Is Somaliland truly “Open for Business”? Moving past the conventional narrative of a fragile state

Somalia has the reputation of being a mysterious and conflict-ridden land. Who hasn’t heard of the infamous “Black Hawk down” episode, the militant group al-Shabaab or the pirates off the Somali coast?

But in the northwest corridor of war-ravaged Somalia lies Somaliland, a self-declared independent state that claims to be open for business. Really?

It’s easy to dismiss the “open for business” claim by Somaliland’s Ministry of Planning as mere fantasy or wishful thinking. Flying from Nairobi on a painfully slow UN-chartered plane, being greeted at the hotel by Kalashnikov-armed guards, or traveling to your meeting in an armored car is enough to discourage even the most adventurous entrepreneur.

At first sight, Somaliland has all the characteristics of a fragile and conflict-affected situation (FCS). However, you never want to judge a book by its cover. In Somaliland, I’d argue that the conventional narrative of fragility needs to be revisited.

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A New Model to Chip Away at the Infrastructure Financing Gap: Brazil Leads the Way

Infrastructure bottlenecks have created seemingly perpetual traffic jams in and around São Paulo. Photo credit: Marcelo Camargo/ABr.

There’s a lot of time for innovative thought when you’re stuck in traffic in São Paulo.

Perhaps that’s why, in the words for Deborah L. Wetzel, World Bank Country Director for Brazil, “São Paulo has continuously innovated to overcome its infrastructure bottlenecks, often becoming a model to other states in Brazil.”

With a loan signed last month between the state and Banco Santander, and insured by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), the state is at the vanguard of infrastructure financing.

Forty-one million people use the state’s transportation networks. While the network is one of the most developed and modern in Brazil, it is still insufficient for the state’s needs.

The State of São Paulo has sought to address the situation for some time, and the World Bank has played an important role through lending and technical assistance. An important component of this work is the São Paulo State Sustainable Transport Project that aims to rehabilitate roads in several key corridors and to reconstruct two bridges.

Yet, with a total cost estimated at $729 million, this project has faced a major financing hurdle. In September 2013, the World Bank approved a $300-million loan toward the initiative. But with growing demand for loans from Brazil’s poorest states, the bank was unable to commit additional funds. The State of São Paulo itself committed $129 million. That left a shortfall of $300 million.

How was the state going to mobilize these funds at a cost that would be acceptable to taxpayers?

A partnership with MIGA was a natural answer. In addition to political risk insurance, MIGA provides credit-enhancement products that protect commercial lenders against non-payment by a sovereign, sub-sovereign or state-owned enterprise.

In an unprecedented move, the State of São Paulo bid out the project to commercial banks with a requirement that their loans be backed by MIGA’s credit-enhancement instrument.

The result:  MIGA issued guarantees to Banco Santander on a $300-million loan. With MIGA’s credit enhancement, the cost of the commercial loan was lower, and the length of the loan was longer, than São Paulo could have achieved on its own. The additional financing will be used to increase the scope of the project’s activities.

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Credit for All: Increasing Women’s Access to Finance

Financial inclusion is important for accelerating economic growth, reducing income inequality, and decreasing poverty rates. Unfortunately, women face more difficulty than men in access to credit, limiting the development of their full market potential and hindering economic gain and entrepreneurship. Discriminatory practices in the granting of credit may mean that qualified applicants do not have the same opportunity to receive credit simply due to their gender.

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Building for Development: Could Infrastructure Draw Unexpected Investors to Africa?

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Only one out of every 40 dollars of foreign direct investment (FDI) since the 1990s has gone to Sub-Saharan Africa. This is dwarfed by the one out of every eight dollars that went to Latin America and the Caribbean, or the more impressive one out of every four dollars invested in Asian countries. Yet recent studies point to increasing levels of investor interest in African countries. In the last decade, the continent has experienced a notable expansion in the level of FDI inflows, which in 2012 were almost as high as Net Official Development Assistance levels. International investors seem to be noticing the opportunities offered by a rapidly expanding African market.FDI and Development Assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa

Source: Authors’ calculations based on World Development Indicators

In an effort to boost trade and investment relations between Africa and the United States, President Barack Obama this summer hosted the first-ever US-Africa Summit in Washington, D.C. The meeting resulted in $33 billion of public and private commitments to expand trade and investment in the African continent. Remarkably, US companies accounted for half of these pledges, including commitments by General Electric, Blackstone Group (in a joint deal with the Nigerian firm Dangote Industries) and the Carlyle Group to invest in energy infrastructure and to complement the $300 million per year announced by President Obama for the expansion of his administration’s energy initiative, Power Africa. The World Bank and the government of Sweden announced an additional $6 billion in support for enhanced access to electricity in Africa.

This is good news for Africa. FDI inflows will undoubtedly contribute to the technological development, industrial diversification, and economic growth of host countries. And the specific target of these investments – infrastructure – is particularly heartening. The state of Africa’s infrastructure is an important constraint to the continent’s economic development.

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What can education learn from health public-private partnerships (PPPs)?

While public-private partnerships (PPP) have been a central feature of many governments’ attempts to improve access to health services and improve health outcomes for their citizens, education PPPs are still in their infancy. Given the daunting challenges education is facing globally in terms of increasing access, improving learning outcomes, and making curricula relevant to the needs of society and the marketplace, interest in education PPPs has been mounting recently. Increasing access in early childhood education, improving learning outcomes in K-12, or making TVET more attractive to the youth and more relevant to employers are good examples where education PPPs can be one of the tools in providing a solution.As a result, we are seeing a growing number of governments and donors supporting them. But the prevalence of PPPs in education still pales in comparison to that of health and other sectors. So what are the lessons the education sector can learn from the health sector about PPPs?

  • Policies and regulations within the sector matter, but countries must look across sectors to identify and remove constraints
  • Transaction support and capacity building ensures governments can achieve their goals
  • Investment in the private sector is critical for scalability

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Developing local industries connected to the gas value chain: What can Tanzania learn from Malaysia?

Joining with our World Bank Group teams in the field in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania, I was pleased to recently see first-hand evidence of the strong impact that our Global Practice on Trade and Competitiveness is having on economic development throughout East Africa. Our projects are currently helping our clients improve their business environment, increase the competitiveness of firms in key sectors, and develop trade flows.

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