Africa and the Middle East were until recently offering good conditions to investors willing to travel south: African stock markets performed better than any other, MENA [Middle East and north Africa] countries attracted more FDI than ever and the GCC was the perfect haven amid global turmoil.
Alas, the bear has reached our shores and our stock markets are down, but sound fundamentals are limiting our exposure to financial meltdown and economic recession.
Regional economies are still relying heavily on commodities exports whose volatile prices, even going down, remain much higher than earlier predictions and extraction costs.
On the financial side, the region’s financial institutions have not been heavily investing in exotic derivatives and subprime mortgages, hence offering minimal exposure to the current crisis.
“Few could have predicted the rollercoaster ride in financial markets and commodity prices in the first half of the year, but we are nowhere close to a recession,” says director-general of the South African National Treasury, Lesetja Kganyago. Financial institutions are weathering the storm and won’t require capital injection from the government.
In the GCC, economies should remain healthy, supported by government surpluses invested in large infrastructure projects. The credit crunch might even have a positive impact as higher borrowing costs and tighter credit are likely to ease inflation.
Dexia chief economist Anton Brender believes that southern hemisphere countries borrow less and save more than the north. No doubt those piles of cash will come handy in the management of the credit crunch era. Plane ticket, anyone?
Sébastien Delasnerie, a former journalist and director at the Invest in France agency, advises governments on branding and image in international markets.