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Who are the winners and losers in Africa’s Continental Free Trade area?

Who are the winners and losers in Africa’s Continental Free Trade area?

By Rilwan Akeyewale,

CEO, Grandir Inc.

In March this year, the leaders of 44 African countries endorsed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). Since then more countries, including South Africa, have joined in.

Th agreement is expected to favour small and medium-size businesses, usually known by the acronym SMEs, which are responsible for more than 80% of Africa’s employment and 50% of its GDP.

Obviously, any economic policy that facilitates imports and exports among member countries – with lower or no tariffs, free access to the market and market information, and the elimination of trade barriers – offers numerous benefits to SMEs. And as history’s largest free trade agreement, which has a market size in the region of $3 trillion, most people are excited at the development. But skeptics have pointed to impending challenges, especially those which affect SMEs. These must be addressed if the AfCFTA is to achieve its objectives. But first, let’s look at who stands to gain.

The wins

1. New markets

The AfCFTA will allow African-owned companies to enter new markets. This expands their customer base and leads to new products and services, making investing in innovation viable.

2. Economic growth

Manufacturing represents only about 10% of total GDP in Africa, on average. This is well below the figure in other developing regions. A successful continental free trade area could reduce this gap. A bigger manufacturing sector will lead SMEs to create more well-paid jobs, especially for young people, thereby alleviating poverty.

3. Foreign direct investment

With restrictions lifted on foreign investments, investors will flock to the continent. This adds capital to expand local industries and boost domestic businesses. New capital enhances an upward productivity cycle that stimulates the entire economy. An inflow of foreign capital can also stimulate banking systems, leading to more investment and consumer lending.

5. Reduction in input costs

The AfCFTA will ease the process of importing raw materials from other African countries. It will also enable SMEs to set up assembly firms in other African countries, in order to access cheaper means of production and thereby increase their bottom lines.

6. Increased efficiency and sales

Global companies have more expertise than domestic companies to develop local resources. That’s especially true for businesses in the manufacturing sector. The AfCFTA will allow multinationals to partner with local firms to develop raw materials, training them in best practices and transferring technology in the process.

The potential losses

A major potential challenge in harmonizing Africa’s heterogeneous economies under one agreement is the wide variation that exists in their levels of development. For example, over 50% of Africa’s cumulative GDP is contributed by Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa, while Africa’s six sovereign island nations collectively contribute just 1%.

The AfCFTA has the greatest levels of income disparity of any continental free trade agreement, and more than double the levels witnessed in blocs such as ASEAN and CARICOM.

Further challenges

1. Increased competitive pressure

Many emerging African markets are traditional economies that rely on farming for employment. These small family farms can’t compete with large agri-businesses in high-income African countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt and Nigeria. As a result, they may lose their farms, leading to high unemployment, crime and poverty.

2. Choking of local SMEs

Consumers always prefer cheaper products. This may lead to local producers losing huge sales to foreign suppliers, because the latter can lower the cost of their products by leveraging the reduced tariffs imposed on imported goods.

3. Adverse working conditions and job losses

Labourers from poorer countries may be forced to work long hours and to live in shanties without basic amenities such as drinking water and electricity, in order to send money to their families. Some workers might even be forced to accept lower wages and be prevented from joining labour unions, under threat of losing their jobs.

This may explain why the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), in their refusal to endorse the agreement, describes the trade agreement as a “renewed, extremely dangerous and radioactive neo-liberal policy initiative”.

4. Environmental depletion

Tough competition may lead some companies to disregard the environment when it comes to making products and disposing of waste, just so they can survive in their industry. Many SMEs are likely to cut costs, including those related to manufacturing and the proper dumping of waste.

5. Theft of intellectual property

Many African countries don’t have laws in place that protect patents, inventions and new processes. The laws they do have aren’t always strictly enforced. As a result, companies’ ideas often get stolen. With the AfCFTA, this could get worse, leading SMEs to invest poorly in research and development.

What next?

Without comprehensive policy-making and preferential treatment for Africa’s most at-risk economies, the AfCFTA could prove to be a force for economic divergence, rather than a force for good. It is therefore important that participating countries build an efficient and participatory institutional architecture to avoid leaving any economies behind.

To increase the impact of the trade deal, industrial policies must also be put in place, especially those concerning SMEs and manufacturing. These must focus on productivity, competition, diversification and economic complexity.

Furthermore, individual countries under the agreement should introduce policies that address the concerns of labour unions, encourage healthy competition without killing local businesses, ensure strict adherence to waste disposal and protect intellectual property. (World Economic Forum).


Caption: AfCFTA is expected to favour small businesses, but challenges lie ahead.


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 www.sanlam.com.