The new variant was first identified on Tuesday. It is feared that the variant could be more transmissible and may have greater resistance to current coronavirus vaccines. This prompted the UK government to put six southern African countries back on England’s travel red list on Thursday night.
Flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini will be suspended from midday on Friday, with officials reviewing several travel measures.
The news has led to a sharp sell-off of travel stocks. IAG fell by as much as 14% in early trading, while Rolls-Royce was down 12%.
"Fear has gripped the financial markets with the travel industry flying into another violent storm, after the discovery of a new COVID strain which could be far more contagious and may render vaccines less effective,” said Susannah Streeter, a senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
Meanwhile, Peter Chatwell, head of multi-asset strategy at Mizuho International said, “The European lockdowns on their own would have meant soft Q4 GDP growth, but a Q1 rebound. US, UK, Asia all looked unaffected by Europe’s problem. If the new variant does deliver its potential (usurping Delta, and reducing vaccine efficacy) we need to think about a globally soft/flat Q4 and Q1 GDP growth. Vaccine efficacy will determine the severity of lockdowns, and therefore whether this becomes another recession.”
Despite ongoing trade and political tensions being a primary contributor to Emerging Market weakness across 2019, there are still considerable opportunities for growth in markets that are currently being under-represented across the Emerging Market indices. Turkey, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Peru all have relatively low weights in EM indices but are increasingly gaining recognition for providing more diverse investment opportunities than they were a decade ago.
Of course, there are risks involved with investing in these markets: political instability, domestic infrastructure problems and currency volatility can serve as a hindrance, but despite this, there are the prospects for high returns. These smaller emerging markets provide investors scope to diversify equity exposure.
Although Turkey has been considered an emerging economy for decades, we have only seen the country’s true potential in recent years. Turkey’s status has been elevated due to its strong, though uneven, economic growth under some world-class companies, growing military, active diplomacy, as well as its increased autonomy, all of which have contributed towards its increased recognition as a potential power and nation of strong economic influence. However, in recent years, the country has faced some political changes that have brought in some turbulence into its financial markets.
Although the country was hard-pressed under the fall in the value of the Lira, it has demonstrated meaningful resilience and strength.
The Turkish Government has also worked hard to ‘maintain economic stability’ by continuing negotiations with European Union countries, consolidating its position within the Syrian crisis, creating a normalisation process with the United States and improving its co-operation with East Asian countries. Turkey has reaped the benefits of these efforts as the country carefully navigated its way to sustainable economic development.
Although the country was hard-pressed under the fall in the value of the Lira, it has demonstrated meaningful resilience and strength. The Turkish people are accustomed to instability and Turkey remains an emerging economic power.
The LATAM giants
The Latin American economies of Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia are expected to grow in power in 2020 as GDP improves. The GDP in Argentina is predicted to grow from recession to 2.2% growth next year though this may be affected by recent political instability. Mexico has continued growing despite a general slowdown and Brazil and Colombia have outperformed expectations. Against a challenging backdrop and series of considerable hurdles, LATAM countries are continuing to show strong growth prospects.
Despite ongoing political instability in these markets and the risks posed by their increasing dependence on exports from China, these countries have strong business-friendly governments in place which can ensure sustainable growth and economic prosperity. These markets are expected to continue growing at a moderate pace, showing economic resilience and ultimately proving a viable option for long-term investment opportunities.
South Africa has recently been identified as a major player in the Emerging Market space. Having previously been recognised as one of the ‘fragile five’ as recently as 2013, this may come as a surprise to seasoned investors who have witnessed the nation’s resulting struggle towards reformation and stable growth.
However, in the first months of 2019 and like many other emerging markets, the country has faced its fair share of struggles. With unemployment reaching a 15-year high of 27%, and the economy contracted by 3.2%, the country marked the biggest quarterly slump in a decade and has made the uphill battle even steeper.
Amidst the current economic struggles and the fact that China, South Africa’s largest trading partner, is once again embroiled in trade conflicts with the United States, the country is working to manoeuvre away from slipping into a debt crisis.
Amidst the current economic struggles and the fact that China, South Africa’s largest trading partner, is once again embroiled in trade conflicts with the United States, the country is working to manoeuvre away from slipping into a debt crisis. While its implications are currently not seen as lasting, the country continues to suffer from a lack of capital depth which could ultimately lead to a state of increased economic volatility.
Despite the challenges that are currently looming over the world’s emerging economic markets, the hurdles that have been overcome and the presence they have managed to establish thus far have put them in much better standing than what could have been anticipated. Internationally speaking, the market’s current economic heavyweights need to consider the detrimental impact that their disputes have on emerging economies. Addressing trade disputes with a more measured, constructive and perhaps considerate approach could provide fledging economies with the stability they need to progress, find their footing and ultimately cultivate a presence on the world stage.
The study, which looks at cash and cashless technology usage in four markets—the UK, Australia, Brazil, and South Africa—shows that a cashless society may not be a realistic ambition. In fact, the survey revealed an “immovable” 24% of consumers who will never abandon cash—no matter what technological advance or leap forward is available to them.
In Brazil and South Africa, where cash use is more common, there is a strong desire for wider acceptance of cashless technologies such as payment cards and digital wallets. In both markets, 60% say that they are worried about having cash stolen from them which suggests fear of theft is a key driver rather than convenience.
In the UK and Australia, however, where the use of cashless technologies is more widespread, people are happier with their use of cash. Around 80% of people in both markets say that they are comfortable using cash.
Respondents across all countries saw cash as part of their day-to-day lives. They carry cash at all times, replenishing their wallets and purses regularly at ATMs, and are unwilling to go that last extra mile and never use cash again.
The findings suggest that cashless technologies will not replace cash completely; instead people are happier with an equilibrium between the two.
“While the proliferation of cashless payment technologies has generally led to a reduction in cash usage across developed economies, banknotes have unique properties that consumers value, such as security against fraud,” said Michael Batley, Head of Strategy, Travelex. “As long as this is the case it’s unlikely that any attempts to abandon cash completely will succeed. Even Sweden’s bid to go cashless, touted as a successful model, has seen pushback. Ultimately, only consumer demand will drive the change towards a truly cashless society and our research indicates this is further away than many realise.”
As well as revealing a lack of appetite for a cashless society, the study also reveals that opinion is split on whether it is even possible. The UK, the most ‘cashless’ country surveyed, represented the highest proportion (47%) of respondents that do not see an end to cash, closely followed by Australia (42%).
Travelex commissioned Sapio Research to survey 1,000 consumers regarding their attitudes to cash and cashless technology across four markets: the UK, Australia, Brazil and South Africa. These four countries are at different points in the “journey towards cashlessness”, as defined by Mastercard’s Measuring progress toward a cashless society report, and together give a representative overview.
In Africa, the want for cryptocurrency is growing, and according to Iggi Vargas at Paxful, this could affect the wider markets.
The interest in bitcoin has continued to grow at a rapid pace. Exchanges are reporting that a lot of Africans, especially millennials, are taking over the platforms.
The term “Cheetah generation” was coined by Ghanaian economist and author George Ayittey. It refers to the young and hungry generation of African graduates and professionals. This is the generation that is trying to change the status quo for the better.
“The Cheetahs do not look for excuses for government failure by wailing over the legacies of the slave trade, Western colonialism, imperialism, the World Bank or an unjust international economic system… To the Cheetahs, this ‘colonialism-imperialism” paradigm, in which every African problem is analyzed, is obsolete and kaput. Unencumbered by the old shibboleths, Cheetahs can analyze issues with remarkable clarity and objectivity.” (Ayittey, 2010)
The Cheetahs offer the people of Africa a new way of thinking. Ayittey says that their outlooks and perspectives are “refreshingly different” from past African leaders, intellectuals, and/or elites.
Ayittey compares them to what he calls the “Hippo generation”. This refers to the generation before the Cheetahs.
“ [The Hippo generation] lacks vision - hippos are near-sighted - and sit tight in their air-conditioned government offices, comfortable in their belief that the state can solve all of Africa’s problems.” (Ayittey, 2010)
According to Ayittey, the Hippos are the ones that “are lazily stuck complaining about colonialism, yet not doing anything to change the status quo.”
With that being said, how does the Cheetah generation translate to the Africans’ new-found passion for crypto?
When it comes to cryptocurrency, Africa is a shining star. This is because of one major factor: peer-to-peer finance. Africans have joined the peer-to-peer revolution. It is doing wonders not only for their economy but also their culture. The Cheetahs seem to be embracing this as a good number of African millennials have been joining peer-to-peer marketplaces. This is important for many reasons.
First, it shows that peer-to-peer platforms have an amazing reach. Africa does not have, by any means, cutting-edge technology but they find a way to make a living off of cryptocurrency. Being able to send money around the world without the bank’s high fees are a big deal. Whether it be to a sibling halfway around the world or to your neighbor, being able to send money anywhere is an advantage for Africans.
Second, it shows that peer-to-peer platforms are easy to use. Many non-users will find bitcoin intimidating at first and give up on learning. This shows not only that everyone can use peer-to-peer platforms, but also that it's easy to learn if you’re willing.
Third, it shows that the underbanked aren’t a lost cause. With Africa being so underbanked, bitcoin serves multiple purposes for them. It serves as both a way to hold your money and a way to send out money.
Fourth, it shows that everyone has the power to take control of their own finances. Some Africans actually make a living by trading cryptocurrency, and you can too.
Lastly, it shows that a revolution is in the works; a peer-to-peer revolution. The benefits of peer-to-peer exchanges are being seen all over Africa. The idea of fast transactions and innovation flawlessly aligns with the Cheetah Generation. Clearly cryptocurrency and peer-to-peer finance are the right tools for the new generation of Africans to get ahead and prosper. But it doesn’t just have to be Africa. All over the world, peer-to-peer platforms are showing significant amounts of growth. They are also becoming a popular method to buy bitcoin.
It seems like we can learn a lot from the Cheetah generation, including how to make money with bitcoin. If they can have the right set of mind, the world can follow suit. The drive of these young prodigies is something to look up to. They have the attitude that can conquer and inspire the world. Taking control over your own finances is a big deal, and it seems the Cheetahs have figured it out. The peer-to-peer revolution is here and it’s time to get in on it.
Finance Monthly explores corruption in East African organisations and FBW Group’s efforts towards upholding ethical standards within their offices.
According to the EY’s Europe, Middle East, India and Africa Fraud Survey 2017, companies need to work harder to encourage their staff to successfully uphold ethical standards all over the world.
63% of Africans working in corporate environment believe that regulation has a positive impact on ethical behaviour. In South Africa alone 79% of the population believes that bribery and corruption remains widespread in the country.
One in four Generation Y employees (ages 25 to 35) can justify offering cash payments to win or retain a business. Since Generation Y staff are the future leaders of our businesses, if the problem is not combated now, there is bound to be an overall problem with ethical behaviour in organisations in the future.
Kenya, through the Law Society of Kenya, adopted a code of ethics and standards of professional practice and ethical conduct for its members. These standards were benchmarked against The Commonwealth. However, many professional fields in East Africa remain unregulated.
According to the organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the real estate, construction and associated industries are among the sectors with the highest level of corruption risk: 40% of foreign bribery cases occurred in construction, transportation, and information and communication; however the Uganda 2017 corruption report does not prioritise the construction sector as corrupt.
Organisations like FBW Group are doing their best to uphold ethical standards within their offices. Using the UK Bribery Act 2010 as their baseline, FBW holds itself to world-class standards of anti-bribery.
Their internal policy goes into details like describing what a bribe is, assuring their staff that they will not be retaliated against should they whistle blow against something, intolerance of kickbacks of any sort, and keeping of adequate financial records to evidence payments made to third parties among other things.
Many property developments are compromised because of concessions made by those in charge of putting them up. A number of criminal issues can arise in the construction industry as Architects may find themselves involved in these if they participate in a project on which violations of law take place.
The violations may take the form of giving money to owner representatives in exchange for their agreement to select a certain team’s proposal, trading information to ensure a particular team gets the job and bid rigging.
Joseph Debuni, the Director of Engineering at FBW Uganda, discusses the need for the architectural and engineering firm to adhere to a strict anti-bribery policy to retain the reputation it has developed over the past 20 years.
According to Mary Rose Atubo, FBW Uganda’s Section Manager, it has come to a point where: “many of the people in the industry see our logo and tie it back to the fact that we do not hand out “wheel oilers” and in other words, do everything as the book says it should”.
“In doing so, initially we met our challenges, but we feel that others are slowly adapting to our way,” added Debuni.
“In order to change our narrative, we need to get back to our drawing board, change our attitudes towards work, enhance our productivity and polish up on the outlook of organisations in Africa. Then, we will be a stronger economy and will eventually rebuild the reputation of organisations in Africa.”
Most conversations about doing business in Africa will include words such as “challenges,” “instability” and “risk.” Nat Davison, Partner at foreign exchange and international payments firm, Frontierpay, explains for Finance Monthly the promises and pitfalls behind payments across the African continent.
The same three words are often applied to managing currency risk and making payments throughout Africa. Costly transmission fees, unestablished banking systems, central bank restrictions and market volatility are all obstacles keeping treasury managers and payroll teams up at night.
That said, Africa also has a lot to offer from a payments perspective. The continent is becoming a hub of new payments technology, same-day payments are possible in countries such as Nigeria and there is a booming mobile payments landscape.
In short, while there is some volatility, if payroll teams are aware of the potential pitfalls and how best to avoid them, there are plenty of rewards to be reaped in the continent.
Finding the right supplier
When looking at currency markets, risk is a constant. Before even considering how currency fluctuations could affect your business though, you first need to gain access to any of Africa’s local currencies; a process which isn’t always as straightforward as it might sound.
In an ideal world, a single supplier would be able to meet most, if not all, of a business’ currency requirements. The reality though, is that many high street banks have a limited or restricted offering and are unable to provide a solution that covers multiple African nations. It’s important, therefore, when preparing to do business in the continent, to find a partner who can cover as many currencies as possible. Not only will this help to smooth internal processes, but it will also enable more effective currency hedging.
Companies often try to get around liquidity limitations in Africa by making payments in US dollars instead. The problem in doing so is that unless the beneficiary bank account is denominated in USD, the payment will be converted to the local currency before crediting at an arbitrary and more than likely unfavourable rate of exchange. Furthermore, it’s impossible to pay a supplier or employee a fixed amount using this system.
Markets can be fickle beasts and to use even a commonly traded currency such as the South African rand can require a thick skin and heightened awareness of risk. Last year, the currency dropped 7.5% in the last four days of March, only to rise by the same amount in a nine-day stretch in April. Shifts of this nature are more than capable of affecting your payment costs and can hit with little warning.
On the flip-side, anyone with the nerve to have played the rand over the long term will have seen a downward slide of more than 50% in its value between 2011 and 2015, only for it to rise by 13% in 2016 and outperform every EM currency except Brazil’s real and Russia’s rouble.
To remove a degree of the uncertainty from trading the rand, I would advise anyone who hopes to do business with South Africa to have an understanding of the carry trade; a strategy that involves borrowing a currency with a low interest rate in order to fund the purchase of another with a higher rate.
As a result of the combined political and currency volatility in the region, knowledge and experience of South Africa’s local markets are key to successfully negotiating the pitfalls that could cost you time and money.
Where possible, work with partners who can demonstrate a strong track record and broad network within the region, to speed up the delivery of payments and avoid overblown fees. Some banks and payment partners may be able to deliver funds to Nigeria, for example, but not all will have access to local banking systems. Having this capability would open up the possibility of naira crediting bank accounts within hours rather than days.
Pricing is affected in the same way. A deeper knowledge of local market conditions, parallel markets and FX volatility will allow you access to much more favourable currency rates and the most efficient processes available within the rapidly developing continent.
Banking requirements are also fluid, with differing beneficiary data needed in different countries – in stark contrast with the EU and Single European Payment Area. Specialist experience when it comes to making payments in less-developed regions, such as Mozambique or Lesotho, will help to avoid lengthy delays, payment rejections and administration charges.
Volatility in Chinese economy
Africa’s prosperity increasingly depends on China. Over the past 20 years, China has become its largest trading partner and a significant source of investment and lending, paving the way for deep economic ties between the two countries.
As a result, recent signs of a slowdown in the Chinese economy are likely to be a very bad omen for Africa, which is massively dependent on China to not only purchase its natural resources, but also to upgrade its decaying national infrastructure.
Ultimately, a slowing China will hinder Africa’s ability to grow. However, as a decelerated China is looking ever more like an inevitability than a possibility, any business with exposure to Africa must ensure they are monitoring the landscape in China just as closely.
As a market to do business in, Africa is gathering global interest. Widespread urbanisation is fostering large cities in which to set up shop and readily available workforces to recruit from. New consumer markets, such as a growing middle class, are presenting previously untold opportunities to trade and the region is seeing strong growth, both economically and from a perspective of technological innovation.
However, for any new business, success on the currency and payments front needs to be an immediate concern. Failure to manage currency risk can fundamentally jeopardise your business, while holes in your liquidity provision may even leave you unable to pay suppliers or employees. Familiarise yourself with your required currencies and the local banking infrastructure, and invest time in finding a partner with the knowledge to keep any potential risk under control.
Local communities must be involved in infrastructure development at every step of the way, said Cyril M. Ramaphosa, Deputy President of South Africa. Infrastructure is for the betterment of people’s lives and is important that they feel a sense of ownership by being given full opportunity to benefit from the construction and from eventual delivery, he added.
South Africa’s experience of filling a gigantic post-apartheid infrastructure deficit over the past 21 years – since the advent of democratic government – has taught it important lessons, said Ramaphosa. One of these is that coordination of all projects at the highest level is critical to the best division of resources and to timely completion. South Africa has situated a coordination agency within the president’s office, enhancing and centralizing the government’s own management capacity; improving transparency, particularly with regard to tenders, which are often a point of corruption; and effectively “crowding in” the private sector.
Partnerships with the private sector have been particularly successful in the energy sector, with companies being given licences to develop generation capacity largely independent of government interference, and selling power into the national grid.
Colin Dyer, President and Chief Executive Officer, JLL, USA, said developing countries’ domestic capital markets are very shallow and will take time to strengthen and deepen. But the urgency of the infrastructure task requires financing right now, which means international markets have to be tapped.
Dyer listed four key factors to attracting international capital: transparency on costs and returns, and purchase and selling prices; reliable judicial systems to protect ownership; low levels of bureaucracy; and low levels of corruption. Dyer added that many countries in Africa are, in fact, success stories in terms of these criteria, but these stories are not being told. “The press loves to stream problems and whisper success,” he said.
John Rice, Vice-Chairman, GE, USA, said inclusive growth is impossible without electricity, citing figures showing that 500 million in Africa are “in the dark”. This has to change and quickly, and highlights the need for nimbleness and urgency on the part of governments and bureaucracies in addressing power gaps. “Speed matters,” he said, lamenting how important projects are allowed to “languish” due to political electoral cycles.
Equally, potential financers express eagerness to invest in infrastructure because of a clear and urgent need for it, but then allow enthusiasm to wane as they proceed to “define risk in the old-school ways,” noted Rice.