By Adriaan Du Toit
I think the common denominator to a large extent in the African continent is the fact that debt levels have increased substantially over the last decade or so.
In other words, the fact that you had an abundance of liquidity, meaning that you had a lot of supply of that liquidity, it found its way into Africa and the governments in that region essentially made use of that opportunity. The other thing that we always need to bear in mind is that a lot of African countries have a different relationship to investors. They also have a very special relationship with Asia, China in particular. And that means that often the borrowing is not as transparent as investors might like or prefer.
The two biggest economies in Africa - that is, Nigeria and South Africa - both have presidential elections in 2019. And these could potentially shape the future for both of these economies in a number of ways, not just in terms of the economic policies but also in terms of how investors perceive the credibility, the institutional strength, etc. And if we just have a quick snapshot of Nigeria, the driving force has been to weed out corruption.
Something very similar is happening in South Africa. And I think that’s an important dynamic. So, it would be interesting to see how the results in the Nigerian and South African elections, respectively, will essentially set the stage for the next phase for investors, for the next phase of these economies. Both of them have effectively been in recession. South Africa, in a technical recession, and Nigeria have been… they’ve been growing at such a low pace that, for a frontier market, it should be considered recession conditions as well. So, it would be extremely important for the continent to be able to latch onto these economies [so] that these economies start to recover and we have a stronger growth trajectory.
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