Thursday, January 14, 2016

14/1/16: Debt in Sub-Saharan Africa & Country-Specific Risks

The age of QE in the West, as well as the Great Recession and the Global Financial Crisis have both undoubtedly left some serious scars on the Emerging Markets. One example is the rising (once again) debt in the countries that prior to 2007 have benefited from major debt restructuring initiatives. Here is the new World Bank paper assessing the extent of debt accumulation in Sub-Saharan Africa post-2007.

"Sub-Saharan African countries as a group showed a considerable reduction in public and external indebtedness in the early 2000s as a result of debt relief programs, higher economic growth, and improved fiscal management for some countries. More recently, however, vulnerabilities in some countries are on the rise, including a few with very rapid debt accumulation."

Across Sub-Saharan African countries, "borrowing to support fiscal deficits since 2009, including through domestic markets and Eurobond issuance, has driven a net increase in public debt for all countries except oil exporters benefitting from buoyant commodity prices and fragile states receiving post-2008 Highly Indebted Poor Country relief. Current account deficits and foreign direct investment inflows drove the external debt dynamics, with balance of payments problems associated with very rapid external debt accumulation in some cases. Pockets of increasing vulnerabilities of debt financing profiles and sensitivity of debt burden indicators to macro-fiscal shocks require close monitoring."

And looking forward, things are not exactly promising: "Specific risks that policy makers in Sub-Saharan Africa need to pay attention to going forward include the recent fall in commodity prices, especially oil, the slowdown in China and the sluggish recovery in Europe, dependence on non-debt-creating flows, and accounting for contingent liabilities."

Full paper: Battaile, Bill and Hernandez, Fernando Leonardo and Norambuena, Vivian, Debt Sustainability in Sub-Saharan Africa: Unraveling Country-Specific Risks (December 21, 2015). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 7523 is available via SSRN:

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