IMF Concerned Over Africa’s Sovereign Debt Levels

IMF Concerned Over Africa’s Sovereign Debt Levels

Increased uptake of sovereign bonds by African countries could overload their economies with too much debt and threaten the regions good economic growth that has been witnessed over the recent years, International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned.

Sub-Saharan African countries have benefited over the past five years from investors’ hunger for yield owing to ultra-loose monetary policies in the US, Japan and Europe, the Financial Times reported.

The borrowing spree has lifted public debt, which the IMF said will hit a ten-year high of 35 percent of the GDP in 2014. Such debt levels are nonetheless much lower than in Europe and some Asian nations.

“There are some countries that have gone a bit ahead of themselves, and that are rising the level of indebtedness to a level which could be a concern,” Bloomberg quoted IMF’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde telling reporters today in the Mozambican capital, Maputo.

According to Fitch Ratings, sovereign debt issuances in sub-Saharan countries could reach $6 billion this year, after a record $6.25 billion in sales in 2013, as the U.S. cuts back on monetary stimulus that had driven bond sales in developing nations.

At least five African countries — Kenya, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Zambia and Senegal — are expected to issue Eurobonds worth between $500 million to $1.5 million this year. Zambia tapped the international dollar-debt market in April, raising $1 billion in an offer that was nearly four times oversubscribed.

“If not well communicated, if not well anticipated, it would bring about a level of volatility which could be detrimental,” Lagarde said. “It is a potential risk, but one that I hope can be mitigated.”