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Andrei Bokarev, the President of Transmashholding, is exerting his company’s influence on a new frontier: the African continent.

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Andrei Bokarev is one of the most important individuals in Russian business. As President of Transmashholding (TMH), he is head of the leading manufacturer of railway equipment in Russia as well as the leading supplier of equipment to the Russian rail transport operator RZD. The company is also present on the ground in Egypt and South Africa, where Bokarev has implemented a strategy of investment and expansion into the African continent.

Andrei Bokarev began his career following his graduation from the Moscow Institute of Finances in 1990. After holding various managerial positions, he began holding various positions within the companies of the UMMC group in 1998. His drive and abilities were quickly recognized; by 1999, Bokarev was Deputy Managing Director of Kuzbassrazrezugol, one of Russia’s largest coal mining companies. The same year, he became a member of the Board of Directors, where he has remained ever since.

In 2000, he joined the Board of Directors of the UMMC group, and then joined the boards of Rosterminalugol, a coal port company, and Transmashholding in 2004.

Andrei Bokarev and TMH: success on rails

Under Bokarev’s leadership, TMH has become the fourth-largest engineering company in the field of transportation technology in the world. As of 2017, it had operating revenues of $2.67 billion, and has contributed to transportation projects across Russia and Europe, including the metro systems of Saint Petersburg and Warsaw. The company manufactures and sells subway cars, passenger diesel locomotives, freight cars, diesel engines, flat cars, and diesel trains. TMH’s customers include major customers outside of Russia as well, notably in Bulgaria, Belarus, Ukraine and elsewhere. TMH also encourages active development of skills and employee potential, with continuous training and improvement of professional skills, modernization of production lines and work organization, and full-scale support for manufactured products throughout their life-cycles. TMH also aims to pay close attention to all health and safety standards while incorporating the newest technologies into their products and manufacturing lines.

TMH’s venture into Africa started in April 2019, launching a commitment of expansion and investment into the continent. The company’s first African factory was opened in Gauteng, South Africa, which capped off the first stage of TMH International’s planned African investments totalling over $32 million.

TMH’s African business ventures have also brought it to Egypt, where the company signed its first contract with Egyptian National Railways (ENR) in 2018, which was worth over 1 billion euros. Fast-forwarding to 2020, the company has produced 5 different train car models for ENR, with an expected operating life of 40 years. By the end of 2020, several passenger train batches will be delivered to the Egyptian government. This is yet another step towards further business development in the African continent for TMH.

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Legal Scandal in the Dem. Rep. of the Congo Surrounding Businessman-Politician Moïse Katumbi

Comments (0) Africa

While several French court rulings have dismissed all of his claims, Moïse Katumbi persists in his attempts to seize assets that he sold several years ago, citing local court decisions. Interventions by armed forces in the Katanga region on behalf of Moïse Katumbi may constitute a threat to the rule of law in the country.

Lubumbashi, Katanga region, DRC: On Friday morning, 25 September 2020, at 7:30 am, dozens of armed police officers entered the premises of the company NB Mining Africa by force, accompanied by members of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, expelling the company’s staff. Minutes later, Katumbi’s men posted videos on Twitter strutting through the company’s corridors in scenes akin to a war grab. How did it come to this?

“The itinerary of a spoiled child”

Born to a Greek Jewish entrepreneur and a Congolese woman of Zambian origin, Moïse Katumbi is one of the richest men in Africa today. But success as a businessman was not enough for him: he was eager to get into politics and, as a young man in his forties, he was elected as a member of parliament before becoming governor of Katanga, the country’s richest region, from 2007 to 2015. 2015 is also the year when he ran the presidential race and decided to sell his company MCK to Necotrans, a company under French law, to allegedly finance his electoral campaign. The beneficiary of the transaction was Katumbi’s wife through her company Astalia—based not in the DRC but in Mauritius, for obvious tax reasons.

The story goes as follows: Necotrans went bankrupt and, during the judicial liquidation, the company NB Mining (formerly MCK) was bought, via its company Octavia, by the Frenchman of Corsican origin Pascal Beveraggi who developed it, employing over 2,000 people. Katumbi failed to get elected and returned to his first love: business.

Feeling that he had not been paid in full, the multi-millionaire took recourse to the French courts—the only competent courts in the case—where his claims were rejected definitively.

In an abnormal turn of events, the former governor may have used his networks to seize the Kolwezi court, which reinterprets the decisions of the highest French courts—the only relevant jurisdictions in the case. Pascal Beveraggi’s company must simply now revert to Moïse Katumbi, without further discussion.

The affair is extraordinary for its disregard for the rule of law: from the rights of the defendant and the principle of adversarial proceedings, without any convocation, to unfounded judgments that are not even made public.

Spoliation?

According to Edouard Tricaud, the lawyer representing Pascal Beveraggi and his company Octavia, all this is nothing but a scandalous and parodic decision (Radio France International). “These actions are machinations, a real judicial manipulation, my client has never been able to assert his rights. As a result, the judgment by the Kolwezi court is based solely on the fallacious arguments developed by Astalia”. Tricaud also deplores the fact that the courts did not respect Pascal Beveraggi’s appeal. According to RFI, these all are arguments that are being swept aside by Astalia’s lawyers, not wishing to express themselves publicly.

Bank accounts, premises and rolling stock: all seized. All apparently handed over to Moïse Katumbi who, nonetheless, tweets about his recent chat with the Canadian ambassador to the DRC, declaring that “in all sectors of national life, the end of impunity & a merciless fight against corruption are the best guarantees of the country’s recovery!”

In a press release, Pascal Beveraggi criticized the scandal and the mockery of justice: “From someone who has run for the highest position in the country, it is unworthy to use force in this way, using the judicial authorities of a region he once governed. No elementary principle of law has been respected. French justice has ruled on what was only a matter for French justice: Moïse Katumbi sold his company, wanting to reappropriate it is pure and simple theft.”

Photo :  Taylor Weidman © 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP

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Forbes Identifies the Best Businesses in the Arab World

Comments (0) Business, Featured, Middle East

2020 is not looking like a good year for most businesses. Covid-19 is affecting every stock market around the world and profits and forecasts are becoming major victims of the global pandemic. 20202’s Q1 results are what many people are looking at as indicators of how companies could perform once the current crisis is over. Forbes’ recent list of the Top 100 Companies in the Middle East is a good reflection of not only what companies have been doing well (and will do in the future), but is also a good indicator of how the region itself is performing.

Regional Financial Health

Generally speaking, it comes as no surprise that an oil-rich region does well financially. But in recent years, the oil-producing nations have sought to diversify interests and investments as they keep one eye on a finite and dwindling resource that has for so long provided a steady revenue stream.

Looking at the Top 100 Companies listed, they have total aggregate assets of $3.5 trillion and a value of around $2.3 trillion in terms of market cap over 2019/2020. The total sales amassed by the businesses was $670 billion which represented $148 billion of net profits.

Who and What?

Saudi Arabia dominates the Top 100, with 33 of the 100 companies listed there. Behind them is the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) with 21 companies, and Qatar in third place with 18. So those three countries alone have 72% of the list.

As far as business sectors are concerned, the burgeouning financial sector dominates the list with 46 entries. Far behind them in second place is industrial companies with nine entries, then real estate/construction and telecoms companies with eight each.

Top Spot

Despite the increasing diversification happening across the region, it is an oil giant that holds the No. 1 spot and they would hold that spot in most lists whether regional or global. Saudi Aramco is not only the world’s most profitable company, but also the world’s most valuable listed company. It produced the biggest IPO in history and on it first day of trading in December, its market value soared to $1.9 trillion. $0.7 trillion above Apple’s market value on the same day.

To put Aramco in a global context, they pump more than 10% of the world’s crude oil supplies and produce more than twice the oil of all of Canada. Of course, being (prior to the IPO) a government-owned entity and the only oil producer in Saudi Arabia has given it a unique advantage.

Aramco covers several areas of the energy sector, including exploration, transportation, and sales of not only crude oil but also natural gas and chemicals. While other companies may focus on diversification, Aramco focuses on innovation. In 2017 alone, they were granted 230 patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

As far as the Top 100 List is concerned, Aramco accounted for 59.6% of the net profits, 11.4% of assets, 69.6% of market cap, and 49% of aggregate sales.

The Other Contenders

While dominating the list, Aramco is surprisingly the only energy company in the Top 10. The other nine companies represent banking and financial, with six out of the ten positions, two telecommunications companies, and one industrial company. The gap between first and second is telling, however. Aramco had profits of $88.2 billion, while the second-placed company – QNB of Qatar – had profits of only $4 billion.

However long the Covid-19 situation lasts, some business sectors may take considerable time to completely recover. But there will be a constant need for most of the sectors covered in the Top 100 list. While oil prices may fluctuate, the sheer size and diversity of a company like Aramco will ensure that they will not suffer too much. And for businesses such as financial and telecoms, the need for their services may grow if anything. One thing is for sure; the Middle East continues to see many companies continue to thrive and grow at both regional and global levels.

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Vivo Activewear – a Kenyan Success Story Trying to Survive a Pandemic

Comments (0) Business, Featured

As 2020 started, the coronavirus was a small footnote to some news broadcast and no-one had any idea of the impact it would have on every aspect of our lives. Words and phrases such as lockdown or social distancing meant nothing to any of us and we planned the year ahead as normal. 

So it was for Wandia Gichuru, who was looking forward to a bumper year for Her Vivo Activewear business and a projected 40% growth rate over 2019 figures. Fast forward 6 months and she is doubtful that the company can even match the previous year’s sales and revenue figures and her focus now is ensuring that they can keep their 175 staff employed.

Viva la Vivo

Gichuru’s success story is one that is becoming more and more common across Africa. A bright young entrepreneur with a vision that recognises the potential of the continent’s massive spending power, a market that has over 1 billion consumers and a total GDP in excess of US$3 trillion. 

Gichuru founded Vivo in 2011 with her business partner, Anne Marie Burugu. Since its founding, Vivo has grown to be one of the leading fashion labels in Kenya with 14 stores across the country and a reputation for stylish and affordable clothing. It has built a reputation for bright and colourful designs that often have an edgy feel to them. The company also owns the ShopZetu e-commerce platform, selling not only its own designs but also items from 3rd party retailers and manufacturers. 

Covid 19 

The global pandemic has forced the company to circle the wagons and rethink their growth projections for 2020. While Kenya has not suffered badly from Covid 19, the company decided to close all their physical stores in mid-March. They reopened around a month later but with some precautions in place such as not allowing customers to try items on. 

But rather than sit idle for that period, Vivo switched some of their production capabilities to reusable cloth face masks. They have made more than 200,000 units to date, and these are sold through their stores, at pop-up stalls, and through their online platform. They also received bulk orders from farms, banks, and other large-scale employers. That decision was a good one, as mask sales accounted for around 65% of the company’s revenue in April. 

Strong Foundations

Gichuru has a solid business background that has helped nurture Vivo. Before founding the company, she worked as an international business advisor and was employed by the UK government, the UN, and the World Bank. And as well as the day to day demands of running a successful fashion chain, she finds time to be a life coach, a regular investor on Kenya’s version of Dragon’s Den – Lion’s Den – and is also a trustee for the Mbugua Rosemary and Charles & Rita Field-Marsham Foundations. 

She has a strong belief in the power of African commerce and that women are an integral part of the potential the continent has. As part of that belief, she looks to transform lives by training and employing women as well as supporting small independent businesses operated by women. 

While Vivo may not see the growth in 2020 they expected, there is little doubt that they will survive and continue to grow in the future.

Photos : Youtube.com and destinafrica.co.ke and nairobifashionhub.co.ke

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African women making strides in technology

Comments (0) Featured, Leaders

In recent years, there has been a notable resurgence in the matriarchal influence of African women. This resurgence is not only breaking down the former barriers of gender disparity but also helping to influence a new generation of African girls. While this new wave of strong African women crosses several business sectors, it is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the field of technology. These ‘TechWomen’ are not only making their mark in their chosen field, but are helping ensure there are training and work opportunities for other women and girls. There is also now a junior version – TechGirls – aimed at introducing African girls aged 15-17 to STEM. 

African Women’s Day.

Many of these women will be recognized this coming July 31st as part of African Women’s Day. This date was chosen at the first congress of PAWO (the Pan African Women’s Organisation) on 31st July, 1974. It was chosen in recognition of the first ever Pan-African meeting of women (Conference of African Women – CFA) held on that same date in Tanzania in 1962. 

TechWomen

TechWomen is not just a name given to these African women succeeding in the technology sector. It comes from the organisation of the same name, set up by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in 2011. It targets women from Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia who show potential in the fields of science and technology or who need support with innovative ideas. Each year, 100 women are chosen and flown to California and then Washington. In those cities, they are welcomed by more than 50 of the world’s leading companies including Microsoft, Google, Twitter, etc. 

Objectives 

The primary objective of the TechWomen scheme is to support the next generation of female innovators and leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects and to offer them access to the leading global companies for mentoring and employment opportunities. Over 200 volunteer mentors and ‘teachers’ from some of the world’s leading corporations give their time to help each year’s winners. There are training courses, lectures, workshops, as well as one on one session to assist the women with any current solo or group projects. 

Moroccan Laureate

One of 2019’s Moroccan laureates was Lamia Fikrat, the winner of her local ‘edition’. She holds an initial degree in engineering from Paris’s Ecole Centrale as well as a Masters in Management from London’s ESCP graduate school. Her fields of interest include the circular economy and also sustainable development (the latter being a huge focus across Africa). As part of their time in the U.S., participants spend a short period in a mentorship placement. For Fikrat, that was with San Francisco’s Environment Department, SF Environment. Fikrat was enthusiast about her experience and the opportunities it affords her fellow countrywomen: “Participating in the program has been an incredible networking opportunity in Silicon Valley. I strongly encourage Moroccan women to apply for it.”

From Tunisia

Tunisia has been involved with TechWomen since 2012. One of their 2016 laureates was Raouhda Lagha, an engineer who works for Sofrecom Tunisia. Sofrecom promote diversity, multiculturalism, and gender equality, so the inclusion of Lagha was a source of immense pride for the company. 

Lagha is also a team leader at Sofrecom, part of their policy of encouraging women to not only pursue scientific and technical careers, but also to seek leadership positions and to move up the management ladder. 

Lagha said of her Techwomen experience: “”Cultural mentorship is particularly useful for people like me working in an international company. It’s important to fully understand the cultural codes and behaviors of contacts and avoid offending people who might have different viewpoints.”

To the Future

As the battle to break down the barriers of gender disparity in Africa continues, programs such as TechWomen and other schemes that offer mentorship and investment are crucial. Equality in the workplace, and in education, are crucial components in the progress of the continent as a whole. Hopefully, TechWomen will continue for many years to come and will recognize the many outstanding women in STEM fields. 

Photos : europeansting.com – sofrecom.com – htxt.co.za – leconomiste.com

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Rwanda : Jacqueline Mukarukundo Tackles the Problem of Electronic Waste

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Electronic Waste is poisoning Africa 

When it comes to electronic waste (e-waste), Africa has long faced two battles to fight. Not only does it have to deal with its own e-waste, but it also has to cope with the large amounts of e-waste imported, often illegally, from other continents. E-waste can refer to any electronic product that is either coming to the end of its working life or that already has passed that use by date and can include computers, televisions, mobile phones’ etc. 

For example, the UN Environment Programme’s study in 2009 found that Ghana imported 215,000 tons of electronic equipment that year with only 30% of that total being new. Of the rest, around 22,5000 tons could neither be recycled nor sold and would end up in landfill sites. The problem with the amounts that end up in landfill – something that is repeated across many African countries – is that these electronics often contain toxic elements such as mercury, lead, and cadmium, which then enter the soil and water. 

Finding Solutions, Recycling for the future.

Compared to other areas of the world, recycling is an industry still in its infancy in Africa, particularly when it comes to e-waste. In East Africa alone, and not counting any imported e-waste, some 130,000 tonnes of e-waste is produced every year and only about 20% of that is recycled. 

It needs dedication and vision to make the industry viable across the continent. And those are two attributes that you can say Jacqueline Mukarukundo has for sure. This young Rwandan entrepreneur was recently awarded the Margaret Prize which is given to women who are creative and active in the digital world.

It Began with an Accident

Her idea began with an accident back in 20011, when Mukarukundo was only around 13 years old. With some friends, she was taking part in a recycling campaign in the northern Rwandan city of Musanze. As they were working on a landfill site, a landslide happened (a common and dangerous occurrence on these sites) and her friend was lucky to escape. For Mukarukundo and her friends, that incident was the catalyst to get more involved in waste management and recycling. 

In 2018, at the age of 20, Mukarukundo co-founded Wastezon along with Ghislain Irakoze. The company uses mobile technology to link consumers and businesses who have e-waste that needs disposed of to the main recycling companies in that area. 

Simplicity Means Ease of Use

In order to make the process easy to use for consumers and recyclers, the person with the e-waste simply posts a photo of the e-waste – most often computers or mobile phones – and the recycling companies can then choose what they want and make an offer for the waste. 

Since they started, Wastezon has enabled 400 tonnes of e-waste to be sold, a drop in the ocean for now but an idea that is both working and growing. The monetisation side of the app comes from Wastezon taking 10% of all transactions. 

Low Internet Use and Mobile Phone Penetration Means There is a Long Way to Go

It has to be recognised that with a low level of internet connections (especially outside the capital, Kigali) and low mobile phone penetration (though this has dramatically increased to over 9 million subscriptions in recent years), this is an idea that is very much creating a foundation for future benefits. Rwanda also need to transform from a linear economy to a more circular one, though the amount of people repairing appliances rather than throwing away is also increasing. 

As Mukarukundo herself says: “The biggest challenge is the transformation of mentalities and funding.”

Recycling and waste management tend not to be businesses that attract a lot of funding as though the societal and environmental benefits are many, it is not a sector that sees high profits. 

Building for the Future

Mukarukundo knows that they have to keep pushing forward. They plan to expand their business to the cellular network to capture those consumers who do not have smartphones. And as 90% of the waste produced in Rwanda is organic, they also plan to expand their services to include that. 

“I dream of a world without waste, and I believe in the power of technology to achieve it.”

She also dreams of enabling other young Rwandan women to follow her entrepreneurial path and hopes to have her own funding in place one day to achieve that.

With dreams like that, and with the dedication and visions she has been showing for most of her life, there is little doubt that the amounts of e-waste ending up in Rwandan landfill sites will continue to decline and that Mukarukundo’s business will continue to grow. 

Photos : web24.news and media-exp1.licdn.com

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Google Helps African Startups to Grow and Thrive

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Helping Startups

Startups can find the first stages of development very challenging. While many people tend to think of funding and investment as being the main hurdle, there are also other challenges that can make or break a new business. Google’s new Startups Accelerator: Sustainable Development Goals program aims to fill those gaps, help startups meet challenges head-on, and to do so while meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which include inequality, poverty, climate issues, environmental concerns, increasing prosperity, and ensuring peace and justice. 

The programme, new for 2020, is aimed at technology startups in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. The aim is to provide those startups with the expert advice and help Google can provide in order to allow the startup to thrive and build solid companies that can have a social impact. 

On offer are a number of ways in which Google mentors – and some external experts – can assist the business. These include help with technology, advice on design and branding, product development, how to attract funding, and training in leadership skills. 

With 1,200 applications received, only 11 startups were chosen to be part of the first programme, and three of them were from Africa. So who were they? And what will they bring, not only to the Google table, but to the communities they operate in.

Flare – Uber for Ambulances

Aimed mainly at the healthcare sector (though they do also work with fire services), Kenya’s Flare is an innovative app that serves both customers and providers. For customers, it has been described as the medical version of Uber, allowing them to see the closest, or best, options when it comes to medical assistance or ambulances. Founded by Caitlin Dolkart and Maria Rabinovich, who have many years of experience in the medical sector between them, they see Flare as the next-generation 911. 

The 24/7 service aims to have assistance to the client within 15 minutes. And if it does not arrive within 30 minutes, the company will refund your annual membership fee. The service will also allow hospitals and ambulance services to work closer together and for ambulances to update their destination hospital on arrival times and patients’ conditions. 

Solar Freeze – Helping Small Farmers Increase Productivity 

A major issue facing African farmers, particularly smallholders, is the lack of reliable old chain storage and transportation. In fact, an average of 45% of harvested crops can spoil in developing nations due to the lack of these services. Solar Freeze, another Kenya-based startup, aims to reduce that figure and help low level farmers across Kenya increase their output to market and their prosperity. 

With a diverse team of 11 Kenyans, and with an average age of 27 years old, they have produced a solution for the farmers that does not require internet access and runs simply on USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data). Using their service, farmers can access various logistics services as well as portable solar-powered cold storage services that may eradicate any losses after harvesting crops. 

mDoc – Digital Healthcare for Sub-Saharan Africa 

The third African startup joining the programme is Nigeria’s mDoc. mDoc was founded to address the issue of people in sub-Saharan Africa not being able to always access the health services they need. With some 80% of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) occurring in low and middle income countries, this can be a very real issue that causes widespread distress. 

mDoc aims to address these issues by providing both mobile and web-based platforms that people living with chronic diseases can access on a 24/7 basis in order to get care and medical support from a network of providers. They also aim to assist doctors and other medical services to access the patients themselves to offer education on a range of related issues as well as being able to give those patients a self-management toolbox to help with any medical conditions. 

Founded by L. Nneka Mobisaon and Imo Utek, the startup believes that by bringing healthcare and technology together, they can improve the lives of many in the region and also help to develop the full potential of countries and people. 

Looking to the Future, Encouraging Growth

Time and time again, we have seen that technology and innovation can be two of the biggest tools in helping propel Africa forward. By harnessing technology at different levels that can be accessible to rural populations – such as mobile apps and USSD – companies can overcome the oft cited issue of lack of access to internet connectivity. 

Hopefully, Google’s first round of their Startup Accelerator Programme will prove to be a major success and will lead to increasing numbers of new businesses being supported in future years. By including the U.N.’s sustainable goals in their programme, they also ensure that companies aiming for positive social impacts will receive the support they need and deserve.

Photos : techstartups.com and lelab.info and techawkng.com

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Laureen Kouassi-Olsson : a new wave of female leaders

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Although Africa’s economy has shown steady growth in recent years, as well as shifts from consumer consumption to rises in exports and inward investments, 2020 may not be such a good year. A recent World Bank report estimates that, as a result of the Covid 19 crisis, economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa could decline to between -2.1% and -5.1% in 2020. 

How severe this will be is going to depend on how individual countries and the region as a whole respond to the pandemic but this would be the region’s first recession in 25 years. Perhaps now than any other time, those businesses and entities promoting investment in the region have a bigger task than they have previously faced. 

Amethis: Not Just a Silent Investor

One organisation at the forefront of that challenge is investment fund management group, Amethis, who have been operating in Africa since 2013 and who have an investment capacity of more than €725m. Amethis provides seed and growth capital to promising businesses and entrepreneurs in various sectors across Africa including the sub-Saharan region. 

Amethis does not just operate as a silent investor: they work as active and key shareholders in the businesses they invest in, offering support and on the ground expertise when needed, as well as nurturing growth and access to international markets through their global network. 

A Strong Policy of Encouraging and Promoting Talented African Females 

Another positive factor about Amethis is their strong policy of encouraging and promoting talented African females to leadership positions. With gender disparity still a major issue in African corporate entities, this policy not only helps shatter the glass ceiling, it also acts as an encouragement to young African women. 

Heading up Amethis’ West African office is Laureen Kouassi-Olsson who is based in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. Kouassi-Olsson has responsibility for investment strategy in much of the sub-Saharan financial sector and her responsibilities includes identifying potential deals and then structuring and supervising those deals. She also manages Amethis’ financial institutions investment portfolio. In addition, she oversees Amethis West Africa, an investment vehicle that is dedicated solely to the Francophone countries of west and central Africa. As if those responsibilities were not enough, she serves on several boards of directors, including Ciel Finance in Mauritius, Petro-Ivoire in Ivory Coast, and the Board of Fidelity in Ghana. 

Qualifications and Career of Laureen Kouassi-Olsson

Born in the Ivory Coast, Ms. Kouassi-Olsson is fluent in both French and English. She graduated from Lyon’s EM Business School with a Master in Science of Management. For her degree, she specialised in Corporate Finance and Capital Markets. After graduation, she worked for Lehman Brothers Investment Banking Department in London as a Mergers & Acquisitions analyst for two years. She then moved to Proparco’s Financial Institutions Group as an investment officer where she held responsibility for appraising and structuring opportunities in the financial services industry throughout the sub-Saharan area. 

Kouassi-Olsson joined Amethis in Paris in 2013 as investment director and head of financial institutions. She held similar responsibilities to her post at Proparco as well as taking charge of Amethis West Africa with total investment funds of €40 million. She also represented Amethis at various conferences in Africa and in Europe. 

In 2016, she returned to her homeland as Regional Head with continued responsibilities for Amethis West Africa and also taking charge of sourcing deals, investor relations, and fundraising. 

Females Leading the Way

Kouassi-Olsson, along with Fatoumata Bâ – founder and CEO of African unicorn Jumia – was the subject of the recent “Regards de Femmes” meeting held in Paris in March. The two women were chosen not only because they symbolise success in what was traditionally a male-dominated sector, but because they illustrate an increasing feminine dynamic in several business sectors across Africa. 

As Ms. Kouassi-Olsson said at the meeting: “… we must contribute to the emergence of the next generation of women leaders on the African continent, we must inspire and serve as a model through our actions and our commitment. My fight is to demonstrate that there are no impossible but the limits that we set for ourselves, and that we must all transform adversity into an opportunity to have an impact on our societies. “

The Gender Disparity Must Be Eroded in Africa

With women such as Ms. Kouassi-Olsson in leading roles, the gender disparity that has plagued Africa for so many years will continue to be eroded. Young African girls can look to these strong women as ideal role models for the next generation.

Photos : jeuneafrique.com – agefi.fr

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Can Bahrain’s Fintech Bay hub lead the region?

Comments (0) Business, Middle East

The Fintech (Financial Technologies) market is a huge one and one that continues to grow. It consists of products, such as apps, platforms, and other technologies, catering to the financial sector. It can cover anything from bank to bank transfer technology through to consumer contactless payment apps. In 2018, the global fintech market had a value of around US$127.66 billion and that value is forecast to grow to $309.98 billion by 2022, an impressive annual growth rate of 24.8%. 

More and more companies are looking to cashless payment systems to pay for goods bought online or in the physical world. One of the industry giants, PayPal, had reached 267 million active users by the end of 2018 and there are many other competitors looking to increase their market share. 

It was perhaps inevitable, in a long evolutionary chain from Silicon Valley and other such sites, that small areas dedicated to companies working in Fintech would emerge. They offer ideal locations for Fintech startups – and some already established companies – to work in close proximity and to encourage tech development. In February of 2020, there were 8,775 such startups in America, 7,385 in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and 4,765 in the Asia Pacific region.

Sao Paulo, Bangalore, Mumbai, and New Delhi are challenging the traditional financial fiefdoms 

In recent years, countries in the Middle East have been investing heavily in the future of various sciences and technologies. With Dubai leading the way with the region’s first Fintech hub – now 15 years old – other countries in the region have looked to join a lucrative and booming sector that offers many opportunities and creates new jobs. 

The Findexable Global Fintech Index City Rankings identifies that the growth of these Fintech hubs marks a movement away from the traditional financial centres of the past. While no Fintech companies have yet to make the Fortune 500 or the S&P 500, that could be in part to the very nature of many Fintech companies. They tend to be young and ambitious and often focusing on niche markets such as cashless payments within a small geographical area. And while the traditional centres of the financial industry still feature in any Top 20 list of Fintech hubs, it is the new entries that are most interesting. Cities such as Sao Paulo, Bangalore, Mumbai, and New Delhi are challenging the traditional financial fiefdoms of old and Dubai and Bahrain are not far behind. 

Successful Fintech Hub: Bahrain Is an Attractive Choice

Deloitte believes there are four essential factors needed for a successful Fintech hub: capital, talent, demand, and policy & regulation. Capital is something that is not lacking in the region and the Bahrain hub is aiming to attract talent not only from the Middle East and Africa but from anywhere in the world. By also attracting existing experts in the field, they hope to nurture their own and regional talent. As far as demand is concerned, the demand for new and better Fintech products continues to grow, even in the midst of a global pandemic, and in some ways that crisis has increased need. 

Finally, Bahrain Fintech hub offers many incentives and positive policies that makes choosing Bahrain as a location an attractive choice. With access to international partners and a global network, Bahrain Fintech Hub offers attractive potential to new startups. Its geographical location is also a major advantage as it is ideally situated to not only serve the Middle East and Africa, but also Europe and Asia. Bahrain has also introduced fast track regulatory frameworks that allows it to bring in regulations quickly for newly emerging ideas and products, something other hubs do not always offer. 

Bahrain’s Fintech Hub Can Only Grow 

In January 2020, the Bahrain Fintech Hub announced a major partnership with Standard Chartered, the British multinational financial institution that operates in more than 70 countries. This will not only allow startups access to one of the world’s leading banking group but will also allow Standard Chartered potential access to new ideas as they happen. 

Fintech is an area that will continue to grow, and Bahrain is positioning itself to take advantage of that growth and to challenge the current Top 10 Fintech hubs. Even with a pandemic causing disruption in most business sectors, Fintech experts and entrepreneurs continue to develop new ideas and systems. With the financial backing and strong policies they have in place, Bahrain’s Fintech hub can only grow and grow. 

Photos : bahrainedb.com – bibf.com – unfoldbrics.art – bizbahrain.com

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Agricultural data is becoming big business in Africa

Comments (0) Business, Non classé

Africa can often be a continent of major contradictions, but perhaps especially when it comes to agriculture. The African Development Bank (ADB) released a recent report which stated that the continent contained an astounding 65% of the world’s uncultivated but arable land. Many areas also have an abundance of fresh water. The soil is extremely fertile, and the continent has around 300 days of sunshine every year. And when you look at the working population, in excess of 60% of people work in the agricultural sector in some capacity. 

Yet despite that potential, the continent as a whole continues to import much of its food ($64.5 billion in 2017) and many regions continue to suffer annual famines with around five million Africans dying every year from hunger and over a quarter of the population classified as “severely food insecure in 2016”.

To increase efficiency and productivity – and thus hopefully reduce hunger and reliance on imports – many African countries are now looking to data collection and analysis for solutions and creating a new demand and market by doing so. 

A lot of Challenges to Face

There are a number of challenges that Africa’s agricultural sector faces. As far as development of uncultivated land is concerned, many areas have poor or no transport links. There may be little in the way of communications, little credit to buy the machinery and seed stock needed to cultivate the land, issues with property rights, endemic corruption at local and national levels, a lack of access to technology, and various other issues. 

Many now see the use of data identifying the areas offering the most lucrative prospects as the way to move forward. Coupled with simpler smart phones to be used in situ, data scientists can analyse data from satellite imagery and records of climate and weather patterns to help focus on those initially promising areas. 

Another major problem that faces the sector, and also another that technology may offer a solution to, is that many African agricultural products are subject to the overuse of pesticides (or the use of banned pesticides). This means that they do not pass the stringent standards of target markets such as the European Union. 

Using Technology

Companies such as Acquahmeyer in Ghana are now using drones to monitor the health of crops so as to allow farmers to reduce their reliance on these pesticides. At $5 to 10 per acre, this is a growing data market across the continent. 

The ADB are also investing in data and data collection. As of 2018, they had launched a drone programme partnering with the Tunisian government and the city of Busan in South Korea. The programme will include training 32 young Tunisians on how to pilot drones and collect agricultural data. 

South African startup, Zindi, is another African company looking to harness data to improve agricultural yields. They use their platform to host competitions that brings together over 9,000 African data scientists to crunch numbers and data from satellite imagery and other sources to provide real solutions on – and in – the ground. 

But it is also about different data sets being harnessed to improve agriculture. In Nigeria, the government are undertaking a major registration programme to include its farmers on an electronic wallet system. This will allow the government to make grants and subsidy payments, share information on better farming practices, and help improve the continental supply chain. 

Monsanto Has Established Data Sharing Agreements: Good News for Africa?

Multinational conglomerate, Monsanto, has already established data sharing agreements with the American agricultural machinery producer, Agco. They also launched Climate FieldView in 2018, a tool specifically designed to collect and exploit agricultural data from across Africa. Given Monsanto’s track history, there are justifiable worries that while African NGOs seek to reduce hunger and poverty by increasing crop yields. 

Hopefully, the Pan-African efforts by various parties will continue to yield promising results.

Photos : blogs.worldbank.org / idss.mit.edu / agroinformatics.org

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