The Transfer Problem Surfaces in Sub-Saharan Africa: Net Foreign Assets, Financial Liberalization and Real Exchange Rates

Oyakhilome Ibhagui

Abstract


This paper presents new links among net foreign assets (NFA), financial liberalization, and the real exchange rates in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), utilizing a testable theoretical model inspired by Lane and Milesi-Ferreti (2004) and newly constructed data sets for real exchange rates, net foreign assets, and financial liberalization. First, we check for the existence of a transfer problem – the hypothesis that increases in NFA strengthen the real exchange rates. Second, we examine how real exchange rates have reacted to financial liberalization in SSA. Finally, we explore whether financial liberalization dampens the effects of a transfer problem. Empirical analysis, using cross-country data, confirms the existence of a transfer problem that decreases with increases in trade openness in SSA. We also find that, overall, countries with financial liberalization have more depreciated real exchange rates and that financial liberalization dampens the transfer problem so that the semi-elasticity of NFA becomes negative, implying that financially liberalized SSA countries that experience an increase in net external liabilities would eventually require an appreciated, rather than depreciated, real exchange rate. The results are robust to various model specifications and estimation techniques, inclusion of other determinants of real exchange rates and consideration of endogeneity.


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