No. 143: Three AM Reads: Falling Commodity Prices | Kenyan Regulators Split over Bitcoin | IMF Making the Rounds

Coffee Prices Are Going to Drop 6% This Year, But My Americano Will Still Be $4

The World Bank put out its forecasts for global commodity prices last week, and it expects coffee, cocoa, and tea prices to fall 6%. Ivory Coast’s President Ouattara recently called on the country’s cocoa farmers to increase their output and quality of their beans in light of falling cocoa prices. Apparently, greater-than-expected supply of these commodities is driving the price drop, so I’m not sure how increasing output helps with that. Feel free to send me notes explaining that. Increasing cocoa bean quality could help with competitiveness in a crowded market, but cocoa is such a slow developing crop that expectations for quality to improve in a year is not realistic.

Kenyan Regulators Split on Virtual Currencies  

The Central Bank of Kenya and the Capital Markets Authority don’t agree on the use of virtual currencies like Bitcoin in Kenya. The CBK argues that the unregulated nature of Bitcoin exchanges leaves users vulnerable to losses, while the CMA has left the door open for the regulator and fintech players to feel each other out and determine how to move forward with the potential use of Bitcoin in the country. To be clear, Bitcoin startups like Bitpesa are operating in Kenya, though not without challenges. Last year, the Central Bank of Kenya effectively shut down Bitpesa’s operations by shutting down its bank accounts. Ultimately, both regulators will figure out what to do about virtual currencies. Hopefully, they won’t find themselves flat-footed like they did during the rise of mobile payments platforms.

IMF is Making It’s Rounds – Egypt, then Zambia

The IMF has a team in Egypt currently discussing a $1.7B loan, expected to be disbursed in June. Next up, Zambia is slated to continue talks with the IMF this month for a $1.6B loan. The IMF has been working with Mozambique in dealing with it’s hidden debt issue. In all, there are about 20 African countries that have taken money from the IMF. I look forward to seeing that number decrease significantly over the next decade. We’ll see how realistic of a hope that is.

No. 31: Here’s My Issue with the IMF/World Bank Africa Rising Seminar

When I first saw, the agenda for the Africa Rising seminar at this year’s IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings, I posted a tweet:

Probably not the wisest thing to not provide any context. So, here goes.

My issue with the seminar is the makeup of the panels. I believe there could be a greater representation of African academics and practitioners. Currently, 30 percent of the panelists are African nationals. Considering that the topic is Africa, this strikes me as odd.

Consider the following promotion of the Africa Rising Conference slated to take place in Mozambique next month.

The Government of Mozambique and the IMF will convene a high-level conference in 2014 to take stock of Africa‚Äôs strong economic performance, its increased resilience to shocks, and the key ongoing economic policy challenges. The Africa Rising conference will be held May 29-30, 2014, in Maputo. The event is intended to follow up on the 2009 Tanzania Conference, which helped galvanize international support for Africa after the 2008 financial crisis. The conference will bring together policymakers from Africa and beyond, the private sector, civil society, academics, and private foundations with the goal of sustaining the current growth and sharing its benefits among African populations.    

I find the statement in bold odd considering the relative struggles much of the rest of the international community faced after the financial crisis. Furthermore, the statement defaults to Africa somehow being dependent on externally driven development. I think the structure of this week’s Africa Rising seminar could potentially do the same.

Afara Global exists to see a world in which African and Western countries engage economically at an eye-to-eye level. To do that, you need the right people at the table. While the majority of the panelists are quite impressive, I think the right people are not all present – at least not in this seminar.

A few candidates come to mind for future reference:

Amadou Hott runs Senegal’s newly established sovereign wealth fund and chairs the development of the country’s new airport.

Rolake Akinkugbe is Head of Energy, Oil and Gas Research at Ecobank.

Alexander Chikwanda serves as Zambia’s minister of finance. As Africa’s biggest producer of copper, the country has had to deal with global copper prices while driving inclusive growth at home.

Yaw Nyarko is Professor of Economics at New York University and is Director of the university’s Africa House and focuses his research on technology and economic development, and has done work on human capital.

Dambisa Moyo is CEO of the Mildstorm Group and has a global view on economics and development from an African perspective.

Rentia van Tonder is Head of Renewable Energy, Power and Infrastructure at Standard Bank.

Akinwumi Adesina is Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and has earned a lot of attention for his efforts to grow Nigeria’s agriculture sector. He could speak to inclusive growth and structural transformation and economic diversification.

Who are some people you think would make for good panelists?