Uncertainty weighs on SA businesses
South Africa’s “turbulent” economy and uncertainty about the country’s future direction are taking their toll, and have impacted two-thirds (65,8%) of South African business executives’ operations and business decisions.
Asked to outline the ways in which economic uncertainty had affected their business decisions as part of Grant Thornton’s International Business Report for the fourth quarter of 2016, 58% of these executives stated they were delaying business expansion plans, while 47,5% were putting off investment decisions.
Nearly one-third of these executives (29,8%) were considering investing offshore, possibly in a more stable business environment and 23% were weighing up decisions to sell their business.
“We’ve been tracking economic uncertainty and its impact on South African business executives for a long time,” says Gillian Saunders, head of advisory services at Grant Thornton South Africa. “It’s concerning that such a huge proportion of our country’s corporate world is directly impacted by this instability. Delayed business decisions, stalling company growth and considerations to invest offshore will dampen our GDP growth even more.”
The International Business Report (IBR) from Grant Thornton provides tracker insights from around the world on a quarterly basis. These findings are from the IBR’s fourth quarter tracker data for 2016, revealing findings from business executive interviews held between September and December 2016. The survey presents perceptions into the views and expectations of over 10 000 C-Suite executives in privately-held and listed businesses, across more than 37 economies (more than 2600 interviews per quarter).
Regional and national perceptions are also researched every quarter for South Africa, from 400 privately-held South African business executives annually (100 executive interviews per quarter) regarding crime, service delivery and political climate.
Poor government service delivery
As part of the Q4 IBR survey, South African privately held business executives were also asked how their business had been affected by government service delivery or regulatory requirements in the past six months. Of the executives surveyed 62% stated that government service delivery had negatively affected their business while just 9% had been positively affected by this.
“Service delivery should be fully-functioning across all major city nodes, all the time. It is disappointing when government’s delivery of basic needs and infrastructure impacts the functionality of a business,” laments Saunders.
When executives were asked to outline which elements in particular were negatively affecting their business, 57% stated increased service costs, 53% stated disruption to supply of utilities, and 49% cited the cost of red tape and legislative compliance.
Global business optimism bounces back
When business leaders around the world were asked how optimistic they were about the outlook for their own country’s economy for the coming 12 months, a strong increase was reported internationally for the fourth quarter of 2016, as the world headed into 2017.
Research from the Grant Thornton International Business Report reveals that, globally, business optimism at the end of Q4 2016 stands at net 38%. This is an increase of 5pp (percentage points) from Q3 and the highest level since Q3 2015.
In the US, optimism increased from 43% to 54% – and the trend is repeated around the globe. The world’s two other big economic blocs, China (30% to 46%) and the EU (28% to 34%), reported similar jumps.
But South Africa’s optimism levels remained stagnant and the outlook for the next 12 months was underwhelming. South African businesses were – at the end of December 2016 – just a net 6% optimistic, which is 4pp down on Q3’s 10% optimism recorded at the end of September last year.
Optimism for the next 12 months
But Saunders adds that, compared to South African business executives’ extremely pessimistic outlook during Q1 of 2016 when a negative 41% (-41%) was recorded, the +48pp improvement in business optimism since then is certainly promising.
Grant Thornton calculates business optimism as a net balance statistic. This is calculated by taking the percentage of respondents who reported a positive outlook, less the percentage who reported a negative outlook for the year ahead.
“Starting 2017 off with more optimism than last year overall, is a positive sign,” sg=he says.
“South Africa has good economic growth potential in 2017. The massive drought is over for most of the country which will improve South Africa’s agriculture returns and global commodity prices are rallying somewhat along with generally improved outlook for global growth. Electricity supply is stabilising and the rand, although stronger, is still at reasonable values.
“These are just a few improvements we’ve seen as we start the year. Let’s hope the good news keeps coming, that optimism continues to grow as our nation’s economy begins to recover.”
Angola becomes ATI’s 21st Member State, pays USD25m in capital subscription fees
The Republic of Angola has become the 21st African Member State and the 1st Lusophone Member State of pan-African insurer, Africa Trade Insurance Agency – ATI, after paying a capital subscription of USD25 million. The membership was funded the Angolan National Treasury resources and proceeds from the landmark BITA water project – a strategic public investment for the construction of infrastructure for the treatment, supply and storage of drinking water that will benefit 2.5 million people in Angola.
Welcoming Angola’s membership, ATI’s Chief Executive Officer, Manuel Moses, noted the country’s demonstration of its commitment to diversify its economy through ATI’s trade and investment risk mitigation solutions.
“We are happy to support Angola in its quest to economic diversification and becoming an agricultural powerhouse on the African continent. Angola’s membership is timely as ATI’s risk mitigation and credit enhancement services will act as a catalyst for strengthening and diversifying Angola’s economy, supporting both increased investment, exports and trade under Africa’s continental framework of the AfCFTA,” Mr. Manuel said.
Under this one of a kind blended finance and guarantee innovative structure, the Republic of Angola – along with the lenders covered by ATI under the transaction – agreed for the use of proceeds under the syndicated loan to also include the financing for the purpose of Angola becoming a member of ATI. ATI provided guarantee and insurance support for this World Bank’s partially guaranteed facility to the Government of Angola for the expansion and improvement of water supply service in the urban and peri-urban belts of Luanda.
ATI’s gross exposure in Angola, the largest country in Southern Africa Region, currently stands at USD467M mainly in construction, energy & gas, trade & transport, water supply and wholesale & retail sectors, with transactions valued at USD1.4B.
“This development was made possible because of ATI’s pan African mandate that allows the organization to cover transactions in Angola and beyond, despite ATI non-membership. Now that Angola is a fully-fledged shareholder of ATI, the country can fully access more of ATI’s guarantee solutions to attract more Foreign Direct Investments and boost its internal and external trade across the region,” Mr. Manual explained.
Angola’s economy is mainly driven by its oil sector but the country seeks to pursue new growth models for economic diversification through the agricultural sector and private sector development.
With ATI’s support, Angola is on the path to fiscal consolidation, manage their debt ceiling, increase in public and private investment, in order to resume the ascending curve of sustainable and inclusive economic growth as well as human development.
ATI has grown from a small African start-up in 2001 into a pan-African institution with presence across Africa and with a significant global reach. Besides Angola, other member countries include Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Institutional members include African Development Bank, African Reinsurance Corporation, Atradius Group, Chubb, CESCE (Spanish ECA), Ministry of Finance India (represented by ECGC), SACE SIMEST, The Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Trade and Development Bank (TDB), Kenya-Re, The PTA Reinsurance Company (Zep-Re), and the UK Export Finance.
The Impact on G7’s multi-billion dollar plan on Africa’s infrastructure gap
G7 Members (Photo: European Union)
In late June 2022, it was announced at the G7 Summit in Germany that a USD 600 billion lending initiative, the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Initiative (PGII), would be launched to fund infrastructure projects in the developing world, with a particular focus on Africa. The G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) – explained the PGII would help address the infrastructure gap in developing countries.
The US has recently renewed its focus on impact-building and financing strategic, long-term infrastructure projects in Africa, with the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) supporting infrastructure development on the continent. According to a 2020 report by McKinsey and Company – Solving Africa’s infrastructure paradox – the US accounts for 38% of global investors who have an appetite for African investment, by far the most of any country. In 2021, the US launched a refreshed “Prosper Africa initiative”, focusing on improving reciprocal trade and investments that create jobs and build infrastructure between the two regions. In 2022, the US announced it would mobilise USD 200 billion over the next five years as part of the PGII, in the form of grants, financing and private sector investments. Some deals have already been announced, including, for example, a USD 2 billion solar energy project in Angola, and the building of multiple hospitals in Côte d’Ivoire.
In February 2022, the European Commission announced investment funding for Africa worth EUR 150 billion. The funding package is part of the EU Global Gateway Investment Scheme and is said to be in the form of EU combined member funds, member state investments and capital from investment banks.
In early 2020, the European Commission published its Comprehensive Strategy with Africa, outlining the region’s plans for its new, stronger relationship with the continent. The strategy document laid out five top priorities for the EU in Africa: the green transition and improving access to energy; digital transformation; sustainable growth and jobs; peace and governance; and migration and mobility.
The UK is also making a strong play for influence, investment and trade with Africa, post-Brexit. Further to key summits in 2020 and 2021, finance is being redirected into Africa from the UK. In 2022, UK development finance institution (DFI), British International Investment (formerly CDC Group), announced it had exceeded its pledge to invest GBP 2 billion in Africa over the last two years. The UK’s Global Infrastructure Programme helps partner countries (including in the African continent) to build capacity to develop major infrastructure projects, setting up infrastructure projects for success and paving the way for UK companies to support these projects.
Further, in November 2021, it was announced that the governments of South Africa, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, along with the European Union, were in negotiations to form a long-term Just Energy Transition Partnership. The partnership focuses on boosting the decarbonisation of the South African economy, with a commitment of USD 8.5 billion for first round financing. It is expected that 1-1.5 gigatonnes of emissions will be prevented over the next 20 years, assisting South Africa to accelerate its just transition. Discussions are also currently taking place to establish a similar partnership in Senegal.
The African Development Bank noted in early 2022 that Africa’s infrastructure investment gap is estimated at more than USD 100 billion per year.
DFIs are increasingly anchoring the infrastructure ecosystem in Africa – serving a critical function for project finance as investment facilitator and a check on capital. DFIs can shoulder political risk and access government protections in a way that others cannot, enter markets others cannot and are uniquely capable of facilitating long-term lending. The large amount of capital needed to fill the infrastructure gap, however, means that DFIs cannot bridge it alone. Private equity, local and regional banks, debt finance and specialist infrastructure funds are primed to enter the market, and multi-finance and blended solutions are expected to grow in popularity as a way to de-risk deals.
The African Union’s 55 member states have stated that their primary funding needs include support in terms of safety and security on the continent, as well help in implementing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and the massive infrastructure investment it needs to be successful. The development of supporting infrastructure is key to boosting AfCFTA’s free trade potential, especially in terms of transportation, energy provision, internet access and data services, education and healthcare infrastructure projects.
Infrastructure projects in Africa now also have a heightened focus on improving Africa’s capacity for green, low-carbon and sustainable development, via, for example, clean energy, community healthcare and support, green transport, sustainable water, wildlife protection and low-carbon development projects. Funding such projects comes with responsibility – projects must not only be bankable and yield attractive returns, but must also be sustainable and provide tangible benefits to local economies and communities. All of Africa’s major partners have noted they will prioritise projects that commit to Environmental, Social and Governance principles, and access to capital for large infrastructure projects is likely to contain sustainability requirements.
That the focus of the PGII is on the sustainability and the social impact of these projects in Africa is further evidenced in the White House briefing room statement issued at the launch in June 2022, where it was stated that the PGII will “mobilize hundreds of billions of dollars and deliver quality, sustainable infrastructure that makes a difference in people’s lives around the world…”
By: Michael Foundethakis, Baker McKenzie’s Global Head of Projects and Trade & Export Finance, and Africa Steering Committee Chair
Shelter Afrique: Rising cost of land, materials, could adversely affect provision of affordable housing
Shelter Afrique Ag. CEO & Chief Finance Officer Mr. Kingsley Muwowo (right) explaining engaging with delegates at the 11th World Urban Forum held in the Polish city of Katowice. (Image: Shelter Afrique)
The high cost of land and the rising cost of building materials could derail efforts to speed up the development of affordable housing across the globe, pan African housing development financier, shelter Afrique has warned.
Speaking on Delivering Affordable Housing Across Continents at a special session of the 11th World Urban Forum held between June 26-30 in the Polish city of Katowice, Shelter Afrique’s Ag. Managing Director and Chief Finance Officer Mr. Kingsley Muwowo said there was an urgent need by governments to address the issues of rising costs of land and construction materials, which were hindering efforts to fast-track the provision of affordable housing globally.
“From market studies the cost of land should constitute between 10% and 15% of the total cost of a housing unit for it to be affordable, but this isn’t the case in many countries,” Mr. Muwowo said.
“In Kenya, for instance, the cost of land makes up between 40% and 60% of the total cost of a housing unit, like the case with Nairobi which is the most expensive in the entire continent of Africa. How do you deliver affordable housing when you’ve got the most expensive land? So if we don’t address the issues around land we will not be able to effectively tackle the issue of affordable housing.”
Mr. Muwowo also decried the rising construction cost – which he blamed on old building codes, punitive tax regimes, and high cost of financing such projects in various countries. He added that the Russian – Ukraine war had also resulted in the sharp increase in prices of critical construction materials. Russia is considered the fourth-largest steel exporter globally, serving over 150 countries and territories.
“In the built environment, the conflict has exacerbated and exposed the dangers of overreliance on importing building materials. Prices of building materials have increased and continue to do so, a burden that the homeowners will ultimately share,” Mr. Muwowo said.
The price of steel in Kenya, for instance, has significantly shot up over the past few months. The prices of steel bars and nails have risen by between 80 per cent to 90 per cent and 13 per cent to 43 per cent, respectively, in the past few months in the country. Additionally, the conflict has resulted in shortage of coal, which is a crucial source of energy in cement production through clinker manufacturing resulting in price hikes.
Speaking at the same event, European Investment Bank Vice President Prof. Teresa Czerwińska said the rising cost of housing in many cities across the world was a major concern for the Bank.
“We have managed to make education and healthcare relatively cheap and accessible by putting in place proper policy interventions. Housing is a fundamental human right and we can apply a similar framework in ensuring housing remains affordable and available,” Prof. Czerwińska said.
The World Urban Forum (WUF) is a global event on sustainable urbanization convened every two years by the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat). It was established in 2001 by the United Nations to examine rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies. The first WUF was held in Nairobi, Kenya in 2002 and has been held around the world ever since.
This year’s event was convened under the theme: “Transforming our cities for a better urban future”.
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