February 19 - February 21
DRAFT FRAMEWORK AND PROGRAMME OF DISCUSSIONS
Third World Network Africa (TWN-Africa) is convening a three-day consultative workshop on Finance and Development in Africa from 19-21 February 2019 in Accra, Ghana. The objectives of the workshop are to: 1) improve understanding of the issues and challenges on the terrain of finance and development in Africa today; 2) define priority issues and agenda for research and advocacy; and 3) set up a platform for collaboration around this agenda. The consultation will bring together policy makers, scholars and activists from Africa, and from Europe, Asia and North America.
The consultation is taking place against the background of rapid and far-reaching changes in the global and African financial landscape which threaten the capacity of African countries to generate and retain the financial and other resources in support of the structural transformation of their economies and societies.
Over recent decades, extensive liberalization and deregulation of Africa’s predominantly bank-based financial systems have resulted in a very high penetration of foreign bank ownership in economies across the continent. Hand in hand with this, corporate entities in the region have gained listings on major global stock exchanges while many domestic exchanges came into being or grew from share trading in the cherry-picking of public enterprises privatized under neoliberal structural adjustment. Savings and borrowing in foreign convertible currencies have become available in domestic banking systems for higher net worth households. Poorer households and enterprises are caught up in the huge explosion of micro-finance and the diffusion of digital payment platforms across Africa. And African governments, buoyed by recent booms in international market prices of the raw material export prices and increased volumes and sources of foreign financial flows, have gained direct access to international private bond markets, deepening Africa’s integration into global financial circuits with increased vulnerability to new forms and higher levels of indebtedness.
While these have been welcomed in the policy and intellectual mainstream as innovative and inclusive ‘financial deepening’, the above developments in finance have meant a concentration in and foreign domination of finance in Africa with various negative effects and implications. Prominent among these has been the widespread contraction of finance to domestic real sectors and the rural economy, with credit to agriculture and manufacturing at historic lows, undermining the development of these sectors as drivers of economic diversification.
At the same time, however, in spite of such very low levels of credit creation and intermediation, finance in Africa continues to be highly lucrative, with huge profits from interest rate spreads that continue to widen, and what the Financial Times reckons to be some of the highest returns on fees, commissions and on bank equity. The attendant inflated costs of financial services and the prices of financial assets reaches all the way to poorer households and small producers, due in no small part to the costs of services in the micro-finance industry, which are some of the highest in the world.