Tag Archives: investment

Are Remittances Really Remiss?

Remittances in Somalia

By Otito Greg-Obi

It is a popular opinion in the international development community that remittances – money transferred by a foreign worker back to someone in his or her home country – can have a negative effect on economic growth because recipients tend to spend cash flows on day-to-day subsistence. However, research shows that the opposite is true. A study on the effect of remittances on growth in Africa reveals that remittances seem to have an overall positive effect on Gross Domestic Product (GDP). When compared to foreign aid and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), a 10 percent increase in remittances leads to a 0.3 percent increase in the GDP per capita income.

The Migration Policy Institute (MDI) points out that remittances are less volatile than international aid and FDI. For example, when the global economic crisis of 2009 hit, remittances in developing countries declined by only 5.27 percent whereas FDI declined by 32.94 percent. MPI also asserts that remittances allow for investment in human capital. For example, research shows that children in remittance households in Sri Lanka and Mexico have higher birthweights and lower rates of infant mortality. In Burkina Faso, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Senegal, and Nigeria, households that receive remittances are more likely to have a higher number of individuals with a secondary education. But, remittances are not just about human capital. In the Philippines and Mexico, there is a positive correlation between remittances and high levels of small business investment, as well as high levels of self-employment.

Remittances are a pressing issue in light of the current crisis in Somalia. Somalia boasts a population of 10.4 million people with forty percent of the population relying on remittances to meet basic needs. The country’s current GDP stands at around $2.37 billion. According to Oxfam, Somalia gets $1.3 billion dollars from its diaspora population each year, amounting to 56.5 percent of Somalia’s GDP. Somalia has no formal banking system. Instead, citizens depend upon Hawala, an informal currency transfer system run by money brokers. Increasingly strict money laundering policies threaten to topple the Hawala system and make life more difficult for many Somali citizens. These stricter laws result from a recent global effort to combat the risk of funding terrorism and the drug trade.

The anti-money laundering system is clearly connected to the remittance crisis in Somalia. The question is whether or not the system itself needs to be overhauled to solve the crisis. I had the opportunity to attend a talk given by Peter Reuter at the Center for Global Development. Reuter asserts that meaningful comprehensive reform is necessary and can begin by adopting a “do no harm” model.

Left to right: Jean Pesme of the World Bank, Peter Reuter of RAND, and Justin Sandefur CGD research Fellow

Left to right: Jean Pesme of the World Bank, Peter Reuter of RAND, and Justin Sandefur CGD research Fellow

He suggests conducting research-based cost benefit analyses so that countries can assess the extent to which avoiding risks is cost effective. If findings suggest that costs outweigh benefits, de-risking could be a viable option. He also suggests the controversial Tobin Tax as a possible method for dissuading money speculators.

I cannot say for sure if and how the anti-money laundering system should be reformed. However, I do have recommendations for the remittance crisis in Somalia itself.

In the short term:

  • Promote an increase in transparency between foreign banks, Somali money transfer operators, and citizens.
    • There needs to be a system in place that maintains a sense of trust between banks and citizens who are just trying to help their families survive.
  • Shift perspective on the issue of national security in Somalia.
    • Countries should strive to view remittances as a security stabilizer rather than a destabilizer. It is entirely possible for the sudden removal of remittances to incentivize citizens to join terrorist groups as an alternate source of goods/income.

In the long term:

  • Rebuild a formal banking system in Somalia that can slowly replace Hawala.
    • Bearing in mind the political instability of Somalia, is it necessary to gradually create a more formal economic landscape that offers an alternative to the Hawala money transfer system.
  •  Promote economic growth through capital other than remittances.
    •  Somalia should seek forms of alternative foreign capital (such as FDI) in order to create a larger role for diverse foreign capital for the sake of sustainable growth.

It is imperative that we continue to actively seek solutions to the remittance crisis in Somalia. Almost half of Somalia’s population will be negatively impacted by it. Two major preconditions for economic development are resources and stability. If remittances are protected, they can help to provide these preconditions and in turn contribute to the economic growth of Somalia as a country.

Otito Greg-Obi is a Knowledge Management Intern at CIPE. She is a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Property Markets, the Rule of Law, and Real Estate Investment

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Real estate investors are attracted to the United States because its strong legal system protects their investment and because of the easy availability of accurate information. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

I recently participated in George Washington University’s 2015 Global Real Estate Conference in New York. Having been invited to share CIPE’s work developing the International Property Markets Scorecard at the International Real Estate Federation’s (FIABCI-USA) annual meeting, which dove-tailed with the conference, I took the opportunity to educate myself on the current happenings in the real estate field and see how CIPE’s work might resonate with the professionals most connected to international investment in property.

Headliners at the conference included international representatives from such prominent companies as Morgan Stanley, CBRE, Knight Frank, and Cushman & Wakefield. Mostly I learned a great deal of “inside baseball” language and can now boast a broader vocabulary, but there was another theme that kept coming up. Whether talking about mitigating risk, conducting valuation of property, or trying to determining capitalization rates, it all came down to the need for reliable information and a stable environment that allows for confident investing.

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Who Will Reap the Benefits of China’s Growing Presence in Africa?

By Brian Jackson

Recently, there have been many articles in the media outlining both the positive and negative implications of China’s growing investment in Africa. On one hand, many accuse China of promoting another period of colonization and exploitation on the continent and preventing Africa from becoming economically independent. Yet on the other hand, some praise the investments for rejuvenating African industries and infrastructure.

With such conflicting interpretations, many are left wondering how to view all of this. Is Chinese involvement in Africa a good thing, or bad thing? Will it lead to more economic and democratic opportunities for the continent and people, or the opposite?

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Harnessing Markets to Reduce Extreme Poverty

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When “3 billion people on the planet making less than $3 a day, [are] effectively cut out of society, we are missing the opportunity of all those people to be our musicians, our Einsteins, and our professors- it is really all of us that lose.”

In an event on harnessing the power of markets to tackle global poverty, American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks and Acumen founder and CEO Jacqueline Novogratz highlighted the role markets can play in enabling the poor to participate fully in society.

By treating the poor “as assets to society,” rather than liabilities, “we’re going to enliven their capital and that will also give them earned success and dignity,” said Brooks. Novogratz’s philosophy is to do just that – by investing in the poor through so-called “patient capital.”

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The Future of the U.S.-Africa Economic Relationship

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Last week Washington hosted nearly 50 African heads of state at the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. Countless meetings and conversations that took place not just among government officials but businesses, international organizations, and non-profits (including CIPE and Freedom House) brought Africa into the spotlight. Yet the most important aspect of the Summit is still ahead: what did we learn and how can this knowledge guide the way forward?

One of the most informative outcomes of the Summit to me was the launch of a report Africa and the United States: A defining relationship of the 21st century at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Presidential Plenary. The report was jointly produces by the U.S. Chamber and Investec Asset Management (IAM), a global investment management firm founded in 1991 in South Africa. Hendrik du Toit, Investec’s CEO, unveiled the report and discussed its findings with a panel of corporate leaders.

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The Role of Business in Advancing Political and Economic Freedom in Africa

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This week nearly 50 heads of state will attend President Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC to discuss trade and investment, security, democratic development, and how to achieve a better quality of life for all Africans. The summit will bring together government representatives, business people from the U.S. and Africa, and leaders of civil society groups.

In many ways this summit will be the beginning of a hopefully much larger conversation on how the United States and 54 African countries can increase economic ties, strengthen democratic development, and create new economic opportunities and freedoms for Africans.

To help start this conversation, CIPE and Freedom House brought together several U.S. and African thought leaders to offer their insights on how to advance political and economic freedom in Africa at an event August 1. The purpose of the event was to reinforce the case that good governance and democratic values are closely linked to sustained economic growth, and to offer some actionable ideas on how to strengthen the U.S.-Africa partnership.

The panelists included: Kim Davis, Managing Director and Co-Chairman at Charlesbank, Hon. Donald Gips, Co-Chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Africa Business Initiative, Betty Maina, Chief Executive of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), and Aniket Shah, Global Investment Strategist from Investec.

As Hon. Gips mentioned, many American firms are not even at the “starting line” with regards to expanding their business into Africa. There is no doubt that there are plenty of opportunities and that different countries on the continent are experiencing economic growth and a growing middle class of consumers that offer both African and international companies new opportunities to expand their markets. But for many reasons, few U.S. firms outside of the extractive industries are investing in Africa.

At the same time, Freedom House’s Freedom in the World Index shows that many African countries are not advancing political and economic freedoms, and in some parts of Africa are reversing previous gains. As Betty Maina from KAM pointed out, after the fall of the Berlin Wall there was a great promise “for a better life and democratic opportunity,” but Africans have not built the underlying institutions necessary for democracy to succeed – instead focusing almost solely on conducting elections.

“There is currently a despair about democracy and the fundamental ingredient to change this is the building of proper institutions,” Maina said.  As former Ambassador to South Africa, Hon. Gips, put it: “the hard part is what comes after the elections.”

So what can the business community do about the current state of affairs? Kim Davis emphasized that business has a deep interest in the rule of law. African countries need judiciary systems that work and business climates where contracts can be enforced. Keeping the system accountable requires freedom of the press, and African businesses need to push for greater press freedoms.

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Moving Beyond the Bi-Polar View of Doing Business in Africa

New buildings in Gabarone, the capital of Botswana -- one of the most developed and fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Gabarone is the capital of Botswana — one of the most developed and fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

By Naledi Modisaatsone

Economic improvements and a wealth of opportunities for business in Africa have led to an increased focus on the continent. Over the past three years Ernst & Young’s Africa attractiveness reports have highlighted the continent’s steady rise. Their research provides some quantitative substance to the growing perception that African markets offer an exciting growth and investment opportunity.

Africa’s growth prospects differ not only country by country but also sector by sector. For example, agriculture is Africa’s largest economic sector, representing 15 percent of the continent’s total GDP, or more than $100 billion annually. It is highly concentrated, with Egypt and Nigeria alone accounting for one-third of total agricultural output and the top ten countries generating 75 percent.

Africa’s banking sector has also grown rapidly in the last decade. Sub-Saharan Africa has become a substantial player in emerging-market banking, with total 2008 assets of $669 billion, while North Africa’s asset base has grown substantially, to $497 billion. Africa’s banking assets thus compare favorably with those in other emerging markets, such as Russia (with $995 billion).

However, the Ernst & Young reports also highlight a lingering perception gap between companies already doing business on the continent and those with no business presence there. The respondents with an established business presence in Africa are more positive about the continent’s prospects and rank Africa as the most attractive regional investment destination in the world today. They view it as an exciting, dynamic, high-growth market. In stark contrast, respondents that have not yet invested are negative and rank Africa as the least attractive regional investment destination in the world.

The African business community should spend some time on this issue at the US-Africa Business Forum. It is their responsibility to debunk the myths that some external investors have about operating a successful business in Africa. These business leaders are successfully embracing Africa’s uncertainty, complexity and volatility, understanding that these are common challenges across most emerging markets.

They are actively balancing the three tensions that all companies face in doing business in emerging markets: long-term versus short-term focus, profit-taking versus sustainable growth, and managing the whole versus optimizing the parts. Most importantly, their companies are establishing strong competitive positions in key markets and are poised to benefit from the continued growth anticipated over the next decade.

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