There are three basic types of exchange rate regimes: pegged exchange, floating exchange and pegged-float exchange. For many countries, there is often a distinction between the official exchange rate policy, and the actual (de facto) policy implemented. While some countries, particularly developing economies, may claim to have a floating exchange, they often intervene in the foreign exchange market to stabilise their currency.
A pegged exchange rate is a regime applied when a government or central bank ties the official currency exchange rate to another country’s currency or the price of gold. The purpose of a pegged exchange rate system is to keep a currency’s value within a narrow band. Pegged exchange rate regimes lower exchange rate volatility, provide greater certainty for importers and exporters and help the government maintain more moderate levels of inflation. However, pegged regimes limit the extent to which central banks can adjust interest rates for economic growth and prevent adjustments for currencies that become under or overvalued.
A floating exchange rate regime is where the currency price is set by the market based on the supply and demand relative to other currencies. The main advantages of floating rates are monetary independence that allows automatic adjustments to trade shocks. This flexibility, however, brings additional currency volatility and in economies where the financial system is not sufficiently developed enough to allow for adequate currency hedging instruments, this volatility could be a significant concern for investors. A pegged currency removes the ability of a country to have an effective monetary policy; rather, the focus is on maintaining the target exchange rate.
One of the significant disadvantages of a fixed exchange rate regime is that interest rate hikes in the anchor country currency may also strengthen the pegged currency. This artificially increases the wealth of the pegged currency country due to reasons other than improved growth, which is problematic in the long-run. Most African countries have a pegged exchange rate regime, with conventional pegs being the most popular. Due to the prevalence of the CFA-Franc zone, the Euro is the dominant anchor currency, followed by the US Dollar and the South African Rand.
While a pegged exchange rate may provide lower exchange rate volatility, it is unable to protect a currency from major currency shocks as seen in Nigeria and Angola, following the significant depreciation of the oil price in 2015. In Nigeria, the central bank managed to keep the peg at approximately 200 naira to the dollar, until foreign reserves ran dry in June 2016 and forced a 30% devaluation in the currency.
An artificial currency peg also creates parallel rates as few parties are willing to transact at the official rate. This leads to significantly decreased levels of liquidity.
Euro and dollar shortages will follow as those with a hard currency are also not willing to buy local currency at the official rate. Before the oil price collapse in 2015, Nigeria had USD 43bn in reserves. By June 2016 following efforts by the Central Bank of Nigeria to support the naira, total reserves decreased to below
USD 27bn. Enforced official rates are significantly different from a currency’s fair value and lead to foreign currency shortages that prevent the repatriation of
A similar situation occurred in Angola over this period. Although Angola had
significantly higher foreign reserves going into the crisis, which enabled it to
manage the collapse in the oil price, the country was not able to avoid a currency
The situation in Egypt was very similar to that in Nigeria in 2015, facing high levels
of debt, a foreign currency crisis and in need of an IMF bailout. However, unlike
Nigeria, Egypt took the decision to float its currency in 2016. Today, inflation has
decreased to single digits, down from highs above 30% and portfolio inflows
increased substantially. According to the UN, Egypt also received the most foreign
direct investment (FDI) in 2018 than any other African country.
As African financial markets deepen, more countries are likely to float their
currencies as a natural consequence of increased international capital flows and
less reliance on government intervention. For now, pegged exchange regimes
remain in favour with the vast majority of African countries. During relatively
stable economic times this brings a degree of price stability to investors, provided
the country in question has sufficient reserves to be able to defend the peg during
Nigeria still has the largest economy in Africa, followed by South Africa and The Maghreb region. Across all countries, agriculture, manufacturing and the wholesale and retail trade sectors contribute the most to GDP.
The cost of moving goods domestically can also be up to five times higher in Africa than in the US, but the African Continental Free Trade Agreement seeks to tackle challenges facing trade within Africa.