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

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

 

21 Feb

South Africa’s Inflation Rate Slows to 4.4% in January

South Africa’s inflation rate slowed in January, easing pressure on the central bank to maintain a tight monetary stance.

Inflation slowed to 4.4 percent from 4.7 percent in December, Pretoria-based Statistics South Africa said Wednesday in a report on its website.

The median of 14 economists’ estimates in a Bloomberg survey was for 4.4 percent. Prices rose 0.3 percent in the month.

Price growth has been within the Reserve Bank’s target range of between 3 percent to 6 percent for 10 months, the longest run since 2015.

The Monetary Policy Committee left its benchmark lending rate unchanged for the third straight meeting last month as the risk of a credit-ratings downgrade persists.

While the central bank has highlighted the rand as a key risk to price growth, it expects inflation to remain within the target band.

South Africa’s currency was one of the most volatile tracked by Bloomberg last year and has gained 8.6 percent against the dollar since Cyril Ramaphosa was elected to lead the ruling African National Congress in December.

Ramaphosa has since replaced Jacob Zuma as president of the country.

Core inflation, which excludes the prices of food, non-alcoholic beverages, energy and gasoline, slowed to 4.1 percent in January, from 4.2 percent.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-21/south-africa-s-inflation-rate-slows-to-4-4-in-january

19 Jan

Nigeria Moves Closer to Energy Overhaul With New Oil Bill

Nigeria’s House of Representatives passed a bill governing the country’s energy sector after the Senate did so in May, taking Africa’s top oil producer one step closer to a much-awaited overhaul of the key industry.

The Petroleum Industry Governance Bill now awaits President Muhammadu Buhari’s signing to become law.

The bill will “promote openness and transparency in the industry by clarifying the rules, processes, and procedures that govern the oil and gas sector,” Senate President Bukola Saraki said in a statement Thursday.

“After nearly two decades of back-and-forth, near-misses and ‘near-passages’, the 8th National Assembly finally reached a milestone.”

Delays in passing the new laws created a climate of uncertainty that has cost the country as much as $15 billion a year in lost investment, the Petroleum Ministry has said.

Lawmakers still need to pass two more pieces of legislation to complete an overhaul that will replace current laws. One focuses on new oil taxes and the other seeks to address longstanding grievances by oil-producing communities in the Niger River delta.

Saraki promised to pass those “very soon.” He said in June that the two related bills would be enacted by last month.

Nigeria holds an average 55 percent stake in joint ventures run by Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp, Chevron Corp., Total SA and Eni SpA. These account for more than 80 percent of total oil production, which generates at least two-thirds of government revenue.

The West African country pumped 1.68 million barrels of crude per day in December, according to its oil ministry, and is yet to reach full capacity of 2.2 million daily following disruptions caused by militant attacks from 2016.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-18/south-africa-holds-rate-as-downgrade-inflation-risks-persist

15 Jan

Glencore Shrinks Job of Billionaire Copper Head Amid Congo Probe

Glencore Plc reduced the role of its billionaire head of copper, Aristotelis Mistakidis, shaking up the business after a review in the Democratic Republic of Congo raised questions about accounting and management.

Mistakidis, one of Glencore’s largest shareholders and a key lieutenant of Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg for more than a decade, will lose control of industrial copper operations including mines and focus on the trading side of the business, according to people familiar with the plans.

Responsibility for Glencore’s copper assets will move to Mike Ciricillo, who now oversees copper smelting and refining, the people said, declining to be identified as the appointment isn’t yet public.

The shake-up reduces Mistakidis’s responsibilities after he and two other executives resigned from the board of Glencore’s Katanga Mining Ltd. in Congo in November. A review by Katanga led to a restatement of its financial reporting, and a commitment from Glencore to restructure the management of its own copper business.

Close Relationship

Mistakidis, whose holding in the company is valued at about $2.5 billion, is a key part of Glencore. He’s the third-biggest shareholder among management and helped lead the company’s ascent from a scrappy trader to a diversified commodities giant and the world’s third-biggest copper miner.

For years Mistakidis, better known as “Telis,” had run both the marketing and producing sides of the copper business, a testament to his record as a trader and close relationship with Glasenberg.

Ciricillo, who ran Freeport-McMoRan Inc.’s copper operations in Congo prior to joining Glencore in 2014, takes on the new role at a critical time for the Swiss commodity giant. Glencore plans to grow global copper production by about 25 percent to 1.64 million metric tons by 2020, largely through the resumption of operations at Katanga.

To read the full article, click here.

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

 

 

27 Dec

Africa: Prince Harry Appointed African Parks President

Popular member of the United Kingdom royal family, Prince Henry of Wales also known as Prince Harry, has been appointed as new President of African Parks, the organization that manages Akagera National Park among other facilities on the continent.

The news that was announced on Wednesday, indicate that in this position, Prince Harry will be working with African Parks in various capacities to advance wildlife conservation across Africa and around the globe. The announcement was made during this morning’s BBC Radio 4 Today programme, which Prince Harry guest-edited.

African Parks is a conservation NGO, founded in 2000, that manages national parks and protected areas on behalf of governments and in collaboration with local communities across Africa. With 13 parks under management, they have the largest area under conservation for any one NGO on the African continent.
African Parks are the managers of Rwanda’s Akagera National Park, the only savanna park with the central Africa’s largest protected wetland. According to a statement Kensington Palace, on leaving the Army in 2015, Prince Harry has taken a deep personal interest in frontline conservation projects that work to protect Africa’s natural heritage and support both wildlife and local communities.
The statement says that Harry spent three months working on number of such projects in Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa and Botswana. “Prince Harry will be working with African Parks in various capacities to further our mission in managing national parks on behalf of governments, and to advance wildlife conservation across Africa and around the globe,” a statement from African Parks reads in part.
To read the full article, click here. 
19 Dec

South African Stocks Rally as Ramaphosa Seen as Watershed

South Africa’s benchmark stocks index had their biggest rally since March following the ascent of the business and investor-friendly Cyril Ramaphosa to leader of the ruling African National Congress, removing an overhang that had weighed on market sentiment.

The FTSE/JSE Africa All Share Index rose as much as 1.6 percent and was 1.5 percent higher as of 10:45 a.m. in Johannesburg. Household goods shares, banks, insurers, retailers and other domestically focused companies led gains on the gauge. The FTSE/JSE Africa Banks Index jumped 7.2 percent to a record, the FTSE/JSE Life Insurance Index climbed to the highest level since August 2015 and the FTSE/JSE Africa General Retailers Index advanced the most in two years.

“The removal of a degree of political uncertainty is a significant potential catalyst for relative recovery in South African performance and for a better-than-expected earnings outcome for the domestic earners in 2018,” Morgan Stanley analysts including Mary Curtis and Andrea Masia wrote in a note.

“Valuations still look cheap enough on an absolute and a relative basis for the JSE to continue to rally,” they said. “The best relative value shows up in South African banks and retailers, while multiples for South African industrials and the South African property sector look less appealing compared to cross-border peers.”

While Ramaphosa’s election may be a watershed for South Africa, considerable uncertainty remains, according to John Orford, portfolio manager at Old Mutual Investment Group.

“Firstly, because Cyril Ramaphosa will not be president of the country until Jacob Zuma steps down or until the next general election in 2019, his immediate ability to influence policy is uncertain,” Orford said. Moody’s Investors Service could also still downgrade South Africa’s credit ratings to junk, he said. “If this happens, it could trigger an outflow of capital from the country’s bond market, putting pressure on the rand and bond yields.”

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-19/south-african-stocks-rally-as-ramaphosa-seen-as-watershed

18 Dec

South African Rand Near 3-Month High on Ramaphosa Vote Optimism

South Africa’s rand fluctuated near a three-month high against the dollar and bond yields fell as traders bet Cyril Ramaphosa is poised to become the next leader of the ruling African National Congress.

Ramaphosa, one of the wealthiest black South Africans, has pledged to revive the struggling economy and stamp out corruption. His opponent, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has echoed President Jacob Zuma’s call for “radical economic transformation” to redistribute wealth to the black majority, a shift investors fear may blow out the budget deficit and spark rating downgrades.

The South African currency gained as much as 1.5 percent before trading 0.3 percent weaker at 13.1337 per dollar as of 10:04 a.m. in Johannesburg, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Overnight implied volatility soared to a record 73 percent, suggesting traders are hedging for a large swing after the result, which may be announced Monday.

“Our base case of a win for Ramaphosa appears still to be on track, though there remains sufficient uncertainty in the process for caution to be exercised,” Zaakirah Ismail, a strategist at Standard Bank Group Ltd. in Johannesburg, wrote in a client note. “Volatility is also still at multi-year highs, implying that the currency is geared up for a sharp move after the winner is announced.”

Yields on benchmark government bonds due December 2026 dropped 14 basis points, the most since October, to 9.02 percent.

Long-Term Risks

The rand’s 4.1 percent gain over the past five days will probably not be sustained even in the event of a Ramaphosa victory as the country’s economic challenges won’t disappear, said Tsutomu Soma, general manager of the IFA department at SBI Securities in Tokyo.

“This isn’t likely to be a long-term strong rand trend,” Soma said. “Ramaphosa’s victory is seen as better than Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, but it will probably not improve the nation’s problems drastically, including fiscal positions. In the long run, the rand doesn’t look so attractive.”

Traders added bearish bets on the currency over the next three month, with the premium of options to sell the rand over those to buy it rising eight basis points to 2.83 percentage points in the past week.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-17/south-africa-s-rand-reaches-3-month-high-as-anc-prepares-to-vote

15 Dec

Africa Needs a Commodity-Price Surge to Avert Debt Crunch

Sub-Saharan Africa faces a potential debt crunch unless commodity prices improve and boost the pace of economic growth.

 The region’s median government debt level will probably exceed 50 percent of gross domestic product this year from 34 percent in 2013, while the cost of servicing the liabilities will average almost 10 percent compared with half that four years ago, the International Monetary Fund said. There are no investment-grade dollar-debt issuers in sub-Saharan Africa after Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings Ltd. cut Namibia to junk this year.
Commodity returns have dropped in six of the past seven years and expectations for slower growth in China, the biggest consumer, don’t bode well for African nations that depend on mining, crops and oil for the bulk of their income. The region’s growth may average 2.6 percent this year, almost double 2016’s level but barely above population expansion, with delays in making policy changes risking this, the IMF said in October.
“Rising debt levels present a major risk to progress in sub-Saharan Africa, especially if there is another major shock in the global commodity market and if African markets are still in a recovery stage in the economic cycle,” Gaimin Nonyane, London-based economic-research head at Ecobank Transnational Inc., said by email.
More Planned

Nigerian debt-sale plans will more than double its outstanding U.S.-currency bonds to about $9 billion. That will add to issuances by South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Gabon.

Policy uncertainty in South Africa and Nigeria, the region’s biggest economies, are restraining growth, with the IMF reducing their 2017 expansion forecasts to below 1 percent for the two nations.

In Kenya, the central bank said the nation can’t continue its current debt build-uppath if it’s to remain sustainable. Authorities are also negotiating with the IMF to rollover a standby facility of $1.5 billion.

The number of sub-Saharan African countries in or at risk of debt distress almost doubled to 12 over the past four years, while Mozambique — which defaulted this year — is among those engaging creditors to restructure debt.

To read the full article, click here.