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Innovative Domestic Resource Mobilization in Africa

Jan 25, 2016
On 25 September 2015, world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The 17 SDGs will serve as an economic development blueprint for the developing nations for the next decade and half. Developing countries, particularly those in Africa, now have the herculean task of mobilizing the required finances to fund their economic transformation. Although private capital now forms a significant proportion of development finance, the main "take home message" from the three major development finance conferences (Monterrey in 2002, Doha in 2008 and Addis Ababa in 2015), is that there should be a significant boost in domestic resource mobilization. In addition to tax revenues in Africa, which stand at about $550billion per annum, financial institutions particularly banks, sit on huge financial resources. It is interesting to note that even with the "not-so-rosy" global economic reality, with economic slowdown in China and other emerging markets, plunges in commodities prices, the Greek debt crisis, Europe's migrant problems, the crises in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen, financial institutions in Africa have been boosted by rising assets. Africa's 200 biggest banks have total assets worth $1.5trillion - almost half of the entire continent's GDP. Their total loans rose by 5% from $749billion in 2011 to over $789billion in 2015, whereas the total deposits rose from $1.012trillion to $1.019 over the same period, as can be seen in the figure below. Source: The Africa Report October-December 2015 Edition Worthy of note is the fact that the assets of the 23 biggest banks ($965billion) represent over 65% of the total assets of the 200 biggest banks as can be seen in the figure below. Standard Bank Group of South Africa, Africa's largest bank has assets worth $169billion, about half of South Africa's GDP. African countries will have to find new ways to mobilize its domestic resource. For example, the Government of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia in 2011 passed a law obliging commercial banks to allocate 27% of their loan portfolio for the purchases of treasury bills. Proceeds from these are then sent to private entities that are engaged in manufacturing and investing, and particularly for large infrastructure projects such as the $4billion 6000MW Grand Renaissance Dam Project. If Africa's 200 biggest banks, which constitute between 60-70% of the total number of banks in the continent, were mandated to allocate 27% of their loan portfolios to fund economic development initiatives, as is the case in Ethiopia, about $213billion will be raised just in 2015 - almost twice Africa's annual infrastructure needs, estimated to be about $100billion. However, although such a model is commendable, proponents of "free market economics" may argue that this could cause distortions in the market, as the allocation of resources should be based entirely on market forces. Whilst the argument is justifiable, it is also true that moral suasion is a long standing phenomenon in economics - this is simply a situation where a monetary/financial authority pressures (though not by force) market participants to act in a certain way in order to achieve a particular objective or objectives. A good example is the United States Federal Reserve's $85billion monthly bond purchases program (referred to as Quantitative Easing) that was initiated in response to the 2008/2009 financial crises. The bond purchases were used in combination with near-zero interest rates to boost investment and stimulate the US economy that was in reels after the credit and financial crisis of 2008/2009. The SDGs, which are a motley of economic development goals have to be funded. Financial and monetary authorities in Africa therefore have a huge task ahead of them and "innovative finance" is a statement that they will have to get used to. If moral suasion can be used for Africa's highly liquid banks to allocate 25%+ of their loan portfolios to fund economic development and economic transformation, finance officials may not have to worry so much about the plunges in commodities prices. _________________________________________________________________ About the Author John Mbu is a financial economist and is
presently an economic and policy analyst in the Office of the First Vice President & Chief Operating Officer at the African Development Bank(AfDB) in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. Prior to this, he spent two years as an economic analyst in the Evaluation Department of the African Development Bank, focusing on private sector evaluations as well as regional integration evaluations. Before joining the AfDB, John worked as a management consultant for Pricewaterhouse Coopers in Douala, Cameroon and in Lagos, Nigeria.
John holds two Masters Degrees,
in Development Finance from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and in International Finance from Durham University in the UK.

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