Africa's growth may rise to 7% a year by 2015
Africa's growth may rise to 7% a year by 2015
Ranked as the poorest continent in the world, Africa has posted strong growth rates of about 5 percent in recent years, second only to Asia, drawing rising inward investment.
Although Africa may have enviable economic growth rates by global standards, they are still not enough to pull its growing population out of poverty.
The IMF revised down its growth forecasts for Africa in 2012 to 5.4 percent, lower than previous forecasts.
Corruption and civil wars are also likely to puncture the momentum in several African countries, officials said at an African leadership meeting in Mombasa.
Many African countries had embarked on rehabilitation and construction of vital infrastructure systems that were quickly attracting investors locally and internationally, Tegegnework Gettu, who heads the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Africa Bureau, told a conference in Mombasa on Tuesday.
"Investment in Africa has gone up to 15 percent in the last five years alone. This is a remarkable achievement. Africa is so far the fastest growing continent globally. We need to keep this spirit. We need to hasten our infrastructural development, because this is the time for Africa," Gettu said.
"At the port in Singapore it takes 8 minutes to clear a ship, in Kenya it takes hours, even days sometimes. Those are the issues we should be dealing with and am glad most African countries including Kenya are on course," he added.
An Economic Report on Africa launched in June in Zambia, by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union (AU) reported that Africa was the second fastest growing continent economically in the world after Asia.
The report said Africa's potential required even more investment in human capital and technology, physical infrastructure, agriculture and regional economic integration, among others.
However, the continent's economic growth also faced risks from political crises with the potential to spill over to neighboring states, thus curbing overall growth, Donald Kaberuka, the president of African Development Bank (AfDB) said.
Africa's economy was affected by the Arab uprisings last year, especially in Egypt, leading to a fall in the continent's growth from 5 percent in 2010 to 3.4 percent, in 2011, said Kaberuka.
He said Africa was struggling to enhance its appeal as a business market for the whole world, to have its member states be like other established economies globally, he told delegates, among them retired Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.
"We need to create wealth and protect that wealth from the greed of ourselves. There are investors out there willing to come down to this continent, but we have to make our continent ready for them," he said.
Gulf companies challenged by debt and rising interest rates
- Debt restructurings on the rise, but below crisis levels
- Central Bank of the UAE has raised interest rates four times since last March
There has been an uptick in recent months in heavily-borrowed companies in the Gulf seeking to restructure their debts with lenders. Although the pressure on companies is not comparable to levels witnessed in the region following the 2008 global financial crisis, rising interest rates will eventually begin to have a greater impact, say experts.
Speaking exclusively to Arab news, Matthew Wilde, a partner at consultancy PwC in Dubai, said: “We do expect that interest rate increases will gradually start to impact companies over the next 12 months, but to date the impact of hedging and the runoff of older fixed rate deals has meant the impact is fairly muted so far.”
The Central Bank of the UAE has raised interest rates four times since the start of last year, in line with action taken by the US Federal Reserve. The Fed has signalled that it will raise interest rates at least twice more before the end of the year.
Wilde added that there had been a little more pressure on company balance sheets of late, although “this shouldn’t be overplayed”.
Nevertheless, just last week, Stanford Marine Group — majority owned by a fund managed by private equity firm Abraaj Group — was reported by the New York Times to be in talks with banks to restructure a $325 million Islamic loan. The newspaper cited a Reuters report that relied on “banking sources”.
The Dubai-based oil and gas services firm, which has struggled as a result of the downturn in the hydrocarbons market since 2014, has reportedly asked banks to consider extending the maturity of its debt and restructuring repayments, after it breached certain loan covenants.
A fund managed by Abraaj owns 51 percent of Stanford Marine, with the remaining stake held by Abu Dhabi-based investment firm Waha Capital. Abraaj declined to comment.
Dubai-based theme parks operator DXB Entertainments struck a deal last month with creditors to restructure 4.2 billion dirhams ($1.1 billion) of borrowings, with visitor numbers to attractions such as Legoland Dubai and Bollywood Parks Dubai struggling to meet visitor targets.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Sharjah-based Gulf General Investment Company was in talks with banks to restructure loan and credit facilities after defaulting on a payment linked to 2.1 billion dirhams of debt at the end of last year.
Dubai International Capital, according to a Bloomberg report from December, has restructured its debt for the second time, reaching an agreement with banks to roll over a loan of about $1 billion. At the height of the emirate’s boom years, DIC amassed assets worth about $13 billion, including the owner of London’s Madame Tussauds waxworks museum, as well as stakes in Sony and Daimler. The firm was later forced to sell most of these assets and reschedule $2.5 billion of debt after the global financial crisis.
Wilde told Arab News: “We have seen an increasing number of listed companies restructuring or planning to restructure their capital recently — including using tools such as capital reductions and raising capital by using quasi equity instruments such as perpetual bonds.”
This has happened across the region and PwC expected this to accelerate a little as companies “respond to legislative pressures and become more familiar with the options available to fix their problems,” said Wilde.
He added that the trend was being driven by oil prices remaining below historical highs, soft economic conditions, and continued caution in the UAE’s banking sector.
On the debt restructuring side, Wilde said there had been a “reasonably steady flow of cases of debts being restructured”.
However, the volume of firms seeking to renegotiate debt remains small compared to the level of restructurings witnessed in the aftermath of Dubai’s debt crisis.
Several big name firms in the emirate were caught out by the onset of the global financial crisis, which saw the emirate’s booming economy and real estate market go into reverse.
State-owned conglomerate Dubai World, whose companies included real-estate firm Nakheel and ports operator DP World, stunned global markets in November 2009 when it asked creditors for a six-month standstill on its obligations. Dubai World restructured around $25 billion of debt in 2011, followed by a $15 billion restructuring deal in 2015.
“We would not expect it to become (comparable to 2008-9) so barring some form of sharp external impetus such as global political instability or a protectionist trade war,” said Wilde.
Nor did he see the introduction of VAT as particularly driving this trend, but rather as just one more factor impacting some already strained sectors (e.g. some sub sectors of retail) “which were already pressured by other macro factors.”