Africa's currency markets face major slump
African countries’ currencies are tumbling amid a rout in commodities, a devaluation of China’s yuan and the prospect of higher interest rates in the USA.
Reserves are shrinking amid falling exports across the continent; sub-Saharan Africa was warned by the International Monetary Fund in a damning report earlier this year that these conditions would push its current account deficit to the widest of any region, deterring foreign investment.
A weaker exchange rate will make exports more competitive but the benefits are being wiped out by the plunge in the value of Africa’s key export goods: oil, crops and precious metals.
Angola used up as much as 10 percent of its foreign currency this year, raising interest rates as a 19 percent drop in the kwanza pushed inflation to almost a three year high.
Nigeria saw its foreign exchange holdings plunge 20 percent and its naira drop 18 percent since last September. Its trading restriction caused dollar shortage which is now preventing Nigerian companies from paying overseas suppliers.
Rand Merchant Bank predicts that Ghana’s cedi, which has plunged by 9 percent in the past month, will shed about another 3 percent this year, even after a bail-out from the IMF.
The IMF report predicted that the deficit in sub-Saharan Africa’s current account would widen to 4.6 percent of gross domestic product this year and growth in many resource-rich countries would slump to the slowest since 2009.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.