Ten African lions set to outrun Asia’s tigers
November 11, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Marina Mellis*
Rapidly growing African economies are the next frontier of booming growth and ripe for investment. Here are the ten most promising places to invest.
When covering Africa, reports of poverty, violence, and disease still dominate the headlines of Western media. This outdated narrative obscures what global consulting companies and economic publications have reported for the past few years: Africa’s overall growth rate has “quietly approached” that of Asia and at least ten African states are set to outpace the Asian tigers in the next five years.
Democratic Republic of Congo
The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo has long been plagued by rebellion and appalling violence, but the country has still managed to achieve surprising growth. GDP growth is expected to climb steadily from 7.2 percent in 2012, to 8.2 percent by the end of this year, and to 9.4 percent in 2014. Endowed with significant natural resources, the country has begun to realize its vast potential by implementing macroeconomic policy to reduce inflation and stabilize the exchange rate. However, the DRC remains near the very bottom of the World Bank’s rankings on the ease of doing business and its political instability could derail its economic progress.
Driven by government-implemented industrial, energy, and agro-livestock projects, Chad’s already impressive 7.2 percent real GDP growth in 2012 is expected to rise to a considerable 11.5 percent in 2014. However, the country’s macroeconomic stability and government spending is heavily reliant on agriculture, and thus vulnerable to unfavorable weather and poor harvests. With financial reform, the completion of the Heavily Indebted Poor Country’s Initiative, and diversification of the economy, Chad might become a safer bet.
A traditionally energy-based economy, Angola has recovered from the global financial crisis to achieve consistent GDP growth rates around 8 percent. The country is still heavily reliant on oil revenues, but the creation of a Sovereign Wealth Fund will attempt to diversify the economy and insulate it from volatile oil prices. Close collaboration with the IMF has helped the country regain macroeconomic stability and settle its arrears, but further reforms and infrastructure investment are necessary before Angola can expand its investment opportunities beyond energy and natural resources.
The Mozambican economy has maintained its robust growth and is expected to record a real GDP growth of 8.5 percent at the end of the year. The extraction of coal, gas, and aluminum has been the main driver of growth, although the government is harnessing these gains into infrastructure investment. The recent discovery of one of the planet’s largest known gas reserves could help propel Mozambique’s economic growth, if production can begin relatively soon. However, Mozambique’s investment climate is hindered by the problems typical of developing economies, including weak human capital and infrastructure, the high cost of credit and burdensome regulations.
The most populous country in Africa and the second most oil-rich, Nigeria continues to realize strong economic growth. Clocking 6.6 percent real GDP growth in 2012, Nigeria is projected to grow by 7.3 percent in 2014, bolstered by the continued global demand for oil. Nigeria’s high degree of corruption and conflict in the northern provinces has not dampened enthusiasm for the country’s investment opportunities. Recognized by the Atlantic as among the next 5 emerging economies that will change the world, Nigeria has been dubbed the “world’s best-kept secret“ by Africa’s richest entrepreneur, Aliko Dangote, who proclaims “there’s nowhere you can make money like in Nigeria.”
Since the conclusion of the 2011 Ivorian civil war, Côte d’Ivoire has experienced robust growth, recorded at 8.6 percent in 2012 and projected to reach 9.8 percent in 2014. The economy is relatively diversified, though reliant on agriculture. The country’s financial position has improved as it has returned to a low inflation rate and substantially reduced its external debt through the completion of the Highly Indebted Poor Country initiative. Significant progress in human rights and security normalization indicates that Côte d’Ivoire is likely to continue on its path of strong economic growth, uninterrupted by political instability.
Propelled by its mining sector, Sierra Leone saw its growth rate spike at 16.7 percent in 2012, but is expected to stabilize at a still-impressive 12.1 percent in 2014. Tight monetary policy has cut inflation and the government has implemented aggressive reforms to combat corruption, the continent’s most pernicious drain on economic growth. Since the conclusion of the last of the country’s decades-long civil wars in 2005, political stability has persisted and the World Bank has recognized Sierra Leone as one of the top performers in improving the ease of doing business since 2005.
Ghana’s strong growth – expected to reach 8 percent at the end of 2013 and close to 9 percent in 2014 – is driven by exports of cocoa and gold, oil revenues, and the service sector. Ghana’s program of hedging oil imports and exports has so far maintained macroeconomic stability even as increasing oil revenues put upward pressure on the exchange rate. Ghana’s recent free and fair elections, and its settlement of an election dispute through legal channels, suggest that the risk of political destabilization is minimal.
Lacking the natural resources of many of its neighbors, Ethiopia has relied on industrialization to drive its nine consecutive years of growth. The Ethiopian government has put in place tough monetary policies to combat inflation and consulted with investors to determine the reforms required to make Ethiopian industry friendlier to investment. Ethiopia’s potential has not gone unrecognized by the Chinese, who recently opened an industry zone in eastern Ethiopia and have begun investing in much-needed infrastructure. Once Ethiopia smoothes out the logistical snags that increase manufacturers’ cost of production, the country may in fact realize its aspirations to follow in the footsteps of Asian centers of industry.
Unlike the resource-rich countries that make up the majority of Africa’s fastest growing economies, Rwanda’s growth has been driven mainly by the service and industry sectors. Rwandan President Paul Kagame has backed up his intention to make Rwanda the “Singapore of Africa” with extensive structural, institutional, and regulatory reforms. Rwanda’s commitment to transforming its investment climate has been recognized and profiled in the World Bank’s 2013 Doing Business report. Its stable democratic institutions, coupled with its commitment to promoting equitable growth and human development, make Rwanda one of the most promising emerging African economies.
Due to the outmoded perception that the continent is risky for investment, African countries have encountered difficulty in attracting investment outside of their natural resources sectors. However, the rest of the world is not looking so ripe for investment: the U.S. has flirted with default and its Congress remains in political gridlock; Europe is growing painfully slowly; and even the growth of much-hyped BRIC countries appears to be stagnating. As Stephen Jennings, head of Renaissance Capital, points out, “[Africa] is the only region in the world where growth is accelerating.” Global investors and companies might do well to heed Accenture’s advice to “act now” and take advantage of this “rising star with untapped growth potential.”
Is Africa About To Get It Right on Infrastructure?
November 5, 2013 | 0 Comments
ADB targets USD 500 million for Project Development vehicle of Africa50
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Africa5o the continents newest and most innovative infrastructure delivery vehicle is off to a promising start following the recent launch of its fundraising drive at NASDAQ. USD 5oo million is the amount on target by the African Development Bank, ADB, for the project development of Africa50 which will focus on regional and national projects of strategic importance to Africa. Sponsored by the Made in Africa Foundation (MIAF) of Ozwald Boateng, the choice of NASDAQ was to attract interest from investors says Neside Tas Anvaripour, Director of Business Development at the ADB and Team Leader for Africa50. “Africa50 embodies Africa’s promise for sustained growth and prosperity,” said Tas of the project which will be Africa’s largest infrastructure delivery vehicle created so far. The alliance between MIAF and AfDB aims to raise up to USD 500 million for Africa50’s project development arm by the first half of 2014.In an interview with Ajong Mbapndah L, Tas Anvaripour sheds more light on Africa50, the attractive returns it will provide to investors .
The African Development Bank and Made in Africa Foundation officially launched the fundraising for Africa50’s Project Development Vehicle at the Nasdaq headquarters, how did this go and why the choice of Nasdaq and New York?
The event was a positive development in our establishment efforts, as it promoted Africa50’s Project Development Vehicle. The Bank is targeting to raise up to USD 500 million for the Project Development vehicle of Africa50, Africa’s newest and most innovative infrastructure delivery vehicle, to develop regional and national projects of strategic importance for Africa. For us, it was important to launch these efforts in a location that could attract significant interest from investors. As for NASDAQ, we opted for this choice because Africa50 is a commercial vehicle offering attractive returns to investors. NASDAQ conveys this message like few other places.
Who were those who took part at the Fundraiser and what did it come up with, any positive signs?
The event was sponsored by Made in Africa Foundation. We welcome the increasing interest to fuel Africa’s growth. In addition, the event received interest and support from globally recognized names such as: Capri Capital, Huffington Post, Double Click, Heirs Holdings, Tony Elumelu Foundation, and Gilt Group, through a working luncheon hosted immediately after our appearance at NASDAQ by Arthur Sulzberger, Publisher of the New York Times. Personally, I think that attracting mainstream interest into Africa50 is the real sign of success for the events in New York
It certainly should not come to you as a surprise that many people may have heard about the Africa 50 project for the first time because of that launching and many others may not never have heard about it at all, what is the Africa 50 Project?
Africa50 embodies Africa’s promise for sustained growth and prosperity. Through Africa50, we will be developing and financing the infrastructure backbone that is needed in the continent. Through better infrastructure, African countries will increase their global competitiveness, reducing the costs of doing business and accelerating the speed of delivery for goods and services. But, perhaps most notable is the fact that through better infrastructure, which includes power, transport, ICT, as well as water and sanitation projects, Africa can achieve regional integration, thereby growing the size of its internal market at the same time as the current historical expansion of the continent’s middle class. Africa50 is an independent structured credit vehicle able to deliver innovative financing to support transformational infrastructure.
If we understand well, it is a partnership between some private sector groups and the AFDB, who does what, who is responsible for what and what criteria, is going to be used in identifying priority projects?
African Development Bank is the sponsor and seed investor of Africa50. We are currently discussing the participation of several different governments, institutional investors, private companies, and impact investors into Africa50’s founder’s equity base. However, we cannot yet announce specifically who else is part of this initiative. What we can say is that African Development Bank is receiving overwhelming support from Africa, as well as from the rest of the world to set-up Africa50.
The goal is to raise $ 500 million for Africa50’s project development arm by the first half of 2014, how is this amount going to be raised?
Africa50’s $500 million for Project Development is being raised through a combination of commercial investors, impact investors, and bilateral donors. African Development Bank will provide seed capital. At the moment, we are finalizing the specific structure that would maximize the investment level.
At what point should people expect to see the first project accruing from this initiative?
Although we are being described as overly ambitious, my experience in the market reveals that we will have a minimum of two critical investments – be that through Africa50’s Project Development or Project Finance Vehicles – in the first half of 2014. In essence, the market should expect a fast turnaround between establishment and project delivery because speed and efficiency are paramount to Africa50.
To skeptics who will complain that there have heard about lofty promises from the trans-continental road projects, to the huge expectations from NEPAD etc, how do you reassure them that the Africa 50 Project is different?
We have done this before. Between 2009 and 2011, African Development Bank delivered four large infrastructure projects in Senegal that were unthinkable until we came into reality. By investing EUR 185 million, African Development Bank catalyzed over EUR 1.3 billion in total investment in the country, in two years, thereby giving rise to an integrated approach that solidified one of Africa’s most important infrastructure backbones. Through Dakar Airport, Senegal is opening new doors for global investment into the country. The Sendou Power Plant is providing the electricity needed for the airport, as well as for about additional 40% of the country’s population. By investing in the Dakar Toll Road, the airport and the power plant are efficiently connected to the City of Dakar. But, of course, all this wouldn’t be possible without the raw materials –including the coal supplies for the power plant—arriving into Senegal through the expansion of the Dakar Port. Simply put, we have the experience, track-record, and stakeholder’s trust and confidence to enable the successful roll-out of Africa50 into Africa’s infrastructure market.
Everyone will agree infrastructure is an issue, what are some of the other areas that the African Development is putting its focus on?
Agriculture, health and education are also critically important for Africa’s development. By investing in infrastructure, we seek to support other institutional efforts in these key areas. By leveling the playing field by which farmers can bring their products to markets, by shortening distances between health centers and health consumers, and by developing the jobs and industry demanded by graduates, infrastructure holds the promise to continued growth and stability in Africa.
From a personal perspective, there seems to be growing attention from the rest of the world on Africa and its opportunities, what does Africa need to do to reap premium dividends from the attention ?
To translate this interest into higher levels of investment, Africa ought to design and establish the missing investment products and services (i.e. tenor extension, first loss guarantees, credit enhancement, exit options, etc.) while, at the same time, ring-fencing the prospects for healthy returns. This is achieved through an improved enabling environment, a sustained reform effort, and innovative vehicles such as Africa50.
Africa Can Be a Strategic Partner in the Global Market of Natural Gas
November 3, 2013 | 1 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Launched recently in Nairobi, the Africa Gas Association –TAGA has resuscitated the interest in a resource whose optimal exploitation could have profound changes in the fortunes of the continent. Anne Etoke, Managing Director for West Africa, one of those who worked closely with TAGA CEO Pam Namai towards the launching, says the Association is determined to build on the big success of the conference to market the potential that Africa has and to help draw investors to the continent. With close to a hundred participants in attendance, the launching provided a platform for networking among Africans and foreign partners. TAGA will join with partners and other stake holders in advocating for natural gas as a resource and making Africa take a strategic role in the global market Etoke said in an interview with PAV.
You were recently in Nairobi for the Africa Gas Association (TAGA) inaugural event how it did and what were some of the highlights?
The inaugural Event of the Africa Gas Association in Nairobi Kenya Oct 14th -15th was a huge success. The CEO of the Africa Gas Association (TAGA) Pam Namai and her team did terrific work to ensure that the event ran smoothly. We were honored to have the presence and participation of government officials like Ms Anna Othoro, Minister of Trade, Industrialization, Co-operative Development and Tourism for Nairobi County and Honorable Dr. Richard Ekai, Principal Secretary Ministry of Mining Kenya whose keynote address opened the plenary session. The two day event provided ample networking and, investment opportunities and more. We also had very insightful presentations and discussions from professionals from Africa and other parts of the world.
How was the turn out, where did participants come from and how representative were there in terms of covering the entire continent?
The event had over 90 participants from the public and private sector. These participants came from more than 10 countries to discuss the importance of natural gas, the opportunities it presents and challenges faced by African countries. In addition to participants from African countries, we also had people from countries like the UK, Norway, and the USA. You can expect that with the kind of ground work and outreach we are doing, subsequent forums will have a bigger audience and broader representation. For a start we can say the launching exceeded expectations.
On the Africa gas Association, what is it all about, what is its mission?
The Africa Gas Association is a Trade Association. It advocates for natural gas as a resource and is leading the way for a clean, secure, and domestic energy future for Africa. With the potential that the continent has, TAGA seeks to place Africa as a strategic player in the global gas market. Though a young Association, TAGA believes in playing a role in using natural gas as a resource to power local communities and improve the lives of millions of Africans. This kind of advocacy we believe will help in addressing problems from infrastructure, to local training, safety, better management and the building of sustainable partnerships in helping Africa make the best from a vital resource for the development and wellbeing of its people.
How is the membership of the organization? Who is eligible to join?
The membership of the Association is open and growing. For interested people or companies, there are several merits that come with joining TAGA. Your membership of TAGA brings you closer to a community of thousands of leaders within the continent and beyond. Our members are provided with opportunities to network at various settings and events, get exposure and benefit from the expertise of real professionals.
.The Africa Gas Association Welcomes International ,exploration and production (E&P) Companies, Distribution Companies, Transmission Companies, Equipment Companies, Natural Oil Companies (NOCs), in Africa and worldwide. TAGA also welcomes banks, Media, Nonprofit Organizations and other service providers. For more information and all inquiries we are always available to address enquiries (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What is the potential that Africa has when it comes to natural gas and are there some countries using it already?
According to the 2012 BP Statistical Energy Survey; Africa had a proved Reserve of 14.53 trillion cubic meters, or 6.97% of the world total and equivalent to 71.7 years of current production. In 2011 Africa had a Natural Gas Consumption of 109.8 billion cubic meters, or 3.4% of the World’s Total. There are 25 Countries in Africa with the potentials of Natural Gas. However, 15 Countries are currently exploring Natural Gas. With the recent discoveries of massive fields of Natural Gas in East Africa around the Rovuma basin, Mozambique is second to Qatar in the global supply of Natural Gas. A few years ago, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya would not have appeared in a list of potential supplies of large volumes of Gas and LNG, and now Companies and Countries are scrambling to be part of the business and to secure investment. The sector has great opportunities for investment, it has amazing potential for employment and development and TAGA believes optimizing the exploration and usage of natural gas could be a potential game changer for our continent.
You are responsible for West Africa with the Association, can you tell us about your responsibilities?
As the Managing Director TAGA West Africa, I am currently responsible for the General Operations and smooth functioning of TAGA’s activities in West, South and East Africa. Working with other members of the TAGA team, we all have the collective responsibility to raise awareness and help market the great potentials and opportunities in a sector whose optimal exploration and proper management of dividends could help surge Africa forward.
Now that the Association has been launched, what next will it be working on, what is the roadmap for the way forward?
The launching was just the beginning and there is definitely more that will come from the Africa Gas Association both in the continent and beyond to help raise awareness and attract investors. TAGA will participate at the World Alliance for Decentralized Energy Annual Conference and Joint Meeting with Northeast Clean Heat and Power initiative from November 19-21 in Boston, MA, USA. In February of next year, there will be a big TAGA event in Abuja Nigeria, in March 2014 there will be the Power-Gen Africa event in Cape Town South Africa, and there will also be the Annual Conference of TAGA. The list of events is not exhaustive as more will be announced as time unfolds.
Despite the recent terrorist attack there has been much talk about the economic development of Kenya, IT start ups etc, what impressions did you have about Kenya after the trip?
Kenya remains a beautiful country, one with big investment opportunities, great people and I do not think the recent attacks take away anything from its potential. The attacks were unfortunate and the loss of life very regrettable. As Africa becomes more and more conscious of its potential and as the world and the investment community shows more interest, it is only in a peaceful environment that our countries including Kenya can thrive. Kenya is a promising country with great potentials and the attack should not stop people who are interested in doing business there, checking out opportunities or just getting a taste of its amazing touristic sites.
Video on demand poised to change how Africa watches
November 1, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Sean Robson*
On taxis, buses and trains across Africa, people are plugging in and tuning out as they catch up with the latest episode of the XYZ Show from Kenya or reminisce with a movie from their childhood in Zimbabwe.
Thanks to the reach of video on demand (VoD), Africans can finally access content of their choosing from across the continent.
The Kenyan Buni TV, launched in April last year, has grown to reach more than 500,000 viewers. The Nairobi-based company, headed by media veteran Marie Lora-Mungai, has committed its efforts to grabbing a piece of a potentially massive market.
“Across the continent, there is a very strong demand for content that has so far not been satisfied and this has traditionally been one of the drivers behind piracy,” says Ms Lora-Mungai.
“Pay TV is only reaching about 10 million people out of Africa’s one billion, whereas Africans are connecting to the internet en masse, mostly through their mobile phones.”
She points to World Bank estimates of an African middle class of 350 million people and how, as discretionary income continues to rise, access to improved internet connections and video watching devices will increase. These factors make VoD an increasingly attractive arena.
Nollywood, as Nigeria’s film industry is known, is second only to Bollywood in terms of movie output. It makes an estimated 2,000 movies each year, according to a McKinsey report carried out in 2011 for IrokoTV, a VoD site.
IrokoTV has already secured 5,000 of these films in its extensive catalogue and has quickly set the tone for the nascent African industry.
According to its chief operating officer Bastian Gotter, IrokoTV has signed 20,000 subscribers to its premium content package, which retails at $5 (£3) a month.
“We run a freemium business model, which means the vast majority, around 95% of the movies, are free, but we also have a subscription service called IrokoTV Plus. Our users get first access to all the brand-new movies we upload, roughly three a week,” says Mr Gotter.
VoD in Africa faces unique challenges, not least limited bandwidth and lack of internet access. These obstacles have forced the market to adapt their models and in many cases look outside the continent to build their brands.
Mobile is the key
“Fixed-line internet is slow going around the continent so the answer is to go mobile,” says Simbarashe Mabashe, chief executive of Wabona, a Cape Town-based start-up focused on South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
“Mobile is the VoD infrastructure of choice and I think whoever cracks that wins the game.”
Wabona, meaning “you see” in the Sotho language, is looking to exploit social media to distribute its content and has begun to do that using an application called Cinemo. The app is a mobile video distribution service and will distribute Wabona’s content on MXit and Google Android, respectively.
Mxit, a free instant messaging service with an estimated 50 million users across Africa, does not require a smartphone, which makes it instantly attractive to the average consumer.
“Cinemo with Wabona content can reach markets and audiences not many VoD services can today. People don’t necessarily need smartphones or fixed-line internet,” Mr Mabashe says.
Bastian Gotter and his IrokoTV team have also had to adjust to the specific intricacies of working in Africa and are now catering for a feature phone market that is some 60% of the continent.
They have done so by building a mobile site that allows users to download short clips and catch up on Nollywood’s latest gossip.
Hard data on how big the opportunities for video on demand in Africa really are remains hard to come by, but what has become clear is the importance of the continent’s diaspora.
“IrokoTV would not exist without its diaspora audience. Over 50% of the audience comes from the US and UK alone. More people watch www.irokotv.com in London than the whole of Nigeria,” says Mr Gotter.
Freedom of expression
While financial success is plainly important, the likes of Wabona, Buni TV and IrokoTV have made their commitment to the African film industry clear as they regard VoD as an opportunity to fight piracy, improve the film industry and support independent cinema.
Buni TV recently took the opportunity to offer the controversial Cameroonian film The President free on its website. The movie, banned in Cameroon for its reference to the sitting President Paul Biya and his 30 years in power, is part of the media company’s continuing support of freedom of expression.
Ms Lora-Mungai says: “We believe it’s the responsibility of artists, writers and film-makers to comment on their times, and that includes tackling political issues, or issues that can make various people uncomfortable. Unfortunately in some countries these voices are still stifled.”
As the mobile market in Africa continues to grow and fixed-line internet access improves there is little doubt that video on demand will be one of the continent’s most exciting business opportunities.
Into Africa: Start-Ups Swarm The Continent
October 28, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Connor Sheets*
LAGOS, Nigeria – In Nigeria, it’s not uncommon for a person to carry three or more cell phones, each optimized for a different one of the country’s wireless carriers.
Even deep in the impoverished Oto-Ilogbo Extension slum, built atop a massive landfill in mainland Lagos, there is a makeshift school where youths learn how to use the Internet on an old computer miraculously connected to the web.
A technological revolution is sweeping across Africa, bringing with it deep Internet penetration and exploding rates of smartphone usage. The phenomenon is ushering in a new era of savvy entrepreneurship, resulting in new investment opportunities that have attracted a number of major international players to what was until recently a mostly localized market.
One of the leading players in this tech transformation of the African continent is Jumia, perhaps best described as “Africa’s Amazon.”
Like Amazon, Jumia is an all-online shopping platform that promises expedient delivery of tens of thousands of products to consumers within its rapidly expanding network.
Jumia is the brainchild of two young Lagosian men who met at Harvard Business School, where they earned MBAs before returning to their chaotic home city. It has become one of Africa’s best-known success stories since its founding in June 2012 under the name Kasuwa.
It has already gone from five employees to more than 500, attracted tens of millions of dollars of investment from J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Summit Partners and other Western firms, and expanded its delivery area from Lagos to the entirety of six African countries from Kenya to Côte d’Ivoire.
Jumia’s story would have seemed impossible 10 years ago in a conflicted nation like Nigeria, but experts say that the firm is just one of the more visible outgrowths of a trend toward modernization of African business and society that offers massive potential for investors and entrepreneurs around the world.
Jeremy Hodara, co-CEO of early Jumia investor Africa Internet Holding, says that Africa’s metastasizing Internet connectivity and rising “appetite for consumption” have combined to create a conducive environment for tech start-ups across the continent.
“In Africa not only do you have a stronger demand than what people think – because when people think of Africa they think there is no money, but that is not true – but what’s interesting is there is no supply at all,” he said.
As such, Hodara believes the time is ripe for tech-minded business people to enter the market with bold, proven ideas for Internet start-ups, which are all but guaranteed to succeed as African infrastructure improves.
Jumia co-founder Tunde Kehinde painted a picture of the booming tech scene in Nigeria – which mirrors that of other advanced African economies – while seated on a leather couch in Jumia headquarters.
“My sense is that in the last two years you’ve really seen a sizeable jump in big start-ups coming up in the tech space, and now there’s so much more activity around so many different verticals,” he said. “In Nigeria you can buy groceries online, buy plane tickets online, and send money to your loved ones online.”
Already that theory is proving accurate, as numerous entrepreneurs are finding great success by creating blatant, Africanized copies of dominant Western companies.
Various African markets are now served by their own versions of established Western web firms and apps like Seamless (Hello Food), Uber (TaxiPark), Trulia (N-Soko), Hotels.com (Jovago) and eBay (BidorBuy), and the race is on to bring such offerings to the remaining underserved markets.
Companies like Rocket Internet, a German firm that was Jumia’s first key backer, are swiftly moving into the African sector, garnering millions of dollars in international investment and, in Hodara’s parlance, “leapfrogging” the traditional offline retailers most African countries never really had in the first place.
“I think for me it’s less about the online model that you translate from America to Africa; to me it’s more about industries that are going online directly,” he explained. “For instance in America you have Hotels.com. Before you had Hotels.com you had to go to travel agencies, and then they had Hotels.com. In Africa you will never have a travel agency on every corner. It will skip straight to online.”
But the African market is not as open and accessible as the success stories may suggest. Doing business there comes with a set of challenges not seen in many other markets around the world, as Hodara has found.
“The challenge is to execute it, because it sounds beautiful when I explain it like that, but it’s very difficult to execute,” he explained. “There is a lot of demand but little supply, so it looks very good on paper, but the complexity to execute is so high.”
As the continent continues its inexorable march toward modernity, more visionary investors and entrepreneurs will take the chance on Africa’s markets, as the reward proves ever more likely to be worth the declining risk.
Climbing value chains: Options for African policy makers
October 26, 2013 | 0 Comments
Africa’s economic landscape has changed considerably over the last twenty years. After two decades of sustained economic growth, Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP is almost $1.5 trillion. Its middle class rose to 350 million people in 2010, up from 126 million people in 1980 and in 2010, consumer spending stood at approximately $600 billion.
Yet, despite all these improvements, Africa’s position in the global trading system places the continent at a great disadvantage in terms of trade dynamism and developmental potential. The continent’s predicament is usually characterized by African firms being stuck at the bottom of global value chains, primarily exporting raw materials while importing finished goods. In 2011, Angola produced 1,785,000 barrels of crude oil per day but its refinery capacity represented a meagre 39,000 barrels a day, half of its daily consumption rate of88,000 barrels. The difference is met through a costly import bill. Another example of inefficient integration in global value chains is in the coffee sector where Germany alone, a non-producer of coffee, exports more coffee than the whole of Africa combined, with the value of its exports almost double that of Africa!
The reasons for Africa’s failure to participate more effectively in global value chains are numerous. They range from inadequate transport, energy and telecommunications infrastructure to cumbersome border procedures, poor business environments, lack of technology, skills and low institutional capacities.
In this blog, the objective is not to focus on the challenges but on the opportunities presented to African firms by the rise of regional and global value chains. The argument put forth is that in the short-to-medium term, most opportunities for African firms to integrate into regional and global value chains are likely to be within agroindustry, trade in tasks (for goods or services) or industrial migration.
Opportunity 1: Agroindustry
Agroindustry may present the most straightforward opportunities for Africa to link to regional and global value chains. This is primarily because population growth, increased dietary changes, rising incomes and urbanization in many parts of the developing world (particularly Asia) shall continue to drive up demand for agro based products. In this market environment, Africa has great potential for increasing agriculture based exports.
Opportunities exist for value chains upgrading in many sectors especially rice, maize, sugarcane, dairy, cocoa, cotton, tea, coffee and oil palm. However, constraints to value chains upgrading are difficult to pinpoint since they are specific to each value chain and its corresponding markets (local, regional or global). This highlights the need for policy makers to remain vigilant and to deepen their understanding of relevant value chains so as to ensure that policy interventions are targeted and efficient.
With more than 450 million hectares of land, the continent is home to nearly 50 percent of the world’s arable land. Private sector’s interest in African agriculture is at an all-time high. This is evidenced by the massive increases in agriculture related land acquisitions over the last few years. With the right policy mix, negotiations of better land deals and investments in technological upgrading and standards infrastructure, Africa could commercialize its agriculture sector and position itself to capture many higher segments in regional and global value chains for a wide range of agro based products.
To achieve this goal, governments and business leaders will need to revamp their policy frameworks in support to agriculture, farmers, and agribusinesses. Scaling up agricultural research and facilitating access to affordable capital, water, energy, transport and inputs will also be key.
Opportunity 2: Trade in tasks
With globalization and the rapid improvement in transportation and communication technologies, international trade is increasingly characterized by trade in intermediate goods with different countries contributing to the production of a final good. A product might read “Made in China” or “Made in Japan” when in actual fact it was made in two, three sometimes four countries with each country specializing on the production of a specific task or input along the value chain. This process is generally referred to as trade in tasks or trade in intermediates. The figure below depicts the various components that go into the construction of a Boeing 787:
Source: Boeing Co
If one includes additional parts not shown in the figure above, a total of 10 countries participate in the construction of the Boeing 787.
Trade in tasks is the way through which most East Asian nations climbed the global value chains ladder. It is also likely that most opportunities for African firms to integrate global value chains will be through trade in tasks. After all, focusing on the production of a “task” or “input” along the production chain is far less daunting and capital intensive than breaking into global markets with a final product like a personal computer or a television. Once plugged into a global value chain and as technological know-how increases, African firms may then look for opportunities to move up the value chain.
The concept of trade in tasks for goods also applies to services value chains. According to OECD estimates, the global offshore services industry has grown from a little less than 50 billion USD in 2005 to more than 250 billion USD in 2010. Depending on a country’s endowments (its language, availability of skills, etc.) policymakers may wish to explore opportunities to tap into information technology outsourcing (ITO) or business process outsourcing (BPO) markets. In BPO services, firms could capture many of the lower-value chains such as network management, payroll and call centers, accounting or document management. In ITO, some of the higher value-added activities such as support to IT infrastructure and software development are within the range of certain firms and countries.
Opportunity 3: Industrial migration
Finally, industrial migration particularly from Asia may offer opportunities for African countries with conducive investment climates to rapidly upgrade their production systems. This is because currency appreciation and/or rapid increases in wage rates in Asia are likely to push labor-intensive firms to relocate to countries where labor costs are lower.
Industrial migration may also be driven by Africa’s rising consumer spending levels which is projected to surpass 1 trillion USD by 2020. Countries with enticing business environments could position themselves as future manufacturing hubs for either regional or global exports and we may already be witnessing a move in that direction. In 2008, the Chinese electronic company Hisense set up shop in Egypt and together with its local partner Sun TV is currently estimated to produce 100,000 LDC TVs a year. In Kano, Nigeria, Hong Kong based Lee Enterprises produces plastics, steel, ceramic tiles and leather hides. There are many more such examples on the continent.
Industrial migration is happening, creating numerous opportunities for value chains upgrading and the structural transformation of African economies. Whether Africa countries benefits from this process will depend on the extent to which industrial migration happens within a policy framework that encourages local production, employment and gradual technological transfer.
Africa’s current trade structure is unsustainable. Policies and incentives must be put in place at national level to restructure the composition of exports and gradually move from the production of primary commodities towards more value-added goods and services. In this particular regard, there may be a need to reconsider the adequacy of existing investment, export and industrial promotion frameworks to see whether they provide all the elements needed to accelerate industrialization.
In the short to medium term, most of the opportunities for African firms to integrate regional and global value chains are likely fall within the three areas mentioned above. The “quick-wins” are likely to be concentrated in agroindustry sector. Trading in tasks in both goods and services value chains shall also present a menu of opportunities for African firms. Finally, policymakers will need to keep a “watchful eye” on the unfolding industrial migration process in order to entice strategic industries and capitalize on opportunities as they arise.
In many ways, the most important success factor in whether African countries succeed in climbing value chains will be the extent to which policy makers invest resources in enhancing their understanding of global trade and production patterns. Increasing analytical capabilities on trade and production patterns would enable African policymakers to identify niche markets they could tap into and industries that they could attract in relatively near future. Failing to do so will almost surely lead to poor policy interventions and inefficient resources utilization.
*Source ADB . Jean-Guy Afrika is a Senior Trade Policy Analyst at the AfDB. He is the task manager of the Africa Trade Fund (AfTra), a trade-related, technical assistance facility with the objective to accelerate the integration of African countries and regions into the global trading system
Wikipedia pilots articles-via-SMS service aimed at Africans
October 26, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Dave Lee*
The online encyclopaedia has partnered with mobile operator Airtel to offer the free initiative which is being tested out in Kenya.
It is hoped the service will be used to reach people who do not have internet access.
The trial will be active for three months, said Dan Foy, technical partner manager for the Wikimedia Foundation.
“Throughout most of the developing world, data-enabled smartphones are the exception, not the rule,” he wrote.
“That means billions of people currently cannot see Wikipedia on their phones.”
To activate the service – called Wikipedia Zero – users need to dial *515#, after which they will receive a text message prompting them to search for articles.
Next five billion
Adoption of cheap mobiles in Africa is widespread, and in many regards the mobile industry across the continent is more advanced than in more developed parts of the world.
For instance, the sending of money via text message is extremely popular – one service, M-Pesa, boasts 17 million users in Kenya alone.
Western technology companies see the region as a major source of future growth. Facebook, for example, is approaching saturation point in its current markets, and so it is looking at methods to adapt its services to suit those with more basic technology.
The social network also launched a drive to get other technology companies looking at ways to make access easier – starting with bringing down costs of accessing mobile data.
Tom Jackson, who edits African technology news website HumanIPO, said Wikipedia’s initiative would be warmly welcomed.
“There has been a steady move towards putting educational material online in many African countries, led mainly by the private sector rather than governments, but access to the internet remains a problem given that most Africans surf on their phones rather than browsers.
“This step increases the chances of access, especially as there is functionality to provide Wikipedia via SMS. Feature phones are still dominant in Africa, so this is a helpful addition.”
He added: “I just hope it comes with the same warnings that European and American kids are given about taking Wikipedia at face value!”
AfDB reports significant opportunities of shale gas production in Africa in a new publication
October 18, 2013 | 0 Comments
Tunis, October 17, 2013 – Several African countries have potentially viable shale gas deposits, which, if developed, could lead to lower gas prices, increased consumption of natural gas, reduced greenhouse gas emissions from power generation and substantial economic benefits to producer countries, finds a report launched today by the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Shale Gas and its Implications for Africa and the African Development Bank, examines both the positive and cautionary lessons that Africa can learn from the “shale gas revolution” – the recent explosion of shale gas production in the United States.
The authors also conclude that the development and production of shale gas can present substantial environmental challenges. These include the large amounts of water required for extraction, water contamination, increased seismic activity and the venting and flaring of associated gas. Governments and the public must consider the most advantageous way to proceed before embarking on the full development of the resource, they stressed.
“The African Development Bank is encouraged by the study’s findings in terms of the economic promise that new shale gas extraction techniques could hold for the region. At the same time, we cannot stress enough how important it is that production is accompanied by good environmental planning and management,” said Kurt Lonsway, AfDB manager of environment and climate change in the Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department.
Shale Gas and its Implications reviews estimates that have been made for shale gas deposits in Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania, South Africa and the Western Sahara and highlights the challenges to their development. In a foreword to the report, AfDB President Donald Kaberuka, affirms the Bank’s willingness to support these and any other member countries and sub-regions that have shale gas prospects.
Indeed, the study’s authors call for an “honest broker” role for the AfDB moving forward. The AfDB should work to ensure that governments with possible shale reserves are well informed and have access to reliable information on possible environmental consequences. This includes understanding possible solutions to these challenges, as well as grasping the legislative and regulatory actions needed to minimize risk.
AfDB support could also come in the form of technical assistance loans and, in some cases, through the financing of infrastructure associated with shale gas development.
To better understand the shale gas revolution’s relevance for African countries, the study also looks at the experience in the United States, where by 2012 production amounted to one-third of the country’s total gas output and where increased supplies of gas from shale have cut spot gas prices by more than half.
Note to Editors: The physical difference between shale and conventional gas is the location of the resource in rock formations. The low permeability of shale and its tendency to run in horizontal layers mean that conventional drilling techniques with a vertical well are unable to recover commercially viable amounts of shale gas. To overcome this difficulty, an approach using hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and horizontal drilling has been developed. This approach, however, brings consequences not found using conventional gas exploitation techniqu
With 20 billionaires Nigeria tops Africa billionaires list
October 12, 2013 | 0 Comments
LAGOS (AFP) – There are far more African billionaires than previously thought, Ventures magazine said Monday in a report on the continent’s mega-rich, but the number of Africans living in extreme poverty has also shot up.
Previous Africa-rich-lists named as few as 16 billionaires, but Ventures said its exhaustive research had identified at least 55 on a continent where the wealthy often fiercely protect details about their fortunes.
The pan-African business magazine said it was able to uncover dozens of new billionaires by using “on-the-ground knowledge” to overcome hurdles that may have “hampered” other researchers.
Of the 55, 20 are Nigerian, including several oil barons, while South Africa and Egypt boast nine and eight respectively.
Ventures’ supported reports by Forbes which listed Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote as Africa’s richest man with a fortune of $20.2 billion (15 billion euros).
Dangote, who made his fortune in cement, heads a multi-interest empire, profiting from products including flour and sugar, while eyeing a massive investment in oil refining.
The continent’s richest woman is Nigeria’s Folorunsho Alakija, whose Fama Oil owns an offshore oil block, which she acquired in 1993 “at a relatively inexpensive price”, likely through a helpful connection, the magazine said.
Alakija studied fashion in London, then made dresses for Maryam Babaginda, the late wife of Nigerian military dictator Ibrahim Babaginda.
The former designer “is believed to have ridden on the crest of this relationship to acquire an oil block,” off the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria, said Ventures.
The most prominent South African named is Nicky Oppenheimer, worth an estimated $6.5 billion, whose fortune came largely from the diamond mines his family controlled for decades, which were operated by De Beers. Oppenheimer sold his family’s stake in De Beers two years ago.
The figure of 55 is “actually an under-estimate” of Africa’s billionaires, Chi-Chi Okonjo, the founder of Ventures, told AFP.
“People are not comfortable disclosing their wealth,” he said.
Corruption is rife on the continent and the rule of law still unevenly applied. African business moguls often face accusations that their fortunes were illegitimately earned, including with extra-legal help from political patrons.
The apparently rising number of ultra-rich Africans has come amid broader economic growth on the continent, which has seen an average of five percent GDP expansion since 2010.
But economic growth has not kept up with a rising population.
“There are more than twice as many extremely poor people living in sub-Saharan Africa today (414 million) than there were three decades ago (205 million),” the World Bank said in April.
It is the only region where “the number of poor people individuals has risen steadily and dramatically,” over the last 30 years, the bank said.
*Source Vanguard Nigeria
Mars ambassador visits UTZ certified cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire and reports on his journey
October 10, 2013 | 1 Comments
Once-in-a-life time experience to be tracked for worldwide outreach
Amsterdam/New Jersey, October 10, 2013. Chris Cuello, Sales Director at Mars Chocolate North America, is embarking on a once-in-a-life-time experience with UTZ Certified, as part of the Mars Ambassador Program. He will travel for ten days in the remote areas of Côte d’Ivoire where UTZ certified cocoa is produced, meeting with cocoa producers in four different cities: Yamoussoukro, Agboville, Soubré and San Pédro. He will track his personal insights throughout his adventure in the largest country producer of cocoa worldwide on the UTZ blog.
“Having Chris at UTZ is a sign of the profound interest of one of our major partners to really understand what our cocoa program stands for,” said Hand de Groot, UTZ Certified Executive Director. “We are really enthusiastic to share his journey with the world and raise awareness of the origin of our cocoa.” He concluded.
Chris has spent over two weeks at UTZ Certified’s central office in Amsterdam, where he has been able to meet with UTZ employees and learn all about the UTZ cocoa program.
“It is a rare occasion that one is given the opportunity to expand your perspective and immerse yourself in something new – where cultural norms, living standards, educational levels and even the language is completely foreign,” said Chris. “I am curious, excited and even a little scared by the journey I embarked upon this week. It will take me on a month-long journey around the world from my home in Long Valley, New
Jersey, USA to the city of Amsterdam in Holland and ultimately into remote cocoa growing regions of Côte d’Ivoire in Africa.”
UTZ Certified started to work in Cote d’Ivoire’s cocoa farms in 2008. Over 88 .000 smallholders and 442,666 hectares of cocoa plantations in the country are UTZ certified. In 2012, 51% of UTZ certified cocoa was sourced from 162 certified producer groups in Côte d’Ivoire.
Follow Chris Cuello’s journeys in Cote d’Ivoire: http://utzcertified.wordpress.com/
Note to the editors
About UTZ Certified
UTZ Certified is a program and label for sustainable farming of coffee, cocoa and tea. Its mission is to create a world where sustainable farming is the norm. The UTZ program enables farmers to learn better farming methods, improve working conditions and take better care of people and the environment. UTZ Certified works with a strict code of conduct for growing coffee, cocoa and tea, verified by independent third parties.
More information at: www.utzcertified.org
In 1911, Frank C. Mars made the first Mars candies in his Tacoma, Washington kitchen and established Mars’ first roots as a confectionery company. In the 1920s, Forrest E. Mars, Sr. joined his father in business and together they launched the MILKY WAY® bar. In 1932, Forrest, Sr. moved to the United Kingdom with a dream of building a business based on the objective of creating a “mutuality of benefits for all stakeholders” this objective serves as the foundation of Mars, Incorporated today. Based in McLean, Virginia, Mars has net sales of more than $33 billion, six business segments including Petcare, Chocolate, Wrigley, Food, Drinks, Symbioscience, and more than 72,000 Associates worldwide that are putting its Principles into action to make a difference for people and the planet through its performance.
For more information, please visit www.mars.com
For more information:
T: + 31 6 46 899 016
De Ruyterkade 6
1013AA Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Nigeria’s Dangote signs deal to build oil refinery
September 6, 2013 | 0 Comments
Africa’s wealthiest man, Aliko Dangote, has signed a multi-billion dollar deal with banks to finance the building of an oil refinery in Nigeria.
The refinery would be the largest in Africa, turning Nigeria into a petroleum exporter, he told the BBC.
Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer but lacks refining capacity and has to import most of its fuel.
The West African state is often hit by fuel shortages, and conflict over control of its oil wealth.
People in Nigeria’s oil-producing southern Niger Delta region are among the country’s poorest and accuse the government and oil companies of failing to develop the area.
Mr Dangote, a Nigerian who made his fortune in cement, flour and sugar, is worth an estimated $16bn (£10bn) and has topped the Forbes list of Africa’s richest men for the past three years.
Mr Dangote told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme the refinery would create “thousands” of jobs.
It would be built in the south-west and would become operational in 2016, he said.
Mr Dangote signed a $3.3bn loan deal with local and foreign banks to build the refinery, as well as fertiliser and petrochemical plants.
The entire venture would cost $9bn, with $3bn in equity from Dangote Industries and $6bn to be raised in loan capital.
The initial loan facility was co-ordinated globally by Standard Chartered and in Nigeria by Guaranty Trust Bank, London’s Financial Times newspaper reports.
“At least for the first time in our lifetime, we’ll see Nigeria exporting petroleum products,” Mr Dangote told Focus on Africa on the BBC World Service.
“We’ll also see Nigeria for the first time exporting fertiliser rather than using hard-earned foreign exchange to import fertiliser,” he added.
Nigeria currently imports more than three-quarters of its fuel despite being the continent’s biggest producer.
Although it has two refineries in the Port Harcourt area, neither runs at full capacity.
Previous efforts to repair Nigeria’s dilapidated refineries and build new ones have been scuppered to protect the interests of powerful fuel importers, some of whom have been linked to a subsidy scam costing the country billions of dollars a year, correspondents say.
Fuel in Nigeria is sold at a subsidised price. A government attempt to remove the subsidy in 2012 led to nationwide protests. The plan was subsequently dropped.
Last year an investigation revealed that in two years, more than $6bn was lost in a fuel subsidy scam.
MTN:Delivering a bold new Digital World to over 200m subscribers in 22 countries
August 19, 2013 | 0 Comments
MTN Group today marked its 200 million subscriber milestone by announcing a bold R200 million initiative to improve the quality of education across its markets in Africa and the Middle East over the next two years.
News of MTN reaching the 200 million subscriber mark comes a year before it celebrates 20 years of connecting people and economies, from South Africa – the launch pad – to South Sudan, its most recent market.
As a multinational telecommunications company operating in emerging markets, says MTN Group President and CEO Sifiso Dabengwa, MTN has a particular opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to social development.
“Due to the lack of access to quality education and infrastructure, and low literacy rates in most of these countries, MTN has chosen to direct a significant amount of its corporate social (CSI) spend towards education over the next two year. This will provide people with the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to make positive decisions about their lives,” says Dabengwa.
MTN runs a comprehensive multi-country CSI programme through MTN Foundations spanning education, health and other national priorities. A grand total of R193 million was spent in these three areas during 2012. Going forward, the company will scale up its contribution towards building knowledge economies in its markets by investing in more education initiatives aimed at empowering learners and teachers using ICTs and mobile learning.
As seen in MTN’s 2013 interim results released today, MTN is a growth company with a solid performance record and an aspirational vision to lead the delivery of a bold new digital world to its customers.
It will continue to share the fruits of its success with customers and communities through, among others, offering affordable and innovative services, as well as investing in social upliftment and network infrastructure to improve the quality of its services.
“We are grateful to our customers for their loyalty and contribution to the growth of the MTN brand over the years. Using that feedback, MTN is making significant investments towards improving the quality of our service, while also providing solutions designed to make a real difference in the lives of our customers,” adds Dabengwa.
The MTN brand has achieved great prominence over the years. For two consecutive years, MTN emerged as the highest ranked African brand in the prestigious Millward-Brown Brandz Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2013 survey. Most recently, MTN emerged as South Africa’s most valuable brand in this year’s BrandFinance Most Valuable Brands Survey, for a second consecutive year.
“The award is further acknowledgement of our on-going efforts to enhance customer experience in the various touch-points in the markets,” says Dabengwa.
To achieve this ambition, which will allow MTN to provide a seamless service experience to customers across its markets, the company has launched a project aptly called ‘Perfect 10’. Already launched in Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Zambia and South Africa, the initiative aims to give customers a 10 out of 10 experience of the MTN network, products and services. Benefits of the programme are already filtering through to customers. In Ghana, for example, where the programme was first launched, feedback received in the early stages of implementation has been very positive.
Looking ahead, Dabengwa says the company’s new vision, to lead the delivery of a bold new Digital World, and mission to make our customers’ lives a whole lot brighter, has positioned MTN well for further growth into the future.
“MTN’s previous vision ‘to be the leader in telecommunications in emerging markets’ has largely been achieved. The need for a broader digital offering led MTN to refresh its vision and mission and refine its strategic objectives. We believe MTN is now ready for the next frontier of growth – digital services. And we are humbled that over 200 million of our subscribers are embarking on this journey with us, to lead the delivery of a bold new digital world.”