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African industrialist launches million-dollar venture capital fund for African entrepreneurs
November 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

African industrialist Adam Molai
African industrialist Adam Molai

African industrialist Adam Molai has launched a $1-million fund to provide entrepreneurs with capital to kickstart or expand their enterprises, in a massive boost for start-up businesses in Africa,it has been revealed.

 The JUA [sunrise in KiSwahili] Kickstarter Fund will provide successful applicants with funds – to launch or grow their businesses – as well as mentoring and guidance.

Entrepreneurs from across Africa are invited to apply.

The entire application process is electronic and funds are expected to be disbursed to successful applicants within 12 weeks of their shortlisting, in a first for Africa.

 It is reported that while SMMEs are indispensable for Africa’s economic recovery from Covid-19 devastation, raising start-up capital is one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs on the continent, with banks requiring collateral that most of them do not have, studies show.

Another big challenge is the absence of mentoring.

Molai, who has successfully started several enterprises across Africa and whose TRT Investments had $125-million of assets under management as of end 2019, says a desire to inspire the Continent’s entrepreneurial generation was behind the creation of the fund.

“Without entrepreneurs, economies cannot grow and countries cannot advance. But African entrepreneurs unfortunately do not get the support they need to thrive for a myriad of reasons. Yet Africa is full of enterprising people.

“Wherever there is adversity, there is opportunity. Africa is rife with adversity, wherever you turn business prospects are in abundance. Entrepreneurs provide solutions to societal challenges, whilst creating space for the advancement of their communities. I feel that Africa is so much more open and it is full of so much more opportunity than you would find elsewhere. I want to do everything in my power to ensure that this potential is cultivated and unleashed.”

Molai says the inspiration to create the JUA FUND was to highlight the importance of African businesspeople, tangibly demonstrating their confidence in the talent and entrepreneurial capacity that is within the Continent.

“When people see Africans investing in our own environment, they feel more confident to invest alongside us. Confidence breeds confidence. And I am nothing if not confident in the future of Africa and in what we can collectively achieve,” he says.

“For decades we’ve looked to governments to create a conducive environment for entrepreneurship to thrive in Africa. Governments alone will not achieve this without entrepreneurs also investing into creating more entrepreneurs. For true success, there is need for this symbiotic approach buttressed by supportive policies,” adds Molai.   

Molai says one of the critical differentiators of the fund will be how fast money is disbursed to successful applicants.

“Cash flow is essential to the survival of small and emerging businesses. Studies have shown that cash flow is one of the major reasons why small and emerging businesses fail within the first two to five years. So, we have committed to ensuring disbursement to successful applicants within 12 weeks,” he says.

Molai says he hopes the JUA FUND, as well as his and other successful entrepreneurs’ experiences, will inspire in young Africans the desire to start their own enterprises and not wait to seek out jobs.

“Unfortunately, too many young people today access opportunities to higher education, study for jobs, as youth unemployment continues to rise – producing a schooled, unskilled and unemployed generation. Others don’t pursue education or entrepreneurship because they think that becoming part of political patronage networks is an easier path to wealth.

“This attitude kills the inspiration, the desire to dream, create and build something out of very little resources or nothing. I believe this is one of the greatest threats to our continent’s economic growth ambitions, and I am hoping that the JUA FUND will play its part in transforming Africa’s entrepreneurial landscape,” says Molai.

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Emirates Airlines “still interested in flying to Mozambique”
November 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Jorge Joaquim

Emirates Airlines. one of the largest airlines in the world, remains interested in providing flights to Mozambique, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Mozambique, Khalid Shohail, said in an interview with Notícias. 

Shohail said that Emirates should have been flying to the country since June, but restrictions to contain the spread of covid-19 had delayed the start of flights.

Emirates will fly from Dubai, via Maputo, to Gaborone in Botswana, and teams from the Mozambican government and the company are currently working to get the flights off the ground soon, the paper reported.

The go-ahead for Emirates flights to Maputo had been given after the company had completed a commercial viability study.

In recent years, several international airlines have expressed an interest in operating in Mozambique.

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Lux Afrique Group opens Africa’s first luxury e-commerce boutique, Lux Afrique Boutique
November 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
Alexander Amosu, Founder of Lux Afrique
Delivering to all 54 countries in Africa, within a standard delivery time of 3 to 5 days.

The Lux Afrique Group , in keeping with its pioneering spirit, will open the virtual doors to Africa’s very first online luxury multi-brand e-commerce store, the Lux Afrique Boutique , on 25 November 2020. This exclusive online shopping destination will offer clients from the African continent and around the world, the most luxurious brands in fashion, jewellery, watches, home, technology and food. Says Alexander Amosu, Founder of Lux Afrique “Pretty much every part of the world has a luxury e-commerce platform servicing the high net worth population across Asia, the Middle East and Europe, so why not Africa? I’m pleased to say that the Lux Afrique Boutique intend to change that!” 

The Boutique
Upon entering the online boutique, clients are presented with a selection of women’s fashion from the world’s most desirable luxury brands. The seasonal collections of leathergoods and ready-to-wear are all current and what one would find in the shopping capitals Paris, Milan or London. The men’s universe features an array of the finest names in luxury, with an additional selection of grooming products. Should you not be able to find your special piece, the concierge team are on standby 24 hours a day to source and deliver any luxury product to your home. Engrained in the company ethos, Lux Afrique Boutique (www.LuxAfrique.boutique) believe in supporting Africa and providing a platform to showcase its brands. It’s only natural then that a curated selection of African fashion and lifestyle designer brands will be available in the online boutique, with more will be added. Art lovers will be particularly pleased with the online African Art room, where the continents’ foremost artists will showcase their works.

For those who adore fine jewellery and watches, the High Jewellery universe features an array of exquisite pieces from Fabergé, David Morris and Stephen Webster, together with the worlds’ foremost watch and jewellery brands. Once again, and true to company spirit, Vanleles, an African fine jewellery brand features prominently in the online boutique.

Luxury lifestyle brands that are specially created for the home, ensure that your abode reflects your style. Expect to find designer furniture, homeware and the latest audiovisual equipment like Bang and Olufsen, to decorate your residence. The shopping experience is complimented by the finest champagnes, wines and spirits, including Louis XIII and Dom Perignon, available in the world, while the highlight for any connoisseur would be discovering the Foodhall’s exceptional delicacies. The concierge team, as part of the highly personalised service, are on standby 24 hours a day to source and deliver any luxury product that you may possibly not find in the boutique. For VIP clients, a limited selection of merchandise can infact be delivered within 24 to 48 hours.

Shipping
Lux Afrique Boutique (www.LuxAfrique.boutique) will deliver to 54 countries in Africa within a standard delivery time of 3 to 5 working days. For VIP clients, a limited selection of merchandise can infact be delivered within 24 to 48 hours. In addition, to celebrate your birthday and as a special gift to you, the boutique offers free shipping on your birthday.

Corporate Social Responsibility
The Group strongly believe in giving back and supporting entrepreneurship efforts in Africa. With this in mind, a percentage of each sale will be ploughed back into sustainable projects supporting local businesses on the continent, allowing clients to partner with the Boutique in giving-back through their purchases, a priceless feel-good factor. The Lux Afrique Boutique aims to place the spotlight on discovering and showcasing luxury African brands and artisans.

About Lux Afrique Boutique:
Lux Afrique Boutique is Africa’s first luxury online shopping boutique revolutionising the African luxury market by delivering to all 54 countries across Africa. The Boutique, together with its 24-hour concierge service, caters for high-spending African consumers and is uniquely positioned in the high growth online luxury sector. The team are dedicated to hand-picking the world’s finest, rarest and most exquisite luxury brands globally by offering it online. The curated gift service provides a completely stress-free shopping experience as a retail destination for men and women with a distinctive taste for luxury without the inconvenience of travelling to Europe.

About Lux Afrique Group:
Lux Afrique , a luxurious lifestyle, 24-hour concierge service and events company catering to the needs of over 500 HNWIs (High-Net-Worth Individuals) particularly Africans earning more than one million US Dollars per annum, was founded in 2016 by Alexander Amosu. As part of the Lux Afrique Group, Lux Afrique Agency was launched in 2019 to represent sports personalities, celebrities and influencers from across Africa and worldwide. This is in addition to Lux Afrique POLO events, the Lux Afrique Conference, Lux Afrique online Magazine and the soon to be launched Lux Afrique Boutique, the first luxury online shopping platform delivering to all 54 countries in Africa.
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African Energy Chamber to Gather Industry Stakeholders within the CEMAC Region Ahead of 2021 Recovery
November 23, 2020 | 0 Comments
The event will gather all of the Chamber’s partners and industry stakeholders in Equatorial Guinea as the market embarks on a path to recovery in 2021.

To mark the launch of the latest African Energy Outlook 2021, the African Energy Chamber (www.EnergyChamber.org) will be hosting a Power Breakfast in Malabo on Wednesday November 25th. The event will gather all of the Chamber’s partners and industry stakeholders in Equatorial Guinea as the market embarks on a path to recovery in 2021.

The event will be opened by H.E. Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons of Equatorial Guinea, and will benefit from the presence of leading participants such as Antonio Oburu Ondó, Director General of national oil company GEPetrol, and Leoncio Amada NZE, CEO of APEX Industries and President for the CEMAC Region at the Chamber. Together, they will be joined by leading industry executives from Marathon Oil Corp, ExxonMobil, the National Bank of Equatorial Guinea (BANGE) and the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) along with local industry players.

Participants will notably seek ways to work together on ensuring a strong recovery in 2021 and addressing key concerns that continue to affect investments into the region, notably when it comes to regulatory frameworks. Equally important, the discussion will aim at highlighting the resilience of Equatorial Guinea’s oil sector during the Covid-19 pandemic and historic crises of 2020, and focus on the key projects and initiatives that will bring back the industry on strong feet, especially natural gas and energy infrastructure.

“Equatorial Guinea has always been an oil & gas leader in Central Africa and across the continent as a whole. While we have not been exempt of the deep shocks and crises our industry has faced in 2020, we believe that the country’s experience will support its recovery”. Stated Leoncio Amada NZE, President for the CEMAC region at the African Energy Chamber.

“The Chamber’s latest Outlook for 2021 calls for a stronger dialogue around key issues such as policy and fiscal reforms, and a stronger adoption of gas across African economies. Equatorial Guinea, its companies and entrepreneurs, are well place to lead and benefit from such developments,” Concluded Leoncio Amada NZE,

The Power Breakfast will be held at Hotel Colinas in Malabo from 8AM onwards. Interested participants may register by sending an rsvp to partners@energychamber.org.

*African Energy Chamber

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Oil and Gas Discoveries and Activity in Southwest Africa Set to Open New Basins for Development and Trigger Big Investments in Namibia, Angola and South Africa
November 23, 2020 | 0 Comments

By NJ Ayuk*

This is a time for the oil and gas companies that are involved in these mega-opportunities to redouble their efforts to support local communities and people.

Last spring, the Maersk Voyager, an ultra-deepwater drillship under contract by French supermajor Total, drilled a wildcat well in the deepest water ever – 3,628 meters (11,903 feet) in Block 48, a massive area with potentially huge oil reserves in the Congo basin offshore Angola.  

The record-setting achievement wasn’t a success just for Maersk and Total. It also represented a victory for Angola and state oil company Sonangol in their search for new oil, part of a campaign to reverse a recent trend of production declines. The high-impact concept well was long anticipated, and it didn’t take long for other global players, including Qatar Petroleum (QP), to buy in. As part of its bid to expand its exploration portfolio, QP acquired a 30% stake in Block 48 in August, its first venture into Angola’s promising deepwater acreage.

If Angola were the only southwestern African nation making oil and gas news, that would still be a pretty good story. But the fact is, Africa’s southwestern coast is home to perhaps the most globally anticipated wildcats of 2020 and 2021 – exploration that continues despite the added challenges of COVID-19, which has constrained operating and capital budgets. As the African Energy Chamber noted in our 2021 outlook, if successful, prospects in Angola, Namibia, and South Africa, could “open new basins for development and trigger big investments towards the latter half of the 2020s.”

That’s headline-making, indeed.

Combined with Block 48, the Venus-1 prospect in Namibia, and South Africa’s Brulpadda and Luiperd, the region holds world-class resource potential. The key is translating that potential into real benefits for all Africans.

Production is Building Momentum in Angola
For nearly 70 years, oil has been a mainstay of the Angolan economy, contributing about 50% of the nation’s gross domestic product and around 89% of exports. The country holds the continent’s second-largest proven oil reserves and is behind only Nigeria in terms of production. (Angola also has Africa’s fourth-largest proven natural gas reserves, although historically it hasn’t produced much commercially.)

In recent years, though, the drop in oil prices scared off foreign investment, putting pressure on Angola’s well-established oil and gas industry as well as its oil-based economy. Despite its vast resources, not only was production on the downturn, there had not been a major new discovery since 2011. Without fresh finds, consultants Rystad Energy, S.A. said, volumes could drop below 1 million barrels per day by 2025, far below capacity and less than half the 2008’s daily output.

That forecast was more than enough to spur Angolan President João Lourenço into action.

Following his election in 2017, he promised Angola an “economic miracle” and immediately began incentivizing participation in the nation’s oil and gas industry as part of his turnaround plan.

Lourenço’s lures, including better contract terms that would make foreign investment more profitable, paid off. With reforms such as tax relief and a standalone oil industry regulator in place, Total – which has been operating in Angola for six decades – moved quickly in 2018 to take over Block 48 and was awarded Block 29 in the Namibe basin earlier this year; Italy’s Eni was awarded neighboring Block 28 about the same time. Angola also awarded several offshore blocks to Norway’s Equinor and BP. (There are approximately 50 blocks in the Namibe basin, but whether they will all be put into play remains to be seen.)  Eni and its partners also began production at Agogo-1, pumping a modest 10,000 barrels per day. While that may sound small, it contributes to a much larger sum: Taken together, Rystad said, production from new Angolan projects – that is, those begun just in the last five years – should yield 549,000 barrels per day by 2025.

Fiscal Regime Sets Stage for Success in Namibia
If early seismic data is to be believed, compared to Angola there is equal, if not even more, promise in new discoveries offshore Namibia. Altogether, more than 11 billion barrels in oil reserves have been found off the Namibian coast, and scientists compare Namibia’s geology favorably to the pre-salt fields offshore Brazil, which hold 16 billion barrels of crude reserves. Yet Namibia’s basins are considered underexplored, meaning there’s ample opportunity for foreign and domestic investment. The possibility of high-impact discoveries has attracted the likes of Total, ExxonMobil, QP, and Kosmos Energy, which has had significant wildcat success in Africa over the past dozen years.

Currently, all eyes are on Total’s possibly play-opening Venus 1- prospect, which may turn out to be the largest discovery in Africa in a decade. An ultra-deepwater well in the Orange Basin, which straddles the border with South Africa, Venus-1 is thought to have at least 2 billion barrels of oil in place. If Venus-1 is successful, it’s like to attract even more attention to the area. Fortunately, the Namibian government’s oil-friendly policies make it easy for foreign companies to do business there. The fiscal regime is positive, and the state-owned oil company, the National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (NAMCOR), is a cooperative partner. It also helps that Namibia is politically stable and has some of the best-developed infrastructure on the continent, including a modern electricity distribution grid.

We’re Seeing Growing Excitement in South Africa
Like its neighbors to the west, South Africa has been the site of considerable excitement over frontier discoveries, including Total’s Brulpadda, which opened up the Outeniqua basin in 2019. Brulpadda is considered a world-class oil and gas play that holds as much as 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent of gas and condensate light oil.

Brulpadda is considered an antidote to the cascade of ailments South Africa – like many countries with petroleum resources – has experienced in recent years: a drop in oil and gas exploration following a decline in commodity prices. It is likely that PetroSA’s gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant will provide a ready domestic market for Brulpadda, as will the nearby petrochemical and industrial facilities. It is also possible the discovery will help South Africa accelerate the use of gas for electricity.

Total continues to explore other parts of the Outeniqua basin and just last month discovered gas condensate on the Luiperd prospect, where it is a joint venture partner with QP, CNR International, and an African consortium called Main Street. In an announcement, Total said that the Luiperd well was drilled to a total depth of about 3,400 meters and encountered 73 meters of net gas condensate pay, making it even larger than the main reservoir at Brulpadda. Total and its partners have decided to commercialize the Luiperd gas rather than drill another exploration well in the program.

Africans Must Realize the Benefits
There’s no question that these discoveries have made southwestern Africa an exploration hot spot.

Neither is there any doubt that the governments of Angola, Namibia, and South Africa have facilitated and even accelerated the discovery and development processes by making it easy to do business there. (In the case of South Africa, its fiscal terms for oil and gas companies are described as “very generous.”)

What remains uncertain is to what degree each country will continue working to ensure its natural resources, whether newfound or long-established, are used to lift people out of poverty. True, African involvement in joint ventures leads us to assume that the best interests of every citizen are being considered.

But this is a time for the oil and gas companies that are involved in these mega-opportunities to redouble their efforts to support local communities and people. These companies are our guests in Africa, but the price of a welcome to our resource riches can’t be merely contractual, a handshake between governments and businessmen. The more they profit, the more Africans should benefit.

This idea is at the heart of the concept of Shared Value, which has been defined as “a framework for creating economic value while simultaneously addressing societal needs and challenges,” and as the “practice of profit in a way that creates value for society.” Shared Value doesn’t suggest that businesses should act as philanthropies or charities, giving handouts to those who exhibit need. It goes beyond the idea of corporate social responsibility, which is often based on volunteerism and one-off donations. Perhaps most important, Shared Value recognizes that companies can only stay in business if they are making money. As consultants FSG described it, the value companies and the community are sharing is “worth,” that is, economic value on a financial sheet and societal value in the form of progress on social issues.

Shared Value recognizes that companies have a responsibility to take on social challenges through the business itself. It is in their economic interest to do this. In Africa, one way they can do that is by supporting capacity-building. As the Shared Value Initiative noted, despite the substantial economic output of the oil and gas industry, it has “not always translated into societal improvements in host countries and communities… companies are losing billions of dollars a year to community strife,” much of it due to underemployment.

As more companies are attracted to southwestern Africa and these exciting new developments, we can only hope that they will recognize that where opportunity exists for them it should exist for everyone. And they have the power to make it so. 

That would be really big news.

*NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman, African Energy Chamber

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Round Table for the Financing of CEMAC Integration Projects – Paris, 16 & 17 November 2020
November 19, 2020 | 0 Comments
CEMAC takes up the Challenge and Mobilizes 3.8 Billion Euros to Finance Integration Projects in the CEMAC zone.

After two days spent in Paris meeting with representatives of the French Government, heads of community institutions, representatives of international institutions, donors and private investors, CEMAC can boast of significant economic success.

Under the leadership of HE Mr. Clément MOUAMBA, Prime Minister, Head of Government of the Republic of Congo, the institution has succeeded in raising 3.8 billion euros to support the financing of integration projects for the economic development of the region.

Organized by the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) under the very high patronage of HE Mr. Denis SASSOU N’GUESSO, President of the Republic of Congo, President dedicated to the Economic and Financial Reform Program of CEMAC (PREF-CEMAC), represented by HE Mr. Clément MOUAMBA, Prime Minister, Head of Government of the Republic of Congo, the round table on the mobilization of financing for integration projects of CEMAC, was held on November 16 and 17, 2020 in Paris.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the round table took place in a hybrid format with 60 participants present, and more than 400 video conference participants over both days.

The objective of this round table was to mobilize donors and private investors to raise funds for the effective implementation of eleven (11) integration projects in the CEMAC zone, which specifically focus on: facilitation of transport and trade, production and interconnection of electricity and communications networks, the common market and economic diversification, and human capital.

At the opening of the ceremony, the opportunities of the CEMAC zone and the importance of the implementation of integration projects for the strengthening of regional integration and the acceleration of the diversification of economies were reminded by Prof. Daniel ONA ONDO, President of the CEMAC Commission.

BDEAC, ADB, BADEA and other CEMAC partner institutions welcomed the initiative and expressed their commitment to support the implementation of projects, while emphasizing on the potential of the CEMAC zone.

The speeches were completed by the intervention of HE Mr. Clément MOUAMBA, Prime Minister, Head of Government of the Republic of Congo, who declared the workshop open and expressed his gratitude and that of all the populations of CEMAC to the French people and their authorities who, despite the international environment marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, have exceptionally agreed to authorize the organization of this meeting on French territory. The day ended with a session dedicated to PPPs during which six private institutions (Club PPP, Meridiam, STOA, Fidal, Olam and Sogea Satom), champions in their field, shared their experiences and success stories of PPPs in Central Africa. The IDB also made a presentation on Islamic finance (SUKUK) as an important mode of financing structuring and integrating projects.

The second day mainly focused on B to B exchanges between Ministers, donors and economic institutions on the specific characteristics of certain projects, the issue of foreign exchange regulations and the financial environment in CEMAC, and details of the intentions and modes of donor funding. The Governor of BEAC had an enriching exchange with donors and private investors on the regulation of trade and the financial environment in CEMAC. The President of BDEAC also examined with partners their intentions and modes of financing.

During the two days of the event, several panels bringing together directors of bilateral and multilateral agencies, government authorities and representatives of economic institutions in the area, took place one after the other.

The Ministers of the CEMAC countries made detailed presentations on the eleven (11) projects, presenting the content, objectives, financial evaluations, modes of financing and expected results of each of these projects.

Out of a need for 3.4 billion euros expressed, 3.8 billion euros were mobilized with the support of Afreximbank, BDEAC, the African Development Bank, the World Bank group, the Scandinavian Chamber of Commerce and SX Capital Holdings. The financing of 8 out of 11 projects has been fully completed.

“This round table has had the undeniable merit of taking CEMAC a further step forward on the road to providing it with the infrastructure necessary for its development,” said H.E. Gilbert Ondongo, Chairman of the Steering Committee of PREF-CEMAC, Minister of Economy, Industry and Public Portfolio of the Republic of Congo.

To read the full version of the final press release: click here 

*SOURCE CEMAC (Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa)
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Autochek secures $3.4 million pre-seed funding to deliver technology for African automotive industry
November 18, 2020 | 0 Comments
Etop Ikpe - Autochek
Etop Ikpe – Autochek

Round co-led by TLcom and 4DX Ventures will accelerate product development for Ghana and Nigeria.

Lagos, Nigeria. 18 November 2020 Autochek, the automotive technology company that aims to build solutions for the African market, has raised $3.4 million in a pre-seed funding round, co-led by TLcom Capital and 4DX Ventures with inclusion from Golden Palm Investments, Lateral Capital, Kepple Africa Ventures, MSA Capital and a number of local angel/seed investors. The start-up will use the investment to grow its Nigeria and Ghana markets and will see further investment in technology and growing its teams. 

The pre-seed investment announced today follows Autochek’s acquisition of the Cheki Nigeria and Cheki Ghana brands in September 2020. Combining technology and data to power every process of the automotive transactional ecosystem for millions of people, Autochek will transform the automotive buying and selling experience for African consumers, by creating a single marketplace for all automotive needs. This will include everything from sourcing and financing transactions to after sales support and warranties. 

Through the acquisition of Cheki Nigeria and Cheki Ghana, Autochek already has more than 20,000 unique vehicles listed on its platform, and more than 12,000 dealers and private sellers, as well as a range of corporate partners and customers. Leveraging its extensive on-the-ground network of dealers and an experienced leadership team, the new platform and mobile app has been designed to address the pain points of buying, selling and repairing cars in Africa such as access to finance (for both consumers and dealers), maintenance and insurance, and bring greater value to car dealerships by enabling and enhancing automotive commerce across the continent. Autochek will also facilitate cheaper and more effective transactions for dealers and corporate partners, leveraging its industry relationships to buy and sell vehicles on behalf of the customer for the best price and ensuring value for money.

Via the Autochek mobile app (Android app now available. iOS app coming soon), car owners and potential owners will have access to loans, auctions, trade-ins and maintenance. Automotive dealers will have access to real time car auctions, fleet management, marketing support and standardised reports on car conditions and market value, as well as inventory management, CRM for lead management and garage management systems for car workshops. Financial institutions like banks and fintechs will also have access to a credit management dashboard that will make it easier for them to access customers.  By focussing on the demands of both customers and dealers, Autochek is building an ecosystem of solutions specifically designed to deliver an unrivalled customer experience for the African automotive market.

Etop Ikpe, Founder and CEO of Autochek, said, “This early stage investment allows us to get started with the work of developing technology products and services that will transform automotive trade on the continent, whereby we significantly improve transactions and after care support for car owners, dealers and other stakeholders across the African automotive industry.

“Building on the solid work that the Cheki Nigeria and Ghana teams have done over the last ten years, we  are already dispersed across multiple locations and applying the technology built and developed by our Autochek auto-tech experts, we are well positioned to scale quickly, as demand for reliable and well priced cars on the continent grow. With this pre-seed round and our seasoned strategic investors on board, we are working to transform the automotive sector on the continent”

Andreata Muforo, partner at TLcom said, “Autochek is radically improving customer experience and dealer economics in an industry that creates value and jobs across the continent and we are excited to be part of that journey. The founding team has a clear plan for what they want to achieve and we look forward to working with them as they execute on their vision.”

Walter Baddoo, Managing Partner at 4DX Ventures said, “We are proud to enter this partnership with Autochek as the company embarks on its mission to transform Africa’s automotive industry. By providing access to a new range of products and services, the company will dramatically enhance the automotive transacting experience for dealers and the ownership experience for consumers across the continent. Autochek is helping to unlock massive opportunities in Africa’s auto sector and we are pleased to be supporting that mission”.

Africa is widely regarded as the final frontier for the global automotive industry, with high growth prospects over the next decade. Despite the impact of COVID-19, car sales are expected to grow across the continent, with a corresponding rise in demand for support services. However, a range of existing challenges, including limited access to finance and an opaque and fragmented marketplace means car owners and dealers do not always enjoy the best experience.

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Off-grid power projects could modernise South Africa’s energy sector
November 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Stephen Barnes & Rentia van Tonder

Stephen Barnes
Stephen Barnes

Decentralised power projects, or those that are not tied to the national grid, could play a major role in closing South Africa’s electricity supply gap and modernising its energy sector.

The country’s electricity crisis – as reflected by ongoing instances of load-shedding, or planned power cuts – continues to weigh on the economy. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) estimates that the supply gap is currently between 5GW and 8GW.

Further, businesses are contending with sharp and unpredictable increases in their energy costs, and this is impacting business confidence.

But thanks in part to rapid declines in the cost of renewable energy, and advancements in battery storage technologies, decentralised energy solutions are now a viable alternative, and they could go a long way towards alleviating South Africa’s electricity challenges.

The shift in this direction has already started, although it could accelerate dramatically if various enablers can be provided to stimulate the sector. Regulatory issues, environmental permitting, and grid-tie arrangements that allow independent units to feed surplus energy into the grid, remain complex issues that need to be addressed to truly unleash the potential of decentralised energy.

The sector’s growth has also been restricted by funding challenges, and misalignment between developers, clients and funders. Despite these and other challenges, as much as 1.1GW of small-scale solar power has been installed by commercial and industrial firms to date, according to the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association’s estimates.

When combined with battery storage technologies, these solutions ensure certainty of supply, and equally as important, they ensure certainty of cost. They also help to take the pressure off the national grid.

Hydro, wind and solar are currently the most attractive technologies in Africa, which has an abundance of these natural resources. And while renewable energy units have historically only been able to provide an intermittent supply of electricity, they will become increasingly reliable thanks to rapid advancements in storage technologies, which are becoming more affordable. Combined with the costs associated with electricity distribution, this strengthens the case for a shift towards decentralised energy across Africa.

Further, funding arrangements are now being structured more appropriately. Standard Bank is increasingly partnering with developers and other key stakeholders to approach funding and project design differently so as to enable the roll-out of these projects.

It has become clear that early alignment between the developer, the client and the funding partner gives rise to better technical solutions and funding models. As a result, early phase alignment is obtained, and innovation enabled. Given South Africa’s massive electricity supply gap, there is an opportunity for thousands of small-scale renewable energy installations in the months and years ahead.

Poised for a continent-wide shift to decentralised power

We believe that decentralised green-energy solutions, which promote innovation as they are purpose-built, will continue to gain momentum as municipalities, mining houses and industrial firms seek to ensure cost certainty and reliability of supply. Alongside hydro, wing and solar, some mining groups in Africa are even turning to hydrogen power to diversify their electricity mixes – an indication that the fledgling hydrogen economy is garnering more interest.

In countries such as Nigeria – where the electricity self-generation market is 55% larger than the main grid – we expect the country will start to seriously consider pivoting to decentralised renewable solutions as oil subsidies near an end, so as to decrease the supply shortfall and better service the large and geographically fragmented population.

The shift to decentralised power – and renewables specifically – will also be boosted by the increased investor awareness of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues.

Rentia van Tonder
Rentia van Tonder

We believe that the addition of more modular, decentralised energy solutions could remove a major drag on the economy and help Africa to reach its potential.

Standard Bank Group is the largest African bank by assets, operating in 20 African countries and 5 global financial centres. Headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, we are listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, with share code SBK, and the Namibian Stock Exchange, share code SNB.

Standard Bank has a 157-year history in South Africa and started building a franchise outside southern Africa in the early 1990s.

Our strategic position, which enables us to connect Africa to other select emerging markets as well as pools of capital in developed markets, and our balanced portfolio of businesses, provide significant opportunities for growth.

The group has over 50 000 employees, more than 1 100 branches and 9 000 ATMs on the African continent which enable it to deliver a complete range of services across personal and business banking, corporate and investment banking and wealth management. 

Headline earnings for 2019 were R28.2 billion (about USD2 billion) and total assets were R2.3 trillion (about USD163 billion). Standard Bank’s market capitalisation at 31 December 2019 was R277 billion (USD20 billion).

The group’s largest shareholder is the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the world’s largest bank, with a 20.1% shareholding. In addition, Standard Bank Group and ICBC share a strategic partnership that facilitates trade and deal flow between Africa, China and select emerging markets.

*Stephen Barnes, Head of Power and Infrastructure, and Rentia van Tonder, Head of Power at Standard Bank Group

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Webb Fontaine Proudly Announced as Sponsor for Inaugural Bloomberg Invest Africa Virtual Summit
November 16, 2020 | 0 Comments
Produced by Bloomberg Live, the Bloomberg Invest Africa event will address some of the most pressing issues facing the continent today and in the future.

Webb Fontaine is proud to announce its role in sponsoring the first-ever Bloomberg Invest Africa event, which will be held virtually on November 24, 2020.

This virtual global event will bring together a high-profile panel of experts, government ministers and regional and global trade professionals to discuss at length the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for nations and businesses across the continent. Webb Fontaine, as one of the leading providers of customs and trade solutions to governments around the globe, and in particular in Africa, is proud to support this important inaugural event.

Through its diverse network of digitally focussed and technology-led operations across Africa, Webb Fontaine is at the forefront of a new, substantial, sustained and immersive adoption of the latest Trade and Customs practices and technologies.

The company is actively enabling the development and growth of new ideas and new ways of working that are rapidly and effectively transforming the Trade and Customs landscape across Africa and giving nations such as Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Ethiopia, which are actively using Webb Fontaine-created solutions, a foundation for sustained success.

Bloomberg is one of the world’s most trusted sources of up-to-the-minute business and financial news, expert discussion and examination of global and regional politics and market trends and developments. Produced by Bloomberg Live, the Bloomberg Invest Africa event will address some of the most pressing issues facing the continent today and in the future.

The forum will examine the impact of COVID-19 on the trade and business eco-system and the various roadmaps to recovery that have been adopted by countries, government entities and companies, as well as the factors that make Africa an attractive investment destination.

Speaking at the Bloomberg Invest Africa will be; Kevin Daly, Investment Director Emerging Market Debt, Aberdeen Standard Investments; H.E. Vera Daves de Sousa, Minister of Finance Republic of Angola; Nitin Gajria Director – Sub-Saharan Africa, Google; H.E. Amadou Hott, Minister of Economy Planning and Cooperation, Republic of Senegal; Dr John Nkengasong, Director, Africa CDC.

To register, visit https://bit.ly/2IHuGGt.

About Webb Fontaine:
Trusted by governments globally, Webb Fontaine provides industry wide solutions to accelerate trade development and modernization. The company uses unique technology including Artificial Intelligence to enable countries to emerge as leaders in the future of trade.

Knowledge transfer is at the core of Webb Fontaine; comprising a team of experts who work across the world, empowering local communities and governments.

As an industry leader with the largest R&D centres in the industry, Webb Fontaine is constantly developing international trade practices connecting countries, borders and people.

*SOURCE Webb Fontaine
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Cameroon’s Second Largest Employer, CDC Wobbles Towards Extinction
November 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Andrew Nsoseka

CDC oil palm plantations, now, part of the land is privately owned by local administrators or sold out, at the expense of CDC and natives

Administrative indifference from the Cameroon government, as well as personal egoism, and other ills have placed one time prestigious employer, and second largest employer after the Cameroon Government, the Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, in its dying throes.

The CDC whose woes predate the Anglophone crisis, has been placed in a very tight spot, with the Anglophone Crisis that has raged on for over four years, making things worse for the giant agricultural corporation, as most of its activities have been halted from time to time, or entirely stopped in unstable areas.  

Government officials on their part, have seemingly failed in their duty to protect, maintain and ensure the survival of the agricultural giant, in an era rife with unemployment, which has on its part, lured thousands of youths to join the separatist movement in Anglophone regions of Cameroon. Rather than salvage what is left of the corporation, government Ministers and officials, have rather brazenly joined other unscrupulous individuals, to plunder the corporation and make away with what they can.

A scheme said to be aimed at giving land of the corporation back to the indigenes, who are predominantly Fako natives, has seen thousands of hectares taken from the agricultural giant, and most chunk of it has ended up in the hands of administrators. The crisis which started in 2016, also saw alleged separatist fighters attacking workers of the corporation for not respecting separatists imposed lockdowns. This discouraged many from working, and also forced the corporation to shutdown most of its farms, and factories. Due to the crisis, the workers have gone for years without pay, and with the farms not very functional, the land surrendering racket moved on, with administrators and traditional leaders chipping away the CDC’s lands and making billions from it sales, to the detriment of the CDC and indigenes to whom the land is guised to have been surrendered to.

Consequently, following recent workers’ protests, founded on an imminent demise of the corporation, a flurry of orders were recently issued, restricting what had become a spate of expropriation of huge hectares of CDC lands by speculators and other Shylock interests. The big question however, is whether someone really cares whether the CDC carries on as a going concern or dies off like many other enterprises upon which the economy of the former West Cameroon was hinged.

 From the look of it, the action from Yaounde may be tantamount to buying time for the sting to wear off before the “CDC auction bazaar” is resumed like before. For one thing, many such orders have been issued in the past, only to be surreptitiously dumped in the dustbin or casually cancelled with indifference by the same pen that issued them. Law courts have gone back on their own learned decisions, consequently throwing back CDC interests to the wolves without appeals or petition from vested litigants or defendants.

It is feared that the recent cancellation by way of Ministerial orders of “CDC land surrender” may also be just a facade. This is because, as at Friday, September 11, effective felling of CDC palms was still ongoing at Bimbia. Those carrying out the act were protected by heavily armed gendarmes who chased away CDC guards and dared anyone else that to question the dastardly act. As it stands, a rather helpless CDC may have to wait, pray and hope for yet another Ministerial order to arrive from Yaounde, most probably only after many hectares of palms in their most productive stage must have been destroyed.

It is becoming more and more evident, going by official approach to its dilemma that the Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, the much touted second-largest employer after the State, has been abandoned to wear out. After all, in its time of great difficulty, it has, unlike many other State Corporations, been shamelessly, if not callously ignored, with administrators rather trying to pluck what they can, as the corporation rapidly dwindles in its fortunes, leaving its over 20,000 workers and teeming numbers of dependents in the lurch.

With its troubles that were sparked by a global economic meltdown and exacerbated by the armed conflict in the English speaking Regions of Cameroon, where the CDC is situated, political gladiators and economic predators could be rightly said to be just waiting in the wings to see the giant corporation fall and shatter for them to pick up the pieces like was the case with the Marketing Board and Cameroon Bank, to name but these. Unlike other corporations like the national oil refinery, SONARA where Ministers and other ranking officials trooped in, and its workers are still paid even though it is no longer functional; the national airlines company, CAMAIRCO, that has, to put it bluntly been a company of flying coffins, but government pumps in funds to sustain it, the case of the CDC is different; state authorities are rather helping themselves with what is still left of the ravished and looted corporation, even as it still could be brought out of its comatose state to revert to its traditional role of providing succour to  the thousands of families that have depended on it over many decades.

Dubious Land Surrender, Scheming Mafias

The Fako Land Surrender scheme, which was sugar-coated as an initiative to surrender part of the CDC’s land to natives who originally owned the land, for them to expand their villages and settle, turned out to be a well-mapped out bogey by corrupt, overbearing administrators, as well as gullible traditional rulers, and chiefs of doubtful origins and credibility posing as representatives of the locals. It has been established that inexistent villages were created by certain local administrators, and in complicity with some local chiefs and in some cases, purpose-made chiefs enthroned by local administrators and top government functionaries were brought to front as representatives of the locals. Once the land was allocated by government officials, who often do so without consulting the CDC, the administrators collect a huge chunk of it, and the leftovers given to the Chief for his troubles. The Chiefs then proceed to sell what is left, after the administrators would have taken the big bite.

More often than not, the locals emerge the highest losers, even though the land is surrendered on the pretext that it is for them. Talking over a TV programme on a local TV channel, My Media Prime, one of the front line lawyers and Fako native, Barrister Ikomi Ngongi, who is fighting to reclaim surrendered land from administrators and traditional rulers who have turned the scheme into a thriving racket, revealed that for the over 4,000 hectares of surrendered land, Fako natives have not received up to 500 of them.

 “In fact, Fako people have not received up to 20 hectares put together,” he said, alleging that most of the land is in the hands of non Fako indigenes, whom he insisted are administrators who pulled the strings behind the scenes, and at the end, owned lands bigger than that owned by entire villages. To him, rather than surrender land to the wrong hands, the land could be retrieved and kept under the CDC’s custody, for better use and management, and not plundered by administrators for personal gain.

Speaking at several instances since the Fako land saga started, Barrister Ikomi Ngongi has faulted officials, right from the Southwest Governor, Mr Okalia Bilai, his subordinates, to the Senior Divisional Officers, Divisional Officers and dubious or fake chiefs and even court officials, whom he states are all part of the scheme to fraudulently take and own the thousands of hectares of surrendered CDC land, to the detriment of the locals, who are supposed to be the bona fide beneficiaries.

In some cases, traditional rulers have ended up in legal battles with their subjects over land. Often, some have been accused of selling all the surrendered land, and then encroaching into that originally owned by natives, of course, with the backing of all powerful local administrators.

Anglophone Crisis Putting Final Nail of the CDC’s Coffin?

Though effectively grappling with already compromising corporate challenges, the CDC has been hard hit by the ongoing Anglophone crisis. With workers often coming under attack orchestrated by suspected separatists, several production units and farms have been completely abandoned. Even with its well known attribute as the largest employer after the State, the CDC and its workers don’t benefit like other individuals and smaller companies, from any form of security protection.

Unlike most State Corporations where security is ever available, the case of the CDC is different, as workers are always left at the mercy of attackers, who hit and escape at will, thus discouraging most from risking to work. What now appears to be calculated administrative negligence, has cost the CDC lots, including human life as many activities have been grounded, except for the ever-ready land surrender schemes, machinated of course by Shylocks who should rather have been working to ensure the CDC’s survival, especially as communities, thousands of families and the economy of the Region and country at large still depends on the tottering giant for survival.

Helicopter sprays CDC banana plantations in its haydays, now partly ruined or abandoned due to negligence and Anglophone crisis

CDC, Its People, Impact on Generations

The CDC, unlike many other state corporations, has a history and part played in the lives of many. For those who lived out the heydays of the corporation, they narrate stories of communities, with social amenities, hospitals, schools, clubs and others that were enjoyed by CDC workers and the communities hosting them. Even books and literary art pieces have been produced by children who lived and were educated thanks to the CDC. In some prose, like “The Good Foot”, written about life in the CDC, one can through the narrations, picture a corporation which was at the centre of survival for many. A CDC which is not only regarded as a corporation, but a life wire and even community where many can trace their origin and growth.

Will the CDC Be Abandoned Like other West Cameroon Corporations?

With the openly displayed culpable negligence of certain officials in particular and the government in general, having elected not to make the survival of the CDC concern, let alone a priority, many fear that it most likely to go the way of the Cameroon Bank, the crumbled Government Technical College Ombe, POWERCAM, Tiko Airport, West Cameroon Lottery, West Cameroon Development Agency, the Department of Marketing and Inspection, West Cameroon Marketing Board and many more, that were vibrant, but have now been selectively consigned to the compost heap of history.

In the context of the Anglophone Crisis and rife unemployment, many working-age men and women continue to be lured to the waiting arms of separatists and criminal gangs, to be able to make a living or feed their starving families.

Also, the much-heralded initiative of Cameroon’s President Biya, to encourage farming as a means of economic empowerment, has been turned into a big joke because the state has failed to bail out and ensure not just the survival, but the renaissance and upgrading of the CDC, as the country’s lone agro-industrial giant.

*Culled from November Issue of Pan African Visions Magazine

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Dilemma Over How Rwanda Will Grow Cannabis Without Consuming It
November 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Maniraguha Ferdinand

Cannabis has been illegal in Rwanda
Cannabis has been illegal in Rwanda

In early October 2020, Rwanda made a surprise announcement that it has already approved regulatory guidelines on cultivation, processing and export of high value therapeutic crops which includes cannabis.

The surprise is against Rwanda’s long stand on the use of cannabis, where existing laws punish bitterly anyone who gets caught producing, selling, trafficking or  consuming cannabis. Anyone convicted can get over 20 year jail sentence.

Rwanda explained that the approval of cannabis cultivation is mainly for export and it will be used in medicinal research and medicinal industries, however economic profits are also the target.

Clare Akamanzi, Chief Executive Officer for Rwanda Development Board recently told the national broadcaster that, there is a huge economic profit from growing cannabis for export.

“If you look at the revenues we expect to get from some of these crops that might be licensed, you can get up USD 10 million from one hectare, if you compare that to flowers for example, if you grow flowers on hectare, you expect to get USD 300 000, it is a huge difference” she said.

She said that many countries around the world are gradually allowing medicinal cultivation of these crops to support medical research and economy, chances that Rwanda does not want to miss.

The global market for medical cannabis is currently estimated at $150 billion and could reach $272 billion in 2028, according to Barclays Bank.

Rwanda is one of developing countries whose economy mainly relies on agriculture and tourism.

Akamanzi said that Rwanda wants to raise its economic revenues by amassing these new opportunities.

“It is also one that can bring income and revenue to the country, can create jobs, it is very timely. Rwanda doesn’t want to miss this important growing, useful industry”, she said.

Though cultivation has been approved, she added that there will be tight control and security around the growing of cannabis in Rwanda to avoid any leakage to local market.

Any investor who will be permitted to grow such crops, must present security guidelines which will be approved by local security organs.

“Not only are we regulating how you import the materials for planting whether it is seed or others, we are regulating how you cultivate these crops, how you handle post-harvesting, how you ensure quality of products, temperature , storage, waste disposal, all that is part of the regulatory framework” Akamanzi assured

“You will be required to have a very strong security program that has to be approved by our security organs. That security program is going to be highly implemented. There will be no way that it can leak out of the farm to go to the domestic market or for wrong users”, she added

To ensure cannabis farm security, investors will be asked to have CCTV Cameras, watch towers, street lights, human security among others.

Akamanzi said that they are discussing with potential investors who showed interests into the business, but they first have to pass through tight screening to be licensed.

Rwanda National Police announced that as long as the law prohibits the illegal growing, consumption or selling drugs including cannabis, the culprits will be arrested.

Clare Akamanzi, Chief Executive Officer for Rwanda Development Board says, there is a huge economic profit from growing cannabis for export
Clare Akamanzi, Chief Executive Officer for Rwanda Development Board says, there is a huge economic profit from growing cannabis for export

 “The existing laws must be respected, if there come changes people will follow new ones”, Commissioner of Police, John Bosco Kabera told local media.

It is not clear where cannabis will be grown so that it will never go on local market as Rwanda is one of densely populated countries around the world.

Rwanda joins other African countries that have already legalized cannabis including South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Uganda  among others.

*Culled from November issue of Pan African Visions Magazine

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Rosgeo Successfully Completes Geological Mapping in Equatorial Guinea and Moves Forward to Phase 2
November 10, 2020 | 0 Comments

The landmark exploration program is executed under two services contract signed by the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons in 2020.

A month after it started a historic geological mapping project in Equatorial Guinea’s Rio Muni region, Russia’s state-owned joint stock company Rosgeo has made significant progress and is stepping up exploration efforts on the country’s mainland. The company has now successfully completed phase 1 of the project’s scouting works, and is moving to phase 2.

The landmark exploration program is executed under two services contract signed by the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons in 2020 with JSC Zarubezhgeologia and JSC Yuzhmorgeologia, internationally operating subsidiaries of Rosgeo. It notably covers an initial phase of seismic acquisition in transit zone and state geological mapping in the Rio Muni area, in mainland Equatorial Guinea.

As a result, JSC Zarubezhgeologia has been performing scouting works for state geological mapping, while JSC Yuzhmorgeologia has been performing the same for complex seismic acquisition in the transit zone of Rio Muni. The area, which includes large onshore zones but also shallow water areas, is believed to be one of the most promising exploration frontiers in Equatorial Guinea. It could notably turn the country once again into a hotspot for natural resources exploration.

Increased exploration by Rosgeo is expected not only to help in sustaining and increasing domestic output of oil and gas, but also in proving additional reserves in key minerals to help Equatorial Guinea further diversify its economy.

“The geological mapping project undertaken by Rosgeo in the Rio Muni is not only a new pillar of energy cooperation between the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and the Russian Federation, but could also shape the future of our natural resources industry. Our mainland is one of the richest regions of the country for mining and minerals which we have identified as strong sectors to diversify our economy and create jobs. We have also always believed in the onshore hydrocarbons potential of the region, and understanding its geology will prove extremely beneficial to support future oil & gas activities there which could be carried out by local operators,” declared H.E. Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons. 
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