Thursday, October 24, 2013

African Capital Markets I

The 10th IMN South African and African Capital Markets Conference attracted over 600 delegates from across the globe in on the 22nd of November 2012. Converging at the Westin Grand in Cape Town, were the brains and pockets behind chiseling into shape, Africa’s capital markets which for decades have remained generally untapped.

Still experiencing growing pains, African capital markets akin to the continent’s economy have drawn the world’s attention as fertile hunting ground for higher returns.

“There has been strong development of local currency debt capital markets  in many countries in Africa as well as unprecedented interest by offshore investors for African credit risk as they turn away from near zero interest rates environments in the developed world and search for yields elsewhere.” Megan McDonald, Head  - Debt Primary Markets, Standard Bank

 Around this period last year, the word on issuers, bankers and investors' lips what “Eurobond”. The IMN Conference coincidentally fell just about two months after the historic Zambian sovereign Eurobond.  A USD denominated 10 year bond which raised $750million and was oversubscribed resulting in an order book value of $12billion. Excitement at the prospect of more sovereign and corporate issuances in Namibia, South Africa, Angola and Nigeria was in the air.

Fast-forward, one year later, the IMN conference goes into its 11th year. Taking a look back at the past 12 months, economic tremors of varying magnitudes have swept the globe but Africa continues to register growth. Critics would render Africa’s growth story nothing to write home about but with liquidity in the capital markets seeking crevices through which to match assets, Africa is on track to catch up with the rest of the world.
Marking the beginning of the 10th IMN conference for emerging markets in Africa questions that lingered above the meeting revolved around:
  • ·         Africa’s institutional capacity
  • ·         Underdeveloped markets with relatively undeveloped yield curves
  • ·         High interest rates – a deterrent of poverty eradication

In a week, a wider pool of delegates will converge in Cape Town to behold and review the progress made over the past twelve months and project into the future.

·         Are Africa’s capital markets developing too quick too soon?
·         Is Africa transformed institutionally to make current and future investments worthwhile for investors?
·         If Africa has seen inflows of funds in other forms and failed to realise tangible growth over the decades, will the story change now?
·         With many African countries healing from the debt burden lifted under the HIPC debt review initiative, is Africa ready to take on more debt?
·         Africa needs approximately $100billion worth of investment per annum to develop her infrastructure, are capital markets the only solution?  

These are questions I hope we can all explore as we take a close look at financing Africa’s development  at The 11th Annual South African & African Capital Markets Conference.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

DuPont says that Sustainability can be the defining feature of Africa’s growth

Continent well positioned to address the sustainable growth challenge

16 July 2013, Johannesburg:  African companies now recognise the importance of sustainability as a strategic imperative, although many still battle with implementing a comprehensive solution. This is the view of Antoinette Du Randt, Regional Director, DuPont Sustainable Solutions, the operations management consulting firm of the science company.
Du Randt says “after grappling with sustainability for many years, starting with how to define sustainability, there is now raised awareness about the need to continually think about keeping a business sustainable for the long term”. Du Randt ranks sustainability as a key challenge for corporations in the 21st century and she equates it to the modern assessment of business performance.
 “A key element of sustainability is the creation of social value,” says Du Randt, who points out that companies are under pressure to not only deliver profits for shareholders, particularly evident in mining companies, but also to deliver higher value to government through increased taxes and royalties, as well as communities where they operate, who are looking for employment opportunities and improved facilities.
Sustainability can also become the defining feature of Africa’s growth in the decades ahead, helping the continent overcome the “growth at all costs” trap that has afflicted other countries in the past, whose economic growth has sometimes been accompanied by high social and environmental costs.  
Africa has changed for the better, moving from economic stagnation to being home to seven of the ten fastest growing economies, according to The Economist. This growth has helped build a burgeoning middle class, which has spurred demand for goods and services.   
But for Africa to truly realise its potential it will need to diversify its economy, encourage movement to high value manufacturing and facilitate beneficiation of its vast minerals. Putting in place robust sustainable development strategies will help the continent achieve inclusive growth without damaging the environment or harming the long term use of fresh water resources and agricultural output.
Du Randt points out that DuPont sees sustainability as part of the evolution of the business model and is a goal that companies have to pursue in collaboration with government, labour and communities. Du Randt believes that sustainability is no longer a function of corporate responsibility or compliance, but rather a key growth opportunity that differentiates a company from its competition. “For companies to thrive, the communities they operate in must thrive,”  
Du Randt says as with any other business objective, sustainability needs to be driven from the top of the organisation with a clearly defined set of goals, a buy in from all employees and leadership from board and executive level.
Du Randt points out that companies need a change in mind set and view sustainability as “going beyond corporate social responsibility” to create sustainable shared value for all stakeholders as a strategic imperative.
Sustainability can deliver commercial benefits. Between 1990 and 2004, DuPont estimates that it reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 72% and has generated $ 10 billion in revenue from products based on non depletable resources.
She also argues that stakeholders need to have realistic expectations from sustainability and that stakeholder education and inclusion is important.
Du Randt argues that the best way for companies to achieve sustainability is to invest in innovation that improves all aspects of business performance, whether its improvement in production while reducing water and energy consumption or by defining market facing goals which deliver product innovation that reduces the environmental footprint throughout the value chain while providing tangible consumer benefits
There is also emerging debate whether companies should be provided with incentives, including financial incentives, to pursue sustainable practices. Du Randt points out those financial incentives are likely to have a limited impact and the companies should pursue sustainability for their own long term interests.
Du Randt also argued that there are already incentives such as tax breaks in place and the ultimate incentive for any company is increased and sustained profitability, gained through an integrated strategy informed by shared value creation and capture.
Du Randt concludes by noting that as external pressures continue to mount, improved sustainability performance is no longer optional, shareholders and stakeholders expect companies to reduce their environmental foot print.

As companies search for opportunities on the African continent and exploit its resources, they should use innovation and a robust sustainable culture to drive improvement.