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Somalia: Rapid Growth in Mobile Money

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Somalia’s economy is projected to grow at an annual rate of 3–4 percent, according to the third Somalia Economic Update (SEU) published by the World Bank. Titled “Rapid Growth in Mobile Money: Stability or Vulnerability?”, the SEU assesses Somalia’s vibrant mobile money market, and provides concrete recommendations on introducing mobile money regulation that can boost a secure system for widespread financial inclusion.

The SEU aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of economic data, trends and outlook, and sets out a series of recommendations to stimulate reform, growth and improved fiscal performance. This report comes after the country faced its worst drought in decades. Somalia’s economy grew by an estimated 2.3 percent in 2017, down from 4.4 percent in 2016, reflecting the impact of enormous losses seen in livestock and crop production and exports. The volume of live animal exports—Somalia’s largest export, accounting for more than 70 percent of export earnings—declined by 75 percent, from 5.3 million animals in 2015 to 1.3 million in 2017.

Somalia’s economy has grown modestly in recent years, and it remains vulnerable to recurrent shocks. Between 2013 and 2017, real annual GDP growth averaged 2.5 percent. Nonetheless, growth has not been sufficient to translate into poverty reduction. “To achieve higher growth, Somalia requires an acceleration of structural reforms,” said John Randa, Senior Economist at the World Bank Macroeconomic, Trade and Investment Global Practice and Lead Author of the SEU. “Somalia needs to continue to build the fiscal buffers to allow greater public investment in basic services. Recent efforts to broaden the tax base, enhance compliance, and reduce wasteful expenditures are starting to pay off.”

The GDP estimate was revised upward in 2017, based on new information and data harmonization with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The new estimate puts GDP at $6.8 billion in 2016 and $7 billion in 2017. GDP is dominated by private household consumption expenditure, which represents 132 percent of national income, followed by imports (62 percent), exports (15 percent), and gross capital formation (9 percent).

Special Focus: Mobile Money

The special focus of the report is on mobile money. Despite its fragility and underdeveloped financial institutions, Somalia has one of the most active mobile money markets in the world, outpacing most other countries in Africa. Approximately 155 million transactions, worth $2.7 billion, are recorded per month. Mobile money has superseded the use of cash in Somalia, with over 70 percent of adult Somalis using mobile money services regularly. This presents exciting opportunities for the country. “Private sector actors have given Somalia a unique opportunity to leapfrog towards widespread financial inclusion. We will continue to support the partnership between the Central Bank of Somalia, the National Communications Authority and the key private sector actors as they deliberate on an appropriate regulatory framework for the sector.” said Tim Kelly, Lead ICT policy specialist at the World Bank.

Nevertheless, the mobile money sector lacks robust consumer protection, and know-your-customer requirements. The mass adoption of services – while impressive – presents opportunities for promoting financial broadening and deepening that will lead to more competition and contestability in the financial services market.

The challenge for policymakers and regulators is to how to mitigate system vulnerabilities and avoid macroeconomic effects in the event of service disruptions. Reducing costs and promoting greater stability is a top priority for the overall development agenda for the financial sector, ensuring that regulation does not stifle innovation by leveling the playing field is a very close second. There is a need to improve the balance between cooperation and competition between banks, MNOs and other non-bank financial institutions and ensure better integration of mobile money within the broader financial system. This is key to deepening and broadening the financial services market in Somalia for inclusive growth.” said Thilasoni Benjamin Musuku, Senior Financial Sector Specialist at the World Bank Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation Global Practice and co-Lead Author of the SEU.

The SEU was prepared in close partnership with Somali stakeholders and aims to contribute to government policy-making and the regulatory environment in Somalia. This is the third in the SEU series for Somalia. The SEU series is financed by the World Bank’s Multi-Partner Fund (MPF).

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Asia’s Growth Outlook Steady Despite China–US Trade Conflict

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Economies in developing Asia and the Pacific are weathering external challenges thanks to robust domestic demand, while inflationary pressures are abating, says a new report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In a supplement to its Asian Development Outlook 2018 Update report, ADB retained its regional growth forecast for 2018 at 6.0% and for 2019 at 5.8%. Excluding the newly industrialized economies of Hong Kong, China; the Republic of Korea; Singapore; and Taipei,China, the regional growth outlook is maintained at 6.5% for 2018 and 6.3% for 2019.

Lower international commodity prices and central bank action to calm market volatility means inflation in developing Asia is forecast to be 2.6% in 2018 and 2.7% in 2019, down from 2.8% previously forecast for both this year and next.

“The truce on trade tariffs agreed by the United States (US) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is very welcome but the unresolved conflict remains the main downside risk to economic prospects in the region,” said ADB Chief Economist Mr. Yasuyuki Sawada. “That said, we are keeping our forecasts for the region’s growth unchanged for this year with some of the biggest economies continuing to hold up well.”

Growth in the PRC, the second largest economy in the world, is still expected at 6.6% in 2018, moderating to 6.3% next year. Growth momentum continues in India on rebounding exports and higher industrial and agricultural output. Growth is predicted at 7.3% in 2018 and 7.6% in 2019.

Gross domestic product growth in Central Asia in 2019 is now forecast at 4.3%, up from the 4.2% forecast in September, as a recovery in public investment and higher output from the Shah Deniz gas field enhance prospects in Azerbaijan. South Asia’s 2019 growth is now pegged at 7.1% versus the 7.2% forecast in September. Southeast Asia is expected to grow 5.1% in 2019 versus the previous forecast of 5.2%. The Pacific is on track to expand 3.1% in 2019.

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Vietnam’s economy grows robustly, but risks intensify

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Economic growth in Vietnam has proven resilient despite weakening external conditions, driven mainly by strong domestic demand and a dynamic export-oriented manufacturing sector.

According to Taking Stock, the World Bank’s bi-annual economic report on Vietnam released today, the pace of expansion is forecast to remain at 6.8 percent this year, higher than the projected figure of 6.3 percent for emerging markets in the East Asia and the Pacific.

Over the medium term, in line with the global trend, Vietnam will see a slower pace – 6.6 and 6.5 percent in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Inflation will remain muted at 4 percent as the result of tightening monetary policies.

“Despite a challenging global context, Vietnam continues to achieve robust growth accompanied by moderate inflation and a relatively stable exchange rate” said Ousmane Dione, the World Bank Country Director for Vietnam. “Policy makers should take advantage of the still favorable growth dynamics to advance structural reforms to enhance private sector driven investment and growth, along with improving efficiency in public sector investment.”

Risks to the outlook have intensified and are titled to the downside, highlights the report. Given its high trade openness and limited fiscal and monetary policy buffers, Vietnam remains susceptible to external volatilities. Escalating global trade tensions could cause a falloff in export demands while tightening global liquidity could reduce capital inflows and foreign investment. Domestically, a slowdown in reforming state-owned enterprise and banking sectors could undermine growth prospects and create public sector liabilities.

Slower global growth, ongoing trade tensions and heightened financial volatility cloud on the global outlook,” said Sebastian Eckardt, the World Bank Lead Economist for Vietnam. “As an open economy, Vietnam needs to maintain a responsive monetary policy, exchange rate flexibility and low fiscal deficits to enhance its resilience against potential shocks.”

In light of the recently ratified Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), the special section of this Taking Stock edition focuses on streamlining non-tariff measures to help boost Vietnam’s export competitiveness. This timely analytical work is a product of the Second Australia-World Bank Group Strategic Partnership in Vietnam (ABP2).

The report observes that while tariffs are rapidly declining, the number of non-tariff measures (NTM) is increasing. Vietnam’s average preferential tariffs have fallen from 13.1 percent in 2003 to 6.3 percent in 2015. In contrast, the number of NTMs has increased by more than 20-fold during the same period. International experiences show that poorly designed and implemented NTM could restrict trade, distort prices, and erode national competitiveness.

According to this report’s assessment, the NTM system in Vietnam remains complicated, opaque, and costly, resulting in high cost of compliance. One study estimates that the equivalent tariff rate that sanitary and phytosanitary measures Vietnam are imposing on imported goods is 16.6 percent compared to the average level of 8.3 percent for ASEAN countries.

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Immigrant integration policies have improved but challenges remain

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Many countries have made important improvements in integrating immigrants and their children into the labour market and day-to-day life of their country. However, many challenges remain and much of the potential that migrants bring with them remains unused, hampering both economic growth and social inclusion, according to a new joint OECD-EU report.

Settling In 2018: Indicators of Immigrant Integration finds that the proportion of highly educated immigrants has grown in virtually all OECD and EU countries, rising by 7 percentage points over the past decade in both areas. At the same time, in all countries, most immigrants express a strong sense of belonging to their host-country, with more than 80% reporting feeling close or very close to this country.

“Countries have made important improvements in their policies to foster the integration of immigrants and their children into education, the labour market and the social life of their country,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “Nevertheless, much remains to be done to maximise the still untapped potential of migrants to contribute economically and socially to their recipient countries.”

“Making immigrant integration work is absolutely vital for our economies and societies as a whole,” said European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos. “We need to make sure that all those who have a right to stay and live in our societies, become full and equal participants. Not only on paper but also in reality.”

Despite some improvements, immigrants have often not managed to translate higher overall education levels into better labour market outcomes. Immigrants’ relative poverty is also today more widespread than a decade ago, further widening the gaps with the native-born. Around 14% of all foreign-born people in the EU report facing discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, nationality or race. The report also notes that almost a third of non-EU migrants in Europe state that most inhabitants of their neighbourhoods share their ethnic background.

Educational attainment levels and outcomes of youth with immigrant parents have also increased in most countries over the past decade – both in absolute terms and relative to their peers with native-born parents. This is evident in better educational outcomes and higher resilience at age 15, in lower levels of school dropout rates and higher educational attainment. However, immigrant children continue to lag behind their peers with native-born parents, notably in Europe, while the reverse is the case in only a few non-EU OECD countries such as Canada.

While immigrant men have a 3 percentage points higher employment rate than native-born men across the OECD, immigrant women have a 1 percentage point lower rate than their native-born peers, amounting to a full 6 point gap in Europe. Gaps between immigrant and native-born women are especially wide in Belgium and France, at 14 percentage points, and in the Netherlands, at almost 17 points. When employed, immigrant women are also more often in part-time and low-skilled jobs – notably in Southern Europe (except Portugal), as well as in Chile, Korea and Slovenia, where over 30% of employed immigrant women are in low-skilled jobs.

Following an overall increase in their share over the past decade, women now account for the majority of immigrants living in OECD and EU countries. The report also finds that the widespread inactivity and part-time employment of immigrant women is often involuntary, more often than for their native-born peers.

Settling In 2018: Indicators of Immigrant Integration presents a detailed international comparison of the outcomes of immigrants and their children and their evolution over time, for all European Union and OECD countries as well as selected G20 countries. 74 indicators cover key dimensions of integration, including employment, education, housing, health, civic engagement and social inclusion. There is a special focus on young people with immigrant parents and on gender issues.

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