22 May

Africa’s fintech industry has scored another big-ticket investment win

The streak of big-ticket investment in African fintech companies shows no signs of stopping.

Cellulant, the digital payments solutions company operating in 11 African countries has raised $47.5 million in its Series C round—one of the largest for a solely Africa-focused venture-funded company. The round was led by The Rise Fund, an impact investment fund run by TPG Growth, the US-based private equity group, with participation from Endeavor Catalyst, Satya Capital, Velocity Capital & Progression Africa.

First founded in Nigeria and Kenya in 2004, Cellulant has since expanded to nine other African countries and around 12% of Africa’s mobile consumers can make payments using its solutions. Its reach is down to partnerships with over 90 banks and several mobile payments platforms across the continent. The company says it will be expanding to two more countries following the investment.

The deal marks Rise Fund’s first investment in Africa since raising $2 billion last October. The fund’s backers include Andra AP-fonden, the Swedish pension fund and the Washington State Investment Board. It also lists music star Bono and billionaire Richard Branson on its board.

The investment in Cellulant is the latest endorsement of the key role African fintech companies are playing in bridging the crucial payments and financial inclusion gaps on the continent. Over the past three years, the sector has garnered momentum and has become the most attractive for investors on the continent.

Almost a third of funding raised by African startups in 2017 was in the fintech sector as investors bet on consumers turning to more formal financial services in a region where just 17% of the population have banking accounts. Venture funding for African startups jumped by 51% to $195 million in 2017.

Fintech was the biggest attraction for investors with 45 startups raising one-third of total funding. The success of mobile money technology like M-Pesa in Kenya and across East Africa has long shown the potential for other underserved markets. M-Pesa’s success is likely also behind for the increasing presence of mobile networks in the African financial sector and the convergence of the two sectors.

Read the full story at Quartz Africa

21 May

African fintech and agribusiness companies attract interest from investors

African private equity and venture capital deal-making in April were dominated by investments in technology companies, particularly fintech and business-to-business platforms, together with encouraging activity in the agribusiness & food sector. This according to data provided by Africa Private Equity News, an industry information service.

Fintech investments were mostly in mobile-enabled banking and financial services companies. These include: French development-finance institution Proparco’s US$3m backing of JUMO, which helps customers to access loans and savings products in East and West Africa; and a $70m round, led by US-based Trinity Ventures, into credit provider Branch International. Digital payments network MFS Africa also raised $4.5m in funding, led by LUN Partners Group, thereby becoming one of the first fintech players on the continent to receive funding from a China-based venture capital firm.

Business-to-business solutions remains an attractive theme, with TLcom Capital announcing two investments in the space – a $5m injection in Nigeria-based mobile marketing company Terragon, and a $3.5m series-A round for Kenyan consumer-feedback platform mSurvey, which plans to use the capital to scale and expand into more countries. Asoko Insight, a provider of data on African companies, attracted $3.6m in additional funding from its early shareholders and some new ones, while South Africa-based Giraffe – which enables businesses to recruit high volumes of medium-skilled staff – closed a second round of investment, supported by FirstRand’s Vumela Fund, with participation from Omidyar Network, the Brozin family’s Forever Young Capital and Catapult Trust.

The continent’s rapidly-growing food market could be worth more than $1tn annually by 2030 as imports are substituted with high-value locally-produced food, according to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. With 60% of the world’s unused arable land, Africa’s potential in the broader agribusiness sector is also enormous.

The sector continues to attract interest from private equity firms such as DOB Equity, which last month backed Rwanda-based grain trader Sarura Commodities. Furthermore, Agri-Vie and Norfund announced a $7m co-investment in Marginpar Flower Group Holdings, which has floriculture interests in Kenya and Ethiopia. In addition, South African-based The Beverage Company, in which Ethos Private Equity and Nedbank Private Equity owns a stake, signed an agreement to acquire 100% of SoftBev, the sole licensed bottler for Pepsi and its related brands in South Africa, from Bowler Metcalf and the original founders.

Read the full story at How We Made It in Africa

02 May

African fintech and agribusiness companies attract interest from investors

African private equity and venture capital deal-making in April were dominated by investments in technology companies, particularly fintech and business-to-business platforms, together with encouraging activity in the agribusiness & food sector.

Fintech investments were mostly in mobile-enabled banking and financial services companies. These include: French development-finance institution Proparco’s US$3m backing of JUMO, which helps customers to access loans and savings products in East and West Africa; and a $70m round, led by US-based Trinity Ventures, into credit provider Branch International. Digital payments network MFS Africa also raised $4.5m in funding, led by LUN Partners Group, thereby becoming one of the first fintech players on the continent to receive funding from a China-based venture capital firm.

Business-to-business solutions remains an attractive theme, with TLcom Capital announcing two investments in the space – a $5m injection in Nigeria-based mobile marketing company Terragon, and a $3.5m series-A round for Kenyan consumer-feedback platform mSurvey, which plans to use the capital to scale and expand into more countries. Asoko Insight, a provider of data on African companies, attracted $3.6m in additional funding from its early shareholders and some new ones, while South Africa-based Giraffe – which enables businesses to recruit high volumes of medium-skilled staff – closed a second round of investment, supported by FirstRand’s Vumela Fund, with participation from Omidyar Network, the Brozin family’s Forever Young Capital and Catapult Trust.

The continent’s rapidly-growing food market could be worth more than $1tn annually by 2030 as imports are substituted with high-value locally-produced food, according to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. With 60% of the world’s unused arable land, Africa’s potential in the broader agribusiness sector is also enormous.

The sector continues to attract interest from private equity firms such as DOB Equity, which last month backed Rwanda-based grain trader Sarura Commodities. Furthermore, Agri-Vie and Norfund announced a $7m co-investment in Marginpar Flower Group Holdings, which has floriculture interests in Kenya and Ethiopia. In addition, South African-based The Beverage Company, in which Ethos Private Equity and Nedbank Private Equity owns a stake, signed an agreement to acquire 100% of SoftBev, the sole licensed bottler for Pepsi and its related brands in South Africa, from Bowler Metcalf and the original founders.

Read more here: How We Made It in Africa

 

06 Apr

The resurgence of Sudan: From zero to…

Sudan has for long been the skunk in Africa. The International Criminal Court issued two arrest warrants against its president, Omar Al-Bashir: five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes and three counts of genocide. Sudan was also involved, for all practical purposes, in a civil war in Darfur. In 2011, South Sudan voted to secede from Sudan. This was an economic disaster for Sudan as the rich oil fields were in South Sudan. The country has long been struggling, given amongst others, the economic sanctions the USA imposed against it.

According to Trading Economics, Sudan has the sixth-largest GDP in Africa, in spite of US and EU sanctions and embargoes. It has a population of approximately 40 million people. While it has a somewhat subdued GDP growth rate of only 3.5% (relative to some of its neighbours), what is worrying is its inflation rate of 52.4%. It also has an unemployment rate of 13.3%. Its balance of trade is close to negative US$1bn in January 2018.

This article addresses the very recent past of the developments regarding a perceived renewal of interest in Sudan as an investment destination. It will be addressed against the backdrop of the interest shown by China and the USA.

Sudan and the USA
The United States recently lifted a number of sanctions on Sudan, motivated by the perception that Sudan had begun addressing concerns about terrorism and human rights abuses against civilians in its Darfur region. The lifting of sanctions rescinds measures imposed in 1997 related to terrorism concerns and other steps put in place in 2006 in connection with the conflict in Darfur. The sanctions were temporarily eased in January just before President Barack Obama left office, with his administration citing the same progress the Trump administration noted. In July 2017, President Trump extended the review for three months, angering the Sudanese, who stopped some lower-level meetings with USA officials in retaliation, but maintained contacts between senior officials (Morello, 2017).

Lifting the sanctions and ending an economic embargo came after the Trump administration removed Sudan from the list of countries whose citizens are subject to travel restrictions. Other sanctions, however, are still in place for the time being, including those against individuals with arrest warrants related to atrocities committed during the conflict in Darfur. Sudan is also still on the list of state sponsors of terrorism (Morello, 2017).

Read more at How We Made It in Africa

05 Apr

Africa Signs Free-Trade Deal to Replace Existing Agreements

African leaders signed accords setting up a continental free-trade area that’s expected to boost commerce within the 55-member African Union and eventually supplant a patchwork of existing agreements.

More than 40 nations signed the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, or AfCFTA, which commits governments to removing tariffs on 90 percent of goods and phasing in the rest in future. The agreements will still require ratification by the individual governments and will only come into force when ratified by at least 22 countries.

“The promise of free trade and free movement is prosperity for all Africans, because we are prioritizing the production of value-added goods and services that are Made in Africa,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame said before the leaders began signing the agreements. “The advantages we gain by creating one African market will also benefit our trading partners around the world.”

Intra-Africa trade stands at about 16 percent of the continent’s total, compared with 19 percent in Latin America and 51 percent in Asia, according to the AU. The agreement could increase this by half for Africa, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates.

Read more at Bloomberg.com

05 Apr

Trump’s Trade War Could Hit South African Rand Through Oil Price

The path ahead looks challenging for South Africa’s rand, if oil prices are anything to go by.

Concern that U.S. President Donald Trump’s measures will trigger a trade war may hamper global growth and weaken demand for oil, according to Mehul Daya, a strategist at Nedbank in Johannesburg.

“Oil leads the rand,” Daya said. “Sixty percent of the movement in the rand can be explained by changes in the oil price since 1990.”

Talk of tit-for-tat tariffs has already hit the rand and other South African assets. The currency led emerging-market losses Wednesday and was down 0.8 percent to 11.9065 per U.S. dollar as of 2:43 p.m. in Johannesburg. The yield on rand-denominated bonds due December 2026 jumped seven basis points to 8.09 percent. Johannesburg’s equity benchmark tumbled 2.3 percent as escalating tensions between the U.S. and China dragged emerging markets lower.

“It’s all due to those trade wars and a lot of uncertainty,” said Marius Grobler, a trader at Unum Capital. “Investors are seeing a lot of fear on the market.”

Since 2016, oil has recovered from about $28 to $68 a barrel. That’s supported the rand, strengthening it to below 12 per dollar from more than 16, according to Nedbank.


Read the full article at Bloomberg Markets

 

04 Apr

S.Africa mulling privatisation in Ramaphosa reform drive

South Africa will consider partially privatising struggling state-owned companies as part of wide-ranging reforms set in motion by President Cyril Ramaphosa since he came to power last month, the head of the National Treasury said on Saturday.

Dondo Mogajane said South Africa was at the end of a credit downgrade cycle after Moody’s held its investment-grade rating and raised its outlook on Friday, partly because of Ramaphosa’s plan to reform state companies.

“For me, I see it as the end,” Mogajane told Reuters in an interview.

“Moody’s are saying there are things we can do and these are the things we will be focused on,” he added, highlighting plans to stabilise debt, revamp state firms and boost growth in sectors such as agriculture and tourism.

A downgrade to a “junk” rating by Moody’s would have seen South Africa removed from Citi’s World Government Bond Index, and could have triggered up to 100 billion rand ($9 billion) in asset sales by foreign investors.

Investors have cheered Ramaphosa’s arrival and his choice of respected ministers in key roles, including former finance minister Pravin Gordhan as minister of public enterprises.

Gordhan is tasked with turning around state companies that have plunged public finances into crisis in recent years, including heavily indebted power utility Eskom and South African Airways (SAA), which is on the brink of bankruptcy.

“Why not?” Mogajane said when asked if it was possible parts of government-owned companies could be sold.

“There have to be new ways of looking at these things. Are we talking privatisation? Are we talking equity partnership? Let’s give an opportunity for new ministers to unpack what it means.”

Mogajane gave as theoretical examples the sale of 49 percent of SAA and of attracting private investors by splitting up the generation, transmission and distribution sections of Eskom, one the world’s biggest power utilities.

His comments are likely to go down badly with powerful trade unions, sections of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and the Economic Freedom Fighters, a disruptive red-beret-wearing opposition party.

Read more at Reuters.com

01 Feb

Nigeria’s Corn Output Expected to Fall 7% on Pests, Rising Imports

Nigeria’s corn output for the 2017-18 season will probably decline by as much as 750,000 metric tons due to the impact of pests and increased imports, the producers’ association said.

Africa’s most-populous country is estimated to produce 10 million tons of corn in the current season, 7 percent less than 10.75 million tons in the 2016-17 season, Tunji Adenola, president of the Maize Association of Nigeria, said in a Jan. 30 phone interview from the southwest city of Ibadan.

“Apart from imports, which is the major challenge to corn production in Nigeria, the two-year-old armyworm attacks ravaging farms has discouraged farmers from producing,” Adenola said. Those unable to compete with imported corn, which is cheaper, are being compelled to switch to other crops, he added.

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest corn producer after South Africa, whose 2017-18 output is estimated at 12 million tons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Most of Nigeria’s corn is consumed locally as a staple, in feed for livestock and raw material in the food industry. The West African nation saw corn imports jump 33 percent in the 2016-17 season to reach 400,000 tons, according to the USDA.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s government aims to boost farming output and reduce the economy’s dependence on oil, which contributes two-thirds of government revenue in the country of more than 180 million people.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-31/nigeria-s-corn-output-seen-falling-7-on-pests-rising-imports

02 Jan

From Angola to Zimbabwe: Guide to Key Africa Markets in 2018

For bond investors, Africa was a happy hunting ground last year. Its local-currency and dollar securities easily outperformed those of emerging markets overall as investors piled into a continent offering high yields and starting to recover from the commodity bust of three years ago.

Africa Outperformed

African bonds returned more than the emerging-market average last year but risks abound, among them policy tightening in advanced economies, local and global politics, weakening currencies and another fall in oil prices. And then there is credit risk.

Mozambique and Republic of Congo missed Eurobond payments in 2017, while countries including Cameroon and Zambia agreed or began talks on bailouts with the International Monetary Fund. And since Namibia and South Africa were downgraded to junk, the continent has been left without any investment-grade foreign-currency issuers.

Christine Lagarde, for one, thinks Africa’s debt problems “could very well” worsen in 2018 as the dollar appreciates and the U.S. raises interest rates, according to an interview with Quartz magazine in December. The IMF’s managing director said yield-hungry bond investors “were so eager to lend that I don’t think they were very serious about assessing the risks.”

Africa’s debt is already less attractive on a relative basis. U.S. 10-year yields rose to their highest in nine months two weeks ago, which narrowed African dollar-spreads to 352 basis points, around the lowest in three years, according to Standard Bank Group Ltd.

Read the full article here: From Angola to Zimbabwe: Guide to Key Africa Markets in 2018

 

 

28 Dec

Rand Extends Comeback as Traders Anticipate Ramaphosa Presidency

It’s taken South Africa’s rand exactly nine months — and a new ruling-party leader — to claw back the losses it suffered after President Jacob Zuma unexpectedly fired Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in March.

The rand gained as much as 1.8 percent on Wednesday to 12.2889, erasing its losses since Gordhan’s dismissal and the highest since July 2015. Gordhan’s dismissal sent the currency plunging 11 percent in two weeks and sparked a credit-rating downgrade to junk.

The rand has rallied more than 6 percent since Cyril Ramaphosa, who has pledged to revive the struggling economy and stamp out corruption, was elected leader of the African National Congress on Dec. 18. That set the billionaire businessman on a path to take over from Zuma as the country’s president. Investors are betting that may happen sooner than 2019, when his term expires, according to Legal & General Investment Management Ltd.

“The market is positively surprised by the increasing amount of support that Mr. Ramaphosa is rallying behind him,” Simon Quijano-Evans, an emerging-market strategist at Legal & General, said by email. “He is likely to continue doing so, increasing speculation about another no-confidence motion in the presidency in 2018.”

Members of the ANC’s newly elected executive committee will meet Zuma to advise him to step down in favor of Ramaphosa, Johannesburg’s City Press reported on Dec. 24, citing unidentified people. Ramaphosa beat Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was backed by the president, to the top ANC position in a closely contested vote.

Flows into South African stocks and bonds have soared since the vote. Foreigners bought a net 6.4 billion rand ($516 million) of debt and 13.4 billion rand of equities in the week ending Dec. 22, according to JSE Ltd. data.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-27/rand-extends-comeback-as-traders-warm-to-ramaphosa-presidency