With the Nigerian economy in recession for the first time in decades, a handful of banks in Angola heading towards collapse because of non-performing loans, Mozambique suffering from severe debt repayment issues, South Africa’s lack of growth and Kenya’s imposed limits on bank lending, it’s no wonder that there have been questions raised over the “Africa rising” narrative. The term was coined to describe the swift economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa since 2000, and the belief that further rapid growth was inevitable. But 2016 was a testing year for the continent, and 2017 looks set to be similarly tough.

Nevertheless, there has been confirmation of green shoots of recovery in the South African economy, whose weak growth last year, together with Nigeria’s, effectively dragged down the regional average. East Africa too will regain some ground in 2017, and rising oil prices will help those economies that rely on the production of the commodity. This, some economists say, will drive a cyclical recovery across the continent.

While it’s not quite a case of “Africa reeling” just yet, growth will be subdued, experts predict. Optimism must be tempered by additional challenges: the perception of risk in Africa has taken a hammering and investors’ comfort levels may have reached their limits. What’s more, FX volatility is set to return to the continent, fuelled by external unpredictability.

As has always been the case with Africa, good news stories do exist: just not in the places where we would usually find them. This publication highlights some of these cases, including the many countries and industries that have emerged as winners in the commodity price slump.

With this first annual GTR+ Africa publication, our hope is to arm those doing business in the continent with the information they need to fully understand trade in Africa. To that end, GTR has partnered with Equant Analytics, a business specialising in macroeconomics and risk, on a project, the first of its kind, to uncover the data that exposes trade flows in and with Africa and underpin the industry’s understanding of the region.

As Equant Analytics highlights in our Trade Briefing, African countries are generally poor at reporting trade data. The resulting opacity has an even further negative effect on the perception of risk across the region, and increased risks mean increased costs and a potential decrease in trade finance activity.

With this publication, we provide comprehensive data, supplemented with multi-sourced commentary on key themes in accompanying country and sector-specific reports. We also include a handy “top 10 country data” appendix, which we believe will be of interest to all trade finance players operating in the region.

We trust that this will be a practical tool for our readers, and we look forward to uncovering more good news stories with you.


In this issue: