Archives for category: East Africa

Ernst & Young’s recent “Africa Attractiveness Survey” (pdf) shows that 2012 was a rather disappointing year for foreign direct investment in Africa. But digging more into the data leaves some space for optimism. Some excerpts from the report (click to enlarge):

Ernst & Young "Africa Attractiveness Report"

Ernst & Young “Africa Attractiveness Survey”

 At face value, 2012 was a disappointing year, in that it reversed the year-on-year growth we experienced in 2011, and somewhat dampened our expectations of steady growth in FDI projects. Having said that, we do need to put these trends in perspective:

  • Globally, greenfield projects were down by over 15% year on year in 2012, so the background is one of decline across the board.
  • In this context, Africa’s proportional share of global greenfield projects actually grew, continuing a trend that has seen this share grow, in the course of a decade, from 3.5% of the global total in 2003 to 5.6% in 2012.
  • It is also worth noting that the 764 new greenfield projects this year is still higher than the 678 in 2010, and significantly higher than anything that preceded the peak of 2008.

The geographical origin of FDIs in Africa is experiencing major changes:

Investment from developed markets in particular was disappointing.  Although FDI projects from the UK grew, those from the US and France, the other two leading developed market investors in Africa, were considerably down. In contrast, greenfield investments from emerging markets into Africa grew once again in 2012, continuing the trend of the past three years. In the period since 2007, this category of investment from emerging markets into Africa has grown at a healthy compound rate of over 20.7%, in comparison to investment from developed markets, which has grown at only 8.4%.

Intra-African investment has been particularly impressive over this period since 2007, growing at a 32.5% compound rate. (…) This underlines a broader trend of growing confidence and optimism among Africans themselves about the continent’s progress and future.

Other figures in the report show that -as we’ve often said in this blog- manufacturing in Africa has stagnated over the last decade. However several countries could reach a middle income status by 2025

Source: Ernst & Young

Source: Ernst & Young

Source: Ernst & Young

Source: Ernst & Young


It looks like environmental scientists are not jumping into the Afro-optimist bandwagon. Marchiori, Maystadt, and Schumacher (2012) predict that climate change will force migratory flows from the coastal areas to the mainland in Africa, and East Africa will be particularly affected  (click on the image to enlarge).

Marchiori, Maystadt, and Schumacher (2012)

Marchiori, Maystadt, and Schumacher (2012)

Such a mapping gives an idea of the potential centripetal process induced by environmental migration. While there has been a long tradition of migration to the coastal agglomerations in Africa (Adepoju 2006), coastal areas could experience a significant proportion of their population fleeing toward African mainland due to climate change by 2099. In West Africa, Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria and Sierra Leone may be among the most affected countries. In Eastern Africa, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda may constitute a cluster of sending countries of environmental migrants. In Southern Africa, Angola and Botswana could become important sources of environmental migrants while Congo and Gabon could also be pointed out in Central Africa. Without jumping too quickly to predictive conclusions, such a centripetal pattern of flows could warn about some potential destabilizing effects. On the one hand, massive population movements could speed up the transmission of epidemic diseases such as e.g. malaria (Montalvo and ReynalQuerol, 2007) in areas where the population has not yet developed protective genetic modifications (Boko et al., 2007). On the other hand, the expected move towards mainland Africa where population density has been recognized as a factor enhancing conflict could become a major geopolitical concern; for instance, North-Kivu in Congo, Burundi (Bundervoet, 2009), Rwanda (Andre and Platteau, 1998), and Darfur (Fadul, 2006).

More here (pdf)

The African Statistical Journal has an interesting paper by John C. Anyanwu on the driving factors of male employment in African countries. The journal -published by the African Development Bank- is available for free here (pdf). Some interesting facts:

 Fact 1 – There is a substantial variation in male and female employment ratios across African countries. The difference is particularly evident if we compare oil-exporting and North African countries with smaller Sub Saharan African economies. The latter tend to have higher employment ratios for both the male and female population.


Source: Anyanwu (2013)

Source: Anyanwu (2013)

Fact 2 – In some African countries, male employment decreased between 1991 and 2010

The author argues that the decline has been particularly intense in some countries such as Niger, Be­nin, Rwanda, Lesotho, Burundi and our beloved Kenya.

Source: Anyanwu (2013)

Source: Anyanwu (2013)

One of these days I’ll have to sit down and try to understand some of these dynamics. For example, Rwanda -the “super star” of the Doing Business Reports – has done so bad in terms of employment, while Zimbabwe – land of the highly criticized indigenisation law – is one of the best performers? I guess there is a number of historical and contextual factors to take into consideration. If you have quick thoughts or further questions please share them in the comment section.

Fact 3 – The data from 1991 and 2009 show an U-shaped correlation between male employment ratio and GDP per capita


Source: Anyanwu (2013)

Source: Anyanwu (2013)


The paper uses employment data from the ILO and the World Bank –which are probably the most reliable sources currently available – but we should be always highly suspicious when it comes to employment stats in African countries. Informality is too widespread, and employment happens far too often outside the radar of government institutions and statistical agencies. Not long ago, Shanta Devarajan called it the African Statistical Tragedy. Should we therefore discard the arguments in the paper?

Although the stats might not be extremely accurate, I think that the trends could be right, especially if we consider how economic growth is happening in most parts of Africa. As I said in my last post, growth is happening without a structural transformation of the economies towards labour-intensive sectors. In particular, the manufacturing sector, which absorbs large part of the labour force in most emerging economies, is not expanding in most parts of Africa. But more research is definitely needed in this field.

The full paper is here.

There is an old joke in East Africa that the EAC (East African Community) will succeed only when Tanzanians learn English, Ugandans learn Swahili, and Kenyans learn manners. Fortunately language barriers and old stereotypes are not the main drivers of the current policy agenda. The priority is instead to speed-up economic integration and establish (actually, “re-establish”) a common currency –the East African Shilling – across the 5 EAC countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. Is this is a good idea?

Let’s start with a little theory first –a primer on economic integration as I studied in my undergrads. Look at the figure below (source)

Stages of economic integration

Theory says that there are 5 steps to economic integration: you start with free trade area, which abolishes partially or completely the custom tariffs between member countries. In the second step, a Custom Union is formed when member countries agree to uniform external tariffs towards third countries. The common market adds the free movement of the factors of production, including services, capital and labor. In the fourth step, the economic union introduces a common currency as well as common monetary, fiscal and budgetary policy. Usually this is complemented by the harmonization of tax and welfare policies. Finally, the very last step is the full political integration with the establishment of a common government.

Where is the EAC?

The EAC established a customs union in 2005, a common market in 2010 and now it aims at the fourth step with the establishment of an economic union. I must admit that I am excited about the idea but also very worried. Here’s a list of my concerns:

First, the EAC is only half way through to the third step (common market), and it is jumping already into the fourth (economic union). The truth that everybody knows is that free movement of capital and labour is far from being achieved. Labour cannot move freely because of long-standing legal and regulatory barriers. Goods cannot move freely as well, especially because non-tariff barriers are still a huge burden. Just a silly example, I’ve learnt from personal experience that many bus companies ship packages from Uganda to Kenya, but not the other way around. Reason? I was told it was “a problem at the border with Uganda”. Who knows what that means…

Second, you cannot create a common currency without creating common fiscal and budgetary policies. The EAC governments seem aware of this issue, and in fact they proposed the establishment of an “East African Financial Services Authority”, “East African Surveillance and Enforcement Commission” and the “East African Statistics Bureau”. This all sounds wonderful, but the real issue is whether national governments are willing to give up sovereignty over such important matters. Let me borrow some sentences from an article on Columbia Communique:

Is the wish for closer relationships a good thing? Absolutely. Does it have to be achieved as fast as possible and through the handcuffs of a currency union? Absolutely not. Not only will this process take many years, it will also require full commitment. They can’t have their cake (the currency union) and eat it too (maintain sovereignty in all areas).

Currently the EAC countries have very different import-export mixes, making them vulnerable to changes in world goods prices to different degrees. Without strong fiscal centralization including a counter-cyclical mandate and no adjustment mechanisms such as inflation or devaluation, a currency union can have devastating effects on countries hit hard by an external shock.

My last point is that the EAC has to learn from the experience in the EU: a monetary union must be able to deal with both periods of economic growth as well as periods of crisis and recession. How will the EAC act in case of fiscal mismanagement? What will it do if a country enters a period of financial and economic crisis? Will the regional powerhouse (Kenya) step in and help the “periphery”?  I know that using these terms is quite a stretch in the EAC context. But the region cannot ignore the experiences in other parts of the world. And more importantly, the EAC cannot ignore that it already failed in forming a monetary union in the past – neglecting its own history would be the worst of the mistakes.

I came across this interesting new paper by Christiaensen, De Weerdt and Todo. The argument is that people are more likely to escape poverty when they migrate to secondary towns rather than big cities. Abstract:

 A rather unique panel tracking more than 3,300 individuals from households in rural Kagera, Tanzania during 1991/4-2010 shows that about one in two individuals/households who exited poverty did so by transitioning from agriculture into the rural nonfarm economy or secondary towns. Only one in seven exited poverty by migrating to a large city, although those moving to a city experienced on average faster consumption growth. Further analysis of a much larger cross-country panel of 51 developing countries cannot reject that rural diversification and secondary town development lead to more inclusive growth patterns than metropolitization. Indications are that this follows because more of the poor find their way to the rural nonfarm economy and secondary towns, than to distant cities. The development discourse would benefit from shifting beyond the rural-urban dichotomy and focusing instead more on how best to urbanize and develop the rural nonfarm economy and secondary towns

And from the conclusions:

Agnostic about the pros and cons of urbanization per se, this paper starts from the  observation that the next wave of urban expansion is predicted to be concentrated in large cities (1 million plus) (UN, 2011) and explores whether the nature of the occupational and spatial transformation matters for poverty reduction (as opposed to growth alone). In so doing, the study differentiates itself from most of the literature which usually only applies a sectoral (agriculture versus non-agriculture) or spatial (rural versus urban) lens and draws attention to that the fact that the urbanization pattern may be more important for poverty reduction than urbanization itself.

Full paper here (pdf)

I went through a very interesting and very comprehensive new report on Somali piracy by the World Bank (pdf, 12MB).  Some highlights:

Fact 1. Piracy incidents and hijacks have gone down dramatically last year (click to enlarge)

Somali piracy attacksFact 2. Nevertheless, piracy still imposes a high cost on trade

piracy imposes a distortion on trade that has a high absolute cost. When the shortest shipping route between two countries is through piracy-infected waters, the additional cost of trade between them is equivalent to an increase of 0.75 to 1.49 percentage points (with a mean estimate of about 1.1) in total ad valorem trade costs. In absolute terms, the impact is large: since about US$1.62 trillion in global trade traveled along routes affected by piracy in 2010, that year Somali piracy cost the global economy an estimated US$18 billion, with a margin of error of roughly US$6 billion. If piracy continues to disrupt global trade as it has done, similar amounts will be lost every year.

Fact 3. Impact of piracy on tourism

Somali piracy and tourism

I wonder how credible this is. The report says that the argument is difficult to show quantitatively but it is supported by anecdotal evidence

anecdotal evidence does suggest that pirate attacks have suppressed tourism in countries like Kenya and Seychelles, popular cruise-ship destinations (Oceans Beyond Piracy 2010; Mbekeani and Ncube 2011). While those on cruises are not a large fraction of total visitors, they tend to spend substantially more than other tourists

Fact 4 (my favorite). The Somali pirate stock exchange

At the outset of an operation, an instigator provides or gathers from investors the funds needed to launch the operation and identifies a pirate commander to organize the attack. At least 10 instigators are known to be active in Puntland (Lang 2011). Some attacks, however, are launched opportunistically without being prefunded, in which case investors are solicited as necessary to fund ransom negotiation costs

The initial investment can be provided in seed money or goods, such as an engine, skiffs, or weapons. In exchange, the financiers are entitled to a share of the ransom if the operation is successful. Reuters (2009) and Kraska (2010) mentioned a stock exchange in Harardheere, where anyone could invest in pirate operations.

The Wall Street Journal  wrote a story on this as well:

The world’s first pirate stock exchange was established in 2009 in Harardheere, some 250 miles northeast of Mogadishu, Somalia. Open 24 hours a day, the exchange allows investors to profit from ransoms collected on the high seas, which can approach $10 million for successful attacks against Western commercial vessels.

While there are no credible statistics available, reports from various news sources suggest that over 70 entities are listed on the Harardheere exchange. When a pirate operation is successful, it pays investors a share of the profits. According to a former pirate who spoke to Reuters, “The shares are open to all and everybody can take part, whether personally at sea or on land by providing cash, weapons or useful materials. . . . We’ve made piracy a community activity.”

Much more here (pdf)

Just like I did last year, this morning I played around with data on imports and exports from the Kenya Bureau of Statistics. Understanding the trends of international trade in Kenya is extremely important – as I have said a hundred times in this blog, the imbalance between imports and exports is one of the major weaknesses of the Kenyan economy and one of the root causes for macroeconomic volatility. So, what is Kenya exporting to the outside world? What are the major export destinations?  How about imports?  Are they still growing faster than the exports?

Let me say in advance that here I am showing some basic figures. If you want to know more about imports and exports for specific commodities (tea, fruits, flowers, etc) in specific months you can find very detailed data here. So, let’s  take a look at imports first  (Click on the images to enlarge).

Kenya - Major origin of imports in 2011-2012

Kenya - Imports by broad economic category

The two graphs show two very interesting trends. First, India has officially outgrown China and the UAE as the major importer to Kenya. The value of imports from the UAE has decreased because the Kenyan Shilling has gained strength and therefore its oil bill has gone down significantly. When it comes to China and India, I would like to see an analysis of the political economy behind these trends.   Which African countries are “going Indian” and why? And is this trend relevant only for trade or also in terms of foreign direct investments? A recent article on The Star explained the trend in these terms:

Analysts say India has managed to clinch the lion’s share of Kenya’s import volumes because of, among others, the prevailing cordial foreign policy between the two countries since Kenya gained independence, relatively cheaper goods, quality, and proximity of its ports to Kenya.

The main imports from India include textiles, petroleum products obtained from bituminous minerals (other than crude), medical equipment and drugs, pharmaceuticals, flat-rolled iron and non-alloy steel products, electrical goods, food-processing machinery, special purpose motor vehicles and trucks among others.

“There are quite a number of factors why Kenya is importing more from India. For instance, you will realise that many products on sale in Kenyan retail stores – such as textiles (garments) – come from India. They are cheaper and as we know, Kenyan consumers are sensitive to price, making these a top choice,” said Tiberius Barasa, the executive director of the Centre for Policy Research, a governance and public policy analysis think-tank.

If you know of any paper on this issue please leave it in the comment section.

The second trend is that imports in the broad economic categories have gone up substantially between 2011 and 2012, but we cannot say the same about exports, which remained stagnant over the two-years period. What I find more worrying is that exports to the East African region have decreased (look at Uganda and Tanzania) or increased slightly (Rwanda).

The East African has an interesting analysis on the stagnation of Kenyan exports over the last decade. At the regional level, Kenya is growing as a major importer, but definitely not as an exporter:

Kenya’s standing as East Africa’s trade giant is under threat from neighbouring nations with fresh data showing the growth rate of its exports to the region has been declining over the past eight years.

…The study shows that Kenya’s contribution to total intra-EAC exports declined from 78.3 per cent in 2005 to 57.2 per cent in 2010, although its contribution to total intra-EAC trade increased from 7.5 per cent in 2005 to 16.7 per cent in 2010 on the back of increased imports.

Comparatively, Tanzania and Uganda’s contributions to total intra-EAC trade increased sharply from 6.6 and 4.2 per cent in 2005 to 20.67 and 19.2 per cent respectively in 2010, taking up the share that Kenya lost. On imports, however, Tanzania and Uganda have lost ground.

Tanzania’s contribution to intra-EAC imports declined from 22.4 per cent in 2005 to 18.9 in 2010 while Uganda’s dipped from 70.1 per cent in 2005 to 36.9 per cent in 2010.

Kenya - Exports by broad economic category in 2012

Kenya - major export destinations in 2011-2012

The Port of Dar Es Salaam, the second largest in East Africa after Mombasa, is one of the least efficient on the planet, hindering trade and economic expansion not just for Tanzania but also for neighboring landlocked countries. The cumulative delays at anchorage and dwell time can exceed 20 days, while international standards are around 3-4 days. In addition, official and non-official payments are high and prevalent.

Here’s Jack Morisset with Moret and Regolo in a World Bank Policy Note.

Today, about 90 percent of Tanzanian trade transits through the Port of Dar es Salaam. This port is also a hub for the international trade of East African landlocked countries such as Zambia, Uganda, DRC, Rwanda and Burundi with the rest of the world. But to what extent is the port of Dar Es Salaam efficient in moving goods in and out the country?

The performance of the Port of Dar es Salaam has varied over time. As a result of privatization in the 1990s, the port became one of the most efficient in Sub-Saharan Africa, but its performance deteriorated gradually up to mid-2000s and efficiency is now low despite renewed efforts of the port authorities to implement reforms

Is the Port of Mombasa much better? Here’s a nice comparison:


Waiting time at anchorage

Cargo dwell time

Cost/price for shipping companies

Cost/price for shippers

Total cost





USD per Ton

Dar Es Salaam













Import transit



















Import transit






 More here

We shouldn’t  trust the entrepreneurs too much, says Jacques Morisset

Allow me to illustrate. According to the entrepreneurs operating In Tanzania, electricity is their major constraint (85 per cent) followed by access to finance (52 per cent), taxes (37 per cent), and administrative red tape (25 per cent).Surprisingly, labor and transports costs are only at the bottom of their concerns (less than 10 per cent). According to this ranking, the priority should be therefore given to reducing electricity costs, increasing access to finance and reducing taxation.

A closer look at the firms’ financial balance sheets provides a different picture. In reality, electricity counts for a marginal share of firms’ operating costs in Tanzania (see Figure). For example, it is equivalent to only 3 per cent for a standard firm operating in the apparel sector. In other words, a decline, say, of 50 per cent in electricity prices would only reduce its costs by 1.5 per cent – hardly a high number for such a big effort. By contrast, transport and labor costs are equivalent to 41 per cent and 38 per cent of its total operating costs. This means that reducing transport costs by only 4 per cent would achieve the same gains for the enterprise than cutting by half its energy costs.


I have just one remark. My impression is that the problem with electricity is not much the costs but the frequent power cuts –a huge problem in Tanzania, and also in Kenya – which can disrupt production and provoke considerable losses to the income of the firms.

Having said that, I agree on the idea that policymakers should take the results of these surveys with a grain of salt. In my experience with firms’ surveys I noticed a number of recurrent problems with the instrument I was using. First, entrepreneurs have a tendency to give more weight to their “most recent” problem rather than the “most important” ones they face over the course of the year. Second, both the (i) sequencing of the questions and the (ii) overall topic of the questionnaire has an effect on the answers. If you are dealing with access to finance in a questionnaire, and you have talked about loans and credit for the 30 minutes preceding the your “main obstacle” question, the chances that the entrepreneur will indicate “access to credit” as their main obstacle are very high. If your questionnaire deals with electricity, the dynamic will be the same. Finally, and this is more of a general critique, I believe that both researchers and policymakers should understand better the difference between perceived and actual constraints in an economy. Policymakers should listen to their entrepreneurs (and to the surveys) in order to identify the underlying causes of slow growth in certain parts of the economy. But in most cases the dynamic is different: usually a team of experts is hired to identify these “main problems”, and then survey questionnaires are used to confirm these pre-formatted ideas.

Half of Africa wants to join into a single free trade area.

Plans to create a 26-nation free trade area by integrating three existing African trade blocs by July 2014 are on track and the only major sticking point is likely to be harmonising rules of origin, the three blocs said on Friday.

The East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) aim to create a free market of 525 million people with an output of $1 trillion when they unite.

Although African economies are growing fast – second only to Asia – the continent has attracted criticism over its slow pace of integration, a delay that is seen as driving up the cost of doing business.

I hope it’s not just wishful thinking. The article reports some interesting facts about the growing intra-African trade:

regional integration had led to a doubling in trade among EAC states after its member states entered a customs union in 2005.

… trade among SADC nations grew 18 percent last year. However, without South Africa, the region’s most economically competitive state, the growth rate was 4-6 percent, exposing a lack of competitiveness among the other members.