14 Jun

Barclays Africa to join the Nigerian Stock Exchange as a broker

Barclays Africa plans to join the Nigerian Stock Exchange as a broker in July and is exploring opportunities in three other African countries, in a move to create access for foreign investors looking to tap into markets on the continent.

Garth Klintworth, head of markets for Barclays Africa Group, on Thursday said its subsidiary Absa Nigeria had acquired a securities licence in Nigeria, part of a wider plan to increase it presence in west Africa’s biggest economy.

Nigeria’s stock exchange, the third largest in Africa, has in the last few years said it was reviewing applications from leading global investment banks to join its trading floor to increase foreign investment in one of the world’s least tapped emerging markets.

Read more: Reuters

23 May

Zimbabwe launches a second state-owned airline

The first one is so indebted its planes are impounded when they land abroad. Will the second be any better?

HAVING one loss-making state-owned airline is bad enough. What, then, of a government that wants two?

Earlier this year Zimbabweans were startled to learn that the government had concluded a secret $70m deal to buy four second-hand Boeing jets from Malaysia to form the core of a new national airline, Zimbabwe Airways. This venture is supposed to compete with Air Zimbabwe, the flag carrier, which ran up huge debts thanks to poor management and ex-President Robert Mugabe’s habit of commandeering its planes so his wife could shop abroad.

The government hopes to stimulate tourism and business by reopening long-haul routes that are closed to Air Zimbabwe, whose planes can be impounded as soon as they land on foreign runways. It suspended flights to London’s Gatwick airport in 2011, for instance, after one of its planes was seized over an unpaid debt. It has since been banned from European skies because of concerns over the safety of its creaking planes.

Critics questioned the secrecy and the price paid for the new planes. The government had claimed for months that the new airline was a private initiative, funded by Zimbabwean investors living abroad. Joram Gumbo, the transport minister, told local newspapers it had been necessary to lie because “if they had been exposed as government of Zimbabwe planes, they would have been taken by the creditors who were claiming for money.” He also revealed that “the man in charge of Zimbabwe Airways” is Mr Mugabe’s son-in-law.

Officials see the new airline as a panacea for the economy. That seems unlikely. It will be pitted against rivals offering reliable connecting services via their hubs in South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates. Airlines based in those countries have the upper hand on numerous fronts, among them economies of scale, network synergies and more frequent flights. Zimbabwe Airways will have only one advantage: the ability to fly between Harare, the capital, and destinations in Europe and Asia without boring stopovers. Yet there is probably not nearly enough direct traffic to fill its planes.

Read more at: The Economist

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

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

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

22 Mar

Smugglers Cheer as Nigeria Tries to Keep Foreign Rice at Bay

At Nigeria’s normally manic border post of Seme, Lasisi Fanu says business has all but ground to a halt.

He and other customs agents who help clear goods coming into Africa’s biggest economy from its smaller neighbour Benin say the long lines of trucks loaded with rice that used to jam the crossing have eased.

The slowdown is a result of import restrictions and tighter border policing as President Muhammad Buhari seeks to diversify the oil-dependent economy by boosting agriculture, especially rice production.

Two years ago, Buhari set 2018 as a target to end Nigeria’s status as the world’s second-largest importer of the grain after China and become self-sufficient.

He’s since overseen investments of almost $1 billion in farming and milling, virtually banned rice importers from buying foreign exchange, raised tariffs to as high as 60 percent and pushed the central bank to lend to farmers. Confident that his administration is making progress, he told rice growers this month that “our policies are working.”

But the numbers tell a different story: they suggest smuggling is rife because local producers are struggling to meet growing demand in Nigeria, whose 180 million people mix rice with tomatoes and spices to create jollof, practically a national dish.

Nigeria grew 3.7 million metric tons of rice in 2017, a 4 percent increase from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At the same time, imports rose 19 percent to 2.5 million tons, the USDA said.

Most imports are smuggled in from Benin, which despite a population of 11 million — barely 5 percent of Nigeria’s population — is now the world’s biggest buyer of rice from Thailand, the number two exporter globally.

Official shipments to Nigeria plummeted by more than 95 percent in the past four years, while those to Benin have surged, according to the Thai Rice Exporters Association.

“This is Nigeria and people are cutting corners,” said Fanu, the customs agent. “They bring in the rice through the many unofficial border crossings further north. The government knows it. It’s very difficult to police.”

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-21/smugglers-run-riot-as-nigeria-tries-to-keep-foreign-rice-at-bay

02 Mar

Nigerian Bank Profits Set to Get Boost From Economy’s Comeback

The spring in the step of Nigeria’s economy is likely to show up in the results of the country’s banks when they start reporting 2017 earnings from this month.

An improvement in unpaid loans, higher interest income from holding government debt and a rise in profit will have helped lenders bolster their capital buffers, according to Renaissance Capital analysts including Olamipo Ogunsanya and Ilan Stermer.

The gross domestic product of Africa’s largest oil producer expanded for three straight quarters last year after a 1.6 percent contraction in 2016, with year-on-year growth reaching 1.9 percent in the final three months of 2017.

An increase in crude prices and the introduction of a new foreign-exchange system that ended a crippling shortage of dollars helped attract more investment flows into the country, while improving liquidity for the nation’s lenders.

Here’s a closer look at some of the major drivers and points of interest that investors will keep an eye on as they assess the outlook for banks.

Record high-interest rates of 14 percent since July 2016 means there is no shortage of yield for banks, many of which parked their funds to profit from the safety of Treasury bills and other fixed-income securities rather than lending, where there is more risk.

A drop in those yields from a record highs in August means that 2018 will be more challenging for lenders, despite the positive macro backdrop, according to Ogunsanya and Stermer.

Volatility in foreign-exchange related gains, limited scope for cost efficiencies and rising political risks before elections in early 2019 also cloud the outlook for this year, the RenCap analysts said.

Banks will be able to close the revenue gap created by declining interest rates by lending more into a strengthening economy, according to Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc analyst Muyiwa Oni.

Some banks may boost loan growth to 15 percent this year compared with 10 percent in 2017, he said.

To read the full article, click here.

21 Feb

Cash-Rich Pension Funds in Ghana Drive World-Beating Stock Gains

A flood of money from private pension funds has driven a 33 percent surge in Ghana’s benchmark stock index this year, giving the West African country the world’s best-performing equities.

The government in December transferred 3.1 billion cedis ($690 million) to the funds, money the state had held since 2012 while the industry put structures in place for new entrants.

Seven months earlier, Ghana doubled the proportion of assets that pension funds can invest in stocks to 20 percent.

“We are seeing more participation from local institutional investors, especially the pension funds,” said Sena Agbo, head of investment banking at SAS Finance Group, which runs the country’s second-best performing mutual fund. “The temporary pensions account now transferred to them is enabling them to increase their take of stocks.”

The value of stocks traded by local investors increased almost five-fold from a year earlier last month, according to the Accra-based Central Securities Depository Ltd.

As of Tuesday, the 36-member Ghana Stock Exchange Composite Index had risen more than the 95 other benchmarks tracked by Bloomberg in dollar terms since Jan. 1, boosted by a World Bank forecast that the economy will expand by 8.3 percent in 2018, the fastest pace on the continent.

“The economy is growing and a lot of incentives like tax cuts and utility price decreases are out there to make businesses competitive,” Sidney Koranteng, a stock trader at Databank Group in Accra, said by phone. “It shows we’re in a period of a boom. The market is not hot yet.”

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-21/cash-rich-pension-funds-in-ghana-drive-world-beating-stock-gains

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