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Algeria

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Algiers Stock Exchange has five stocks listed – each at no more than 35 percent equity.  There is a small and medium enterprise exchange with one listed company.  The exchange has a total market capitalization representing less than 0.1 percent of Algeria’s GDP.  Daily trading volume on the exchange averages around USD 2,000.  Despite its small size, the market functions well and is adequately regulated by an independent oversight commission that enforces compliance requirements on listed companies and traders.

Government officials aim to reach a capitalization of USD 7.8 billion in the next five years and enlist up to 50 new companies.  Attempts to list additional companies have been stymied by a lack both of public awareness and appetite for portfolio investment, as well as by private and public companies’ unpreparedness to satisfy due diligence requirements that would attract investors.  Proposed privatizations of state-owned companies have also been opposed by the public.  Algerian society generally prefers material investment vehicles for savings, namely cash.  Public banks, which dominate the banking sector (see below), are required to purchase government securities when offered, meaning they have little leftover liquidity to make other investments.  Foreign portfolio investment is prohibited – the purchase of any investment product in Algeria, whether a government or corporate bond or equity stock, is limited to Algerian residents only.

Money and Banking System

The banking sector is roughly 85 percent public and 15 percent private as measured by value of assets held, and is regulated by an independent central bank.  Publicly available data from private institutions and U.S. Federal Reserve Economic Data show estimated total assets in the commercial banking sector in 2017 were roughly 13.9 trillion dinars (USD 116.7 billion) against 9.2 trillion dinars (USD 77.2 billion) in liabilities.  The central bank had mandated a 12 percent reserve requirement until mid-2016, when in response to a drop in liquidity the bank lowered the threshold to eight percent.  In August 2017, the ratio was further reduced to 4% in an effort to inject further liquidity into the banking system.  The decrease in liquidity was a result of all public banks buying government bonds in the first public bond issuance in more than 10 years; buying at least five percent of the offered bonds is required for banks to participate as primary dealers in the government securities market.  The bond issuance essentially returned funds to the state that it had deposited at local banks during years of high hydrocarbons profits.  In January 2018, the bank increased the retention ratio from 4 percent to 8 percent, followed by a further increase in February 2019 to a 12 percent ratio  in anticipation of a rise in bank liquidity due to the government’s non-conventional financing policy, which allows the Treasury to borrow directly from the central bank to pay state debts.  In response to liquidity concerns caused by the oil price decline in March 2020, the bank decreased the reserve requirement to 8 percent.

The IMF and Bank of Algeria have noted moderate growth in non-performing assets, currently estimated between 10-12 percent of total assets.  The quality of service in public banks is generally considered low as generations of public banking executives and workers trained to operate in a statist economy lack familiarity with modern banking practices.  Most transactions are materialized (non-electronic).  Many areas of the country suffer from a dearth of branches, leaving large amounts of the population without access to banking services.  ATMs are not widespread, especially outside the major cities, and few accept foreign bankcards.  Outside of major hotels with international clientele, hardly any retail establishments accept credit cards.  Algerian banks do issue debit cards, but the system is distinct from any international payment system.  In addition, approximately 4.6 trillion dinars ( USD 40 billion), or one-third, of the money supply is estimated to circulate in the informal economy.

Foreigners can open foreign currency accounts without restriction, but proof of a work permit or residency is required to open an account in Algerian dinars.  Foreign banks are permitted to establish operations in the country, but they must be legally distinct entities from their overseas home offices.

In 2015, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) removed Algeria from its Public Statement, and in 2016 it removed Algeria from the “gray list.”  The FATF recognized Algeria’s significant progress and the improvement in its anti-money laundering/counter terrorist financing (AML/CFT) regime.  The FATF also indicated Algeria has substantially addressed its action plan since strategic deficiencies were identified in 2011.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are few statutory restrictions on foreign investors converting, transferring, or repatriating funds, according to banking executives.  Monies cannot be expatriated to pay royalties or to pay for services provided by resident foreign companies.  The difficultly with conversions and transfers results mostly from the procedures of the transfers rather than the statutory limitations: the process is bureaucratic and requires almost 30 different steps from start to finish.  Missteps at any stage can slow down or completely halt the process.  Transfers should take roughly one month to complete, but often take three to six months.  Also, the Algerian government has been known to delay the process as leverage in commercial and financial disputes with foreign companies.

Expatriated funds can be converted to any world currency.  The IMF classifies the exchange rate regime as an “other managed arrangement,” with the central bank pegging the value of the Algerian dinar (DZD) to a “basket” composed of 64 percent of the value of the U.S. dollar and 36 percent of the value of the euro.  The currency’s value is not controlled by any market mechanism and is set solely by the central bank.  As the Central Bank controls the official exchange rate of the dinar, any change in its value could be considered currency manipulation.  When dollar-denominated hydrocarbons profits fell starting in mid-2014, the central bank allowed a slow depreciation of the dinar against the dollar over 24 months, culminating in about a 30 percent fall in its value before stabilizing around 110 dinars to the U.S. dollar in late 2016.  However, the dinar lost only about 10 percent of its value against the euro in the same time frame.  The 2020 Finance Law forecast a 10 percent depreciation of the dinar against the dollar over three years.  Between March 8 and March 30 2020, the government allowed the dinar to depreciate five percent against the dollar.  Imbalances in foreign exchange supply and demand caused by the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020 led to a steep decline in the value of the euro and dollar on the foreign exchange black market.

Remittance Policies

There have been no recent changes to remittance policies.  Algerian exchange control law remains strict and complex. There are no specific time limitations, although the bureaucracy involved in remittances can often slow the process to as long as six months.  Personal transfers of foreign currency into the country must be justified and declared as not for business purpose.  There is no legal parallel market through which investors can remit; however, there is a substantial black market for foreign currency, where the dollar and euro trade at a significant premium above official rates, although economic disruptions related to the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020 led to interruptions in the functioning of the black market.  With the more favorable informal rates, local sources report that most remittances occur via foreign currency hand-carried into the country.  Under central bank regulations revised in September 2016, travelers to Algeria are permitted to enter the country with up to 1,000 euros or equivalent without declaring the funds to customs.  However, any non-resident can only exchange dinars back to a foreign currency with proof of initial conversion from the foreign currency.  The same regulations prohibit the transfer of more than 3,000 dinars (USD 26) outside Algeria.

Private citizens may convert up to 15,000 dinars (USD 127) per year for travel abroad.  To do the conversion, they must demonstrate proof of their intention to travel abroad through plane tickets or other official documents.

In April 2019, the Finance Ministry announced the creation of a vigilance committee to monitor and control financial transactions to foreign countries.  It divided operations into three categories relating to 1) imports, 2) investments abroad, and 3) transfer abroad of profits.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Algeria’s sovereign wealth fund (SWF) is the “Fonds de Regulation des Recettes (FRR).”  The Finance Ministry’s website shows the fund decreased from 4408.2 billion dinars (USD 37.36 billion) in 2014 to 784.5 billion dinars (USD 6.65 billion) in 2016.  Algerian media reported the FRR was spent down to zero as of February 2017.  Algeria is not known to have participated in the IMF-hosted International Working Group on SWF’s.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

There is a shortage of skilled labor in Algeria in all sectors.  Business contacts report difficulty in finding sufficiently skilled plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and other construction/vocational related areas.  Oil companies report they have difficultly retaining trained Algerian engineers and field workers because these workers often leave Algeria for higher wages in the Gulf.  Some white-collar employers also report a lack of skilled project managers, supply chain engineers, and sufficient numbers of office workers with requisite computer and soft skills.

Official unemployment figures are measured by the number of persons seeking work through the National Employment Agency (ANEM).  Unemployment in 2019 dropped slightly to 11.4 percent.  Unemployment is significantly higher among certain demographics, including 29 percent  of young people (ages 16-24).  The rate of unemployed young men decreased in 2019, from 9.9 to 9.1 percent.  The percentage of unemployed young women increased from 2018 from 19.4 percent to 20.4 percent.  Roughly 70 percent of the population is under 30.

An important factor in the increased unemployment rate in 2019 is the government’s continued austerity policy since 2015, which has resulted in the cancellation of several investment projects, the freezing of recruitment in the public sector, and the decision not to replace government positions lost to normal attrition.  Additionally, the subsidy allotted to finance vocational integration (le dispositif d’insertion professionnelle) decreased from 135 billion dinars in 2013 to 44.1 billion in 2019.  In general, finding a job is regulated by the government and bureaucratically complex.  Prospective employees must register with the labor office, submit paper resumes door to door, attend career fairs, and comb online job offerings.  According to the Office of National Statistics, 81 percent of university graduates say that they favor “family relationships” or “the family network” as the best way to look for a job.

The private sector accounts for 62.2 percent of total employment with 7.014 million people, with 37.8 percent in the public sector, employing 4.267 million people.  Additionally, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that more than one-third of all employment in Algeria takes place in the informal economy.  The Ministry of Vocational Training sponsors programs that offer training to at least 300,000 Algerians annually, including those who did not complete high school, in various professional programs.

Companies must submit extensive justification to hire foreign employees, and report pressure to hire more locals (even if jobs could be replaced through mechanization) under the implied risk that the government will not approve visas for expatriate staff.  There are no special economic zones or foreign trade zones in Algeria.

The constitution provides workers with the right to join and form unions of their choice provided they are Algerian citizens.  The country has ratified the ILO’s conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining, but failed to enact legislation needed to implement these principles fully.  The General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA) is the largest union in Algeria and represents a broad spectrum of employees in the public sectors.  The UGTA, an affiliate of the International Trade Union Conference, is an official member of the Algerian “tripartite,” a council of labor, government, and business officials that meets annually to collaborate on economic and labor policy.  The Algerian government liaises almost exclusively with the UGTA, however unions in the education, health, and administration sectors do meet and negotiate with government counterparts, especially when there is a possibility of a strike.  Collective bargaining is legally permitted but is not mandatory.

Algerian law provides mechanisms for monitoring labor abuses and health and safety standards, and international labor rights are recognized under domestic law, but are only effectively regulated in the formal economy.  The government has shown an increasing interest in understanding and monitoring the informal economy, evidenced by its 2018 partnerships with the ILO and current cooperation with the World Bank on several projects aimed at better quantifying the informal sector.

Sector-specific strikes occur often in Algeria, though general strikes are less common.  The law provides for the right to strike, and workers exercise this right, subject to conditions.  Striking requires a secret ballot of the whole workforce, and the decision to strike must be approved by a majority vote of the workers at a general meeting.  The government may restrict strikes on a number of grounds, including economic crisis, obstruction of public services, or the possibility of subversive actions.  Furthermore, all public demonstrations, including protests and strikes, must receive prior government authorization.  By law, workers may strike only after 14 days of mandatory conciliation or mediation.  The government occasionally offers to mediate disputes.  The law states that decisions agreed to in mediation are binding on both parties.  If mediation does not lead to an accord, workers may strike legally after they vote by secret ballot.  The law requires that a minimum level of essential public services must be maintained, and the government has broad legal authority to requisition public employees.  The list of essential services includes banking, radio, and television.  Penalties for unlawful work stoppages range from eight days to two months imprisonment.

In 2019, there were strikes at the end of the year, largely in the public health and public education sectors.  Medical residents went on strike demanding higher pay, better working conditions, and male residents sought an exemption from mandatory military service requirements.  After weeks of strikes, the Ministry of Health made some concessions in terms of additional benefits for doctors, and the residents resumed work.  Teachers also went on strike for higher pay and complained of perceived inequalities in the pay scale.  After weeks of strikes and a closed-door meeting, the Ministry of Education and unions came to an agreement, but to date no changes have been implemented and periodic teacher strikes continue.

Stringent labor-market regulations likely inhibit an increase in full-time, open-ended work.  Regulations do not allow for flexibility in hiring and firing in times of economic downturn.  For example, employers are generally required to pay severance when laying off or firing workers.  Unemployment insurance eligibility requirements may discourage job seekers from collecting benefits due to them, and the level of support claimants receive is minimal.  Employers must have contributed up to 80 percent of the final year salary into the unemployment insurance scheme in order for the employees to qualify for unemployment benefits.

The law contains occupational health and safety standards but enforcement of these standards is uneven.  There were no known reports of workers dismissed for removing themselves from hazardous working conditions.  If workers face hazardous conditions, they may file a complaint with the Ministry of Labor, which is required to send out labor inspectors to investigate the claim.  Nevertheless, the high demand for unemployment in Algeria gives an advantage to employers seeking to exploit employees.

Because Algerian law does not provide for temporary legal status for migrants, labor standards do not protect economic migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere working in the country without legal immigration status.  However, migrant children are protected by law from working.

The Ministry of Labor enforces labor standards, including compliance with the minimum wage regulation and safety standards.  Companies that employ migrant workers or violate child labor laws are subject to fines and potentially prosecution.

The law prohibits participation by minors in dangerous, unhealthy, or harmful work or in work considered inappropriate because of social and religious considerations.  The minimum legal age for employment is 16, but younger children may work as apprentices with permission from their parents or legal guardian.  The law prohibits workers under age 19 from working at night.  While there is currently no list of hazardous occupations prohibited to minors, the government reports it is drafting a list which will be issued by presidential decree.  Although specific data was unavailable, children reportedly worked mostly in the informal sector, largely in sales, often in family businesses.  They are also involved in begging and agricultural work.  There were isolated reports that children were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor laws.  There is no single office charged with this task, but all labor inspectors are responsible for enforcing laws regarding child labor.  In 2018, the Ministry of Labor focused one month specifically on investigating child labor violations, and in some cases prosecuted individuals for employing minors or breaking other child-related labor laws.  While the government claims to monitor both the formal and informal sectors, contacts note that their efforts largely focus on the formal economy.

The National Authority of the Protection and Promotion of Children (ONPPE) is an inter-agency organization, created in 2016, which coordinates the protection and promotion of children’s rights.  As a part of its efforts, in 2018 ONPPE held educational sessions for officials from relevant ministries, civil society organizations, and journalists on issues related to children, including child labor and human trafficking.

Angola

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Angola’s capital markets remain nascent. To respond to the need for increased sources of financing for the economy, in 2013, the Angolan government created the Capital Markets Commission (CMC). Angola’s banks are likely the most established businesses that could potentially list on an exchange. However, many Angolan banks have a high rate of non-performing loans, reported to be as high as 37 percent. Angola’s banks have struggled in recent years due to the country’s deteriorating economic environment and increasingly high rate of delinquent loans. The Governor of the BNA has stated that Angola’s banks must go through a consolidation phase and ordered an asset quality review of the banks in early 2019. So far, the BNA has revoked the licenses of three banks based on their failure to meet the mandatory new share-capital minimum requirement, will recapitalize the largest state-owned bank, and has ordered another bank’s shareholders to increase the bank’s operating capital or face potential revocation. The process may limit banks’ ability in the near-term to list on the country’s fledgling stock exchange.

The Angolan government raised USD 3 billion in its third Eurobond issue in international markets with investor demand reportedly reaching USD 8.44 billion, exceeding the government’s expectations. For its second Eurobond issue in May 2018, Angola sold a USD 1.75bn, ten year bond at a coupon interest rate of 8.25 percent and a 30 year bond worth USD 1.25bn with a yield of 9.375 percent. According to Angola’s finance ministry, the second Eurobond issuance received more than 500 investor submissions totaling USD 9 billion, three times the final sale value. In November 2015, Angola raised a USD 1.5 billion, 10-year Eurobond with a 9.5 percent yield. Plans to return to the internal bond market in 2020 have been put on hold due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing downturn in global oil prices.

The BNA has developed a market for short-term bonds, called Titulos do Banco Central, and long-term bonds, called Obrigaçoes do Tesouro. Most of these bonds are bought and held by local Angolan banks. The Obrigaçoes have maturities ranging from one to 7.5 years, whereas the Titulos have maturities of 91 to 182 days. For information on current rates, see: http://www.bna.ao/ .

Foreign investors do not normally access credit locally. For Angolan investors, credit access is very limited, and if available, comes with a collateral requirement of 125 percent, so they either self-finance, or seek financing from non-Angolan banks and investment funds. The termination of the “Angola Invest” government-subsidized funding program for micro, small and medium private enterprises (SMEs) on September 25, 2018, has further reduced funding opportunities for many SMEs. Since its inception in 2012, Angola Invest financed approximately 515 projects worth USD 377 million.

The Angolan National Development Plan provides for the liquidation of unviable state-owned enterprises, the privatization of non-strategic state enterprises and the sale of shareholding by 2022. In January 2018, the president created a commission – the State Asset Management Institute (IGAPE), to prepare and implement the privatization program (PROPRIV), with assistance from the Stock Exchange BODIVA. By April 2020, the Government had reportedly sold an estimated seven entities under its privatization initiative.

Money and Banking System

The BNA, Angola’s central bank and currency regulator has remained under considerable pressure to stabilize Angola’s economy as a high rate, currently 37 percent, of non-performing loans has crippled the banks’ ability and willingness to foster private sector lending. The BNA implemented a contractionary monetary policy, reducing local currency in circulation over fears of escalating inflation and foreign currency arbitrage. To further address these concerns, in early 2018, the government also scrapped the Angolan currency’s fixed peg to the U.S. dollar in favor of greater rate flexibility, and began regular foreign exchange auctions to banks, preventing the allocation of dollars to preferred clients. From January 2018 to December 2019, the Angolan currency lost 178 percent of its purchasing capacity against the Dollar. The Net International Reserves, despite a loss of purchasing power of more than 100 percent taking into account the price of the currency, suffered a reduction of 40 percent from 2017 to June 2019. The 178 percent devaluation from 2018 has translated into an increase in Angola’s debt, now close to 111 percent of GDP.

Angola’s agreement with the IMF for USD 3.7 billion in financial support for which it has requested an additional USD 800 million, suggests the government’s intent to reassure investors, and to diversify Angola’s source of borrowing. As a key condition of the IMF loan, Angola cannot have any new oil collateralized debt. The government also resorted to international capital markets and raised USD 3 billion in its third Eurobond issue with investor demand reportedly reaching nearly USD 8.44 billion.

There are currently 27 banks in Angola. Five banks, Banco Angolano de Investimentos (BAI), Banco Economico, Banco de Fomento Angola (BFA), Banco BIC Angola (BIC), and Banco de Poupança e Credito S.A.R.L. (BPC), control over 80 percent of total banking assets, deposits, and loans. Angolan banks focus on profit generating activities including transactional banking, short-term trade financing, foreign exchange, and investments in high-interest government bonds. Banks had until the end of 2018 to comply with the newly BNA-set USD 50 million mandatory capital start-up requirement, up from the previous USD 25 million requirement. In early 2019, the BNA revoked the operating licenses of two banks, Banco Mais and Banco Postal, for failing to increase their capital to meet the new minimum requirements. Another bank, Banco Angolano de Negocios e Comercio, is currently under BNA administration.

Angola is scheduled for its next Financial Action Task Force (FATF) mutual evaluation review in 2020/2021 which may also be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2016, the FATF adjudged that Angola had made significant progress in improving its AML/CFT regime and established the requisite legal and regulatory framework to meet its commitments in its action plan regarding strategic deficiencies the identified by the FATF during reviews in 2010 and 2013. Angola has continued to work with the regional FATF body, the Eastern and Southern African Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG), to address its remaining strategic deficiencies in anticipation of the 2020/2021 review.

Angola has been affected by the broader global de-risking trends wherein banks decide to stop lending to businesses in markets deemed too risky from an anti-money laundering and terrorist financing compliance standpoint. In December 2016, Deutsche Bank, the last international bank providing dollar-clearing services, closed its dollar clearing services in Angola. A limited number of international banks still operate in Angola and provide limited trade finance such as Germany’s Commerzbank and South Africa’s Standard Bank. In 2018, there were no further correspondent bank losses. International banks previously refrained from entering the Angolan market because of the risk of fines and other penalties, but in 2018 there was more interest, with several banks conducting independent assessments of the business climate.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Angola continues trading mostly in two currencies, the U.S. dollar and the Euro, with the Renminbi gaining greater prominence given the degree of trade with China. In a bid to deal with the foreign currency shortage and substantial foreign currency arbitrage in the parallel market, the government has opted for a managed float for its currency exchange rate. The Angolan Kwanza was pegged at a rate of 166.00 per U.S. dollar from April 2016 to January 2018 following a steep devaluation due to the slump in oil prices. On January 10, 2018, the BNA began conducting foreign currency auctions allowing the kwanza to fluctuate within an undisclosed but controlled band. Since dropping the peg to the U.S. dollar in January 2018, the Kwanza has depreciated by approximately 178 percent as at the end of December 2019 where a USD was equivalent to 462 Kwanzas.

As of November 29, 2019, the BNA’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) authorized direct sales of foreign currency between oil companies and commercial banks, and reduced banks’ foreign exchange position limit from 5.0 percent of its own funds to 2.5 percent. The controlling exchange rate is determined by the transaction rate applied on the sale. Occasionally, the BNA may also sell forex through auctions to commercial banks. Banks may charge a margin of up to 2 percent on the reference exchange rate published on the institutional website of the BNA, considered high for investors. Currently, the BNA also publishes daily for public consumption the rates at which each individual commercial bank is selling and purchasing forex.

The informal activity in the supply of foreign currency, products, and services is still winning the daily battle against the formal market, even when taking into account availability, quantity, speed, and stability. In 2019, the BNA took steps to eliminate remaining imbalances in the foreign exchange market. Commercial banks may assign foreign currency to their clients based on a schedule submitted and approved by the BNA. On the sale by banks to exchange offices and remittance companies, banks may only make foreign currency available in physical notes on a collateral basis, as they must, and at the time of sale debit the national currency account of those institutions against delivery of physical notes. Payment of remittances in any form and non-strategic imports face a lengthy wait between 90-180 days for foreign exchange. Priority is given to strategic importers of food, raw materials for construction, agriculture, medicine and the oil sector. According to the IMF, the government accumulated USD 51 million in new arrears between end-December 2018 and end-June 2019, due to constraints associated with correspondent banks transacting in U.S. dollars. The government further accumulated about USD 30 million in new arrears between end-June and end-September 2019 and was expected to accumulate an additional USD 30 million by year-end, due to the same correspondent banking constraints.

Investors cannot freely convert their earnings in kwanza to any foreign exchange rate due to limited available foreign exchange. Credit cards and other options for payment are extremely limited and money-servicing businesses (Western Union & MoneyGram) have ceased foreign outward transactions in foreign currency. From June 9, 2019, Letters of credit have been designated as the preferential payment instrument for imports.

The National Bank of Angola (BNA) Notice no. 15/19, published 30 December 2019, defines new procedures for foreign exchange operations carried out by non-residents.

According to the notice, the new procedures apply to foreign exchange transactions related to foreign direct investment – that is, foreign exchange non-resident operations carried out, alone or cumulatively, including divestment operations – in the following ways:

  • Transfer of personal funds from abroad;
  • Application of cash and cash equivalents in national and foreign currency, in bank accounts opened in financial institutions domiciled in Angola, held by foreign exchange residents, susceptible to repatriation;
  • Imports of machinery, equipment, accessories and other tangible fixed assets;
  • Incorporation of technologies and knowledge, provided that they represent an added value to the investment and are susceptible to financial evaluation;
  • Provision of supplementary capital payments or supplies to partners or shareholders;
  • Application, in the national territory, of funds in the scope of reinvestment;
  • Conversion of credits resulting from the execution of contracts for the supply of machinery, equipment and goods, as long as they are proven to be liable to payments abroad; and,
  • Foreign investment in securities or divestment of such assets, covering: i) shares; ii) obligations; iii) units of participation in collective investment undertakings and other documents representing homogeneous legal situations.

These procedures also apply to foreign exchange transactions related to foreign investment projects that have been registered with the BNA prior to 30 December 2019. However, they do not apply to investments made by non-foreign exchange residents in the oil sector, which will continue to be governed by proper legislation.

The following obligations are applicable to non-resident foreign exchange entities that intend to invest in Angola, within the scope of the new procedures:

  • They must be holders of foreign exchange non-resident accounts, opened with a banking financial institution domiciled in Angola,
  • For the purpose of receiving payments, including for the purchase of shares listed on the stock exchange, foreign currency must be sold to the investment banking intermediary financial institution, except in the case of purchase of securities denominated in foreign currency traded on a regulated market in Angola;
  • Transfer income related to a foreign direct investment is only allowed after the project has been completed and after payment of the taxes due.

The non-resident foreign exchange investor is allowed to maintain in national currency values relating to income, reimbursement of supplies or proceeds from the sale of investments to make new investments or convert to foreign currency at a future date.

Finally, the following obligations are now imposed on financial institutions that carry out transactions with non-resident foreign exchange entities:

  • Report to BNA the transfer of securities to and from abroad related to the import and export of capital and associated income, at the time of registration in the accounts of its clients who are not foreign exchange residents;
  • Require full identification and knowledge of its customers, as well as confirmation of their status as non-resident foreign exchange;
  • Transfer the financial resources designated for making investments to a specific sub-account created, that should be used only for that purpose;
  • Ensure that movements in bank accounts held by foreign exchange non-residents, in national and foreign currency, are supported by documents that allow a clear identification of the origin or destination of the funds;
  • For the purpose of assessing the legitimacy of transfers abroad of income from foreign direct investments not quoted on a stock exchange, make sure that the investment was made, through the copy of the Private Investment Registration Certificate (CRIP), among other requirements.
  • For the purpose of validating the export proceeds from the sale of securities and related income, validate the source of the credit in the bank accounts of non-resident customers.

Breach of the obligations summarized above is punishable by fines of up to AOA 150 million (USD 305,000) for individuals or up to AOA 500 million (USD 1.02 million) for legal persons.

Remittance Policies

In 2019, the Angolan government amended its anti-money laundering previously established in January 2014. The new law, Law no. 5/20, applies particularly to financial and non-financial entities, accountants, lawyers, law firm partners and auditors acting (including intermediation) in representation of clients in transactions that involve real estate’s acquisition/sale, incorporation of companies and bank accounts’ opening, management or movement, in attempts to better combat illicit remittance flows. Importantly, the new law expressly prohibits the incorporation of shell banks — banks with no physical presence in Angola nor connection to any financial group, requires reporting on capital movement in any commercial bank exceeding USD 1000, and requires enhanced scrutiny of local politically exposed persons. The subsequent drop in foreign exchange availability in Angola, beginning in 2015 due to declining petroleum revenues, has severely impeded personal and legitimate business remittances.

International and domestic companies operating in Angola face delays securing foreign exchange approval for remittances to cover key operational expenses, including imported goods and expatriate salaries. The government has improved profit and dividend remittances for most companies, including foreign airlines with withheld remittances for the sector currently valued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) at USD 4 million, down from 137 million in early 2019.

The BNA has facilitated remittances of international supplies by introducing payment by letters of credit. Also, the 2018 NPIL grants foreign investors “the right and guarantee to transfer abroad” dividends or distributed profits, the proceeds of the liquidation of their investments, capital gains, the proceeds of indemnities and royalties, or other income from remuneration of indirect investments related to technology transfer after proof of implementation of the project and payment of all taxes due. The government continues to prioritize foreign exchange for essential goods and services including the food, health, defense, and petroleum industries.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

In October 2012, former President Eduardo dos Santos established a petroleum-funded USD 5 billion sovereign wealth fund called the Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA). The FSDEA was established in accordance with international governance standards and best practices as outlined in the Santiago Principles. In February 2015, the FSDEA was recognized as transparent by the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute (SWFI), receiving a score of 8 out of 10. The FSDEA has the express purpose of profit maximization with a special emphasis on investing in domestic projects that have a social component (http://www.fundosoberano.ao/investments/ ). Jose Filomeno dos Santos (Zenu), son of former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, was appointed chairman of FSDEA in June 2013, but was removed by President Lourenco, based reportedly on poor results at the FSDEA and conspiracy with the Fund’s wealth manager, Quantum Global (QG), to embezzle FSDEA funds. Former Minister Carlos Alberto Lopes was named new head of the FSDEA. Zenu remains under investigation for money laundering, embezzlement, and fraud related to his management of the FSDEA, and is currently on trial for fraud in connection with the transfer of USD 500 million from the Angolan Central Bank to a bank in the UK. On March 22, 2019, the government freed Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, QG’s CEO, in preventive detention since September 2018, based on the insufficiency of evidence to support the collection of malfeasance charges, while it continues to build its case against him.

Half of the initial endowment of FSDEA was invested in agriculture, mining, infrastructure, and real estate in Angola and other African markets, and the other half was supposedly allocated to cash and fixed-income instruments, global and emerging-market equities, and other alternative investments. The FSDEA is in possession of approximately USD 3.35 billion of its private equity assets previously under the control of QG, and announced that the government will use USD 1.5 billion of the fund’s assets to support social programs on condition of future repayment through increased tax on the BNA’s rolling debts.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The Angolan labor force has limited technical skills, English language capabilities, and managerial ability. Many employers find it necessary to invest heavily in educating and training their Angolan staff. Angola’s labor force was estimated to be 13.1 million in 2019. The literacy rate is estimated to be 70 percent (82 percent male, 60.7 percent female). According to the National Statistics Institute, in 2019, the unemployment rate in the population aged 15 and above was around 31 percent, although more than 60 percent of all jobs are in the informal sector. Eighty six percent of primary school age children attend school. The law mandates that children must attend school for six years beginning at age six. 29 percent of boys and 17 percent of girls attend high school.

There are gaps in compliance with international labor standards which may pose a reputational risk to investors. Children are sometimes employed in agriculture, construction, fishing, and coal industries. Forced labor is sometimes used in agricultural, fishing, construction, domestic services, and artisanal diamond mining sectors. Additional information is available in the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, (https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/2019-Trafficking-in-Persons-Report.pdf [16 MB] ), 2019 Country Report on Human Rights Practices (https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/), and 2018 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, (https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/angola ).

Angola’s General Labor Law (Law No. 2/00), updated in 2015, recognizes the right of workers, except members of the armed forces and police, to form and join independent unions, to collectively bargain, and to strike, but these rights are either limited or restricted. To establish a union, a minimum of 30 percent of workers from a sector at the provincial level must participate and prior authorization by authorities with accompanying bureaucratic approvals is required. Unlike workers in the private sector, civil service employees do not have the right to collective bargaining. While the law allows unions to conduct their activities without government interference, it also places some restrictions on engaging in a strike. Strict bureaucratic procedures must be followed for a strike to be considered legal. The government can deny the right to strike or obligate workers to return to work for members of the armed forces, police, prison staff, fire fighters, “essential services” public sector employees, and oil workers. The government may intervene in labor disputes that affect national security, particularly strikes in the oil sector. The definition of civil service workers providing “essential services” is broadly defined, encompassing the transport sector, communications, waste management and treatment, and fuel distribution.

Collective labor disputes are to be settled through compulsory arbitration by the Ministry of Labor, Public Administration and Social Security. The law does not prohibit employer retribution against strikers, but it does authorize the government to force workers back to work for “breaches of worker discipline” or participation in unauthorized strikes. The law prohibits anti-union discrimination and stipulates that worker complaints be adjudicated in the labor court. Under the law, employers are required to reinstate workers who have been dismissed for union activities.

The General Labor Law also spells out procedures for hiring workers. For work contracts of indefinite duration, the law provides for a basic probationary period of up to six months, during which the worker or employer can terminate the contract without notice or justification. After the probationary period ends, dismissed workers have the right to appeal to a labor court. Many employers prefer to reach a monetary settlement with workers when a dispute arises, rather than bring cases before the labor court. The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report found that fired workers with one to ten years of service received on average 13.6 weeks of salary compensation. The notice period before dismissing a worker is 4.3 weeks.

The government conducts annual surveys of the oil industry to implement a requirement that oil companies hire Angolan nationals when qualified applicants are available. If no qualified nationals apply for the position, then the companies may request the government’s permission to hire expatriates. Outside of the petroleum sector, policies to encourage “Angolanization” of the labor force, i.e. the hiring of locals, discourages bringing in expatriates. However, the associated visa processes for the oil industry are currently easier and faster due to a special process the Angolan Ministry of Petroleum offers companies in that sector. Additionally, working visas for other sectors have also become easier to obtain and the GRA has launched the investor’s visa in 2018.

Benin

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Government policy supports free financial markets, subject to oversight by the Ministry of Finance and the West African States Central Bank (BCEAO). Foreign investors may seek credit from Benin’s private financial institutions and the WAEMU Regional Stock Exchange (Bureau Regional des Valeurs Mobilieres – BRVM) headquartered in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire with local branches in each WAEMU member country. There are no restrictions for foreign investors to establish a bank account in Benin and obtain loans on the local market. However, proof of residency or evidence of company registration is required to open a bank account

Money and Banking System

The banking sector is generally reliable. Thirteen private commercial banks operate in Benin in addition to the BCEAO and a planned subsidiary of the African Development Bank. Taking into account microfinance institutions, 22.5 percent of the population had access to banking services in 2018. In recent years, non-performing loans have been growing; 15 percent of total banking sector assets are estimated to be non-performing. The BCEAO regulates Beninese banks. Foreign banks are required to obtain a banking license before operating branches in Benin. They are subject to the same prudential regulations as local or regional banks. Benin has lost no correspondent banking relationships during the last three years. There is no known current correspondent banking relationship in jeopardy. Foreigners are required to present proof of residency to open bank accounts.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

All funds entering the country from abroad for investment purposes require reporting and registration with the Ministry of Finance at the time of arrival of funds. Evidence of registration is required to justify remittances of investment capital, earnings, loan/lease repayments, or royalties. Such remittances are allowed without restrictions. Funds entering the country from abroad for investment purposes must be converted into local currency. For the purposes of repatriating such funds, either the invested funds or the interest/earnings or royalties can be converted into any world currency.

The currency of Benin is BCEAO-CFA Franc (international code: XOF). XOF has a fixed parity with the Euro and fluctuates against all other currencies based on this parity. This parity was established at the time of the Euro’s creation (January 1, 1999) and has not changed since then. The parity stands at XOF 655.957= EUR 1.00, guaranteed by the French government under an arrangement between the Treasury of France and the European Union.

Remittance Policies

There have been no recent changes to investment remittance policies. Banks require documents to justify remittances related to investments. The waiting time to remit investment returns does not exceed 60 days in practice.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Benin does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The government adheres to internationally recognized rights and labor standards. Benin’s constitution guarantees workers’ freedom to organize, assemble, and strike. Government authorities may declare strikes illegal if they are deemed a threat to public order or the economy and may require those on strike to maintain minimum services. In 2018, the Constitutional Court reinstated a law prohibiting public employees in the defense, health, justice, and security sectors from striking, and a new law limited strikes to a maximum of 10 days per year for private-sector workers and public employees not covered by the existing ban. Approximately 75 percent of salaried employees belong to unions. There are several union confederations. Unions are obliged to operate independently of government and political parties, but in practice often act to further political aims. Benin’s labor code, as revised in 2017, is favorable to employers.

The official unemployment rate in Benin in 2018 was 2.3 percent, though estimates of actual unemployment figures are much higher. Unskilled and skilled labor and qualified professionals are generally available. Nearly 90 percent of youth between the ages of 15 and 29 work in the informal sector. The standard legal workweek is 40 hours and payment of overtime is allowed.

In 2017, the government adopted a law on the framework for private sector and government employment, termination of employment, and placement of labor in Benin.  The law sets a maximum limit of three to nine months’ salary (calculated using the last 12 months of salary) to be paid to an employee in case of abusive termination of employment or layoffs.  If fired on legitimate grounds, but short of being caught red-handed doing something unlawful, an employee with a minimum of one year on the job is entitled to receive two months’ salary as severance pay.  The law also allows for multiple renewals of limited time contracts. Under the former law, private companies who dismissed employees for unsatisfactory performance were routinely sued.

Botswana

6. Financial Sector 

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The government encourages foreign portfolio investment, although there are limits on foreign ownership in certain sectors.  It also embraces the establishment of new and diverse financial institutions to support increased foreign and domestic investment and to fill existing gaps where finance is not commercially available.  There are nine commercial banks, one merchant bank, one offshore bank, two statutory deposit-taking institutions, and one credit union operating in Botswana.  All have corresponding relationships with U.S. banks. Additional financial institutions include various pension funds, insurance companies, microfinance institutions, stock brokerage companies, asset management companies, statutory finance institutions, collective investment undertakings, and statutory funds. Historically, commercial banks have accounted for 92 percent of total deposits and 98 percent of total loans in Botswana.  A large portion of the population does not participate in the formal banking sector.

Money and Banking System

The central bank, the Bank of Botswana, acts as banker and financial advisor to the GoB and is responsible for the management of the country’s foreign exchange reserves, the administration of monetary and exchange rate policies, and the regulation and supervision of financial institutions in the country.  Monetary policy in Botswana is widely regarded as prudent, and the GoB has successfully managed to maintain a sensible exchange rate and a stable inflation rate, generally within the target of three to six percent.

Banks may lend to non-resident-controlled companies without seeking approval from the Bank of Botswana.  Foreign investors usually enjoy better access to credit than local firms do.  In July 2014, USAID’s Development Credit Authority (now DFC – U.S. International Development Finance Corporation), in collaboration with ABSA (formerly Barclays Bank of Botswana), implemented a program to allow small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to access up to USD 15 million in loans in an effort to diversify the economy.

At the end of 2019, there were 25 companies on the Domestic Board and eight companies on the Foreign Equities Board of the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE).  In addition, there were 46 listed bonds and three exchange traded funds listed on the Exchange.  The total market capitalization for listed companies at year-end 2019 was USD 37 billion, though one company constitutes the majority of that figure, Anglo-American plc, which has a market capitalization of approximately USD 30 billion. The BSE is still highly illiquid compared to larger African markets and is dominated by mining companies which adds to index volatility.  Laws prohibiting insider trading and securities fraud are clearly stipulated under Section 35 – 37 of the Securities Act, 2014 and charges for contravening these laws are listed under Section 54 of the same Act.

The government has legitimized offshore capital investments and allows foreign investors, individuals and corporate bodies, and companies incorporated in Botswana, to open foreign currency accounts in specified currencies.  The designated currencies are U.S. Dollar, British Pound sterling, Euro, and the South African Rand.  There are no known practices by private firms to restrict foreign investment participation or control in domestic enterprises.  Private firms are not permitted to adopt articles of incorporation or association which limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation, or control.

In general, Botswana exercises careful control over credit expansion, the pula exchange rate, interest rates, and foreign and domestic borrowing.  Banking legislation is largely in line with industry norms for regulation, supervision, and payments.  However, the country failed to meet compliance requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) resulting in a grey listing in October 2018.  Botswana is currently implementing an action plan to remedy the situation. The Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) was established in 2008 and provides regulatory oversight for the non-banking sector.  It extends know-your-customer practices to non-banking financial institutions to help deter money laundering and terrorist financing.  NBFIRA is also responsible for regulating the International Financial Services Centre, a hub charged with promoting the financial services industry in Botswana.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no foreign exchange controls in Botswana or restrictions on capital outflows through financial institutions.  Commercial banks are required to ensure customers complete basic forms indicating name, address, purpose and other details prior to processing funds transfer requests or loan applications.  The finance ministry monitors data collected on the forms for statistical information on capital flows, but the form does not require government approval prior to the processing of a transaction and does not delay capital transfers.

To encourage portfolio investment, develop domestic capital markets, and diversify investment instruments, non-residents are able to trade in and issue Botswana pula-denominated bonds with maturity periods of more than one year, provided such instruments are listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE).  Only Botswana citizens can purchase Botswana’s Letlole National Savings Certificate (equivalent to a U.S. Treasury bond).  Foreigners can hold shares in BSE-listed Botswana companies.

Travelers are not restricted to the amount of currency they may carry, but they are required to declare to customs at the port of departure any cash amount in excess of 10,000 pula (~USD 950).  There are no quantitative limits on foreign currency access for current account transactions.

Bank accounts denominated in foreign currency are allowed in Botswana.  Commercial banks offer accounts denominated in U.S. Dollars, British Pounds, Euros and South African Rand.  Businesses and other bodies incorporated or registered domestically may open accounts without prior approval from the Bank of Botswana.  The GoB also permits the issuance of foreign currency denominated loans.

Upon disinvestment by a non-resident, the non-resident is allowed immediate repatriation of all proceeds including profits, rents, and fees.

The Botswana Pula has a crawling peg exchange rate and is tied to a basket of currencies of major trading partner countries.  In 2018 the weights of the Pula basket currencies were maintained at 45 percent for the South African Rand and 55 percent for the Special Drawing Rights (consisting of the U.S. Dollar, the Euro, British Pound, Japanese Yen, and Chinese Renminbi) respectively.  Movements of the South African Rand against the U.S. Dollar heavily influence the Pula.  There is no difficulty in obtaining foreign exchange.  Shortages of foreign exchange that would lead banks to block transactions are highly unlikely.

Remittance Policies

There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The Bank of Botswana maintains a long-term sovereign wealth fund, known as the Pula Fund, in addition to a regular foreign reserve account providing basic import cover. The Pula Fund, with an estimated value of some USD 4.74 billion as of 2018, was established under the Bank of Botswana Act and forms part of the country’s foreign exchange reserves, which are primarily funded by diamond revenues.  The Pula Fund is wholly invested in foreign currency-denominated assets and is managed by the Bank of Botswana Board with input from recognized international financial management and investment firms.  All realized market and currency gains or losses are reported in the Bank of Botswana’s income statement.  Botswana is among the founding members of the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Fund and was one of the architects of the Santiago Principles in 2008.  More information is available at: http://www.bankofbotswana.bw/assets/uploaded/BOTSWANA percent20PULA percent20FUND percent20- percent20SANTIAGO percent20PRINCIPLES percent20(2).pdf 

11. Labor Policies and Practices 

Botswana has a high unemployment rate and a constricted worker skills base.  The latest statistics released in late 2019 showed an increase of unemployment from 17.7 percent to just over 20 percent, although the real rate is suspected to be higher due to the way the GoB counts who is included in the statistic.  Employers can expect to engage in significant training efforts, depending on the industry.  Retention of workers and absenteeism can pose problems.  In addition, managers often cite workforce productivity as a point of frustration.  The lack of trained local citizen professionals is generally addressed by contracting expatriates if they can secure work permits.  There is minimal labor strife in Botswana.  In 2015, there were a handful of small and peaceful strikes, the most notable of these was by a portion of BURS officials, but as with most unions across sectors, only a portion of BURS officials were unionized, allowing the GoB to maintain customs operations.

The Employment Act provides basic guidelines for employment in Botswana.  The legislation sets requirements for a minimum wage, length of the workweek, annual and maternity leave, hiring and termination.  Standards set by the Act are consistent with international best practice as described by International Labour Organization (ILO) model legislation and guidelines.

Employment-related litigation occurs and is both an example of trust in the court system and a cost to doing business in Botswana.  Employers avoid considerable expense and frustration if they observe the provisions of the Employment Act, relevant labor regulations, and prudence in advance of potential litigation.  Before a potential litigant goes to one of 11 labor courts, the parties must attempt mediation through the Department of Labor.  Court cases offering severance terms for employees laid off due to fluctuating market conditions are also common.  Section 25 of the Employment Act allows employers to terminate contracts for reducing the size of their work force, known as redundancy, using the first-in-last-out principle.  This method of terminating contracts is separate from firing for serious misconduct as specified by Section 26 of the Act. The GoB has social safety net programs in place to assist the unemployed and destitute.

Collective bargaining is common in government and the private sector and the Labor Commissioner can grant collective bargaining authority upon request.  The largest unions are comprised of public sector workers.

In August 2016 Parliament passed a Trade Disputes Act with a list of services deemed “essential” and barred from striking that exceeds international labor standards. The Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity, and Skills Development is coordinating with the ILO and other partners to review labor laws to ensure they align with ILO standards.  The review process is ongoing and Ministry sources claim they plan to conclude a draft bill and present it to Parliament by July 2020.

Cameroon

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Cameroonian government is open to portfolio investment. With the encouragement of the International Monetary Fund and the regional Central Bank, Cameroon and other members of the CEMAC region have designed policies that facilitate the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.

The Financial Markets Commission (CMF) of Cameroon physically merged with the Libreville-based Central African Financial Market Supervisory Board (CONSUMAF) in February 2019. CEMAC heads of state mandated the regional Central Bank to conduct additional mergers (regulations and regulators, stock exchanges trading and listing, central depositories, settlement banks) by 30 June 2019.  The project has suffered delays but remain on course to turn the Douala Stock Exchange (DSX) into a regional stock exchange for six countries.  The DSX has struggled to win the support of private enterprises and currently has three stock and five bonds listed.  Private enterprises are wary of the oversized role that Cameroonian government, which generally suffers from many dysfunctions, are playing in the administration of the exchange.

Cameroon’s financial sector is underdeveloped, and government policies have limited bearing on the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.  Foreign investors can get credit on the local market, and the private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments.  Cameroon is connected to the international banking payment system.

CEMAC’s central bank, known by its French acronym BEAC, works with the International Monetary Fund on monetary policies and fiscal reform. BEAC respects IMF Article VIII by refraining from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.   Despite generally respecting Article VIII, BEAC has instituted several restrictions on payments in an effort to boost foreign exchange reserves.  Throughout much of 2019, financial institutions and importers complained of a backlog of requests for foreign exchange.  BEAC is currently negotiating with several international oil companies about repatriation of revenues before external payments.  While the situation has improved over the last six months, investors should be aware that timely repatriation of profits may be a stumbling block.

Money and Banking System

Less than 15 percent of Cameroonians have access to formal banking services.  The Cameroonian government has often spoken of increasing access, but no coherent policy or action has been taken to alleviate the problem.  Mobile money, introduced by local and international telecom providers, is the closest tool to banking services that most Cameroonians can access.

The banking sector is generally healthy.  Large, international commercial banks do most of the lending.  One local bank, Afriland, operates in multiple other countries.  Most smaller banks deal in small loans of short duration.  Retail banking is not common.  According to the World Bank, non-performing loans were 10.31 percent of total bank loans in 2016.  The Cameroonian government does not keep statistics on non-performing assets.  Cameroon’s largest banks are:

1st Afriland First Bank (USD 3 billion)

2nd: Societe Generale Cameroon (USD 2.5 billion)

3rd -Banque Internationale Du Cameroun Pour L’epargne Et Le Credit (USD 2.1 billion)

4th EcoBank (USD 1.4 billion)

5th BGFI Bank Cameroon (USD 918 million)

6th Union Bank of Africa Cameroon (USD 811 million)

(Source: Jeune Afrique, December 2019)

Cameroon is part of the six-member Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), which maintains a central bank, known by its French acronym, BEAC.  The current governor of BEAC is Abbas Mahamat Tolli (from Chad).

Foreign banks are allowed to establish operations in Cameroon.  Most notably, Citi and Standard Chartered have operated in Cameroon for more than 20 years.  They are subject to the same regulations as locally developed banks.  Post is unaware of any lost correspondent banking relationships within the past three years.

There are no restrictions on foreigners establishing bank accounts, credit instruments, business financing or other such transactions.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

In 2019, BEAC tightened regulations on foreign exchange as reserves plummeted in the aftermath of the 2014 oil shock. The IMF estimates that the volume of foreign exchange assets illegally held outside the CEMAC zone by local firms and institutions at five trillion CFA (USD 8.3 billion). This is about the same amount of foreign reserves in CEMAC countries’ current account on June 30, 2019. While tightening the rules did not mean legal restrictions, each request for a foreign exchange transaction required a “dossier” that would include various documents.  The documents required vary based on the type of transaction to demonstrate the “legitimacy” of the planned purchase in foreign exchange that BEAC would approve.  The formal list of required documents from BEAC includes a significant number of required supporting documents.

The IMF has stated that forex transactions of less than one million U.S. dollars only require approval by local BEAC representatives in each country and should take place in a matter of days.  Forex transactions exceeding one million USD require approval from BEAC headquarters in Yaoundé and should occur in no more than 48 hours.  Banks and other financial institutions complain that requests are often rejected on minor technical grounds.  In practice, approved requests often take more than two weeks to process.

As of May 2020, BEAC is requiring international oil companies to repatriate all proceeds from the sale of oil and gas and then submit an application in order to receive dollars or euros.  Several Ministers of Finance and/or Energy in CEMAC countries have assured oil companies that they do not need to comply with the regulation, creating uncertainty for the operators.

In theory, funds associated with any form of investment can be freely converted into any world currency , but the current BEAC restrictions are causing currency conversion concerns at financial institutions and oil companies.

The Central African CFA Franc is the currency of six independent states in Central Africa: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon.  It is administered by the BEAC and is currently pegged at roughly 656 CFA to one Euro.

Remittance Policies

Apart from the tightening of foreign exchange rules in 2019, post is unaware of any recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies that either tighten or relax access to foreign exchange for investment remittances.

There are no time limitations on transactions beyond the classic banking transactions timeline.   BEAC regulates remittances policies and banking transactions.  Foreign investors can remit through convertible and negotiable instruments through legal channels recognized by BEAC, subject to the recent issues mentioned above.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Cameroon does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

In Cameroon, over 50 percent of the population is under 25.  The official unemployment is around 4 percent, although youth unemployment may be as much as 75 percent.  Empirical research puts the rate of unemployment at 11.5 percent. The majority of youth who are qualified are under-employed in the informal sector.  Unskilled labor is prevalent in the agricultural and service sector, and under-employment is prevalent in manufacturing, commerce, technician or technical trades, and mid-management jobs.  Officially, unemployment rate hovers around 4 percent based on International Labor Organization (ILO) standards, but the reality is that it this rate is much higher.  Under-employment is even higher and remains a real challenge for Cameroon, with rates of 12.3 percent and 63.7 percent, respectively, for visible and invisible under-employment according to academic research.

There are shortages of technical trade skills, for example, for maintenance and repair of industrial machinery, in every sector of the economy.  Truck and automotive maintenance is widely practiced in the informal sector.  Rudimentary or artisanal agriculture, fishing, and textile manufacture economic sectors are still in need of significant development, and a lack of skilled workers tends to be the norm across the country.

The government of Cameroon does not require foreign companies to hire nationals.  However, foreign nationals are required to obtain work permits prior to formal employment.  While foreign nationals are automatically issued work permits for companies of the industrial free zones regime, their number may not exceed 20 percent of the total work force of a company after the fifth year of operation in Cameroon if benefiting from the Industrial Free Zone (IFZ) regime.

Although union and contract agreements vary widely from sector to sector, in general, Cameroon functions as an “employment at will” economy, and labor laws differentiate between layoffs and firing.  Layoffs are not caused by the fault of the employees.  Layoffs are often considered as alternative solutions to dismissing workers based on performance fault or economic grounds. There is no special treatment of labor in special economic zones, foreign trade zones, or free ports.

While the Labor Code applies to Enterprises of the Industrial Free Zone (IFZ) regime, some matters are governed by special provisions under the 1990 law establishing IFZ.  These include the employer’s right to determine salaries according to productivity, free negotiation of work contracts, and automatic issuance of work permits for foreign workers.  The Ministry of Labor monitors labor abuses, health and safety standards, and other related issues, but enforcement is poor.  Labor laws are waived through the regime of Industrial Free Zones to attract or retain investment.  As indicated earlier, the waivers include the employer’s right to determine salaries according to productivity, free negotiation of work contracts, and automatic issuance of work permits for foreign nationals.

There are independent labor unions and others that are affiliated with the government under existing laws and regulations.  Over 100 trade unions and 12 union confederations operate in the country.  However, the labor union movement is highly fractured and somewhat ineffective in promoting workers’ rights.  Some union leaders accuse the government and company managers of promoting division within trade unions to weaken them, as well as protecting non-representative trade union leaders with whom they can negotiate more easily.

Cameroon’s labor dispute resolution mechanisms are outlined in the labor code.  The procedure differs depending on whether the dispute is individual or collective.  Individual disputes fall under the jurisdiction of the civil court dealing with labor matters in the place of employment or residence of the worker.  The legal procedure is initiated after the labor inspector fails to settle the dispute amicably out of the court system.  Settlement of collective labor disputes is subject to conciliation and arbitration, and any strike or lock-out started after the procedures have been exhausted and have failed is deemed legitimate.  While the conciliation procedure is conducted by the labor inspector, arbitration of any collective dispute that has not been settled by conciliation is handled by an arbitration board, chaired by the competent judicial officer of the competent court of appeal.  Workers who ignore procedures to conduct a legal strike can be dismissed or fined.  For more information from the ILO, see here .

Strikes occur regularly, and are generally repressed by the police, though they are often due to lack of payment by the employer and are resolved quickly.  No strike occurred that posed an investment risk.

Cameroon labor code lays down principles of labor laws regarding employment, dismissal, remedies for wrongful dismissal, compensation for industrial injuries, and trade unions.  But most jobs do not have binding contracts and employers generally seem to have the upper hand in labor disputes.  There is informality even in the formal sector, which is against the law.  Because of this landscape, it is important for U.S. companies to ensure compliance with the local labor laws and to abide by international best practices.  There were no new labor related laws or regulation enacted during the last year.  Post is unaware of any pending draft bills.

Côte d’Ivoire

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Government policies generally encourage foreign portfolio investment.

The Regional Stock Exchange (BRVM) is located in Abidjan and the BRVM lists companies from the eight countries of the WAEMU.  The existing regulatory system effectively facilitates portfolio investment through the West African Central Bank (BCEAO) and the Regional Council for Savings Investments (CREPMF).  There is sufficient liquidity in the markets to enter and exit sizeable positions.

Government policies allow the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.

The BCEAO respects IMF Article VIII on payment and transfers for current international transactions.

Credit allocation is based on market terms and has increased to support the private sector and economic growth, specifically for large businesses.  Foreign investors can acquire credit on the local market.

Money and Banking System

As of May 2020, there were 27 commercial banks and two credit institutions in Côte d’Ivoire.  Banks are expanding their national networks, especially in the secondary cities outside Abidjan, as domestic investment has increased up-country.  The total number of bank branches has more than doubled from 324 in 2010 to 694 branches in 2018 (latest data available).  Alternative financial services available include mobile money and microfinance for bill payments and transfers.  Many Ivoirians prefer mobile money over banking, but mobile money does not yet offer the same breadth of financial services as banks.

Most Ivoirian banks are compliant with the BCEAO’s minimum capital requirements.  Some public banks have large numbers of nonperforming loans.  The government is restructuring and privatizing the commercial banking sector in order to remove low performers from government accounts.

The estimated total assets of the five largest banks are around USD 10 billion and account for 49 percent of bank assets.

The BCEAO is common to the eight member states of the WAEMU and manages banking regulations.

Foreign banks are allowed to operate in Côte d’Ivoire; at least one has been in Côte d’Ivoire for decades.  They are subject to the WAEMU Banking Commission’s prudential measures and regulations.  Côte d’Ivoire did not lose any correspondent banking relationships in the past three years.  No known correspondent banking relationships are in jeopardy.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no restrictions on the transfer or repatriation of capital and income earned, or on investments financed with convertible foreign currency.  Once an investment is established and documented, the government regularly approves the remittances of dividends and/or repatriation of capital.  The same holds true for requests for other sorts of transactions (e.g. imports, licenses, and royalty fees).

Funds associated with investments funded with convertible currency are freely convertible into any world currency.

Côte d’Ivoire is a member of the WAEMU, which uses the West African Franc (XOF), also called the CFA.  The French Treasury holds the international reserves of WAEMU member states and supports the fixed exchange rate of 655.956 CFA to the Euro.  In December 2019, the Ivoirian President as chairman of WAEMU announced the forthcoming transition from the CFA to another common regional currency to be called the Eco; details about the timeline or modalities of the change have not yet been published.

Remittance Policies

There are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies.

There are no time limitations on remittances.  Total personal remittances received by Ivoirians were about USD 335 million in 2019 or 0.7 percent of GDP.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Côte d’Ivoire does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The official unemployment rate is 2.8 percent, with higher unemployment in urban areas.  The unemployment rate among those aged 14-24 is 3.9 percent.  Forty seven percent of the non-agricultural workforce is employed in the informal economy.  Official statistics fail to fully account for the large informal economy throughout the country, and do not accurately portray the general dearth of well-paying employment opportunities.  Foreign workers from neighboring countries constitute a significant part of the work force, especially in agriculture.  Despite the government’s efforts, child labor remained a widespread problem in rural and urban areas, particularly on cocoa and coffee plantations, as well as in artisanal gold mining areas, and in domestic work.

There are significant shortages of skilled labor in higher education fields including information technology, engineering, finance, management, health, and science.  The Ivoirian government is working with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to build and develop four technical and vocational training centers.

Labor laws favor the employment of Ivoirians in private enterprises, and state that any vacant position must be advertised for two months.  If after two months no qualified Ivoirian is found, the employer may recruit a foreigner provided it plans to recruit an Ivoirian to fill the position in the next two years.  The foreign employee must be given a labor contract.

There are no restrictions on employers adjusting employment in response to fluctuating market conditions.  Employees terminated for reasons other than theft or flagrant neglect of duty have the right to termination benefits.  Unemployment insurance and other social safety programs exist for employees laid off for economic reasons, but for the 85 percent of workers employed in the informal sector, this is not an option.

Labor laws are not waived to attract or retain investment.

Collective bargaining agreements are in effect in many major business enterprises and sectors of the civil service.  A prolonged teachers’ strike in 2019 was submitted for settlement but due to the fractured nature of the teachers’ unions, not all parties agreed to the decision.

Labor disputes are submitted to the labor inspector for amicable settlement before engaging in any legal proceedings.  If this attempt to settle the dispute fails, then the labor court can be engaged to resolve the dispute.

No strike has posed an investment risk during the last year.

There are no gaps with international labor standards in law or practice that pose a reputational risk to investors.

The government did not adopt any new labor related laws or regulations in 2019.  In 2017, the government passed a law forbidding most forms of child labor for children under 12 and restricting it for minors aged 13 to 17.  The law’s passage put Ivoirian law on par with ILO standards for child labor.

Egypt

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

To date, high returns on Egyptian government debt have crowded out Egyptian investment in productive capacity.  Consistently positive and relatively high real interest rates have attracted large foreign capital inflows since 2017, most of which has been volatile portfolio capital.  Returns on Egyptian government debt have begun to come down, which could presage investment by Egyptian capital in the real economy.

The Egyptian Stock Exchange (EGX) is Egypt’s registered securities exchange.  About 246 companies were listed on the EGX, including Nilex, as of April 2020.  There were more than 500,000 investors registered to trade on the exchange in 2019 as the Egyptian market attracted 32,000 new investors.  Stock ownership is open to foreign and domestic individuals and entities.  The Government of Egypt issues dollar-denominated and Egyptian pound-denominated debt instruments.  Ownership is open to foreign and domestic individuals and entities.  The government has developed a positive outlook toward foreign portfolio investment, recognizing the need to attract foreign capital to help develop the Egyptian economy.  During 2019 foreign investors’ percentage of total transactions on the EGX reached 33 percent versus Egyptian investors’ percentage of 67 percent.

The Capital Market Law 95/1992, along with the Banking Law 88/2003, constitutes the primary regulatory frameworks for the financial sector. The law grants foreigners full access to capital markets, and authorizes establishment of Egyptian and foreign companies to provide underwriting of subscriptions, brokerage services, securities and mutual funds management, clearance and settlement of security transactions, and venture capital activities. The law specifies mechanisms for arbitration and legal dispute resolution and prohibits unfair market practices.  Law 10//2009 created the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority (EFSA) and brought the regulation of all non-banking financial services under its authority.  In 2017, EFSA became the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA).

Settlement of transactions takes one day for treasury bonds and two days for stocks. Although Egyptian law and regulations allow companies to adopt bylaws limiting or prohibiting foreign ownership of shares, virtually no listed stocks have such restrictions. A significant number of the companies listed on the exchange are family-owned or dominated conglomerates, and free trading of shares in many of these ventures, while increasing, remains limited.  Companies are de-listed from the exchange if not traded for six months.

The Higher Investment Council extended the suspension of capital gains tax for three years, until 2020 as part of efforts to draw investors back. In March 2017, the government announced plans to impose a stamp duty on all stock transactions with a duty of 0.125 percent on all buyers and sellers starting in May 2017, followed by an increase to 0.150 percent in the second year and 0.175 percent thereafter. Egypt’s provisional stamp duty on stock exchange transactions includes for the first time a 0.3 percent levy for investors acquiring more than a third of a company’s stocks. I n May 2019 the government decided to keep the stamp duty at 0.15% without further increase, then in March 2020 the government decided to reduce the stamp tax to 0.125% for non-residents and to 0.05% for non-residents and to push back the introduction of the capital gain tax till January 2022.  Foreign investors will be exempted from the tax.

Foreign investors can access Egypt’s banking system by opening accounts with local banks and buying and selling all marketable securities with brokerages. The government has repeatedly emphasized its commitment to maintaining the profit repatriation system to encourage foreign investment in Egypt, especially since the pound floatation and implementation of the IMF loan program in November 2016. The current system for profit repatriation by foreign firms requires sub-custodian banks to open foreign and local currency accounts for foreign investors (global custodians), which are exclusively maintained for stock exchange transactions. The two accounts serve as a channel through which foreign investors process their sales, purchases, dividend collections, and profit repatriation transactions using the bank’s posted daily exchange rates. The system is designed to allow for settlement of transactions in fewer than two days, though in practice some firms have reported significant delays in repatriating profits due to problems with availability.  Foreign firms and individuals continue to report delays in repatriating funds and problems accessing hard currency for the purpose of repatriating profits.

The Egyptian credit market, open to foreigners, is vibrant and active. Repatriation of investment profits has become much easier, as there is enough available hard currency to execute FX trades. Since the floatation of the Pound in November 2016 FX trading is considered straightforward, given the re-establishment of the interbank foreign currency trading system.

Money and Banking System

Benefitting from the nation’s increasing economic stability over the past two years, Egypt’s banks have enjoyed both ratings upgrades and continued profitability.  Thanks to economic reforms, a new floating exchange system, and a new Investment Law passed in 2017, the project finance pipeline is increasing after a period of lower activity.  Banking competition is improving to serve a largely untapped retail segment and the nation’s challenging, but potentially rewarding, small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) segment.  The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) has mandated that 20 percent of bank loans go to SMEs within the next three years (four years from 2016).  In December 2019, the Central Bank launched a 100 billion initiative to spur domestic manufacturing through subsidized loans.  Also, with only about a quarter of Egypt’s adult population owning or sharing an account at a formal financial institution (according press and comments from contacts), the banking sector has potential for growth and higher inclusion, which the government and banks discuss frequently.  A low median income plays a part in modest banking penetration.   But the CBE has taken steps to work with banks and technology companies to expand financial inclusion.  The employees of the government, one of the largest employers, must now have bank accounts because salary payment is through direct deposit.

Egypt’s banking sector is generally regarded as healthy and well-capitalized, due in part to its deposit-based funding structure and ample liquidity, especially since the floatation and restoration of the interbank market.  The CBE declared that 4.1 percent of the banking sector’s loans were non-performing in June 2020.  However, since 2011, a high level of exposure to government debt, accounting for over 40 percent of banking system assets, at the expense of private sector lending, has reduced the diversity of bank balance sheets and crowded out domestic investment.  Given the floatation of the Egyptian Pound and restart of the interbank trading system, Moody’s and S&P have upgraded the outlook of Egypt’s banking system to stable from negative to reflect improving macroeconomic conditions and ongoing commitment to reform.  In April 2019 Moody’s upgraded Egypt’s government issuer rating to B2 with stable outlook from B3 positive and affirmed this rating in April 2020 while also changing Egypt’s Macro Profile to “weak-” from “very weak”.

Thirty-eight banks operate in Egypt, including several foreign banks. The CBE has not issued a new commercial banking license since 1979.  The only way for a new commercial bank, whether foreign or domestic, to enter the market (except as a representative office) is to purchase an existing bank.  To this end, in 2013, QNB Group acquired National Société Générale Bank Egypt (NSGB).  That same year, Emirates NBD, Dubai’s largest bank, bought the Egypt unit of BNP Paribas.  In 2015, Citibank sold its retail banking division to CIB Bank.  In 2017, Barclays Bank PLC transferred its entire shareholding to Attijariwafa Bank Group.  In 2016 and 2017, Egypt indicated a desire to partially (less than 35 percent) privatize at least one state-owned banks and a total of 23 firms through either expanded or new listings on the Egypt Stock Exchange.  As of April 2020 the only steps towards implementing this privatization program were offering 4.5 percent of the shares of state-owned Eastern Tobacco Company on the stock market.  The state owned Banque De Caire was planning to IPO some of its shares on the EGX in April but postponed due to the novel coronavirus.

According to the CBE, banks operating in Egypt held nearly EGP 6 trillion ($379 billion) in total assets as of February 2020, with the five largest banks holding EGP 3.9 trillion ($247 billion) at the end of 2019.  Egypt’s three state-owned banks (Banque Misr, Banque du Caire, and National Bank of Egypt) control nearly 40 percent of banking sector assets.

The chairman of the EGX recently stated that Egypt is allowing exploration of the use of blockchain technologies across the banking community.  The FRA will review the development and most likely regulate how the banking system adopts the fast-developing blockchain systems into banks’ back-end and customer-facing processing and transactions. Seminars and discussions are beginning around Cairo, including visitors from Silicon Valley, in which leaders and experts are still forming a path forward.  While not outright banning cryptocurrencies, which is distinguished from blockchain technologies, authorities caution against speculation in unknown asset classes.

Alternative financial services in Egypt are extensive, given the large informal economy, estimated to be from 30 to 50 percent of the GDP.  Informal lending is prevalent, but the total capitalization, number of loans, and types of terms in private finance is less well known.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There had been significant progress in accessing hard currency since the floatation of the Pound and re-establishment of the interbank currency trading system in November 2016.  While the immediate aftermath saw some lingering difficulty of accessing currency, as of 2017 most businesses operating in Egypt reported having little difficulty obtaining hard currency for business purposes, such as importing inputs and repatriating profits.   In 2016 the Central Bank lifted dollar deposit limits on households and firms importing priority goods which had been in place since early 2015.  Into 2016, businesses, including foreign-owned firms, which were not operating in priority sectors, encountered difficulty accessing currency, including importers.  But 2017 has seen an elimination of the backlog for demand for foreign currency.  With net foreign reserves of $37 billion as of April 2020, Egypt’s foreign reserves appeared to be well capitalized.

Funds associated with investment can be freely converted into any world currency, depending on the availability of that currency in the local market.  Some firms and individuals report the process taking some time.  But the interbank trading system works in general and currency is available as the foreign exchange markets continue to react positively to the government’s commitment to macro and structural reform.

The stabilized exchange rate operates on the principle of market supply and demand: the exchange rate is dictated by availability of currency and demand by firms and individuals.  While there is some reported informal Central Bank window guidance, the rate generally fluctuates depending on market conditions, without direct market intervention by authorities.  In general, the EGP has stabilized within an acceptable exchange rate range, which has increased the foreign exchange market’s liquidity.  Since the early days following the floatation, there has been very low exchange rate volatility.

Remittance Policies

The 1992 U.S.-Egypt Bilateral Investment Treaty provides for free transfer of dividends, royalties, compensation for expropriation, payments arising out of an investment dispute, contract payments, and proceeds from sales.  Prior to reform implementation throughout 2016 and 2017, large corporations had been unable to repatriate local earnings for months at a time, but given the current record net foreign reserves, repatriation is no longer an issue that companies complain about.

The Investment Incentives Law stipulates that non-Egyptian employees hired by projects established under the law are entitled to transfer their earnings abroad.  Conversion and transfer of royalty payments are permitted when a patent, trademark, or other licensing agreement has been approved under the Investment Incentives Law.

Banking Law 88//2003 regulates the repatriation of profits and capital.  The current system for profit repatriation by foreign firms requires sub-custodian banks to open foreign and local currency accounts for foreign investors (global custodians), which are exclusively maintained for stock exchange transactions.  The two accounts serve as a channel through which foreign investors process their sales, purchases, dividend collections, and profit repatriation transactions using the bank’s posted daily exchange rates.  The system is designed to allow for settlement of transactions in fewer than two days, though in practice some firms have reported short delays in repatriating profits, no longer due to availability but more due to processing steps.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Egypt’s sovereign wealth fund (SWF), approved by the Cabinet and launched in late 2018, holds 200 billion EGP ($12.7 billion) in authorized capital.  The SWF aims to invest state funds locally and abroad across asset classes and manage underutilized government assets.  The SWF focuses on sectors considered vital to the Egyptian economy, particularly industry, energy, and tourism. The SWF participates in the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds.  The government is currently in talks with regional and European institutions to take part in forming the fund’s sector-specific units.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Official statistics put Egypt’s labor force at approximately 29 million, with an official unemployment rate of 9.6 percent as of July 2020.  Prior to the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Egypt’s official unemployment rate had been steadily decreasing, reaching a low of 7.5 percent in July 2019.  Women accounted for 25 percent of those unemployed as of May 2020, according to statistics from Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).  Accurate figures are difficult to determine and verify given Egypt’s large informal economy in which some 62 percent of the non-agricultural workforce is engaged, according to ILO estimates.

The government bureaucracy and public sector enterprises are substantially over-staffed compared to the private sector and other international norms.  According to the World Bank, Egypt has the highest number of government workers per capita in the world.  Businesses highlight a mismatch between labor skills and market demand, despite high numbers of university graduates in a variety of fields.  Foreign companies frequently pay internationally competitive salaries to attract workers with valuable skills.

The Unified Labor Law 12//2003 provides comprehensive guidelines on labor relations, including hiring, working hours, termination of employees, training, health, and safety.  The law grants a qualified right for employees to strike, as well as rules and guidelines governing mediation, arbitration, and collective bargaining between employees and employers.   Non-discrimination clauses are included, and the law complies with labor-related International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions regulating the employment and training of women and eligible children. Egypt ratified ILO Convention 182 on combating the Worst Forms of Child Labor in April 2002. On July 2018, Egypt launched the first National Action Plan on combating the Worst Forms of Child Labor. The law also created a national committee to formulate general labor policies and the National Council of Wages, whose mandate is to discuss wage-related issues and national minimum-wage policy, but it has rarely convened and a minimum wage has rarely been enforced in the private sector. .

Parliament adopted a new Trade Unions Law in late 2017, replacing a 1976 law, which experts said was out of compliance with Egypt’s commitments to ILO conventions.  After a March 2016 Ministry of Manpower and Migration (MOMM) directive not to recognize documentation from any trade union without a stamp from the government-affiliated Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), the new law established procedures for registering independent trade unions, but some of the unions noted that the directorates of the Ministry of Manpower didn’t implement the law and placed restrictions on freedoms of association and organizing for trade union elections.  Executive regulations for trade union elections stipulate a very tight deadline of three months for trade union organizations to legalize their status, and one month to hold elections, which, critics said, restricted the ability of unions to legalize their status or to campaign.  On April 3, 2018, the government registered its first independent trade union in more than two years.

In July 2019 the Egyptian Parliament passed a series of amendments to the Trade Unions Law that reduced the minimum membership required to form a trade union and abolished prison sentences for violations of the law.  The amendments reduced the minimum number of workers required to form a trade union committee from 150 to 50, the number of trade union committees to form a general union from 15 to 10 committees, and the number of workers in a general union from 20,000 to 15,000.  The amendments also decreased the number of unions necessary to establish a trade union federation from 10 to 7 and the number of workers in a trade union from 200,000 to 150,000.  Under the new law, a trade union or workers’ committee may be formed if 150 employees in an entity express a desire to organize.

Based on the new amendments to the Trade Unions Law and a request from the Egyptian government for assistance implementing them and meeting international labor standards, the International Labor Organization’s and International Finance Corporation’s joint Better Work Program launched in Egypt in March 2020.

The Trade Unions law explicitly bans compulsory membership or the collection of union dues without written consent of the worker and allows members to quit unions.  Each union, general union, or federation is registered as an independent legal entity, thereby enabling any such entity to exit any higher-level entity.

The 2014 Constitution stipulated in Article 76 that “establishing unions and federations is a right that is guaranteed by the law.”  Only courts are allowed to dissolve unions.  The 2014 Constitution maintained past practice in stipulating that “one syndicate is allowed per profession.”   The Egyptian constitutional legislation differentiates between white-collar syndicates (e.g. doctors, lawyers, journalists) and blue-collar workers (e.g. transportation, food, mining workers).  Workers in Egypt have the right to strike peacefully, but strikers are legally obliged to notify the employer and concerned administrative officials of the reasons and time frame of the strike 10 days in advance.  In addition, strike actions are not permitted to take place outside the property of businesses.  The law prohibits strikes in strategic or vital establishments in which the interruption of work could result in disturbing national security or basic services provided to citizens.  In practice, however, workers strike in all sectors, without following these procedures, but at risk of prosecution by the government.

Collective negotiation is allowed between trade union organizations and private sector employers or their organizations.  Agreements reached through negotiations are recorded in collective agreements regulated by the Unified Labor law and usually registered at MOMM.  Collective bargaining is technically not permitted in the public sector, though it exists in practice.  The government often intervenes to limit or manage collective bargaining negotiations in all sectors.

MOMM sets worker health and safety standards, which also apply in public and private free zones and the Special Economic Zones (see below).  Enforcement and inspection, however, are uneven.  The Unified Labor Law prohibits employers from maintaining hazardous working conditions, and workers have the right to remove themselves from hazardous conditions without risking loss of employment.

Egyptian labor laws allow employers to close or downsize operations for economic reasons.  The government, however, has taken steps to halt downsizing in specific cases.  The Unemployment Insurance Law, also known as the Emergency Subsidy Fund Law 156//2002, sets a fund to compensate employees whose wages are suspended due to partial or complete closure of their firm or due to its downsizing.  The Fund allocates financial resources that will come from a 1 percent deduction from the base salaries of public and private sector employees.  According to foreign investors, certain aspects of Egypt’s labor laws and policies are significant business impediments, particularly the difficulty of dismissing employees.  To overcome these difficulties, companies often hire workers on temporary contracts; some employees remain on a series of one-year contracts for more than 10 years.  Employers sometimes also require applicants to sign a “Form 6,” an undated voluntary resignation form which the employer can use at any time, as a condition of their employment. Negotiations on drafting a new Labor Law, which has been under consideration in the Parliament for two years, have included discussion of requiring employers to offer permanent employee status after a certain number of years with the company and declaring Form 6 or any letter of resignation null and void if signed prior to the date of termination.

Egypt has a dispute resolution mechanism for workers.  If a dispute concerning work conditions, terms, or employment provisions arises, both the employer and the worker have the right to ask the competent administrative authorities to initiate informal negotiations to settle the dispute. This right can be exercised only within seven days of the beginning of the dispute. If a solution is not found within 10 days from the time administrative authorities were requested, both the employer and the worker can resort to a judicial committee within 45 days of the dispute.  This committee is comprised of two judges, a representative of MOMM and representatives from the trade union, and one of the employers’ associations.  The decision of this committee is provided within 60 days. If the decision of the judicial committee concerns discharging a permanent employee, the sentence is delivered within 15 days.  When the committee decides against an employer’s decision to fire, the employer must reintegrate the latter in his/her job and pay all due salaries.  If the employer does not respect the sentence, the employee is entitled to receive compensation for unlawful dismissal.

Labor Law 12//2003 sought to make it easier to terminate an employment contract in the event of “difficult economic conditions.”  The Law allows an employer to close his establishment totally or partially or to reduce its size of activity for economic reasons, following approval from a committee designated by the Prime Minister.  In addition, the employer must pay former employees a sum equal to one month of the employee’s total salary for each of his first five years of service and one and a half months of salary for each year of service over and above the first five years.  Workers who have been dismissed have the right to appeal.  Workers in the public sector enjoy lifelong job security as contracts cannot be terminated in this fashion; however, government salaries have eroded as inflation has outpaced increases.

Egypt has regulations restricting access for foreigners to Egyptian worker visas, though application of these provisions has been inconsistent.  The government plans to phase out visas for unskilled workers, but as yet has not done so. For most other jobs, employers may hire foreign workers on a temporary six-month basis, but must also hire two Egyptians to be trained to do the job during that period.  Only jobs where it is not possible for Egyptians to acquire the requisite skills will remain open to foreign workers. Application of these regulations is inconsistent.

Ethiopia

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Ethiopia has a limited and undeveloped financial sector, and investment is largely closed off to foreign firms. Liquidity at many banks is limited, and commercial banks often require 100 percent collateral, making access to credit one of the greatest hindrances to growth in the country. Ethiopia has the largest economy in Africa without a securities market, and sales/purchases of debt are heavily regulated.

The IMF, as part of its Extended Credit Facility and Extended Fund Facility, in December of 2019 approved a three-year, 2.9 billion U.S. dollar program to support Ethiopia’s economic reform agenda. The program seeks to reduce public sector borrowing, rein in inflation, and reform the exchange rate regime. In preparation for the program, Ethiopia rescheduled much of its external debt with significant bilateral lenders.

The Ethiopian government has announced, as part of its overall economic reform effort, its intention to liberalize the financial sector. The government has already made good progress by allowing non-financial Ethiopian firms to participate in mobile money activities, introducing Treasury-bill auctions with market pricing, and reducing forced lending to the government on the part of the commercial banks. Still, the creation of a stock market and the fuller participation of foreign financial firms in the sector likely remain years away.

The NBE began offering, in December of 2019, a limited number of 28-day and 91-day Treasury bills at market-determined interest rates. The move was part of an effort to expand the NBE’s monetary policy tools and finance the government in a more sustainable way. Previously, the NBE had only sold Treasury bills at below-market interest rates, and the only buyers were public sector enterprises, primarily the Public Social Security Agency and the Development Bank of Ethiopia.

Ethiopia issued its first Eurobond in December of 2014, raising 1 billion U.S. dollars at a rate of 6.625 percent. The 10-year bond was oversubscribed, indicating continued market interest in high-growth sub-Saharan African markets. According to the Ministry of Finance, the bond proceeds are being used to finance industrial parks, the sugar industry, and power transmission infrastructure. Due to its increasing external debt load and the terms of its IMF program, the Ethiopian government has committed to refrain from non-concessional financing for new projects and to shift ongoing projects to concessional financing when possible.

The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX), launched in 2008, trades commodities such as coffee, sesame seeds, maize, wheat, mung beans, chickpeas, soybeans, and green beans. The government launched ECX to increase transparency in commodity pricing, alleviate food shortages, and encourage the commercialization of agriculture. Critics allege that ECX policies and pricing structures are inefficient compared to direct sales at prevailing market rates, triggering an amendment to the ECX law in July 2017 that eliminated a number of criticized regulations, and permitted the trading of financial instruments at a future date.

Money and Banking System

Ethiopia has 18 commercial banks, two of which are state-owned banks, and 16 of which are privately owned banks. The Development Bank of Ethiopia, a state-owned bank, provides loans to investors in priority sectors, notably agriculture and manufacturing. By regional standards, the 16 private commercial banks are not large (either by total assets or total lending), and their service offerings are not sophisticated. Mobile money and digital finance, for instance, remain limited in Ethiopia. Foreign banks are not permitted to provide financial services in Ethiopia, however, since April 2007, Ethiopia has allowed some foreign banks to open liaison offices in Addis Ababa to facilitate credit to companies from their countries of origins. Chinese, German, Kenyan, Turkish, and South African banks have opened liaison offices in Ethiopia, but the market remains completely closed to foreign retail banks. Foreigners of Ethiopian origin are now allowed to hold shares in financial institutions.

Based on recently made available data, the state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia mobilizes more than 60 percent of total bank deposits, bank loans, and foreign exchange. The NBE controls the bank’s minimum deposit rate, which now stands at 7 percent, while loan interest rates are allowed to float. Real deposit interest rates have been negative in recent years, mainly due to inflation. The government of Ethiopia in November of 2019 rescinded the so-called “27 percent Rule,” which mandated forced, below inflation rate lending by the commercial banks to the NBE.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

All foreign currency transactions must be approved by the NBE. Ethiopia’s national currency (the Ethiopian birr) is not freely convertible. The GOE removed in September 2018 the limit on holding foreign currency accounts faced by non-resident Ethiopians and non-resident foreign nationals of Ethiopian origin.

Foreign exchange reserves started to become depleted in 2012 and have remained at critically low levels since then. At present, gross reserves stand at about 4 billion U.S. dollars, covering approximately 2 months of imports. According to the IMF, heavy government infrastructure investment, along with debt servicing and a large trade imbalance, have all fueled the intense demand for foreign exchange. In addition, the decrease in foreign exchange reserves has been exacerbated by weaker-than-expected earnings from coffee exports and low international commodity prices for other important exports such as oil seeds. Businesses encounter delays of six months to two years in obtaining foreign exchange, and they must deposit the full equivalent in Ethiopian birr in their accounts to begin the process to obtain foreign exchange. Slowdowns in manufacturing due to foreign exchange shortages are common, and high-profile local businesses have closed their doors altogether due to the inability to import required goods in a timely fashion.

Due to the foreign exchange shortage, companies have experienced delays of up to two years in the repatriation of larger volumes of profits. Local sourcing of inputs and partnering with export-oriented partners are strategies employed by the private sector to address the foreign exchange shortage, but access to foreign exchange remains a problem that limits growth, interferes with maintenance and spare parts replacement, and inhibits imports of adequate raw materials.

The foreign exchange shortage distorts the economy in a number of other ways: it fuels the contraband trade through Somaliland because the Ethiopian birr is an unofficial currency there and can be used for the purchase of products from around the world. Exporters, who have priority access to foreign exchange, sell their allocations to importers at inflated rates, creating a black-market for dollars that is roughly 30 to 40 percent over the official rate. Other exporters use their foreign exchange earnings to import consumer goods with high margins, rather than re-investing profits in their core businesses. Meanwhile, the lack of access to foreign exchange impacts the ability of American citizens living in Ethiopia to pay their taxes, or for students to pay school fees abroad.

The Ethiopian birr has depreciated significantly against the U.S. dollar over the past ten years, primarily through a series of controlled steps, including a 20 percent devaluation in September 2010 and a 15 percent devaluation in October 2017. The NBE increased the devaluation rate of the Ethiopian birr starting in November of 2019, and it has continued to be devalued at a more rapid rate since that time, as per the terms of the IMF program. The official exchange rate was approximately 33.60 Ethiopian birr per dollar as of May 2020. The illegal parallel market exchange rate for the same time was approximately 42 Ethiopian birr per dollar.

Following the 15 percent devaluation of the Ethiopian birr, the NBE increased the minimum saving interest rate from four percent to seven percent, and limited the outstanding loan growth rate in commercial banks to 16.5 percent, which limits their loan provision for businesses other than those in the export and manufacturing sectors. Moreover, banks were instructed to transfer 30 percent of their foreign exchange earnings to the account of NBE so the regulator can use the foreign exchange to meet the strategic needs of the country, including payments to procure petroleum, wheat, and sugar, as well as to cover transportation costs of imported items.

Ethiopia’s Financial Intelligence Unit monitors suspicious currency transfers, including large transactions exceeding 200,000 Ethiopian birr (roughly equivalent to U.S. reporting requirements for currency transfers exceeding 10,000 U.S. dollars). Ethiopia citizens are not allowed to hold or open an account in foreign exchange. Ethiopian residents entering the country from abroad should declare their foreign currency in excess of 1,000 U.S. dollars and non-residents in excess of 3,000 U.S. dollars. Residents are not allowed to hold foreign currency for more than 30 days after acquisition. A maximum of 1000 Ethiopian birr in cash can be carried out of the country.

Remittance Policies

Ethiopia’s Investment Proclamation allows all registered foreign investors, whether or not they receive incentives, to remit profits and dividends, principal and interest on foreign loans, and fees related to technology transfer. Foreign investors may remit proceeds from the sale or liquidation of assets, from the transfer of shares or of partial ownership of an enterprise, and funds required for debt servicing or other international payments. The right of expatriate employees to remit their salaries is granted by NBE foreign exchange regulations. In practice, however, foreign companies and individuals have experienced difficulties obtaining foreign currency to remit dividends, profits, or salaries.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Ethiopia has no sovereign wealth funds.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

More than 80 percent of Ethiopians work in agriculture. The second-most important employer is the government. If the population continues to grow at the current rate of 2.5 percent, Ethiopia will have more than 138 million people by 2030, only 27 percent of whom will live in urban areas. Ethiopia’s youth, between the ages of 15 and 29, account for 30 percent of the population; 70 million Ethiopians are under the age of 30. The youth unemployment rate in urban settings is over 25 percent (CSA, 2018). The gender gap in employment is high; the unemployment rate among young women in urban areas is over 30 percent, compared with 19 percent for young men. Young women are three times more likely to be neither in employment, education, or training (NEET). According to International Labor Organization (ILO) statistics, Ethiopia’s youth NEET accounts for 10.5 percent of the youth population (5.7 percent for men, 15.1 percent for women).

Although labor remains readily available and inexpensive in Ethiopia, skilled manpower is scarce. Approximately 50 percent of Ethiopians over the age of 15 are illiterate, according to UNESCO’s definition. The primary school enrollment rate (age 7 to 14), on the other hand, has now reached 94 percent. To increase the skilled labor force, the GOE has undertaken a rapid expansion of the university system in the last 20 years, increasing the number of higher public education institutions from three to 49. It has adopted an education policy that requires 70 percent of public university students to study science, engineering, or technology subjects, but many students are not well prepared by secondary school to study in those fields.

Ethiopia has ratified all eight core International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions. The Ethiopian Criminal Code and the 2019 Labor Proclamation both outlaw work specified as hazardous by ILO conventions. There is no national minimum wage, and public sector employees – the largest group of wage earners – earned a monthly minimum wage of 420 Ethiopian birr (approximately 19 U.S. dollars).

Labor unions and confederations are separate entities from the government, and are subject to a great deal of regulation and direct pressure/involvement from the government. The Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU) comprises well over two hundred thousand members in enterprise-based unions in a variety of sectors, but there is no formal requirement for unions to join the CETU. Much of the labor force remains in small-scale agriculture/industry and thus is not covered by enterprise unions. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs’ Directorate of Harmonious Industrial Relations provides labor dispute resolution services, but the caseload and the directorate’s capacity are low.

Employers offering contracted employment are required to provide severance pay. The vast majority of employees that work in small-scale agriculture and in many micro and small enterprises, however, do so without a contract. Large labor surpluses and lax labor law enforcement allow employers to retain employees without contracts that ensure strong worker protections.

Although the government actively engages with the international community to combat child labor and human trafficking, which includes forced/coerced labor, both remain widespread in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Parliament ratified ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor in May 2003. While not a pressing issue in the formal economy, child labor is common in the informal sector, including construction, agriculture, textiles, manufacturing, mining, and domestic work. Child labor is present in both urban and rural areas. According to the ILO International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor, more than 50 percent of Ethiopia’s child laborers work in the agriculture sector. Ethiopian traditional woven textiles are included on the U.S. government’s Executive Order 13126 list of goods that have been known to be produced by forced or indentured child labor. Both NGO and Ethiopian government sources concluded that goods produced (in the agricultural sector and traditional weaving industry in particular) via child labor are largely intended for domestic consumption, and not slated for export. Employers are prohibited from hiring children under the age of 15, and the minimum age is 18 for certain types of hazardous work. Ethiopia has a National Action Plan (NAP) for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor, which it is currently updating. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs conducts tens of thousands of targeted inspections on occupational safety and standards, although they are not legally empowered to assess fines for infractions and they do not make this data publicly available. Due to the shortage of labor inspectors and other enforcement resources, and the fact that inspectors do not inspect informal work sites, most child labor goes unreported.

In April 2020, the Ethiopian Parliament approved and published in the federal gazette the new Anti-Human Trafficking and Smuggling Criminal Proclamation 909/2019. The new legislation breaks down silos between stakeholder agencies, provides clear guidelines regarding how anti-trafficking efforts are funded, and provides clear, commensurate penalties for those involved in trafficking.

The Overseas Labor Proclamation legalizes and regulates the employment of Ethiopians in foreign countries. The law does not disallow Ethiopians from migrating to other countries to seek work, but it imposes requirements that are lengthy and expensive, making irregular migration more attractive for many. The main driver for irregular migration is economic incentives. Although trafficking remains problematic, experts report that the GOE has increasingly shown the political will to address this issue.

Kenya

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Kenya developed the draft Financial Markets Conduct bill (2018) to consolidate and harmonize the financial sector in the country. Among the proposals in the draft bill is the establishment of the financial markets conduct authority to be the sole body to regulate providers of financial products and services to retail financial customers and to curb irresponsible financial market practices, a move that will create a conflict with the current financial markets regulators. Though relatively small by Western standards, Kenya’s capital markets are the deepest and most sophisticated in East Africa. The Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) is the best ranked exchange in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of performance in the last decade. NSE operates under the jurisdiction of the Capital Markets Authority of Kenya. It is a full member of the World Federation of Exchange, a founder member of the African Securities Exchanges Association (ASEA) and the East African Securities Exchanges Association (EASEA). The NSE is a member of the Association of Futures Market and is a partner exchange in the United Nations-led SSE initiative. Foreign investor participation has always been high and a key determinant of the market performance in the NSE. The NSE in July 2019 launched the derivatives market that will facilitate trading in future contracts on the Kenyan market and will be regulated by the Capital Market Authority of Kenya. The bond market is underdeveloped and dominated by trading in government debt securities. The government domestic debt market, however, is deep and liquid. Long-term corporate bond issuances are uncommon, leading to a lack of long-term investment capital.

In November 2019, Kenya repealed the interest rate capping law passed in 2016 which had had the unintended consequence of slowing private sector credit growth. There are no restrictions for foreign investors to seek credit in the domestic financial market although it still struggles to fund big ticket projects. Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally aligned with international norms. The Kenyan National Treasury has launched its mobile money platform government bond to retail investors locally dubbed M-Akiba purchased at USD 30 on their mobile phones. M-Akiba has generated over 500,000 accounts for the Central Depository and Settlement Corporation and The National Treasury has made initial pay-outs to bond holders. The GOK expects to issue USD 10 million over this platform in 2019 in an effort to deepen financial inclusion and financial literacy.

According to the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA) 2014-2019 report on venture capital performance in Africa, Kenya is assessed as having a well-developed venture capitalist ecosystem ranking second in sub-Saharan Africa and accounted for 18 percent of the deals between 2014-2019 in Africa. The report further states that over 20 percent of the deals in the period were for companies that were headquartered outside Africa which sought expansion into the region’s markets.

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) is working with regulators in EAC member states through the Capital Market Development Committee (CMDC) and East African Securities Regulatory Authorities (EASRA) on a regional integration initiative and has successfully introduced cross-listing of equity shares. The combined use of both the Central Depository and Settlement Corporation (CDSC) and an automated trading system has moved the Kenyan securities market to globally accepted standards. Kenya is a full (ordinary) member of the International Organization of Securities Commissions Money and Banking System.

Money and Banking System

The Kenyan banking sector in 2020 included 40 operating commercial banks, one mortgage finance company, 13 microfinance banks, nine representative offices of foreign banks, 70 foreign exchange bureaus, 15 money remittance providers, and three credit reference bureaus which are licensed and regulated by the Central Bank of Kenya. Kenya also has 12 deposit-taking microfinance institutions. There has been increased foreign interest in Kenya’s banking sector with foreign owned banks making up 15 of the 40 operating banks. Major international banks operating in Kenya include Citibank, Absa bank (formerly Barclays bank Africa), Bank of India, Standard Bank (South Africa), and Standard Chartered. Kenya’s banking sector has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the CBK, 32 out of 39 commercial banks restructured their loans to accommodate those affected. Non-performing loans (NPLs) rose to 13.1 percent in April 2020 fueled by the pandemic, however previous NPLs have averaged above 10 percent. The Banking sector has 12 listed banks in the Nairobi Securities Exchange which owned 89 percent of the banking assets in 2019.

In March 2017, CBK lifted its moratorium on licensing new banks, issued in November 2015 following the collapse of Imperial Bank and Dubai Bank. The CBK’s decision to restart licensing signaled a return of stability in the Kenyan banking sector. In 2018, Societé Generale (France) also set up a representative office in Nairobi. Foreign banks can apply for license to set up operations in Kenya and are guided by the CBK’s prudential guidelines 2013.

In November 2019, the Government of Kenya (GOK) enacted the Banking Amendment Act 2019, which effectively repealed the section within the Banking (Amendment) Act (2016) that capped the maximum interest rate banks can charge on commercial loans at four percent above Central Bank of Kenya’s (CBK) benchmark lending rate. This repeal effectively provides financial institutions flexibility with regards to pricing the risk of lending.

In the ongoing land registry digitization process, the Kenyan Government is working on a database, known as the single source of truth (SSOT), to eliminate fake title deeds in the Ministry of Lands. The SSOT database development plan is premised on blockchain technology – distributed ledger technology – as the primary reference for all land transactions. The SSOT database would help the land transaction process to be efficient, open, and transparent. The blockchain taskforce presented its 2019 report to the Ministry of Information, Communication Technology, Innovations and Youth Affairs on the viability and opportunities of the blockchain technology which is yet to be implemented.

The percentage of Kenya’s total population with access to financial services through conventional or mobile banking platforms is approximately 80 percent. According to the World Bank, M-Pesa, Kenya’s largest mobile banking platform, processes more transactions within Kenya each year than Western Union does globally. Data from the Communication Authority of Kenya shows that in the 3 months to December 2019, 30 million Kenyans had active mobile money subscriptions. The 2017 National ICT Masterplan envisages the sector contributing at least 10 percent of GDP, up from 4.7 percent in 2015. Several mobile money platforms have achieved international interoperability, allowing the Kenyan diaspora to conduct financial transactions in Kenya from abroad.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange Policies

Kenya has no restrictions on converting or transferring funds associated with investment. Kenyan law requires the declaration to customs of amounts greater than KSH 1,000,000 (approximately USD 10,000) or the equivalent in foreign currencies for non-residents as a formal check against money laundering. Kenya is an open economy with a liberalized capital account and a floating exchange rate. The CBK engages in volatility controls aimed exclusively at smoothing temporary market fluctuations. Between June 2015 and June 2016, the Kenyan shilling declined 3.5 percent after a sharp decline of 15 percent during the same period in 2014/2015. In 2018, foreign exchange reserves remained relatively steady. The average inflation rate was 5.2 percent in 2019 and the average rate on 91-day treasury bills had fallen to 7.2 percent in 2019. According to CBK figures, the average exchange rate was KSH 101.99to USD 1.00 in 2019.

Remittance Policies

Kenya’s Foreign Investment Protection Act (FIPA) guarantees capital repatriation and remittance of dividends and interest to foreign investors, who are free to convert and repatriate profits including un-capitalized retained profits (proceeds of an investment after payment of the relevant taxes and the principal and interest associated with any loan).

Foreign currency is readily available from commercial banks and foreign exchange bureaus and can be freely bought and sold by local and foreign investors. The Central Bank of Kenya Act (2014), however, states that all foreign exchange dealers are required to obtain and retain appropriate documents for all transactions above the equivalent of KSH 1,000,000 (approximately USD 10,000). Kenya has 15 money remittance providers as at 2020 following the operationalization of money remittance regulations in April 2013.

Kenya is listed as a country of primary concern for money laundering and financial crime by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. Kenya was removed from the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Watchlist in 2014 following progress in creating the legal and institutional framework to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

In 2019, the National Treasury published the Kenya Sovereign Wealth Fund policy (2019) and the Kenya Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill (2019) for stakeholders’ comments as a constitutional procedure. The fund would receive income from any future privatization proceeds, dividends from state corporations, oil and gas, and minerals revenues due to the national government, revenue from other natural resources, and funds from any other source. The Kenya Information and Communications Act (2009) provides for the establishment of a Universal Service Fund (USF). The purpose of the USF is to fund national projects that have significant impact on the availability and accessibility of ICT services in rural, remote, and poor urban areas. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the USF committee has partnered with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development to digitize the education curriculum for online learning.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Kenya has one of the highest literacy rates in the region at 90 percent. Investors have access to a large pool of highly qualified professionals in diverse sectors from a working population of over 47.5 percent out of a population of 47.6 million people. Expatriates are allowed to work in Kenya provided they have a work (entry) permit issued under the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act 2011. In December 2018, the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government issued a directive that requires foreign nationals to apply for their work permits while in their country of origin and will have to prove that the skills they have are not available in the Kenya labor market. Work permits are usually granted to foreign enterprises approved to operate in Kenya as long as the applicants are key personnel. In 2015, the Directorate of Immigration Services made additions to the list of requirements for work permits and special pass applications. Issuance of a work permit now requires an assured income of at least USD 24,000 annually. Exemptions are available, however, for firms in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, or consulting sectors with a special permit. International companies have complained that the visa and work permit approval process is slow, and bribes are sometimes solicited to speed the process. A tightening of work permit issuances and enforcement begun in 2018 is now one of the largest complaints of multinational companies doing business in Kenya.

A company holding an investment certificate granted by registering with KenInvest and passing health, safety, and environmental inspections becomes automatically eligible for three class D work (entry) permits for management or technical staff and three class G, I, or J work permits for owners, shareholders, or partners. More information on permit classes can be found at https://kenya.eregulations.org/menu/61?l=en .

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), in 2019 non-agricultural employment in the formal sector was at 18.1 million, with nominal average earnings of Ksh778,248 (USD 7,200) per person per annum. Kenya has the highest rate of youth joblessness in East Africa. According to the 2019 census data, 5,341,182 or 38.9 percent of the 13,777,600 youths eligible to work are jobless. Employment in Kenya’s formal sector was 2.9 million in 2019 up from 2.8million in 2018. The government is the largest employer in the formal sector, with an estimated 865,200 government workers in 2019. In the private sector, agriculture, forestry, and fishing employed 296,700 workers while manufacturing employed 329,000 workers. However, Kenya’s large informal sector – consisting of approximately 80 percent of the labor force – makes accurate labor reporting difficult.

The GOK has instituted different programs to link and create employment opportunities for the youth, which include a website (http://www.mygov.go.ke/category/jobs/ ). Other measures include the establishment of the National Employment Authority which hosts the National Employment Authority Integrated Management System website that provides public employment service by listing vacancies ( https://neaims.go.ke/  ). The Kenya Labour Market Information System (KLMIS) portal (https://www.labourmarket.go.ke/ ), run by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection in collaboration with the labor stakeholders, is a one-stop shop for labor information in the country. The site seeks to help address the challenge of inadequate supply of crucial employment statistics in Kenya by providing an interactive platform for prospective employers and job seekers. Both local and foreign employers are required to register with National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) within 30 days of operating. There are no known material compliance gaps in either law or practice with international labor standards that would be expected to pose a reputational risk to investors. The International Labor Organization has not identified any material gaps in Kenya’s labor law or practice with international labor standards. Kenya’s labor laws comply, for the most part, with internationally recognized standards and conventions, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection is currently reviewing and ensuring that Kenya’s labor laws are consistent with the 2010 constitution. The Labor Relations Act (2007) provides that workers, including those in export processing zones, are free to form and join unions of their choice.

Collective bargaining is common in the formal sector but there is no data on the percentage of the economy covered by collective bargaining agreements (CBA). However, in 2019 263 CBAs were registered in the labor relations court with Wholesale and Retail trade sector recording the highest at 88. The law permits workers in collective bargaining disputes to strike but requires the exhaustion of formal conciliation procedures and seven days’ notice to both the government and the employer. Anti-union discrimination is prohibited, and the government does not have a history of retaliating against striking workers. The law provides for equal pay for equal work. Regulation of wages is part of the Labor Institutions Act (2014), and the government has established basic minimum wages by occupation and location.

The GOK has a growing trade relationship with the United States under the AGOA framework which requires labor standards to be upheld. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection is reviewing its labor laws to align with international standards as labor is also a chapter in the Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the U.S. In 2019, the government continued efforts with dozens of partner agencies to implement a range of programs for the elimination of child and forced labor. However, low salaries, insufficient resources, and attrition from retirement of labor inspectors are significant challenges to effective enforcement. Employers in all sectors routinely bribe labor inspectors to prevent them from reporting infractions, especially in the area of child labor.

Madagascar

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Madagascar has neither a stock market nor a competitive and transparent bond market, so portfolio investment opportunities are extremely limited.  Foreign investment in government debt is limited to Malagasy nationals and legal residents.

There are no restrictions on payments and transfers for international currency transactions per IMF Article VIII.  The Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance require documents prior to any transfer of currency to foreign countries.  There is no ceiling imposed on international transactions but justification remains mandatory.

The private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments.  Credit is allocated on market terms and can be offered either in local or foreign currency.  Credit obtained in local currency is often more expensive than foreign currency due to inflation and lack of competition.

The Central Bank does not impose direct caps on loans but instead uses indirect tools to limit credit, such as imposing reserve requirement ratios (13 percent of deposits).  Foreign investors are able to get credit on the local market if they have an officially registered company/subsidiary located in the country.

Money and Banking System

Madagascar’s banking penetration rate is very low.  Only 12 percent of the population has a bank account, which includes accounts with microfinance institutions.  Less than three percent of the population has access to commercial bank loans, and there are just 97.3 deposit accounts per 1000 adults.

There are only eleven commercial banks in Madagascar.  As rates are high and competition low, banking activities are very profitable.  Loans and credit to the private sector represent 57 percent of bank assets whereas loans (including TB) to the government represent 17 percent.  Non-performing loans accounted for 7 percent of overall loans and credit in 2018.

Overall assets of all commercial banks were USD 2.9 billion or 20.7 percent of GDP as of December 2018.

Madagascar has a central bank system.  Its main objectives are to ensure the stability of the local currency internally (acceptable inflation rate) and externally (acceptable fluctuation of the exchange rate).  The Central Bank has no clear mandate to promote economic growth.  There is no inter-bank lending system in place.

Only one of eleven operating commercial banks is local.  The other ten are subsidiaries of French, Moroccan, Gabonese, and Mauritian banks and are subject to prudential measures imposed by the CSBF or Banking and Financial Supervision Committee.  Madagascar has not lost any correspondent banking relationships in the past three years nor are any currently in jeopardy.

Foreigners having legal residency status in the country can establish a bank account in either local or major foreign currencies (USD and Euro).

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Foreign investors do not face restrictions or limitations in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment.  However, the monetary authorities and the Ministry of Economy and Finance require traceability of capital inflows and outflows.  Funds can be freely converted into major foreign currencies.

Madagascar adopted a managed floating exchange rate system in 1994.  The exchange rate fluctuates but the Central Bank intervenes to prevent abrupt depreciation or appreciation of the Ariary.  In general, the Central Bank of Madagascar keeps the value of the Ariary fluctuating in a two percent range.  The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting decline in Malagasy exports has resulted in over 5 percent depreciation in the value of the Ariary during the first four months of 2020.

Remittance Policies

There are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies.  There are no restrictions on converting or transferring funds associated with foreign investment, including remittances of investment capital, earnings, loan repayments, and lease payments.  There are also no time limitations on remittances.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Madagascar does not have a Sovereign Wealth Fund that manages national savings for investment purposes.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Over 75 percent of the labor pool works in the informal sector, primarily agriculture.  There are few reliable statistics available on unemployment, underemployment, and the split between skilled and unskilled labor.  Madagascar has a significant pool of available labor, much of it young given the demographics of this country of 25 million people.  One recent report puts the underemployment rate for the 15 to 29 age group at over 75 percent.

The quality of Madagascar’s labor is high and is frequently cited by private investors as a key attraction for the country; this is particularly so in the textile sector where Madagascar has a growing reputation in the production of high-end apparel at costs comparable or lower to major exporters in Asia.  The World Bank notes high skill levels in technology and call center services offer areas for growth.  Another factor to note is the brain drain of educated Malagasy seeking better economic opportunities in Mauritius, other parts of Africa, and in Europe.

The National Office for Employment and Vocational Training, within the Ministry of Labor, is tasked with increasing the availability of skilled labor.  Officially launched in March 2019, the Malagasy Vocational Training Fund (FMFP) finances training for company employees as well as youth and adults from the informal sector in Madagascar.  The FMFP’s mission is to finance continuing vocational, pre-employment and soft skills training for workers.  With the assistance of its technical and financial partners, the FMFP launched tailored training sessions for several sectors including building and construction; public works and infrastructure; rural development; information and communication technology; textiles – clothing and accessories; hotel-restaurant-travel; and equity (start-up, associations, cooperatives, and NGO).

In general, labor laws do not include requirements for investors to hire nationals.  The mining sector is the exception where the LGIM gives preference to nationals, so long as they have the required skills and experience.

The labor code includes specific provisions protecting workers against abrupt dismissals, but it also allows the employer to lay off workers for economic reasons.  In such a situation, the employer has the right to furlough employees for a maximum period of six-month period during which all salary and allowances are suspended.  After the six months, if the activities do not resume, the employer is required to pay severance, including the unpaid salary.  There is no unemployment insurance or other safety net for those who are laid-off or fired.

Madagascar does not have a history of waiving labor laws to attract or retain investment.  The labor code covers private sector workers while civil servants and maritime workers have separate labor codes, and a specific law ruling EPZ companies includes provisions related to their workers’ rights.  EPZ labor contracts may differ in duration, restrictions on the employment of women during night shifts and the amount of overtime permitted.

The law provides that public and private sector workers may establish and join labor unions of their choice without prior authorization or excessive requirements.  Essential workers, including seafarers, police, military, and firefighters, may not form unions.  Unions generally operate independently from government and political parties.  According to union representatives, about 20 percent of the formal sector has collective bargaining agreements, and collective bargaining rights are more readily exercised and respected in larger international firms, such as those in the telecommunications, mining and banking sectors.  In EPZs and smaller local companies, employees tend to be more reluctant to make demands for fear of reprisals.

The labor law establishes labor dispute mechanisms, which proceed progressively from internal negotiation to outside mediation from the Ministry of Labor to arbitration or legal settlement through the competent courts.  The labor inspectorate under the leadership of the Ministry of Labor is in charge of resolving disputes by negotiation between workers and employers.

In November 2019, the GOM suspended the activities of an Australian mining company named Base Toliara, exploiting ilmenite in southern Madagascar.  The GOM took action on the basis of protests initiated by a group of local inhabitants who had opposed the project since 2014 on environmental, health, and livelihood impact on the local population.

In the Country Program for Decent Work for 2015 to 2019 (a joint ILO-GOM project), ILO notes weak respect for fundamental labor rights.  These include infringement of social and labor-related laws, informal recruiting practices, and poor hygiene, security, and health standards.  Due to extreme poverty and lack of opportunity, workers tend to accept poor working conditions.  The use of child labor in the vanilla and mica industries is an ongoing issue that international organizations and NGOs are working with the GOM to address.

In 2019, Madagascar ratified six ILO conventions.  The local office of ILO supported the government in identifying the necessary amendments to align the local legislation with the newly ratified conventions.  A finalized summary of the suggested amendments was submitted to the National Labor Council.

Mauritius

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The GoM welcomes foreign portfolio investment.  The Stock Exchange of Mauritius (SEM) was opened to foreign investors following the lifting of foreign exchange controls in 1994.  Foreign investors do not need approval to trade shares, except for when doing so would result in their holding more than 15 percent in a sugar company, a rule detailed in the Securities (Investment by Foreign Investors) Rules of 2013.  Incentives to foreign investors include no restrictions on the repatriation of revenue from the sale of shares and exemption from tax on dividends for all resident companies and for capital gains of shares held for more than six months.

The SEM currently operates two markets:  the Official Market and the Development and Enterprise Market (DEM).  As of December 2019, the shares of 62 companies (local, global business, and foreign companies) were listed on the Official Market, representing a market capitalization of USD 9.8 billion.  Unique in Africa, the SEM can list, trade, and settle equity and debt products in U.S. dollars, euros, pounds sterling, South African rand, as well as Mauritian rupees.  A variety of new asset classes of securities such as global funds, depositary receipts, mineral companies, and specialist securities including exchange-traded funds and structured products have also been introduced on the SEM.  The DEM was launched in 2006 and the shares of 37 companies are currently listed on this market with a market capitalization of USD 1.4 billion.  Foreign investors accounted for 39.5 percent of trading volume on the exchange for the financial year 2018-2019.  Standard & Poor’s, Morgan Stanley, Dow Jones, and FTSE have included the Mauritius stock market in a number of their stock indices.  Since 2005, the SEM has been a member of the World Federation of Exchanges.  The SEM is also a partner exchange of the Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative.  In 2018, in line with its strategy to digitalize its investor services, SEM launched the mySEM mobile application.

The government respects IMF Article VIII by refraining from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.  A variety of credit instruments is available to local and foreign investors through the banking system.

Money and Banking System

Mauritius has a sophisticated banking sector.  As of April 2020, 20 banks are licensed to undertake banking business, of which five are local banks, nine are foreign-owned subsidiaries, one is a joint venture, four are branches of foreign banks, and one is licensed as a private bank.  One bank conducts solely Islamic banking.  Further details can be obtained at https://www.bom.mu/financial-stability/supervision/licensees/list-of-licensees .  On April 1, 2020, the Bank of Mauritius appointed a conservator for BanyanTree Bank.  Details were scarce, but the law allows the central bank to appoint a conservator to protect the bank’s assets.

According to the Banking Act of 2004, all banks are free to conduct business in all currencies.  There are also six non-bank deposit-taking institutions, as well as 12 money changers and foreign exchange dealers.  There are no official government restrictions on foreigners opening bank accounts in Mauritius, but banks may require letters of reference or proof of residence for their due diligence.  The Bank of Mauritius, the country’s central bank, carries out the supervision and regulation of banks as well as non-bank financial institutions authorized to accept deposits.  The Bank of Mauritius has endorsed the Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervision as set out by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.

The banking system is dominated by two long-established domestic entities:  the Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) and the State Bank of Mauritius (SBM), which together constitute about 60 percent of the total domestic market.  Maubank, the third-largest bank in the country, became operational in 2016 following a merger between the Mauritius Post & Cooperative Bank and the National Commercial Bank.  The Bank of China started operations in Mauritius in 2016.  Other foreign banks present in Mauritius include HSBC, Barclays Bank, Bank of Baroda, Habib Bank, BCP Bank (Mauritius), Standard Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, State Bank of India, and Investec Bank.  As of February 2020, commercial banks’ total assets amounted to USD 41.7 billion.

According to the Bank of Mauritius 2019 Annual Report, the banking sector remained healthy with an average capital adequacy ratio of 19 percent as of June 2019.  Banks’ asset quality was unchanged from end-June 2018 to end-June 2019 and is generally considered to be sound.  Non-performing loans as a ratio to total outstanding loans stood at 5.5 per cent in June 2019.

In July 2017, the Banking Act was amended to double the minimum capital requirement to USD 11.2 million from USD 5.8 million.  The Central Bank began reporting the liquidity coverage ratio in 2017 to improve the liquidity profile of banks and their ability to withstand potential liquidity disruptions.  The latest International Monetary Fund Article IV report highlights that banks have increased exposure to the region and that the Bank of Mauritius has strengthened cross-border supervision and cooperation with foreign regulators.  The IMF report also recommends that additional steps be taken to strengthen financial stability, including lowering the high non-performing loans stock through a more stringent approach to writing-off legacy exposures, and by safeguarding the longer-term forex funding needs stemming from banks’ swift expansion abroad.

The Covid-19 crisis is expected to heavily impact banks’ profitability due to increased defaults and delayed loan repayments.  As part of its Covid-19 response, the Bank of Mauritius has made USD 132 million available through commercial banks as special relief funds to help meet cash flow and working capital requirements.  The cash reserve ratio applicable to commercial banks was reduced from 9 percent to 8 percent.  The Bank of Mauritius also put on hold the Guideline on Credit Impairment Measurement and Income Recognition, which was effective since January 2020.

In July 2019, the Bank of Mauritius Act was amended to allow the Bank of Mauritius to use special reserve funds in exceptional circumstances and with approval of the central bank’s board for the repayment of central government external debt obligations, provided that repayments would not adversely affect the bank’s operations.  This provision was used in January 2020 to repay government debt worth USD 450 million, raising concerns about the central bank’s independence.

Most major banks in Mauritius have correspondent banking relationships with large banks overseas.  In recent years, according to industry experts, no banks have lost correspondent banking relationships and none report being in jeopardy of doing so as of April 2020.

In January 2019, the Central Bank signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Mauritius Police Force on financial crimes and illicit activities relating to the financial services sector.  In February 2020, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) named Mauritius as a jurisdiction under increased monitoring, commonly known as the Grey List.  At that time, Mauritius made a high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) to strengthen the effectiveness of its AML/CFT regime.  Since the completion of its Mutual Evaluation Report in 2018, Mauritius has made progress on a number of its recommended actions to improve technical compliance and effectiveness, including amending the legal framework to require legal persons and legal arrangements to disclose of beneficial ownership information and improving the processes of identifying and confiscating proceeds of crimes.  Mauritius is working to implement its action plan, including (i) demonstrating that the supervisors of its global business sector and Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions implement risk-based supervision; (ii) ensuring the access to accurate basic and beneficial ownership information by competent authorities in a timely manner; (iii) demonstrating that law enforcement agencies have capacity to conduct money laundering investigations, including parallel financial investigations and complex cases; (iv) implementing a risk based approach for supervision of its non-profit sector to prevent abuse for terrorism financing purposes, and (v) demonstrating the adequate implementation of targeted financial sanctions through outreach and supervision.

In May 2020, the European Commission added Mauritius to its list of AML-CTF high-risk jurisdictions, pending approval from the European Council and European Parliament, and not to take effect until October 2020.

In February 2018, the Fintech and Innovation-driven Financial Services (FIFS) Regulatory Committee held its first meeting at the Financial Services Commission, the regulator for the non-banking financial services, to assess the regulatory framework concerning FIFS regulations in Mauritius and to identify priority areas within the regulatory space of fintech activities.  In May 2018, the Committee submitted recommendations for regulating the fintech sector to authorities.  A National Regulatory Sandbox License (RSL) Committee was set up to assess all fintech applications requiring a sandbox license for business activities without an existing legal framework.  Guidelines to apply to the RSL for fintech projects can be found at https://www.edbmauritius.org/opportunities/financial-services/fs-fintech-and-innovation.    

Effective March 2019, the Financial Services Commission allows businesses that provide custodial services for digital assets.  According the Bank of Mauritius 2019 Annual Report, the FIFS committee has initiated work on approaches to regulate Fintech tools such as artificial intelligence, big data, distributed ledger technologies, and biometrics.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange 

The government of Mauritius abolished foreign exchange controls in 1994.  Consequently, no approval is required for converting, transferring, or repatriating profits, dividends, or capital gains earned by a foreign investor in Mauritius.  Funds associated with any form of investment can be freely converted into any world currency.

The exchange rate is generally market-determined, though the Bank of Mauritius, the central bank, occasionally intervenes.  Between January 2019 and December 2019, the Mauritian rupee depreciated against the U.S. dollar by 6.4 percent, the pound by 8.3 percent, and the euro by 3.6 percent.  Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the Bank of Mauritius intervened regularly on the domestic foreign exchange market in early 2020.

Remittance Policies

There are no time or quantity limits on remittance of capital, profits, dividends, and capital gains earned by a foreign investor in Mauritius.  Mauritius has a well-developed and modern banking system.  There is no legal parallel market in Mauritius for investment remittances.  The Embassy is unaware of any proposed changes by the government to its investment remittance policies.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The government of Mauritius does not have a Sovereign Wealth Fund.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

According to the Mauritian government, total employment stood at 551,300 in 2019, an increase from 543,700 in 2018.  The unemployment rate decreased to 6.7 percent in 2019 from 6.9 percent in 2018, with a high jobless rate among youth and women.  In the fourth quarter of 2019, the youth unemployment rate was 23 percent, and 62 percent of the total 37,900 unemployed people were women.

The labor market remains restricted by rising unemployment among graduates and low-skilled workers, and a high number of unemployed women.  It is further characterized by a persistent mismatch between qualifications of the unemployed and the skills required in an increasingly services-oriented economy.  Government labor market programs aimed at building human capital have been extended, with policies to develop skills of the unemployed focusing on apprenticeships and placements.  In November 2016, the government introduced the National Skills Development Program (NSDP), a fully-funded  technical training program for youth, which was still running as of April 2020.  The NSDP is managed by the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC), which operates under the Ministry of Education and is responsible for promoting the development of the labor force in Mauritius.  The HRDC, with technical and financial support from the French development agency, is also devising a National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) for 2020-2024.  The aim of the NSDS is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of skills development programs.  In 2018, the government introduced the SME Employment Scheme, which allows SMEs to employ recent graduates and the government pays the graduates a monthly stipend for one year.  In 2019, the government opened the scheme to diploma holders as well.

In 2017, the National Assembly passed the National Employment Act.  The object of the act was to repeal the Employment and Training Act and introduce a modern legislative framework.  The act provides the labor market with information on supply and demand of skills, job seekers, and training institutions; promotes placement and training of job seekers, including young persons and persons with disabilities; and promotes labor migration and home-based work.  In November 2017, the Equal Opportunities Act was amended to protect prospective employees with criminal records from discrimination when being considered for recruitment or promotion.

In 2018, the government introduced a minimum monthly wage of 9,000 Mauritian rupees (approximately USD 255) for all workers, affecting over 100,000 low-paid workers.  In November 2019, the cabinet, following a recommendation from the National Wage Consultative Council, increased the  minimum wage again to 10,200 rupees (USD 284), effective January 2020.  Workers’ rights are protected under the 2019 Workers’ Rights Act, taking effect in January 2020.  The legislation provides for a portable retirement gratuity fund, fair compensation in case of termination, harmonization of working conditions in different sectors, the flexibility to request the right to work from home either on a full- or part-time basis, and equal remuneration for equal work, among others.  The act also adds to the Equal Opportunities Act through several measures against discrimination in employment and occupation.

Trade unions are independent of government and employers.  Mauritius has an active trade union movement, representing about 25 percent of the workforce, and labor-management relations are generally positive.  A list of trade unions is available at http://labour.govmu.org/English/Publications/Pages/Reports-and-publications.aspx .  The last major strike affecting the economy took place in 1979.  The government generally seeks to avoid strikes through a system that promotes settlement through negotiation or arbitration by the Employment Relations Tribunal and the National Remuneration Board.  Mauritius participates actively in the annual International Labor Organization (ILO) conference in Geneva, Switzerland, and adheres to ILO core conventions protecting workers’ rights.

Morocco

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Morocco encourages foreign portfolio investment and Moroccan legislation applies equally to Moroccan and foreign legal entities and to both domestic and foreign portfolio investment.  The Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE), founded in 1929 and re-launched as a private institution in 1993, is one of the few exchanges in the region with no restrictions on foreign participation.  The CSE is regulated by the Moroccan Capital Markets Authority.  Local and foreign investors have identical tax exposure on dividends (10 percent) and pay no capital gains tax.  With a market capitalization of around $60 billion and 76 listed companies, CSE is the second largest exchange in Africa (after the Johannesburg Stock Exchange). Despite its position as the second largest exchange in Africa, the CSE saw only 13 new listings between 2010-2018.  There were no new initial public offerings (IPOs) in 2019.  Short selling, which could provide liquidity to the market, is not permitted.  The Moroccan government initiated the Futures Market Act (Act 42-12) in October 2015 to define the institutional framework of the futures market in Morocco and the role of the regulatory and supervisory authorities. As of February of 2020, futures trading was still pending full implementation.

The Casablanca Stock Exchange demutualized in November of 2015.  This change allowed the CSE greater flexibility, more access to global markets, and better positioned it as an integrated financial hub for the region.  Morocco has accepted the obligations of IMF Article VIII, sections 2(a), 3, and 4, and its exchange system is free of restrictions on making payments and transfers on current international transactions.  Credit is allocated on market terms, and foreign investors are able to obtain credit on the local market.

Money and Banking System

Morocco has a well-developed banking sector, where penetration is rising rapidly and recent improvements in macroeconomic fundamentals have helped resolve previous liquidity shortages.  Morocco has some of Africa’s largest banks, and several are major players on the continent and continue to expand their footprint.  The sector has several large, homegrown institutions with international footprints, as well as several subsidiaries of foreign banks.  According to the IMF’s 2016 Financial System Stability Assessment on Morocco , Moroccan banks comprise about half of the financial system with total assets of 140 percent of GDP – up from 111 percent in 2008.  According to Bank Al-Maghrib (the Moroccan central bank) there are 24 banks operating in Morocco (five of these are Islamic “participatory” banks), six offshore institutions, 28 finance companies, 13 micro-credit associations, and thirteen intermediary companies operating in funds transfer.  Among the 19 traditional banks, the top five banks comprise 79 percent of the system’s assets (including both on and off-balance sheet items.)  Attijariwafa, Morocco’s largest bank, is the sixth largest bank in Africa by total assets (approximately $54 billion in June 2019).  The Moroccan royal family is the largest shareholder.  Foreign (mainly French) financial institutions are majority stakeholders in seven banks and nine finance companies.  Moroccan banks have built up their presence overseas mainly through the acquisition of local banks, thus local deposits largely fund their subsidiaries.

The overall strength of the banking sector has grown significantly in recent years.  Since financial liberalization, credit is allocated freely and Bank Al-Maghrib has used indirect methods to control the interest rate and volume of credit.  The banking penetration rate is approximately 56 percent, with significant opportunities remaining for firms pursuing rural and less affluent segments of the market.  At the start of 2017, Bank Al-Maghrib approved five requests to open Islamic banks in the country.  By mid-2018, over 80 branches specializing in Islamic banking services were operating in Morocco.  The first Islamic bonds (sukuk) were issued in October 2018.  In 2019, Islamic banks in Morocco granted $930 million in financing. The GOM passed a law authorizing Islamic insurance products (takaful) in 2019, but the implementation regulations are still pending, and the products are not yet active.

Following an upward trend beginning in 2012, the ratio of non-performing loans (NPL) to bank credit stabilized at 7.5 percent in 2017 at $6.5 billion.  According to the most recent data from the IMF, NPL rates in July 2019 were 7.7 percent.

Morocco’s accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international norms.  Morocco is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures .  Bank Al-Maghrib is responsible for issuing accounting standards for banks and financial institutions.  Circular 56/G/2007 issued by Bank Al Maghrib requires that all entities under its supervision use International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).  The Securities Commission is responsible for issuing financial reporting and accounting standards for public companies.  Circular No. 06/05 of 2007 reaffirmed the Moroccan Stock Exchange Law (Law No. 52-01), which stipulated that all companies listed on the Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE), other than banks and similar financial institutions, can choose between IFRS and Moroccan Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).  In practice, most public companies use IFRS.

Legal provisions regulating the banking sector include Law No. 76-03 on the Charter of Bank Al-Maghrib, which created an independent board of directors and prohibits the Ministry of Finance and Economy from borrowing from the Central Bank except under exceptional circumstances.  Law No. 34-03 (2006) reinforced the supervisory authority of Bank Al-Maghrib over the activities of credit institutions.  Foreign banks and branches are allowed to establish operations in Morocco and are subject to provisions regulating the banking sector.  At present, the U.S. Mission is not aware of Morocco losing correspondent banking relationships.

There are no restrictions on foreigners’ abilities to establish bank accounts.  However, foreigners who wish to establish a bank account are required to open a “convertible” account with foreign currency.  The account holder may only deposit foreign currency into that account; at no time can they deposit dirhams. One issue, reported anecdotally, is that Moroccan banks have closed accounts without giving appropriate warning and that it has been difficult for some foreigners to open bank accounts in Morocco.

Morocco prohibits the use of cryptocurrencies, noting that they carry significant risks that may lead to penalties.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Foreign investments financed in foreign currency can be transferred tax-free, without amount or duration limits.  This income can be dividends, attendance fees, rental income, benefits, and interest.  Capital contributions made in convertible currency, contributions made by debit of forward convertible accounts, and net transfer capital gains may also be repatriated.  For the transfer of dividends, bonuses, or benefit shares, the investor must provide balance sheets and profit and loss statements, annexed documents relating to the fiscal year in which the transfer is requested, as well as the statement of extra-accounting adjustments made in order to obtain the taxable income.

A currency-convertibility regime is available to foreign investors, including Moroccans living abroad, who invest in Morocco.  This regime facilitates their investments in Morocco, repatriation of income, and profits on investments.  Morocco guarantees full currency convertibility for capital transactions, free transfer of profits, and free repatriation of invested capital, when such investment is governed by the convertibility arrangement.  Generally, the investors must notify the government of the investment transaction, providing the necessary legal and financial documentation.  With respect to the cross-border transfer of investment proceeds to foreign investors, the rules vary depending on the type of investment.  Investors may import freely without any value limits to traveler’s checks, bank or postal checks, letters of credit, payment cards or any other means of payment denominated in foreign currency.  For cash and/or negotiable instruments in bearer form with a value equal to or greater than $10,000, importers must file a declaration with Moroccan Customs at the port of entry.  Declarations are available at all border crossings, ports, and airports.

Morocco has achieved relatively stable macroeconomic and financial conditions under an exchange rate peg (60/40 Euro/Dollar split), which has helped achieve price stability and insulated the economy from nominal shocks. In March of 2020, the Moroccan Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Administrative Reform, in consultation with the Central Bank, adopted a new exchange regime in which the Moroccan dirham may now fluctuate within a band of ± 5 percent compared to the Bank’s central rate (peg).  The change loosened the fluctuation band from its previous ± 2.5 percent. The change is designed to strengthen the capacity of the Moroccan economy to absorb external shocks, support its competitiveness, and contribute to improving growth.

Remittance Policies

Amounts received from abroad must pass through a convertible dirham account.  This type of account facilitates investment transactions in Morocco and guarantees the transfer of proceeds for the investment, as well as the repatriation of the proceeds and the capital gains from any resale.  AMDIE recommends that investors open a convertible account in dirhams on arrival in Morocco in order to quickly access the funds necessary for notarial transactions.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Ithmar Capital is Morocco’s investment fund and financial vehicle, which aims to support the national sectorial strategies.  Ithmar Capital is a full member of the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds and follows the Santiago Principles.  Established in November 2011 by the Moroccan government and supported by the royal Hassan II Fund for Economic and Social Development, the fund initially supported the government’s long-term Vision 2020 strategic plan for tourism.  The fund is currently part of the long-term development plan initiated by the government in multiple economic sectors.  Its portfolio of assets is valued at $1.8 billion.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

In the Moroccan labor market, many Moroccan university graduates cannot find jobs commensurate with their education and training, and employers report insufficient skilled candidates. The educational system does not prioritize STEM literacy and industrial skills and many graduates are unprepared to meet contemporary job market demands. In 2011, the Moroccan government restructured its employment promotion agency, the National Agency for Promotion of Employment and Skills (ANAPEC), in order to assist new university graduates prepare for and find work in the private sector that requires specialized skills. The Bureau of Professional Training and Job Promotion (OFPPT), Morocco’s main public provider for professional training, also launched the Specialized Institute for Aeronautics and Airport Logistics (ISMALA) in Casablanca in 2013 to offer technical training in aeronautical maintenance. According to official figures released by the government planning agency, unemployment was 10 percent in 2019, with youth (ages 15-24) unemployment hovering around 40 percent in some urban areas. The World Bank and other international institutions estimate that actual unemployment – and underemployment – rates may be higher.

The Government of Morocco pursues a strategy to increase the number of students in vocational and professional training programs. The government opened 27 such training centers between 2015 and 2018 and nearly doubled the number of students receiving scholarships for training between 2017 and 2018. The government announced that the number of scholarships granted to vocational trainees increased by 177 percent between 2018 and 2019. In 2018, the Government of Morocco launched a National Plan for Job Promotion, created after three years of collaboration with government partners involved in employment policy, to support job creation, strengthen the job market, and consolidate regional resources devoted to job promotion. This plan promotes entrepreneurship – especially in the context of regionalization outside the Casablanca-Rabat corridor – to boost youth employment.

Pursuing a forward-leaning migration policy, the Moroccan government has regularized the status of over 50,000 sub-Saharans migrants since 2014.  Regularization provides these migrants with legal access to employment, employment services, and education and vocation training.  The majority of sub-Saharan migrants who benefitted from the regularization program work in call centers and education institutes, if they have strong French or English skills, or domestic work and construction.

According to section VI of the labor law, employers in the commercial, industrial, agricultural, and forestry sectors with ten or more employees must communicate a dismissal decision to the employee’s union representatives, where applicable, at least one month prior to dismissal.  The employer must also provide grounds for dismissal, the number of employees concerned, and the amount of time intended to undertake termination.  With regards to severance pay (article 52 of the labor law), the employee bound by an indefinite employment contract is entitled to compensation in case of dismissal after six months of work in the same company regardless of the mode of remuneration and frequency of payment and wages.  The labor law differentiates between layoffs for economic reasons and firing.  In case of serious misconduct, the employee may be dismissed without notice or compensation or payment of damages.  The employee must file an application with the National Social Security Funds (CNSS) agency of his or her choice, within a period not exceeding 60 days from the date of loss of employment. During this period, the employee shall be entitled to medical benefits, family allowances, and possibly pension entitlements.  Labor law is applicable in all sectors of employment; there are no specific labor laws to foreign trade zones or other sectors. More information is available from the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Economic Diplomacy unit.

Morocco has roughly 20 collective bargaining agreements in the following sectors: Telecommunications, automotive industry, refining industry, road transport, fish canning industry, aircraft cable factories, collection of domestic waste, ceramics, naval construction and repair, paper industry, communication and information technology, land transport, and banks. The sectoral agreements that exist to date are in the banking, energy, printing, chemicals, ports, and agricultural sectors.  According to the State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices, the Moroccan constitution grants workers the right to form and join unions, strike, and bargain collectively, with some restrictions (S 396-429 Labor Code Act 1999, No. 65/99).  The law prohibits certain categories of government employees, including members of the armed forces, police, and some members of the judiciary, from forming and joining unions and from conducting strikes.  The law allows several independent unions to exist but requires 35 percent of the total employee base to be associated with a union for the union to be representative and engage in collective bargaining.  The government generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.  Employers limited the scope of collective bargaining, frequently setting wages unilaterally for the majority of unionized and nonunionized workers. Domestic NGOs reported that employers often used temporary contracts to discourage employees from affiliating with or organizing unions.  Legally, unions can negotiate with the government on national-level labor issues.

Labor disputes (S 549-581 Labor Code Act 1999, No. 65/99) are common, and in some cases, they result in employers failing to implement collective bargaining agreements and withholding wages.  Trade unions complain that the government sometimes uses Article 288 of the penal code to prosecute workers for striking and to suppress strikes.  Labor inspectors are tasked with mediation of labor disputes.  In general, strikes occur in heavily unionized sectors such as education and government services, and such strikes can lead to disruptions in government services but usually remain peaceful.  In July 2016, the Moroccan government passed the Domestic Worker Law and the long-debated pension reform bill; the former entered into force in 2018.  The new pension reform legislation is expected to keep Morocco’s largest pension fund, the Caisse Marocaine de Retraites (CMR), solvent until 2028, with an increase in the retirement age from 60 to 63 by 2024, and adjustments in contributions and future allocations.

Chapter 16 of the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA) addresses labor issues and commits both parties to respecting international labor standards.

Nigeria

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The NIPC Act of 1995 liberalized Nigeria’s foreign investment regime, which has facilitated access to credit from domestic financial institutions.  Foreign investors who have incorporated their companies in Nigeria have equal access to all financial instruments.  Some investors consider the capital market, specifically the Nigerian Stock Exchange, a financing option, given commercial banks’ high interest rates and the short maturities of local debt instruments.

The Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE) was reflective of the sluggishness in the larger economy in 2019 as it posted a negative return of -14.6 percent to close the year with its All Share Index at 26,842.07.   The poor performance was mostly attributed to government regulatory uncertainty and the 2019 presidential elections.   However, the equity market capitalization increased by 11 percent to USD 36.0 billion from USD 32.5 billion in 2018, largely due to the notable listings of telecom companies MTN Nigeria Communications Plc and Airtel Africa which had been long awaited.   As of December 2019 the NSE had 164 listed companies.  The total number of securities listed increased by 26 percent to 361 from 286 securities in 2018, largely due to a growth in government bonds.  The Nigerian government has considered requiring companies in certain sectors such as telecoms, oil and gas, or over a certain size to list on the NSE as a means to encourage greater corporate participation and sectoral balance in the Nigerian Stock Exchange, but those proposals have not been enacted to date.

The Government employs debt instruments, issuing bonds of various maturities ranging from two to 20 years.  Nigeria has issued bonds to restructure the government’s domestic debt portfolio from short- to medium- and long-term instruments.  Some state governments have issued bonds to finance development projects, while some domestic banks have used the bond market to raise additional capital.  The Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission has issued stringent guidelines for states wishing to raise funds on capital markets, such as requiring credit assessments conducted by recognized credit rating agencies.

Money and Banking System

The CBN currently licenses 22 deposit-taking commercial banks in Nigeria.  Following a 2009 banking crisis, CBN officials intervened in eight of 24 commercial banks (roughly one-third of the system by assets) due to insolvency or serious undercapitalization.  At the same time, it established the government-owned Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) to address bank balance sheet disequilibria via discounted purchases of non-performing loans.  The Nigerian banking sector emerged stronger from the crisis thanks to AMCON and a number of other reforms undertaken by the CBN, including the adoption of uniform year-end International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) to increase transparency, a stronger emphasis on risk management and corporate governance, and the nationalization of three distressed banks.

In 2013, the CBN introduced a stricter supervision framework for the country’s top banks, identified as “Systemically Important Banks” (SIBs) as they account for more than 70 percent of the industry’s total assets, loans and deposits, and their failure or collapse could disrupt the entire financial system and the country’s real economy.  These banks are:  First Bank of Nigeria, United Bank for Africa, Zenith Bank, Access Bank, Ecobank Nigeria, Guaranty Trust Bank, and Polaris Bank.  Under the new supervision framework, the operations of SIBs are closely monitored with regulatory authorities conducting stress tests on the SIBs’ capital and liquidity adequacy.  Moreover, SIBs are required to maintain a higher minimum capital adequacy ratio of 15 percent.  In September 2018, the CBN revoked the operating license of one of the SIBs, due to the deterioration of its share capital and its board’s failure to recapitalize the bank, making it the fourth bank to be nationalized.

The CBN reported that total deposits increased by N2.34tn or 10.7 percent and aggregate credit grew by N2.2tn or 14.5 percent by December 2019.  Non-performing loans (NPLs) declined to 6.1 percent in December, 2019 from 14.2 percent in 2018.  However, NPLs are expected to rise following the CBN’s directive to banks to increase their loan to deposit ratio to 6 percent or be penalized.  This has forced several banks to grant more credits, many of which may result in default.  Nigerian government and private sector analysts assess that the volume of NPLs may be higher than these figures, owing in part to banks not reporting non-performing insider loans made to banks’ owners and directors.

The CBN supports non-interest banking.  Several banks have established Islamic banking operations in Nigeria including Jaiz Bank International Plc, Nigeria’s first full-fledged non-interest bank, which commenced operations in 2012.  A second non-interest bank, Taj Bank, started operations in December 2019.   There are five licensed merchant banks: Coronation Merchant Bank Limited, FBN Merchant Bank, FSDH Merchant Bank Ltd, NOVA Merchant Bank, and Rand Merchant Bank Nigeria Limited.

The CBN has issued regulations for foreign banks regarding mergers with or acquisitions of existing local banks in the country.  Foreign institutions’ aggregate investment must not be more than 10 percent of the latter’s total capital.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Foreign currency for most transactions is procured through local banks in the inter-bank market.  Low value foreign exchange may also be procured at a premium from foreign exchange bureaus, called Bureaus de Change.  Domestic and foreign businesses have frequently expressed strong concern about the CBN’s foreign exchange restrictions, which they report prevent them from importing needed equipment and goods and from repatriating naira earnings.  Foreign exchange demand remains high because of the dependence on foreign inputs for manufacturing and refined petroleum products.

In 2015, the CBN published a list of 41 product categories which could no longer be imported using official foreign exchange channels; the number of categories has since been increased to 44.  Affected businesses (American and Nigerian) have complained publicly and privately that the policy in effect bans the import of some 700 individual items and severely hampers their ability to source inputs and raw materials.  In February 2019, the Governor of the Central Bank commented that the Bank is currently considering adding more items to the list and bringing the number as high as 50 items.

https://www.cbn.gov.ng/out/2015/ted/ted.fem.fpc.gen.01.011.pdf 

In 2017, the CBN began providing more foreign exchange to the interbank market via wholesale and retail forward contract auctions in order to meet some of the demand that had been forced to the parallel market.    The CBN also established the “investors and exporters” window in 2017, which allows trade to occur at prevailing market rates (around 360 naira to the dollar in December 2019).  In March 2020, the CBN announced it had collapsed its multiple exchange rate policy following a currency adjustment such that the investor and exporters window rate was increased to 380 naira to the dollar, and government transactions are now contracted at approximately 360 naira to the dollar.

Remittance Policies

The NIPC guarantees investors unrestricted transfer of dividends abroad (net a 10 percent withholding tax).  Companies must provide evidence of income earned and taxes paid before repatriating dividends from Nigeria.  Money transfers usually take no more than 48 hours.  In 2015, the CBN implemented restrictions on foreign exchange remittances.  All such transfers must occur through banks.  Such remittances may take several weeks depending on the size of the transfer and the availability of foreign exchange at the remitting bank.  Transfers of currency are protected by Article VII of the International Monetary Fund Articles of Agreement (http://www.imf.org/External/Pubs/FT/AA/index.htm#art7 ).

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) manages Nigeria’s sovereign wealth fund.  It was created by the NSIA Act in 2011 and began operations in October 2012 with USD 1 billion seed capital and received an additional USD 500 million in 2017.  In its most recent annual report, the total assets being managed by NSIA, increased to N617.7 billion (USD 2.0 billion) in 2018, an increase of 15.7 percent from 2017.  The NSIA also posted total comprehensive income of N44.3 billion (USD 144.9 million) in 2018, a 58.8 percent growth over the 2017 figure of N27.9 billion (USD 91.2 million).  http://www.nsia.com.ng/~nsia/sites/default/files/annual-reports/NSIA%20Annual%20Report%202018.pdf   It was created to receive, manage, and grow a diversified portfolio that will eventually replace government revenue currently drawn from non-renewable resources, primarily hydrocarbons.

The NSIA is a public agency that subscribes to the Santiago Principles, which are a set of 24 guidelines that assign “best practices” for the operations of Sovereign Wealth Funds globally. The NSIA invests through three funds:  the Future Generations Fund for diversified portfolio of long term growth, the Nigeria Infrastructure Fund for domestic infrastructure development, and the Stabilization Fund to act as a buffer against short-term economic instability.  The NSIA does not take an active role in management of companies.  The Embassy has not received any report or indication that NSIA activities limit private competition.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Nigeria’s skilled labor pool has declined over the past decade due to inadequate educational systems, limited employment opportunities, and the migration of educated Nigerians to other countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and South Africa.  The low employment capacity of Nigeria’s formal sector means that almost three-quarters of all Nigerians work in the informal and agricultural sectors or are unemployed.  Companies involved in formal sector businesses, such as banking and insurance, possess an adequately skilled workforce.  Manufacturing and construction sector workers often require on-the-job training.  The result is that while individual wages are low, individual productivity is also low, which means overall labor costs can be high.  The Buhari Administration is pushing reforms in the education sector to improve the supply of skilled workers but this and other efforts run by state governments are in their initial stages.

Labor organizations in Nigeria remain politically active and are prone to call for strikes on a regular basis against the national and state governments.  While most labor actions are peaceful, difficult economic conditions fuel the risk that these actions could become violent.

Nigeria’s constitution guarantees the rights of free assembly and association, and protects workers’ rights to form or belong to trade unions.  Several statutory laws, nonetheless, restrict the rights of workers to associate or disassociate with labor organizations.  Nigerian unions belong to one of three trade union federations:  the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), which tends to represent junior (i.e., blue collar) workers; the United Labor Congress of Nigeria (ULC), which represents a group of unions that separated from the NLC in 2015; and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), which represents the “senior” (i.e., white collar) workers.  According to figures provided by the Ministry of Labor and Employment, total union membership stands at roughly 7 million.  A majority of these union members work in the public sector, although unions exist across the private sector.  The Trade Union Amendment Act of 2005 allowed non-management senior staff to join unions.

Collective bargaining occurred throughout the public sector and the organized private sector in 2019.  However, public sector employees have become increasingly concerned about the Nigerian governments’ and state governments’ failure to honor previous agreements from the collective bargaining process.

Collective bargaining in the oil and gas industry is relatively efficient compared to other sectors. Issues pertaining to salaries, benefits, health and safety, and working conditions tend to be resolved quickly through negotiations.  Workers under collective bargaining agreements cannot participate in strikes unless their unions comply with the requirements of the law, which includes provisions for mandatory mediation and referral of disputes to the Nigerian government.  Despite these restrictions on staging strikes, unions occasionally conduct strikes in the private and public sectors without warning.  Localized strikes occurred in the education, government, energy, power, and healthcare sectors in 2019.  The law forbids employers from granting general wage increases to workers without prior government approval, but the law is not often enforced.

Despite widespread opposition from state governors, in April 2019, President Buhari signed into law a new minimum wage, increasing it from 18,000 naira (USD 50) to 30,000 naira (USD 83) per month.  After months of negotiations, the government finally reached an agreement with organized labor in October 2019 on the consequential adjustments in civil servants’ salaries that must be implemented across the board to apply the new minimum wage.  While the VAT rate was recently raised from 5.5 to 7.5 percent to help fund the increased minimum wage, it will not be enough to offset the cost of the adjustments.  This, in turn, means that the government will need to borrow more money, which will not only increase the debt burden but open it to criticism that that money should be used for critical infrastructure projects rather than civil servant salaries.

The Nigerian Minister of Labor and Employment may refer unresolved disputes to the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) and the National Industrial Court (NIC).  In 2015, the NIC launched an Alternative Dispute Resolution Center.  Union officials question the effectiveness and independence of the NIC, believing it unable to resolve disputes stemming from Nigerian government failure to fulfill contract provisions for public sector employees.  Union leaders criticize the arbitration system’s dependence on the Minister of Labor and Employment’s referrals to the IAP.

Nigeria’s laws regarding minimum age for child labor and hazardous work are inconsistent. Article 59 of the Labor Act of 1974 sets the minimum age of employment at 12, and it is in force in all 36 states of Nigeria.  The Act also permits children of any age to do light work alongside a family member in agriculture, horticulture, or domestic service.

The Federal 2003 Child Rights Act (CRA) codifies the rights of children in Nigeria and must be ratified by each State to become law in its territory.  To date, 25 states and the FCT have ratified the CRA, with all 11 of the remaining states located in northern Nigeria.

The CRA states that the provisions related to young people in the Labor Act apply to children under the CRA, but also that the CRA supersedes any other legislation related to children.  The CRA restricts children under the age of 18 from any work aside from light work for family members; however, Article 59 of the Labor Act applies these restrictions only to children under the age of 12.  This language makes it unclear what minimum ages apply for certain types of work in the country.

While the Labor Act forbids the employment of youth under age 18 in work that is dangerous to their health, safety, or morals, it allows children to participate in certain types of work that may be dangerous by setting different age thresholds for various activities.  For example, the Labor Act allows children age 16 and older to work at night in gold mining and the manufacturing of iron, steel, paper, raw sugar, and glass.  Furthermore, the Labor Act does not extend to children employed in domestic service.  Thus, children are vulnerable to dangerous work in industrial undertakings, underground, with machines, and in domestic service.  In addition, the prohibitions established by the Labor Act and CRA are not comprehensive or specific enough to facilitate enforcement.  In 2013, the National Steering Committee (NSC) for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Nigeria validated the Report on the Identification of Hazardous Child Labor in Nigeria.  The report has languished with the Ministry of Labor and Employment and still awaits the promulgation of guidelines for operationalizing the report.

The Nigerian government adopted the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement, and Administration Act of 2015.  While not specifically directed against child labor, many sections of the  law support anti-child labor efforts.  The Violence against Persons Prohibition Act was signed into law in May 2015 and again while not specifically focused on child labor, it covers related elements such as “depriving a person of his/her liberty,” “forced financial dependence/economic abuse,” and “forced isolation/separation from family and friends” and is applicable to minors.

Nigeria’s Labor Act provides for a 40-hour work week, two to four weeks of annual leave, and overtime and holiday pay for all workers except agricultural and domestic workers.  No law prohibits compulsory overtime.  The Act establishes general health and safety provisions, some of which specifically apply to young or female workers, and requires the Ministry of Labor and Employment to inspect factories for compliance with health and safety standards.  Under-funding and limited resources undermine the Ministry’s oversight capacity, and construction sites and other non-factory work sites are often ignored.  Nigeria’s labor law requires employers to compensate injured workers and dependent survivors of workers killed in industrial accidents.

Draft legislation, such as a new Labor Standards Act which includes provisions on child labor, and an Occupational Safety and Health Act that would regulate hazardous work, have remained under consideration in the National Assembly since 2006.

Admission of foreign workers is overseen by the Federal Ministry of the Interior.  Employers must seek the consent of the Ministry in order to employ foreign workers by applying for an “expatriate quota.”  The quota allows a company to employ foreign nationals in specifically approved job designations as well as specifying the validity period of the designations provided on the quota.

There are two types of visas which may be granted, depending on the length of stay.  For short-term assignments, an employer must apply for and receive a temporary work permit, allowing the employee to carry out some specific tasks.  The temporary work permit is a single-entry visa, and expires after three months.  There are no numerical limitations on short-term visas, and foreign nationals who meet the conditions for grant of a visa may apply for as many short-term visas as required.

Rwanda

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Rwanda’s capital markets are relatively immature and lack complexity.  Only eight companies have publicly listed and traded equities in Rwanda.  The Rwanda Capital Market Authority was established in 2017 to regulate the capital market, commodity exchange and related contracts, collective investment schemes, and warehouse receipts.  Most capital market transactions are domestic.  While offers can attract some international interests, they are rare.  Rwanda is one of a few sub-Saharan African countries to have issued sovereign bonds.  In 2019, the National Bank of Rwanda issued five new bonds including a 20-year bond, the longest tenor ever issued by the country.  During the same year, seven existing bonds were reopened. Rwandan government bonds and other debt securities are highly oversubscribed and bond yields average 12 percent.  BNR, the country’s Central Bank, has implemented reforms in recent years that are helping to create a secondary market for Rwandan treasury bonds.  Secondary market continue go growth from low base.  In 2019, BNR reported that deals and turn overs increased by 47.0 percent and 106.5 percent respectively following intense awareness campaigns and increased number of products (new issuances and re-openings).  In January 2020, the IMF completed its first review of Rwanda’s economic performance under the Policy Coordination Instrument and Monetary Policy Consultation, which can be found here:  https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2020/01/17/Rwanda-First-Review-Under-the-Policy-Coordination-Instrument-and-Monetary-Policy-48956  

https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2020/01/17/Rwanda-First-Review-Under-the-Policy-Coordination-Instrument-and-Monetary-Policy-48956  

Money and Banking System

Many U.S. investors express concern that local access to affordable credit is a serious challenge in Rwanda.  Interest rates are high for the region ranging from 15 percent to 20 percent, banks offer predominantly short-term loans, collateral requirements can be higher than 100 percent of the value of the loan, and Rwandan commercial banks rarely issue significant loan values.  The prime interest rate is 16-18 percent.  Large international transfers are subject to authorization.  Investors who seek to borrow more than USD 1 million must often engage in multi-party loan transactions, usually leveraging support from larger regional banks.  Credit terms generally reflect market rates, and foreign investors are able to negotiate credit facilities from local lending institutions if they have collateral and “bankable” projects.  In some cases, preferred financing options may be available through specialized funds including the Export Growth Fund, BRD, or FONERWA.

Rwanda’s financial sector remains highly concentrated.  The share of the three largest Banks’s assets increased from 46.5 percent in December 2018 to 48.4 percent in December 2019.  The largest, partially state-owned, Bank of Kigali (BoK), holds more than 30 percent of all assets.  The banking sector holds more than 65 percent of total financial sector assets in Rwanda.  Non-performing loans dropped from 6.4 percent in December 2018 to 4.9 percent in December 2019.  Foreign banks are permitted to establish operations in Rwanda, with several Kenyan-based banks in the country.  Atlas Mara Limited acquired a majority equity stake in Banque Populaire du Rwanda (BPR) in 2016.  BPR/Atlas Mara has the largest number of branch locations and is Rwanda’s second largest bank after BoK.  In total, Rwanda’s banks have assets of more than USD 3 billion, which increased 12.5 percent between  December 2018 and 2019, according to BNR.  The IMF gives BNR high marks for its effective monetary policy.  BNR introduced a new monetary policy framework in 2019, which shifts toward inflation-targeting monetary framework in place of a quantity-of-money framework.

In 2019, BNR reported that commercial banks liquidity ratio was 49 percent (compared to BNR’s required minimum of 20 percent), suggesting reluctance toward making loans.  The capital adequacy ratio grew to 24.1 percent from 21.4 percent over the year, well above the minimum of 15 percent, suggesting the Rwanda banking sector continues to be generally risk averse.  Local banks often generate significant revenue from holding government debt and from charging a variety of fees to banking customers.  Credit cards are becoming more common in major cities, especially at locations frequented by foreigners, but are not used in rural areas.  Rwandans primarily rely on cash or mobile money to conduct transactions.

During the COVID-19 pandemic local banks deferred loan payments from customers.  Despite this, the banking sector was confident that they had sufficient liquidity until July 2020 due to the favorable economic conditions prior to COVID-19.  In March 2020, the IMF disbursed USD 109 Million to Rwanda under the Rapid Credit Facility and the World Bank approved a USD 14.25 million immediate funding in the form of an International Development Association credit to support Rwanda’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  At the same time, the BNR arranged a 50 Billion Rwandan Franc (USD 53.4 Million) liquidity fund for local banks.  By December 2019, the number of debit cards in the country grew eight percent year over year to 945,000, and the number of mobile banking customers grew 22 percent to 1,266,000. The total number of bank and MFI accounts increased from 7.1 million to 7.7 million between 2018-2019. The number of retail point of sale (POS) machines grew from 2,801 to 3,477 while POS transactions grew by 53 percent in volume and 29 percent in value between 2019 and 2018 according to BNR.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

In 1995, the government abandoned a dollar peg and established a floating exchange rate regime, under which all lending and deposit interest rates were liberalized.  BNR publishes an official exchange rate on a daily basis, which is typically within a two percent range of rates seen in the local market.  Some investors report occasional difficulty in obtaining foreign exchange.  Rwanda generally runs a large trade deficit, estimated at more than 10 percent of GDP in 2019. Transacting locally in foreign currency is prohibited in Rwanda.  Regulations set a ceiling on the foreign currency that can leave the country per day.  In addition, regulations specify limits for sending money outside the country; BNR must approve any transaction that exceed these limits.

Most local loans are in local currency.  In December 2018, BNR issued a new directive on lending in foreign currency which requires the borrow to have a turnover of at least RWF 50 million or equivalent in foreign currency, have a known income stream in foreign currency not below 150 percent of the total installment repayments, and the repayments must be in foreign currency.  The collateral pledged by non-resident borrowers must be valued at 150 percent of the value of the loan.  In addition, BNR requires banks to report regularly on loans granted in foreign currency.

Remittance Policies

Investors can remit payments from Rwanda only through authorized commercial banks.  There is no limit on the inflow of funds, although local banks are required to notify BNR of all transfers over USD 10,000 to mitigate the risk of potential money laundering.  A withholding tax of 15 percent to repatriate profits is considered high by a number of investors given that a 30 percent tax is already charged on profits, making the realized tax burden 45 percent.  Additionally, there are some restrictions on the outflow of export earnings.  Companies generally must repatriate export earnings within three months after the goods cross the border.  Tea exporters must deposit sales proceeds shortly after auction in Mombasa, Kenya.  Repatriated export earnings deposited in commercial banks must match the exact declaration the exporter used crossing the border.

Rwandans working overseas can make remittances to their home country without impediment.  It usually takes up to three days to transfer money using SWIFT financial services.  The concentrated nature of the Rwandan banking sector limits choice, and some U.S. investors have expressed frustration with the high fees charged for exchanging Rwandan francs to dollars.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

In 2012, the Rwandan government launched the Agaciro Development Fund (ADF), a sovereign wealth fund that includes investments from Rwandan citizens and the international diaspora.  By September 30, 2019, the fund was worth 194.3 billion RWF in assets (around USD 204 million).  The ADF operates under the custodianship of BNR and reports quarterly and annually to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, its supervisory authority.  ADF is a member of the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds and is committed to the Santiago Principles.  ADF only operates in Rwanda.  In addition to returns on investments, citizens and private sector voluntary contributions, and other donations, ADF receives RWF 5 billion every year from tax revenues and 5 percent of proceeds from every public asset that is privatized.  The fund also receives 5 percent of royalties from minerals and other natural resources each year.  The government has transferred a number of its shares in private enterprises to the management of ADF including those in the BoK, Broadband Systems Corporation (BSC), Gasabo 3D Ltd, Africa Olleh Services (AoS), Korea Telecom Rwanda Networks (KTRN), and the One and Only Nyungwe Lodge.  ADF invests mainly in Rwanda.  While the fund can invest in foreign non-fixed income investments, such as publicly listed equity, private equity, and joint ventures, the AGDF Corporate Trust Ltd (the fund’s investment arm) held no financial assets and liabilities in foreign currency, according to the 2018 annual report.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

General labor is available, but Rwanda suffers from a shortage of skilled labor, including accountants, lawyers, engineers, tradespeople, and technicians.  Higher institutes of technology, private universities, and vocational institutes are improving and producing more and highly-trained graduates each year.  The Rwanda Workforce Development Authority sponsors programs to support both short and long-term professional trainings targeting key industries in Rwanda.  Carnegie Mellon University opened a campus in Kigali in 2012–its first in sub-Saharan Africa–and currently offers a Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Master of Science in Information Technology.  In 2013, the nonprofit university program, Kepler, was established for students to work toward a U.S.-accredited degree through online learning and in-person seminars through a relationship with Southern New Hampshire University.  Oklahoma Christian University offers an online Master of Business Administration program with on-site support in Kigali.  The African Institute of Mathematics, University of Global Health Equity and African Leadership University campuses in Rwanda offer college level and advanced degrees in many fields.    Investors are strongly encouraged to hire Rwandan nationals whenever possible.  According to the Investment Code, a registered investor who invests an equivalent of at least USD 250,000 may recruit three foreign employees.  However, a number of foreign investors reported difficulties importing qualified staff in accordance with the Investment Code due to Rwandan immigration rules and practices.  In some cases, these problems occurred even though investors had signed agreements with the government regarding the number of foreign employees.

Investors are strongly encouraged to hire Rwandan nationals whenever possible.  According to the Investment Code, a registered investor who invests an equivalent of at least USD 250,000 may recruit three foreign employees.  However, a number of foreign investors reported difficulties importing qualified staff in accordance with the Investment Code due to Rwandan immigration rules and practices.  In some cases, these problems occurred even though investors had signed agreements with the government regarding the number of foreign employees.

Rwanda has ratified all of the International Labor Organization’s eight core conventions.  Policies to protect workers in special labor conditions exist, but enforcement remains inconsistent.  The government encourages, but does not require, on-the-job training and technology transfer to local employees.  The law restricts voluntary collective bargaining by requiring prior authorization or approval by authorities and requiring binding arbitration in cases of non-conciliation.  The law provides some workers the right to conduct strikes, subject to numerous restrictions, but strikes are very rare. There is no unemployment insurance or other social safety net programs for workers laid off for economic reasons.  The minimum wage remains at 100 Rwandan Franc per day  (less than USD 0.10 per day) and has not been changed since the 1974.   The legal framework for employment rights for disabled persons is not as strong as in the United States, but the government and some employers are making efforts to offer reasonable accommodations. In 2000, the government revised the national labor code to eliminate gender discrimination, restrictions on the mobility of labor, and wage controls.   Private firms are responsible for their local employees’ income tax payments and Rwanda Social Security Board pension contributions.  For full-time workers, these payments amount to more than 30 percent of take-home pay, which can be a disadvantage if competing firms are in the informal economy and not compliant with these requirements.  Labor laws are not waived in order to attract or retain investment.  There are no labor law provisions in SEZs or industrial parks, which differ from national labor laws.  Collective bargaining is not common in Rwanda.  Few professional associations fix minimum salaries for their members and some investors have expressed concern that labor law enforcement is uneven or opaque.  The minimum wage has not changed since 1974 and is 100 Rwandan francs (USD 0.10) per day.

The legal framework for employment rights for disabled persons is not as strong as in the United States, but the government and some employers are making efforts to offer reasonable accommodations. In 2000, the government revised the national labor code to eliminate gender discrimination, restrictions on the mobility of labor, and wage controls.   Private firms are responsible for their local employees’ income tax payments and Rwanda Social Security Board pension contributions.  For full-time workers, these payments amount to more than 30 percent of take-home pay, which can be a disadvantage if competing firms are in the informal economy and not compliant with these requirements.  Labor laws are not waived in order to attract or retain investment.  There are no labor law provisions in SEZs or industrial parks, which differ from national labor laws.  Collective bargaining is not common in Rwanda.  Few professional associations fix minimum salaries for their members and some investors have expressed concern that labor law enforcement is uneven or opaque.  The minimum wage has not changed since 1974 and is 100 Rwandan francs (USD 0.10) per day.

South Africa

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

South Africa recognizes the importance of foreign capital in financing persistent current account and budget deficits and openly courts foreign portfolio investment.  Authorities regularly meet with investors and encourage open discussion between investors and a wide range of private and public-sector stakeholders. The government enhanced efforts to attract and retain foreign investors.  President Cyril Ramaphosa hosted investment conferences in October 2018 and October 2019 and attended the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019 to promote South Africa as an investment destination. South Africa suffered a two-quarter technical recession in 2019 with economic growth registering only 0.2 percent for the entire year.

South Africa’s financial market is regarded as one of the most sophisticated among emerging markets.  A sound legal and regulatory framework governs financial institutions and transactions.

The fully independent South African Reserve Bank (SARB) regulates a wide range of commercial, retail and investment banking services according to international best practices, such as Basel III, and participates in international forums such as the Financial Stability Board and G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. There are calls to “nationalize” the privately-held SARB, which would not change its constitutional mandate to maintain price stability. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) serves as the front-line regulator for listed firms, but is supervised in these regulatory duties by the Financial Services Board (FSB). The FSB also oversees other non-banking financial services, including other collective investment schemes, retirement funds and a diversified insurance industry. The South African government has committed to tabling a Twin Peaks regulatory architecture to provide a clear demarcation of supervisory responsibilities and consumer accountability and to consolidate banking and non-banking regulation in 2017.

South Africa has access to deep pools of capital from local and foreign investors which provide sufficient scope for entry and exit of large positions.  Financial sector assets amount to almost three times GDP, and the JSE is the largest on the continent with capitalization of approximately USD 670 billion and 344 companies listed on the main, alternative and other smaller boards. Non-bank financial institutions (NBFI) hold about two thirds of financial assets.  The liquidity and depth provided by NBFIs make these markets attractive to foreign investors, who hold more than a third of equities and government bonds, including sizeable positions in local-currency bonds. A well-developed derivative market and a currency that is widely traded as a proxy for emerging market risk allows investors considerable scope to hedge positions with interest rate and foreign exchange derivatives.

The SARB’s exchange control policies permit authorized currency dealers, normally one of the large commercial banks, to buy and borrow foreign currency freely on behalf of domestic and foreign clients.  The size of transactions is not limited, but dealers must report all transactions to SARB, regardless of size. Non-residents may purchase securities without restriction and freely transfer capital in and out of South Africa.  Local individual and institutional investors are limited to holding 25 percent of their capital outside of South Africa. Given the recent exchange rate fluctuations, this requirement has entailed portfolio rebalancing and repatriation to meet the prescribed prudential limits.

Banks, NBFIs, and other financial intermediaries are skilled at assessing risk and allocating credit based on market conditions. Foreign investors may borrow freely on the local market.  A large range of debt, equity and other credit instruments are available to foreign investors, and a host of well-known foreign and domestic service providers offer accounting, legal and consulting advice. In recent years, the South African auditing profession has suffered significant reputational damage with the leadership of two large foreign firms being implicated in allegations of aiding and abetting irregular client management practices that were linked to the previous administration, or of delinquent oversight of listed client companies. South Africa’s WEF competitiveness rating for auditing and reporting fell from number one in the world in 2016, to number 60 in 2019.

Money and Banking System

South African banks are well capitalized and comply with international banking standards. There are 19 registered banks in South Africa and 15 branches of foreign banks. Twenty-nine foreign banks have approved local representative offices. Five banks – Standard, ABSA, First Rand (FNB), Capitec, and Nedbank – dominate the sector, accounting for over 85 percent of the country’s banking assets, which total over USD 390 billion. The SARB regulates the sector according to the Bank Act of 1990. There are three alternatives for foreign banks to establish local operations, all of which require SARB approval: separate company, branch, or representative office. The criteria for the registration of a foreign bank are the same as for domestic banks. Foreign banks must include additional information, such as holding company approval, a letter of “comfort and understanding” from the holding company, and a letter of no objection from the foreign bank’s home regulatory authority. More information on the banking industry may be obtained from the South African Banking Association at the following website: www.banking.org.za .

The Financial Services Board (FSB) governs South Africa’s non-bank financial services industry (see website: www.fsb.co.za/ ). The FSB regulates insurance companies, pension funds, unit trusts (i.e., mutual funds), participation bond schemes, portfolio management, and the financial markets. The JSE Securities Exchange SA (JSE) is the sixteenth largest exchange in the world measured by market capitalization and enjoys the global reputation of being one of the best regulated. Market capitalization stood at USD 670 billion as of March 2020, with 344 firms listed. The Bond Exchange of South Africa (BESA) is licensed under the Financial Markets Control Act. Membership includes banks, insurers, investors, stockbrokers, and independent intermediaries. The exchange consists principally of bonds issued by government, state-owned enterprises, and private corporations. The JSE acquired BESA in 2009. More information on financial markets may be obtained from the JSE (website: www.jse.co.za ). Non-residents are allowed to finance 100 percent of their investment through local borrowing. A finance ratio of 1:1 also applies to emigrants, the acquisition of residential properties by non-residents, and financial transactions such as portfolio investments, securities lending and hedging by non-residents.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) Exchange Control Department administers foreign exchange policy. An authorized foreign exchange dealer, normally one of the large commercial banks, must handle international commercial transactions and report every purchase of foreign exchange, irrespective of the amount. Generally, there are only limited delays in the conversion and transfer of funds. Due to South Africa’s relatively closed exchange system, no private player, however large, can hedge large quantities of Rand for more than five years.

While non-residents may freely transfer capital in and out of South Africa, transactions must be reported to authorities. Non-residents may purchase local securities without restriction. To facilitate repatriation of capital and profits, foreign investors should ensure an authorized dealer endorses their share certificates as “non-resident.” Foreign investors should also be sure to maintain an accurate record of investment.

Remittance Policies

Subsidiaries and branches of foreign companies in South Africa are considered South African entities and are treated legally as South African companies. As such, they are subject to exchange control by the SARB. South African companies may, as a general rule, freely remit the following to non-residents: repayment of capital investments; dividends and branch profits (provided such transfers are made out of trading profits and are financed without resorting to excessive local borrowing); interest payments (provided the rate is reasonable); and payment of royalties or similar fees for the use of know-how, patents, designs, trademarks or similar property (subject to prior approval of SARB authorities).

While South African companies may invest in other countries, SARB approval/notification is required for investments over R500 million (USD 43.5 million). South African individuals may freely invest in foreign firms listed on South African stock exchanges. Individual South African taxpayers in good standing may make investments up to a total of R4 million (USD 340,000) in other countries. As of 2010, South African banks are permitted to commit up to 25 percent of their capital in direct and indirect foreign liabilities. In addition, mutual and other investment funds can invest up to 25 percent of their retail assets in other countries. Pension plans and insurance funds may invest 25 percent of their retail assets in other countries.

Before accepting or repaying a foreign loan, South African residents must obtain SARB approval. The SARB must also approve the payment of royalties and license fees to non-residents when no local manufacturing is involved. When local manufacturing is involved, the DTIC must approve the payment of royalties related to patents on manufacturing processes and products. Upon proof of invoice, South African companies may pay fees for foreign management and other services provided such fees are not calculated as a percentage of sales, profits, purchases, or income.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Although the President announced in February, 2020 the aim to create a Sovereign Wealth Fund and the Finance Minister followed up with a mention of it in his February budget speech, no action has been taken to create such a fund.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Since 1994, the South African government has replaced apartheid-era labor legislation with policies that emphasize employment security, fair wages, and decent working conditions. Under the aegis of the National Economic Development and Labor Council (NEDLAC), government, business, and organized labor are to negotiate all labor laws, with the exception of laws pertaining to occupational health and safety. The South African Constitution and South African laws allows workers to form or join trade unions without previous authorization or excessive requirements. Labor unions that meet a locally negotiated minimum threshold of representation (often, 50 percent plus one union member) are entitled to represent the entire workplace in negotiations with management. As the majority union or representative union, they may also extract agency fees from non-union members present in the workplace. In some workplaces and job sectors, this financial incentive has encouraged inter-union rivalries, including intimidation and violence, as unions compete for the maximum share of employees in seeking the status of representative union.

In February 2020, South Africa reported a year-on-year unemployment rate increase of 2.0 percentage points to 29.1 percent. However, labor force participation increased by 0.4 percentage points to 59.8 percent from 59.4 percent in 2019. The youth unemployment (ages 15-24) rate has hovered at or just over 50 percent since 2015. Approximately 3.3 million (32 percent) of the 10.3 million of these South Africans were not in employment, education, or training. On a quarterly basis, employment in the formal sector increased in all industries with the exception of professional employment and skilled agriculture. Due to a lag in data collection and reporting, the full effect on unemployment due to COVID-19 related business closures will not be reported until the anticipated September 2020 report, covering April – June 2020.

There are 205 trade unions registered with the Department of Labor as of February 2019 (latest published figures), up from 190 the prior year, but down from the 2002 high of 504. According to the 2019 Fourth Quarter Labor Force Survey (QLFS) report from Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), 4.071 million workers belonged to a union, an increase of 30,000 from the fourth quarter of 2018. Department of Labor statistics indicate union density declined from 45.2 percent in 1997 to 24.7 percent in 2014, the most recent data available. Using StatsSA data, however, union density can be calculated: The February 2020 QLFS reported 4.071 million union members and 13.868 million employees, for a union density of 29.4percent.

The right to strike is protected under South Africa’s constitution and laws. The law allows workers to strike due to matters of mutual interest, such as wages, benefits, organizational rights disputes, socioeconomic interests of workers, and similar measures. Workers may not strike because of disputes where other legal recourse exists, such as through arbitration. Although the number of workdays lost to strikes fell to 1.06 million in 2019, down from 1.95 million in 2018, the figure remains low in comparison to the 2005-2014 period in which every year but one (2008) saw lost workdays total at least 2.3 million. Layoffs and retrenchments are permitted for economic reasons, but they are subject to a statutory process requiring consultations between employers and labor unions in an effort to reach consensus.

Employers and employees are each required to pay one percent of workers’ wages to the national unemployment fund. The fund pays benefits based on reverse sliding scale of the prior salary, up to 58 percent of the prior wage, for up to 34 weeks.

There are robust labor dispute resolution institutions in South Africa, including the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), the bargaining councils, and specialized labor courts of both first instance and appellate jurisdiction.

Improved labor stability is essential for South Africa’s economic stability and development and vital to the country’s ability to continue to attract and retain foreign investment. The government of South Africa does not waive labor laws to attract or retain investment.

Collective bargaining is a cornerstone of the current labor relations framework. As of February 2019, the South Africa Department of Labor listed 39 private sector bargaining councils through which parties negotiate wages and conditions of employment. Per the Labor Relations Act, the Minister of Labor must extend agreements reached in bargaining councils to non-parties of the agreement operating in the same sector. Employer federations, particularly those representing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) argue the extension of these agreements – often reached between unions and big business – negatively impacts SMEs that cannot afford to pay higher wages. In 2019, the average wage settlement resulted in a 7.1 percent wage increase, on average 2.9 percent above the increase in South Africa’s consumer price index and down slightly from the average increase of 7.4 percent in 2018.

Major labor legislation includes:

As of January 1, 2019, South Africa has a national minimum wage of R20/hour, with lower rates for domestic (R16/hour) and agricultural (R 18/hour) workers. This rate is subject to annual increases as suggested by the 13-member National Minimum Wage Commission and as approved by parliament and signed by the president. Effective March 2020, the Commission raised the minimum wage by 3.8 percent, to R 20.76 for most workers. Domestic and agricultural workers received the same percentage raises.

In November 2018, President Ramaphosa signed an amendment to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act which provides benefits to new parents. Fathers may now claim ten days of paternity leave, whereas adoptive parents and commissioning parents in a surrogate motherhood agreement may now claim ten weeks of leave. South Africa’s Unemployment Fund funds this leave at the same rate for unemployment claims (see above) and not at the claiming employee’s wage rate.

The Labor Relations Act (LRA), in effect since 1995 with amendments made in 2014, provides fair dismissal guidelines, dispute resolution mechanisms, and retrenchment guidelines stating employers must consider alternatives to retrenchment and must consult all relevant parties when considering possible layoffs. The Act enshrines the right of workers to strike and of management to lock out striking workers. The Act created the Commission on Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA), which can conciliate, mediate, and arbitrate in cases of labor disputes, and is required to certify an impasse in bargaining council negotiations before a strike can be called legally. The CCMA’s caseload currently exceeds what was anticipated; the South African Government provided the CCMA an additional USD 60 million to handle its caseload and any possible increase caused by the 2014 amendments to the LRA. Amendments to the LRA modify the regulation of temporary employment service firms, extend organizational rights to workplaces with a majority of temporary or fixed term contract workers, reduces the maximum period of temporary or fixed term contract employment to three months, establishes joint liability by temporary employment services and their clients for contraventions of employment law, and strengthens other protections for temporary or contract workers.

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), implemented in 1997 and amended in 2014, establishes a 45-hour workweek, standardizes time-and-a-half pay for overtime, and authorizes four months of maternity leave for women. No employer may require or permit an employee to work overtime except by agreement, and overtime may not be more than 10 hours a week. The law stipulates rest periods of 12 consecutive hours daily and 36 hours weekly and must include Sunday. The law allows adjustments to rest periods by mutual agreement. A ministerial determination exempted businesses employing fewer than 10 persons from certain provisions of the law concerning overtime and leave. Farmers and other employers can apply for variances from the law by showing good cause. The law applies to all workers, including workers in informal sectors, foreign nationals, and migrant workers, but the government did not prioritize labor protections for workers in the informal economy. The law prohibits employment of children under age 15 and prohibits anyone from requiring or permitting a child under age 15 to work. The law allows children under age 15 to work in the performing arts, but only if their employers receive permission from the Department of Labor and agree to follow specific guidelines. Amendments made in 2014 clarify the definitions of employment, employers, and employees to reflect international labor conventions, closing a loophole that previously existed in South African law between the LRA and the BCEA. The Act gives the Minister of Labor the power to set sectoral minimum wages and annual minimum wage increases for employees not covered by sectoral minimum wage agreements.

The Employment Equity Act of 1998 (EEA), amended in 2014, protects all workers against unfair discrimination on the grounds of race, age, gender, religion, marital status, pregnancy, family responsibility, ethnic or social origin, color, sexual orientation, disability, conscience, belief, political, opinion, culture, language, HIV status, birth, or any other arbitrary ground. The EEA further requires large- and medium-sized companies to prepare employment equity plans to ensure that historically disadvantaged South Africans, such as Blacks, South Asians, and Coloreds, as well as women and disabled persons, are adequately represented in the workforce. The EEA amendments increase fines for non-compliance with employment equity measures and have a new provision of equal pay for work of equal value. The Act prohibits the use of foreign nationals to meet employers’ affirmative action targets and relaxes the standards for parties in labor disputes to access the CCMA instead of going directly to the Labor Court.

More information regarding South African labor legislation can be found at: www.labour.gov.za/legislation 

Tanzania

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange (DSE) is a self-listed publicly-owned company. In 2013, the DSE launched a second tier market, the Enterprise Growth Market (EGM) with lower listing requirements designed to attract small and medium sized companies with high growth potential. As of December 2017, DSE’s total market capitalization reached USD 10.5 billion, a 20.6 percent increase over the previous year’s figure. The Capital Markets and Securities Authority (CMSA) Act facilitates the free flow of capital and financial resources to support the capital market and securities industry. Tanzania, however, restricts the free flow of investment in and out of the country, and Tanzanians cannot sell or issue securities abroad unless approved by the CMSA.

Under the Capital Markets and Securities (Foreign Investors) Regulation 2014, there is no aggregate value limitation on foreign ownership of listed non-government securities. Despite progress, the country’s capital account is not fully liberalized and only foreign individuals or companies from other EAC nations are permitted to participate in the government securities market. Even with this recent development allowing EAC participation, ownership of government securities is still limited to 40 percent of each security issued.

Tanzania’s Electronic and Postal Communications Act 2010 amended in 2016 by the Finance Act 2016 requires telecom companies to list 25 percent of their shares via an initial public offering (IPO) on the DSE. Of the seven telecom companies that filed IPO applications with the CMSA, only Vodacom’s application received approval. TiGo’s IPO is reportedly close to approval.

As part of the Mining (Minimum Shareholding and Public Offering) Regulations 2016, large scale mining operators were required to float a 30 percent stake on the DSE by October 7, 2018. In February 2017 the GoT moved the date to August 23, 2017. To date, no mining companies have listed on the DSE.

Money and Banking System

Tanzania’s financial inclusion rate increased significantly over the past decade thanks to mobile phones and mobile banking. However, participation in the formal banking sector remains low. Low private sector credit growth and high non-performing loan (NPL) rates are persistent problems.

According to the IMF’s most recent Financial System Stability Assessment, Tanzania’s bank-dominated financial sector is small, concentrated, and at a relatively nascent stage of development. Financial services provision is dominated by commercial banks, with the ten largest institutions being preeminent in terms of mobilizing savings and intermediating credit. The report found that nearly half of Tanzania’s 45 banks are vulnerable to adverse shocks and risk insolvency in the event of a global financial crisis. (Source: https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2018/12/04/United-Republic-of-Tanzania-Financial-Sector-Assessment-Program-Press-Release-Staff-Report-46418 )

The two largest banks are CRDB Bank and National Microfinance Bank (NMB), which represent almost 30 percent of the market. The only U.S. bank is Citibank Tanzania Limited. Private sector companies have access to commercial credit instruments including documentary credits (letters of credit), overdrafts, term loans, and guarantees. Foreign investors may open accounts and earn tax-free interest in Tanzanian commercial banks.

The Banking and Financial Institution Act 2006 established a framework for credit reference bureaus, permits the release of information to licensed reference bureaus, and allows credit reference bureaus to provide to any person, upon a legitimate business request, a credit report. Currently, there are two private credit bureaus operating in Tanzania – Credit Info Tanzania Limited and Dun & Bradstreet Credit Bureau Tanzania Limited.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Tanzanian regulations permit unconditional transfers through any authorized bank in freely convertible currency of net profits, repayment of foreign loans, royalties, fees charged for foreign technology, and remittance of proceeds. The only official limit on transfers of foreign currency is on cash carried by individuals traveling abroad, which cannot exceed USD 10,000 over a period of 40 days. Investors rarely use convertible instruments.

The Bank of Tanzania’s new Bureau de Change regulations with stringent requirements came into force in June 2019. The regulations include a minimum capital requirement of TZS 1 billion (Approx. USD 431,000) and a non-interest bearing deposit of USD 100,000 with the Bank of Tanzania (the regulator). Regulations also require the business premises to be fitted with CCTV cameras, and new stringent procedures and policies for detecting and reporting money laundering and terrorism finance. Bank of Tanzania closed more than ninety percent of all forex shops in the country, stating that they did not pass inspection for compliance with these requirements. In response, commercial banks and Tanzania Posts Corporation were licensed to provide forex services.

The value of the Tanzanian currency, the shilling, is determined by a free-floating exchange rate system based on supply and demand in international foreign exchange markets. However, Interbank Foreign Exchange Market (IFEM) and the rates quoted by commercial banks and exchange bureaus often vary considerably. There are reports that the Bank of Tanzania has stepped in several times over the past few years to stabilize the exchange rate.

Remittance Policies

There are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies that either tighten or relax access to foreign exchange for investment remittances.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Tanzania does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The GoT’s Five Year Development Plan 2016-2021 (FYDP II), which is in its fourth year of implementation, acknowledges Tanzania’s shortage of skilled labor and the importance of professional training to support industrialization. The Integrated Labor Force Survey Analytical Report of 2014 (most recent) found that only 3.6 percent of Tanzania’s 20-million-person labor force is highly skilled. On the regional front, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya have committed to the EAC’s 2012 Mutual Recognition Agreement of engineers, making for a more regionally competitive engineering market.

In Tanzania, labor and immigration regulations permit foreign investors to recruit up to five expatriates with the possibility of additional work permits granted under specific conditions.

The Non-Citizens (Employment Regulation) Act 2015 introduced stricter rules for hiring foreign workers. Under the Act, the Labor Commissioner must determine if “all possible efforts have been explored to obtain a local expert” before approving a non-citizen work permit. In addition, employers must submit “succession plans” for foreign employees, detailing how knowledge and skills will be transferred to local employees.

Non-citizens may be granted two-year work permits, renewable up to five years, while foreign investors may be granted ten-year work permits which may be extended if the investor is deemed to be contributing to the economy and well-being of Tanzanians. Some stakeholders fear that this provision creates an opening for corruption and arbitrarily prejudicial decisions against foreign investors. Since the passage of the Act, GoT officials have been conducting aggressive “special permit inspections” to verify the validity of work permits. The process for obtaining work permits remains immensely bureaucratic, opaque at times, and slow.

Mainland Tanzania’s minimum wage, which has not changed since July 2013, is set by categories covering 12 employment sectors. The minimum wage ranges from TZS 100,000 (USD 45) per month for agricultural laborers to TZS 400,000 (USD 180) per month for laborers employed in the mining sector. Zanzibar’s minimum wage is TZS 300,000 (USD 135), after being increased from TZS 150,000 (USD 68) in April 2017.

Mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar governments maintain separate labor laws. Workers on the Mainland have the right to join trade unions. Any company with a recognized trade union possessing bargaining rights can negotiate in a Collective Bargaining Agreement. In the public sector, the government sets wages administratively, including for employees of state-owned enterprises.

Mainland workers have the legal right to strike and employers have the right to a lockout. The law restricts the right to strike when doing so may endanger the health of the population. Workers in certain sectors are restricted from striking or subject to limitations. In 2017, the GoT issued regulations that strengthened child labor laws, created minimum one-year terms for certain contracts, expanded the scope of what is considered discrimination, and changed contract requirements for outsourcing agreements. In 2019, the government adopted a new National Strategy Against Child Labor, though it has not officially been implemented.

The labor law in Zanzibar applies to both public and private sector workers. Zanzibar government workers have the right to strike as long as they follow procedures outlined in the Employment Act of 2005, but they are not allowed to join Mainland-based labor unions. Zanzibar requires a union with 50 or more members to be registered and sets literacy standards for trade union officers. An estimated 40 percent of Zanzibar’s workforce is unionized. (See Chapter 4: Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment for more on recent local content laws.)

Togo

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Togo and the other West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) member countries are working toward greater regional integration with unified external tariffs.  Togo relies on the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) Regional Stock Exchange in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire to trade equities for Togolese public companies.

WAEMU has established a common accounting system, periodic reviews of member countries’ macroeconomic policies based on convergence criteria, a regional stock exchange, and the legal and regulatory framework for a regional banking system.  The government and central bank respect IMF Article VIII and refrain from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.  Credit is generally allocated on market terms.  With sufficient collateral, foreign investors are generally able to get credit on the local market.  The private sector in general has access to a variety of credit instruments when and if collateral is available.

Money and Banking System

The penetration of banking services in the country is low and generally only available in major cities.

The government and the banking sector have worked to restore Togo’s reputation as a regional banking center, which was weakened by political upheavals from 1991 to 2005, and several regional and sub-regional banks now operate in Togo, including Orabank, Banque Atlantique, Bank of Africa, Diamond Bank, International Bank of Africa in Togo (BIAT), and Coris Bank.

Additionally, Togo is home to the headquarters of the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), the West African Development Bank (BOAD – the development bank of the West African Economic and Monetary Union), Oragroup, and Ecobank Transnational Inc. (ETI), the largest independent regional banking group in West Africa and Central Africa, with operations in 36 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The banking sector is generally healthy and the total assets of Togo’s largest banks are approximately $25-30 billion, including Ecobank, a very large regional bank headquartered in Lomé.

Togo’s monetary policy and banking regulations are managed by the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO).  No known correspondent relationships were lost in the past three years.  No known correspondent banking relationships are in jeopardy.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no restrictions on the transfer of funds to other FCFA-zone countries or to France.  The transfer of more than FCFA 500,000 (about $1,000) outside the FCFA-zone requires justification documents (e.g. pro forma invoice) to be presented to bank authorities.

The exchange system is free of restrictions for payments and transfers for international transactions.  Some American investors in Togo have reported long delays (30 – 40 days) in transferring funds from U.S. banks to banks located in Togo.  This is reportedly because banks in Togo have limited contacts with U.S. banks to facilitate the transfer of funds.

Togo uses the CFA franc (FCFA), which is the common currency of the eight (8) West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) countries.  The currency is fixed to the Euro at a rate of 656 FCFA to 1 Euro.

Remittance Policies

The 2012 Investment Code provides for the free transfer of revenues derived from investments, including the liquidation of investments, by non-residents.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Togo does not maintain a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) or other similar entity.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The labor market is predominately unskilled and there is a shortage of skilled labor and English speaking employees.  There are some migrant farm workers from Ghana and Benin based on familial ties.  There is widespread underemployment and large portions of the non-agricultural workforce participate in the informal economy.

In general, government labor policy favors employment of nationals.

Workers are hired with time specific contracts that include severance requirements.  The labor code, and regulations called the “Convention Collective” differentiate between layoffs and firings, but both require severance payments.  Free Trade zones offer different labor law provisions to encourage investment.

Public employees unions (school teacher, judicial clerks, etc) use collective bargaining, and are willing to take to the streets in non-violent protest to raise the profile of their demands.  Labor disputes appear to be resolved on an ad-hoc basis, usually with the intervention of parliamentarians.

Tunisia

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment 

Tunisia’s financial system is dominated by its banking sector, with banks accounting for roughly 85 percent of financing in Tunisia.  Overreliance on bank financing impedes economic growth and stronger job creation.  Equity capitalization is relatively small; Tunisia’s stock market provided 13.2 percent of corporate financing in 2017 according to the Financial Market Council annual report.  Other mechanisms, such as bonds and microfinance, contribute marginally to the overall economy.

Created in 1969, the Bourse de Tunis (Tunis stock exchange) listed 82 companies as of December 2019.  The total market capitalization of these companies was USD 8.41 billion, equivalent to 23.1% of the GDP.  During the last five years, the exchange’s regulatory and accounting systems have been brought more in line with international standards, including compliance and investor protections.  The exchange is supervised and regulated by the state-run Capital Market Board.  Most major global accounting firms are represented in Tunisia.  Firms listed on the stock exchange must publish semiannual corporate reports audited by a certified public accountant.  Accompanying accounting requirements exceed what many Tunisian firms can, or are willing to, undertake.  GOT tax incentives attempt to encourage companies to list on the stock exchange.  Newly listed companies that offer a 30 percent capital share to the public receive a five-year tax reduction on profits.  In addition, individual investors receive tax deductions for equity investment in the market.  Capital gains are tax-free when held by the investor for two years.

Foreign investors are permitted to purchase shares in resident (onshore) firms only through authorized Tunisian brokers or through established mutual funds.  To trade, non-resident (offshore) brokers require a Tunisian intermediary and may only service non-Tunisian customers.  Tunisian brokerage firms may have foreign participation, as long as that participation is less than 50 percent.  Foreign investment of up to 50 percent of a listed firm’s capital does not require authorization.

Money and Banking System

According to the Central Bank of Tunisia (CBT) annual report on banking supervision published in January 2020, Tunisia hosts 30 banks, of which 23 are onshore and seven are offshore.  Onshore banks include three Islamic banks, two microcredit and SME financing banks, and 18 commercial universal banks.

Domestic credit to the private sector provided by banks stood at 68 percent of GDP in 2018.   According to the World Bank, this level is higher than the MENA region average of 56.7 percent.  In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 survey, Tunisia’s ranking in terms of ease of access to credit went down from 99 in 2019 to 104 in 2020.  Tunisia’s banking system penetration has grown by four percent annually for the past five years.  87 percent of banks are located in the coastal regions, with about 41 percent in the greater Tunis area alone.  Tunisia’s banking system activity is mainly within the 23 onshore banks, which accounted for 92 percent of assets, 93 percent of loans, and 97 percent of deposits in 2018.  They offer identical services targeting Tunisia’s larger corporations.  Meanwhile, SMEs and individuals often have difficulty accessing bank capital due to high collateral requirements.

Foreign banks are permitted to open branches and establish operations in Tunisia under the offshore regime and are subject to the supervision of the Central Bank.

Government regulations control lending rates.  This prevents banks from pricing their loan portfolios appropriately and incentivizes bankers to restrict the provision of credit.  Competition among Tunisia’s many banks has the effect of lowering observed interest rates; however, banks often place conditions on loans that impose far higher costs on borrowers than interest rates alone.  These non-interest costs may include collateral requirements that come in the form of liens on real estate.  Often, collateral must equal or exceed the value of the loan principal.  Collateral requirements are high because banks face regulatory difficulties in collecting collateral, thereby adding to costs.  According to the CBT banking supervision report, nonperforming loans (NPLs) were at 13.4 percent of all bank loans in 2018, mostly in the agriculture (27.1 percent) and tourism (46 percent) sectors.

Beyond the banks and stock exchange, few effective financing mechanisms are available in the Tunisian economy.  A true bond market does not exist, and government debt sold to financial institutions is not re-traded on a formal, transparent secondary market.  Private equity remains a niche element in the Tunisian financial system.  Firms experience difficulty raising sufficient capital, sourcing their transactions, and selling their stakes in successful investments once they mature.  The microfinance market remains underexploited, with non-governmental organization Enda Inter-Arabe the dominant lender in the field.

The GOT recognizes two categories of financial service activity:  banking (e.g., deposits, loans, payments and exchange operations, and acquisition of operating capital) and investment services (reception, transmission, order execution, and portfolio management).  Non-resident financial service providers must present initial minimum capital (fully paid up at subscription) of 25 million Tunisian dinars (USD 8.5 million) for a bank, 10 million dinars (USD 3.4 million) for a non-bank financial institution, 7.5 million dinars (USD 2.6 million) for an investment company, and 250,000 dinars (USD 85,200) for a portfolio management company.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange 

The Tunisian Dinar can only be traded within Tunisia, and it is illegal to move dinars out of the country.  The dinar is convertible for current account transactions (export-import operations, remittances of investment capital, earnings, loan or lease payments, royalties, etc.).  Central Bank authorization is required for some foreign exchange operations.  For imports, Tunisian law prohibits the release of hard currency from Tunisia as payment prior to the presentation of documents establishing that the merchandise has been shipped to Tunisia.

In 2019, the dinar depreciated 10 percent against the dollar and 5 percent against the Euro.

Non-residents are exempt from most exchange regulations.  Under foreign currency regulations, non-resident companies are defined as having:

  • Non-resident individuals who own at least 66 percent of the company’s capital, and
  • Capital fully financed by imported foreign currency.

Foreign investors may transfer funds at any time and without prior authorization.  This applies to principal as well as dividends or interest capital.  The procedures for repatriation are complex, however, and within the discretion of the Central Bank.  The difficulty in the repatriation of capital and dividends is one of the most frequent complaints of foreign investors in Tunisia.

There are no limits to the amount of foreign currency that visitors can bring to Tunisia to exchange into local currency.  However, amounts exceeding the equivalent of 25,000 dinars (USD 8,500) must be declared to customs at the port of entry.  Non-residents must also report foreign currency imports if they wish to re-export or deposit more than 5,000 dinars (USD 1,700).  Tunisian customs authorities may require currency exchange receipts on exit from the country.

Remittance Policies

Tunisia’s 2016 Investment Law enshrines the right of foreign investors to transfer abroad funds in foreign currency with minimal interference from the Central Bank.  Ministerial decree no. 417 of May 2018 stipulates that the Central Bank of Tunisia must decide on foreign currency remittance requests within 90 days.   In case of no response, the investor may contact the Higher Investment Authority, which will give final approval within 30 days.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

By decree no.85-2011, the GOT established a sovereign wealth fund, “Caisse des Depots et des Consignations” (CDC), to boost private sector investment and promote small and medium enterprise (SME) development.  It is a state-owned investment entity responsible for independently managing a portion of the state’s financial assets.  The CDC was set up with support from the French CDC and the Moroccan CDG (Caisse de Depots et de Gestion) and became operational in early 2012.  The original impetus for the creation of the CDC was to manage assets confiscated from the former ruling family as independently as possible in order to serve the public interest.  More information is available about the CDC at www.cdc.tn .  As of June 2019, CDC had 7.7 billion dinars (USD 2.6 billion) in assets and 317 million dinars (USD 110 million) in capital.

All CDC investments are made locally, with the objective of boosting investments in the interior regions and promoting SME development.

The CDC is governed by a supervisory committee composed of representatives from different ministries and chaired by the Minister of Finance.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Tunisia has a labor force of approximately 5.4 million.  The official 2019 unemployment rate was 15.5 percent.  However, the registered unemployment for the fourth quarter of 2019 was 14.9 percent.  Approximately 28.2 percent of the unemployed are university graduates, of which three quarters are women.  Official statistics do not count underemployment or provide disaggregated data by geography.  As Tunisia works on creating a sustainable economy for its new democracy, professionals, such as IT engineers, doctors, and professors, continue to seek employment abroad.  Tunisian interlocuters maintain that around 70 percent of Tunisian young professionals seek employment in other countries after graduation.  Additionally, a World Bank study estimated that 41.5 percent of the Tunisian workforce is employed in the parallel economy.  Official statistics do not count underemployment.

Over the past two decades, the structure of the workforce remained relatively stable, and as of the last quarter of 2019, it stood at 13.8 percent in agriculture and fishing, 33.9 percent in industry, and 51.8 percent in commerce and services.  Tunisia has developed its industrial sector and created low-skilled employment, although several manufacturers struggle to find qualified technical workers.   Tunisian law provides workers with the right to organize, form and join unions, and bargain collectively.  The law prohibits anti-union discrimination by employers and retribution against strikers.  The government generally enforces applicable laws.  Currently, four national labor confederations operate in Tunisia.  The oldest and largest is the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT — Union Générale des Travailleurs Tunisiens).  The others are the General Confederation of Tunisian Workers (CGTT — Confederation Générale des Travailleurs Tunisiens), the Tunisian Labor Union (UTT — Union Tunisienne du Travail), created in May 2011, and the Tunisian Labor Organization (OTT — Organisation Tunisienne du Travail), created in August 2013.  UGTT claims about one third of the salaried labor force as members, although more are covered under UGTT-negotiated contracts.  Wages and working conditions are established through triennial collective bargaining agreements between the UGTT, the national employers’ association (UTICA — Union Tunisienne de l’Industrie, du Commerce, et de l’Artisanat), and the GOT.  These tripartite agreements set industry standards and generally apply to about 80 percent of the private sector labor force, regardless of whether individual companies are unionized.  The regional tripartite commissions also arbitrate labor disputes.

Public Wage Increase:  On February 7, 2019, the GOT and UGTT reached an agreement to increase salaries for civil servants commensurate with the October 20, 2018 increase for SOE employees.  Depending on grades and positions, increases ranged from 66 to 90 dinars per month, retroactively covering calendar years 2017 and 2018.  In July and August 2019, the GOT and UGTT negotiated a general pay increase for civil servants, to include a special increase for skilled professionals, covering the 2019 calendar year.  Negotiated increases ranged from 70 to 90 dinars a month depending on the grade and position.

Minimum Wage Increase:  On July 14, 2018, former Prime Minister Youssef Chahed decided to raise the minimum wage (SMIG) by 6 percent retroactively, starting from May 2018, for the 48- and 40-hour work week regimes.  For the 48-hour regime, the minimum wage is 378.56 dinars per month.  For the 40-hour regime, it is 323.43 dinars per month.  In May 2019, Chahed approved an increase in the monthly minimum wage for industrial and agricultural workers to 403 dinars.  The minimum wage exceeds the poverty income level of 180 dinars per month.

Investment Climate Statements
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