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Centurion hires new Business Development Manager to lead its European expansion
July 13, 2020 | 0 Comments
Paloma Gutiérrez Keever
Paloma brings years of experience as a legal marketing consultant advising leading European and Latin American law firms on their communications and marketing strategies.

German based on demand legal firm has appointed Paloma Gutiérrez Keever to support the firm’s lawyer on-demand offering, Centurion Plus, in Europe. From our Frankfurt office, Paloma will be supporting the growth of Centurion (https://CenturionLG.com) with a focus on Germany. She will be instrumental in growing partnerships with European firms, corporations and increasing the firm’s presence across Western and Eastern Europe.

Paloma brings years of experience as a legal marketing consultant advising leading European and Latin American law firms on their communications and marketing strategies. Having worked with the most prestigious legal publishers in Europe, Paloma understands the shifting dynamics behind the practice of law in the 21st century. She will be instrumental in diversifying Centurion’s offering and growing the firm’s practice across Germany, where Centurion has had an office since 2019. 

“Our model has been very successful in reshaping the legal advisory industry. It was almost inevitable to expand into Germany and Europe. Flexible legal services are undeniably the future of practicing law and with Paloma joining the team, the opportunities are endless. Embracing change and the ability to adapt thereto is a golden thread at Centurion. We are extremely excited to welcome Paloma to the team and we look forward to her contribution in not only expanding but also elevating the Centurion Plus model in a very competitive European market,” said Leon van der Merwe, Director of Centurion Plus. 

“The German market was always a key market in our plans to expand our CenturionPlus model. Naturally, this is a very important move for us at the Firm, and for the growth of on-demand legal services in the world. We could not be more excited to have someone as experienced as Paloma on board to drive this initiative and further cement our brand in Germany and Europe,” stated Oneyka Ojogbo, Team Lead, Centurion International AG.

Paloma has an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics and a Bachelor’s degree in Media and Communications from Goldsmiths College, University of London. In 2017, she completed a copyright law certificate with Harvard University. 

With more than 160 lawyers, Centurion Plus platform is providing flexible solutions to clients that address mounting workloads and budgetary constraints. Centurion Plus is a platform which provides on-demand-lawyers that can work with clients on site or remotely, on various flexible models such as secondments, special projects, rotational work or flexible support. Clients also get the benefit of expertise at a far more competitive rate that reflects the significantly lower overhead costs of this model.

*SOURCE.Centurion Law Group
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African Energy Chamber Salutes the Bank of Central African States (BEAC)’s Authorization to Open Foreign Currency-labelled Escrow Accounts
July 13, 2020 | 0 Comments
The Chamber notes the leadership of the BEAC in taking initiatives that will preserve jobs, encourage local content and help the oil & gas sector recover.

In its Ordinary Meeting held on July 2nd, 2020, the Board of Directors of the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) has allowed the opening of foreign currency escrow accounts by petroleum and mining operators. The authorization was given within the implementation framework of key dispositions of Regulation No. 02/18/CEMAC/UMAC pertaining to foreign currency exchanges within the CEMAC region. 

The African Energy Chamber wishes to salute such pragmatism and notes the BEAC’s willingness to offer the best enabling environment for the oil & gas industry in the wake of the ongoing crisis. Earlier this year, the Chamber had joined several industry stakeholders in calling on the BEAC to relax its currency controls rules adopted in June 2019.

“We applaud the BEAC for listening to the private sector concerns and for adopting a pragmatic approach to foreign currency regulations in the wake of the ongoing crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the historic crash in oil prices. Such a move falls in line with the African Energy Chamber’s commonsense agenda to help Africa recover from the Covid 19 pandemic,” declared Leoncio Amada NZE, President for the CEMAC region at the African Energy Chamber. “This is good for our local industry and for staying competitive. The measure will be a significant boost to local content development, and ultimately local jobs creation across Central Africa,” he concluded.

In its latest Commonsense Energy Agenda, the African Energy Chamber notably called on financial institutions and central banks to set up stronger dialogue mechanisms with the private sector and industry stakeholders to address current industry challenges. The Chamber notes the leadership of the BEAC in taking initiatives that will preserve jobs, encourage local content and help the oil & gas sector recover.

The Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) is made up of six states: Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, the Republic of the Congo and Equatorial Guinea.
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More troubles for Namibia’s flag carrier
July 10, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Andreas Thomas

Windhoek – The Windhoek High Court on Wednesday overturned a decision by the Transportation Commission of Namibia to suspend Air Namibia’s air license over cash crisis and safety concerns.

The national flag carrier turned to the court after the Commission resolved to temporarily suspend its Air Service License as the company struggles to remain solvent.

Judge Marlene Tommasi has since interdicted the transportation commission from going ahead with the suspension until August 3, 2020.

“The suspension of Air Namibia’s service license has been suspended by the High Court,” the airline spokesperson Paul Nakawa told media after the court decision.

“Air Namibia shall continue to fly all domestic flights as per published schedule. Safety remains at the heart of Air Namibia’s operations and we call on our esteemed passengers and stakeholders to continue supporting Air Namibia.”

The temporary suspension was to take effect on Wednesday at midnight until 22 July 2020 to afford Air Namibia time to sort out its finances. The suspension could have prohibited the airline from operating commercial flights.

The airline operates a fleet of 10 leased aircraft for its domestic and continental routes as well as the Windhoek to Frankfurt route.

The transport commission in the ministry of works and transport said it moved to ground the airline’s operations out of concern about its ongoing financial challenges.

“Taking all the factors into consideration and the requirements of the Air Services Act, namely that the operator must be financially able to provide a safe satisfactory and reliable air service,” the commission’s head Eldoretter Harmse said in a statement.

Nonetheless, Air Namibia troubles are far from over as the state-owned airline struggle to keep afloat.

Finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi has refuted recent media reports that the government has given up on Air Namibia and decided to have it liquidated.

Shiimi who chairs the Cabinet Committee on treasury has said no decision has been taken to liquidate the company.

But different options are on the table to restructure the company that employs about 800 people. The airline has a significant debt which if leaseholds are factored in will amount to mover than N$5 billion ($335 million).

“This means for the new business plan to be implemented, taking the outstanding debt into account, an amount of over N$7 billion ($470 million)will have to be spent in the current financial year which makes it unaffordable,” he said.

The government has already turned down Air Namibia’s request for N$2 billion ($134 million) bailout in October 2019. Instead, the government agreed to provide a N$578 million ($39 million) loan guarantee for the national airline.

Air Namibia has been allocated N$984.6 ($66 million) for the 2010/21 financial year. The loss-making parastatal has been the cause of headache for the State that has spent over N$8 billion ($537 million) to bail it out for the past two decades.

And President Hage Geingob believes the airline does not worth the headache, after his recent public call to liquidate the airline.

“Air Namibia must be liquidated. We have a very serious problem with air Namibia,” Geingob stressed while answering questions regarding the unprofitability of the national airline in parliament on June 5. “It must be restructured and if liquidation is the thing, we must do that.”

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Planning is more important than prediction for Africa’s property sector now
July 9, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Gerhard Zeelie*

Gerhard Zeelie is  Head of Property Finance Africa at Nedbank CIB
Gerhard Zeelie is Head of Property Finance Africa at Nedbank CIB

An understandable response to the economic fallout of Covid-19 is for governments, industries and businesses trying to predict the path that the global economy will take in the coming months and years. However, given that this is a challenging exercise at best, it’s probably a better investment of valuable time and effort to ponder the many lessons – some very hard to swallow – that the pandemic has taught us, and integrate them into our future business and investment plans and strategies, so that we’re more prepared for what the future brings, irrespective of what that is.

For the African property sector this approach is especially vital. As a largely developing continent, Africa’s advantage over its so-called developed economy counterparts is that, in almost every aspect, it has the capacity to reset its economic development compass on the back of Covid-19. Property is a case in point. Where property stakeholders in most developed countries and continents will now have to consider how they can adapt or retrofit what they already have in place to a post-Covid reality, Africa’s property landscape is still very much in its infancy. Meaning that it has immense opportunities to leverage the pandemic lessons as a springboard for the type of future-focused property development that could very well position the continent as a global property leader.

With that in mind, it’s worth taking a closer look at how Covid-19 has impacted the key property sectors in Africa and, more importantly, what opportunities may present themselves going forward.

The hospitality sector was undoubtedly the hardest hit by the pandemic, with revenues coming to a complete and sudden halt as travel was shut down. Interestingly, this is probably also the sector that will be least changed by Covid-19 in the long-term. However, stakeholders would still be well advised to consider innovative ways in which to leverage and maximise the significant value of their assets as the world once again becomes more mobile going forward.

The office sub-sector also experienced significant negative impacts, but revenue streams were not as widely or extensively shut down as with the hospitality sector, given that many tenants were able to pay some or all of their rent through the crisis. However, office space is the one area where the post-Covid-19 future needs to be very carefully considered. The virus threw a bright spotlight on a truth that was already widely known, but largely ignored – which is that the way we use office space is evolving. With the potential for remote working now clearly demonstrated, workplace ecosystems are set to transform, and there is a real opportunity to completely rethink the role and purpose of office space going forward.

The same is true for retail property. The isolation resulting from Covid-19 lockdown responses illustrated the need that exists in African communities for human interaction. And retail destinations were highlighted as the spaces where such interaction is facilitated. While the impact of the pandemic was quite severe in this sub-sector, the recovery may also be swift – particularly given that online trade has not yet gained enough of a foothold to be a significant driver of shopping behaviour change. So, there is significant opportunity for retail developers to capitalise on the lessons learned over the past two months; the most important of which is the need to rethink the primary role of retail centres and change the focus from shopping centres to holistic experience destinations.

The logistics/industrial sector, while not as severely impacted as the previously mentioned sub-sectors, also has the potential to position itself to capitalise on Africa’s post-Covid-19 future. It is likely that online shopping will continue to grow in popularity across the continent, which has the potential to drive significant growth in the logistics industry. To make the most of this opportunity, sector participants will need to carefully and strategically think about where to locate future light industrial developments for maximum exposure and leverage.

So, there are undoubtedly opportunities for property in Africa to flourish going forward. But there are a few caveats to keep in mind. For one, if Africa wants to fully capitalise on its property development springboard potential, stakeholders in the sector have to avoid the temptation to now become bogged down in trying to anticipate the next global crisis or attempting to build such considerations into their property feasibilities. While there is always the possibility of another Covid-type event, with global repercussions, the relatively low probability means that adjusting for it now will have little or no long-term impact on property development models – other than requiring large investments of time, intellectual resources and money that could be better spent elsewhere.

Of course that doesn’t mean that investors and developers in Africa should simply be throwing caution to the wind and going full steam ahead with new developments they had planned before the pandemic struck. There is still much uncertainty about what the future holds. And while we can’t forever be held captive by that uncertainty, we also cannot afford to ignore it. Where projects and developments can be delayed by a few months, it would almost certainly be prudent to do so. At least until the economic fog has lifted somewhat – particularly in terms of local currency stability, commodity prices and tenant sustainability – and the future is a little clearer.

*Gerhard Zeelie is Head of Property Finance Africa at Nedbank CIB

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African Energy Chamber Launches New Energy Jobs Portal and Pledges to Boost Local Content
July 8, 2020 | 0 Comments

The platform will assist local and international companies in attracting local talent across 30 different skills set in the oil & gas, power and renewable energy sectors.

With this new platform, we are getting rid of a lot of entry barriers set on the job market by expensive recruitment agencies , says NJ Ayuk
With this new platform, we are getting rid of a lot of entry barriers set on the job market by expensive recruitment agencies , says NJ Ayuk

In order to maximize the saving of local jobs and assist in the recovery of African energy markets after the Covid-19 crisis, the African Energy Chamber and its partners have launched a free-of-access jobs portal for trained and qualified African workforce. The collaborative platform is accessible at www.EnergyChamber.org/jobs and relays the latest jobs opportunities for Africans across the continent’s energy markets.

The platform will assist local and international companies in attracting local talent across 30 different skills set in the oil & gas, power and renewable energy sectors. All energy companies operating in Africa are able to post their job offers for free, and these will be relayed on the platform and via the Chamber’s communications channels after approval by the Chamber’s admin and team. The jobs portal will be operated and maintained by the African Energy Chamber in order to avoid all fraud and guarantee the credibility of the offers available.

“Local content has always been the number one priority of the African Energy Chamber when advocating for an energy industry that works for Africans and builds truly sustainable business models. With this new platform, we are getting rid of a lot of entry barriers set on the job market by expensive recruitment agencies. This initiative of the Chamber is non lucrative and we encourage all African and international companies to work with us on boosting local jobs creation to support the recovery of our industry and build true sustainability,” declared Nj Ayuk, Executive Chairman at the African Energy Chamber.

The African Energy Chamber is encouraging all companies in search of African talent across the energy industry to submit their job offers directly online via the platform. Any related requests or queries can be addressed to jobs@energychamber.org.

*Africa Energy Chamber

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African Energy Chamber Hopeful for a Quick Resolution of Disagreements Over Fuel Shortages in Tanzania
July 8, 2020 | 0 Comments
The African Energy Chamber is calling for the respect of the rule of law, and asking that they be afforded all due processes as required by Tanzanian law

The African Energy Chamber expresses its concerns over the alleged arrest and detention of three energy executives in Tanzania last week. Total Tanzania’s Managing Director Jean-Francois Schoepp, Puma Supply Manager Adam Eliewinga and Oryx’s representative August Dominick were arrested for questioning and taken into custody while attending a consultative meeting between oil marketers and the Energy and Water Regulatory Authority (Ewura) in Dar es Salaam. 

The African Energy Chamber is calling for the respect of the rule of law, and asking that they be afforded all due processes as required by Tanzanian law. Given how critical these times are the ongoing economic crisis across the continent because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chamber is hoping for a quick and amicable resolution to such disagreements that are detrimental to Tanzanian citizens.

“We hope that any ongoing disagreement between oil marketers and the Tanzanian government will be quickly resolved so everyone can get back to business and to providing services to Tanzanian consumers. The Chamber has repeatedly applauded Tanzania for its strike in discovering significant gas resources. With the right infrastructure, Tanzania’s natural resources could transform the country into an oasis of energy growth. We do not want to see such isolated incidents affect the attractiveness of the country for foreign investors and ultimately affect the its energy independence and slow down jobs creation,” declared Nj Ayuk, Executive Chairman at the African Energy Chamber.

The Chamber will remain open to assisting all parties in reaching an amicable solution to ongoing disagreements and calls on all stakeholders to promote a stronger dialogue on ongoing matters of fuel supply across Tanzania. 
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Andela Expands Presence to All African Countries
July 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

Global Technology Network to Double Engineering Talent Pool as it Transitions to Fully-Remote Model

Andela, the global talent company that helps companies build remote engineering teams, will now accept engineers from all African countries, in a bid to double its global talent pool and connect an even greater number of specialised engineers with opportunities. The company is accepting pan-African applications for senior engineers with in-demand stack experience such as Node, React, Python and Ruby. 

Andela helps its customers, who include Cloudflare, Wellio, ViacomCBS, and Women Who Code, gain access to high-quality software engineers who work as long-term, embedded team members. Today’s news will further enable companies that work with Andela to source the talent they need, when they need it, by opening up to additional talent pools across the continent with an even greater diversity of experiences and technology stacks.

Jeremy Johnson, Andela co-founder and CEO says, “Over the past five years, we have become experts at identifying engineering excellence from nontraditional backgrounds. We know that there are extremely talented engineers across Africa and we believe that opportunity should not be limited by proximity to a major tech hub. Being a remote-first engineering organization allows us to open up access to Andela for engineers across the continent.” 

“By removing restrictions on location, we will double our pool of potential talent to the roughly 500,000 engineers in Africa who can now leverage Andela to work with top international engineering teams. Ultimately, our goal is to break down the barriers that prevent talent and opportunity from connecting by providing an easier, more efficient way for companies to scale global engineering teams.” 

Launched in 2014, and prior to being a fully remote organization, Andela operated in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. Today, Andela has successfully completed the transition to full-remote, which began with pilots in Ghana in 2018 and Egypt in 2019. Accepting engineers from outside the capital cities in these countries allowed Andela to select and work with a broader range of top tier technical talent, with no reduction in productivity. The company will continue to maintain its rigorous application process, in order to build the strongest talent pool of software engineers on the continent.

In the US, high growth companies continue to need more senior engineering talent, and in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, are increasingly open to hiring remote. Johnson concludes, “The world is beginning to realize that remote work is going to be a major catalyst for the democratization of opportunity. Luckily, engineering leaders already know that remote work works if you have the right processes and systems in place, and are at the forefront of this change. By doubling our talent pool, we’re proud to help accelerate their critical work of building the future.”  

In addition to enabling experienced engineers to build global careers, Andela continues to invest in the Andela Learning Community, a program that has introduced over 100,000 learners from across the continent to software engineering. 

Andela is accepting applications from all countries in Africa.

Andela is an engineering-as-a-service business that helps companies build remote teams quickly and cost-effectively. We have 1,000+ software engineers working as full-time, embedded members of development teams at over 200 leading tech companies.

Andela is headquartered in New York, and has a globally distributed team. They are backed by investors including Spark Capital, Generation Investment Management, Serena Ventures, Chan Zuckerberg Education, and Omidyar Network.

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In Times When Black Lives Finally Matter, Building Purpose-Driven Businesses is Key to Economic Empowerment
June 30, 2020 | 0 Comments
Kase Lawal
Kase Lawal
The Opportunity Fund will invest only in companies led by people of color, and is the first such fund to be created in response to growing protests.

Earlier this month and following the death of George Floyd, SoftBank announced a $100m investment fund for minority-owned businesses. The Opportunity Fund will invest only in companies led by people of color, and is the first such fund to be created in response to growing protests, in the US and worldwide, against racism and lack of equal opportunities for black people. While the initiative is not the first of its kind in the US or abroad (South Africa has several financial institutions dedicated to providing financial support to black entrepreneurs), its significance is much stronger now.

The US is in fact home to several financial institutions dedicated to supporting low- and moderate-income communities of color. However, as their relevance grows in the wake of the current crisis, their number has been steadily declining over the past years. One of the oldest such institution still in business today is the Unity National Bank. It is Texas’ only black-owned bank and an example of what purpose-driven businesses can accomplish for their communities and their country.

The Unity National Bank was established in the early 1960s and has since then supported the banking and capital needs of low- and moderate-income communities across Texas. While it used to operate in a banking industry with 47 African American-controlled banks in the early 2000s, the recession of 2008 took its toll on its peers. In 2019, the US had only 22 remaining black-owned banks.

Since 2005, the Unity National Bank is majority-owned by Nigeria-born oil executive Kase Lawal and his family. Kase Lawal is also Chairman of CAMAC International and seen as one of the few successful black entrepreneur in the energy sector, which remains an industry widely dominated by white men. He currently serves as Board Chairman of the Unity National Bank and, under his leadership, the bank has been able to weather the storm since 2008 and keep expanding. In 2018, it opened in Atlanta, its first expansion beyond the state of Texas, in order to consolidate and serve the African American community better.

Its lending program is focused on supporting and rebuilding its community, especially via commercial and mortgage loans. Unity National Bank has forged a network of partners and agents that are able to support the very core of its activities, from lending to supporting financial literacy across community.

While the bank, like other African American-owned banks, has struggled in recent years due to its smaller size and financial performances, its management is putting the foundations in place for the business to continue growing. It recently partnered with Citigroup and introduced a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which reportedly allowed the saving of 3,000 jobs. The PPP loans, acclaimed for their support to small black-owned businesses, even earned Unity National Bank a visit by Vice President Mike Pence this year.

“Kase Lawal is real, a legend. He is an improbable driver for black empowerment through entrepreneurship, even as most people never saw him coming and counted him out. I am not surprised that he will rise to the occasion, walk the walk and execute during these times when our communities are dealing with the scourge of Covid19 and difficult economic conditions,” stated NJ Ayuk Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber. “His humanity and humility lets him walk with the little guy and still keep his virtue. He may seat with Presidents and Ministers yet never loses the common touch or forgets where he came from. He is always thinking about the poor and the upward mobility of those who have not been dealt a fair hand by our economy,” added Mr Ayuk.

Now that the Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll on American jobs and lives, and even more so for African American communities, and at a time when the world calls for better support to black entrepreneurs and businesses, the Kase Lawal-chaired institution is set to benefit. It remains one of the few institutions in the US with a true purpose of working with communities and linking their fate together to create a better future for African American families and gives countless of talented young women and men the means to build a successful future.

As the world seeks new ways to build equal societies, developing successful business models that promote equal opportunities and bring much-needed capital to talented communities is becoming the need of the hour. In doing so, looking at black-owned banks and businesses and learning from their experience would prove very beneficial. Beyond looking at pure business principles and balance sheets fundamentals, these companies are driven by a true social purpose which could well be the kind of basis the world needs to build fairer societies.

*Africa Energy Chamber
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COVID-19: Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) donates 150-bed Isolation Center, multi-million Naira Medical Equipment to Lagos State
June 29, 2020 | 0 Comments
The Governor commended the Coalition’s efforts in mobilising resources quickly to support emergency responses.

The Private Sector led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) has donated a 150-bed fully equipped  isolation facility with medical equipment worth millions of naira to the Lagos State Government, to provide support in the fight against the virus within the state.

Speaking at the commissioning of the Yaba Isolation center, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu noted that the isolation center would further strengthen the state’s healthcare system in dealing with the challenges of the Pandemic as the state currently leads the toll of Nigeria’s COVID-19 infections with over 10,000 confirmed cases.

The Governor commended the Coalition’s efforts in mobilising resources quickly to support emergency responses and pledged that the donated facility would be used to provide adequate treatment to those who are infected and help to stop the overall spread of the virus within the state.

He urged all citizens to continue to take responsibility and follow directives of the government and health professionals towards reducing the spread of the virus and saving lives across communities.

“We need to take responsibility because the virus knows no race, ethnicity, religion or boundary. We need to take responsibility for our loved ones by wearing face mask, maintaining social distancing and hand hygiene to reduce morbidity and mortality,” the governor said.

He further disclosed plans by the State Government to build an International Infectious Disease Research Centre, Doctors’ quarters and permanent isolation wards at the Mainland Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba as part of Lagos COVID19 response and other infectious disease preparedness in post COVID19 era.

In his remarks, the State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said that the center was the sixth facility in the state dedicated to the treatment of COVID-19 patients, and is coming onboard at a time when the state is ramping up its testing capacity.

He further said the 150-bed facility donated by CACOVID would be used for the management of moderate to severe COVID-19 patients and would assist in admitting and providing care for more patients.

Also speaking at the event, the Central Bank Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said that collaboration between the private sector and government was vital to prevent the spread of the virus and save the lives of the citizens,

He further said that the center would enhance the state’s healthcare system and the management of COVID-19 within the state.

According to him, N29 billion has been donated so far by members of the coalition towards supporting government’s efforts in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and that the funds have been used to build and equip isolation centers across the country.

Mr. Emefiele said that 32 isolation centers have been built as of today, with a target to reach 39 isolation centers by the end of July.

The CBN governor added that CACOVID had also provided in-kind food palliatives to members of the public across the country to ameliorate the effects of the virus on their welfare.

He commended members of the coalition for their generous and selfless donations which have helped in achieving its common goal of helping the nation fight the spread of COVID-19. He also lauded the healthcare workers and the state government for their efforts in implementing strategies, caring for the infected patients and reducing the spread of the virus in the state.

Also, the Chief Executive, Dangote Industries Limited, Aliko Dangote said the Lagos Isolation Center was a model for what the coalition would build in other states.

Dangote, represented by Ms Zouera Youssoufou, Managing Director Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF), said: “It is with great pride that we hand over the Yaba Isolation Center to Lagos State. More supports will come to the state from the coalition and we appreciate everyone’s contribution towards our goal.”

In his remarks, the Managing Director, Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe said that Lagos was more vulnerable to spread of the virus due to its large population. He commended the state government for its efforts to reduce the spread and effect of the virus on the citizens. He also appreciated the state government’s support to CACOVID.

The Yaba Isolation center comes with a fully equipped medical laboratory and high dependency unit; personal protective equipment and other critical medical consumables; water and sewage treatment plants; 11kv power generator amongst other essentials. This is in addition to 34,000 test kits, sample collection swabs and infrared thermometers recently delivered to the NCDC.

Till date, CACOVID has committed billions of naira to build 38 fully equipped isolation centers across Nigeria with over 5,000 beds and critical medical equipment needed to fight the pandemic, exemplifying sustainable value addition from a partnership that truly works.

*Dangote Group
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From Kenya To East Africa, African Made SUV Mobius Eyes Continental Market
June 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Joel Jackson is the Founder and CEO of Mobius Motors specialized in the building of vehicles in Africa for Africa

In the hugely competitive world of cars, Mobius, a Kenyan based company manufacturing luxury SUVs, has carved a niche for itself, and is set for expansion into the East African market.

Designed specifically to handle the rugged African terrain with consideration for income levels, business needs, vehicle loading and more, Mobius vehicles are a strong combination of very high level durability, and very high levels of affordability, says Joel Jackson, its Founder and CEO. Speaking in a skype interview with Pan African Visions, Joel Jackson who was pushed into car manufacturing because of the transportation challenges he faced in Kenya while working with a forestry NGO, says Mobius is developing cars specifically for the local market.

“To get the combination of high durability, and affordability with a free one-year warranty covered, and authorized servicing in a way that has not been offered before is a truly unique proposition from Mobius,” says Joel Jackson.

With roots firmly established in Kenya, Jackson says the next phase involves expansion into other countries in East Africa and eventually across the rest of the continent.

PAV: Good morning and thanks for granting this interview to talk about Mobius cars. Can we start with an introduction of the company and its products?

Joel Jackson: Mobius is a new car company in Kenya, and we design, manufacture, and sell vehicles suited specifically for the African markets. We launched our first generation vehicle in 2015, and we are preparing to launch our next generation vehicle now, and the vehicle is built in Nairobi factory in Kenya.

PAV: When you say the cars are designed for the African market what do you mean by that, and how different are your cars from Japanese, American, French or even German cars?

Joel Jackson: Firstly, they are very durable; they offer the same type of performance as an SUV in the Kenyan market, but they are also very affordable as well. Our position in price is just over $13,000 for a brand new SUV which is unparalleled in price offering in the market. So, it is a combination of very high-level durability, and very high levels of affordability but offered in a very attractive package which consumers find very appealing.

PAV: You are from Britain, what prompted you to get into the car business, and why the choice of Africa, and why Kenya out of 54 African countries?

Joel Jackson: My first experience in Kenya was working with a forestry NGO on the coast of Kenya, and it was quite an eye-opening experience. I spent a lot of time moving around in the rural areas of the country and I really had first-hand experience of the kinds of transportation challenges the people in those communities were facing so that was the original inspiration for Mobius to develop a car that was durable enough to handle the kinds of roads, terrains I saw in those areas. Although I planned to be in Kenya for a relative short stint, and move back to the UK and continue my career as a management consultant, I ended up staying in Kenya and founded Mobius, and I have done that since.

PAV: Let’s talk about the work force of Mobius, how many workers do you have and are there Kenyans or Africans who actually participate in the production process of your cars?

Joel Jackson: Yes. So today we have about 55 people on the team, and that continues to grow. We have been fortunate to hire some incredible people from all around the world with very deep automotive experience. The vast majority of our team are Kenyans, and that includes Kenyans who have been educated abroad, worked in different car companies for a while and decided to move back to Kenya and join Mobius.

PAV: With regards to the models that you currently have, could you tell us the kinds of cars you have in the market at the moment?

Joel Jackson: Our next generation Mobius 2 vehicle is currently available for pre-order, and our customers can log into our website and pre-order the vehicle. It is an SUV offering which gives customers specifically developed rugged performance for rough road driving environments. It has many of the key features customers will expect in a vehicle, power steering, air conditioning, an optional Wi-Fi enabled tablet entertainment system in the vehicle as well. But it is specifically developed for high durability, drive performance, and a very low price rate.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta had a special test drive of a Mobius car in 2014
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta had a special test drive of a Mobius car in 2014

PAV: We believe there are many car companies in Kenya, how is Mobius copping with the competition from Japanese, French, Italian, and German cars?

Joel Jackson: The vast majority of cars in Kenya are mostly imported from countries like Japan. Those vehicles tend to experience high import duty when they arrive, so in many cases cars are mostly doubling in price. We are one of the few car companies operating on the continent which means we do not experience the same taxation as imported vehicles. What Mobius is doing is developing a car specifically for the local market which is highly differentiated regarding its combined durability, and affordability and that is a unique offering in the market.

To find an SUV at this price rate; we are the only one offering. Even when you compare Mobius to a five, six-year-old SUV import from Japan, our vehicle is lower in price, brand new with a free one-year warranty offer, assembled, and authorized servicing. So, it is a genuine, exceptional proposition to the consumer.

PAV: What has the response been from the consumers regarding sales, how excited are Kenyans about using your products?

Joel Jackson: Kenyans are really excited about the introduction of Mobius. We have already generated hundreds of pre-orders with minimal marketing to date and that is largely based out of the positive experience customers in Kenya have already received for our first generation vehicle we launched a few years ago. There is a huge anticipation in Kenya for the launch of our next generation car, and again our brand is well perceived in the local market.

PAV: With regards to expansion, do you plan to limit yourself to just the Kenyan market or what plans do you have in place to expand production to other African countries?

 Joel Jackson: So, we plan to expand to other countries in Africa very quickly. We will be starting expansion out of Kenya initially within East Africa, and the focus there is stabilizing the production and distribution systems. One of the unique elements to Mobius that we are pioneering is a new model of sales and service for the customers, so beyond offering fantastic products in the market we are also looking to offer a better sales and service experience as well.

We have built in Mombasa a new sales and service centre that we will be launching later this year and that centre is quite different from traditional dealerships, you find in East Africa. It will be run by Mobius and has quite a distinctive architecture, it combines service operations alongside a show room facility, and we will be building such facilities across East Africa in the coming years.  We will be expanding the Mobius brand presence in the Region, and we will also be offering customers much closer touch points for servicing their vehicles outside the major cities alone in East Africa. This is the big focus of the company in the coming years to scale up our distribution to reach many customers not just in Kenya, but across East Africa. Long-term as that system is stable, we will look to replicate in the other regions of Africa.

PAV: With regards to challenges, what are some issues that you have face?

Joel Jackson: The first challenge is setting up global supply chain for a product such as a vehicle, there are thousands of components going into it and each of those components have different suppliers, sometimes, the same suppliers. In our case, our primary sourcing, and has been in Asia and one of the things we have heavily been investing is building a body chain in Kenya, building that ecosystem of suppliers in Kenya in the coming years for the contents of our cars. We have a view of driving industrial change in Kenya and across East Africa and to create more jobs, and the increase in skilled levels across countries. So there has been a lot of investments in so far as working with our existing suppliers to improve the production capacity. We will be doing more work in the coming years as we drive up local content in our cars even higher from where we are today. That’s certainly been one of the big focus areas of the business.

The second challenge has been in setting up the right talent base in the business to do what we do. Obviously as I have mentioned earlier, developing a vehicle in an African context is new. We are really pioneering the development launch of vehicles specifically suited for the African market. Finding the right kind of skills sometimes can be challenging particularly when you are talking about specific engineering kind of skills. But again, we have been fortunate to hire a really strong team over the previous years and develop our in house capabilities in those areas. But again, when you are starting on a baseline where sought of expertise does not exist, you have to progress as you build that over time.

PAV: Is there any kind of support or partnership that you have received from the Kenyan government as you go about business in Kenya?

Joel Jackson: Yes, we are already working according to the existing incentive scheme that the Kenyan government offer, and we are in discussion with the Kenyan government about how we can work more closely with them over time to improve the incentives that are offered in industry. We are also in discussion with the government about potential purchase of our vehicles, clearly these vehicles are well suited to the African context, and this extends to various government ministries and different parastatals which may want to buy products suited for their needs. There is also in Kenya a buy Kenya, build Kenya initiative that we are a big supporter of, and we see a kind of natural synergy in Mobius supplying Kenyan made vehicles to Kenyan government.

PAV: What impact has COVID-19 had on your activities?

Joel Jackson: At the moment as we finalize the preparation of the vehicle ready for launch, there is a lower degree of impact on Mobius than it will be on other car markers around the world who are actively in production and revenue generation. Clearly, COVID has had a major impact around the world and across all sectors. Majority of our team are working at home at the moment for obvious health reason and exercising social distancing for those who do need to be in the office, and at the factory. The first sign of this situation as we look forward to post COVID-19 world is that Mobius really has unique potential in the Kenyan and East African context to be a real proponent of change and recovery in the economy by driving job creation, and skill creation in the country, as our local content increases, and the supply chain in Kenya, increases. As our production increases, we need to be hiring more people on the production line, there is a knock-on effect to the economic potential. We also need to expand the knowledge of the workers to expand their knowledge of automotive processes.

These are value-added skills that will benefit the economy more generally, and ultimately the intention of Mobius as we drive our production volume is that we are starting to export content from Kenya to other countries in East Africa and as you export contents you drive up GDP. There is huge development potential of Mobius particularly in post COVID-19 world where there is even more need for stable manufacturing operations as a backbone for economic recovery

PAV: There is a lot of talk on the continent about the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, are you looking forward to that?

Joel Jackson: We are. We welcome any news that will make the trade of goods easier, quicker, and cheaper. We think the African Union has a huge potential long-term to benefit from the same type of trade or regulation that we see in the EU for example. We think our vehicles are well suited to a broader Pan-African market, and we see clear potentials in other markets beyond East Africa, so, we are all in favour or encouraging the free movement of goods. We think also on the supply chain as well as we invest in greater self-reliance in Africa to boost local industrialization. In Africa, we need to encourage more suppliers to come on board. There are many benefits, and we think everyone can win by increasing the movement of goods long-term.

PAV: How does your company give back to the community?

Joel Jackson: There are a number of ways as I have already referenced regarding industrialization, job creation, skills creation, all of these things can make a big difference to many people’s lives as they get jobs they enjoy doing, get a good salary, and get a good environment that their skills can develop. Also, one of the unique characteristics of Mobius is that we are positioning our vehicles as enablers of mobility. So really there is a two-prong social impact potential of Mobius; one is in driving industrialization, and two is driving access to mobility.

So not only in the SUV offering that I was describing earlier, but also with a feature configuration of that platform that is currently under development that will enable owners to physically plug in different modules for different businesses with. It could be a public transport business, delivery service, and a wide range of applications. Those are the kinds of businesses that these entrepreneurs can run to generate income with and crucially the kinds of services that enable users in their communities to benefit from transportation. So, for everyone one entrepreneur owner of a Mobius vehicle there can be hundreds   of more beneficiaries.

We hope that when people buy Mobius to run public transport businesses with, in turn we will see more people in communities in rural parts of Africa benefiting from all the kinds of services that the transportation system literary provides. So, industrialization, and mobility are two really important elements to what Mobius is doing.

Designed specifically with the rugged African terrain in mind, brand new Mobius cars sell cheaper than used foreign cars in Kenya
Designed specifically with the rugged African terrain in mind, brand new Mobius cars sell cheaper than used foreign cars in Kenya

PAV: Looking at the economic conditions of Kenyans and Africans, how affordable are the cars with regards to the economic realities you see?

Joel Jackson: Relative to the incumbents in the market they are really affordable. As I mention earlier, if you buy a five or six-year-old SUV in Kenyan today imported you are paying well over $20,000. For a brand-new Mobius SUV you are paying a price starting from around $13,000. So, it is truly exceptional in that respect. But equally, many customers when they buy, they buy the vehicle with vehicle financing, and we have already work with a number of customers, and their banks to help to set up vehicle financing lines that they can purchase their vehicles with. Obviously, vehicle financing is something that we will be placing more and more emphases on over time as we expand our market, and we hope long-term with more vehicle financing products available many more customers in East Africa will be able to buy these vehicles.

PAV: We end with an opportunity for you to make a direct pitch to Kenyans and Africans out there on your business, why should they go for a Mobius made car as opposed to  a Toyota  ,Honda  or some other brand ?

Joel Jackson: To get the combination of high durability, and affordability with a free one-year warranty covered and authorized servicing in a way that has not been offered to date, is a truly unique proposition, and it’s a very attractive vehicle that is a lot of fun to drive in, and we will encourage customers to come visit our showroom and see for themselves

PAV: Mr. Joel Jackson thank you for talking to Pan African Visions.

Joel Jackson: Likewise, it was great to be with you and thanks for taking the time.

* The full interview is featured in the upcoming July issue of Pan African Visions Magazine.For more information on Mobius cars click here

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African countries making headway in tackling tax evasion and money laundering, 2020 Tax Transparency report says
June 27, 2020 | 0 Comments

African countries made great strides in strengthening commitments and capacity to achieve tax transparency and exchange information on illicit fund flows in 2019, the latest Tax Transparency in Africa report, launched Thursday, revealed.

Tax Transparency in Africa 2020 – produced by the Global Forum for Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, the African Union and African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), in close partnership with the African Development Bank – noted the need for African countries to engage further in revenue mobilization, a concern sharpened by the backdrop of the ongoing global novel coronavirus pandemic. The report was published during a virtual launch.

The report provides comparable tax transparency statistics to aid decision makers to address illicit fund flows. The 2020 report covers 32 Global Forum member countries, and three non-members: Angola, Guinea Bissau and Malawi.

 “This annual publication of the Tax Transparency in Africa is part of the various efforts of the continent to advance global tax transparency and exchange of information agenda in Africa in order to combat corruption, tax evasion, money laundering, fraud, base erosion, and profit shifting and illicit enrichment,” said Victor Harrison, African Union Commission Commissioner for Economic Affairs, in the report’s preface.

Illicit financial flows in Africa are estimated at between $50 billion and $80 billion annually; 44% of Africa’s financial wealth is thought be held offshore, which corresponds to tax revenue losses of €17 billion.

Participating countries show significant advances on the AI’s two core pillars: raising political awareness and commitment and developing capacities in tax transparency and exchange of information.

Marie Jose Garde, Chair of the Global Forum, chaired the live event. Other participants included: Head of the Global Forum Secretariat Zayda Manatta; African Tax Administration Executive Secretary Logan Wort; Marcello Estevao, Global Director, Macroeconomics, Trade & Investment of the World Bank, and the African Development Bank’s Director, Governance and Public Financial Management, Abdoulaye Coulibaly. 

Ms. Manatta praised African countries’ growing proactive role in tax transparency and noted the benefits of existing exchange-sharing tools. “Requests for information directly translate into additional tax revenue and that’s what counts.  We have five African countries identifying nearly $12 million in additional revenue, and eight African countries secured $189 million of additional revenue between 2014 and 2019.”    

Mr. Coulibaly said, “The African Development Bank firmly believes that collaborations with both regional and international partners are key to moving forward the agenda on tax transparency which has significant impact on domestic resource mobilization, the achievement of the SDGs and other regional aspirations including the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Bank’s own High Fives.”  .

He also underscored that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic recalls the critical importance of domestic resource mobilization in Africa, in particular in relation to tax transparency and the fight against illicit flows, in order to further protect populations against threats to their livelihoods.

The Africa Initiative, which launched in 2014, is a partnership of the Global Forum, its African members and regional and international organizations, including the African Development Bank, ATAF, and The World Bank. The Global Forum has a self-standing dedicated secretariat based in the OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration.

The African Development Bank, an observer to the Global Forum since 2014, also participates in the Africa Initiative. The Bank promotes African tax transparency through support to institutions and non-state actors in its regional member countries and by strengthening international co-operation to eliminate IFFs.

*AFDB.To download the full report click here

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Radisson Hotel Group announces new appointments to drive the execution of its renewed expansion ambitions for Africa
June 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

Ramsay Rankoussi, Head of Development, Africa, Radisson Hotel Group
Ramsay Rankoussi, Head of Development, Africa, Radisson Hotel Group

Radisson Hotel Group is pleased to announce the appointment of Ramsay Rankoussi as the new head of development for Africa and Daniel Trappler, Senior Director, Development for Sub-Sahara, as the Group continues to increase its presence and renews its commitment to Africa.

Radisson Hotel Group is one of the largest hotel groups in Africa with almost 100 hotels in operation and under development, and with the ambition to grow its presence across the continent to over 150 hotels by 2025.

Based in Dubai, Ramsay Rankoussi has been with the company for more than six years and now leads Radisson Hotel Group’s growth in Africa. The appointment reinforces Radisson Hotel Group’s confidence that Africa continues to be a region of growth.

With the addition of Daniel Trappler as Senior Director, Development for Sub-Sahara, the company becomes increasingly relevant to owners. He brings a unique set of skills to the investment community. He is one of the few specialists in hotel transactions and capital markets, dedicated to Africa. Trappler’s strong understanding of the region unlocks access to a network of financial institutions which represents the biggest challenge across the continent, in terms of deal structuring and hotel openings.

Radisson Hotel Group’s development and growth strategy in Africa follows a two-fold approach. The first part concentrates on focus countries while the second centers around creating key hubs. By creating a mass city scale development strategy with a focus on key countries and surrounding markets including Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa, the group’s ‘hub approach’ ensures synergy among neighboring countries and creates further value for its hotels, in terms of both development and operations. Each member of Radisson Hotel Group’s development team is a leader in this approach because of their geographical proximity as well as their local cultural knowledge and linguistic understanding of each focus market.

Asked about this new vision, Elie Younes, Chief Development Officer for the group says, “Africa has always been at the forefront of our growth journey and we have recently adopted a new tailored strategy across the continent, reflecting the needs of the market and also underlining our ambitions to accelerate our presence in all key cities. I am very pleased with Ramsay’s new role overseeing our development in Africa. Over the last 6 years, Ramsay has proven to be a key asset to our development team, and with the appointment of Daniel, we become increasingly relevant to our owners and investment partners. We look forward to developing our presence even further and contributing to the local community through job creation and additional positive knock-on effects of investment.”

The targeted territories where the group is focused on growing its presence include the Maghreb; West Africa with Senegal and Ivory Coast; Central Africa with Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo; East Africa with Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania; and finally, specific countries within the Southern African Development Community such as Angola, Mauritius, Mozambique and Zambia.

Ramsay Rankoussi, the group’s Head of Development for Africa said, “This is a tremendous opportunity to further accelerate our growth in Africa and I am pleased to be surrounded by the best team. We have ensured a geographical alignment in our resources and optimized our response time with deal experts in every market we cover. The addition of Daniel to the team unlocks a new horizon where Radisson Hotel Group will be able to further assist our partners in debt and equity raising, but we will also leverage our complete skillset in addressing cross-regional synergies from financial to construction solutions to ensure we always remain relevant to our owners.

Daniel Trappler_Senior Director, Development, Sub Sahara Africa
Daniel Trappler_Senior Director, Development, Sub Sahara Africa

What really sets us apart, is our pragmatic design approach and our transparency throughout the process, in combination with our continuous guidance throughout each phase, including construction and financing. We are always quick to provide answers and support.”

Radisson Hotel Group  is one of the world’s largest hotel groups with seven distinctive hotel brands, and more than 1,400 hotels in operation and under development in 120 countries. Its signature service philosophy is Every Moment Matters.

Radisson Hotel Group portfolio includes Radisson Collection, Radisson Blu, Radisson, Radisson RED, Park Plaza, Park Inn by Radisson and Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, brought together under one commercial umbrella brand Radisson Hotels.

Radisson Rewards is our global rewards program that delivers unique and personalized ways to create memorable moments that matter to our guests. Radisson Rewards offers exceptional loyalty benefits for our guests, meeting planners, travel agents and business partners.

Radisson Meetings places its guests and their needs at the heart of its offer and treats every meeting or event as more than just a date on the calendar. Radisson Meetings is built around three strong service commitments: Personal, Professional and Memorable, while delivering on the brilliant basics and our signature Yes I Can! service spirit and being uniquely 100% Carbon Neutral.

More than 100,000 team members work at Radisson Hotel Group and at the hotels licensed to operate in its systems.

*SOURCE Radisson Hotel Group

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