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Senegal to host new company for Generic Drugs in Africa
January 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

Africa will soon have unbridled access to generic drugs for some of the most common ailments plaguing the continent with a daring move by some young Africans to set up a specialized company in Senegal. Led by Dr Ousmane Diouf, the project known as Sub-Saharan Generics intends to give Africans access to cheap and safe treatments for their most common ailments. Educated in some of the best Universities in Europe and with stints in prestigious pharmaceutical companies, the Team   is not just  out for business but also has the strong desire to give back to Africa. Herman Brodie. working as consultant for the project says it will manufacture “high-quality generic drugs locally to treat the five most common complaints – diabetes, tuberculosis, pain, malaria and hypertension – and sell them at ethical prices.” Brodie says the interview has already been registered with a management team in place  and there are expectations that with the right partners, production should start by 2015. First in your own word words can you give us a background into Sub-Saharan Generics? If you were a seasoned executive in the pharmaceutical industry and you wanted to give something back to your native Senegal, what would you do? If you had earned a Master’s Degree in Drug Design and a PhD in Organic & Medicinal Chemistry, what is the greatest contribution could you make, not only to your home country, but to the entire sub-Saharan region? Some might say support research towards a cure for HIV or some other cutting edge development, but Dr Ousmane Diouf would disagree. To help the maximum number of people using hard-to-come-by capital resources, it would be better to simply give Africans access to cheap and safe treatments for their most common ailments. The project Sub-Saharan Generics intends to do just that. It will manufacture high-quality generic drugs locally to treat the five most common complaints – diabetes, tuberculosis, pain, malaria and hypertension – and sell them at ethical prices. Why the focus on the five diseases you have in mind and how prevalent are they in Africa? Generic drugs exist for all of these ailments and they can be manufactured cheaply. In the developed world they are so readily available most people take them for granted. In sub-Saharan Africa however, the cost is sometimes so prohibitive the sick often have to make the choice between buying food and buying essential medicines. Even when they are able to pay, supply disruptions sometimes mean treatments have to be delayed or interrupted. Alternatively, people rely on drugs from informal distribution channels, many of which are counterfeit and potentially dangerous. In 2000 it was estimated that some 7.5 million adults between the ages of 20 and 79 suffered from diabetes. This figure is much higher now of course and is set to double over the next 25 years. The prevalence of hypertension is also growing rapidly because of changing lifestyles and diets on the African continent. In the case of malaria, it is estimated that 90 percent of the annual 300 million acute cases worldwide, and the more than one million deaths, occur in Africa. Malaria is also responsible for a fifth of all child deaths on the continent, and approximately 200,000 newborns die each year because of infection during pregnancy. Similarly shocking are the numbers on tuberculosis: a quarter of the almost 10 million cases globally occur in Africa. Finally, who in the developed world can imagine not having access to basic painkillers like paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin? So at what stage is Sub Saharan Generics now? Have you started producing the requisite medical products and if not, when should people expect to start using your drugs? S2G was registered as a limited company in Senegal in July 2013 and has already assembled a management team led by Dr Diouf. It is still in the process of raising capital from would-be investors, but already enjoys the support and endorsement of some key strategic actors including the country’s sovereign wealth fund and the Senegalese government. It has also acquired a plot of land at new industrial development just outside Dakar and will shortly begin construction of the manufacturing installation. Drug production is expected to begin in 2015. How different are your drugs expected to be from the ones that are produced by western pharmaceutical companies? No different. This is precisely the point. S2G drugs will be manufactured to the same exacting standards as those sold and consumed in Europe and in the US with respect to the cGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practices) recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration, the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products, and the World Health Organisation. What has been the reaction of the public to your initiatives? So far, only potential investors and key regional actors have been exposed to the project. The response, however, has been universally enthusiastic. Even investors who for reasons of geographical or sectorial constraints have not been able to commit capital to the project, have recognized the necessity and the merit of S2G’s ambitions. About your team or the brains behind this initiative, may we have an idea about the expertise you have or that is there to help in the success of the project? The management team is composed of experienced pharmaceutical industry professionals in the functions of R&D, finance, logistics, market research and technical analysis. Each member brings more than 20 years of experience to their respective domain and has been recruited from senior management positions. Collectively, they have considerable experience of drug design and production, and of construction and management of a drug production facility. Dr. Ousmane Diouf, Director of the Steering Committee and future President of the structure. Boumy Mr Gueye, Head of Buildings Design in compliance with cGMP and Site Director, Conakry, Guinea Mr Abdou Diagne, Business Analyst, Recruitment Officer, Human Resources Director and Chief Financial Officer Mr Cheikh Ahmadou Tidiane Diouf, Director Key Accounts, Project Manager Dr. Moustapha Diawara, Chief Operating Officer Dr. Jerome Theobald, Director of Strategy and Development Dr. Pierre-Yves Leroy, Technical and Scientific Director Dr. Birane Ba, Director of Marketing and Communications Mr Mamadou Sow, Chairman of the Supervisory Board  In what way do you intend to strike a balance between the economic realities of the continent where many cannot afford drugs and profit incentives that drive business or at least to sustain your project? [caption id="attachment_8159" align="alignright" width="85"]Herman Brodie Herman Brodie[/caption] The ‘economic realities’ you mention include severe poverty. Millions of people in the region live on less than one US-dollar per day. And even though, the vast majority of S2G’s output will be sold to the public sector, healthcare budgets are stretched in Africa in the same way as they are elsewhere in the world. The key, therefore, is to produce essential drugs more cheaply. In the price of a generic drug imported from a developed economy, labor probably accounts for up 80 per cent of the manufacturing costs. In Africa these labor costs are far lower, allowing for profitable production even with much lower retail prices. Also, we believe pharmaceutical companies need to be more intelligent with the packaging when operating in sub-Saharan Africa in order keep costs low. One way is to make sure that the package contains no more of the drug than the patient actually needs to consume. As unfortunate as it is, many African governments trivialize health issues, from budgets, to infrastructure, training of Doctors and so on, what is the situation like in Senegal where the project is located, what has been the response of the government? We do not believe this statement applies to Senegal. The current government has made the implementation of universal healthcare a major political goal. For under-5s and over-65s this is already a reality. Similarly, out of concern for public health, some drugs, like those for the treatment of tuberculosis, are already purchased centrally and distributed freely to the population. On the education front, the Universite Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) in Dakar specializes in Pharmacology and is recognized in the West African region as a center of competence. Africa, well some parts of Africa are living through very exciting times and projects like yours are part of the reason people are growing increasingly confident, what does the continent need to get that break through, what needs to be to be done so that some of the genius of the Africans like you and others can be adequately put to the service of development? Africa simply needs more success stories. Who are some of the other partners that Sub Saharan Generics is working with? S2G already has the financial support of the sovereign wealth fund (FONSIS), the sovereign loan guarantee fund (FONGIP)   as well as a number of domestic institutional investors. Among these are ASKIA Assurance Senegal and CNART Assurances (Compagnie Nationale d’Assurance et de Réassurance des Transporteurs), both insurance companies; and CSTT-AO (Compagnie Sénégalaise de Transport Transatlantique – Afrique de l’Ouest), a transport and logistics company. LOCAFRIQUE, a company that specializes in financing agricultural equipment, will support the venture in kind through the favorable conditions for leasing some of the equipment. The future suppliers of active ingredients for S2G’s drugs will include Navasep Synthesis (France), Axyntis (France), and Amyris (USA).]]>

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New Automotive Policy: Nigeria Will Soon Start Exporting Cars To Other Countries – Jonathan
January 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

President Goodluck Jonathan has boasted that with the recent National Automotive Industry Policy put in place by his administration, Nigeria will soon begin the exportation of cars to other countries. He also stressed that the policy must come into effect as part of federal government’s industrialization policy. Speaking yesterday when a delegation of business community from Anambra State led by the state governor, Peter Obi visited him at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Jonathan assured that his administration would continue to encourage industrialists in the country to grow their business. He added that the federal government was also focusing attention and resources to the power sector because of its pivotal role in industrialization. Noting that this has become necessary if Nigeria must reach its potentials as a great nation, he said, “If any country will be great, we must industrialize. If Nigeria must be a great country, we must industrialize. To this end, we will continue to encourage industrialists in Anambra. “I will refer all the issues you raised to the various departments of government. We are totally committed to creating jobs. Nigeria is a country with huge population of youths. If jobs are not created, there will be crisis. The housing, agriculture and power sectors are also receiving attention. In the next few years, Nigeria will begin to export cars to other countries. We are encouraging government to support local manufacturers”. The president assured that industrialists’ basic needs such as road, power and ports would be looked into appropriately. Also speaking, Vice President Namadi Sambo said the president had not long ago approved $3.7 billion to improve power transmission across the country. Speaking earlier, Governor Obi told the president that the enterprising and preserving nature of Anambra people make them well-positioned to assist him in the achievement of his administration’s transformation agenda. Declaring the support of people of Anambra State for Jonathan, Obi said, “You have excess credit in your political account that these people (members of the delegation) are ready to pay you when you need it”, adding that he led the delegation to express their support for the President and bring to his attention some of their collective needs which if addressed, will help in anchoring the growth and development of industries in the state. He listed some of the needs to include the completion of the 330/132/33KV power substation at Nnewi, provision of uninterrupted power supply in the Onitsha Harbour Industrial Area and Ozubulu Industrial Hub, completion of Nnamdi Azikwe Teaching Hospital, Nnewi and the inclusion of Anambra State in the rail master plan. He also pleaded with the president to assist in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of federal roads within the state such as Oba-Nnewi-Okigwe Section 1, Nnewi-Okija, start of Onitsha Second Niger Bridge, completion of the Onitsha-Enugu Dual Carriageway and completion of Umueze-Anam Kogi Roads. Thanking the president for the inclusion of Nnewi in the National Automotive Industry Policy of the Federal Government, Obi noted that it would attract many ancillary industries especially with the coming on stream of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant in Kogi State. *Source Information Nigeria]]>

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Africa’s billions that the poor won’t touch
January 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

By MIRIAM GATHIGAH and JEFFREY MOYO*

Artisanal diamond miners at work in the alluvial diamond mines around the eastern town of Koidu, Sierra Leone. While the continent is rich in mineral and oil wealth, Africa’s majority may have to wait a long time before they benefit from this. TOMMY TRENCHARD | IPS

Artisanal diamond miners at work in the alluvial diamond mines around the eastern town of Koidu, Sierra Leone. While the continent is rich in mineral and oil wealth, Africa’s majority may have to wait a long time before they benefit from this. TOMMY TRENCHARD | IPS

With its two-trillion-dollar economy, recent discoveries of billions of dollars worth of minerals and oil, and the number of investment opportunities it has to offer global players, Africa is slowly shedding its image as a development burden.

“While global direct investment has shown some decline, dropping by 18 per cent in 2012, in Africa foreign direct investment rose by five per cent,” Ken Ogwang, an economic expert affiliated with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), which has a membership of over 60 businesses, told IPS.

Since 2012, Kenya has made a series of mineral discoveries, including unearthing $62.4 billion worth of Niobium – a rare earth deposit. The discovery in Kenya’s Kwale County has made the area among the world’s top five rare earth deposits sites, and allows Kenya to enter a market that has long been dominated by China.

In 2012, Kenya discovered 600 million barrels of oil reserves in Turkana county, one of the country’s poorest regions. It was announced on January 15 that two more wells struck oil, increasing estimate reserves to one billion barrels of oil.

But Kenya, East Africa’s economic powerhouse, is not the only African nation that has made fresh mineral discoveries.

“The recent boom in new mining discoveries in countries such as Niger, Sierra Leone and Zambia will attract billions in foreign direct investments. Other countries like Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda will similarly attract billions due to petroleum discoveries there,” Antony Mokaya of the Kenya Land Alliance, a local umbrella network of NGOs and individuals working on land reforms, told IPS.

Last year, both Uganda and Mozambique discovered oil. In 2006, an estimated two billion barrels of oil reserves were discovered in western Uganda, but last year’s discovery brings Uganda’s total oil deposits to 3.5 billion barrels. Mozambique’s first oil discovery last year is estimated to be 200 million barrels.

 Liberal economy

Ogwang predicts that these discoveries will soon see African countries dominating the list of the 15 fastest-growing economies in the world.

“More African countries, Kenya being a model example in East Africa, now favour a market-based economy, which is highly competitive and the most liberal economic system.

“In this system, market trends are driven by supply and demand with very few restrictions on who the actors are. [It is] a favourable environment for foreign investors,” he said, referring to the local mobile phone industry, which has been dominated by foreign investors because of its favourable regulatory policies.

“As a result, growth in this sector is phenomenal. In the first 11 months of 2013, Kenya’s mobile phone money transactions were $19.5 billion, which is more than the country’s current $18.4-billion- national budget.”

Ogwang says that even more importantly, African countries are increasingly strengthening their partnerships with the East.

Statistics by the Africa Economic Outlook, which provides comprehensive data on Africa economies, show that China is the largest destination for African exports, accounting for a quarter of all exports.

Trade with Brazil, Russia, India and China – the economic bloc referred to as BRICs – now accounts for 36 per cent or 144 billion dollars of Africa’s exports, up from only nine percent in 2002.

In comparison, Africa’s trade with the European Union and the United States combined totals $148 dollars.

But Terry Mutsvanga, director of the Coalition Against Corruption, an anti-corruption lobby group in Zimbabwe, cautioned that Africa will first have to rein in its corrupt politicians before its resources can enrich its own people.

According to the World Bank, some of the world’s poorest people live in Africa, with one out of two Africans living in extreme poverty.

“Without Africa dealing with the cancer of political corruption blighting the continent and robbing it of revenue from mineral resources through corrupt politicians receiving bribes from investors … the continent shall [continue to have] the worst poverty levels globally,” Mutsvanga told IPS.

 

Diamonds

Independent economic analyst Jameson Gatawa from Zimbabwe agreed.

“Underhanded dealings in the mining of diamonds and other rich minerals here have fuelled poverty. The rich are getting richer with the poor becoming poorer,” Gatawa told IPS.

For 54-year-old Sarudzai Mutavara, a widow who lives in the midst of Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields, poverty remains a daily reality.

Zimbabwe is one of the world’s top 10 diamond producers. But six out of every 10 households in Zimbabwe, a country of about 13 million people, are living in dire poverty. This is according to a 2013 poverty assessment report by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency.

“Here in Marange, the diamond wealth has not [helped] in any way to change our lives for the better, but rather for the worse as we have strayed further into poverty,” Mutavara told IPS.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is another African country rich in diamonds, with its mineral wealth estimated in the trillions of dollars. But according to the United Nations, about 75 per cent of its people live below the poverty line.

More than half of these have no access to drinking water or to basic healthcare. Three out of every 10 children are poorly nourished, with up to 20 percent of them predicted to die by the age of five.

While Ogwang says Africa’s best economic years are yet to come, it remains to be seen if the billions of dollars Africa has in natural resources will trickle down to people like Mutavara.

-IPS-

*Source Africa Review

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Kenyans Abroad Break National Record in Remittances to the Country
January 21, 2014 | 1 Comments

Cash remittances by Kenyans living abroad for up to the month of November have exceeded total transfers for the year 2012, with the US retaining its position as the biggest source of foreign inflows. The latest data shows that Kenyans abroad sent home Sh100 billion ($1.177 billion) in the 11 months to November last year, exceeding the total remittances of 2012. Diaspora remittances for the month of November were the highest in the country’s history at Sh9.6 billion ($113 million) with Kenyans in North America — US and Canada- accounting for 45 per cent while Europe and the rest of the world accounted for 30 per cent and 24 per cent. “North America’s dominant position is a reflection of the large number of Kenyans with gainful economic activities in the region,” said the Central Bank of Kenya. The US economy has been recovering from the global financial crisis leading to increased remittances as those who had dropped out of the job market are re-absorbed. It remains to be seen whether the remittances from US will be affected by the impending tapering of monetary stimulus following the economic recovery. Investment flows in emerging economies such as Kenya are expected to be affected by a cut of cheap cash in the world’s largest economy as interest rates go up in their local markets, making the emerging markets less appealing investment destinations. The World Bank has singled out Kenya’s securities market as one of those likely to be impacted by the monetary policy reversal in the US. “A substantial flow is for consumption and household patterns do not follow portfolio flows,” said Kenya Bankers Association director of research and policy Jared Osoro. Remittances are important to Kenya because they are the largest source of foreign currency and provide the biggest cushion against the country’s exchange rate. “The stability of the Kenya shilling to US dollar during the period was also supported by resilient inflows of diaspora remittances that averaged $107 million per month during the period,” said CBK in a recent bi-annual report covering the six months of April to October. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had finalised a policy paper to help harness the resources of about three million Kenyans living abroad.
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Africa’s richest man Dangote mulls buying Nigeria oil fields
January 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

CHRIS KAY* [caption id="attachment_8083" align="alignleft" width="194"]Photographer: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images Billionaire Aliko Dangote. Photographer: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images
Billionaire Aliko Dangote.[/caption] Multi-billionaire Nigerian Aliko Dangote is considering buying Nigerian oil and gas fields from multinationals looking to sell. Dangote Group, controlled by Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, is considering the purchase of Nigerian oil fields as international companies plan to sell onshore assets in the continent’s top crude producer. The company, which has interests from cement to sugar, needs to secure a supply of crude oil and a “substantial amount of gas” for a $9-billion oil refinery and petrochemical complex it plans in southwest Nigeria, Group Executive Director Devakumar Edwin (57) said in a January 17 interview in Lagos, the country’s commercial capital. The company also needs energy for its cement plants in Africa’s second-largest economy, he said. “We’re seriously thinking of investing in oil blocks both for gas and for oil,” Edwin said. “We’ve started talking with some companies who are divesting from onshore,” he said, declining to name them. International oil and gas explorers including Royal Dutch Shell and San Ramon, California-based Chevron are selling onshore and shallow-water fields in Nigeria amid persistent violence and crude theft in the oil-rich Niger River Delta, with smaller Nigerian companies taking their place. Dangote Group believes it can manage unrest and aggrieved communities in the region with corporate social initiatives, Edwin said. “We know the terrain much better, we know the risks and we believe that the risks can be managed,” he said. “The primary risk is people blasting your pipelines. I wouldn’t like to go and invest in a block which is totally inland and then I have to start buying inland pipelines.” Oil Theft Armed attacks mainly in the delta’s swamps and shallow waters reduced Nigeria’s oil output by 29% between 2006 and 2009, according to data complied by Bloomberg. Although the violence eased after thousands of fighters accepted a government amnesty offer and disarmed five years ago, a surge in oil theft by gangs tapping crude from pipelines pushed output down to four-year lows last year. Nigeria pumped about 1.9-million barrels of crude a day last month. Dangote’s complex will include a 400 000-barrel-a-day refinery, a 2.8 million-metric-tonne urea plant and a petrochemical factory to produce polypropylene, used to make plastics. The company plans to expand the refinery capacity by another 100 000 barrels, Edwin said. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with about 170-million people, relies on fuel imports to meet most of its needs due to mismanagement, poor maintenance and ageing equipment at its four refineries. Dangote’s refinery will cut fuel imports for the country in half, according to the company. 27th Richest Aliko Dangote, who is co-chairperson of this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, has seen his wealth climb $1.1-billion in the month to date, making him the world’s 27th richest person with a net worth estimated at $24.9-billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires’ Index. Dangote Cement, Africa’s biggest producer of the building material and Nigeria’s largest company, is looking at expanding in three South American countries and has signed a preliminary joint-venture agreement with one company, according to Edwin, who is also the chief executive of the cement business. “The countries we’re looking at have huge natural resources and growth,” said Edwin, declining to name the nations so as not to alert competitors. “There are many large players in that region” that “may easily try to shut down entry to new players, but there’s still large scope of doing business,” he said. Mining Rights Dangote Cement, with a market capitalisation of 3.8-trillion naira ($23.8-billion), has three plants in Nigeria and plans to expand in 13 other African countries, bringing total capacity to more than 50-million tonnes by 2016. The company is also expanding in Asia and has signed limestone mining rights in Indonesia and Nepal, Edwin said. Dangote will delay a planned listing of its cement company’s shares on the London Stock Exchange until at least next year when plants in countries including Cameroon, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Zambia are commissioned, Edwin said. Dangote Cement’s shares strengthened 3.5% to 232.90 naira as of 10.57am in Lagos, increasing its gains for the month to 6.4%. The stock advanced 71% last year, outpacing the 47% gain of the Nigerian Stock Exchange All Share Index. The sale will probably happen once investors can “see us as players outside Nigeria, not just as Nigeria champions and that we can repeat our success story elsewhere,” he said. – Bloomberg *Source Bloomberg/M &G]]>

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“The future of Africa is Mobilemoney”- Emmanuel Okoegwale on Mobile Money Expo 2014
January 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

banner-img (1)In a trend that is has been slowly but steadily gathering steam, Africa is moving towards a future of Mobile Money . The affirmation comes from Emmanuel Okoegwale Principal Associate at Mobile Money Africa.Okoegwale who is one of the Chief Organizers of the  upcoming Mobile Money Expo in Lagos, Nigeria says Mobile money is moving into main stream of financial services in many parts of Africa. “Due to strong compelling need of Africans and lack of well developed financial services like other parts of the World, Africans ingeniously started using airtime as a means of exchange and that progressed into using the mobile phone as a channel to access basic financial services,” Okoegwale said. Taking place from Feb 2-4, Mobile Money Expo 2014 focus on addressing financial inclusion Okoegwale said, while confirming an unprecedented high level of participation compared to previous events in an interview with Ajong Mbapndah L for PAV We understand the Mobile Money Expo 2014 will be taking place in Lagos, Nigeria, can you tell us about the event? In its 4th Year now, the mobilemoneyexpo series is the leading mobile financial services conference focused solely on the African continent and held annually in Lagos- Nigeria.it is the gathering of top executives from mobile network operators, Banks, regulators, systems and application providers  in the emerging mobile financial services space across  Africa and beyond. Last year we focused on inter operability and in 2014 we are addressing financial inclusion. May we have an idea of some of the confirmed participants, what will be some of its highlights? The expo gets bigger and better every year! For 2014, leading providers from across the world are already confirmed for the two day event. Verifone MobileMoney, Ingenico, Mfino, CIT Global , Etisalat Nigeria are some of the firms already confirmed. For how long have you been having the Money Expo Events and how have there evolved over the years? The event was established only four years ago to address the strong compelling needs in the African mobile financial services ecosystem. As a stakeholder in the industry, we observed that there is a need to have thought leaders and influencers in the ecosystem meet  and deliberate on pertinent issues in the industry. Over the Years, we have been signing speakers from all around the World and this year, we have speakers from 16 countries and delegates from every continent is represented. And now to Mobile Money, what is all about? Can you explain the concept in plain language and its place in Africa today? Due to strong compelling need of Africans and lack of well developed financial services like other parts of the World, Africans ingeniously started using airtime as a means of exchange and that progressed into using the mobile phone as a channel to access basic financial services. Subscribers can visit local agents and load e-money in exchange for cash which can be stored (Savings), transferred or used to pay for goods and services. It is a service that enabled millions to have basic access to financial services using the mobile phone as a means of authentication in a continent where millions do not have access to formal Banking, no documentation and many often, the Bank branches are very far away but yet all these excluded have access to a mobile phone. Mobile Money helped Africans to commoditized money. Africa has a population that now exceeds a billion people, what would you say is the potential for mobile money? With the record level adoption in some parts of Africa already like East Africa, the future of Africa is mobilemoney and many Government’s cashless initiatives and policies is helping to push the frontiers.  Mobilemoney is moving into main stream financial services in many parts of Africa. In future, some younger generation may interact with money first time via money rather than physical cash. Infrastructure is still an issue, from power, to the millions of people who do not have access to cell phones, what can be done for the mobile market industry to live its full potential? The Infrastructure challenge is still there but we are seeing improvements yearly. Government privatization efforts is moving power generation and distribution from inefficient government owned monopolies to better managed private sector enterprises.We expect significant improvements in coming years. Mobile subscription in Africa is growing rapidly with some countries nearing 90 percent penetration. Ghana and many others are in this category. Nigeria with a population of 160 million has over 110 million mobile subscriptions though impressive but many still lack access to a mobile network coverage or even a mobile device due to economy disadvantage. Can you give us statistics on the industry in Africa, in which countries is the industry growing fastest and what impediments are holding its progress back in others? East Africa is leading in the mobile money race with Kenya as the poster child of mobilemoney. There are more than 200 deployments worldwide with 100 in Africa and 47 of such in West Africa but Kenya with only 7 deployments transacts average of a 1 Billion USD daily according to latest figures released. In 2013, mobilemoney platforms transacted 300 billion usd in Kenya alone. The impediments faced by many others may be due to regulation, inadequate agency network and  non availability of mass access channels like Sim tool kit, USSD needed to reach the masses. [caption id="attachment_7997" align="alignright" width="247"]EMMANUEL OKOEGWALE EMMANUEL OKOEGWALE[/caption] In what ways could governments help in creating the appropriate climate for an ambitious industry like yours to reach its potential? Governments are contributing by way of regulation which creates certainty and appropriates risk in the industry. Many governments are scrambling now to put in place regulation for mobile financial services where they do not currently have, some are reviewing and updating current policies in line with the realities and needs of the industry. In what way do folks in the mobile money industry guard against fraudsters? Fraud is a universal phenomenon and mobile money industry is not excluded however any decent provider will put in place sound risk management processes to prevent fraud and mitigate the effects in case of occurrence. Central Banks around Africa are mandating certain security standards that will help manage and reduce fraud to the barest minimum in the sector. Most of the frauds that had been experienced were those committed internally due to weak governance structure and poorly trained agency network providers. To those who will be interested in joining the expo after this interview, what do they need to do, what does it take to be part of Expo 2014? Three ways to participate namely sign up as speaker but we are pretty over loaded in that aspect now, take up an exhibition space and lastly register as a delegate at www.mobilemoneyexpo.com What next after the expo, any other events of a similar nature slated for the rest of the year? Like I mentioned, the event is annual and the rest of the year is devoted to smaller workshops while we work towards the 2015 agenda.            ]]>

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Africa: Leveraging the Continent's Resources to Finance Vital Infrastructure – Kaberuka
January 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

Donald Kaberuka has ambitious targets for his second and final five-year term as President of theAfrican Development Bank. At the Bank’s annual luncheon earlier this month, he pinpointed security, peace, stability and job creation as 2014 goalsfor Africa and the multilateral institution he has led since 2005. His legacy would appear secure: the Bank has a triple-A designation from international credit rating firms and has tripled its capital base since 2010. Now Kaberuka – who served as Rwanda’s minister of finance from 1997 to 2005 – is spearheading an ambitious initiative, the Africa50Fund, designed to leverage capital from Africa’s own institutions to attract substantially greater global private equity to finance the continent’s vast infrastructural needs. This week in Abuja, Kaberuka is receiving the “African of the Year” award from the Nigerian newspaper, Daily Trust, which cited “his innovative idea … to speed up the financing of infrastructure in the continent.” Announcing the choice in November, Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, a former Tanzanian prime minister and Organisation of African Unity secretary-general, who chairs the selection panel, praised Kaberuka for “bringing to fruition the idea of domestically financed development.” When the award was announced at the African Media Leaders Forum in Addis Ababa, AllAfrica’s Tami Hultman and Reed Kramer interviewed Kaberuka about the Bank’s plans and priorities. Excerpts: Why have you focused on infrastructure as a top priority for the Bank? To put it simply, the current needs of infrastructure in Africa are about U.S. $92 billion a year. At the moment we can monetize from all sources only half that amount – about $50 billion. To mobilize the balance, we decided that we should use the limited amount of public resources available to leverage additional resources in the capital markets. But to do that, we will have to build a vehicle with an equity base based on Africa’s own pools of savings. And on those bases we go into the market to raise money. So how is that vehicle, the Africa50Fund, designed to work? Africa50 is about transformational, commercially viable projects of regional significance. It’s about using Africa’s own savings to leverage the private sector, and it is a tool to make a whole range of projects in the PIDA program – the Priority Infrastructure Development for Africa – bankable and commercially viable. These pools of savings are currently invested in the U.S. and Europe. They are looking for a good return, they are looking for liquidity, and they are looking for security. Africa50 seeks to provide those three. Maybe do even better on the returns. At the moment, because of the QE [quantitative easing, the monetary policy pursued by the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, which lowers interest rates] and the financial markets, the return is not particularly attractive. I think we can provide a better return. I think we can provide the liquidity. I think we can provide security, at the same time building Africa’s transformational infrastructure. How can Africa50 deliver a higher return and also finance infrastructural development? I don’t want to walk you through all the sophisticated financial engineering which you have to do, but I’ll just give you an example. Many of these economies are growing at 6 percent. And everywhere on the continent, the maritime ports have become a huge constraint. There’s almost almost no port on the Atlantic or the Indian [Ocean] belt, apart from Durban, which have enough capacity to cope with the growth in the economies. So the demand is there. We are going to go there and expand the port capacities. It’s a commercially viable business. We charge a price. and we shall be able to provide a return to the investors. Let me tell you, in the 1990s, if you told someone that IT-related infrastructure, communications, the mobile phone – that was a good return, they would’ve thought you were crazy! That is where the returns have been very, very interesting. Our analysis at Africa50 is that energy is the next revolution, and next are maritime ports, railways, highways and airports. And how do you mobilize sufficient capital to finance all the needed infrastructural development? We have started with African-owned institutions, including equity provided by the African Development Bank. We’ll go to African central banks who are now holding half a trillion dollars of reserves. We are not naïve enough to think that central banks will invest all of their reserves in an instrument like this, because the reserves have an economic purpose. So we will be targeting them, and we’re looking at sovereign wealth funds for equity. As the project pipeline increases, we are going to market and scale up progressively. We keep hearing about the high growth rate of African economies – but that it too often is “jobless growth”. How do you address that? I think “jobless growth” is not a good definition, although it describes the phenomenon. You have to look at three things. One is the sources of growth, the drivers of growth. In most cases, the drivers of growth are in services and extractives. The biggest employer on the African continent is agriculture. That is not where the source of growth is. So the plain-vanilla solution is basically to do everything we can to invest as much as we can in agriculture and small businesses. That’s where the jobs are created, not in the extractives. The second thing, which is simple math, is that you have an economy growing at nominal rates of six-and-a-half percent and a population increasing at three and a half percent, as we saw when we were recently in the Sahel. In Niger it is four percent. It means you are growing at basically three percent. And if inflation is running at two percent, it means your real growth is one percent. So there is the issue of population increase and drivers of growth, and those two combined have created a huge bout of inequalities, which itself is becoming a break on growth. So we need to tackle inequalities directly. We need to try to return some of the revenues from natural resources into agriculture, into small businesses, which is where jobs are created. But I must say to you, whether you are a small garage owner in northern Nigeria or a woman owning a boutique in the city or you own a cement factory, it is power cuts for half a day for three days a week which eat into your margins, which eat into your possibilities of creating jobs. So this focus on infrastructure is precisely the starting point for creating jobs. You cannot create jobs unless the country has energy which is available, affordable and sustainable. Kaberuka4(1)Finally, we need to rethink safety nets. We need to figure out how to provide a safety net to poor people, whether it is by transferring some money from oil and gas revenues, by removing wasteful subsidies and better targeting them to the poor. All these things can be done. So – tackle inequality, tackle sources of growth, and figure out how to remove some of these barriers to growth like energy.That’s how jobs are created. What do you hope will result from the recent high-level focus on the Sahel after your November visit to Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, along with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank and African Union and European Union leaders? The Sahel region is a crucible of the challenges Africa faces. In 1973, the Sahel region faced a huge drought problem. There was a lot of suffering there. Nowadays suffering is the result of security-related problems. When you take the security challenges of the Central African Republic and the Sahel and you add climactic problems, you see clearly the link between development, security, and the climate. Our visit was the first time that leaders of the United Nations, the African Union, World Bank, the European Union and the African Development Bank go together through four nations to learn, to listen, to see how we can help. All of us came back energized by what we saw and determined to rally behind the countries in the Sahel region. The challenge is enormous. We think the response should be appropriate. We have committed to action, and we each play complementary roles. Ban Ki-moon is very much leading on the security side. The AU is leading on the political side, and we the financial organizations rally behind them with the financial packages for reconstruction of the Sahel, for job creation, for integration – to give hope to the region. What is the AfDB role? The Sahel goes from Somalia to Mauritania, so in this case the concentration is on five core countries. We’ve already committed up to $2 billion in those five countries. What I have announced is new money equivalent to $1.9 billion for the next three years. And on top of that, we shall commit an additional $500 million for the ‘greater Sahel’, which means the five core countries plus two additional countries, to execute programs of regional integration and cooperation. The essence of the AfDB’s program is “resilience” – building the capacity of the region to resist climatic shocks or man-made crises like this one. We shall do infrastructure, and we shall do water management and programs of economic integration across the region. *Source All Africa.com]]>

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Building Smart in Ghana: The Story of Regimanuel Gray Limited
January 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

WALL-TIES & FORMS, INC. CONSTRUCTION GHANAIt’s daybreak in Accra, Ghana, and temperatures are already soaring to a searing 30 degrees Celsius. Jobsites around this southeastern Atlantic seaside city are quickly filling up with workers who for the next 8 hours will toil and broil in unrelenting heat and humidity as they play their rightful role in Ghana’s bubbling construction sector. By contrast things are somewhat more relaxed at a sprawling job site in Klagon, where Regimanuel Gray Limited (RGL) is building 1,680 apartment units in collaboration with the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) of Ghana. Here, the construction crews are equipped with concrete formwork smart building technology designed and supplied by Wall-Ties & Forms, Inc. (WTF) of Kansas State, USA. This highly user-friendly rapid formwork construction technology produces concrete structures at least 3 times faster than with traditional construction methods. The structures are also roughly 5 times as strong as the brick and mortar equivalent. It’s cast-in-place steel reinforced concrete construction. It’s the future of Ghana, a rapidly urbanizing nation with a housing deficit estimated at 1.5 million homes. “Our traditional methods of building are too slow,” admits Mr. Emmanuel Botchwey, Regimanuel Gray Limited’s Executive Chairman, revealing that the entire real estate sector of Ghana has been producing barely 10% of the new homes the country needs to build every year to start correcting its housing shortfall. Regimanuel is Ghana’s leading homes developer. From its incorporation in 1991 the company has built just over 3,000 homes in Ghana. That is roughly 130 homes every year for 22 years. A decent turnover but Mr. Botchwey has not been satisfied with the output. In early 2006 at an African housing sector conference hosted by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) in Cape Town, South Africa, the RGL co-founder keenly followed a presentation of Wall-Ties & Forms’ aluminum formwork-based rapid construction technology. He was encouraged by what he saw. “I thought it was a great formwork technology to introduce in Ghana but we were not ready to implement it at that time as we had just invested heavily in block-making plants here and in Sierra Leone,” he says. Although the block making business has been hugely successful with RGL projects consuming just over 20% of the products while selling the bulk to an eager market, at the back of Mr. Botchwey’s mind was the WTF technology he saw in Cape Town in 2006. For one, reinforced concrete structures compared to brick and mortar – masonry – walls are less prone to cracking; the WTF formwork system doesn’t require the high level of specialized skills and amounts of mechanized and manual labor deployed on conventional jobsites. Additionally the WTF formwork system has definite cost-saving factors not to mention the speed at which the structures seem to practically grow out of the ground. “Time is money,” avers Botchwey, adding, “With this technology, you build faster, sell faster and cut down on your overhead. It means you make more money quicker and can pay your workers better. “If you are using borrowed money, it means you will repay your bank loan in 2 years instead of 5 years, so you save on bank interest payments and share the savings with the home buyer,” says Ghana’s top real estate entrepreneur. It is against this backdrop that Mr. Botchwey and his team travelled to the Kansas City headquarters of Wall-Ties & Forms, Inc. in October 2011 to discuss the acquisition of WTF aluminum formwork for use in the Klagon apartments development project. The equipment was shipped to Accra mid-last year, and after the initial onsite training, construction commenced in July 2012. RGL has sold most of the apartment units just over a year since the project got underway. Besides the 1,680 apartments, the firm is collaborating with SSNIT on yet another project to build 42 high-end duplex units in the Community 13 area of Accra. RGL has already acquired WTF aluminum formwork for this new project. Mr. Botchwey discloses that these two housing development projects have generated more than 300 direct new jobs, while contributing significantly to efforts to reduce Ghana’s huge housing deficit. It gets even better. Regimanuel Gray Limited has recently acquired 1,300 acres in Accra on which they plan to build a satellite city with 17,000 single- and multi-family homes within a series of gated communities complete with schools, hospitals, shopping and recreational facilities, and other community support amenities. This is indeed a herculean undertaking; hardly any single developer is building such a huge number of homes in Ghana or in any other African country for that matter. But it is possible to deliver the satellite city with the WTF mass housing technology considering that some South American developers have produced as many as 40,000 homes annually using the cast-in-place concrete building technology. Mr. Botchwey estimates that his company will complete the 17,000 homes project inside 10 years and create thousands of new jobs in the process. In the interim, RGL’s ambition is to accelerate its annual production rate to reach 500 homes built and sold in Ghana. Decorated as one of Ghana’s top-100 companies, RGL also has solid plans to start building homes in Liberia and Tanzania in the near future. They have already acquired land for the purpose in both countries. Structures built using WTF’s precision engineered concrete forms are smooth and straight; they require minimal or no plastering at all. All the openings are precise, which saves the builder ample time in the process of fitting the doors and windows. Not to mention that the forms are good for a guaranteed minimum 1,000 concrete pours. Such are the time and cost-saving factors that persuaded RGL to start building the WTF way. The recipient of the 1998 Ghana Home Finance Company Gold Award for Best Estate Developer, the Ghana Millennium Excellence Award, and the 13th International Construction Award of Trade Leaders Club, Paris, it is little wonder that Regimanuel Gray Limited, Ghana’s premier home builder, is using the world’s best concrete forming system. Mr. Botchwey says he is satisfied with the after-sale support he is receiving from Wall-Ties & Forms’ professionals in the USA and Africa. And he is not worried about plausible competition emanating from other Ghana and West African homebuilders discovering the WTF cost-efficient way of building. Africa, he says, lags behind in the provision of decent shelter. “We have lots of catching up to do; it’s the more reason why we in Africa should use modern building methods such as the WTF technology.” *Mr. Emmanuel Botchwey, the Regimanuel Gray Limited Executive Chairman, can be contacted through +233.24.431.2120 or emailEmmbotch@regimanuel.com]]>

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The Biggest African Billionaire Gainers In 2013
January 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

Mfonobong Nsehe,* [caption id="attachment_7919" align="alignleft" width="300"]Aliko Dangote Aliko Dangote[/caption] No one made bigger bucks in Africa in 2013 than the continent’s richest man, Aliko Dangote. The Nigerian cement, sugar and flour mogul saw his fortune soar $10.1 billion, or 79% through Wednesday, the 31st of December 2013. The biggest catalyst was his Dangote Cement shares which has experienced a 74% run-up over the last 12 months. He is now worth $22.9 billion according to FORBES’s most recent statistics, up from $12.8 billion at the end of December 2012. 2013 was a roller coaster year for Dangote. In April, the 57-year-old tycoon announced that his Dangote Group, West Africa’s largest company, would construct a private oil refinery in Nigeria. When completed, it will have a refining capacity of 400,000 barrels per day and will reduce Nigeria’s dependence on oil imports. Dangote’s name attracts big money, and several local and international financiers quickly lined up to back him on the project. He subsequently raised $4.5 billion. He is also aggressively expanding his publicly traded Dangote Cement across the continent, announcing plans September and October to build new plants in Kenya and Niger at a cost of $750 million. The second biggest gainer in dollar terms in 2013 was Angolan investor Isabel Dos Santos, the eldest daughter of Angola’s president. FORBES’ estimate of her net worth grew by $2.8 billion during 2013 to $3.7 billion, but not because her wealth grew dramatically over that period. FORBES was able to uncover and verify more assets owned by Dos Santos, 41,  between December 2012 and August 2013; and wrote about those assets here. She is now Africa’s richest woman. Nigeria’s richest woman, Folorunsho Alakija, controls Famfa Oil Limited, an oil exploration company that owns a lucrative stake in the Agbami deepwater oilfield. FORBES puts her net worth at  $2.5 billion, up from $600 million in December 2012, after she first appeared on the FORBES list of Africa’s richest people. Her increased net worth is a result of new information made available to Forbes on the true value of her company’s interest in Agbami, information that has been verified by analysts in the industry. Africa’s wealthiest media mogul, Koos Bekker, CEO of South Africa-based media giant Naspers, saw his fortune nearly triple in the past year –from $450 million to $1.2 billion — as a result of a huge run-up in the stock and additional stock purchases by Bekker.  Naspers’ shares rose more than 100% in 2013. In the case of Abdulsamad Rabiu, Africa’s newest billionaire, we estimate he is $550 million richer than Forbes’ estimate in December 2012, primarily because Forbes Africa was given exclusive access to new information regarding his holdings. The full list of the biggest dollar gainers in Africa, measured from December 31, 2012 through December 30, 2013, is below. 1. Aliko Dangote Net Worth: $22.9 billion Up: $10.1 billion (79%) 2. Isabel dos Santos Net Worth: $3.7 billion Up: $2.8 billion (311%) 3. Christo Wiese Net Worth: $6.5 billion Up: $2.4 billion (58.5%) 4. Folorunsho Alakija Net Worth: $2.5 billion Up: $1.9 billion (317%) 5. Johann Rupert Net Worth: $7.8 billion Up: $1.4 billion (22%) 6. Nassef Sawiris Net Worth: $6.6 billion Up: $1 billion (18%) 7. Mohammed Mansour Net Worth: $3.1 billion Up: $900 million (41%) 8. Koos Bekker Net Worth: $1.2 billion Up: $750 million  (167%) 9. Abdulsamad Rabiu Net Worth: $1.2 billion Up: $550 million (85%) 10. Yasseen Mansour Net Worth: $2.4 billion Up: $400 million (20%) 11. Yasseen Mansour Net Worth: $2.4 billion Up: $400 million (20%) 12. Stephen Saad Net Worth: $1.45 billion Up: $350 million (31.8%) 13. Youssef Mansour Net Worth: $2.3 billion Up: $350 million (18%) 14. Nicky Oppenheimer Net Worth: $6.6 billion Up: $100 million (1.5%) 15. Mike Adenuga Net Worth: $4.7 billion Up: $100 million (2.2%) Follow me on Twitter @EmperorDIV *Source Forbes Magazine]]>

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New UBA chairman appointment highlights dynamic growth in African markets
December 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

United Bank for Africa (UBA), the pan-African financial services group in which investment company Heirs Holdings (http://www.heirsholdings.com/) has a strategic interest, has announced the appointment of a new board chairman, Ambassador Joe Keshi. The appointment of Ambassador Keshi, who brings significant foreign service experience, signals the increasing importance of UBA’s pan-African and global network.

Heirs Holdings Chairman, Tony O. Elumelu (http://www.tonyelumelu.com/), who retired as Group Managing Director and CEO of UBA in 2010 and whose strategic vision is responsible for today’s UBA, confirmed that Keshi’s appointment would add significant value to UBA’s shareholders.

Elumelu said, “Joe Keshi brings to this position a track record of rigorous governance, an international perspective and experience in policy formulation. These qualities are critical to UBA’s strategy of consolidating its position as the leading pan-African financial services group in Africa.”

He added, “This appointment lays to rest some of the ill-informed speculation relating to my own possible return to UBA.   With Heirs Holdings developing an increasingly diversified portfolio, including Transcorp (http://www.transcorpnigeria.com/), as well as Tenoil (http://www.tenoilenergy.com/), Afriland (http://www.avonhealthcare.com/), our real estate business, and Avon Healthcare, leading Heirs Holdings and ensuring that we capture the many exciting opportunities in Nigeria and across Africa, requires my full time attention. I can think of no better person than Joe Keshi to lead UBA.”

Ambassador Keshi has over 35 years of public service, working at the highest levels of government administration in Africa and during his career served as Permanent Secretary, at the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Charge d’Affaires, Embassy of Nigeria, The Hague, Netherlands and Consul-General of Nigeria in Atlanta, USA. Ambassador Keshi was first appointed to the UBA Board in 2010 and became Vice Chairman in 2011. Ambassador Keshi’s appointment follows the retirement of Chief Israel Ogbue, a member of the UBA Board since 2005 and who has served as Chairman since January 1, 2011.

Speaking on his appointment, Ambassador Keshi said, “UBA has demonstrated ability for creating sustained value for our various stakeholders. Our pan-African footprint, particularly, gives UBA an extremely effective platform for harnessing and indeed contributing to, the growing economic potential of African markets.”

UBA Group is a significant investment within Heirs Holdings’ financial services portfolio and is listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. The UBA Group closed third quarter 2013 with operating income of N130 billion and total balance sheet size of N3.03 trillion.

A leading pan-African financial services group with presence in 22 countries globally, UBA has a strong retail franchise providing banking services to over 7 million customers through over 750 branches and other customer touch points in 19 high growth African markets.

About Heirs Holdings

Heirs Holdings is a pan-African proprietary investment company driving Africa’s development. We are active long-term investors who specialise in building businesses and corporate turnaround. We aim to transform the companies in which we invest and grow them into businesses that last. We invest in Africa to create value for our shareholders and partners, and to create economic prosperity and social wealth for the continent.  Our investments in power, financial services, oil and gas, real estate and hospitality, agri-business and healthcare are helping to build economies, create jobs, drive prosperity and ultimately transform the lives of ordinary Africans in Africa.

SOURCE 

Heirs Holdings

 

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East African states to share SIM card, national ID data
December 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

By CHARLES WOKABI*

ICT_PIXKenya, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan are working towards establishing a cross-border SIM card registration framework in a new effort to curb the rise in crimes perpetrated by the use of mobile devices.

Meeting in Nairobi last week, Information, Communication and Technology ministers from the four countries  agreed to harmonise the different legislative frameworks guiding SIM registration in each country to spread the benefits of the exercise across the region.

A joint statement signed by Kenya’s ICT Secretary Fred Matiang’i, Uganda’s John Nasasira, Jean Philbert Nsengimana of Rwanda and South Sudan’s Rebecca Joshua Okwachi said the four governments would also interconnect national identification (ID) systems.

“SIM card registration is now a regional security issue and must be handled with the importance it deserves. A regional deadline for deactivation of all unregistered SIM cards will be set and strictly adhered to,” Mr Nasasira, who also chaired the meeting, said.

The interconnected national ID systems is meant to facilitate faster movement of people across the four countries, and at the same time ensure people moving from one country to another do not fake their nationalities and identities.

However, the absence of Tanzania in the meeting raises questions about the success of such an initiative given the borderless nature of technology.

The fact the country is not a signatory to the agreement means criminals can still use unregistered SIM cards within its borders to coordinate crimes in the region.

Mr Matiang’i said the meeting was intended for countries along the northern corridor, hence the absence of Tanzania.

“We are in touch with our Tanzanian counterpart and will be sharing our agreements with the country so they are free to come on board. This is one area where we need the inclusion of Tanzania to achieve the objective.”

Kenya leads in the SIM card registration exercise, having switched off millions of unregistered subscribers from local networks in the first quarter this year.

The ICT cluster meeting follows a directive issued jointly by Presidents Kenyatta of Kenya, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Salva Kiir of South Sudan after the heads of state Integration Projects Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda in October.

The presidents also ordered their ministries to ensure international calling rates and roaming charges are reduced to speed  regional integration.

“The ministers agreed to jointly explore ways of lowering the regional roaming charges, including defining wholesale and retail price caps for roaming charges based on best practices,” a communique signed by the four ministers read in part.

*Source Daily Nation

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Iroko TV Raises Another $8 million in Funding
December 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Jason Njoku*

Bastian and I announced earlier today that iROKO, our little company which we co-founded back in 2010 raised another $8Mn in venture capital from our existing investors Tiger Global, Kinnevik and new participant, Rise Capital. That brings our total raised over the last 2 years to $21Mn (we quietly raised $5Mn in December ‘12). I know this makes us easily one of the most well funded internet startups in Africa and with a near $50Mn valuation, validates our original perspective of a valuable and globally relevant Nollywood film audience. A market which only required a product to fill that void. 2013 hasn’t been an easy year, the naysayers have recently been out in force predicting our demise, it’s definitely been one where I personally feel that the company, at large, has matured. But maturity in the public eye can be very taxing. We were negotiating the final clauses in this $8Mn whilst folks were mentioning our ‘structural issues’. I had a response blog post penned ready to set the record straight, to dash the naysayers on the rocks. My wife never allowed me to post it. She was right. Action always speaks louder than words. X8million. I am now a fully married father of a small man. I am working hard to evolve my former brash founder attitude and become more of a CEO. Still very much work in progress. But a step in the right direction.

But iROKO as a company has changed significantly in the last year. The shoot-for-the-moon tangent bets you make as a early funded young aggressive startup have been had, lessons learned and wounds licked. I believe we have now institutionalised all the failures and mistakes made over the last 3 years, yet allowing the capacity to move fast and break things, remains. Dollar for Dollar I believe iROKOtv has one of the best unit economics equations of any startup based in Nigeria. Nothing I have ever seen sways me from that. The quality of our recurring revenue is second to none. We focus on building value beyond a large free user base but pride ourselves in our cold, hard calculating journey to self sustainability. And profits. One day we will be a startup no more. In its place we hope to have built an actual company.

Last week, an investor who was visiting Spark told me that I had inherited a massive burden of needing to be successful. That iROKO had to have a big win or it would be seen as a failure. At this level of funding a big win would have to be a $100Mn+ exit. This is attainable. But not in the near future and internally at iROKO ‘exits’ are never discussed. We focus on building awesome.

With $8Mn in funding we allow ourselves the financial levity to make more strategic, longer, customer focused improvements to iROKOtv FREE/PLUS and the VOD marketplace at large. This funding definitely gets us to profitability as planned without constraining our ability to grow. Raising money is always difficult in Africa, especially Nigeria. Whilst we have a compelling narrative that is not enough to enable seasoned VC’s to keep funding a company unless we have given them the confidence we can execute the narrative. We have demonstrated our ability. No hype no voodoo. Just reality. The perspective. Bastian and I don’t work everyday to try and live up to the lofty expectations our funding has now set for us. We feel no pressure other than that we place on ourselves to build what we have always dreamed about. An awesome online home for Nollywood.

We are no longer a scrappy startup. In fact the word monopoly is usually mentioned when online and iROKO comes into debate. We now generate millions of dollars in revenue annually and have a global team of 68 people. With offices in Lagos, London, NYC and JoBurg scrappy doesn’t come to mind. Nonetheless we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a true giant of an African media company. With the fresh funding and the wind at our backs. It is our ball to drop.

In the end, all Glory goes to God, to my wife, son, family, my best friend Bastian and the whole team who quietly make iROKOtv sing minute by minute, hour by hour and day by day.

All we need to do is continue building awesome. Then we make our dent in the universe

Source Jason Njoku .com

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