Nigeria has lost its crown as the most-watched frontier market in the latest WSJ Frontiers/FSG Frontier Markets Sentiment Index. As multinationals adapt to changing economic drivers, Argentina has vaulted to the top of the league. Surprisingly, several oil exporters, including Angola, Ecuador and Venezuela also saw a sharp increase in the amount of interest shown in them by multinational companies.
According to the Journal’s Kejal Vyas, though, Venezuela saw a sharp decrease in attendance at its flagship oil expo and conference. The event, which had drawn as many as 40,000 attendees in the past, was a shadow of its former self, illustrating only too clearly the challenges facing Venezuela’s economy and its oil sector.
The White House announced that Barack Obama will become the first ever sitting U.S. president to travel to Ethiopiawhen he visits next month as part of a broader trip that will include attending the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya.
The news came on the heels of a report from the IMF that gave Ethiopia’s economic management a robust vote of confidence. The WSJ’s Terin Miller writes that the IMF attributes Ethiopia’s “rapid and broad-based growth” to the country’s state-led development model but urges the country to do more to attract private investment. Ethiopia is on track for GDP growth of 8.7% this year, the IMF forecasts.
According to consultant EY’s Africa Attractiveness report, Ethiopia is one of the few sub-Saharan African countries that are seeing growth in the number of foreign direct investment projects. At an event in New York this week James Newlands, leader of EY’s Americas Africa business, said he was seeing a softening in perception globally toward Africa, but that North Americans are becoming more positive on Africa.
“We’re confident the Africa rising narrative remains intact and sustainable,” Newlands commented, “but we can’t take that for granted.”
At the same event, Kuseni Dlamini, chairman of South African supermarket chain Massmart, said African investment in Africa was growing. He highlighted the development of sovereign wealth funds on the continent, noting they “can play an important and catalytic role in supporting entrepreneurs.”
Saudi Arabia opened its market to foreign investors this week, the Journal’s Ahmed Al Omran reports. The long-anticipated change went off with more of a whimper than a bang as shares slid slightly on the first day. Many potential investors are staying on the sidelines, viewing the market as overvalued after a 15% rally since the start of the year.
Ukraine received some welcome news when IMF head Christine Lagarde lauded the country’s efforts to restructure its debt and restore economic stability. The WSJ’s William Maudlin writes that Lagarde said “the authorities’ program and the determination and boldness with which it is being implemented, despite considerable headwinds, warrant the support of the international community.” Creditors might argue that the government is being too bold, threatening to impose a moratorium on payments unless bondholders accept a 40% haircut on their holdings.
The IMF was less complimentary about Vietnam, urging the country to accelerate reforms to the banking and state-owned enterprise sectors to achieve greater economic efficiency, writes the WSJ’s Vu Trong Khanh. What Vietnam needs is a “growth-friendly fiscal consolidation,” the IMF said.
Apparently, it also needs help developing its clean energy and textile sectors. Denmark stepped in this week to help with the former, agreeing to help the country optimize its energy system, with a view to promoting renewable energy and clean technologies. And India’s government offered a $300 million loan package for garment and textile projects jointly developed by companies from the two countries. India is mindful of the fact that Vietnam’s garment and textile industry relies heavily on imported materials, which can be supplied by Indian companies.
Egypt’s attempts to improve its investment environment continue to bear fruit, according to analysts at Capital Economics. Inward direct investment in the first quarter of this year reached its highest level since 2008, with flows of $2.9 billion, the firm says. “The near-term prospects for further investment flowing into Egypt are bright,” it added.
The prospects are not so bright for Africa’s elephants, which are suffering the highest level of poaching in decades. The plight of the elephants was highlighted this week when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a number of conservation groups crushed a ton of illegally imported ivory at an event in Times Square, New York.
Joe Walston, a vice president of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society says the recent growth in poaching is partly the result of improvements in infrastructure in Africa. “Poached ivory is a commodity like any other,” he told WSJ Frontiers. “If you improve access you can increase trade volume.” he said. It is estimated that poachers in Africa kill as many as 35,000 elephants a year.
Zimbabwe started to retire its old currency, six years after hyperinflation prompted the country to switch to the US dollar. With the prospect of the legendary 100 trillion dollar bills disappearing for good, resourceful entrepreneurs took to Ebay EBAY +0.79% to offload their stashes. The online price for a note that would net you $0.40 at a local bank? Around $30.
Also in the “surprisingly pricey” category: Luanda, Angola’s capital, hung onto its status as the world’s most expensive city for expats. Luanda takes the top spot for the third year running in consultancy Mercer’s annual cost-of-living survey, writes the Journal’s Rachel Silverman.