From The Economist print edition

Published on Dec 13th, 2007

THIS month Omar Bongo—the longest-serving ruler in Africa—celebrated 40 years in power in Gabon. In Libreville pictures of him hang everywhere. But outside the country, Gabon achieved a far more impressive landmark, when it raised $1 billion on the international markets—becoming only the third country in continental sub-Saharan Africa in two decades to issue sovereign bonds abroad.

The West African country has oil, close ties with China and better-managed public finances, which are three of the ingredients sought after by Africa's foreign creditors—even those who may struggle to find Gabon on a map. Increasingly, other African countries, including those without oil, are also arousing interest among outsiders. Ghana launched an international sovereign bond in September. Kenya, and possibly Zambia and Tanzania, hope to follow.

There is a dizzying sense of the gold rush about the way investment bankers are peddling the continent to investors. Many portray parts of sub-Saharan Africa as the new frontier for risk-takers, offering returns that, it is hoped, will be uncorrelated to the fluctuations of developed markets. Sometimes the salesmen gloss over the political risks, the corruption and the debilitating exposure to commodity cycles. But it is not all hype. High commodities prices, good debt-management (the proceeds of Gabon's ten-year bond will go toward buying back its Paris Club debt), debt relief and better economic leadership have produced the strongest growth and lowest inflation in sub-Saharan Africa in over 30 years. South Africa is still the biggest magnet for foreign portfolio investment, but capital is flowing into shares and bonds elsewhere, too (see chart).

Even those countries unable to issue international bonds are preparing the ground. Standard & Poor's (S&P), a credit-rating agency, has been working since 2003 with the United Nations Development Programme and rates 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In November S&P opened its first African office in Johannesburg. Ratings provide a proxy measure of country risk and demonstrate a country's commitment to transparency, both of which should help attract foreign capital.

Domestic debt markets are also opening to foreigners—though most of the money is being raised by states, rather than private companies. In the West African Economic and Monetary Union, annual issues of publicly traded government debt have grown tenfold since 2000, reaching 383 billion CFA francs ($770m) in 2006. In some sub-Saharan countries, 10-20% of local sovereign bonds are now held by foreigners, according to the IMF.

Because investing in local markets can still give foreigners headaches, some banks are offering synthetic securities instead. For example, South Africa's Standard Bank, which operates in 18 African countries, packages local government bonds into instruments it sells to foreign investors. Meanwhile, the development institutions are doing their bit to spur innovation. The African Development Bank has issued eight Eurobonds denominated in, or linked to, African currencies, starting with a bond in Botswanan pulas in 2005. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private arm of the World Bank, has done currency swaps in Zambian kwachas and Nigerian nairas.

Equity investors are also finding a way in, though via circuitous routes. Most stock exchanges outside South Africa and Nigeria remain minuscule and illiquid, but returns are picking up. Renaissance Group, a Moscow-based emerging-market bank, says that its index of 50 shares listed on 11 exchanges across sub-Saharan Africa increased by 39% in dollar terms between January and October this year—compared with 29% for the broader MSCI emerging-market index. Making the markets more accessible to outsiders, Merrill Lynch is listing its Africa Lions Index certificates, which track shares in at least 15 African countries, on several European exchanges.

Is the appetite likely to last? On the one hand, more transparency means less scope for corruption and profligacy. Provided the funds are used sensibly, they should keep on coming. But until Africa's economies become more diversified, they will be over-exposed to changeable weather, fickle aid flows and volatile commodity prices. Ultimately, Africa has to manage the bounty carefully. After an unprecedented wave of debt relief, it would be a shame to drown in debt again. 

中文:

歐盟各國問題不一 歐元聯盟擴張難實現

作者:經濟學人EIU 譯者:陳智菁 2007.12.19/ 第387期

除英國和丹麥之外,歐盟成員皆在法律上有義務加入歐洲貨幣聯盟,但大部份來自中歐和東歐的新歐盟會員國都發現很難符合加入貨幣聯盟的標準。而目前除了波羅的海會員國希望加入外,其餘各成員國顯得愈來愈越意興闌珊。
除英國和丹麥之外,歐盟成員皆在法律上有義務加入歐洲貨幣聯盟,但大部份來自中歐和東歐的新歐盟會員國都發現很難符合加入貨幣聯盟的標準。而目前除了波羅的海會員國希望加入外,其餘各成員國顯得愈來愈越意興闌珊。

究竟以符合加入貨幣聯盟規定的五項標準來看,準歐盟成員國表現如何?

債務標準:政府總債務對國內生產總值的比例不得高60 %,目前只有匈牙利和馬爾他的公共債務對國內生產總值的比率略高或接近60%。

通膨標準:通膨率不得超過3個表現最好歐盟成員國的平均值(1.5%),但幾個快速成長的新會員國很難符合此標準,如立陶宛。

利息標準:前12個月的長期利率不得超過3個最低通膨國家平均利率(2%)。

政府赤字標準:政府赤字不超過國內生產總額的3%。這對一些國家如波蘭、匈牙利和捷克將相當困難。

匯率標準:匯率波動至少兩年須符合新歐洲匯率機制(ERM2),有些專家認為這是不必要,甚至是危險的作法。

相較以往,目前歐洲委員會和央行對於新的歐盟會員國申請加入歐元地區採取了較嚴格的標準。根據計劃加入聯盟的時間表可分成兩類:

一是已加入歐洲匯率機制的國家,包括愛沙尼亞,立陶宛,拉脫維亞等,預定2010年前加入歐洲貨幣聯盟。其他如捷克,匈牙利和波蘭,預計數年內都無法讓財政赤字降低到國內生產總額3%以下。

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