Category Archives: Debt ratings

China and Africa’s Infrastructure Developments

Excerpts from a piece by Andrew Alli, the former Africa Finance Corp (AFC) CEO, in his debut column for Quartz Africa on separating myths and realities of the role of China in Africa’s infrastructure developments.

China firms funded, built and operate Kenya’s new railway.

  • China’s was the fourth largest foreign investor in Africa spending about $40 billion in 2016, according to UNCTAD’s World Investment 2018 report, behind the US ($57 billion), the UK ($55 billion), and France ($49 billion).
  • Construction contracts are backed by Chinese financial institutions—like China Export -Import Bank and Sinosure – looking to support the exports or sales of Chinese products and services. The mission of these financing entities is to support jobs and income generation in China, as well as to support more strategic objectives of the Chinese government.
  • Chinese companies are surprisingly risk-averse when it comes to Africa – most Chinese financiers will not consider a project without insurance from Sinosure, the Chinese government-owned political risk insurer, or other similar institutions. In turn, Sinosure often requires a guarantee from the government of the country in which the project is located. (e.g. – with Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway construction, the contracts specify that there will be insurance cover of 6.93% of the commercial loan – done by a Chinese firm, SinoSure, to take care of nonpayment). Sinosure insurance and other financing costs do not come cheap, which leads to the point that Chinese firms are not necessarily cheaper than firms from other countries – and while the bare construction costs of certain projects may seem cheaper, even after equalizing for quality, there are other costs that may apply including the insurance and other financing costs mentioned before, and costs associated with local content. 
  • It is true Chinese firms prefer to use all-Chinese inputs. If you want local workers and contractors, you will have to make that a negotiating point.
  • While some work done by Chinese firms can indeed be shoddy,  this doesn’t have to be the case.  For example, while a Western firm may tell you a bridge will cost you, say, $300 million. A Chinese firm may tell you that you can have a $300 million bridge, or a $250 million one.- and things that may be taken for granted in other parts of the world can be negotiable when dealing with a Chinese firm. You have to be careful to specify the quality that you want and the standards that you would like the project to be built to. You also need to be very specific about the environmental and social standards you want the project to adhere to.
  • For too long the number of firms willing to engage in, and finance, projects in Africa has been very limited, meaning that competition has also been limited leading to high prices and a lack of innovation. The increase in interest by Chinese firms has increased the amount of competition, forcing prices down overall and improving quality. The bleating of companies being forced out of cozy monopolies is probably one cause of the constant refrain we hear about the “dangers” of Chinese interest in Africa. We shaved the costs of that project in Ghana by over 20% from initial quotes by running a competitive process involving a Chinese firm.
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Moody’s places Kenya’s B1 rating on review for downgrade

Moody’s Investors Service has placed the B1 long-term issuer rating of the government of Kenya on review for downgrade.

 

Excerpts

The decision to place the rating on review for downgrade was prompted by the following key drivers:

  •  Persistent, large, primary deficits and high borrowing costs continue to drive government indebtedness higher
  • Government liquidity pressures risk rising in the face of increasingly large financing needs
  • Uncertainties weigh over the future direction of economic and fiscal policy, in part due to evolving political dynamics

Moody’s expects that Kenya’s government debt burden, which has risen to 56.4% of GDP in June 2017, up from 40.5% five years ago, will continue to rise due to persistently high primary deficits and borrowing costs. Pressures on the government primary balance, which posted a deficit of 5.3% of GDP in the latest fiscal year ending June 2017, come from elevated development spending and weak revenue performance. Unless a decisive policy response is introduced, the upward trajectory in government debt will see debt-to-GDP surpass the 60% mark by June 2018.

Due to the erosion in government revenue intake in the last five years and increased recourse to debt from private sources on commercial terms, government debt affordability has deteriorated. In the latest fiscal year, the government spent 19.0% of its revenues on interest payments, up from 10.7% five years ago.

A key focus of the review will be to assess the capacity and willingness of the government to address these budgetary challenges in a comprehensive, effective and timely manner.

What Next?

Moody’s would downgrade the rating if the review were to conclude that Kenya’s government debt and financing needs, and hence its fiscal strength and liquidity position, have eroded to levels no longer consistent with B1 rated peers. In particular, the rating agency would downgrade the rating in the absence of an effective policy response to these challenges.

Or

Moody’s would confirm the rating at B1 if the review were to conclude that the policy response offers the prospect for tempering the currently-anticipated upward trend in government debt and that liquidity risks are being effectively managed.