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Five African ‘boom towns’ that should be on every investor’s radar
June 30, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Jaco Maritz

South Africa’s economic hub Johannesburg is often cited as a classic example of the ‘boom town’ effect. The discovery of gold in the 1880s led to a gold rush that transformed the dusty settlement into South Africa’s largest city in a matter of 10 years.

Across Africa there are towns experiencing rapid development, largely off the back of newfound resources such as minerals, crude oil and natural gas. To produce this list of African boom towns How we made it in Africa sought the insight of Brett Abrahamse, a director at Johannesburg-based real estate consultancy Terrace Africa.

Abrahamse says that the towns below offer attractive opportunities from a property development perspective – especially for hotel and retail developments. While the challenges and expenses of working in Africa’s more remote locations may eat away at profit margins, these towns should be on the radar of investors and developers looking for a first-mover advantage.

Tete (Mozambique)

The remote town of Tete, situated in the centre-west part of Mozambique, is the heart of the country’s new coal mining industry. The area around the town has some of the world’s richest coal reserves.

Rajat Kohli, Standard Bank’s global head of mining and metals, called it the world’s last substantial untapped coal reserve. “About 100 million tons per annum of coal could be produced within the next five years, and that figure could even go further,” he said at a conference last year.

Mining companies operating in Tete Province’s Moatize basin include Rio Tinto as well as Brazil’s Vale.

The coal mines are linked via rail to the port of Beira. Brazilian mining giant Vale has also announced plans to build a railway line from its Moatize mine to the north-western port of Nacala to export coal.

Tete is booming due to mining activity in the area. However, according to Abrahamse, the town has very few formal supermarkets and hotels, creating significant opportunities for more developments. Carlson Rezidor has announced that it will soon launch its new Park Inn by Radisson hotel in Tete.

             Solwezi (Zambia)

Solwezi is the core town in the ‘new’ Zambian copper-belt and is also the capital of the North-Western province. From humble beginnings as a trading station servicing the nearby mines and employees, the town has now mushroomed into an important node. Solwezi has seen significant growth in recent years, driven by copper and nickel mines, which are run by First Quantum and Barrick Gold.

Abrahamse says that Solwezi has also experienced an increase in mining-related services and business activities. In addition, trade on the Congolese border 12 kilometres away is further boosting development and business activity in the town. The current airport is being upgraded, and will soon be able to accommodate Boeing 737s, which should see an increase in flights to Solwezi.

According to Abrahamse, there is a strong demand for more retailers and hotels in Solwezi. “There is a dire shortage of formal hotel accommodation in the town and this is evident by the US$200-plus room rate for a two-star room. The current hotel operations at Royal Solwezi Inn and Kansanshi Hotel are running at more than 90% occupancy with extremely high room rates,” he says.

The only formal supermarket in Solwezi is a Shoprite, which cannot alone cater for the growing demand. Abrahamse reckons that Solwezi is in need of small to medium sized commercial property developments with a retail anchor, a hospitality partner, numerous line shops and banking facilities.

First Quantum has also recently begun a new US$1 billion investment in a project called Trident. This consists of three new mines and will have an annual capacity of 300,000 tons of copper per year. The closest town to Trident is Solwezi.

Takoradi (Ghana)

Towards the end of 2010 How we made it in Africa reported that Takoradi, a small coastal town on Ghana’s west coast, was emerging as one of the new hot spots for African property developers. At the time there was considerable enthusiasm about the twin city of Sekondi-Takoradi because it was set to be home to Ghana’s emerging oil industry. Takoradi is the nearest commercial port to the country’s offshore oil fields.

Since then commercial oil production has started in all earnest, but developers and retailers have still not fully capitalised on the opportunities.

A few days ago it was announced that the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has provided a loan of US$5.45 million to Alliance Estates Limited, to build the first Protea Hotel in Takoradi. The 132-room, three-star hotel will help meet demand for business infrastructure as more investors are venturing into the oil producing region of Takoradi. “Ghana’s economy has been expanding at a high level, with growth touching 13.6% in 2011. In Takoradi, international hotels are limited, despite increased business traffic from investors interested in developing the oil and gas industry. The Protea Hotel will be amongst the first to provide international-standard rooms, rates and conference facilities,” said the IFC in a statement.

Juba (South Sudan)

“Juba, the capital of South Sudan, is one of those penny stocks, those risky ones where it could become the next Nairobi, or it could just muddle along and stay as it is forever,” says Abrahamse.

Last year South Sudan became Africa’s newest country after the region voted in favour of secession from Sudan. The referendum was a core component of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended decades of conflict between the Southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Khartoum government.

At independence there was much optimism that the South Sudanese economy would finally take off. The region has few industries outside the oil sector and almost non-existent infrastructure. Lately, however, there has been renewed fighting between Sudan and its now independent neighbour, South Sudan, sparking fears of an all-out war.

Although the recent fighting took place far from Juba, Abrahamse notes that the city’s fortunes are heavily dependent on peace between the two countries. He says that political risk is the major issue prospective investors in South Sudan should consider and that each business opportunity should be analysed on its merits. Juba’s potential for development is, however, certain. The city is South Sudan’s main commercial hub and one of the world’s fastest growing urban areas due to oil money.

Last year the South Sudanese government announced that the capital would move to Ramciel, some 250 kilometres away from Juba, closer to the border of north Sudan. It is unclear when this will happen.

 Pemba (Mozambique)

Pemba is a port city in northern Mozambique. It is traditionally known as a tourist destination, but these days Pemba is an important centre for northern Mozambique’s offshore natural gas fields in the Rovuma basin.

US-based Anadarko Petroleum and Italian oil & gas company Eni, have both recently announced significant gas discoveries in their respective blocks. These discoveries are important because of the size of the reserves as well as Mozambique’s relative proximity to markets in Asia. “This is rather close to the largest potential market for liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is Asia. It is easier to export from offshore Mozambique to Asia than it is from many other places,” Adi Karev, global oil & gas leader at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, told How we made it in Africa in an interview earlier this year.

Abrahamse says that Pemba, as is the case with the other towns mentioned in this article, has a lack of accommodation and retail facilities. “An example of the problem with Pemba is there is one five-star lodge that is booked out by the oil companies. The interesting story there is that post the 2008/2009 financial crisis the resorts were struggling, but since they found gas there, these hotels and lodges have been booked out by people working on the gas fields.”

*Culled from http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com

 

 

 

 

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Barcelona FC backs bid to send one million e-books to Africa
June 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Tim Hume, for CNN*

London (CNN) — Stars from one of the world’s great soccer teams will be encouraging reading as part of a new project to put one million digital books in the hands of African children.

Spanish football team FC Barcelona — home to stars Lionel Messi, Xavi, Eric Abidal and Seydou Keita — joined forces Thursday with the non-profit organization Worldreader in a campaign to inspire a wave of literacy in sub-Saharan Africa through the use of e-readers.

Founded by David Risher, a former executive at Microsoft and Amazon, Worldreader works on the premise that e-readers, like Amazon’s Kindle, could help children in developing countries to “awaken their passion for reading, and improve their lives.”

“Worldreader is committed to putting a digital library in the hands of all children throughout the world’s developing countries, and we’re thrilled with the support of FC Barcelona to send one million e-books to students in Africa,” said Risher, Worldreader’s CEO.

The campaign is appealing for one million donors to each make a $5 contribution to help them reach their target of distributing one million e-books to 10,000 children in Africa. Because students bring home the devices and typically share their use with family members, friends and neighbors, it is expected the initiative will help put e-books in the hands of 50,000 people.

The e-readers will be distributed to children in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda, where the non-profit is already operating, and soon in Rwanda, which is to become the next focus for the organization.

Football giant Barcelona will lend its weight to the campaign, with its stars sending messages via the e-readers to encourage students to read more and achieve their goals.

Worldreader believes technology can provide the best approach to encouraging literacy in parts of the developing world where books are otherwise scarce.

The program has motivated my students and instilled a joy for reading that never existed before
Jacqueline Abiso Dzifa, teacher, Kade, Ghana

Unlike traditional books — which had to be physically imported, one title at a time — a single e-Reader could provide a child with a vast array of current, relevant titles at a low distribution cost.

The increased access to reading material, it was believed, could broaden the way students think and develop their creativity by allowing them to go beyond the syllabus to follow their reading interests.

A year-long pilot of the program to 350 students in six schools in Ghana yielded promising results. Reading test scores for primary students participating in the program increased by 4.8% to 7.6% more than their peers who were not taking part, although benefits for older students were less clear.

The e-readers gave students access to a much greater variety of titles: 107, on average, as opposed to the between 3 to 11 books the average student had access to at home without the devices. They swiftly learned how to use the e-readers, despite 43% having never used a computer before.

“Worldreader has not only given us unparalleled access to books, the program has motivated my students and instilled a joy for reading that never existed before,” said Jacqueline Abiso Dzifa, a teacher at Presbyterian Primary in Kade, Ghana, whose students participated in the pilot.

The students relished their access to “a wide variety of classic and cutting-edge literature by renowned authors,” she said.

As e-readers provided a pathway into the digital world, many students also used them to read international news sites that would have been inaccessible previously.

Just one of the collateral benefits to the program was that students gained greater exposure to African writers, said Worldreader managing director and co-founder Colin McElwee.

The program was working with African publishing houses to digitize their titles and provide students with local, relevant content — which had positive impacts on local literary cultures.

“We want to digitize the curriculum, there’s a whole catalog of books you can digitize,” he said. “Once you digitize them, you can’t just sell them in Ghana or Kenya — you have a global market. So this is the first time African culture can be exported seamlessly, globally. That has an enormous impact on the potential of Africa over time.”

*Culled from CNN

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Blog: How I navigated Kenya using Twitter
June 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Errol Barnett*

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) — Surfers beware. There is an incredibly influential and vocal group on Twitter, using a common hashtag and blazing keyboards to ensure their African country is discussed fairly and with respect online. Kenyans on Twitter, better known as #KOT, are a 21st century phenomenon born out of the social media boom and growing economy in East Africa’s most populous city, Nairobi.

Why are they so vocal and what is it doing for the country at large? My mission for “Inside Africa” recently was to find out – and I did so with an experiment.

The concept was simple; if Kenyans are so connected I should be able to assemble a quick meet-up; I should be able to navigate Nairobi via Twitter. The entire process should teach me how tech-savvy this country really is and show me where its heading. It worked far better than expected.

Technically speaking, Kenyans are special, as they are members of an exclusive and enviable club. The country is among the top four users of the web in all of Africa, behind only Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria. What’s more impressive is the connection speed at which they surf. The Kenyan government recently installed broadband infrastructure, which behind Ghana, is the second fastest on the continent.

Also, the Kenyan Government, in coordination with the World Bank, has embarked on a multi-million dollar initiative to use information and communications technology — or ICT — to accelerate economic growth and promote transparency.

For these reasons and more, the response to my call for a random meeting was met with enthusiasm. One by one, half a dozen #KOTs approached me in the predetermined cafe (offering free wi-fi) shouting the password, “connected!” Each told me how the internet is making their lives easier from paying bills through a mobile money service called Mpesa or sending out links to their resumes via social media.

What’s more fascinating is the place they all suggested I visit, iHub. Essentially it’s a nexus of innovation with free-flowing ideas meant to serve as an incubator for future Kenyan-grown advancements. Via Twitter, users gave me advice on how to get there and who to meet.

I met the manager Tosh Juma standing amid what appeared to be a college study hall. He introduced me to software developers, web designers and tech enthusiasts all at different stages of their ICT projects. Of course there was the obligatory coffee bar, foosball table and comfy gaming seats on the floor — but there was also a real sense of responsibility for the future and well-being of the country.

One young entrepreneur is Susan Eve Oguya, eagerly telling me about her SMS or text service for Kenyan farmers, MFarm. It allows them to check up-to-the-minute market rates for their goods so devious middlemen can’t deceive them. She tells me its especially important for her since she comes from a family of people who make their living on farms.

Another developer, Nevi Mukherjee showed me a tablet-based application designed for Kenya’s school children called eLimu. It brings the country’s academic curriculum to life with pictures, video and interactive quizzes. It’s no wonder Google plucked many of iHub’s members, like Ory Okolloh of the crisis-mapping site Ushahidi, to join their African ranks.

My final stop on this online experiment was Google’s offices in Kenya. Joe Mucheru, Google’s Ambassador for everything related to Sub-Saharan Africa gave me a tour and sneak peak into new services. They include a mapping service keeping the government accountable on schools that it has agreed to build or expand — the map reveals any progress — or lack thereof. From Joe’s corner office overlooking Nairobi he tells me of his wish for his young children, “I think they are going to have a much easier life and hopefully… compete globally even more. They don’t have the same hang ups we had, that ‘we’re behind’. They think they deserve everything and should be doing everything — that’s the right attitude for young people now.”

Kenya online usage has grown exponentially. Back in the year 2000 only 200,000 were logged onto the web, at the end of 2011, that number was around 10.5 million. No one knows how many internet users – or #KOTs for that matter – there will be in 2021 but one thing is for sure; there will be many and they will be helping Kenya stand out proudly in an increasingly crowded online universe.

*Culled from CNN. Every week, Inside Africa takes its viewers on a journey across Africa, exploring the true diversity and depth of different cultures, countries and regions.

 

 

 

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East Africa: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania Uniform Visa Fees to Boost Revenue
June 19, 2012 | 0 Comments

By David Muwanga*

Arusha, Tanzania — Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya have harmonised tourist visa fees with the aim of boosting the region’s revenue and marketing the region as a single destination, a Tanzanian official has said.

“Each of the three countries is now charging $50. However this is not the end since we are still negotiating on other measures aimed at marketing the region as a single destination,” said the deputy minister of natural resources and tourism Lazaro Nyalandu.

“It is possible that we shall have a single regional tourist visa since we have managed to develop a single customs union thus far. As we continue to implement the regional common market protocol,” he said at the opening of a three-day Karibu Travel and Tourism Fair held at the Magereza open grounds in Arusha, Tanzania.

The fair that attracted over 250 exhibitors from Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, DR Congo among others was jointly organized by the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO), the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB), and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT).

The deputy minister said that Tanzania emerged as a winner at a similar event, popularly known as INDABA, held in Durban, South Africa, from May 12 to 15, 2012.

“Tanzania received an award for the best exhibition as other nations in the region recognize that Tanzania’s tourist destinations continue to dazzle and attract visitors from all continents,” he said.

Hanspaul Automechs Limited managing g director Satbir Hanspaul told East African Business Week that introduction of a single visa would make East Africa a cheaper destination compared to other regions. Originally created to promote Tanzania, it’s now a regional event that also features products and delegates from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

Karibu’s major function is one of a relationship broker who targets, attracts and matches the needs of buyers and suppliers. He said that with the new charges, the Tanzania government targets to attract two million tourists in the next five year’s compared to the 950,000 who visited the country last year.

“However we should also stop taking tourism to mean only foreign visitors but we are also encouraging local people to start visiting the tourist sites,” he said.

Chairman of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators Bonafice Byamukama said although negotiations for single visa continue the common ground is that the region should be marketed as a single destination.

*Culled from East African Business Week,Kampala

 

 

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Feeding South Africa’s elite
June 18, 2012 | 0 Comments

South Africa’s fine dining restaurant business is largely dominated by foreign nationals and white South Africans, but this did not stop Soweto-born Desmond Mabuza from wanting to join those feeding the elite.

Desmond Mabuza is one of the very few black South Africans to own a stake in the country’s burgeoning business of fine dining.

Footballers-Zinedine-Zidane-Luis-Figo-and-Patrick-Vieira-all-dined-in-Mr-Mabuzas-restaurants-during-the-World-Cup

Footballers-Zinedine-Zidane-Luis-Figo-and-Patrick-Vieira-all-dined-in-Mr-Mabuzas-restaurants-during-the-World-Cup

In his high-end Johannesburg eateries, Signature Restaurant and Wall Street, Mr Mabuza serves expensive food to the rich, famous and politically connected.

“We’ve had the likes of Arsene Wenger during the World Cup, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Patrick Vieira,” he told the BBC series African Dream.

“Two deputy presidents of the country have been here in the last two weeks, ministers, the list is endless.”

A US-trained civil engineer, he returned to South Africa a year before the end of apartheid and set up his own firm.

But he decided on a career change eight years later, realising his passion did not lie in his chosen profession.

“By some chance I got involved in the restaurant business and it grew on me,” he said.

“The bug caught me in a way and I could see myself doing that for the rest of my life.”

Making history

He began his dream in 2001, when aged 28, he opened his first restaurant.

Using money generated from his civil engineering company, he raised the money needed to invest in the design of a new building.

His initial plan was to hand the business over to a manager once the restaurant had been designed, but he quickly found he enjoyed the process too much to hand it over to someone else.

“It’s a very dynamic industry, you get to meet and socialise with different people on a daily basis, no day’s ever like the one before.”

Patrons visiting his restaurant can expect to pay up to 450 rand (£32, $53) on a three-course meal and can choose anything from oysters to stuffed calamari, garlic snails or orange-glazed salmon.

Customers are then invited to wash down their meal with some of South Africa’s finest wines to complete the fine dining experience.

Mr-Mabuza-says-his-training-in-project-management-has-helped-with-running-the-restaurants.

Mr-Mabuza-says-his-training-in-project-management-has-helped-with-running-the-restaurants.

Many of Mr Mabuza’s customers include some of South Africa’s growing black middle class, but he asserts that he is the sole black businessman to operate at the top of the restaurant business.

“For me colour was never something that I made much of an issue of.”

However, he admits to feeling like he is making history and says that many black South Africans have told him that they are proud of him.

Attention to detail

For Mr Mabuza, the key to his success was setting himself the goal of putting out a product which would excel and stand out from everyone else on the market.

Given his lack of experience in setting up a restaurant business, many critics may have doubted his ability to create a success.

But he says his background in civil engineering has been an invaluable asset.

“[In engineering] you’re paying attention to detail, the overall project planning, being objective, processes.

“A lot of that training has come in handy for me in terms of how I implement and go about my daily business.”

Now with a second restaurant and close to 100 employees, he says business is in good financial shape.

“We are continuously full which is a good way of knowing you are doing something right, because the people will always vote and they vote by coming to your restaurant.”

Eleven years on and Mr Mabuza says his restaurants have become regular recipients of praise from food critics.

“Both, in a very short space of time, have earned themselves quite an immense reputation in terms of awards and accolades in the industry.”

He is now mapping out his plans and hopes to build his brand across the continent by building new restaurants in key markets such as Ghana, Kenya, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“The idea is to make it a pan-African venture,” he says of his expansion plans.

This is all begins in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, where he will open a restaurant in a boutique hotel.

*Culled From BBC Africa .African Dream is broadcast on the BBC Network Africa programme every Monday morning, and on BBC World News throughout the day on Fridays

 

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iROKOtv, the “Netflix of Africa”, reaches 500,000 subscribers in less than six months
June 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

14 June 2012. iROKOtv, the “Netflix of Africa” and the continent’s first legal online source of Nollywood films, is delighted to reveal that it has recorded over 500,000 registered users in less than six months since its launch. The news comes just months after the company announced that it had secured $8m in funding from US-based hedge Tiger Global, early investors in Facebook.

Headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria and with offices in London and New York and a staff of almost 100, iROKOtv has been groundbreaking in bringing Nollywood to the African Diaspora, with viewers logging on from over 178 countries across the world.  To date, over 9.3 million hours of Nollywood movies have been watched on irokotv.com.

Jason Njoku, CEO and Founder of iROKO Partners says: “What an incredible six months it has been for iROKOtv – 500,000 subscribers in under 6 months is an awesome feat for us. We are a relatively young start-up and are super excited to have built up such momentum in such a short space of time.

“The secret of our success to-date is pretty simple; we love what we do, we love Nollywood movies and so do our 500,000 registered subscribers. Content is king and we are unrivalled in what we can offer from our 5,000-strong movie library. The iROKOtv team uploads movies onto the site every single week, so our fans, who we know have a voracious appetite for all things Nollywood, have a constant stream of awesome content at their fingertips.

“Nollywood is a global phenomenon – our fans are scattered all over the world and had previously struggled to get hold of any movies. The iROKOtv platform enables them to watch classic and new films, on a safe, easy to use, beautifully designed site, whether they are on a computer, tablet or on their mobile phone – anywhere in the world. Nollywood has never been so accessible and this is only the beginning for us.”

iROKOtv’s largest markets are the US, UK, Canada and Germany – the site currently has more viewers in London than in Lagos. The West now has a reliable outlet to access Nollywood movies. However, as Africa comes online and broadband penetration surges, it is expected that the site will see considerable growth in traffic from across the continent, which will position iROKOtv as one of the leading sites for aggregating the African Diaspora.

As of 1 July 2012, iROKOtv is introducing a subscription service, where viewers will retain free access to the current catalogue of Nollywood films, but will also be able to watch brand new, exclusive Nollywood releases, uploaded weekly, for only $5 per month.

Launched in December 2011, iROKOtv is a subsidiary of iROKO Partners, Africa’s largest, legitimate distributor of Nigerian film and music entertainment with key partnerships with the likes of Facebook; iROKOtv viewers can login via their Facebook account, and is YouTube’s largest African partner. iROKO Partners is expected to increase its viewers to over 250 million in 2012 across its brands iROKOtv, iROKING (the “Spotify of Africa”), Nollywood Love and iROKtv, Africa’s answer to “E!”.

In April 2012 Tiger Global, a New York-based private equity and hedge fund run by an early investor in Facebook and Zynga, led two $4 million rounds of investment into iROKO Partners, in one of the largest ever fundraisings into a West African tech firm.  The funding will continue to be used to build iROKOtv’s library and to continue working directly with Nollywood production houses to buy the higher prices for the online licenses to Nollywood films which enables them to better monetize their content and to reinvest in making more, higher quality productions.

In May 2012, iROKOtv announced that from 1 July 2012, subscribers across the world will  have exclusive access to brand new and exclusive Nollywood releases, uploaded weekly for $5 per month and payable by SMS, PayPal or card.

For additional Information Contact

iROKO Partners                                     jessica.hope@irokopartners.com

Jessica Hope                                          +44 203 176 2808

 

Pelham Bell Pottinger                          +44 20 7861 3925

Victoria Geoghegan

www.irokotv.com | facebook.com/irokotv | @iROKOtv

 

 

 

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Banking on Africa’s poor
June 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

New mobile services mean that now, subsistence workers have access to banks. That’s changing lives.

Louise Osborne*

Vast distances, high costs and unstable incomes.Those are just some of the challenges faced by millions of Africa’s poorest trying to access financial services in rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Until recently, commercial banks across the continent hadn’t bothered to reach out to impoverished Africans in rural areas because they saw little profit potential. Instead, they focused on wealthier clients with larger transactions, which had a better chance of surpassing the cost of the bank infrastructure and staff.

“Current operating models are very much focused on serving other clients who are richer and have larger transactions on average, and thereby it’s very much heavy on brick and mortar infrastructure and personal attention,” said Benedikt Wahler, a manager at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants GmbH in Nigeria.

“Those two things contribute to high transaction costs that would not be feasible for the kinds of transactions volumes that you see from low-income households.”

But now, the potential for billions of dollars in deposits from people earning less than $10 per day has spurred many financial institutions to reconsider the way they do business. Now, they hope to lure the 95 percent of the estimated 498 million adults in Sub-Saharan Africa who earn less than $10 a day. This group could account for a potential $59 billion in deposits, according to Roland Berger.

Bigger banks now collaborate with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to reach those most in need.

For example, Barclay’s Bank has been working with humanitarian organizations CARE International UK and Plan UK in an attempt to provide facilities to “unbanked” people in Sub-Saharan Africa with the initiative Banking on Change – helping to establish Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) in poor communities and to promote saving in small amounts.

These VSLAs encourage groups in rural communities to start saving in small amounts while accumulating funds that can then be borrowed at a low rate of interest.

And other organizations such as the Savings Banks Foundation for International Cooperation (SBFIC), have worked to teach poorer people how to increase their savings and to manage risk better.

Analysts said that while it is important to provide the facilities for people to be able to save, it is also essential to increase financial literacy — so people realize that in spite of the fact they earn little, it is possible for them to save.

“People do not understand the concept of savings, so you would ask them if they ever saved and they would say they never have any extra money to put aside,” Sandra Sequeira, a lecturer in development economics at the London School of Economics.

Low education and literacy levels make bank products appear complicated, added Moses Ochieng, a regional representative for east and southern Africa for CGAP, an independent policy and research center, in Nairobi, Kenya.

But one of the biggest challenges remains geographical. In some far-flung rural areas, people must walk for hours to get to their closest bank branch. Another problem is the high costs involved in building banks in rural communities.

Telecommunications technology has proved an effective way of enabling banks to overcome these issues over recent years. Some providers allow users to transfer money and even pay bills or buy groceries with their phones. According to research conducted by the World Bank, in Sub-Saharan Africa this type of banking has expanded to become 16 percent of the market.

“It is a technology that can easily reach anyone in the country, with the coverage rates of cell phones in most developing countries being incredibly high,” said Sequeira.

But while analysts said the use of mobile phones to carry out transactions has been a successful method of getting to more of the world’s unbanked, banks can still do more.

Banks such as Equity Bank in Kenya have led the way using methods such as offering youth savings accounts at schools and a “banks on wheels” scheme, which used modified jeeps to visit villages deemed too small for a bank branch. The bank is now East Africa’s largest, with 50 percent of all bank accounts in Kenya and 4.9 million clients. It is now working to expand further into Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda using initiatives such as agent banking, which allows banks to appoint non-banking businesses such as supermarkets, gas stations and pharmacies to provide basic banking services.

“Agent banking also now allows those with lower incomes to access financial services from commercial banks in some markets in Africa,” said Ochieng.

Analysts stressed that to improve national economies, it is important for people to be able to access financial services.

“If you can get commercial banks operating in poor areas you get a financial deepening of those areas and development,” said William Shaw, a visiting scholar specializing in emerging markets on the International Economics Program at the think-tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

“Banks are really important to economic development because they serve an important intermediary function and they provide an expertise to evaluate projects so they can lend efficiently,” he added. “And they give people confidence that they can place their money [there] and get it back when they want.”

*Source http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120524/africa-banking-poor-poverty

 

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Herakles Farms Announces Update on Its Cameroon Palm Oil Subsidiary SGSOC
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

Company to Proceed with Phased Development Approach to Ensure Sustainable, Environmental and Socially Sensitive Growth

 

By Herakles Farms

– Herakles Farms, a New York-based agriculture company operating in Ghana and Cameroon, today announced new details for its Cameroon palm oil subsidiary, SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC), and its decision to pursue a phased development approach to allow its many stakeholders to better understand the social and environmental benefits and impacts and to be responsive to the concerns of all stakeholders that may arise.

To date, SGSOC has cultivated less than 30 hectares in the Nguti, Mundemba and Toko Sub-Divisions of South West Cameroon.  Specifically, this development entails three nurseries near the villages of Talangaye, Lipenja I, (Batanga) and Fabe, with 70,000 mature trees currently ready for transfer to the field.  SGSOC recently conducted pre-clearing studies on the initial 2,000 hectares of land under evaluation for field-planting development.  These studies included a detailed examination of the flora, fauna, and habitat of the land adjacent to the Talangaye nursery in order to ensure the maintenance and protection of all environmental and social high conservation value areas.

SGSOC committed to development in Cameroon in September 2009, when the Company and the Government of Cameroon signed an agreement to develop approximately 70,000 hectares of oil palm in an area classified by the Government as secondary forest in the South West Region.  The area had suffered economically in large part because of its isolation from services and market opportunities. Since the land in the region had been logged and farmed repeatedly in the past, the Government of Cameroon responded to the communities’ needs by designating the land for commercial, agricultural and economic development.

SGSOC conducted an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the area and submitted it to the Government of Cameroon in August 2011.  The Government thereafter issued its approval through a Certificate of Environmental Conformity in September 2011.  In an April 2012 ruling, the Mundemba High Court affirmed that SGSOC had complied with these environmental and land-related Government regulations and that the Company has been in order with such requirements for legal operation in Cameroon.

While SGSOC expects that approximately 60,000 hectares may ultimately be suitable for planting, before it proceeds with transferring its trees from the nursery to the field, it has committed to performing additional pre-planting studies designed to ensure that the Company has thoroughly mapped all high conservation value sites, important lands for village use, buffer zones and fulfilled other obligations to key stakeholders.

In parallel to this phased approach, SGSOC is also helping to support rural employment and development, upgrading infrastructure including roads and enhancing critical services such as healthcare and schooling.  For instance, together with the local organization of medical doctors, WecCare Foundation, a program was recently completed in the villages of Talangaye and Ayong near Nguti, and Lipenja I, Batanga and Meangwe near Toko.  Consultations, informational booklets, medication and a range of selected surgeries with appropriate follow-up were included in the program.  In terms of education, the Company donated textbooks to 35 secondary schools in all nine subdivisions in the Ndian Division.  SGSOC continues to develop its longer-term medical and educational programs for the local villages in the area.

“Herakles Farms is committed to listening to the concerns of all stakeholders and modifying our practices where necessary. We want to be a responsible leader in developing sustainable agriculture that prioritizes community development,” stated Bruce Wrobel, CEO of Herakles Farms. “We are focused on balancing our commitments to the Government regarding job creation and economic development with the specific and important interests of the local communities, as well as NGOs and other stakeholders.  We are proceeding in systematic phases in order to be responsive to all concerned.  Going forward, we want to foster greater openness, transparency and collaboration in our activities.”

About Herakles Farms Established in 2009, Herakles Farms is focused on identifying and implementing solutions to important food security issues in Africa. The management team has a track record of developing environmentally and socially sustainable projects that result in economic development in some of the least-developed African countries, and has received numerous awards for its work. Previously known as SG Sustainable Oils (SGSO), the Company has been an active member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) since 2008.

www.heraklesfarms.com

Contact Information: Ms. Delilah Rothenberg Herakles Farms 277 Park Avenue, 40th Floor New York, NY 10167 (212) 351-0176 Rothenberg@heraklescapital.com

SOURCE Herakles Farms

 

 

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Time For An African Valley? — Sub-Saharan Accelerators Start To Emerge
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Mike Butcher*

The news that i/o Ventures had launched the Savannah Fund in Africa is clearly welcome news for an emerging continent. It’s $10m fund size will be a shot in the arm for the eco-system there. But I was surprised to see that it was being described in some quarters as the “first ever” Sub-Saharan African incubator and accelerator. Because it patently is not.

“I think MEST would actually be the first model in this space,” said African tech watcher Ben White of vc4africa.biz when I asked him about this. MEST has a fund size of $20m, although it’s invested via a non-profit.

So to start getting into this, it may be that we are well over-due for a run-down of accelerators in Africa. Here’s what we’ve found so far.

There’s clearly been a proliferation of coworking spaces and tech incubators around Sub-Saharan Africa over the last 3-5 years. Accelerators linked with funds are a more recent phenomenon:

1. MEST: Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) provides training and mentoring in Accra, Ghana. Started in 2008, MEST is a not-for-profit NGO that is funded by the Meltwater Group through its non-profit Meltwater Foundation. Invests in 3-5 startups per annual programme. Fund size: $20m spread over 10 years.

2. HumanIPO (Nairobi, Kenya). Launched 2011. 88mph is their seed fund. Takes a minimum 10-15 investments per year. Has room for 25 startups in its space. Fund size: Uknown.

3. Umbono (Cape Town, South Africa). Launched 2011. This is Google’s accelerator & fund. Puts in $25k to $50k seed capital. Fund size: Unknown.

4. ActivSpaces (Buea & Douala, Cameroon) was launched in 2009 and is a co-working space linked with the Sanaga Ventures seed fund. Size: Raising $1m.

5. Mara Launchpad (Kampala, Uganda). Launched 2012. Backed by Mara Foundation. Fund size: Unknown.

6. Lastly there is the co-working space iHub (Nairobi, Kenya) launched 2010 and is now the base for the Savannah Fund as mentioned above. Fund Size: $5m, but is aiming to be $10m eventually.

The Savannah Fund is coming out of i/o co-founder Paul Bragiel and i/o entrepreneur-in-residence Mbwana Alliy along with Erik Hersman a cofounder the Ushahidi crowd sourcing platform and a cofounder of Nairobi’s iHub. Five early stage $25,000 for 15% equity and three to six months to prove themselves. Follow-on funding for the successful ones will be in the region of $100,000 to $200,000.

Savannah Fund has backing from Tim Draper, Dave McClure of 500 Startups, Yelp co-founder Russ Simmons, and Dali Kilani and Roger Dickey of Zynga, as well as local Kenyan entrepreneurs, including Karanja Macharia of Mobile Planet.

Savannah will also run an incubator like i/o in San Francisco for ten companies a year, but it appears the companies will be sourced in Nairobi with the ones showing promise being shipped over from East Africa to the US to scale up.

The consensus on the ground amongst seasoned AfricaTech watchers is that while Nigeria has the fastest growing economy it’s also pretty dangerous at the moment. Kenya also has its issues but is widely regarded as a strong hub for tech companies in Africa, and Tansania has potential, but Ghana is quickly gaining a reputation because of its relatively stable business and political environment and the English language is widespread. It’s also becoming a big airline hub because airlines prefer not to drop their staff into potentially dangerous countries.

Expect more Africa coverage from TechCrunch in due course…

*Culled from http://techcrunch.com

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Economic growth stirs hope in Africa
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

Over the next five years, the continent will expand faster than any other

By Emily Dugan *

While ministers in Europe try to hold together crumbling economies, a success story has been quietly emerging to the south. Africa is experiencing its longest income boom for 30 years, with gross domestic product growth rates averaging about 5 per cent annually over the past decade. Even this year, as markets elsewhere collapse, the continent’s income is projected to increase by around 4.5 per cent.

Africa will have the world’s fastest-growing economy during the next five years of any continent, according to the International Monetary Fund. Its forecasts also show that seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies will be African, with Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria expected to expand by more than 6 per cent a year until 2015.

The world is starting to take notice: trade between Africa and the rest of the globe increased by 200 per cent between 2000 and 2011. As well as the usual exports of oil, natural gas and minerals, the sale of African-manufactured goods is also increasing. Over the past ten years, African manufactured output has doubled.

Zambia is one of the continent’s most promising economies, growing at 7.6 per cent in 2010 and 6.6 per cent in 2011. Thanks to the technology boom, its supply of copper, which now accounts for almost half its exports, is highly sought after. Though it is still among the poorest in the world – it is ranked 164 out of the 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index – there are signs that its economic success is starting to translate into better lives for its citizens. By 2009, the country had full primary school enrolment, up from 80 per cent in 1990, and the latest figures show a decline in the infant mortality rate to 86 per 1,000 live births in 2009 from 88 in 2008.

Marcelo Giugale, the director of the World Bank’s poverty reduction programme for Africa, has been watching how the continent’s economic successes impact on its poorest people and is cautiously optimistic. “Sustained growth is necessary but not sufficient on its own to have an impact on poverty”, he said. “You can have growth for a long time and it will help only a few people. We have been lucky that growth has been accompanied by poverty reduction. Not as much as you’d hope, but still. We don’t have continental numbers, but we do have individual countries that show a reduction in poverty, especially extreme poverty.

“In Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Mozambique, infant mortality, health indicators and educational attainment have all improved.”

Mr Giugale believes the mineral-rich continent could see even greater leaps. “If Europe holds together, I think this growth in Africa will continue,” he said. “We are only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of the commodities that Africa has that we know about. I would estimate we still know only about 10 per cent of what’s there. There is so much still to discover.”

Technology has helped speed up growth. In Kenya, for example, mobile phone bank transfers have revolutionised rural access to cash. Just two years after the mobile banking system M-Pesa was introduced in 2007, 40 per cent of Kenya’s adult population had become customers.

There are also early signs of a growth in the continent’s middle class. An African Development Bank report has projected that by 2030 much of the continent will have a middle-class majority and that consumer spending will soar from $680bn in 2008 to $2.2trn.

Joel Kibazo, a consultant working with Oxford’s Centre for the Study of African Economies, says the signs of an emerging middle class are encouraging: “If you look at my country, Uganda: when I was growing up, there was one university, now there are about 30. All these people who are educated are coming out wanting a middle-class lifestyle. They don’t want to go back to villages and mud huts, they want to buy microwaves and laptops.”

But he fears the current European crisis could chip away at the successes. “In 2008, when the rest of the world fell off a cliff, Africa continued moving up”, he said, “but this time, I don’t think it’s going to escape the turmoil in Europe in the same way.”

Emerging economies, such as India and China, do not seem put off, however, and are snatching up opportunities in mineral-rich countries. In 2008, the Democratic Republic of Congo took $6bn of Chinese money for infrastructure – some 2,400 miles of road, 2,000 miles of railway, two universities, 32 hospitals and 145 health stations. In return, China got a slice of the country’s natural resources to feed its own industry – 10 million tons of copper and 400,000 tons of cobalt.

In contrast, Britain has not seized chances on the same scale. Razia Khan, a senior researcher for Standard Chartered Bank, said: “Africa is trading that much more with the emerging powers, so the UK’s share of trade with Africa is not as dominant.”

Over the next 40 years, Africa’s population is set to double, from one billion to two billion, a massive increase in the number of young people of working age. The median age on the continent is currently 20 – half that in Europe, where the economy is faltering.

Yet the continent’s recent swift expansion has largely passed by northern Africa. In Egypt, growth fell by 3.3 percentage points to below 2 per cent in 2011, and in Tunisia a fall of 4.2 percentage points produced contraction of around 1 per cent, according to analysts at the African Economic Outlook. In Libya, the civil war brought oil production to a standstill and GDP shrank by more than 40 per cent. The more mature economy of South Africa also bucked the trend for economic expansion, expanding its output by only 3.1 per cent in 2011.

Despite the economic gains, there are some who find the regimes unpalatable. Tom Cargill, the assistant director of the Africa programme at the foreign policy think tank Chatham House, said: “If you’re interested in states becoming more economically successful, then what is coming out of Africa is good news. But if you are interested in an Africa where human rights are respected and governments take on the attributes of Western democratic countries, including fair elections and freedom of speech, then it isn’t good.

“African states are finding their own ways to economic growth which don’t conform to those liberal human rights criteria. Part of that is because Europe is declining, so European prescriptions of how to behave, in terms of governance, is becoming less attractive to African states.”

Though some may be uncomfortable about how it got there, it seems Africa can no longer be dubbed “the hopeless continent”.

*Culled from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/

 

 

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BBC announces major new focus on Africa*
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

The BBC has today announced its first-ever dedicated daily TV news programme in English for African audiences. The new programme, BBC Focus On Africa, brings together the expertise of the BBC World Service’s African Service and BBC World News on television. It is the first in a range of new programming for Africa to be launched by the BBC this summer, including a major expansion of its TV offer.

Africa is now one of the fastest developing news markets in the world - this new investment will expand our services for African audiences."-Solomon Mugera, BBC Africa Editor

Africa is now one of the fastest developing news markets in the world - this new investment will expand our services for African audiences."-Solomon Mugera, BBC Africa Editor

BBC Focus on Africa will be aired by the BBC’s broadcast partners in Africa and will be shown globally on BBC World News. It forms just one part of an expansion of the BBC’s offer on TV, radio and online.

The BBC today named Komla Dumor and Sophie Ikenye as the main presenters of the daily 30-minute news programme.

BBC Focus On Africa will be launched on prime-time TV across the continent from 18 June 2012 at 17.30 GMT. The programme will draw on the pool of BBC African talent on the continent and in London to report on Africa’s rising economies, entrepreneurs, innovators, culture, entertainment and sport.

Focus on Africa will be covering the major news from the continent and asking: is there a way out of the Sudan crisis? What impact will Europe’s economic problems have on Africa’s booming economies? How does Africa deal with its growth in natural resources?

The programme will also challenge African leaders and politicians on tough issues. Focus On Africa will report on the latest developments in business, technology and science and speak to those driving change. It will also look at how Africa is becoming an information technology hotspot. The programme will report, for example, on Kenyan scientists who are at the forefront in discovering cheaper, locally produced medicines to combat malaria.

Focus On Africa reporters across Africa will be giving us a snapshot of the innovation, lifestyle and culture of the country they live in. The programme will feature Africa Beats, looking at the people behind Africa’s varied music scenes. Every step of the way viewers will have their say through social media.

Focus on Africa presenter Komla Dumor says: “After decades of turmoil and uncertainty, a new Africa is emerging. The old stereotypes are being challenged and a new, compelling narrative is being written. I am incredibly excited to be part of a new BBC programme that will provide solid coverage and analysis of Africa’s challenges and prospects.”

Solomon Mugera, the BBC’s Africa Editor, says: “Africa is now one of the fastest developing news markets in the world – this new investment will expand our services for African audiences.

“While radio remains popular in Africa, TV is growing – and our partnerships with leading African broadcasters play a key part in these future plans. Mobile phone ownership is racing towards a billion, internet connectivity is rising and social media is empowering audiences. It’s essential that the kind of independent journalism the BBC does that isn’t slanted to one political or commercial viewpoint remains central to the new media landscape.

“With correspondents in 48 African countries, production centres in Nairobi, Abuja, Johannesburg and Dakar and a weekly audience of 77 million, the BBC already has deep roots in the continent. Our journalists are from the African countries they report on – in English, Swahili, Hausa, Somali, Kinyarwanda/Kirundi and French – living and breathing the big stories and issues facing Africa.”

The BBC also announced that six special episodes from Africa of current affairs interview programme Rendezvous, hosted by Zeinab Badawi, will be broadcast on BBC World News from mid-June with guests including President Kikwete of Tanzania.

The BBC newsgathering resources in Africa are part of a global network of 70 bureaux. The BBC made its first broadcast to Africa more than 80 years ago. The combined audience on radio and television makes the BBC the largest international broadcaster in Africa.

*Courtesy of http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/worldnews/

 

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Nigeria celebrates first home-made warship
June 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Will Ross *

After nearly five years in the making, the Nigerian navy ship or NNS Andoni was launched with a colourful event.

At 31m (100ft) long, this is no giant of the seas, but the fact that it was designed and built in Nigeria, by Nigerian engineers, is a great source of pride.

"Proudly Nigerian" does not just apply to the people of this vast land - the West African giant is now building its own warships.

"Proudly Nigerian" does not just apply to the people of this vast land - the West African giant is now building its own warships.

“We are all happy and elated,” said Commodore SI Alade, one of Nigeria’s senior naval officers.

“This is the first time this kind of thing is happening in Nigeria and even in the sub region.”

Moments after stepping on board NNS Andoni, sailor FL Badmus said: “I feel on top of the world.

“I’m proud to have been picked by the naval authorities to serve on this ship.

“We hope this is the beginning of very good things to come and we thank God for it.”

The warship was named after the Andoni people of south-eastern Nigeria – and several chiefs travelled to Lagos to witness the launch – including his Royal Highness NL Ayuwu Iraron Ede-Obolo II, wearing a top hat, a sequin-adorned velvet gown and a brightly coloured necklace.

The ceremony also featured multi-faith prayers, with an imam asking God to “protect and preserve this ship from the dangers of the day and the violence of the enemy”, and a Christian praying: “May she sail with success like the Ark of Noah.”

The event had an interesting twist of symbolism for the guest of honour, Nigeria’s leader, Goodluck Jonathan.

He is from a family of canoe makers – and that he is now the president launching a warship is a sign of how far he has risen.

“This is the beginning of the transformation… and I believe in another 10 to 15 years, we can be thinking about starting a project to take Nigerians into the air,” President Jonathan said.

The NNS Andoni could be key in the fight against militants operating near Nigeria’s oil fields as well as the growing threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Piracy in Nigerian waters is on the increase and incidents are happening over a wider area, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

There were 10 piracy attacks off the 780km (485 miles) of Nigeria’s coastline during the first quarter this year – the same number reported for the whole of 2011.

“While the number of reported incidents in Nigeria is still less than Somalia… the level of violence against crew is dangerously high,” according to a recent IMB report.

With a speed of up to 25 knots (46km/h), this can quickly go to intercept the pirates ” Commanding Officer Adepegba

With a speed of up to 25 knots (46km/h), this can quickly go to intercept the pirates ” Commanding Officer Adepegba

The NNS Andoni is equipped with an advanced radar system and firepower.

“With a speed of up to 25 knots (46km/h), this can quickly go to intercept the pirates,” said Commanding Officer Adepegba standing on the bridge pointing out the ship’s three machine guns and the automatic grenade launcher.

Foreign orders

The Nigerian navy reportedly wants to acquire 49 more vessels over the next 10 years. But how many will be home built?

Orders are already in – for three from a French shipbuilder, and six from Singapore.

President Jonathan recently approved the acquisition of two large patrol vessels from China Shipbuilding and Offshore International, a mainly state-owned company.

In an effort to boost local industry, one of the Chinese vessels is meant to be 70% built in Nigeria.

NNS Andoni was dwarfed when a 105m-long frigate steamed past during the ceremony – with all the officers cheering on deck.

NNS Thunder, a veteran of the Vietnam War, arrived at the beginning of the year, a gift from the US.

Eyebrows were raised when it was announced that the monthly fuel bill of the 45-year-old ship would be $1m (£650,000).

When this year’s navy’s $450m budget was discussed at the House of Assembly in January, one senator described the donated ships as hand-outs that could become liabilities rather than assets.

There were also calls for corruption to be plugged.

“Corruption has sucked the blood out of our system. So we have to depend on hand-outs,” one senator lamented.

NSS Andoni’s fuel bill will certainly be lower than NNS Thunder.

‘No indigenous touch’

After parading on the deck, the naval officers took photos of each other with mobile phones – clearly delighted with the new ship.

Named after the Andoni, their chiefs were some of the guests of honour at the ship's launch

Named after the Andoni, their chiefs were some of the guests of honour at the ship's launch

“It’s a great day. It’s taken over five years but it’s worth it,” said a smiling Kelechi, one of the engineers.

“We came up with the design, the expertise and about 60% of the materials were locally sourced. The engines, generators and navigation equipment came from outside.”

Nigeria is one of Africa’s biggest oil producers, but this has not so much helped as hampered the development of local industries because the country has relied so heavily on imported goods. As he launched NNS Andoni, President Jonathan lamented the decline of industries that had been strong not long after independence in 1960.

“We had Nigerian Airways, the Nigerian shipping line and a number of investments that were doing well. But because there was no indigenous touch, all these died,” the president said.

“We are told that some countries that were on par with us are now building aircraft, choppers and other things,” he said, adding that Nigeria had for a long time not embraced technology.

The president suggested sending the brightest students of engineering to the best universities in the world.

“Then let them come back and work in Nigeria because we cannot continue to be importing. We have a very large market and even what we consume alone is enough to support an industry.”

“We have this market, we must use it,” President Jonathan said – before laying the keel to mark the start of work on the second “Made in Nigeria” warship.

*Courtesy of BBC Africa

 

 

 

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