Africans’ remittances outweigh Western aid
April 22, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Mark Doyle*
Africans are helping themselves more than aid workers are, according to new research.
Analysis of cash flows by Hong Kong-based Ghanaian academic Adams Bodomo shows that Africans living outside the continent send more money home to their families than is sent by traditional Western aid donors in what is called Official Development Assistance (ODA).
In 2010 – the most recent year for which meaningful comparisons can be made, according to Mr Bodomo – the African diaspora remitted $51.8bn (£34bn) to the continent.
In the same year, according to World Bank figures, ODA to Africa was $43bn (£28bn).
“I started the research to see if I could support a hunch I had that money remitted by African families was more efficient aid than ODA money,” the Ghanaian professor told the BBC.
“I found it was clearly more efficient and better targeted but to my surprise I found it was also a much bigger sum.”
Mr Bodomo concentrated on African money-flows but came to a similar conclusion for all developing countries:
“Worldwide remittances from people who hail from developing countries totalled $350bn,” he said; “far exceeding ODA at $130bn.”
Statistics can be misleading. The definition of Western ODA does not include all external aid.
Saudi-financed mosques built for social and religious reasons are not included, for example.
Nor are semi-commercial deals like Chinese road-building projects in exchange for minerals concessions.
But ODA does represent most of what most people usually think of as “foreign aid”.
Even if other outside aid were included, Mr Bodomo thinks money sent by relatives would still far exceed it because much of the “family aid” is sent through informal channels.
“In the case of Africa, about 75% of remittances are sent informally – we can’t track that,” he said.
“For example, cash is sent through a friend who is visiting on holiday. If we add all that in, the diaspora remittances would be bigger by a factor of three or four times.”
Mr Bodomo believes “family aid” is also more efficient, and that diaspora practices hold lessons for the wider aid industry.
“It’s more effective because it’s better informed. An African family member abroad knows what is needed, whether it’s for school fees, to build a structure or to grow a business.”
“Compare that to traditional foreign aid and all the cumbersome structures it is distributed through – only a small amount of ‘traditional aid’ ends up with the people who need it.”
“It’s also clear that a lot of government-to-government aid is misappropriated. So the ODA donors should learn from these diaspora guys by targeting support to those who need it most – families and small businesses.”
Some African governments would disagree with this last point – and not only those who seek to misappropriate aid funds.Many administrations would argue that infrastructure like roads and bridges are vital for development.
They say their low revenue base means they have to get some of this infrastructure financed from the outside.
Mr Bodomo argues there are lessons for African governments too.
If “family aid” is more efficient, he says, it should be encouraged.
“About 12% of diaspora money sent home through formal financial channels is swallowed up by bank fees. Governments should find ways to reduce this so more funds get to people who need them.”
Again, this is potentially controversial.
Some African governments, including in some of the fastest-growing economies with more efficient administrations, such as Ghana and Rwanda, argue that increasing tax revenues is vital to building government capacity – precisely so they can wean themselves off aid.
Mr Bodomo’s research highlights a trend that may be reinforced if globalisation increases the number of expatriate Africans migrating to jobs in richer countries.
That trend may also shift geographically as Africans move not just to the traditional former colonial Western countries but to newly industrialised states such as China, India and Brazil.
The more open and democratic African governments will welcome diaspora funds and involvement.
Some encourage diaspora engagement by allowing joint citizenship, for example.
But less democratic regimes on the continent view some members of the diaspora with suspicion.
They cannot control them in the same way that they seek to control their domestic citizens, so prefer to keep them at arms’ length.
World Bank: Africa’s economic growth to outpace average
April 16, 2013 | 0 Comments
Higher commodities, increasing investment and a general pick-up in the world economy should all boost the continent’s growth to more than 5%.
But the World Bank added that African governments had to do more to ensure that this growth reduced poverty.
Global GDP was forecast to grow by an average of 2.4% this year.
Foreign direct investment is forecast to reach record levels in the coming years, hitting $54bn (£35.3bn)a year by 2015, the Bank said.
The report said strong economic growth in Africa had significantly reduced the extent of poverty in Africa over the past decade or so.
The Bank’s provisional figures showed that the proportion of Africans living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 58% to 48.5% between 1996 and 2010.
“If properly harnessed to unleash their full potential, these trends hold the promise of more growth, much less poverty, and accelerating shared prosperity for African countries in the foreseeable future,” said World Bank economist, Punam Chuhan-Pole.
But the Bank added that poverty reduction was being held back by income inequality and a reliance on mineral and mining exports in some African countries.
Resource-rich countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and Gabon were singled out as making less progress in combating poverty than other African countries with fewer natural resources.
“While the broad picture emerging from the data is that Africa’s economies have been expanding robustly and that poverty is coming down, the aggregate hides a great deal of diversity in performance, even among Africa’s faster growers,” said Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank’s chief economist for Africa.
The Bank said infrastructure development was critical to ensure the strong pace of economic growth.
Investment in infrastructure would be key to the continued success of the oil and gas sectors in East Africa and the exploitation of the huge coal deposits in Mozambique.
The mineral sectors in places such as Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone should continue to attract investment, the Bank said.
The World Bank did, however, identify some problem areas it felt could hold back economic growth.
Labour unrest in the continent’s largest economy, South Africa, as well as political issues in the Central African Republic, Mali and Togo were identified as potential concerns.
The Bank warned that risks to African growth remained, not only from the continuing crisis in the eurozone, but also from any sharp unforeseen downturn in demand for commodities from China.
Equatorial Guinea Moves Towards Partnership with GB Group Global To Improve Health Standards
April 10, 2013 | 0 Comments
Equatorial Guinea (EG) Ministry of Health meets in Washington,DC with GB Group Global andTNI Biotech (OTCBB:TNIB) to launch major innovative health solutions and improve pharmaceutical quality for its citizens.
Washington, D.C. The EG Ministry of Health met with Dr. Gloria B. Herndon of GB Group Global in the nation’s capital recently as part of Equitorial Guinea’s efforts to dramatically raise its standards of health care. These endeavors include building a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in EG, implementing pharmaceutical quality control and policies, and exploring the release of a new treatment (Low Dose Naltrexone LDN) against cancer and HIV/AIDS.
The purpose of the visit of Dr. Diosdado-Vicente Milang Nsue, the Delegate Minister of Health & Social Services and Dr. Consuelo Ondo Efua the D i r e c t o r G e n e r a l o f Drug Supply and Medical Equipment, was to engage with organizations who through assistance, partnership and the sharing of best practices could close knowledge gaps and help bring improved health care to Equatorial Guineans. The visitors’ meetings with members of the medical community were facilitated by Dr. Herndon, President and Managing Member of GB Group Global andits wide ranging auxiliary companies, GB Energie, GB Pharma and GB Oncology and Imaging Group.
Presiding over their near week-long stay, Dr. Herndon said the government of EG had included the improvement of health care as a facet of the “Industrialization Plan-2020”, which was defined by the government and stretches across all sectors of the country to focus on raising the economic level and quality of life of the country’s citizens by year 2020.
Among issues discussed, Minister Dr. Milang Nsue raised a problem rampant overseas: The need for affordable high quality medicines. “The devastating effects of substandard and counterfeit medicines in circulation lead to treatment failure, increased mortality; and the development of drug resistance.” Dr. Milang Nsue also stressed that “…establishing in Equatorial Africa a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility with an analytical laboratory would be of paramount importance.” The proposed facility was part of conversations with TNI Bio Tech Inc., GB Pharma, Gb Oncology & Imaging Group, Howard University and the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) representatives, with whom partnerships were discussed.
The Director of Pharmacology, Dr. Ondo Efua said “With the availability of a drug manufacturing facility to treat the most current pathologies, we could secure the safety and high quality of medicines either produced in EG or imported. We would have taken an important step to halt the traffic and commercialization of the counterfeit medicines that undermine the quality of the health services delivered to our population” Further, as EG is concerned with the global struggle to combat the scourge of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancer, new developments regarding the therapy known asIRT-103 Low Dose Naltrexone* (LDN) were explained during the sessions with TNI Bio Tech Inc. (OTCBB:TNIB) IRT-103 is an active immunotherapy for patients with deficient functioning of the immune system. It works within the body by activating the patient’s immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells and controlling infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS. The therapy has been hailed in other countries where it will be used as inexpensive and simple to manage, requiring only one dose each day, taken orally.
The process to initiate approval of the treatment of HIV/AIDS and cancer by IRT-103 should begin soon. This step will change the lives of the country’s citizens, by decreasing the sufferings and death of the killer diseases, and will permit Equatorial Guinea to take a leadership position in eliminating these plagues. A meeting will be held in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, with the technical team of TNIB, GB Pharma and GB Oncology & Imaging Group in order to present the significance of IRT-103 to the medical and scientific community of EG and acquainting them with IRT-103’s most recent advances and widened scope. Concluding the sessions, Dr. Herndon said she felt the exchanges had been productive, and was pleased that “…we (GB Group Global) were able to demonstrate our commitment to viable and sustainable solutions to the issues of the citizens well being and the growth of the nation.”
GB Group Global’s entrepreneurial founder, Dr. Gloria B. Herndon, has more than 35 years of successfully conducting business internationally. Her social give-back programs in education, healthcare and municipal development are just a few areas the GB Group champions together with its collateral partners. The GB Group currently focuses on innovative and sustainable solutions in the energy, environment and health sectors.
GB Group Global
providing innovative & sustainable solutions while doing good
Jan Du Plain
Kilimanjaro Capital Ltd. Acquires Three More Disputed Onshore Blocks from Republic of Cabinda
March 19, 2013 | 0 Comments
CALGARY, ALBERTA–(Marketwire – March 18, 2013) – Kilimanjaro Capital Ltd., a resource support services company focusing on emerging nations in West Africa, has signed an Oil & Mineral Assignment Agreement with the Republic of Cabinda. Kilimanjaro Capital also entered into an agreement to option a 49% interest in the Cabinda blocks to a Canadian junior, Forest Gate Energy (TSX VENTURE:FGE). Kilimanjaro Capital previously received future oil and mineral rights to Cabinda’s Offshore and Northeast Blocks.
The Assignment Agreement grants Kilimanjaro Capital future oil and mineral rights to Cabinda’s South, Central and Northern Blocks fully vesting upon international recognition of Cabinda’s government. Angola’s state owned Sonangol also claims the concession rights to the blocks however control of the countryside in the region has been contested between Republic of Cabinda’s armed forces and the Angolan army for almost four decades in one of Africa’s least known disputes. As recently as January 30, 2013, two Chinese nationals were killed in cross fire between Angolan and Cabindan forces.
The onshore blocks abut two highly productive offshore oil fields, Chevron’s Cabinda Gulf Oil Co. (CABGOC) Blocks 0 and 14. The Cabinda South Block had a test well drilled by a former Sonangol licensee ROC Oil. The Massambala-1 oil field has a total reserve of 170 million barrels. ROC however is no longer involved in Cabinda. The Central and North Blocks have been perennial candidates for development but the security situation has complicated operations for decades. The full extent and value of Cabinda’s mineral rights are unknown as the region remains largely unexplored due to civil unrest. Cabinda is known as a historic gold producer and considerable resources of uranium-rich sedimentary phosphates have been identified along with diamonds, phosphates, cobalt, and manganese which are thought to exist in commercially exploitable quantities.
Cabinda is a former Portuguese Protectorate and was once known as the Portuguese Congo. In 1975, Cabinda attained independence but the oil rich territory was invaded by Angola and a 38 year struggle has ensued. Cabinda’s current government of President Aphonse Massanga and Premier Dr. Joel Batila has focused on civil and political remedies. In 2012, the African Union’s Banjul Commission took jurisdiction over the disputed claims to Cabinda’s largely dormant onshore resources and has yet to issue a ruling.
Kilimanjaro Capital recently signed agreements for exclusive oil and minerals rights with the exile governments of Southern Cameroons and Biafra. Forest Gate Energy (TSX VENTURE:FGE) controls a 20% stake in Southern Cameroons.
Kilimanjaro Capital CEO Zulfikar Rashid said that the timing of the additional Cabinda acquisitions came as a surprise. According to Rashid, “We had always hoped in the future to acquire these blocks but the opportunity presented itself now and the participation of Forest Gate Energy accelerated our time table.”
Cabinda’s exiled Premier, Dr. Joel Batila in France, likewise was pleased and noted that Kilimanjaro Capital’s monetization efforts will help support ongoing diplomatic and legal efforts in Brussels, Geneva, and Banjul.
Kilimanjaro Capital Ltd.
7015 Macleod Trail South Suite 400
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2H 2K6
Africa Is Rising: Inside the Continent’s Great Economic Leap
March 5, 2013 | 0 Comments
Most of the globe may still be reeling from the great recession, but one continent is booming. Surprise—it’s Africa. Jake Bright on what’s driving the growth, and whether the opportunities are trickling down.
By Jake Bright*
In corporate boardrooms and global-investment seminars, more CEOs and business leaders are talking about Africa. That much was evident at a recent New York Stock Exchange investor conference, where along with references to Africa as the “new Asia” or “home of the next Google” there were forward outlooks by Wall Street analysts, representatives of the continent’s 29 stock exchanges, and presentations on Africa’s tech industry, now claiming mobile-banking innovations outpacing the United States and Europe.
“What’s happening in business on the continent will reshape everything people know or thought they knew about Africa,” said Rosa Whitaker, longtime Africa business expert and CEO of the Whitaker Group consultancy. “It’s very real, and Americans will connect with Africa in fundamentally different ways than in the past.”
In the past, Americans may not have connected with Africa much at all; perhaps a friend who was in the Peace Corps or a donation to a celebrity charity. Media coverage has largely been a stream of poverty, war, or corruption, with an occasional safari. But new developments, largely in the business sphere, are changing that narrative rapidly. The simplest breakdown: Africa is growing, Africa is modernizing, Africa is the next consumer market, and Africa’s influence is rising.
From New York to Davos, business discussions echo with references to Africa’s astounding economic growth. While most of the globe is still reeling from the great recession, Africa is booming. It had six of 10 of the world’s fastest-growing economies of the decade to 2010 and is projected to claim seven of 10 to 2015, outpacing the entire Asian region. “Compared to dismal rates in the rest of the world, Africa’s growth is exceptional,” said Gustavo Galindo, a portfolio manager with Russell Investments. “It surprises me many U.S. investors don’t realize the opportunities this creates, with some African stocks gaining 15 percent to 20 percent returns.”
Africa’s growth is attracting record levels of global investment, including China’s largest sum to anywhere in the world. Tourists leaving Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport now pass a sprawling landscape of cranes, machinery, and workers building the Chinese-financed, 16-lane Thika Road superhighway. American companies are also making strategic moves. Over the last two years Walmart completed a $2.4 billion acquisition of South African retailer Massmart, IBM announced a $1.5 billion investment in African-focused technology company Bharti Airtel, and U.S. private-equity giant the Carlyle Group launched a sub-Saharan Africa investment practice.
With Africans expected to number 2 billion by 2050, another business draw is the continent’s new consumer class—projected to spend nearly $1 trillion by 2012, rivaling India and Russia. Considering Africa has been one of the least integrated continents economically, such growth opens up numerous opportunities. Consumer-goods giant Procter & Gamble’s CEO Bob McDonald described Africa as the company’s “next frontier.”
In Freetown, Sierra Leone, traditional market traders who previously practiced under-the-mattress banking are getting their first ATM cards and small-business loans. With 80 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s adult population unbanked, its financial-services sector is projected to grow 40 percent by 2020. In mobile phones Africa has now overtaken Europe in the number of connections and the U.S. in number of users. Apple is expanding shops for iPhone sales across the continent to meet demand of a mobile market predicted to reach more than a billion users by 2020. “Africa’s business transformation means there are major opportunities for all profiles of American businesses to export goods and grow in Africa,” said Whitaker, who championed the United States’ first Africa trade bill. The Obama administration recently recognized this potential, launching a “Doing Business in Africa” initiative to help more American businesses sell goods there.
Africa’s business framework is modernizing and creating opportunities. Americans can now buy stocks listed on South Africa’s or Ghana’s stock exchanges. Arik Air offers direct flights from New York to Lagos, on to growing business hubs Accra, Luanda, and Johannesburg. Overall, Africa’s infrastructure grid—roads, bridges, power—is in massive need, but that represents a $1 trillion investment prospect, according to the International Finance Corp. Paradoxically, infrastructure gaps have spurred innovation in African mobile-phone technology, including Safaricom’s M-Pesa service, redefining banking by making phones all-in-one credit cards, ATMs, and money-transfer devices.
While evidence is growing that business trends could help the continent turn a collective corner, it’s tempered by the hangover of Africa’s challenges. Governance issues and many of the world’s “poorest” and “worst” indicators have not disappeared with stock markets. Some question when this economic growth will translate to dividends in jobs, living standards, and more responsive governments for Africa’s rank and file.
“There must be a reinforcing effect between public and private sectors to really move this all forward,” said Tony Elumelu, a former Nigerian Bank CEO whose foundation coined the concept “Africapitalism.” “We will need to combine markets, entrepreneurship, and capacity to build social wealth and alleviate poverty. The private sector is taking the lead, but political leaders must urgently focus on creating the enabling environment for this to flourish.”
The group proving pivotal in driving this process is Africa’s new diaspora, recent immigrants to places like Europe and the U.S. At money-transfer branches in London New York, and Paris, African immigrants line up to send funds home. Kenyans abroad now send home more than $1 billion a year, Nigerians $10 billion, and remittances now exceed Africa’s total foreign aid.
In addition to being the thread that could pull the continent’s success together, today’s diaspora is redefining America’s connection to Africa. Africans recently went from being the highest-educated U.S. immigrant group to having the highest educational attainment of any demographic in the country. A new class of diaspora entrepreneurs is emerging. Professionals who attended elite American universities are leaving places like Goldman Sachs to launch businesses or take senior corporate or government positions in Africa. Millions of Americans plot their daily commutes using Hopstop.com, an online transit app founded by Nigerian immigrant Chinedu Echerou. At a Walmart in Colorado, Senegalese immigrants work as managers and sell sporting goods. New York Fashion Week now has an annual African runway show. And in pockets of Harlem, African immigrants claim growing blocks of the shops and tenements while first-generation children play on sidewalks interchanging French, English, and Wolof.
Moving forward, Americans will be more likely to have African stocks in their 401(k)s, work for companies doing business in Africa, and become accustomed to more African names than just Barack Obama. However its economic boom plays out, expect to hear less about safaris and celebrity charities, and more about global investment, new entrepreneurs, and rising fortunes in Africa.
30 Under 30: Africa’s Best Young Entrepreneur
February 26, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Mfonobong Nsehe*
Young entrepreneurs are changing the face of Africa. I set out to produce a list of the 30 Africans under 30 years old who are making the most dramatic impact across the continent. To do so, in November I enlisted an outside panel of 12 judges from across Africa to help identify this group of outstanding entrepreneurs and innovators under the age of 30.
Cut across Real Estate, Financial Services, Manufacturing, Media, Tech, Green tech, Healthcare, Agriculture and Fashion, the 30 young African entrepreneurs, disruptors and innovators featured on this list are impatient to change Africa. Together, they represent the entrepreneurial, innovative and intellectual best of their generation.
They’re solving problems like healthcare and electricity shortages, proffering innovative solutions to waste management, building virtual and physical communities and creating lots of jobs. A few of them are manufacturing the foods we love, designing exquisite clothing for our women and some are developing some cool apps for mobile phones across Africa.
Of course, this list is by no means official or exhaustive, but this is the closest you’ll get to a definitive list.
A round of applause for Africa’s 30 Under 30 – the continent’s best young entrepreneurs, today’s disruptors and tomorrow’s brightest stars:
Jonathan Liebmann, South African
Real Estate developer, CEO of Propertuity
Liebmann, 28, is the Managing Director of Propertuity, a South African Real Estate development company and the brains behind the construction of the Maboneng Precinct, a thriving cultural district in the east side of Johannesburg’s CBD. Once a neglected and deteriorating neighborhood housing abandoned industrial complexes, Liebmann transformed Maboneng into a vibrant urban mixed-use community complete with Art galleries, artist studios, retail spaces, offices and artist studios. Read more about Jonathan Liebmann, Propertuity and Maboneng Precint here.
Patrick Ngowi, Tanzanian
Nine years ago, Patrick Ngowi, 28, received a small loan from his mother to start off a business. He started off selling Chinese mobile phones, but when he discovered that a tiny fraction of Tanzanians enjoyed any access to stable and reliable electricity, he knew he had to rectify that problem. Ngowi set up Helvetic Solar Contractors Limited, a company that is a pioneer in the supply, installation and maintenance of solar systems throughout the Northern Circuit of Tanzania. Helvetic Solar Contractors is the first company in the Northern Circuit to cater for Solar needs. The company did about $3 million in revenues last year. Read more about Patrick Ngowi and Helvetic Solar here.
Lorna Rutto, Kenyan
Lorna Rutto, 28 is the founder of EcoPost, a profitable social enterprise which manufactures aesthetic, durable and environmentally friendly fencing posts using plastic waste, a more environmentally friendly alternative to timber. EcoPost collects this plastic waste (such as polypropylene and polyethylene) and manufactures fencing posts from it. Rutto has earned international acclaim for her efforts in providing an alternative waste management solution to Kenya’s plastic menace. Read more about Lorna Rutto and Ecopost here.
Justin Stanford, South African
Founder & CEO, 4Di Group
Stanford, 28, is a software entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Seven years ago, he cornered the exclusive and lucrative distribution rights for ESET, a Slovakian anti-virus software package. Today, Stanford’s ESET Southern Africa operates the ESET brand in the region and sells ESET’s range of internet security products in about 20 sub-Saharan countries, recording over $10 million in annual turnover. He controls about 5% of the anti-virus market in Southern Africa. Stanford is also the founder of 4Di Capital, a Cape Town-based venture capital fund. Read more about Justin Stanford here.
Rapelang Rabana, South African
Founder, Yeigo Communications
Rapelang Rabana, 28 is the CEO and founder of Yeigo Communications, an innovative Cape Town-based company which develops software for telecoms-related services including Voice over IP, Instant messaging, SMS messaging and push email services. In 2008, Telfree, a Swiss mobile telecommunications firm acquired a 51% stake in Yeigo. Read more about Rapelang Rabana here.
Kimiti Wanjaria & Ian Kahara, Kenyan
Founders, Serene Valley Properties
Both in their late 20s, Kimiti Wanjaria and Ian Kahara are part of a group of four co-founders of Serene Valley Properties (SVP), a Real Estate development company in Nairobi that constructs and sells residential properties to Kenya’s ever-growing middle class. SVP is behind the development of Sigona Valley project, a KSh350m (US$4.2m) gated residential community outside Nairobi. Read more about Wanjaria and Kahara here.
Evans Wadongo, Kenyan
Chairman, SDFA Kenya
Wadongo, a 26 year-old Kenyan engineer designed a solar-powered LED lantern called MwangaBora (Swahili for “Good Light”), an invention which is fast replacing smoky kerosene lamps and firelight in rural Kenya. Wadongo has been distributing thousands of these lanterns throughout rural Kenya where there is little or no electricity. His organization, Sustainable Development For All (SDFA) sponsors an empowerment initiative that teaches poor Kenyans how to reproduce these solar lanterns and sell for profit. Read more about Evans Wadongo here.
Ludwick Phofane Marishane, South African
Founder, Headboy Industries
Marishane, 21, is the founder of Headboy Industries, a South African company which developed and owns the patent for Drybath, the world’s first germicidal bath-substituting skin lotion/gel. Read more about Marishane and Headboy Industries here.
Cosmas Ochieng, Kenyan
Founder, Ecofuels Kenya
Cosmas Ochieng, a 26 year-old Kenyan entrepreneur runs Ecofuels Kenya, an East Africa firm which produces environmentally friendly, green biofuels and organic fertilizers from renewable indigenous sources such as the croton nut. Read more about Ecofuels here.
Eric Muthomi, Kenyan
Founder, Stawi Foods & Fruits
The 26 year-old Kenyan entrepreneur is the founder of Stawi Foods and Fruits, an innovative start-up which procures bananas from smallholder farmers in rural Kenya and processes them into banana flour. Read more about Eric Muthomi and Stawi Foods here.
Joel Mwale, Kenyan
Founder, Skydrop Enterprises
Mwale who is 20 years old runs SkyDrop Enterprises, a rainwater filtration and bottling company which produces low-cost purified drinking water, milk and other dairy products in Kenya. Mwale founded Skydrop in December 2009 and the company now employs over 20 people. Read more about Joel Mwale and Skydrop here.
Verone Mankou, Congolese
Tech Entrepreneur, Founder & CEO, VMK
Verone Mankou is the founder of VMK, a tech company focused on mobile technologies, specifically in the design, in Africa, of Tablet PCs & Smartphones. In 2011 VMK presented the Way-C, its first Android Tablet PC. The Way-C retails at USD $300 and is available in the Congo and France. VMK also manufactures an African-themed Android smartphone called Elikia. Mankou is 26. Read more about Mankou and VMK here.
Opeyemi Awoyemi, Olalekan Olude & Ayodeji Adewunmi, Nigerian
The trio founded Jobberman, Nigeria’s biggest job search engine and aggregator. Jobberman went live in August 2009, and today the site attracts over 50,000 unique users each day. Through simple, yet cutting-edge technology, Jobberman helps link qualified personnel to the right job opportunities. Jobberman is one of the few companies in Nigeria’s tech space that enjoy venture capital backing. Read more about Awoyemi, Olude and Adewunmi and Jobberman here.
Oluwaseun Osewa, Nigerian
Nigerian geek Oluwaseun Osewa is the founder of Nairaland, Africa’s largest online forum. He founded the site in March 2005 as a general purpose discussion forum with a bias towards issues of interest to Nigerians. The site took off. Nairaland now has close to 1 million registered users and is the most popular Nigerian website today. For perspective: In Nigeria, Nairaland gets more visits than Wikipedia. Nairaland earns its revenue through its ad inventory. Read more about Oluwaseun Osewa and Nairaland here.
Ashley Uys, South African
Ashley Uys’ company, Medical Diagnostech develops and markets affordable and reliable medical test kits for malaria, pregnancy, syphilis, malaria, HIV/ Aids for South Africa’s rural poor. The company’s Malaria pf/PAN (pLDH) Test kit can reportedly detect all strains of malaria and indicate within 30 minutes whether the malaria treatment provided is effective. Last November, Medical Diagnostech won $120,000 in prize money at the SAB Foundation 2nd Annual Social Innovation Awards. Uys is 29. Read more about Ashley Uys and Medical Diagnostech here.
Sizwe Nzima, South African
Founder, Iyeza Express
The 21 year-old South African entrepreneur runs Iyeza Express, an innovative enterprise which helps reduce overcrowding at public health facilities by collecting and delivering medication from public clinics and hospitals on bicycles to residents of the Western Cape who are on protracted medication. Read more about Sizwe Nzima and Iyeza here.
William Kamkwamba, Malawian
Meet the boy who harnessed the wind. Born in Malawi, William was only 14 years old when he built an electricity-producing windmill from junkyard scraps in order to provide a steady source of water for his family’s farm and village in Masitala Village, Wimbe. With a bicycle dynamo and chain ring, tractor fan, rubber belts and bamboo poles, William succeeded in building a functioning windmill that provided energy for two radios and four light bulbs. Fuelled by the modest success of the initial windmill, William set out to build a larger windmill to help with irrigation for his entire village. Kamkwamba is currently studying for a degree in Environmental studies and Engineering at Dartmouth College in the USA.
Sandra Appiah and Isaac Boateng, Ghanaian
Co-founder, Face2Face Africa
Sandra Appiah, 23 and Isaac Boateng, 28, both Ghanaian nationals are the founders of Face2Face Africa (F2FA), a New York city-based new media company with a mandate to restore Africa’s image within the global community. The company has three divisions: an outfit that publishes a magazine which explores African development, culture, entertainment and fashion, an events business and a thriving website. Read more about Sandra Appiah, Isaac Boateng and Face2Face Africa here.
Ola Orekunrin, Nigerian
Medical Doctor, Founder, Flying Doctors
A Nigerian healthcare entrepreneur and medical doctor, Orekunrin, 25, is the founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria, West Africa’s first Air Ambulance Service. Flying Doctors Nigeria provides urgent helicopter, airplane ambulance and evacuation services in Nigeria and other countries across West Africa. Read more about Ola Orekunrin here.
Andrew Mupuya, Ugandan
Founder, Youth Entrepreneurial Link Investments (YELI)
In 2008 Andrew raised $18 from family and friends and started making paper bags on a small scale. In 2010 he registered his company, Youth Entrepreneurial Link Investments (YELI), which is now the first locally registered paper bag and Envelope-producing Company in Uganda. The company now employs about 15 Ugandans and YELI is a leading supplier of paper bags and envelopes to local hospitals, retail outlets, roadside sellers and local flour manufacturers. Between 2008 and now, YELI has produced more than half a million paper bags. Andrew Mupunya is 20. Read more about Andrew Mupuya here.
Chude Jideonwo & Adebola Williams, Nigerian
Jideonwo and Williams are co-founders and Partners of Red Nigeria– a leading full service media-content, communication and Development Company in Nigeria. The firm also owns The Future Project (TFP) – a strategic social enterprise/change communications firm which hosts theannual Future Awards, Nigeria’s most important awards for outstanding young Nigerians. Read more about the duo here.
Mark Kaigwa, Kenyan
Mark Kaigwa, 25 is a multi-talented creative director, filmmaker, digital marketer and entrepreneur. Kaigwa is a co-founder and partner at Afrinnovator, a venture which aims to put Africa on the map by publishing exploits across African innovation, technology and start-ups. He is also Partner at African Digital Art – the web’s leading resource for creative inspiration in animation, illustration, photography and design from Africa. Read more about Mark Kaigwa here.
Arthur Zang, Cameroonian
Last year, Arthur Zang, a 25 year-old Cameroonian engineer invented the Cardiopad, a touch screen medical tablet. With the Cardiopad, heart examinations such as the electrocardiogram (ECG) can be performed at remote, rural locations while the results of the test are transferred wirelessly to specialists who can interpret them. The device spares African patients living in remote areas the trouble of having to travel to urban centers to seek
medical examinations. The Cardiopad is expected to become commercially available in 2013. Read more about Arthur Zang here.
Thula Sindi, South African
Fashion Entrepreneur, Founder, Thula Sindi
The 28 year-old is one of Southern Africa’s best-known young fashion designers. After completing his studies at the London International School of Fashion he landed his first job as head designer at Vlisco, a Dutch textile company. He quit shortly afterwards to launch his eponymous self-titled clothing label which designs, manufactures, and markets delicately crafted women’s clothing. Read more about Thula Sindi here.
Farai Gundan, Zimbawean
Founder, Farai Media
The Zimbabwean-born media personality and Internet entrepreneur is the founder of Farai Media, an Africa-focused online mobile and advertising platform. She is also a co-Founder of AfricaTripDeals, a global distribution system for travel to Africa. Read more about her here
Africa investment boom sees beyond conflict-driven headlines
February 26, 2013 | 0 Comments
* Africa equity funds expand nearly fivefold in last 6 years
* Investors include local pension and sovereign wealth funds
* Nigeria banking stocks among top picks
* High returns, low correlations attract funds
By Carolyn Cohn*
Turmoil in Tunisia? Conflict in Mali? Fraught elections in Kenya? Investment in Africa is thriving regardless.
African investment funds have grown nearly five times in value in the past six years and are attracting new forms of capital, from local pension money to sovereign wealth funds.
Conflicts are still making the news and corruption remains a concern. Elections in Kenya next month and a probable vote in Zimbabwe in July are also stoking unease.
But investors have worked out that economies and markets vary widely in this large continent, and that businesses can carry on through difficult political times.
They are also looking beyond the region’s natural resources.
Favoured investment plays now include banking stocks, particularly in Nigeria, with demand seen for financial services from a growing middle class. Telecoms, pharmaceuticals and breweries are also in demand, while mining stocks remain attractive, though these are often listed outside Africa.
Investors have become more knowledgeable about Africa, and focus more on how, rather than whether, they will commit funds.
“When I was in Europe a few weeks ago, I noticed that people no longer ask so many questions about Africa but more about us,” said Sven Richter, head of frontier markets at Renaissance Asset Managers. “They have come to a realisation that Africa is not one country – if you heard there was a problem in Slovenia, would you worry about investments in France?”
Equity funds that badge themselves Africa or African held assets of less than $1 billion in 2006, according to Lipper data. That rose to over $3 billion by the end of 2011, and to nearly $5 billion by the end of last year.
That is small compared with over $38 billion in funds labelled Latin American at the end of 2012 but with a much stronger growth — a near five-fold increase in six years for Africa funds, versus less than 40 percent growth for Latin American ones.
African equity funds include major names like Templeton and Morgan Stanley as well as Africa specialists such as Investec and Renaissance.
The sum covers funds bunching north Africa and the Middle East or focused mainly on north or south, but excludes those invested mainly in better developed South Africa and the Africa component of many frontier funds.
The economies of Africa, the world’s poorest continent, are among the fastest-growing, though it’s from a low base, at only a few percent of the world’s GDP.
The change is driven by youthful populations coupled with improving mortality rates and an expanding middle class, as well as by exports to richer economies.
Analysts point to economic reforms in many countries, even when this does not go hand in hand with democratic reform.
“Countries are starting to enter into their second series of free and fair elections, but to paint all of Africa as a Switzerland is pushing it,” said Gus Macfarlane, director of political risk consultancy Maplecroft, who added that corruption has not lessened significantly in recent years.
Nevertheless, economic reforms have allowed local pension funds to set up, while intra-regional trade has also risen.
Sovereign wealth funds, particularly from the Middle East, are increasingly enamoured of the high returns in the riskier markets of Africa, compared with the developed world.
African stocks can be volatile, dropping 30 percent in 2011. But they have outperformed broader frontier and emerging market indices since, climbing 38 percent in 2012 and over 9 percent so far in 2013.
Some of the best-performing stocks in the past year have been Nigerian banks like Guaranty Trust and Zenith , as investors reckon financial services will catch up with ballooning demand for mobile phones and consumer brands.
Big Pharma is also attracted by opportunities to treat chronic diseases afflicting the new middle classes, rather than just fire-fighting infection.
Private equity deals in Africa have attracted mainstream houses like Carlyle, which last year set up offices in Johannesburg and Lagos, and invested in a cashew nut trader in Tanzania.
Standard Chartered invested in Zimbabwe last year and said this month it was looking for more deals there, while local bond markets across the continent are also in the radar, alongside several billion dollars of hard currency bonds.
African markets have avoided much of the lock-step trading that has characterised bigger markets during the global crises of the past few years, making them a useful diversification play.
They are neither closely correlated to the larger emerging markets like those of the BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China, nor even to one another.
Kenyan stocks and Egyptian stocks have a 200-day correlation of only 0.1, for instance, where a reading of 1 would signal perfect correlation.
There have been flashpoints across the continent over the past few years, starting with the Arab Spring regime changes in Tunisia and Egypt two years ago.
But that failed to deter veteran emerging market investor Mark Mobius, who was in Cairo’s Tahrir Square at a time of protests late last year and kept Egypt holdings in his $1 billion frontier fund, while local stock Orascom Construction has attracted the attention of Bill Gates.
In Mali, where French troops are among those trying to crush rebels in the north, investors point to the distances in this vast country, insulating southern-based mining companies.
Senegalese telecoms company Sonatel, which has 64 percent of the market share in Mali, beat 2012 profit forecasts.
But investors may grow more cautious ahead of the Kenyan elections, after a vote in 2007 set off unexpected post-election violence. And in Zimbabwe, a March 16 referendum on a proposed new constitution should pave the way for presidential and parliamentary elections in July in a country where violence overshadowed disputed polls in 2008.
Low volumes also make getting in and out of trades difficult and expensive, while governments may not always pay up – Ivory Coast restructured debt in 2010, only to default on it less than a year later, following civil war.
The continent is so complex that investors also complain the level of analyst research on various markets is not always sufficient, favouring specialist emerging market investors who are able to carry out their own on-the-ground checks.
Local Africa-watchers say investors may not take into account the fact that new-found wealth is not trickling across the populations – in Nigeria, the gap between rich and poor is rising, even though the country is expected to grow nearly 7 percent this year.
Investors may ignore these issues at their peril, as social unrest can hinder investment.
It’s a concern for Alquity Investment Management, which runs an Africa equity fund on a sustainable model, taking into account environmental, social and governance factors. Failing to take account of those risks can destroy long-term shareholder value, Alquity says.
David Mcilroy, chief investment officer of Alquity, says Africa investors also have to take a longer term view and not be afraid to ride out short-term turbulence.
“You have to roll with the punches,” he said. “We are long-term investors, we are not traders.”
Online boost planned for a million SMEs across Africa
February 7, 2013 | 0 Comments
The computing giant’s 4Afrika Initiative will help struggling countries like Egypt, for example, where SMEs there have failed to fully utilise online business banking and other vital internet-related services in any meaningful way. It should also encourage startups and trade and commerce generally in the hard-pressed country.
In addition, the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative also plans to place tens of millions of smart devices in the hands of African youth, upskill 100,000 members of Africa’s existing workforce, and help an additional 100,000 recent graduates develop employability skills, 75% of whom Microsoft will help place in jobs.
“The world has recognized the promise of Africa, and Microsoft wants to invest in that promise. We want to empower African youth, entrepreneurs, developers, and business and civic leaders to turn great ideas into a reality that can help their community, their country, the continent and beyond,” said Fernando de Sousa, general manager, 4Afrika Initiative. “The 4Afrika Initiative is built on the dual beliefs that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world.”
As a first critical step toward increasing the adoption of smart devices, Microsoft and Huawei are introducing the Huawei 4Afrika, a full-functionality Windows Phone 8, which will come preloaded with select applications designed for Africa. The phone will initially be available in Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa later this month.
The Huawei 4Afrika phone, which is the first in a series of smart devices designed “4Afrika”, will be targeted toward university students, developers and first-time smartphone users to ensure they have affordable access to best-in-class technology to enable them to connect, collaborate, and access markets and opportunities online.
To help empower African SMEs, Microsoft announced a new SME online hub through which African SMEs will have access to free, relevant products and services from Microsoft and other partners.
The hub will aggregate the available services, which can help SMEs expand their businesses locally, find new business opportunities outside their immediate geographies and help increase their overall competitiveness.
As a welcome offer, Microsoft will provide free domain registration for one year and free tools for SMEs interested in creating a professional web presence. The hub is expected to initially open in April in South Africa and Morocco and will expand to other African markets over time.
To accelerate capacity building and skills development, Microsoft has established the Afrika Academy, an education platform leveraging online and offline learning tools, to help Africans develop both technical and business skills for entrepreneurship and improved employability.
Training through the Afrika Academy will be available starting in March at no cost to recent higher education graduates, government leaders and the Microsoft partner community. One of the first offline training sessions will take place with Microsoft-managed partners in Ivory Coast in the coming months, focusing on capacity building in business and technical skills for Microsoft’s partners in Francophone West Africa.
The 4Afrika Initiative will be tightly connected to Microsoft’s network of more than 10,000 existing partners in Africa today, a network it has built through more than 20 years of investing and operating in the continent. The Initiative will leverage these existing partnerships and create new ones across the public and private sectors to help advance common goals and to create value for Africans.
For further information, check out the 4Afrika Initiative here.
General Electric to invest $1 billion in Nigeria
February 6, 2013 | 0 Comments
BY HEATHER MURDOCK*
American conglomerate General Electric says it will invest US$1 billion in Nigeria, promising to more than triple the country’s electrical output over the next 10 years. This comes as Nigeria seeks to reform its dilapidated and corrupt power sector.
Nigeria is a country that runs on generators. Most people don’t have access to electricity and those that do have it sporadically. On CNN last week, President Goodluck Jonathan said by the end of the year, the country’s daily electrical problems will be more or less solved.
Clement Nwankwo, the executive director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center in Abuja, said that maybe the president just doesn’t realise how bad Nigeria’s electrical system is.
“It’s possible the sound of his generator is far away from his house and office, so he doesn’t know when the switch is made between generators and public power supply, but there is very poor power supply to the generality of homes in Nigeria,” Nwankwo said.
Nigeria’s power sector is notoriously corrupt, he said, adding that every Nigerian leader claims to be able to stop the blackouts in a single year, and nothing changes.
However, Nigeria’s Minister of Trade and Investment Olusegun Aganga said this time will be different.
General Electric’s investment includes partnering with private Nigerian companies and taking over one of Nigeria’s major power plants, building turbines, a new factory and exploring Nigeria’s abundant natural oil and gas supplies.
Aganga said the plan will work because it not just about generating megawatts, it’s about boosting the national economy and encouraging investment.
“This is the beginning of much more to come. That is a clear message to the country, a clear message to Nigerians and a clear message to the international investor community. It’s not just about power. It’s more than that. It’s about manufacturing,” said Aganga.
GE says $250 million will be invested immediately and the rest of the money will be spent on upkeep, training and salaries. In a speech Thursday in the capital, GE Chairman Jeff Immelt said the projects will create more than 2,000 jobs in Nigeria and nearly all of them will go to Nigerians.
“The time is now. The place is Nigeria. The how is the local team. Now the focus on everything is the execution,” said Immelt.
In the Nigerian development world, the “execution” of projects is usually where things can get stalled by corruption or violence.
Last year, legislators produced a report that detailed how public funds got stolen by oil officials and fuel companies. The money was intended to subsidise the cost of fuel for average Nigerians, but instead, $6.7 billion disappeared. Much of it went to companies that did not work in the fuel sector at all.
In the Niger Delta, where the oil is and where GE’s new plant will be, oil companies say they lose as much as a billion dollars in revenue a month to oil theft and sabotage. –
Monsanto: A Repeat Offender
February 6, 2013 | 1 Comments
By James N. Kariuki*
On November 6, 2012, Californians voted on Proposition 37, a statewide initiative. Had it succeeded, it would have required labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The initiative was narrowly defeated at the polls, but it cost the big anti-labeling agribusinesses a whopping $47 million to campaign against it.
The California vote was a big issue but it was overshadowed by the bigger presidential election that took place concurrently. However two days later on November 8, 2012, the Kenya Government banned importation of genetically-engineered foods effective immediately, until their safety to humans was scientifically confirmed. Well-funded pro-GMO forces in Kenya were up in arms against the importation ban; but it is still in force.
In mid-January 2013, another food outcry erupted, this time in Europe. Irish food inspectors had uncovered in their supermarkets almost 30 percent horsemeat in beef burgers intended for human consumption. Further tests revealed that burger products elsewhere in the country had traces of horse and pig DNA.
The horsemeat issue in Britain triggered considerable public unease in South Africa which imports some foods from the United Kingdom. The issue slowly died down when SA’s food companies issued assurances that they were not involved in the British food scandal as they did not import any of the implicated foods.
Thousands of kilometers away from Kenya, Britain, SA, and the USA, the Catholic Medical Association of Nigeria (CMAN) was constantly busy nagging Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, not to sign into law a proposed bill that would allow GMOs to be imported into the country.
According to the Association, such a move would have the potential of destroying the lives of Nigerians. The Association thus advised the Nigeria’s Federal Government not to allow introduction of GMO products into the country because, overall, uncertainties about their benefits have led to their rejection in Europe.
What is the link between these stories? Put simply, it is that people worldwide have become increasingly conscious and protective of what they ingest. Hence, the uproar in Ireland about horsemeat in their foods, public outcry in SA to the British meat contamination, Kenya’s ban on GMO importation, and Nigeria’s reluctance to allow importation of genetically-engineered foods. And, lest we forget, there was Prop 37 in California, USA, on food labeling.
When I first approached the Pan-African Vision to write for them, there was one clear proviso: to promote positive aspects of Africa. In my view, it is the best news of the 21st century that Africans have joined the rest of the world in opposition to food contamination, no matter how well concealed.
Today, public-interest news media is engaged in the never-ending debate over gun control. Those against uncontrolled private possession of firearms insist that, background checks must be conducted on applicants for gun ownership. Presumably, if an applicant has a criminal record, he is of suspicious character and, therefore, disqualifies from owning a firearm. In short, what you do today will haunt you later.
Why isn’t the same logic applied to businesses, especially the multinational corporations that touch upon human lives around the world? Should the global community not ensure that previous business offenders are restrained from roaming the world ravaging mankind? Some anti-GMO groups are now thinking in those terms regarding the US-based Monsanto Company.
Monsanto is the world’s biggest food-engineering and genetically modified seed company. In addition to being the leader of the contemporary agribusinesses, it also has the dubious distinction of owning the most repulsive history.
Monsanto’s history is one steeped with controversial products, deadly consequences; massive cover-ups political sleight of hand, and culminates as a modern day plague on humanity, a plague that is about to peak to biblical proportions.
The America author of this statement goes on to outline Monsanto’s anti-social activities which include contribution to building the atomic bomb. But that is another story.
More recently, Monsanto has been involved in manufacturing other hazardous chemicals including DDT, an artificial pesticide, which was banned in the US in 1972. Subsequently, the same Monsanto got into the act of manufacturing Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant herbicide used in the Vietnam War to kill jungle growth and destroy growing crops (food.) Contact with the defoliant substance contaminated Vietnamese people and US troops indiscriminately, earning itself the nickname, the Merchant of Death.
In the early 1980s, US victims of Agent Orange and their families brought a class-action suit against the producers of the lethal herbicides, companies that supplied the lethal substance for the Vietnam War. The applicants sought compensation for injuries suffered from exposure to toxic Agent Orange. An out of court settlement of $180 million was reached in May 1984. Monsanto was a defendant in the case but continued to refuse to accept culpability even after the settlement.
Remarkably, Monsanto’s reputation as a danger to life and environment is not a new phenomenon; it goes back to its early beginnings. From the late 1920s to the early 1970s, the company manufactured PCBs in Anniston, Alabama and left a gory story.
PCBs are man-made organic chemicals once used to prevent fire explosions in electrical equipments and other industrial applications. Originally, PCBs were considered a life-saver, but ultimately, they turned out to be more than that: a highly toxic product, causing birth defects and potentially carcinogenic.
In the four decades (1929-1971) that Monsanto manufactured PCBs, it had a monopoly in the US and made hefty profits. Yet, it routinely dumped dangerous toxic wastes into a creek and oozing open-pit landfills around Anniston. The dangers of those chemicals were withheld from the town’s residents.
The consequences of PCBs to the Anniston community were devastating. Over time, thousands of children developed cancer, cerebral palsy and other health complications directly linked to exposure to PCBs. When these health damages initially surfaced, there was a specter of an explosive political reaction when innuendos of racism were floated. Rumors had it that Monsanto’s intentions were genocidal because west Anniston was primarily a black community.
Genocidal claims cannot be substantiated. However, it is true that the health dangers associated with Monsanto’s toxic activities in Anniston were visible. More specifically, those dangers were known to Monsanto’s officialdom.
Back in 1966, Monsanto’s officials knew that “fish turned belly-up in ten seconds’ when submerged in Anniston’s creek water, spurting blood and shedding skin as if they were dunked in boiling water.” Subsequently, Monsanto’s files were uncovered clearly marked, “CONFIDENTIAL: Read, Learn and Destroy.”
Against this background a rhetorical question is posed:
If Monsanto hid what it knew about its toxic pollution for decades, what is the company hiding from the public now? This question seems particularly important to us as this powerful company asks the world to trust it with a worldwide, high-stakes gamble with environmental and human health consequences of its genetically modified foods.
Today, Monsanto has tentacles spread around the world, preaching the gospel of saving mankind from starvation. Yet, a quick background check reveals that the same company is a repeat offender against humanity everywhere. Critics are indeed justified in categorizing Monsanto as evil, unethical, poisonous and a killer. No wonder it has been dubbed a Modern Day Plague.
*James Kariuki is Professor of International Relations and a private consultant based in South Africa.The views expressed in this blog are his.
Angola: ample reward for investors who do their homework
January 28, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Stewart Kelly*
Talk to officials from the Angolan foreign investment promotion agency, ANIP, and they will express bafflement that (non-oil-sector) US and UK companies are reluctant to enter the market. After all, Brazilians, Chinese, Portuguese, South Africans, and, most recently, Russians are all actively engaged in the country’s booming construction and financial services sectors, and are also present in other high-potential industries such as mining and agribusiness. The government has welcomed these foreign contributions to the country’s effort to recover from its devastating civil war, but it craves the technical know-how of major UK and US companies, in addition to the validation their presence brings for a governing class that views itself as an enlightened, modernizing force.
For their part, wary potential Anglophone investors come back to the same themes when explaining their tendency to treat Angolan appeals for investment as a siren’s song: corruption risk, political interference, and bureaucratic challenges. The need for caution—as symbolized most recently in the ongoing investigation of Cobalt Energy under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act—is clear and justified. But are British and US companies right to assume that the challenges of the Angolan market constitute insurmountable obstacles?
Those who cling to this assumption are choosing to forego the rewards offered by a country that has a seemingly unlimited set of needs and a willingness and ability to pay that surpasses perhaps all its African counterparts.
Key risk factors
There are undoubtedly significant political risks to consider. The President in effect controls the country’s commercial landscape: well-connected politicians, retired civil war generals, or members of the President’s immediate family are active in virtually all significant ventures in the country. It is extremely difficult for foreign investors to avoid such individuals entirely.
Given Angola’s oligarchic characteristics, local-partner selection is a major challenge. The government permits foreign companies to hold a 100 percent ownership stake in a local entity outside the oil sector, but in practice it strongly encourages local participation. The unofficial local-partner system acts as a substitute for overt corruption and is one of the means by which the President sustains the loyalty of confidants and potential political rivals alike. While the government may not always promote a specific individual or entity as a local partner, the limited viable options will most likely have ties to the regime. Such links may exist through military figures (so-called “business generals”), through entrepreneurs with strong ruling-party ties, or through the President’s family. It is also common for a nominal figure with no apparent political clout to represent the concealed interests of one of these groups in a joint venture.
The country also carries more overt corruption risks, but the situation has improved markedly—a development that snapshot rankings or indices do not reflect. In the recent past it was almost impossible to secure a permit or win a contract without paying bribes but within the current environment it is possible, with a sufficient understanding of the local context, to be successful while adhering to UK or US anti-corruption laws.
The government has a reputation for prickliness in its dealings with Western corporations, based in part on the fact that Angola is one of the few African countries that does not rely on foreign aid. But new entrants should not underestimate their own ability to influence the government and shape the terms of the engagement. To do so, they should develop a clear understanding of the local context and specific relevant risks, then craft a strategy to manage them. The following are five key points that potential investors should consider:
- Larger new entrants should recognize that their stature carries weight with the highly image-conscious regime and can potentially be used as a leverage tool. Investors should develop a deep understanding of where their commercial objectives align with Angolan strategic interests—local jobs and training being among the most important—and craft a messaging strategy that includes both Angola-centric goals and transparency commitments.
- Getting the local partner right is critical. By beginning the selection process long before any formal engagement with the Angolan government, investors can avoid the pitfalls of having one chosen for them. Robust due diligence is imperative given the potential risks associated with many prospective local partners. Foremost among these is the possibility that a partner, rather than contributing technical or other material support, may in fact be a proxy for senior regime figures, such as in the Cobalt example.
- The Angolan government mandates that all new entrants work closely with ANIP, a government agency that processes all foreign investment projects. The agency reports directly to the President and is headed by his ex-wife. ANIP can be a source of frustration given its relatively slow procedures and some issues with the quality of its staff, but it has improved significantly and operates in a relatively open manner.
- It is advisable to develop relationships with the ministers relevant to the specific project but the line ministries are generally weak and merely implement the Presidency’s policies and decisions. As implementers, however, they have the potential to aid or frustrate a new venture. The quality and clout of individual ministers varies widely, which will affect their ability and willingness to act as a partner and advocate.
- By clearly articulating standards at the outset and maintaining a steadfast commitment to them, a new entrant can be commercially successful in Angola while adhering to a strict set of anti-corruption principles. Petty corruption in the bureaucracy is pervasive, however, despite improvements at higher levels, presenting an operational challenge once a venture is established.
Investors that have chosen to forego the ample opportunity presented by Angola are right to be concerned about the level of risk involved. But an opaque market such as this favors those who are willing to develop a deep understanding of the operating environment and take proactive steps to manage risks where they exist.
Six African companies with a shot at becoming global leaders
January 24, 2013 | 0 Comments
BY JACO MARITZ*
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) earlier this month released its 2013 list of 100 global challenger companies – emerging market businesses that are “growing and globalising quickly” and shaping themselves into worldwide champions.
To compile the list, BCG says it “sought companies with credible aspirations to build truly global footprints, excluding those that could pursue only export-driven models. Accordingly, we analysed each company’s international presence, the number and size of its international investments, M&A activity over the past five years, and the strength of its business model. We also compared the size of each company with the size of other challengers and multinational competitors in its industry.”
Only six African companies were included in this year’s list – five from South Africa and one from Egypt.
One of the newcomers to the list is South African pharmaceutical firm Aspen Pharmacare. The company is the largest generic drug manufacturer in the southern hemisphere and has 18 manufacturing plants located throughout the world. Its products reach more than 150 countries. In 2011, almost half of its $1.8 billion revenues were generated outside of South Africa.
Another global challenger that will be more familiar to most Africans is mobile telecommunications group MTN. It has licences in 21 countries across Africa and the Middle East with around 183 million subscribers. Nearly 60% of MTN’s revenues are generated outside South Africa. In an earlier article How we made it in Africa reported that when MTN sponsored the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, it did so not only to market the brand to customers in the countries in which it already operated but also to communicate the brand’s global aspirations. Interestingly Indian-based mobile operator Bharti Airtel, MTN’s competitor in many African markets, is also on the list. Airtel has over 250 million customers in 20 countries across Asia and Africa.
One of the most well-known products in Africa from media company Naspers is surely its Multichoice DStv digital satellite TV service that is available across the continent. With its headquarters in Cape Town, Naspers has managed to transform itself from a traditional publisher of newspapers and magazines into a strong player in digital media. It owns a significant stake in Chinese internet company Tencent. Naspers operates in numerous emerging markets, including China, Russia, Brazil and Africa. Naspers managing director Koos Bekker draws no salary, bonus, or benefits but is rather compensated via stock option grants that vest over time.
Elsewedy Electric, the only Egyptian company on the list, operates in a number of energy segments, including cables and accessories, energy measurement, and renewable power solutions. The company has a footprint across the Middle East and Africa.
South Africa’s Bidvest Group has interests in a variety of industries – from automotive retailing to financial services to airport lounges. The company is headed up by Brian Joffe who started his entrepreneurial career in 1978 when he bought a stake in a pet food manufacturing business. He later acquired full ownership of the business and sold it to a major industrial group. He launched Bidvest in 1989, and the company today employs more than 100,000 people worldwide.
Sasol is a South African-based energy and chemical company involved in activities such as converting coal into liquid fuels, crude oil refining, the supply of pipeline gas, and the manufacturing of chemicals. Sasol is expanding outside its home market into countries such as Mozambique, Botswana, Gabon, Nigeria, Qatar, and Germany, to name a few. Interestingly, the company has a town in South Africa named after itself. Sasolburg was established in the early 1950s in order to provide housing and facilities for Sasol employees working on an oil-from-coal pilot plant. After the town’s establishment, Sasolburg’s vehicle licence plates were distinctively marked with the letters OIL. To this day, the company remains a major employer in Sasolburg.
BCG says that the global challengers will play an important role in shaping the world economy over the next ten years. It highlights two companies with firm roots in South Africa – mining giant Anglo American and brewer SABMiller – as examples of businesses that have moved beyond challenger status into organisations with large sustained global positions.
*Source :How we made it in Africa