As treasury capabilities continue to mature in 2018, regularly re-evaluating corporate strategies and counterparties will be imperative. Only by capitalising on increasingly sophisticated developments such as instant payment systems, data analytic tools and by working with the right partners to support growth, can the new era of corporate treasury in Africa truly take shape. Geoffrey Gursel, Sub-Saharan Africa Sales and Implementations Head, Treasury and Trade Solutions, Citi, explains why 2018 is the perfect time to review and refine treasury operations in Africa, whilst maximising the value of bank relationships across the continent.
Treasury capabilities in Africa are maturing at a rapid pace. Yet many corporates have not updated their regional strategies or set-ups at the same speed. Moreover, Africa’s growth story continues to be full of twists and turns – and 2017 was no exception. After several years, Nigeria is emerging from recession, and much to the relief of the treasury community, the country’s restrictive foreign exchange policies are easing, revitalising dollar flows and freeing up trapped cash. Nigeria continues to be the largest economy in Africa and the country is gradually learning to thrive, despite low oil prices.
South Africa, meanwhile, has faced numerous challenges. Fitch and Standard & Poor’s downgraded the nation’s long-term debt to Sub-Investment Grade status in November 2017. Political upheaval in the country has also significantly dented confidence levels. In addition, the oil exporting economies in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) experienced low and often sharply falling growth (see Figure 1) – not helped by rising inflation, weakening exchange rates, and slow exchange rate policy responses by some central banks.
Conversely, the oil importing nations in SSA experienced real GDP growth of circa 4% in 2017, confirming that the sub-continent is no longer rising in a consistent manner. This economic disparity between the oil exporters and importers looks set to continue throughout 2018, and corporates will understandably be keen to follow pockets of growth.