Republic of Cameroon is officially a democracy with executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Paul Biya has been president since 1982.

Like most of Africa, the economy is based on natural resources, chief among them, timber, aluminum, agriculture (particularly, cocoa, palm oil), and oil & gas.

In addition there are hints of entrepreneurial activity that could lead to a larger private sector contribution to the nation’s economy.

RECENT ACTION

Just this year we’ve encountered several examples of entrepreneurial ventures and development initiatives that could be attractive to investors:

  • Ovamba is a financial services company that uses an innovative lending model to provide short term capital to small and medium sized businesses.
  • An American entrepreneur has made a big bet on palm oil in Cameroon. His business produces substantial volumes and has strong support from the local community.
  • We have been made aware of a major initiative by government to improve the Cameroonian infrastructure. Contractors an financial investors can select from dozens of projects in several sectors including transport, agribusiness, and electric power.

COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES

Anglophone meets Francophone. Though mostly French speaking, Cameroon has a significant English speaking population, making partners, and staff available for both language groups.

Bridge to West and Central Africa. Cameroon often identifies and is identified by others as a Central and West African nation. For this reason, and due to its location Cameroon can serve as a base of operations for Central or West Africa.

On the verge of becoming an LNG exporter. Oil and gas are fields have been developed on and off shore on the West African coast. Cameroon is a part of the west coast African oil story. LNG reserves are large enough that Cameroon may soon become a gas exporter.

POTENTIAL RISKS

President for life? President Biya his held office for 35 years. The country seems stable so far, but one wonders about the succession plan and whether an orderly transition will occur.

Anglo & Franco living together. The combination of Anglophone and Francophone that is a source of strength for Cameroon can also be a source of division and instability. So far that has not occurred and we consider this to be a minor issue.

We would love to hear from other business people about their experiences and impressions of the business climate in Cameroon. Your comments are welcome.

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Risk Management for African Private Equity

PE investments in Africa generally fall into the alternative investments group. As such they compete for a share of investors’ allocation to the alternative investments category along with frontier market regions. Our challenge as Africa-focused fund managers, consultants, and advisors is to attract more of this capital to Africa, thereby contributing to Africa’s development, and the success of our enterprises. Ultimately we would like to see African deals shed the “alternative” label.

One topic we constantly confront is the risk—both real and perceived of deals associated with Africa. It is therefore important for us to provide sound risk analysis and risk mitigation strategies to aid clients, LPs and other investors in their capital deployment decisions. Risk can be classified as political, economic (e.g. currency), and operational (e.g. supply chain).

What is the best approach for risk analysis?

Several well known rankings of world economies are a starting point for risk analysis. (see table) These include:

  • World Bank Doing Business ranking,
  • World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index,
  • Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index,
  • JLL Global Real Estate Transparency Index.

The highest ranked African countries are usually in the middle of these rankings.

While these rankings and the data within them are a good preliminary indicator, do they tell the whole story? How do we find the growing business based in a less attractive country, but positioned to expand into other markets? Is political risk really a deal killer or are there circumstances in which business will get done anyway? Are there industries investors should avoid even when macro indicators look promising? Our ability to address these issues should lead to more nuanced assessments of risk and guide investors to better results.

How do we mitigate risk to make deals bankable?

Can PE firms take a leadership role in risk management using a holistic approach that recognizes the link between legal, political and financial risks?

Can management teams be “coached up “ to make a deal bankable? There are a number of ways PE firms and consultants can add value to make deals more attractive. For example:

  • Improving accounting and financial management, process improvements
  • Access to training such as online compliance

Probably the most important risk mitigation tool Africa-focused PE firms have is their knowledge and experience in African markets. This local knowledge is obtained in a variety of ways. Obviously Africa based firms have local knowledge built in at least for their home country and usually for their region as well. Other firms can rely on African professional staff and on local partners on the ground who can provide useful market intelligence.

Some conclusions to share with prospective LPs and other investors:

  1. Several African markets compare favorably with other emerging/frontier markets in Latin America and Asia according to the rankings:
  • Transparency of Kenya’s real estate sector exceeds that of Chile and Ukraine.

  • Cape Verde and Liberia are less corrupt than Brazil or the Czech Republic

      2. PE firms and advisors are highly knowledgeable about the African business                    environment and have access to excellent market intelligence. This                              enables them to educate and guide the investor community in                                      making realistic assessments of risk. 

I would encourage practitioners to continue the discussion on how to improve          investors’ understanding of risk management in Africa. We welcome your                insights on this blog and elsewhere.

Your firms’ local knowledge, both in-house as well as in your networks on the ground make you the right people to guide LPs toward profitable deals.

GLOBAL RANKINGS OF KEY AFRICAN MARKETS

WEF GCI

WORLD BANK DOING BUSINESS

TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL

JLL REAL ESTATE TRANSPARENCY

ALGERIA

87

156

108

ANGOLA

182

BENIN

124

155

95

BOTSWANA

64

71

35

41

BURKINA FASO

146

72

CAPE VERDE

110

129

38

COTE D’IVOIRE

99

142

108

104

ETHIOPIA

109

159

108

GABON

108

164

101

GHANA

114

108

70

85

KENYA

96

92

145

61

LESOTHO

120

100

83

LIBERIA

131

174

37

MAURITIUS

45

49

54

58

MOROCCO

70

68

90

71

MOZAMBIQUE

133

137

132

101

NAMIBIA

84

108

53

NIGERIA

127

169

136

83

RWANDA

52

56

54

80

SENEGAL

112

147

64

SOUTH AFRICA

47

74

54

SWAZILAND

111

TANZANIA

116

132

116

99

UGANDA

113

115

151

90

ZAMBIA

118

98

87

57

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Strengthening Private Investment in Africa

AAII1

Norton Rose Fulbright law firm was the scene last Tuesday for the Africa Alternative Investment Intensive. The forum was part of a series of conferences on the African investment landscape organized by Africonomie.

Investors such as Abraaj, Capri Africa, and Sarona Asset Management were represented. In addition, several important players in the African financial ecosystem were in attendance. These include PWC’s Mauritius office, IGD Leaders and PAN Diaspora Capital Management.

The AAII was a gathering of practitioners bringing their real world experience. It was an opportunity to share ideas and insights aimed at fostering a healthier African investment climate. Here are some of the topics:

 

Attracting American Capital to Africa

Obi McKenzie of Black Rock had constructive recommendations for fund managers. A fund’s track record is a big selling point. New funds without much of a record are encouraged to pursue funds of funds. A useful sources of leads is the National Association of Investment Companies.

Encouraging US pension fund managers to consider African investments

Donna Sims Wilson, president of the National Association of Securities Professionals gave a presentation on the NASP Africa Initiative. It is a USAID funded initiative known as Mobilizing Institutional Investors to Develop Africa’s Infrastructure, or MiDA. The goal is to expose US public pension plan sponsors to co-invest with African fund managers in Africa’s infrastructure.

Risk mitigation

Several times during the conference presenters pointed out various risks that must be managed either with insurance products or deal structuring. Currency risk was a topic of particular concern. Risk management in African investments will be address in more detail shortly in a subsequent post.

Startups & smaller deals

This is a segment of the market that the financial community has not really addressed. There were audience questions during the day about funding the “missing middle” deals of roughly $500k to $1 million. A panel on Smart Capital and the future Innovative Technologies in Africa identified several themes such as mobile technology.

Impact investing and ESG issues

Panels on ESG related risks and delivering sustainable energy addressed social an developmental impacts of investing. The very definition of ESG and how it is measured were among the topics discussed.

Last week’s Africa Alternative Investment Intensive continues the conversation and sets the stage for the next AAII gathering next month in London.

AAII2

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Africa’s Global Competitiveness–4 Themes to Consider

1. Is the commodity supercycle turning back upward?

  • Oil seems to have bottomed. After falling to the high 20s West Texas oil is close to $50 a barrel. Latest forecasts expect a plateau around $60
  • Metals are soft but not falling fast with gold just under $1300/ounce and copper about $2.17/pound.
  • Coffee rising—ICO composite index up 15% this year
  • Cocoa down 13% this year though up 20% over the last 4 years

2. Global growth forecast is a lackluster 3.1%-Africa slows to 1.6%

  • Has Africa hit bottom at 1.6% growth? Slowdown due largely to slowdown in commodities and reduced imports by China. With oil and other commodities recovering African economies should return to above average growth.

3. Are African leaders prepared to take the policy steps necessary to liberate their economies from commodity dependence?

  • UNIDO’s 2016 Industrial Development Report report discusses the nature of African industrialization and why it has not progressed further. African industrial activities ends to be resource based and has a low and decreasing percentage of global manufacturing value added.
  • The Brookings Institution’s Learning to Compete project notes the virtuous circle in which productivity enables exports and exports raise productivity.
  • The clear implication is that governments must implement policies that increase productivity, promote exports, and reduce dependence on natural resources.

4. The dialogue has started—time for public and private sector action!

  • Africa’s role in global value chains was discussed at this year’s IMF meetings.
  • EFMA Oct 13 conference on Supply Chain Risks in Emerging Markets will address challenges developing countries face in joining global supply chains.
  • We need policies that support sustainable growth and private sector investments that support these policies and offer favorable risk adjusted returns.
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8 WAYS TO ASSESS THE IMPACT OF #AFRICAN #TECH #STARTUPS

 

I. Jobs Created

  • We of course want to know the total number of jobs created by startups. In addition we need to understand the type of jobs created and how that fits with the profile of the national labor force. What are the salary levels and how do they compare to the local statutory minimum wage? Will these startups have a significant impact on their local labor markets?

II. Capital Raised

  • Are these startups attracting new capital to Africa?
  • Are they attracting foreign capital from other African countries?
  • Are they attracting capital from within their own countries?

III. Increase in Skills and Know-How

  • Are the startups introducing new technology or management practices
  • Are skills and know-how spreading beyond the universities to the general population?

IV. Return on Capital Invested

  • Have investors in African startups experienced favorable outcomes?

V. Export Revenue Within and Outside Africa

  • Are African startups exporting?
  • Are African startups enabling exports by other companies in their home countries?

VI. Supportive of African Business

  • In what other tangible ways have these startups helped foster the growth of African businesses?
  • Training
  • Access to customers
  • Access to capital

VII. Social Impact

  • Environmental
  • Education
  • Poverty reduction
  • Financial inclusion

VIII. Intangibles

  • Inspiration – Is there a 12 year old girl in a village saying “I want to be an entrepreneur too!”
  • Positive influence on government – Is there a community of entrepreneurs who can make their voice heard in the halls of government to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem?
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3 Lessons from the 2015 Africa Business Conference at Harvard Business School

As usual there was a palpable spirit of optimism at this year’s Africa Business Conference at Harvard Business School. While the facts on the ground may not be as rosy, I did come away with several observations that will be helpful in current tasks as well as in plotting strategy in the medium and long term.

1. Storage and transportation of both inputs and goods for sale are critical to improving farm performance.

2. Institutional Private equity is well entrenched in Africa and the characteristics of a successful deal are increasingly well known. In the second panel on closing the electricity deficit the parameters for funding power projects were clearly laid out:

  • A quality PPA deal is required. This is the guarantee of cash flow that investors look for. They’re not all created equal. For example, local currency denomination is a deal killer since it adds currency risk to the equation.
  • The PE folks will also need a sovereign guarantee as an indication that the government supports the project.
  • As always a strong management team makes the deal much more attractive.

3. Startup capital especially for non-tech ventures is extremely difficult to find. Angel investors and venture capitalists are slowly finding their way to tech-related, high growth startups. For others, it’s tougher but there are a few possibilities:

  • Impact investors. If one can demonstrate measurable social benefit in addition to financial returns then a new set of potential investors becomes available. Many impact investors use the IRIS standard to assess social benefit. African companies would be wise to seek out experts who can help the make their case using IRIS
  • Multilateral/DFI capital. Organizations such as the African Development Bank and International Finance Corporation sometimes have special programs for ventures with attractive features such as environments sustainability.
  • Trade promotion agencies. Agencies such as the U.S. Export-Import Bank can often provide funding or lean guarantees for capital purchases that meet certain requirements.

As always the Harvard Business School Conference showed us an Africa on the move—not without its issues, but with opportunities for businesspeople to benefit themselves, their organizations and the African continent. Successful entrepreneurs will assemble a skilled team that can execute on their vision and achieve financial and social results.

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Major Africa Stock Market and Exchange Rate Changes in Q4-2014

Advansa International follows exchange rates and stock market indexes for several emerging and frontier markets. Exchange rates and stock indexes are recorded on the last trading day of the week. The tables below show changes from the last trading day of the last full week of the quarter for several key markets in Africa.

Table 1 

 STOCK MARKET INDEX TRACKER 4TH QUARTER 2014

AFRICA

COUNTRY

4TH QUARTER PCT CHANGE

GHANA-Local Currency

1.42%

GHANA-US$

2.83%

KENYA-Local Currency

-4.70%

KENYA-US$

-6.19%

NIGERIA-Local Currency

-15.66%

NIGERIA-US$

-27.06%

SOUTH AFRICA-Local Currency

-0.37%

SOUTH AFRICA-US$

-3.42%

WEST AFR. BOURSE-Local Currency

-1.91%

WEST AFR. BOURSE-US$

-6.05%

MSCI AFRICA-Local Currency

0.89%

MSCI AFRICA-US$

-2.52%

MSCI EMERGING MARKETS-Local Currency

-2.10%

MSCI EMERGING MARKETS-US$

-6.97%

Sources: Stock exchange websites, Financial Times, Advansa International data

Table 2

4TH QUARTER 2014 EXCHANGE RATE TRACKER

AFRICA

COUNTRY

4TH QTR PCT CHG

YTD

DEC PCT CHANGE

CFA AREA*

-4.14%

-11.66%

GHANA

1.41%

-25.86%

KENYA

-1.49%

-5.08%

NIGERIA

-11.40%

-13.27%

SOUTH AFRICA

-3.05%

-9.56%

TANZANIA

-2.07%

-7.42%

UGANDA

-3.88%

-9.18%

Sources: Financial Times, Advansa International data

*Includes most French speaking countries such as Benin, Cameroon, Cote D’ivoire, Guinea, Senegal, Togo and others

It was a rough year for emerging market stocks with the MSCI Emerging Markets Index losing 2.1% in the fourth quarter and 0.69% the full year 2014. African stock markets did better than emerging markets in Q4, though for the year the MSCI Africa index trailed emerging markets. Nigeria was the worst performer largely due to the fall in the price of oil. Its downward momentum continued into the first week of 2015 with the Global MSCI Nigeria ETF falling another 9%. Ghana was the strongest performer, up 1.42% in the 4th quarter, and 2.83% for the year.

All currencies in our table fell against the dollar in 2014, which diminishes returns (and increases losses) for foreign investors. This is partly a function of dollar strength rather than weakness of African currencies. The US economy finished the year strong and the dollar index was up from 99.1 at the end of 2013 to 102.8 at the end of 2014’s 3rd quarter. The currency depreciation also reflects the challenges to resource based emerging and frontier market economies that has persisted all year. A couple of currencies were especially weak. Ghana for example was down almost 26% in 2014. Aggressive action by the central bank, with the assistance of the IMF reversed the slide and the cedi has recovered, showing a slight gain in the fourth quarter. Nigeria’s naira showed the biggest loss of the quarter again influenced by the drop in the price of oil.

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Major African Stock Market and Exchange Rate Changes in Q3-2014

Advansa International follows exchange rates and stock market indexes for several emerging and frontier markets. Exchange rates and stock indexes are recorded on the last trading day of the week. The tables below show changes from the last trading day of the last full week of the quarter for several key markets in Africa.

Table 1 

 STOCK MARKET INDEX TRACKER 3RD QUARTER 2014

AFRICA

COUNTRY

3RD QUARTER PCT CHANGE

GHANA-Local Currency

-4.18%

GHANA-US$

-3.87%

KENYA-Local Currency

7.92%

KENYA-US$

6.18%

NIGERIA-Local Currency

-3.24%

NIGERIA-US$

-3.86%

SOUTH AFRICA-Local Currency

-1.90%

SOUTH AFRICA-US$

-7.28%

WEST AFR. BOURSE-Local Currency

9.21%

WEST AFR. BOURSE-US$

2.28%

MSCI AFRICA-Local Currency

0.52%

MSCI AFRICA-US$

-4.41%

MSCI EMERGING MARKETS-Local Currency

1.44%

MSCI EMERGING MARKETS-US$

-2.13%

Sources: Stock exchange websites, Financial Times, Advansa International data

Table 2

3RD QUARTER 2014 EXCHANGE RATE TRACKER

AFRICA

COUNTRY

3RD QTR PCT CHG

YTD

SEP PCT CHANGE

CFA AREA*

-6.92%

-7.85%

GHANA

0.31%

-26.89%

KENYA

-1.74%

-3.64%

NIGERIA

-0.62%

-2.10%

SOUTH AFRICA

-5.38%

-6.72%

TANZANIA

-1.16%

-5.46%

UGANDA

-1.89%

-5.51%

Sources: Financial Times, Advansa International data

*Includes most French speaking countries such as Benin, Cameroon, Cote D’ivoire, Guinea, Senegal, Togo and others

Emerging and frontier market stocks showed mixed results as the MSCI Emerging Markets Index rose 1.44%, and the MSCI Africa Index was up 0.52%. Choppy commodities prices, and mixed economic performance lead to losses in some countries like South Africa and gains in others. The Nairobi Exchange in Kenya and the West Africa Bourse were the strong performers in Q3.

Currencies that were weak in the first half of the year—notably Ghana—have largely stabilized. Though most currencies are lower against the dollar, this is due more to a strong dollar than weakness elsewhere. The US Dollar index rose from 99.316 in Q2 to 100.342 in Q3.

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Major African Stock Index and Exchange Rate Changes in Q2-2014

Advansa International follows exchange rates and stock market indexes for several emerging and frontier markets. Exchange rates and stock indexes are recorded on the last trading day of the week. The tables below show changes from the last trading day of the last full week of the quarter for several key markets in Africa.

Table 1 

 STOCK MARKET INDEX TRACKER 2ND QUARTER 2014

AFRICA

COUNTRY

2ND QUARTER PCT CHANGE

GHANA-Local Currency

-1.42%

GHANA-US$

-18.45%

KENYA-Local Currency

-2.78%

KENYA-US$

-3.86%

NIGERIA-Local Currency

10.06%

NIGERIA-US$

11.33%

SOUTH AFRICA-Local Currency

5.62%

SOUTH AFRICA-US$

5.32%

WEST AFR. BOURSE-Local Currency

-2.17%

WEST AFR. BOURSE-US$

-2.99%

MSCI AFRICA-Local Currency

4.25%

MSCI AFRICA-US$

3.94%

MSCI EMERGING MARKETS-Local Currency

4.44%

MSCI EMERGING MARKETS-US$

6.22%

Sources: Stock exchangewebsites, Financial Times, Advansa International data

 

Table 2

2ND QUARTER 2014 EXCHANGE RATE TRACKER

AFRICA

COUNTRY

2ND QTR PCT CHG 

 

YTD JUN PCT CHANGE 

CFA AREA*

-0.81%

-0.99%

GHANA

-17.03%

-27.12%

KENYA

-1.07%

-1.94%

NIGERIA

1.27%

-1.49%

SOUTH AFRICA

-0.30%

-1.42%

TANZANIA

-1.09%

-4.35%

UGANDA

-1.85%

-3.70%

Sources: Financial Times, Advansa International data

*Includes most French speaking countries such as Benin, Cameroon, Cote D’ivoire, Guinea, Senegal, Togo and others

The big markets–Nigeria and South Africa performed well. Both markets were up in local currency and in dollars.It appears that the long term story–the demographic boom, the growing middle class, the improved political environment in some countries–are causing investors to look past current bumps in the road.

Despite lackluster growth, South African stocks have been strong. The country remains an attractive investment destination, its stock market being the largest and most liquid in Africa.

Nigerian stocks have proven attractive to investors and Boko Haram attacks and new competition from North American shale oil have not changed anyone’s thinking so far. Most of the market activity is in the financial services sector lead by such firms as Access Capital and Guaranty Bank. Consumer goods companies such as Nigerian Brew have also showed strength. The naira actually gained a little during the quarter and remains within the narrow range that has prevailed all year.

In Ghana, currency weakness continues as the nation has sought IMF assistance to help get its accounts back toward balance. Trading activity is as usual dominated by the large consumer and financial service companies such as Fan Milk, UT Bank, and EcoBank. The stock market has weakened, reflecting caution among investors even though the economy is still growing. Could be a chance to get in the market cheap.

In fact, the current period is a possible second chance for international investors to invest in African assets at favorable prices when exchange rates make deals affordable and much of the bad news is already priced in.

 

 

 

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Ghana’s Currency, Millennium Challenge and Economic Prospects

The Millennium Challenge Corp. recently signed a second compact with the Republic of Ghana.http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2014/08/230295.htm  This compact’s focus on the power sector addresses a major challenge to Ghana’s economic growth and to Ghanaians’ overall quality of life. The signing of the MCC compact is a good time to reflect on current economic and business conditions in Ghana.
Ghana is potentially a strong economic engine for the region and Secretary of State Kerry is right to cite Ghana’s commitment to good governance and economic prosperity. However the country faces some major challenges. Among them is the rapid depreciation of Ghana’s currency. Our data shows that the cedi lost about 27% in the 1st half of the year and has continued to fall since then. Currency weakness in Ghana is a symptom of persistent trade deficits as well as rising government spending. The financial community has noticed and has raised the issue in several forums and publications. It doesn’t change the longer term story of Ghana’s growth potential (in fact dollar based investors might find favorable prices for Ghanaian assets) but it does raise questions about how government will handle the problem while remaining investor friendly.
Red flags went up earlier this year when the government began to restrict the movement of currency, damaging Ghana’s reputation for financial openness. The more sensible answer is to change the character of Ghanaian trade. Surpluses might be a lot to ask but Ghana should at least aim for smaller trade deficits. Ramping up the nascent oil sector would help but there should also be greater orientation toward exporting in several sectors. This is why reliable electric power is so crucial. It’s location, general business friendliness and political stability make Ghana a logical export platform for the West Africa region as well as destinations further abroad. However for indigenous and foreign investors to locate in Ghana reliable electric power is essential. For that reason we should all hope for the success of this second MCC compact.

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