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Addressing the Foreign Direct Investment paradox in Africa

Addressing the Foreign Direct Investment paradox in Africa

By Ayodele Odusola

Chief Economist and Head of Strategy and Analysis Team, UNDP Africa

Africa’s experience on inward foreign direct investment (FDI) presents a paradox. Conventionally, capital is expected to flow from countries with low to high returns. During 2006-2011, the region experienced the highest rate of return on FDI (11.4%) compared to 9.1% in Asia, 8.9% in Latin America and the Caribbean. The world’s average was 7.1%. Yet Africa’s share of the global net FDI has been very low over the past decade.

For instance, sub-Saharan Africa’s share of global net FDI between 2010 and 2016 stood at 1.87%, compared to 30.34% for Europe, 26.45% for East Asia and Pacific, 17.334% for North America and 13.25% for Latin America and the Caribbean. FDI inflows (which averaged 4.3% during 2010-16) declined from US$71 billion in 2014 to US$59 billion in 2016, and is expected to rise to $65 billion in 2017 —compared to about US$1.7 trillion globally. The weak primary commodity prices and the fall in consumer demand in Europe explain the declining trends to a significant extent. In 2016, Angola, Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Ghana were the most attractive FDI destinations on the continent.

FDI, which used to concentrate in the extractive sector, is spreading across manufacturing and services sectors. The services sector, for instance, accounted for about three quarters of the greenfield FDI projects in 2016, while manufacturing accounted for about one fifth. In fact, FDI is becoming a major source of financing economic diversification.

In Ethiopia, the focus of greenfield FDI in 2016 was manufacturing (e.g. leather products, pesticides, fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals) and infrastructure projects; and FDI helped Mauritius to diversify its economy from sugar into textiles and tourism, and recently into luxury real estate, offshore banking and medical tourism.

The existence of business opportunities in the extractive sector (e.g. oil and gas, gold, diamonds, cobalt and copper), shifting of light manufacturing from emerging countries like China, development of special economic zones (e.g. Mauritius, and Senegal), and improved investment policy regimes (e.g. investment promotion in Egypt, tax incentives in Tunisia and Zimbabwe) are among drivers of inflow FDI to Africa.

Why is Africa experiencing an FDI paradox? Africa’s labour and natural resource endowments are insufficient to attract financial capital. Other endowments count. Critical among these include low public capital (e.g. low infrastructure like energy, roads, rails and airports); low human capital (e.g. absence of skilled, educated and healthy labour force); and low institutional capital (weak security and judicial systems, weak property rights, and poor regulatory and standards). The high quality of these capitals enhances productivity of physical and financial capitals and reduces cost of doing business. When these are directly provided by investors, they serve as taxes on returns on investment.

Other drivers of the FDI paradox include fragmented investment policies; information asymmetry (limited access to investment opportunities by foreign investors); and high sovereign risks (e.g. low absorptive capacity, high corruption, political instability, weak capacity to manage shocks). All these aspects weaken government capacity to optimize social returns on investments that could complement and catalyze financial capital (including FDIs).

Financial intermediation costs (e.g. high brokerage, loan evaluation, and agency costs, and contract enforcement) often proxied by domestic lending rates (which is as high as 60% in Madagascar and 44% in Malawi) impede FDI inflows. Maximizing the benefits of FDIs to Africa also requires avoiding competition between governments on provision of tax incentives (race to the bottom) that is biased against local entrepreneurs, and eschewing base erosion and profit sharing that denies African countries large tax revenues.

Addressing impediments to public, human and institutional capitals, as well as reducing sovereign risks and intermediation costs, and ensuring investment policy harmonization across African countries, are central to eliminating FDI paradox in Africa. (Africa Renewal).

About The Author

Sanlam 2018 Annual Results

7 March 2019


Sanlam’s 2018 annual results provides testimony to its resilience amid challenging operating conditions and negative investment markets

Sanlam today announced its operational results for the 12 months ended 31 December 2018. The Group made significant progress in strategic execution during 2018. This included the acquisition of the remaining 53% stake in SAHAM Finances, the largest transaction concluded in the Group’s 100-year history, and the approval by Sanlam shareholders of a package of Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) transactions that will position the Group well for accelerated growth in its South African home market.

Operational results for 2018 included 14% growth in the value of new life insurance business (VNB) on a consistent economic basis and more than R2 billion in positive experience variances, testimony to Sanlam’s resilience in difficult times.

The Group relies on its federal operating model and diversified profile in dealing with the challenging operating environment, negative investment markets and volatile currencies. Management continues to focus on growing existing operations and extracting value from recent corporate transactions to drive enhanced future growth.

The negative investment market returns and higher interest rates in a number of markets where the Group operates had a negative impact on growth in operating earnings and some other key performance indicators. This was aggravated by weak economic growth in South Africa and Namibia and internal currency devaluations in Angola, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Substantial growth in Santam’s operating earnings (net result from financial services) and satisfactory growth by Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM) and Sanlam Corporate offset softer contributions from Sanlam Personal Finance (SPF) and Sanlam Investment Group (SIG).

Key features of the 2018 annual results include:

Net result from financial services increased by 4% compared to the same period in 2017;

Net value of new covered business up 8% to R2 billion (up 14% on a consistent economic basis);

Net fund inflows of R42 billion compared to R37 billion in 2017;

Adjusted Return on Group Equity Value per share of 19.4% exceeded the target of 13.0%; and

Dividend per share of 312 cents, up 8%.

Sanlam Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ian Kirk said: “We are satisfied with our performance in a challenging operating environment. We will continue to focus on managing operations prudently and diligently executing on our strategy to deliver sustainable value to all our stakeholders. The integration of SAHAM Finances is progressing well. In addition, Sanlam shareholders approved the package of B-BBEE transactions, including an equity raising, at the extraordinary general meeting held on 12 December 2018. Our plan to implement these transactions this year remains on track.”

Sanlam Personal Finance (SPF) net result from financial services declined by 5%, largely due to the impact of new growth initiatives and dampened market conditions. Excluding the new initiatives, SPF’s contribution was 1% down on 2017 due to the major impact that the weak equity market performance in South Africa had on fund-based fee income.

SPF’s new business sales increased by 4%, an overall satisfactory result under challenging conditions. Sanlam Sky’s new business increased by an exceptional 71%. Strong growth of 13% in the traditional individual life channel was augmented by the Capitec Bank credit life new business recognised in the first half of 2018, and strong demand for the new Capitec Bank funeral product. The Recurring premium and Strategic Business Development business units also achieved strong growth of 20%, supported by the acquisition of BrightRock in 2017. Glacier new business grew marginally by 1%. Primary sales onto the Linked Investment Service Provider (LISP) platform improved by 5%, an acceptable result given the pressure on investor confidence in the mass affluent market. This was however, offset by lower sales of wrap funds and traditional life products.

The strong growth in new business volumes at Sanlam Sky had a major positive effect on SPF’s VNB growth, which increased by 7% (14% on a comparable basis).

Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM) grew its net result from financial services by 14%. Excluding the impact of corporate activity, earnings were marginally up on 2017 (up 8% excluding the increased new business strain).

New business volumes at SEM increased by 20%. Namibia performed well, increasing new business volumes by 22% despite weak economic conditions. Both life and investment new business grew strongly. Botswana underperformed with the main detractor from new business growth being the investment line of business, which declined by 24%. This line of business is historically more volatile in nature.

The new business growth in the Rest of Africa portfolio was 68% largely due to corporate activity relating to SAHAM Finances, with the East Africa portfolio underperforming.

The Indian insurance businesses continued to perform well, achieving double-digit growth in both life and general insurance in local currency. The Malaysian businesses are finding some traction after a period of underperformance, increasing their overall new business contribution by 3%. New business production is not yet meeting expectations, but the mix of business improved at both businesses.

SEM’s VNB declined by 3% (up 6% on a consistent economic basis and excluding corporate activity). The relatively low growth on a comparable basis is largely attributable to the new business underperformance in East Africa.

Sanlam Investment Group’s (SIG) overall net result from financial services declined by 6%, attributable to lower performance fees at the third party asset manager in South Africa, administration costs incurred for system upgrades in the wealth management business and lower earnings from equity-backed financing transactions at Sanlam Specialised Finance. The other businesses did well to grow earnings, despite the pressure on funds under management due to lower investment markets.

New business volumes declined by 13% mainly due to market volatility and low investor confidence in South Africa. Institutional new inflows remained weak for the full year, while retail inflows also slowed down significantly after a more positive start to the year. The international businesses, UK, attracted strong new inflows (up 57%).

Sanlam Corporate’s net result from financial services increased by 4%, with the muted growth caused by a continuation of high group risk claims experience. Mortality and disability claims experience weakened further in the second half of the year, which is likely to require more rerating of premiums in 2019. The administration units turned profitable in 2018, a major achievement. The healthcare businesses reported satisfactory double-digit growth in earnings, while the Absa Consultants and Actuaries business made a pleasing contribution of R39 million.

New business volumes in life insurance more than doubled, reflecting an exceptional performance. Single premiums grew by 109%, while recurring premiums increased by a particularly satisfactory 56%.

The good growth in recurring and single premium business, combined with modelling improvements, supported a 64% (71% on a comparable economic basis) increase in the cluster’s VNB contribution.

Following a year of major catastrophe events in 2017, Santam experienced a relatively benign claims environment in 2018. Combined with acceptable growth in net earned premiums, it contributed to a 37% increase in gross result from financial services (41% after tax and non-controlling interest). The conventional insurance book achieved an underwriting margin of 9% in 2018 (6% in 2017).

As at 31 December 2018, discretionary capital amounted to a negative R3.7 billion before allowance for the planned B-BBEE share issuance. A number of capital management actions during 2018 affected the balance of available discretionary capital, including the US$1 billion (R13 billion) SAHAM Finances transaction. Cash proceeds from the B-BBEE share issuance will restore the discretionary capital portfolio to between R1 billion and R1.5 billion depending on the final issue price within the R74 to R86 price range approved by shareholders.

Looking forward, the Group said economic growth in South Africa would likely remain weak in the short to medium term future, and would continue to impact efforts to accelerate organic growth. The outlook for economic growth in other regions where the Group operates is more promising. Recent acquisitions such as the SAHAM transaction should also support operational performance going forward.

“We remain focused on executing our strategy. We are confident that we have the calibre of management and staff to prudently navigate the anticipated challenges going forward,” Mr Kirk concluded.

Details of the results for the 12 months ended 31 December 2018 are available at