UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
By Gerald M. Feldman
Sub-Saharan Africa's commitment to free institutions was severely tested in 1992, as famine, civil war, and continued economic stagnation pushed many nations to the limit. Yet most countries continue to cling to the dream of democratic freedom and free enterprise prosperity. Even in nations ravaged by the region's worst drought in decades, governments have largely rejected pressures to revert to their previous state- directed economic philosophy. With the drought having broken, U.S. exporters and investors are now poised to profit from renewed African economic growth and the resumption of efforts to rebuild the region's basic infrastructure.
Africa's quiet but persistent evolution toward democratic government has been overshadowed recently by gripping human tragedies in Somalia, Liberia, Zaire, and Angola. In those unfortunate countries, unstable authoritarian regimes have given way to anarchy and violence rather than representative rule. Amid horrifying images of war, famine, disease, and starvation, we tend to lose sight of the determination with which most African countries are striving to reform their political and economic systems in favor of pluralism and free enterprise. The democratization process has developed strong roots in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is now spreading and flowering throughout the region.
Within the last three years alone, more than 15 countries have held multi-party elections, some for the first time. This year and next promise a genuine watershed for African reform, as South Africa and Nigeria-the region's most populous countries and largest economies-join the democratization movement. Adding Africa's two giants to the democracy rolls will give new impetus to the process throughout Africa, and could open new commercial opportunities in the region's dominant economies.
Nigeria, home to one of every four Africans, will elect its first civilian government after nearly a decade of military rule. An appointed civilian Transitional Council is already performing many day-to-day government functions. The council is now working to outline an economic program for the elected government that emphasizes sustainable growth, fiscal discipline, and accountability.
Although the transformation to pluralistic systems is often disruptive in the short term, democratic institutions are essential to sustainable, equitable economic development. Democracy brings predictability, accountability, and the rule of law, which are indispensable in building domestic and foreign business confidence.
Democratic transformation in Africa has been accompanied by economic structural reform based on principles of the free market. In the last decade, some 30 countries have instituted adjustment programs aimed at liberalizing their economies and building free enterprise. These programs typically involve measures to increase fiscal discipline, cut internal subsidies, devalue national currencies, divest state-owned enterprises, and liberalize trade and investment regulations.
The results of Africa's economic reform decade are clear. A World Bank survey found that African nations pursuing reforms have experienced accelerated GDP growth rates, lowered inflation, declining fiscal deficits, and expanding exports. As the accompanying articles illustrate, structural adjustment also has led to new market opportunities and a revitalization of economic activity throughout the region.
U.S. Firms Reap Benefits
U.S. firms continue to share in the benefits of Africa's new political and economic freedom. U.S. exports to Sub-Saharan Africa expanded 12 percent in 1992 to $5.4 billion, the highest total in a decade. Led by corn and wheat, food grains registered the biggest increases, due in large measure to the devastating drought in East and Southern Africa. Overall, agricultural sales accounted for 20 percent of total U.S. shipments to Africa, double the proportion of a year earlier.
U.S. suppliers also registered strong sales of aircraft and parts, oil and gas field equipment, construction machinery, motor vehicles, computers, electric generators, telecommunications equipment, industrial chemicals, and farm machinery. In view of Africa's drought-induced need for increased food imports, it is encouraging that U.S. capital equipment sales continued to perform well. These shipments indicate that U.S. suppliers are not merely helping the region to cope with its emergency needs, but are also making invaluable contributions to Africa's long-term productive capacity. As African countries strive to develop their infrastructures, exports of U.S. capital goods should show continued strength, along with medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, fertilizers and pesticides, paper, and used apparel. Long a prominent sales category, used textiles and apparel registered nearly 40 percent growth last year.
Several factors are working to boost U.S. exports to Sub-Saharan Africa. Much needed rains have finally broken the drought, and agricultural prospects have improved accordingly. This will free up scarce foreign exchange for the purchase of sorely needed capital equipment. American products enjoy a respected reputation in the region, and favorable exchange rates enhance their competitiveness against Japanese and European products. At the same time, the U.S. economy has strengthened, which could help spur demand for Africa's primary commodity exports. U.S. purchases from Africa, dominated by crude oil and nonferrous metals, totaled just over $12 billion in 1992. The United States buys 15 to 20 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa's total exports, and a vibrant U.S. economy is essential to African growth prospects.
U.S. government policy toward Africa further boosts American commercial interests. Federal agencies undertook a review of U.S. policy in the region during 1992, in light of the new circumstances of the post-Cold War world. The resulting policy places added emphasis on commercial concerns, by insisting that U.S. firms be given equal access to Africa's commercial opportunities. In light of U.S. interest in expanding private sector relationships with the region, the policy emphasizes the need for open markets, non-discriminatory treatment, and sincere efforts by African countries to liberalize trade and investment rules.
The United States pursues these objectives bilaterally with the African nations, and multilaterally through the World Bank and the African Development Bank. Both banks are major sources of finance for African infrastructure development projects, and the Department of Commerce has assigned representatives to the banks to ensure that U.S. companies participate more fully in project procurements.
The outlook for African prosperity-as well as U.S. participation in achieving it-is not free of obstacles, however. Ensuring growing markets for Africa's exports is the best guarantee that the region will share in world prosperity, but global economic circumstances give cause for concern. Even as the U.S. recovery spurs demand for African exports, recession in Europe and Japan offsets some of Africa's gain. The dollar's low exchange rate boosts U.S. sales but limits the growth of African export revenues, since most of its exportable commodities are dollar-denominated in world markets.
Africa's future prosperity is further threatened by continued deadlock in the GATT Uruguay Round. Several key issues in the Round- trade in agricultural goods, tropical and natural resource-based products, and textiles-are matters of intense interest to African exporters. A successful Round is important to ensure Africa's continued access to its traditional markets in the developed world. Without an agreement, global economic progress will be slowed, and Africa could be harmed by increased protectionism.
With the end of the Cold War, Africa is no longer a contested venue between rival ideologies. However, the opening of new markets in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and new opportunities arising from the proposed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have sharpened competition with Africa's efforts to attract American business. President Clinton has referred to the U.S. economy as the world's strongest engine of growth and progress. Nowhere is the strength of that engine more sorely needed than in Africa. Precisely because Africa's needs are so vast, the U.S. private sector can make a unique contribution to the region in its efforts to build free enterprise prosperity.
Benin is a struggling new democracy making a concerted effort to correct deficiencies in the macroeconomic policies followed by the previous Marxist government. The new government of Benin has focused on rebuilding a commercial banking sector, privatizing state enterprises, liberalizing trade regulations, and creating a positive investment climate. Benin began the first phase of an International Monetary Fund structural adjustment program in 1989 and entered the second phase in 1991. After declining in 1989, real gross domestic product rebounded in 1990 and 1991, rising by 3.7 and 4.7 percent, respectively.
International trade accounts for a significant portion of Benin's GDP and has traditionally been centered on re-exports to neighboring countries, particularly the large Nigerian market. Benin's economic health is closely linked to that of its giant neighbor, Nigeria, and recent cutbacks in imports by Nigeria have had a corresponding negative effect on income in Benin. Taxes on trade provide about half of all government revenues.
Benin's primary exports are petroleum and cotton. Trade could be significantly enhanced if plans to establish an export processing zone in Cotonou come to fruition.
While small in relative terms, U.S. exports to Benin have grown by 54 percent since 1989, with the leading items being wheat and flour, used clothing, motor vehicles, and textile machinery. Interesting possibilities for investment include fruit juice production, aquaculture, small hotels, sea salt extraction, and oil exploration.
For further information, contact the Commerce Department's Benin Desk Officer at (202) 482-4388.
Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean, is located 1,000 miles off the coast of East Africa. With a per capita income of $3,000 and 6 percent annual growth in gross domestic product, Mauritius is considered an advanced developing country with strong growth prospects.
Mauritius is ready to begin the second phase of its industrial development. The country is in the process of diversifying its export base and is looking to manufacture high-technology products in the electronics and informatics sectors. The Mauritian government welcomes American technology, and has taken action towards liberalizing its trade and investment environments. Major trade liberalizations include import permits, tariffs, and foreign exchange. Import permit requirements have been abolished, except on a selected number of controlled products. Imports from the United States benefit from preferential tariffs, compared to the extra duty on goods from a few east Asian countries. Import tariffs have been abolished on raw materials used in the production of textiles, leather goods, jewelry, electronic components, printing, agricultural, and agro-industrial machinery. Foreign exchange has been completely liberalized on international transactions, and payments for imports are settled directly by commercial banks without prior approval of the Central Bank.
For American companies wishing to export to Mauritius, best prospects are machinery and raw materials, power generating plants and sugar mill equipment, agricultural machinery and parts, hotel and catering equipment and supplies, building construction, road work machinery and parts, pollution control equipment and services, port handling equipment, and port development services.
For American investors, Mauritius also offers an attractive investment climate and opportunities. Investment incentives include a 15 percent corporate tax during the whole life of the enterprise; tax-free dividends for the first 10 years of operation; free repatriation of earnings and capital; preferential access to loans from commercial banks and the Development Bank of Mauritius; availability of leased factory buildings in serviced industrial estates; ready access to the European Common Market through membership in the Lome Convention; and duty-free access to Preferential Trade Area (PTA) countries of Eastern and Southern Africa for products with 40 percent local value-added. Investment opportunities exist in the financial services, electronics, informatics, telecommunications, energy development and environmental sector.
For further information on Mauritius, contact the Commerce Department's Mauritius Desk at (202) 482-4564.
After increasing 6.8 percent in 1992, U.S. exports to Cote d'Ivoire (formerly known as Ivory Coast) have now expanded three years in a row. Increased shipments of nitrogenous fertilizers, aircraft parts, and oil and gas field equipment, along with steady sales of milled rice and paper mill products-our two traditional leading ticket items-led the way to a record year for U.S. suppliers.
Prospective U.S. sellers enjoy an edge in the Ivorian marketplace in that American equipment and machinery have earned an excellent local reputation. They risk losing a sale if they cannot offer the after-sales service frequently required. Most buyers in Africa select import goods for reasons of price, reliability, performance, delivery time, and after-sales support.
U.S. imports, after increasing 10.5 percent in 1991, fell 15.1 percent in 1992. Once again cocoa beans, and refined chocolate and cocoa products, accounted for the bulk of imports (56 percent), followed by petroleum refinery products (15 percent), and coffee beans (12 percent). There was a slight growth in imports of Ivorian textiles, while U.S. purchases of forestry products were marginally lower. The trend toward more local value-added content in Ivorian export products should continue due to recent investments in textile factories and coffee and cocoa processing plants.
The political reforms adopted in 1990, involving the establishment of a multi-party democracy, have gained popular acceptance. Economic reform has proved more difficult to accomplish, but some recent strides have been made in privatization and the streamlining of the national government.
The privatization program is now being reviewed by the National Assembly, with a slowdown in the sale of state-owned enterprises a likely result. Overall policy is otherwise expected to remain consistent up to the 1995 national elections.
Basic economic problems persist, however. International debt obligations, involving reschedulings of principal and interest, excessive national budgetary expenditures, and continuing weakness and uncertainty in the world coffee and cocoa markets have severely hindered Ivorian economic development since 1985. The Ivorian government, in conjunction with the international financial institutions and international commodity organizations, is trying to address the problems, but progress has been sporadic and unsatisfactory to date. In the view of the U.S. government, the economic reform programs agreed upon should be speedily implemented, while the structural competitiveness problem caused by the valuation of the CFA Franc used in Cote d'Ivoire and 13 other African countries must be rationally addressed by all parties to the franc zone arrangements now in place.
For additional information, contact the Desk Officer on (202) 482- 4388.
Nigeria's military government is preparing for a peaceful transition to democratic rule in August 1993. A civilian Transitional Council assumed office in January to oversee day-to-day government operations until the elected government assumes power. The new government will face some difficult economic decisions in the face of a budget deficit equal to more than half of projected revenues, and uncertain prospects for concluding a new International Monetary Fund agreement.
Nigeria took significant steps in 1992 to deregulate the financial system and liberalize the foreign exchange market, but these measures have been thwarted by the large budget deficit. The naira's declining value has led to a severe shortage of foreign exchange, wildly fluctuating interest rates, and an inflation rate of 46 percent.
Nigeria's moderate 4 percent GDP growth rate in 1992 is expected to continue in 1993, provided oil production is maintained at the level of 2 million barrels per day (mbd). However, OPEC has assigned Nigeria a production quota of 1.8 mbd. Growth in the agricultural sector, which contributes over 30 percent of gross domestic product, should remain stable if rains are adequate. Manufacturing, which accounts for 8 percent of GDP, is not likely to increase due to a continuing shortage of foreign exchange to purchase raw materials.
The country's general economic situation is highly dependent on the international oil market. The petroleum sector provides Nigeria with about 95 percent of its foreign exchange earnings and 85 percent of government revenues, but has little direct spillover into the rest of the economy. Nigeria remains the second leading supplier of crude petroleum to the United States, with oil sales of $4.9 billion in 1992. Purchases from Nigeria accounted for nearly 13 percent of U.S. crude oil imports.
U.S. exports to Nigeria increased 82 percent in the past two years, with the top items being oil and gas field equipment, motor vehicles, construction machinery, and electric motors and generators. The U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service (US&FCS) identifies best prospects for further increases in U.S. exports as: computers and peripherals, telecommunications equipment, airport and ground support equipment, aircraft and parts, medical equipment, oil and gas field machinery/services, airconditioning and refrigeration equipment, food processing and packaging equipment, laboratory scientific instruments, and printing and graphic arts equipment.
Doing business in Nigeria is not without risk, however. During the past few years, many American firms have been contacted by Nigerian companies claiming to have strong connections with both government and private organizations that are able to award and/or obtain multi- million-dollar contracts. Some of the offers imply a possible violation of U.S. or Nigerian laws. The U.S. Commerce Department advises that all unsolicited business offers from Nigeria be approached with caution, even though many are legitimate. Cases of counterfeit bank drafts and even fraudulent letters of credit are common. Unfortunately, these business scams show no signs of abating in the near future. U.S. companies are advised to verify the bona fides of Nigerian companies and their business proposals through Commerce Department district offices. American firms should make shipments only on the basis of an irrevocable letter of credit confirmed by a U.S. bank.
For further information, contact the Country Desk Officer, (202) 482-4388.
Due to successful economic reforms, Uganda offers American companies new trade and investment opportunities. After years of economic decline, gross domestic product growth now averages 5 percent, and inflation, which was 200 percent in 1987, is at 33 percent today.
The Ugandan government has also taken measures to liberalize foreign exchange. It has legalized foreign exchange bureaus and amended foreign exchange laws in order to allow the bureaus to buy and sell foreign currency freely. The new exchange laws also allow Ugandan exporters of non-traditional goods to retain their foreign exchange earnings to buy imports. A weekly foreign exchange auction has been established, and the auction continues to evolve in a progressively liberalized manner.
These reform measures, coupled with donor funding, have generated a number of trade opportunities for U.S. firms. The majority are major projects funded by the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the United States Agency for International Development. They are designed to rehabilitate Uganda's infrastructure, particularly in the areas of energy renewal, transportation, telecommunications, and agriculture. Among the projects are: extension of the Owen Falls electrical power plant, and supply of pharmaceuticals, hospital and health center equipment, protective gear, and syringes. As Uganda continues to expand its exports, there is a growing need for packaging, containers, and such materials as glass, metal, plastic, and cardboard.
Outside of these major project opportunities, the best export prospects are products that will serve Uganda's large agricultural sector. These include agricultural equipment, processing equipment for oil and cereals, and agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. The Ugandan government also liberalized its investment climate by enacting a new investment code in 1991. The investment code offers tax and other incentives to foreign and local investors, including duty exemptions on new plant and equipment, as well as duty and sales tax drawbacks on imported inputs used in the production of goods for export. In addition, the code guarantees repatriation of profits, and provides for dispute resolution through the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes.
For further information, contact the Uganda Desk at (202) 482-4564.
Namibia, Africa's youngest nation, became independent on March 21, 1990. In its short history as a sovereign nation, Namibia has been pragmatic in its economic policies and practices. With a goal of national reconciliation, the government seeks to redress social inequities while achieving sustainable economic growth for the entire country.
Namibian business and government agencies, eager to lessen the chronic dependence on South Africa, have taken a keen interest in American products. The best export opportunities for U.S. companies are those goods not easily obtainable from South Africa and the larger customs union area, as well as products for which the United States enjoys technological superiority, including: agricultural machinery and equipment, construction machinery, motor vehicle parts, and aircraft equipment.
As a member of the Rand Common Monetary Area, Namibia utilizes the hard currency South African rand. Namibia plans to begin circulating its own legal tender, the Namibian dollar, at the end of 1993. The new currency, which will initially be pegged to and exist alongside the rand, provides Namibia with the alternative of moving to a single national currency in the future should that option prove desirable.
Namibia should not be overlooked as an attractive site for investment. The country enjoys a stable political environment, anchored by a genuine multi-party democracy. Namibia also boasts a superior infrastructure, with well developed telecommunications and transport systems. Walvis Bay, the deep water port currently administered jointly by Namibia and South Africa, ties in with a large network of roads and rail lines, and is well equipped to handle traffic to and from major international markets.
The government of Namibia actively encourages and seeks foreign investment. While the Foreign Investment Act of 1990 provides the foundation for an already liberal investment climate, the Namibian government is willing to negotiate further incentives for investments in strategic industries that result in significant job creation and economic development in the region.
Further information on commercial opportunities in Namibia can be provided by the Department of Commerce's Namibia Desk, telephone (202) 482-4228.
With South Africa's recession entering its fourth year, economists hope the worst is over, although most anticipate minimal growth at best in 1993. Positive indicators are inflation's decline to single digits late last year, and the onset of good rains that will alleviate the drought. The rand is expected to depreciate against the dollar by 6 percent this year, as it did in 1992.
Despite the sluggish South African economy, U.S. exports increased 15 percent last year. Much of the increase was due to $368 million in corn sales to the Maize Marketing Board, to offset a 4 million-ton shortage caused by the drought. Even in recession, South Africa is the largest market for U.S. products and services in Sub-Saharan Africa, taking 44 percent of all U.S. exports to the region. Principal U.S. exports are automatic data processing equipment, aircraft and parts, agricultural machinery, mining equipment, and medical equipment.
The U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service in Johannesburg has identified the following products as best prospects for U.S. sales in 1993: computer equipment and peripherals, aircraft and parts, franchising, avionics and ground support equipment, telecommunications, medical equipment, security and safety equipment, and sporting goods.
Some U.S. firms are preparing now for economic recovery in post- apartheid South Africa. The Washington-based Investor Responsibility Research Center reports that 17 American companies have opened offices, established subsidiaries, or placed employees in South Africa since most U.S. sanctions were lifted in July 1991. Most of these transactions are licensing and distribution agreements, six of which involve the computer and software industry.
U.S. trade restrictions remaining in effect are: no good or service may be sold to, resold to, or made available for use by South African police or military entities, and no sales of munitions or equipment for their manufacture are permitted to any end-user.
Some 140 state, city, and county governments continue to maintain sanctions against South Africa. These measures include investment restrictions, procurement bans, and selective contracting and purchasing statutes. It is expected that state and local sanctions will be repealed once the African National Congress (ANC) calls for a lifting of international sanctions.
South African analysts believe that no genuine economic upturn will occur until there is multi-party agreement on a smooth political transition to a non-racial government. In February, the ANC announced that it will call for a lifting of all international economic sanctions once a multi-party Transitional Executive Council is established and a date is set for national elections for a non-racial constituent assembly. These events could occur by June of this year, provided the multi-party talks continue on course. Representatives of business and labor organizations and the government have established a National Economic Forum to address South Africa's economic challenges, such as generating sustainable economic growth, improving productivity, and addressing the socio-economic distortions and inequalities caused by apartheid. Post-apartheid South Africa will receive an additional boost as an export platform from which companies can serve much of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Overseas Business Report-Marketing in South Africa has been updated and is now available from the Superintendent of Documents, or the National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Exporters consulting the NTDB will find South Africa listed as the Republic of South Africa. For more information contact a Department of Commerce district office or the South Africa Desk Officer at (202) 482-5148.
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