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Moderator: Robert Mosbacher, Jr., President and CEO, Overseas Private Investment Corporation
Panel 2 Participants:
Luis Alberto Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank
Shari Berenbach, President and CEO, Calvert Foundation
Papa Ndiaye, CEO, Advanced Finance Investment Group
Fred Bergsten, Director, Peterson Institute for International Economics
Thank you once again to our panelists.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the moderator for our next panel, Robert Mosbacher, Jr., President and CEO of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
Robert Moshbacher, Jr.: …And earlier in the economic growth and development of economies alongside official development assistance and the like. The President spoke very forcefully at noon today about the importance of trade. And with trade goes certain complements that help those in countries that have committed to open markets and free trade realize the real potential of reducing barriers and pursuing export markets.
And so we like to support free trade agreements, and countries that have made that commitment, by trying to drive investment into those countries as quickly as possible after the commitment has been made, rather than waiting for the private sector to make its way to those markets, many of which are very small and not as attractive in the short term as they eventually will become. So we have looked at ways that we could complement commitments to free trade and there are a couple that immediately come to mind and that we will address here through this panel. As most of you know, credit is not available for anyone but the largest corporate blue chip customers in most of the emerging markets or developing world. And so we are very much committed at OPIC to helping create access to credit on terms that particular micro-borrowers and then small and medium-size businesses can use and afford. And so we look at term credit, we look at three and five and seven year facilities where we're sharing risk with the local financial institutions and encouraging them to enable small businesses to buy small pieces of equipment which otherwise would not have been affordable.
Examples of the kind of thing we've been doing are our commitment to CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, again, small markets that would not necessarily have driven or attracted investment as strongly in the short term as they should. And so in the last three years, we've helped drive or support over $1 billion of investment in the Central America Free Trade Agreement region. And we've focused on a very important political imperative, which is we're in the middle of a battle of ideas. The question is, is free trade and are open markets for the benefit of all citizens in these countries or are they mostly for the benefit of the people who've already established themselves, are making money and are going to make more money. And as a consequence, we argue with other political leaders in this hemisphere about what's the better system, what's the better approach.
Well we've taken that to heart and said, to the extent that we support micro-finance, to the extent that we support small and medium-size enterprise finance, enabling small businesses, again, to expand and create jobs and generate hope, then we're proving a point that free trade is not just about helping wealthy people get wealthier, it's about average citizens enjoying the fruits and benefits of their commitment to open markets. A couple of examples I'll give you, in terms of the support for SME credit, we recently at our Board supported a $180 million commitment in SME credit that will be done through a variety of banks, all in Central America and $180 million of lending in those markets are significant sums. Another example is one that we've done with my good friend, Ambassador Moreno, Luis Alberto Moreno at the Interoperability-American Development Bank. This is a tri-partied effort in which OPIC is supporting loans through banks that are particularly $100,000 and less, and we're sharing the risk of these loans with local institutions.
The Inter American Development Bank is doing something that's critically important, which is helping these banks that are finally getting into SME lending with the technical assistance to understand how you evaluate credits on the basis of cash flow and reputation as opposed to the more traditional collateral. And then the U.S. Treasury Department is trying to help governments look at the impediments they have to small business lending that prevent banks or other financial institutions from doing this to enable them to get out and aggressively do it. So that's a great partnership. Finally, it's not just access to credit, it's access to capital, private equity. And so OPIC has made a very firm commitment to increasing access to capital markets for businesses that are on the ground in targeted areas of the world where we have priorities in this administration. And so in Africa, for instance, it was mentioned this morning by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that OPIC has helped support $1.6 billion of private equity investments in sub-Saharan Africa.
I think we're the biggest supplier/provider/supporter of private equity investment on the African sub-continent. And we're doing the same in other parts of the world. And so the panel we have today, I think, is perfectly suited to speak to these issues of free trade, open markets as well as specific access to credit and access to capital issues.
Our first panelist, as I mentioned, is Ambassador Luis Alberto Moreno, who has been president of the Inter American Development Bank since October of 2005. Before joining the IDB, the Ambassador served as the Colombian ambassador to the United States and then had a distinguished career before that in both the private sector as well as other public sector positions. He will be able to give us a perspective of a multi-lateral lending institution and establishment that is deeply, deeply involved in the heart and soul of Latin America.
Second, from the micro-finance perspective, is Shari Berenbach, who served as president and CEO of the Calvert Foundation where she currently manages over $200 billion in community investment assets, raised from over 2,000 private investors. Shari brings us more than 20 years of experience in finance and will provide us with valuable insight spanning from the importance of micro-finance but also how do you move from the micro-finance category into the small and medium-size business finance.
Third, as an example of a private equity fund manager and one who has a distinguished track record, is Papa Ndiaye, who is CEO of Advanced Finance and Investment Group, and he's been there since 2005. AFIG, as it is known, manages investment funds targeting Africa and emerging markets. He has launched this year a $150 million fund focused on west and central Africa.
He will be able to speak to the challenges of private equity but also the great opportunities and the impact that private equity can have on growth in emerging markets.
And finally, we're delighted to be joined by Dr. C. Fred Bergsten who has been Director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics since its creation in 1981. The institute is the only major research institution in the United States devoted to international economic issues. He will provide us with insight on the importance of trade and investment liberalization from the public policy standpoint. Fred has a very distinguished record in both the public and private sectors, and so we're fortunate to have him with us.
So we will start with remarks from Ambassador Moreno.
Luis Alberto Moreno: Thank you very much.
Bob, it's an honor to be on this panel and it's an honor to speak about an issue that is at the heart of what really the gains of trade should be, which is how to integrate both trade, development and finance. And I think the first thing I'd like to say is that one of the more important things certainly a development bank like ours needs to do is that in the midst of this crisis it's very important to never forget the long-term view. And as one looks at the long-term view, one of the things that certainly has happened in Latin America is that we're highly resilient to the impacts of much of what was going on really in Europe and the United States over the last year and couple of months. But it was after really the case of Lehman Brothers that we started to see a different kind of situation in Latin America and basically what are the consequences of drying up of liquidity, liquidity around trade facilitation and it's something that you've done tremendous work in getting a lot of investment. You know, one of the interesting things is Latin America last year received loans of over $100 billion, the highest ever.
And really it is a hemisphere that has benefited a lot from trade. Regardless of where the politics and the rhetoric, the rhetoric on trade is always very difficult here and everywhere else. The reality is that the gains of trade and of globalization are more than evident in Latin America in the past five years. Never has the region moved in the way it's moved over the last five years in reducing extreme poverty, in terms of sustaining growth for a long period of time. And certainly we are at a crossroads today in assuring that more liquidity will continue to flow. And some of the things that we have been doing is basically to lead and effort with other development banks to make sure that that growth that's been going on in Latin America will be about four and a half percent this year. Certainly there are lot of downward pressures, as we look at what growth would look like next year, which probably will be closer to three percent, perhaps lower. It's to assure that liquidity is there. So we launched a $6 billion facility to basically help governments basically look at ways to assure that SME financing does not dry up, that banks continue to lend for trade purposes, to make sure that the gears of trade continue.
And that effort, we complemented with a number of institutions that do a similar work like we do, which is the Andean Corporation, the Latin American Fund of Research, certainly the World Bank and its private arm, which is the IFC. And we're looking of how to prevent many of the lessons that Latin America underwent. We had in 25 years 31 financial crises. That's a pretty amazing record. No financial crisis - and Fred is a big student of this - cost less than ten percent of GDP.
So the question here is, how do we stay with the message of trade, which is fundamental and gains of trade are obvious. But as trade barriers went down, we all know that there is such a wide field of opportunity that needs to be assured. Along the lines of many of the things you were saying, the things that you have been doing with OPIC and mortgage-backed securities in creating housing opportunities like you've done in Mexico and Honduras and (inaudible) it is those kinds of instruments that will keep the trade mechanic going.
And basically to talk about financial democratization, which is nothing other than for big institutions, big banks, to understand that it is in the micro-finance world where they have huge opportunity and here I know we'll hear much more about this, but certainly the growth in micro-financing in Latin America is astonish. And this is something we've been working on. I'll just stop there and take questions later on.
Robert Moshbacher, Jr.: Thank you very much, Luis.
Yes, great, thank you so much.
Shari Berenbach: I'm Shari Berenbach and president and CEO of the Calvert Foundation. We're the sister non-profit of the Calvert Mutual Fund Company, and our specialty is really making it possible for average individuals to channel their investment dollars to micro-finance. And, of course, when we talk about micro-finance and micro-enterprise in these difficult economic times, we all know that micro-finance and micro-enterprise is basically the economic safety net. When jobs are contracted, when the economy is contracted, people turn to self-employment as a means to generate livelihood and to keep their families going. So it may be hard times for the market overall, but it's a boom time for the micro-finance field. And that means that ultimately these micro-entrepreneurs, well they're mostly developing products and services for their local markets, they actually have the potential to become buyers of U.S. manufactured equipment. And so they really have the potential to sort of plug into the trade system in that way. Let me just give you a few examples. For example, there's a 30-year-old woman whose name I'm having a hard time reading here - Garpi Ismael Genoba from Azerbaijan, is living her childhood dream of becoming a dressmaker.
She used a $175 loan, she was able to purchase a sewing machine and expand her business to provide income for her family. Today she has apprentices in almost all the regions of our country and she's employing seven other women. Again, in Nicaragua we can find an example of a Victor Lopez who is now running a tire repair business. His first loan, $500, provided him a small tire remover and an air compressor. After paying off his loan, he applied for another, this time for 800, and was able to purchase an automatic tire remover. Jose now has working capital of nearly $4,000 and his workshop has equipment that no other (inaudible) in the city has. Finally, another example, 27-year-old Cecilia Aviila, has been producing and selling furniture for over four years in Ecuador. Her first loan gave her the ability to purchase tools to start her business. She has since gone through eight loan cycles and currently owns her own furniture workshop with employees and a warehouse. What I know all of us recognize about micro-finance is that it's a very simple proposition to be making loans of that scale to very hard working, very focused entrepreneurs.
And it's always to me very impressive to see what people can accomplish with such small amounts of money and how, over time, that allows businesses to grow. So while on the one hand we have these very small micro-enterprises, it's important to recognize that in aggregate, the micro-finance sector is really quite huge. It involves millions of families from around the globe.
There are over 10,000 micro-finance institutions in existence today currently serving more than 100 million micro-borrowers. Countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh and Mexico are among the top ten nations representing close to 30 million borrowers just in those three countries. The World Bank estimates the total micro-enterprise market to be a full billion dollars. As president and CEO of Calvert Foundation, we have been involved in what we think is a very exciting initiative with OPIC and with eBay to make it possible for average people to invest online in micro-finance securities. eBay has recently, adjust last year, launched a new online broker/dealer, called Microplace, that posts micro-finance securities like the Calvert Foundation's community investment note.
Investors can go online and actually buy it for as little as $100. And you can pick which micro-finance institution your dollars will be channeled to. I want to say that we're very exited that Calvert Foundation was the first issuer of posting our community investment note on this broker/dealer website, but we want to really recognize the fact that OPIC's support in this picture, OPIC has been providing credits for it to Calvert Foundation that allows us to guarantee to the individual borrowers that they will, in fact- individual investors that they will indeed get their dollars back. So in many ways, OPIC has been a very important partner to us as we opened up this market and made it possible for more investors to come in. It is important to see that, in fact, there are great opportunities for investment in the micro-finance field. While I was talking about the size, you know, that 10,000 organizations that are out there and the very large market that exists, there is the recognition that over time this market could be growing to $250 billion.
And there's a perception that today there's about 25 billion that's been channeled to micro-finance institutions, leaving a huge capital gap of more than 225 billion. We're actually very much hoping that it's going to be individual investors, including many of you here in the room, who can go, when you get home, go online, check out Microplace and help to fill that gap.
Robert Moshbacher, Jr.: Thanks, Shari.
Papa Ndiaye: Ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure to be here tonight and certainly an honor. I've been asked to speak about a topic that comes very easy to me because private equity certainly cannot exist or thrive without being in an economy that's open. And without trade and liberalization, basically we can make no returns for our investors. So certainly I'm an avid proponent of trade liberalization from a private equity perspective. For those less familiar with our industry, we- to put it into one sentence, what we do as private equity managers is we source capital from institutional investors that we invest directly into non-listed companies generally. And this basically means that we're an intermediary between the suppliers and the users of capital.
In Africa, specifically, and in the emerging markets more generally private equity ends up being a developmental trade, which is very difficult to understand for some people when you look at all the articles in the press about private equity as this ogre of capitalism that's hurting people and so on.
But in my particular experience, I have to say that I've had first-hand experience seeing private equity really being an accelerator of growth. And the first fund that I worked on certainly is a very good example since it's now fully invested and we can look at the track record of what is done. In 1998, two partners of mine and myself decided to go out and raise $400 million to invest in Africa and people told us three things. Number one, you're never going to raise this capital because no one believes in Africa. Number two, if you raise it, you will not be able to invest it because there's nowhere else, nowhere to invest in Africa. And number three, if you overcome those first two hurdles you will actually not make any returns that are of any significance. Seven years later, we've raised the money, we've invested it in 15 very able companies in Africa and we've exited them successfully, returning 2.5 times the money to our investors. And what we have done then is I've actually taken the lessons from that and put together a group, a team of people, that will learn from that experience how to make it better, how to have better impact in Africa and create this new venture that is called Advance Finance and Investment Group.
And our first funded $150 million capitalization fund that is targeting western central Africa and the idea there really is to do two things. One is to go into one part of the African continent that most people actually historically have been scared to go into or have neglected. Most people go to South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, more fancy destinations. They don't go to Burkina Faso, they don't to go Togo and certainly they don't go into Sao Tomé and places like that. So we decided to target those places but to do it with there's not point being overlay nationalistically enthusiastic or naïve. You have to basically adapt emerging markets' criteria to the global already tested private equity model. So the first thing we did is we became local, as oppose to other funds who were in my previous experience were in Washington flying in and out of Africa.
We were right there right now. We have offices in Dakar, Johannesburg and we're looking to expand into other places. This way, you can actually provide an actual partnership. The capital you provide to the companies is only one part of what you give them to help them grow. You can give them investment banking advice. The entire team has got a Wall Street experience, was U.S. trained, and is able to basically take a lot of the investment banking techniques and be an advisor to the company that we're actually investing in. The second thing that we decided to do is to also team up with other centers of excellence around Africa, either guys who were practitioners, whether it be human resource management, debt provision and so on, to come with us to support some of the companies that we invest in. And the idea is very simple in that when you deal with us, you're dealing with a one-stop shop.
You're not just taking the capital, what some technicians will call basically a venture capital approach, where we're coming in and talking to people about giving them capital but at the same time we're supporting them in all the other parts of the business that will help it grow. And the whole purpose of this is actually to be able to have a diversified impact on the economic growth, as well as even a social impact because with private equity, we basically have an opportunity to improve corporate governance and speed up the transition from the informal to the formal sector.
Whenever we invest in these companies, we actually get on the Board, we have a day-to-day interaction with many of the guys we invest in. We know their families, actually they know our families. It's a very tight partnership process. It's not just money that you're throwing at some people and walking away. We help deepen the capital markets. In the process of creating this fund, we actually launched a number of new products in order to bring in local investors into this, in order also to be able to invest more specifically into African entrepreneurs with a certain vision.
We also, with the private equity investment, we have to upgrade the technology and innovation and also encourage the local ownership because when we invest in a company we want an alignment of interests
We don't just want to come in, be in a situation where we make the money but the entrepreneur doesn't or vice-versa. We either lose together or we win together, and for that the simplest way is to co-own so that you don't have an entrepreneur that's actually an employee of yours but really is a stakeholder next to you. I'll conclude by basically saying that when we look at the current uncertain economic times, we hear all kinds of pronouncements. In my view, some of them are hasty conclusions about implicitly or explicitly pointing to the fact that there should be more regulation, more- less liberalization, all of this leading to more protectionism and so on. And my word basically of advice would be for leaders to sort of be a little careful about doing a one size fits all type of approach. A number of the big positive gains that we've seen in the private sector in Africa are a very direct result of liberalization and more open economies.
I'll give you a very simple example.
In 2001 in Nigeria, the most populous African country with about 150 million people, there were 400,000 phone lines. And this, I'm sure, was a generous statistic. We're really talking about maybe 200,000 to 400,000 phone lines for a population of 150 million. They liberalized the telephone sector by introducing the optioning of a couple of licenses. Between 2001 and today, 2008, Nigeria has now about 50 million subscribers of telephone services. That's the largest market in Africa and one of the largest in the world - seven years - not 20, not 40, seven. Now if one is to extrapolate from that example into another big problem in Africa in the emerging markets, that is power sector, and you said to yourself today you have about 2,000 to 4,000 megawatts of electricity being produced in Nigeria for a demand of about 10,000. What if you liberalized that? What if you let the private sector be unleashed into supporting the government into investing into that sector? When you look at all of that, you become fearful of any wholesale theory about liberalization, pro and against, for a crisis that so far we have seen has not really be linked to Africa in any way, shape or form but the consequences of which may actually turn around and affect it. So I think my last words really are a word of caution, that there is a tremendous amount of opportunity that's continuing to be unleashed.
Private equity in Africa has grown by leaps and bounds, and Rob earlier alluded to some of the statistics from OPIC which are quite astounding. And I think that's true across the board. So I think it's very important for Africa to continue down this path of open markets and liberalization in order for us to continue to do our work and sort of be able to help develop the continent further.
Robert Moshbacher, Jr.: Thank you.
Batting cleanup, Fred Bergsten.
Fred Bergsten: Thanks, Rob. As your cleanup hitter, my assignment is to remind everybody just how important freer trade and international investment are to economic growth and therefore, development throughout the world. And I want to make just three central points. First, it remains the case that no country - repeat, no country - has ever developed successfully without participating actively in the global economy. More openness to trade and foreign investment is always - repeat, always - correlated with faster economic growth. There is no study that shows the contrary, not study that shows that greater openness slows growth or retards the development process. The World Bank has estimated that in the 1990s, countries that reduced their trade barriers grew at an average of about five percent per year, countries that did not reduce their barriers or even increased them grew at less than one and a half percent per year, a difference of more than three-fold.
At our Peterson Institute for International Economics, we have calculated that every increase of ten percentage points in the share of trade in a country's economy increase its annual growth rate by one and a half percentage points, a tremendous amount of leverage from faster trade, more openness to trade, to faster economic growth and per capita benefits for the population. We further asked the question, suppose you could move to global free trade, what would be the effects on the developing countries as a group? And the results are stunning. If you could build on the Doha [inaudible] round and other existing initiatives to literally eliminate all barriers to trade worldwide over, say, the next 15 years, you would literally pull 500 million people out of poverty in the developing world. You would increase annual income in the developing world by over $200 billion per year.
Half those gains would come in agriculture, half would come in manufacturing and services. Half those gains would come from the reduction in barriers in the rich countries toward the poor, which would be a contribution more than double that now provided by all the foreign aid that goes from rich countries to poor. And so, whether you look at it as a benefit for the poor countries, a tool through which the rich countries could put money where their mouth is and truly supporting faster growth and development in the poor countries, more increase in trade flows and openness of trade rank at the top of the list. Conversely, countries and even whole regions that have failed to globalize have lagged. Africa's share of trade and investment have dropped to miniscule levels and its growth could increase sharply with even a modest reversal of those trends. The Middle East, which did as well as Latin America, even Asia, in the first post-war decades, has declined steadily for 30 years, despite the dramatic rise in the price of oil largely because it has de-globalized in an era of globalization.
The Middle East share of world trade has dropped about 75 percent in the last 25 years, and the 22 nations of the Arab League with a population of 260 million, we see half as much inward-direct investment as Sweden with a population of nine million. So the gains from trade and investment are huge and the exception to the problems I mentioned in the Middle East demonstrate the point. When Jordan signed a free trade agreement with the United States, which was implemented in 2001, over its first five years Jordan's exports to the United States increased 30-fold and the composition of those exports shifted toward more capital-intensive goods, creating more labor and modernizing the economy in a dramatic way. So more trade, more foreign investment are dramatic beneficiaries payoff for increased growth and development. The second major conclusion is that some of the most remarkable development successes in history are countries that have consciously used globalization, especially formal economic trade ties with the United States and more broadly, to overcome domestic resistance to effective reform strategies.
Mexico sought the NAFTA agreement primarily to complete, and then lock in, the liberalization of its domestic as well as external economic policies.
China, the greatest development story in human history, joined the World Trade Organization largely so it could use the international rules to override internal opposition to its reforms. Egyptian economic reformers have sought a free trade agreement with the United States, unfortunately not yet realized, in order to overcome internal resistance to reform that economy. The lesson is that sharp increases in openness, especially if they can be managed through major initiatives that become national political priorities, can produce huge breakthroughs for development strategies and subsequent performance. Finally, Rob, you mentioned, quite rightly, the link between foreign investment and trade that OPIC does an admirable job in promoting those linkages. We've studied at our institute how that combination of direct investment and trade worked in specific cases to promote development and growth. And there the effects are particularly powerful. Lesotho was represented on the past panel and we've demonstrated how direct investment, plus trade liberalization - the US AGOA program in that case - generate over half a billion dollars in additional exports, creating almost 70,000 new jobs - very big numbers in an economy as small as Lesotho.
There was discussion of CAFTA and we've looked at two of those countries. In El Salvador income and direct investment, plus trade liberalization through CAFTA have generated well over $2 billion in additional exports, creating almost 200,000 new jobs. In the Dominican Republic, the combination of inward direct investment, trade liberalization have generated almost $5 billion of additional exports and almost 200,000 new jobs. Indeed, in the Dominican Republic, the largest numbers of those new direct investment plants are in electronics, electrical equipment, medical equipment, metal products, data processing rather than simply the garments and footwear that had been the case in the earlier stage of that country's development strategy. So the third conclusion is, again, trade and direct investment are very important and positive complements.
They drive growth and development and I very strongly applaud this conference and the record of the U.S. government over the last few years in promoting those two critical sources of sustainable development.
Robert Moshbacher, Jr.: Thank you very much, Fred.
I'm going to ask each of you a question or two and ask you to respond.
First, we had a question from the audience about how relevant some of the multilateral lending institutions are in today's world, charging that there seems to be a lack of accountability among some of these institutions, that there is a much longer timeline in processing loans, and that often there are policies that are imposed that become so burdensome that, from a practical standpoint, if you're a private sector business, it's something tantamount to a root canal to try and borrow money from some of these institutions.
I hear a little bit of that at OPIC, although happily not that much. And I suspect you hear a little bit of it at the IDB, but how relevant are the international financial institutions going to be over the next fear years do you think?
Luis Alberto Mareno: Well this is a very important question. I'm sure it's not directed toward the IDB but to the other development banks. Look, the reality is this. Development banks need to adopt to 21st Century realities. And that's not an easy process because there is a combination of factors that make it difficult. Some are related to governance. The World Bank is owned by a hundred plus governments, the IDB 47 now, soon will be 48. And the realty is that we need to quickly begin to understand that to remain relevant, speed matters, the quality of projects that you do matter and, more importantly, something President Bush alluded to, which is financing projects that are, one, sustainable and two, that are effective. We are not a conventional bank. Any development bank is not a traditional, conventional bank but more importantly, should have its expertise around knowledge. We, at the IDB as an example, underwent a profound process of change.
It took us over a year, it was very painful, many people left the bank. And we were able to, in the process, renew and bring about a lot of the leadership that I think is needed for today's development challenges in Latin America.
And more importantly, these are associated with a number of things, what we call in the development world country systems which are nothing other than what are the quality of the institutions that you are dealing with on the other side. Development doesn't happen if there are not good institutions, so you do you build up those institutions matters. Secondly, how do you begin to develop new financial products that are attuned with the needs of countries. And let me give you an example here, and I don't know that this is - I'm no expert on Africa - but I think these things in Asia certainly have happened. In the last few years, many countries began to de-leverage or demonetize a lot of their lending away from dollar-denominated debt into local currency. You help with a lot of that through OPIC.
And that means that you've got to have instruments that basically are attuned to those realities that help mitigate certain kinds of both credit and interest rate risk in countries or associated to commodities in others. The other part is how you have, certainly from the way we look at it in Latin America, Latin America today is a very heterogeneous group of countries between the Latin American and Caribbean countries. One thing is Haiti, one thing is Brazil, is very different kind of challenges. So to begin to address those challenges, you need to have more forces on the field with more capability to respond to climates. So in putting all of this together, certainly the private sector plays a hugely important role. We, for instance, have a number of windows under which we deal with the private sector. Beginning with a grant facility where we do close to $150 million a year, basically devoted to, on the one hand, strengthening regulatory environments and provide grants through this mechanism that it's only 1/3 of what we do there.
But the majority is really in dealing with things like Shari was mentioning in many of her examples, which is how do you help civil society groups, small and medium enterprises, micro-enterprises, which are trying to get, you know, their business up and running. And some of the things she was mentioning are at the heart of really employment generation as well, because the small and medium enterprises in Latin America represent about 60 percent of employment.
It depends, country to country, but on average somewhere around there. Secondly, how do you help finance or provide a layer of financing for major projects?
So let's talk about a gas pipeline or major energy project or that too could be in the sea of public/private partnerships where most of the infrastructure is being build today on Latin America.
Again, that's an area for the private sector. We've been very successful in attracting, especially these days, a lot of people to come into the bank which have an expertise in project financing to deal with this. And let me say here that hard times basically corresponds to those also of our commercial bank. In other words, we can turn a project from beginning to end anywhere from 90 to 100 days. So, you know, that's in keeping with other institutions. I know we've had our conversations in this regard, but I think little by little we become, as it should be, increasingly more relevant, but always having in mind that the nature of development banks is around development effectiveness. And it's around development and we can never lose that mission which is, in essence, that of (inaudible).
Robert Moshbacher, Jr.: In other words, don't crowd out private sector institutions that are trying to do the same work. You ought to be filling the niche, additional niche, of being developmentally official and mitigating risk.
Fred, you wanted to make a comment?
Fred Bergsten: Yeah, just quickly, in a way the flip side of that point. There has developed in recent years a kind of conventional wisdom that the multilateral development banks are not needed anymore because the developing countries can attract so much private capital. Well, the events of the last few months suggest that all that private capital that was going into the developing countries may not be going in quite so fast over the next months or even years. There may be a second wave to the current crisis. We're already seeing the start of it where capital flows to emerging markets, even some of the best performing emerging markets, slow down very sharply. Flows to the poorest countries may slow down even more sharply than that. That reminds us that, for all the virtues of private capital, it's also very volatile. And there are periods, and we're going through one now, where they cannot be counted on and the multilateral development banks with their steady flow of official assistance, tapping the markets but with official support to assure that that finance continues to flow, I think remind us of their very important and indeed central role.
Robert Moshbacher, Jr.: Papa, I know you wanted to comment on this.
Let me also ask you, because as an American institution that has done a lot in Africa over the last few years, I am often asked in Africa why is it more American private sector companies don't see the opportunity here and aren't here in the size and number and scale that you'd like. Now, you probably like that fact because it means there's more opportunity for you. But why do you think there aren't as much in the way of American private capital investment in Africa at this stage as there is from some other places?
Papa Ndiaye: Yeah, I think before I touch that, quickly I wanted to underscore the importance of the development finance institutions even in the business that I'm in, particular for Africa that I can speak for. Most of the major private equity fund initiatives in Africa were always first and foremost backed by development finance institutions. The first fund that it refer to, 90 percent of our investors were actual development finance institutions. And then the private sector kind of follows and says all this, they're doing it, then maybe since they know Africa better that maybe we shouldn't be worried.
And the second fund that we're raising, same thing. And as you know, Rob, OPIC was one of the first institutions that stepped up and backed us. And on the back of that, other private sector investors started talking to us and saying, “Well if you're talking to OPIC or if OPIC is supporting you, maybe I don't need to do as much work.” So basically it comes down to that. And so that, I think, is very important to mention. Now, regarding the U.S. and Africa, as you were saying, I think we should probably look at who is in Africa today and why they're there and what can we learn from that or not learn from that. If you look at a number of the European institutions that are investing directly in Africa, these institutions were investing in Africa even during colonial times and then created a whole infrastructure to support them.
French institutional investors, direct investors in Africa, have French banks in Africa linked to Paris that actually follow them, provide them great finance and so on and so forth. They also have a certain historical track record. That should not be what should stop U.S. institution investors because I think if the likes of OPIC are present on the field, that actually would have much more of a positive role in brining U.S. institutions than selling Africa, which is very important, but a lot of people focus on selling Africa and saying it's not so bad, having some good article, there's some good returns. But private sector is a lot more skittish and scared than certainly we want to admit to ourselves. So I think when we see, you know, kind of an advance army, that usually helps a lot.
That's the first point. The second point that is quite important regarding the lessons for the U.S. institutions investing in Africa is also the psychological distance. When you're in Europe, you open any television, any radio, before the end of the day you'll get news on Africa on a fairly regular stream. So it's part of the culture of people to be aware of what's going on. You can be in Washington for days, except for a couple of catastrophes, you actually will be kind of cut off. And I think the issue of information is really the next big barrier.
I think once people get that information, they tend to get more comfortable. I don't think it's really an issue of distance because, you know, U.S. investors are all over in Russia and different places farther from here than Africa. But I think its information and the actual U.S. institution government infrastructure that supports these investors in country.
Robert Moshbacher, Jr.: Okay, Shari, I know you've worked on trying to help micro-businesses sort of graduate into SME business, what are some of the major impediments and what do you see as the opportunities in that regard?
Shari Berenbach: Well actually I think this is there's a number of very promising developments that will, I think, can help to serve to facilitate micro-businesses growing to the SME sector. And there's a couple of factors behind this. On one hand, many MFIs are moving to becoming regulated entities. The might have started out as an NGO or non-government organization, but an increasing number of them are going about filing and registering and becoming full commercial banks.
And once they become commercial banks, they really begin to recognize that while they can do a certain amount of their business in just standard micro-finance loans, that there really is an opportunity for them to grow with their clients and to, therefore, help finance an increasingly larger micro-entrepreneur become into a small business man. Part of that as well has to do with product diversification. Most micro-finance loans are working capital loans for inventory and they are very relatively short term. However, for that growth to an SME off our a small/medium enterprise, often there's a need for term financing, the five, seven year financing. And that's really much better.
The commercial banking sector is much better suited for that. The other thing that's happening is that because micro-finance has been so successful you're seeing commercial banks working down to that market. And once again, on their way down to the micro-entrepreneur, they're finding that there are increasing number of SME opportunities and are starting to look at that sector as well.
So between the financial sector coming from the bottom up to the commercial banking sector kind of meeting them in the ground, I think that there will be increasing opportunities for the kind of longer term financing and other sort of financial support and requirements that will allow micro-entrepreneurs to become small and medium enterprises.
Robert Moshbacher, Jr.: Another question - the number of micro-finance institutions has proliferated dramatically and now there are common sort of terms used about wanting to focus not on the first tier and second tier, but third and fourth tier institutions to try to penetrate a little bit deeper into the need and yet that might raise some concerns about quality control.
Can you speak to that?
Shari Berenbach: Sure, that's the bread and butter.
My business is analyzing the different kinds of micro-finance institutions, where is there good credit risk and social impact because obviously we're doing this lending not just to get the money out the door but because we're concerned about the families and households that benefit from these capital flows. When I first started in micro-finance 25 years ago or so, it was beyond our imagination that you would see the kind of robust micro-finance sector that has grown today.
And even ten years ago, at that point we would often look around and say that there's really only a dozen or two that would be considered bankable. Today those bankable institutions really are now that class of regulated entities that are reaching substantial scale. And behind them there is another- and today that first couple dozen will now be 50 or 75 or 100 MFIs. And behind them there are several hundred MFIs that have kind of grown up from the NGO level that are still non-bank financial institutions, NGOs, but they are operating at a certain scale and efficiency that they really are ready to begin borrowing from international markets. And we call those the tier two MFIs. My job, of course, is to define which ones are true tier two and which ones are the more nascent organizations that may have good intentions but aren't really ready to borrow from the markets.
Robert Moshbacher, Jr.: Thank you.
Last question, Fred there are predictions about continued - past this crisis - continued economic growth in emerging markets but also predictions about growing inequality. And you have such compelling statistics on the benefit of trade, what is it though that will go at this issue or concern about growing inequality in these societies that are benefiting from trade at certain levels of society but perhaps not others?
Fred Bergsten: I think every country, including the United States incidentally, has to make sure that it has programs in place to promote a reasonably equitable distribution of the gains from greater trade and international investment. Globalization is under attack. We know domestically here, in some quarters at least, that it's under attack in lots of other countries including those who have benefited the most from it, like China. So it's increasingly clear, two things are increasingly clear.
One is that, even when increased trade and globalization widen income disparities within countries, that the overall economic benefits to the country as a whole are more than enough to offset that so that the country gains and even if the lower income groups don't again as much proportionally, they still benefit. So it's still good for them to have open trade and increased globalization. But that still doesn't always quiet the political concerns and the genuine social worries about equity of distribution. So what countries need to do is realize that they do get very large benefits from integrating into the world economy, earmarked in essence a small percentage of those aggregate national economic benefits to help spread the wealth. And that means two things.
It means better safety nets for the people who are dislocated as a result of trade and investment flows, better - in our case - better unemployment insurance programs, better health insurance programs, better trade adjustment assistance programs. But more fundamentally, it means further improvements in your education and training systems so that all of your population is able to take advance of globalization rather than feel victimized by it. We should do everything we can, of course, in our country and in poorer countries to provide across the board high quality education and training for our population in any event, but the need to take advantage of the benefits of more training, more investment, more globalization, and the need to provide a sustainable domestic political foundation for those openness policies adds significantly to the case, and I think are imperative for practically every government around the world at this point in time.
Robert Moshbacher, Jr.: Thank you.
Well let me thank my panel.
Ambassador Moreno, Shari Berenbach, Papa Ndiaye and Fred Bergsten, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.