The World Bank has announced that it will give a $600 million grant and a $600m loan towards supporting reforms in Ethiopia’s financial sector including improving the investment climate, according to this story from Reuters, citing a statement on the World Bank website (couldn’t find this).
The Bank is also providing technical support. It will promote public-private partnerships (PPPs) “to improve efficiency in key sectors” including telecom, power, and trade logistics and the support would also help the Government “reduce inefficiencies and operating costs and improve financial performance” in these sectors. It aims to help Ethiopia attract more foreign direct investment (FDI) and raise export revenues.
The World Bank says its increased assistance is a response to reform pledges made by the Government since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in April. Ethiopia has a huge population of 105m people and a fast-growing economy, but the State and state-owned enterprises tightly control the economy and are increasingly crowding out the private sector. Investors hope this could be changing, according to Reuters.
The 2 overarching challenges identified in 2016 by the World Bank’s systematic country diagnostic study are: “The need for a sustainable financing model for growth, and inadequate feedback mechanisms to facilitate citizen engagement and government accountability”. The Country Partnership Framework is closely linked to the Government’s Growth and Transformation Plan II (GTP II) (2015/16-2019/20).
On the sustainability of financing growth, from the World Bank Country Partnership Framework for the period FY18-FY22:
- “..if Ethiopia were to catch up with the average Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) country in terms of financial liberalization, the rate of per capita GDP growth would rise by 1.9 percentage points per year.”
- “Private sector credit is only about 9% of GDP in Ethiopia compared to more than 20% in SSA. The experience of East Asian developmental states such as China, South Korea, and Vietnam shows that private firm growth is needed to lead the development process.”
- “While domestic savings have increased as a share of GDP in Ethiopia, the country has experienced a decline in the credit to GDP ratio, suggesting that increased savings are not always entering the formal banking system and/or are going into the booming real estate market. The Government has actively sought to raise domestic savings through measures such as expansion of bank branches among others… a key determinant of domestic savings is the real deposit interest rate. Since this rate is currently negative, households have strong incentives to channel monetary savings into informal savings mechanisms. A negative real interest rate is also a major obstacle to the development of a secondary market for treasury bills, as institutional investors would not earn a sufficient return for voluntary purchase of such assets.”
- “Analysis suggests that the absence of a functioning capital market may become a binding constraint for growth and development as the country progresses. Since there are substantial needs for long-term financing in local currency by both the public and private sectors, a well functioning capital market (particularly the bond market) is essential to the long-term development of the Ethiopian economy. The current market is characterized solely by short-term treasury instruments of up to 1 year, the tenor of which does not match the long-term character of the actual investments. In addition, the money market is not functioning with virtually no existing interbank lending. However, there is an active informal market for equities, particularly for bank and insurance stocks, which in turn indicates that there is demand for services of a typical capital market. Failure to establish such a market may mean that future projects could not be financed in an ever-more developed economy. The evolution of this viable capital market will take time, and a comprehensive but targeted approach is required given its current nascent state.”