14 Aug

Tanzania: Commonwealth Boss Extols Isles Development Plans

Zanzibar

THE Commonwealth has pledged its continued economic support to Zanzibar whilst commending the Isles government for good implementation of its development programmes.

The remarks were made by Commonwealth Secretary General, Ms Patricia Baroness Scotland when she paid a courtesy call on President Ali Mohamed Shein at the State House in Unguja yesterday.

Ms Scotland lauded the government of Zanzibar for the measures it has been taking to promote the Isles economy and for maintaining peace and tranquility, and vowed to support those efforts.

She thus assured President Shein of her organisation’s support to Zanzibar’s and Tanzania’s development initiatives, adding that the Commonwealth was focused on partnering with all its member countries in improving the lives of the people.

The Commonwealth Secretary General briefed Dr Shein about the works being implemented by Commonwealth in all its 52 member countries, including increasing opportunities in the key sectors of business and economy, women’s and youth empowerment, education and environment protection among others.

She mentioned the development of infrastructure and energy sectors as among areas of priority that will help activate economic growth.

Ms Scotland also expressed her delight on the positive trend of economic growth among Commonwealth member states across Africa and Asia, saying their economy was growing at a rate ranging between 5 and 8 per cent.

Dr Shein was grateful to the Commonwealth boss and welcomed the partnership and support, which he said would help his government to achieve its development targets.

The president said the government is implementing a number of development projects and is taking on board women and young people in its development endeavours and is also working hard to protect the rights of children and elders.

Dr Shein also talked of his government’s achievement in promoting good governance and democracy on the Islands.

From allAfrica

14 Aug

Kenya: Focus Shifts to New Leaders On Proposed Coffee Sector Reforms

coffee

The elections are over. And the focus is now turning to incoming leaders and whether they will embrace reforms proposed by a team of experts to turn around the fortunes of the coffee sub-sector.

The proposals, which were on the way to being implemented, were stopped after the High Court declared them unlawful following opposition by the Council of Governors and a group of farmers.

Meru Governor Peter Munya, who was chairman of the Council of Governors at the time the case was filed, is among the leaders sent home in the polls. He lost to Mr Kiraitu Murungi of Jubilee.

The CoG had teamed up with New Farmers’ Association, contending that members of the task force did not involve all stakeholders when arriving at the resolutions.

“I am prepared to work with new governors in the 31 coffee growing areas, hoping that they will support the legal reforms we proposed,” Prof Joseph Kieyah, who chaired the task force, told Sunday Nation on Friday.

During the telephone interview, Prof Kieyah admitted that he found it difficult to work with some governors, adding that reforms cannot be successfully implemented without their support.

County governments play a major role in the agriculture sector, which is devolved, and farmers have been banking their hopes on the units to realise better returns for their harvests.

The proposed legal reforms were aimed at improving production for small-holder farmers and enabling them to access credit facilities.

They were also meant to make millers and marketing agents more accountable to farmers.

Restructuring co-operative societies, which growers use to market their coffee, is also part of the reforms.

Another proposal by the task force was to set aside Sh200 million to brand and promote Kenyan coffee locally and internationally.

Some governors were keen on supporting small-holder farmers in improving their production and remuneration.

In Nyeri, then Governor Nderitu Gachagua (deceased) had come up with an ambitious marketing programme for small-scale farmers where they were supposed to market their crop directly to overseas consumers.

But the initiative came a cropper, making producers incur heavy losses. Mr Gachagua pointed fingers at coffee cartels.

As a management official of Rumukia Co-operative Society in Mukurwe-ini sub-county, Mr Wanyaga Mutahi, explains, farmers have never recovered the losses that saw most societies incur huge debts.

 Source from allAfrica
11 Aug

The ups and downs of building a pan-African business: In conversation with Aliko Dangote

pan-African

The ups and downs of building a pan-African business: In conversation with Aliko Dangote. This is how Aliko Dangote, CEO of Nigeria’s Dangote Group, described the company’s expansion across the African continent.

Dangote started the business almost four decades ago as a trading enterprise – focusing on products such as cement, sugar, flour, salt and fish – and later ventured into full-scale manufacturing. Today the group is a behemoth with interests in cement, sugar, salt, pasta, beverages and real estate, to name a few.

Cement is one of Dangote’s most successful products, and the company is currently Africa’s biggest producer. It has existing and planned operations in 16 African countries, including Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Cameroon and Ethiopia. Dangote Cement’s unaudited results for the six months ended 30 June 2017, released yesterday, showed revenues from Nigeria reached ₦291.4bn (US$924m), while turnover from the rest of the continent stood at ₦124.4bn ($394m).

But it seems that even for one of Africa’s richest men, building a pan-African company hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Speaking during a session at the recent Afreximbank annual general meeting, held in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, Dangote identified some of the international expansion hurdles his company had to overcome.

One of these has been legal action by local cement companies who weren’t happy with a new kid on the block. Some of these cases dragged on for as long as three years, and even ended up in the supreme court.

Political risk is an item high on the list of concerns for frontier-market investors, especially uncertainties about whether an incoming government will continue with existing policies. But Dangote said his company typically doesn’t get involved in politics, and aims to work with whichever party is in power. However, he conceded there have been challenges such as finding out that the “minister of finance himself is the chairman of the competition”.

To mitigate against the potential adverse effects of a change in power, Dangote advises foreign investors to decline concessions or incentives not available to other players in their sector. This means they cannot be singled out when a new government introduces policy changes – the entire sector would be impacted.

Dangote said foreign companies typically wait for the results of the next election before entering a country. However, once the election is completed, they again postpone their investment decision as they wait for the government to stabilise.

But this is not how Dangote does things. “With us as Africans, we are used to this, we are not going to wait for any election outcome, we will continue to invest. And even if there is a new government, we are not going to wait and see the stability of that government. We will continue in the hope that they will do the right thing,” he explained.

“In a country like Nigeria, from 1977 to date, we’ve seen 11 governments. And I think so far, so good – we’ve not been thrown out, yet.”

Becoming an electricity producer

Many African countries suffer from inadequate grid-connected electricity to drive industrialisation. However, Dangote Cement has overcome this challenge with a simple solution – generating its own electricity to power its plants.

“We are power producers… In the entire Africa, only in South Africa and Ethiopia, we don’t produce power. [In all the] other countries, we produce our own power for our businesses.”

Dangote added that in Nigeria, which is known for its significant electricity deficit, it costs the company three times less to generate its own power than what it would have paid to buy it from the national grid.

Cross-border trading challenges

Transacting across borders in West Africa is “very, very tough”, according to Dangote, due to the numerous extra costs and transport challenges.

For instance, the Dangote Cement plant in Nigeria’s Ogun State is located much closer to countries such as Benin, Togo and Ghana, than to some major Nigerian cities – Ghana is about 450km from the factory, while Nigeria’s capital Abuja is 670km. However, despite the proximity of these countries and the fact that they rely on imported cement from as far away as China, it has been challenging for the company to sell its cement there due to various border charges that can inflate costs by as much as 30%.

According to Dangote, the markets in some individual African countries are often too small to justify investing in a dedicated factory. To benefit from economies of scale, manufacturers therefore need to be able to easily sell their products across borders.

Dangote said the new $11bn oil refinery and petrochemical complex his group is constructing in Lagos will produce enough fuel and polypropylene (a common component of plastic products) to cater for the entire West Africa region. “In refining, the margin is not that much. So the only way you can make money is by volume of business.”

He further highlighted the challenges associated with moving staff from one African country to another. As a Nigerian, he requires a visa for over 30 countries, while a British passport holder needs a visa for only a handful of African territories.

11 Aug

The spirit of entrepreneurship in Nigeria

Nigeria

An ode to Lagos’s (Nigeria) numerous bridges, this pidgin expression basically says – “I am here to make money and not to waste time” – epitomises the ‘hustle’ in every Nigerian.

Every visit to Nigeria is fascinating and telling of peoples’ sheer drive and energy to do more to uplift themselves. Yet, Nigeria is very misunderstood. Take the infamous 419 scam. Commonly in the form of emails masquerading as potential windfall gains from helping a deposed ‘prince’, this scam is often first associated to Nigeria and Nigerians but really has its origins outside the country, the US to be exact – a fact that the public at large are oblivious and care to be oblivious about.

If one has a genuine interest in diversity and how people shape their lives, so many insights can unfold during a normal working day, that shed light on even the most misunderstood of places – and a chat with a taxi driver between meetings did just that. Breaching our security protocol and opting not to use the company car, I struck a deal with a local cab driver, Samuel to get me to the mainland following my meeting in Victoria Island.

Sam, who works for a hail-taxi multinational, rents his ride from the head of international trade of a leading financial services institution in Nigeria and he is a wealth of information. A software engineer by education and profession, he was part of the bank’s IT team. They had let him go as part of the bank’s recent retrenchment drive. Even specialised roles like Sam’s are at risk in a market like Nigeria – talk about competitive. Even for the less biased, finding out software engineers are in high supply in Nigeria is a surprise.

Telling me this wasn’t an attempt to elicit sympathy, I was nosy and had prodded him for more information, to which he gave in and decided to shut me up for the long ride.

Sam seemed to have taken his misfortune in his stride, partly because his full-time job was a ‘part-time job’, or rather just one of a few part-time jobs.

Take a gander at the number of business pies our friendly driver had his fingers in:

1. Acting as a facilitator for applications and permits processing for prospectors looking to work within the fabled Nigerian oil and gas industry

2. He and his software buddies are building a loyalty platform/engine and already have some interested clients (in his own words – ‘a loyalty platform similar to the Starwoods Preferred Guest programme’)

3. Along with a friend, he also runs a crude-oil pipeline-unblocking outfit. His friend, a sub-sea engineer with an oil and gas company, saw an opportunity in the millions that his employer spent flying engineers into Nigeria when oil pipelines got blocked. Having invested in US$20,000 pumps, they now reach out to oil and gas majors as an alternative to flying down specialist services from countries like Norway.

I cannot help but leave Sam a sizable tip. Who wouldn’t? Part of my conventional conditioning could not help but wonder how much of the story was true. Either way it was worth writing about.

Since these stories are more than commonplace in Nigeria – what can prospective investors potentially infer or learn from this?

Perhaps that there is local talent, aspiration and ambition in abundance in this market. Perhaps that conventional recruitment might not be the way to go and it is time to rethink local talent-sourcing and engagement strategies.

A key consideration factor should be that there is no safety-net for most people, only a keen sense of survival and determination that would be a worthy addition to any business looking to grow on the continent.
From HowWeMadeItInAfrica

09 Aug

Happy Women’s Day: We’re celebrating these 10 amazing female entrepreneurs from SA

South African Women's Day

To celebrate South African Women’s Day, we’re looking at 10 female entrepreneurs from South Africa and how they achieved success. Many are inspired by their families, but all of them have succeeded through hard work and sheer talent.

When women are empowered and able to implement their ideas on a business landscape, some truly wonderful things happen.

South African Female Entrepreneurs

  •  Farah Fortune, African Star Communications

Fortune didn’t have much look when she first started out, after taking the bold step to leave her job and begin this company. Times were particularly tough when she first started out with a young daughter to support.

 

Yet it seems Fortune was eventually favoured for being brave: Her African Star Communications network made a name for itself by giving platforms to previously unrecognised talents (Loyiso Gola, Jason Goliath).

Her ‘build from the ground up approach’ has paid dividends for her, and Farah is continuing to flourish in the job she risked everything for

  • Lize Fouce, Number 1 Foods

Her muesli-based food company started up shortly after she gave birth to her baby girl. Fouce threw her last few thousand rand at a steel roasting drum to deal with the demand for her snacks.

The drum created a unique flavour in the muesli, which gave her organisation a new unique selling point. The roasted version was an instant hit, with her Nutri-Start product available in Pick N Pay stores nationwide.

  • Vanessa Gounden, HolGoun Investment Holdings

Vanessa has taken a seriously hands-on approach to her investment business, which has been up and running since 2003: The company only invests in outfits that they can directly help grow and develop.

For the last 14 years, Gounden has acquired a diverse portfolio of businesses, with partnerships in mining, healthcare, property and media. Holgoun currently has a net worth of R3bn. That is unbelievable, take a bow Vanessa!

  • Angel Jones, Homecoming Revolution

Another company that began in 2003, Jones set up a network aimed at headhunting African talent currently working abroad. Homecoming Revolution have thrived over the last decade, and their M.O shows how they’ve cracked a gap in the market:

“as a website to tell the stories of people who have come home – the good bits and the bad. You’re not a failure if you come back; you’re a pioneer, entrepreneur and revolutionary, and look at all these amazing things that are possible. Don’t wait till it gets better, come home and make it better.”

  • Sonia Booth, Bonneventia S Footwear

She founded Bonneventia S Footwear and manufactures her shoes in Johannesburg. Local designer Thula Sindi has even used Sonia’s shoes in his shows and more local designers are following suit.

Her business has grown into successful enterprise. Booth now offers her customer pedicures while they wait for their custom made shoes to be made

  • Nicole Stephens, The Recruitment Agency

Nicole is leading something of a revolution with her recruitment business. The savvy entrepreneur solely employs four women on flexitime and they also have no head office or basic salary – they are utterly fluid.

They’ve used the technology at their disposal flawlessly and it has created a sustainable, impressive business model that will be the envy of many. They can all conduct their operations through Skype, WhatsApp and E-mail. It’s incredibly futuristic!

  • Nkhensani Nkosi, Stoned Cherrie

Since she launched the fashion enterprise in 2000, Nkosi has showcased her range at New York Fashion Week. Recently, Stoned Cherrie introduced the beautiful talents from New York-based South African designer Darryl Jagga.

Stoned Cherrie continues to grow and has recently expanded into eyewear – a firm favourite of several African and international icons, including South Africa’s pop singer, Lira.

  • Amy Kleinhans-Curd, PLP Group

PLP Group (Pty) Ltd is a diversified services company that provides brand enhancement and stakeholder engagement solutions to clients across Africa and the rest of the world.

The former Miss South Africa has proved she is equally smart as she is beautiful, and has been operating in business for the last 24 years. As a successful mom-of-four, her remarkable career makes her look like a very humble superwoman.

  • Michelle Okafor, Michelle Okafor African Designs

“Today, her distinctive and colourful designs can be found in boutiques and in her online store. Okafor’s collection includes everything from dresses to jackets, shoes and accessories. Her vision to combine traditional African culture with urbanity can clearly be seen in every piece.”

  • Basetsana Kumalo, Tswelopele Group

Aged just 20, Kumalo negotiated the first external contract SABC handed out to an all female production company when Tswelopele Productions – who she owns a 50% stake in – took on the responsibility of making Top Billing. The rest is history…

She’s gone on to launch an empire of make-up, clothing and sunglasses as well as ventures into mining and property businesses.

 

via The South Africa

08 Aug

Earthport partners with Access Bank in Africa

Cross-border payment network Earthport partners with Access Bank

Cross-border payment network Earthport announced on Monday that it partnered with Access Bank, one of Africa’s foremost financial institutions, to provide delivery of cross-border payment services into Nigeria.

The AIM-traded firm described Access Bank as one of Nigeria’s ‘leading financial institutions’, and had a strong focus on servicing the Nigerian diaspora.

“It is with great pleasure that Access Bank is partnering with Earthport, a reputable global payment network, to meet the needs of our customers who require a sound and reliable international payment platform,” said Access Bank Nigeria executive director Victor Etuokwu.

“As a top player in the remittance industry in Nigeria, our wide branch network and large customer base will be invaluable to this partnership and we are confident that this relationship will be a mutually beneficial one to both parties.

“This alliance also supports the bank’s vision of being ‘the world’s most respected African bank’ and our mantra of speed, service and services.”

Earthport said the new payment channel had been created in direct response to the need for more effective servicing of remittances and low-value payments sourced from outside the country, which now totalled an estimated $19bn per year, representing 4.7% of the country’s GDP.

The partnership was part of Earthport’s longer term strategy of expansion into the African continent.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Access Bank to extend our global payment network into Nigeria, which is undergoing a rapid transformation,” said Earthport CEO Hank Uberoi.

“With this comes a growing demand for efficient cross-border payment services, which Earthport will deliver to this important market, together with innovative solutions for financial inclusion.

“This is also a significant step in the expansion of Earthport’s global footprint.”

via digitallook

08 Aug

Senegal start-up trains young coders

Senegal starts training young coders
Senegal’s tech scene has been slow to get off the ground due to a lack of qualified coders. But a locally-run company is trying to change that, while also helping young people find jobs.
Local tech start-ups are tackling day-to-day conveniences in the capital, Dakar. Firefly, a digital advertising company, places TV screens in public buses, but has struggled to find qualified web and mobile app developers in Senegal.

“They are trained in technologies we do not work with,” explains Mafal Lo, the co-founder of Firefly. “For example, all engineering schools in Dakar work in Java. We work mostly with PHP and Python, with new front-end technologies like Bootstrap. These are not things they learn in school.”

Until recently, that is.

At Volkeno, students learn web development, digital marketing or graphic design. At the end of the one-month training programme, they will spend two months interning with a local company.

The classes are free. Volkeno is supported by companies like Firefly in exchange for hiring interns. At least 15 of those interns have landed full-time contracts.

CEO Abdoul Khadre Diallo initially set up Volkeno to provide tech services to local entrepreneurs. The training programme was launched later when he realised none of his interns were sufficiently qualified.

“Here, young people are not encouraged to be interested in these skills. Most schools remain too classical. The training is too classical. You see schools where in five years, there is no decent practical training, in my opinion,” says IT professor Babacar Fall who taught the workshop in St. Louis.

There are efforts to change that. At a coding workshop in the northern city of St. Louis, high school students are introduced to coding and web development.

The Next Einstein Forum’s Africa Science Week is held in 13 African countries to promote interest in STEM fields, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“For me, the problem lies in the content of university courses,” Fall says. “Because you can start by teaching HTML, but then you evolve and teach HTML5. For me, we must simply update everything.”

Volkeno has registered more than 40 functioning start-ups in Dakar, all of which operate through websites and mobile applications.

“If you are trained in technology, you can find work after you graduate,” explains Fatim Sarah Kaita, a digital marketing trainee at Volkeno. “Because it is very difficult to find internships and everything here, and your relations play a big role. But for example, if you learn programming you can set up your own project, create an application. If you know digital marketing, you can do all the promotion yourself, so it is important to get training.”

The founder of Senegal’s next big start-up may be sitting right here in this room. – VOA

Source from HowWeMadeItInAfrica

08 Aug

Cryptocurrency is the great African opportunity

Cryptocurrencies are gradually being discovered in Africa
Cryptocurrencies are gradually being discovered in Africa. In countries like South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Nigeria, there is a semblance of digital currencies, primarily bitcoin, taking roots. Blockchain or DLT (distributed ledger technology) can be seen as the solution for Africa’s current problems and future growth. Bitcoin, based on blockchain, could be the engine for African growth, and could fuel the continent’s great leap forward.
It is important to first define a few concepts in the field of cryptocurrency. As such, cryptocurrency itself is defined as a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange, using cryptography to secure the transactions and to control the creation of additional units of the currency. Cryptocurrencies are classified as a subset of digital currencies and are also classified as a subset of alternative currencies and virtual currencies. Bitcoin became the first decentralised cryptocurrency in 2009.Blockchain is another important concept that needs to be defined. As such, blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Each block typically contains a hash pointer as a link to a previous block, a timestamp and transaction data. By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data. Functionally, a blockchain can serve as “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way.“

The argument for cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies and blockchain assets are the newest and potentially most promising new asset class.

Investment returns in cryptocurrencies for 2017 year-to-date have by far outperformed traditional assets such as global stocks and bonds. The Lawnmower Blockchain Index, the premier gauge of performance for the blockchain asset class, is up +374% versus the world primary equity indices at +15.7% and +3.95% for bonds (Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Total Return Index).

However, public opinion and investors’ minds on cryptocurrencies are divided and it often comes down to a philosophical and even emotional debate. This is also true about African policymakers and their official stance on cryptocurrency.

The cryptocurrency-based blockchain economy is an asset-based economy, while the fractional reserve banking system, based on fiat currency, is a debt-based system.

High volatility and unexplained falls, risks of hacking attacks and ransom with the subsequent sensational media headlines are reasons why many investors still shy away from cryptocurrencies and merely think of it as “magical internet money.”

In a free decentralised global market where volatility is not suppressed by trillions of central bank-created quantitative easing (QE), the market becomes more volatile as it becomes more efficient, acting faster to information changes.

The biggest fallacy many casual observers and some government officials have, is that they say they like blockchain, but they do not like cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ether and Litecoin, etc. That argument is the same as people in 1994, before the introduction of the internet web browser, arguing that they do not like the public censor-free internet (it is not regulated and not “owned” by anybody, etc.), but rather have a privately controlled intra-net. A private blockchain without a trustless and distributed consensus-based cryptocurrency is nothing more than a shared database or intra-net.

Proponents of cryptocurrencies are of the firm belief that blockchain could soon give rise to a new era of the internet even more disruptive and transformative than the current one. Blockchain’s ability to generate unprecedented opportunities to create and trade value in society via cryptocurrencies will lead to a generational shift in the internet’s evolution, from an internet of information to a new generation internet of value. Any government that embraces cryptocurrencies is going to benefit so much by owning the money that is native to the internet.

Cryptocurrencies are native to how code works. The reference implementation, Bitcoin Core, is written primarily in C++. Imagine if one country cracks down on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies protocol. That would be the same as saying no more TCP/IP. You will be driving out innovation. The countries that did adopt TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/internet protocol) are going to be so much better off.

In a similar fashion, in this case the internet of money, one can see the disruption potential of cryptocurrencies. Just like the internet took out Hollywood with Netflix, Spotify took out the music business, and Google and Facebook took out advertising and media businesses, cryptocurrencies will take out the finance industry as we know it.

The case for cryptocurrencies in Africa

There is high potential for Africans to leapfrog some of the existing financial services, in the same way that many Africans skipped the part of owning a cumbersome and expensive landline and went straight to owning a mobile phone.

In the “old” or “traditional” system, traditional bankers in suits were the miners of the old generation, getting paid in the currency of the central bank run by un-elected officials. That system is also characterised by fiat currency being mined by the fractional reserve banking system, bank bail-outs and large costs to ordinary tax payers, amid the rise of populism.

The new central bankers are the cryptographers. The new owners of the financial infrastructure are the holders of the cryptocurrency coins, which is or could be everybody.

While cryptocurrency has been hailed for its potential in the financial sector of the developed world, one of its greatest applications has been virtually overlooked. In nations that lack dependable economic systems or governance, digital currency may offer hope. Access to finances, security and privacy of funds, and faith in a common medium of exchange, can aid many across the African continent.

Several African countries have exchanges and start-ups in the crypto space, and their businesses are recognising the significance of cryptocurrencies in fostering cross-border trade and payment. Moreover, the infrastructure for the take-off of digital tokens is solid. Telecommunication liberalisation across the continent has enabled internet accessibility remarkably. Figures from GSMA indicate that half of Africa’s population is subscribed to mobile telephony. Also, the statistics indicate that for the past two years, smartphone usage in the continent has doubled to reach 226 million.

The new finance industry will settle on where the innovation will be for smart contracts and cryptocurrencies. It is Silicon Valley’s replacement for the old infrastructure of finance and Africa’s chance to leapfrog the old system. It will position the economies of Africa for the future of finance. With Africa not having a strong legacy system in place, as is the case with the developed world, is suddenly a great advantage.

Still, too many adult people in Africa do not have access to bank accounts. This wretched situation denies countless numbers of people financial freedom. Bureaucratic tenors and economic exclusion, amongst others, have paved the way for this situation.

In 2016, a study of 10 African nations with unusual inflationary ratios, indicated that South Sudan had a huge inflation rate of 295%. Egypt had the lowest rate with 12.30%. High inflation and weak African currencies allow Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies to offer African consumers a stable store of value and an inflation hedge.

African nations have lagged in traditional banking, but the phenomenal success of  Safaricom’s M-Pesa in Kenya shows that this is and can be an advantage in the coming blockchain economy. Safaricom’s success has shown that Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ adage of “Banking as a function is necessary, Banks are not”, holds very true. What M-Pesa achieved on a country scale, cryptocurrency can achieve on a pan-African scale.

Cryptocurrency remittance services in Africa have sprung up as an alternative to Western Union, and international organisations have employed blockchain technology to assist refugees. Still, it appears that many of the communities most desperate for this innovation have yet to embrace the monetary haven.

Africa’s wide adoption of cryptocurrency would further progress the move to the democratisation of financial services.

Kazakhstan became the second country in the world, after Japan, to recognise the need for the development of the cryptocurrency market system at governmental level. The development of the digital currency market, based on the Astana International Financial Centre, is the first step towards the creation of a fully-fledged ecosystem for the digital economy.

Forward-looking governments in Africa should try to emulate the developments in Japan and Kazakhstan.

Practices and challenges of cryptocurrency in Africa

Large scale adoption in Africa, however, is still slow. Awareness, education and user experience are some reasons why the take-up is taking time. Switzerland and Singapore are both successful countries with strong currencies, and as such have nothing to lose by embracing fintech and cryptocurrency. Countries with high inflation and currency controls in place seem to be paranoid about the rise of cryptocurrency. However, similar to the internet, it is difficult to ban and/or control.

Over the past 12 months, the African market has seen the emergence of more than 10 Bitcoin exchanges seeking to provide cheap and efficient trading services to African consumers. Some exchanges have expanded their services and have established an office in Africa to serve the new market and observe the demand of Bitcoin in several African countries.

In East Africa, local innovators have introduced cryptocurrency systems to support cross-border transactions, as exemplified by initiatives like BitPesa. In South Africa, cryptocurrencies are becoming particularly popular. In Nigeria, local traders and activists believe this new money presents an opportunity to democratise the economy. This is propelled by the fact that people in Nigeria have been failed by conventional money.

The Central Bank of Nigeria, which oversees an inflation rate of 14%, making it the 6th-highest inflation rate in the world, recently announced that they cannot stop Bitcoin. Their statement read: “Central bank cannot control or regulate bitcoin. Central bank cannot control or regulate blockchain. Just the same way no one is going to control or regulate the internet. We don’t own it.” This is very sensible and the correct and forward-looking approach.

While several exchanges offer conventional payment methods, such as bank transfers and account top-ups, a few platforms, like BTCGhana, provide local users and the underbanked population simpler methods of purchasing and selling Bitcoin.

On the BTCGhana platform, users can make Bitcoin purchases through established exchange platforms and can, within minutes, send the payment to local remittance platforms, including TigoCash, Airtel Money and MTN Mobile Money. This service allows African users to pick up cash at local remittance outlets with ease, without having to deal with complex withdrawal and deposit methods involving bank accounts and credit cards, which are difficult and time-consuming to obtain.

Conclusion

Africa has lots to offer Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, simply because Africa needs an alternative to the weak and not-always-available nor reliable local African fiat money. All products of cryptocurrencies will be well-embraced if promoted in Africa. The current vacuum for alternative means of payment in Africa is obvious.

Cryptocurrency is not just a solution to the plight of the ‘unbanked’. Rather, it is a method for allowing economically or politically subjugated populations to control their own wealth. Non-fiat digital currency can bring millions of people into a secure and person-driven global economy.

The intangible nature of digital currencies means that a government cannot physically remove the wealth of a citizen. This paradigm shift is a monumental step forward in the social contract, providing an additional layer of security to individuals.

All populations, especially those that are disadvantaged, need a way to maintain access to their wealth from anywhere in the world. Imagine if a refugee could access a bank account even after being displaced from their home country. This could help maintain the refugee’s dignity and hopefully diminish the extreme poverty caused by this terrible upheaval. This is the unrealised potential of virtual currency. In a nation where political activists are jailed, or inflation runs rampant, a non-fiat virtual currency may offer an escape.

Cryptocurrency is humanity’s greatest iteration on the aphorism that there is strength in numbers. For many, a virtual currency could become the next step in the social contract – a world that lives, breathes, and functions outside the boundaries of a government.

A non-fiat virtual currency emphasises decentralisation and intangibility – two tenets that are almost impossible to defeat. Through cryptocurrency, these virtues might facilitate an economic and political reawakening for African nations. The existence of cryptocurrencies today, especially in the African context, gives them a chance to prove it.

For the first time, open minded early adopters can make a Silicon Valley venture capital style bet on the future of money and finance and the development of African economies

Like any other investments, cryptocurrencies carry risks. However, not owning or embracing the native money of the internet is even riskier.

Cryptocurrency is a fast-evolving, complex phenomenon that in my view will have a major impact on power distribution in the global economy and on the African continent.

Source from HowWeMadeItInAfrica

08 Aug

Innovation doesn’t have to be disruptive

technology is changing the landscape of financial services in rural Africa
It is clear that technology is changing the landscape of financial services in rural Africa, writes Howard Miller, an associate consultant at Nathan Associates, and Grace Njoroge, a financial inclusion advisor at KPMG.
From the largest banks to the smallest fintechs, financial service providers are gearing up for a world in which finance is digital first and in which anyone with access to a mobile phone can also derive benefits from formal financial services.

The rapid uptake of mobile money in many countries has sowed the seed for a thousand new innovations that could further extend inclusive financial services. An outcome of this success has been that everybody in digital finance is looking for “the new M-Pesa”, in the same way that elsewhere, entrepreneurs want to be “the Uber of…” An underlying assumption here is that change is generally linear until a special company comes along with an idea that creates non-linear change, which we often call disruption.

But when you map this idea onto the landscape of unbundling that financial services are currently going through, it is not so clear that disruption is what’s needed. It used to be that a bank, or a microfinance institution, or an insurance company, would aim to provide a vertically integrated service to the customer, from initial acquisition to all aspects of relationship management and back end services.

This is changing. Technology, and in particular the ability for different platforms to link with each other, opens up new opportunities for collaboration. Not everyone needs to develop the next big product or service – there may be much more value and impact for a fintech company to build a business-to-business solution that works at a specific pain point for a financial institution.

For example, the Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity is supporting a partnership between Juhudi Kilimo, an asset financing company, and the Entrepreneurial Finance Lab to develop a psychometric credit scoring tool for smallholder farmer borrowers with no or limited verifiable credit information. This is a tech-enabled solution for a specific challenge – how to estimate likelihood of repayment in a data-light environment – that could reduce costs and improve efficiency of Juhudi Kilimo’s credit processes.

Innovation can be highly effective without being disruptive.

A similar partnership in the fund portfolio is between First Access, a fintech company, and Esoko, an agricultural information and communications company. The two will develop a rural agricultural credit-scoring platform for lending institutions from disparate data sets, from soil and weather data to mobile phone usage and farmer profiles. The solution has the potential to impact a large number of farmers who do not have traditionally accepted banking histories.

These are great innovations, that could have a real impact on micro and small business finance, but they probably won’t be putting other lenders out of business. And that’s fine. Innovation can be highly effective without being disruptive.

There’s nothing wrong with ambition, and there is certainly scope for massive changes in Africa’s rural finance markets. But if you focus too hard on the next disruption you can lose sight of the great ideas that represent an evolution, not necessarily a revolution. At the Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity, we love big ideas. But the most important aspect of the big idea is the impact it has on the livelihoods of rural communities in Africa, not necessarily on how it disrupts the structure of the financial system.

So if you want to apply for support from the fund, we’re not so fussed about if you’re the next big disruption to African financial markets. We want a credible plan that overcomes some of the many challenges of financing rural populations, and can have a real impact on the lives of people living in or close to poverty. We want ideas that work from the bottom up, which solve real problems. Maybe you’ll be disruptive. If you’re not, that’s fine too.

08 Aug

Kenya: Tribalism or Regionalism – Factors That Will Determine Kenya Polls Winner

Factors That Will Determine Kenya Polls Winner

Kenya: Tribalism or Regionalism – Factors That Will Determine Kenya Polls Winner. Kenyans go to the polls today to choose their next crop of leaders for various elective posts.

The presidential election is billed as one of the most tightly contested in the country’s electoral history, with the most recent opinion polls showing a 1-3 percentage gap between the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party and Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance.

While the cost of living, unemployment, corruption, security and free public services are key issues having an impact on the lives of Kenyans, the ultimate winner will be determined by a motley of factors.

The EastAfrican’s Peter Munaita lists the top ten.

1. TRIBALISM OR REGIONALISM

Politicians talk of shunning it, at least until an election comes around.

Alliances are primarily informed by it and top leaders in them, principals in Kenya parlance, picked depending on their potential to rally their communities behind the coalition. That includes the choice of running mates too for presidential and gubernatorial positions.

So it is that the Jubilee Party is viewed as a dominion championing the cause of two communities, Kikuyus and Kalenjins, while the National Super Alliance (Nasa) is taken to be rooting for the interests of the Luo, the Kamba and the Luhya.

Predictably, the protagonists deny this and claim to be motivated by a need to unite Kenyans. Practice, however, discounts their word, with candidates in metropolitan areas like Nairobi appealing to tribal sentiment and those in rural areas exploiting the clan factor.

The recognition of Asians as Kenya’s 44th tribe recently — forget their diverse cultural and religious background — falls under this matrix.

So tribal is Kenya that opinion polls show a polarisation on key issues by region and by dominant community. On matters like worsening cost of living which affects all voters, Central, North Eastern and Rift Valley — home to the president, leader of government business and deputy president respectively, led in approval of the government.

In contrast, Nyanza, Eastern, Western and Coast — homes to Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga, running mate Kalonzo Musyoka, two principals Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula and Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho — led in disapproval of the government.

Overall, 85 per cent of Jubilee supporters in a poll by Ipsos approved of the president while 74 per cent of Nasa supporters disapproved of him.

In a poll by Infotrak, five per cent of those who said the country was going in the right direction boldly said it was because “my candidate is in power” while nine per cent blamed tribalism for the country going in the wrong direction.

Asked about tribalism trampling on issues in Kenyan elections during the presidential debate, Mr Odinga referred to the homeboy mentality in the US to explain why Nyanza voters were more likely to support him than Mr Kenyatta, with the vice versa obtaining in Central.

Outside the home areas, however, Mr Odinga said that the support of each would be more inclined to issues. While the homeboy factor holds going by opinion polls, it is unlikely that issues explain why Jubilee is also the most popular party in Eastern, Rift Valley and North Eastern, while Nasa holds more sway in Nairobi, Coast and Western.

Voters identifying with a candidate’s issues outside the home region would be expected to be more evenly spread. Of note was a finding in the Ipsos poll that less than a half of respondents (46 per cent) believed any political party “genuinely represents the interests of ordinary Kenyans.”

A winning presidential candidate is by law required to garner more than a half of the votes cast (50+1) and win at least a quarter of the votes in 24 of the 47 counties.

All opinion polls show the leading candidates will meet the second condition but the regions present quite a tight race with regard to the first.

2. MONEY AND SOURCES

Running an election is an expensive affair, with regard to logistics and mobilisation of supporters. Upwards of Ksh5 billion ($500 million) has been floated the amount required to run an affective presidential campaign.

It is reported that in 2013, in the choice of Musalia Mudavadi as a fallback candidate should Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto be barred from running because of crimes against humanity charges that were facing them, money became a dealbreaker.

“We cannot support you and give you money for the campaigns” is said to have been one of the home truths uttered to Mr Mudavadi’s face.

Until recently, elections were won by the candidate who would lobby rivals and their supporters to step down in their favour; something that is still believed to be key in determining which alliance top leaders choose.

The mudslinging between Jubilee and Nasa on the role of businessman Jimi Wanjigi in the current and previous campaigns is understood to revolve around a deal gone sour for the tapping of one principal to shift alliances.

Nowhere is the influence of money more evident than in political rallies where followers are bedecked in party attire, helicopters fly from one venue to another and party mobilisers are compensated for a day’s work. Crowds are also hired to participate in rallies and other campaign activities.

With the campaign financing regulations in limbo and funding of political parties by the State inadequate, resources are mobilised through fundraisers where a dinner plate goes for more than $10,000.

Source from allAfrica