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Africa’s first online shopping mall looks to make its mark

Comments (0) Business, Featured, Technology

Online shopping is big business across much of the world, but in Africa e-commerce has yet to make the sort of impact that other technologies, such as cell phones, have done. However, the online retailer, Odjala, is Africa’s first online shopping mall, and it hopes to capitalize on the ever increasing access the continent has to smartphones and the internet.

The spread of e-commerce

While most African consumers still visit bricks & mortar stores or markets to make a purchase, the market for online retail in Europe and North America is huge. The man behind Odjala, Afiss Bileoma, mentioned that 60% of people in Europe and North America use online shopping to make purchases. The company E-marketer, states that Africa only accounts for 2% of online purchases worldwide, but this is a situation that is already changing and likely to change even more as time goes on.

Internet penetration is around 20% in Africa now, and smartphones are rapidly spreading along the path that cellphones already trod.

This embracing of technology has already led to large online retailers such as Nigeria’s Jumia, which has sites in 23 different African countries. However, the Benin based Odjala will be the first to offer a virtual mall online, and it will be offering consumers the chance to buy a wide range of products.

Bileoma states, “We turn around 10,000 Internet users a day, 20% of which will go through with a purchase. They buy a lot of gifts, clothes, toys. We succeeded a big blow by signing a partnership with Naomi Dolls; dolls that were only available in Côte d’Ivoire or France.”

In addition to offering exclusive products such as Naomi Dolls, Odjala’s main role is in providing an online presence to Benin’s largest outdoor market. The market is called Dantokpa, and is situated in the Cotonou area of the nation. Dantokpa hosts numerous independent shops and stands, yet most of its stock is now available on Odjala’s online mall which allows Benin’s consumers to peruse the extensive range of goods from their own homes.

Outdoor meets online

It would initially seem that an outdoor market is the antithesis of online shopping, but Odjala has sought to connect the traditional way that most Beninese shop, with the growing demand for online services. Odjala means “Big Market” in the local language of Yoruba, and the Odjala app is free to download on both Android and Apple products. Bileoma set up Odjala in 2016, and secured agreements with the majority of Dantokpa’s stores, and additionally made deals with other retailers in the area.

A consumer can use either the app or visit the online mall directly on their computer; any order that is placed is then delivered to their door by a courier. Bileoma accepts that this relatively new concept will take time to grow, as many potential customers have to get used to shopping in such a different way. Bileoma has promoted the concept on social media sites, such as Facebook, but still encountered a lot of customers who he said would “call and who actually wish to see the stalls.”

Nevertheless, such problems can often be overcome by providing customers with a sense of security that lessens concerns they may have over a new service. Bileoma explained that, “If a customer is not satisfied by a product, he can return it.”

This policy is fairly standard for online retailers around the world, but one of Odjala’s other features is a lot less common. Around 90% of purchases made on Odjala are paid for by the customer upon delivery. This model would be highly unusual for most online retailers, and is more akin to the method used by auction sites like Ebay.

However, these types of reassurances could help ensure that people new to online retail, feel more confident about trying a new method of shopping. It is online shopping with an understanding of how the majority of consumers in Benin are used to spending their money, and Bileoma will be hoping that such things build confidence in his brand.

As online shopping saves customers’ time, and the money that would be spent on traveling to a store, Odjala looks set to make the most of the ongoing spread in Africa’s online presence.

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Israeli start-ups raise a record $4.8 billion in 2016

Comments (0) Business, Featured, Technology

Overall, last year was a successful one for Israeli start-ups, raising a record breaking $4.8 billion in funding, according to a recent survey by the Israel Venture Capital (IVC) Research Center and law firm Zysman Aharoni, Gayer & Co. (ZAG). The increase is of 11% from the year before, when Israeli high-tech companies raised $4.3 billion. The report also stated that the average financing round, which has been steadily growing over the past five years, reached $7.2 million last year, 19% above the $5.1 million five year average. However, the last quarter of 2016 saw a drop of 8% compared to the last quarter of 2015.

IVC CEO, Koby Simana explained in a statement, that 2016 was a record breaking year for Israeli start-ups, but despite the higher total amount, it was characterized by a smaller number of financing rounds, with higher average capital raised each round. “This is a troubling trend for the Israeli VC funnel, since the majority of capital goes into later rounds.” Simana said. “If there are no companies lined up for later investments, there could be a more serious issue later on.”

Fewer financing rounds

While capital-raising reached new heights, the survey found the number of financing rounds were much fewer than expected. There were 659 deals closed in 2016, which is only marginally above the average of 657 deals closed per year. It was also 7% lower than 2015’s record high of 706 deals closed throughout the year.

The IVC – ZAG report also found an upsurge in large deals (above $20 million) in 2016. Both in terms of deal numbers and capital raised. There were 76 large deals during the year and $2.68 billion of capital raised. An increase of 22% from 2015 where 76 deals closed and $2.19 billion was raised. The increase in large deals is due to the enhanced activity of foreign investors, primarily corporate investors and venture capital funds, explained Simana.

Software companies raise most capital

 Software companies led the capital raising again last year, with $1.7 billion in funding, up from $1.4 billion in 2015, which also placed them first. Internet capital decreased, attracting a mere 16% of total capital, or $744 million, compared to 2015’s $1.12 billion, when it placed second with a 26% share. Life science capital raising also decreased in 2016, by 14%. However, the outlook for life science capital is still positive, according to Shmulik Zysman from ZAG. The industry still has potential in Israel, he explained, due to three reasons: the interest shown by Chinese investors, good chances of European and US investors returning to Israel and Donald Trump’s campaign to ease price control on medical services and drugs.

An optimistic outlook for 2017

 According to Forbes, Israel continues to attract the attention of top global funds looking for great deals outside of Silicon Valley, Boston and New York City. As well as large corporates interested in the innovation coming out of Israel, Chinese investors will continue to be a major influence. Forbes also put the decline of exits (initial public offerings and merger and acquisition deals) down to a growing maturity of the tech ecosystem in Israel. Regarding the findings in the report, Zysman remained cautious for the year ahead. “We expect the uptrend in capital raising activity to continue in 2017,” he said in a statement. “Though possibly at slower rates.”

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Kenya’s ride hail market shows African businesses adapting to global trends

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured, Technology

When Uber took its taxi app to Kenya in 2015, the response was mixed as it has been in most markets. While many people embraced the service, others felt it undermined local taxi cab operators, and there were protests against the US Company.

However, over the course of its time in Africa, Uber has actually led to African businesses adapting to what it offers, and in Kenya a domestic rival app is already proving highly successful.

A Kenyan response to globalization

When globalization brings a new product to an emerging market, the response from locals is always likely to be mixed. Just as some will be delighted to share in a popular aspect from a developed nation, others will be concerned about the impact upon local culture and businesses. With a service like Uber there is clearly no concern over an erosion of local culture, but there are serious issues around how it affects local businesses. The same worries around exploitation of drivers that have captured headlines in the US and Europe have been replicated in Kenya, along with a worry that local taxi firms will be driven out of business.

In fact, earlier this year, the United Kenya Taxi Organization demanded that Kenya’s government banned Uber from the East African nation. While this did not happen Kenyan business has spawned a domestic rival. The upshot of this rivalry is that Uber has had to diversify what it offers to customers in an attempt to stay ahead of the game.

The local rival is called Little Cab, and it was launched in July this year by the Kenyan telecommunications giant Safaricom in conjunction with software firm, Craft Silicon. Evidently this is not a story of a small startup fighting a global brand, but nevertheless it is an African company ensuring market competition. Little Cab immediately set out to quell concerns over driver wages by announcing that it would only take 15% of drivers’ earnings, compared with Uber’s standard rate of 25%.

Little Cab did not end its points of differentiation there though; it also ensured that it provided free Wi-Fi in its cars, cheaper prices, and the option for female customers to request a female driver. Not only has Little Cab proved popular with consumers, it has forced Uber to alter its standard model and try to offer more to the Kenyan public. Within months of Little Cab’s launch, Uber slashed its Kenyan prices by 35%, a move that obviously benefits the taxi using people of the country.

Little Cab also allows users to pay in cash, and due to the scope of Safaricom’s telecommunications network, the service can also be used by people without a smartphone. A simple SMS can order a taxi with Little Cab, opening up the market – to an even wider number of potential users – as around 50% of Kenyan cellphone owners do not have a smartphone yet.

Moving Forward

As Little Cab continues to grow, it is likely to fuel even greater innovation from its rival, which should mean a better service for the customers. The former national minister of technology and information, and a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Nairobi, Bitange Ndemo, highlighted the appeal of Wi-Fi in Little Cab’s cars and spoke of the rivalry with Uber saying,

“Both of them will have to look at what they are offering with bundled services in their vehicle.”

Uber claims that since its launch in Kenya, over 1 million trips have been taken by Kenyans, and that in Nairobi the service gets more than 100,000 hits a month. This is a figure that Little Cab strongly believes it will match, as Craft Silicon CEO, Kamal Budhabhatti, said that, “Little Cab aims to achieve one million rides in the next six months by entrenching and differentiating ourselves as a homegrown taxi app.”

In August of this year, drivers formed the Kenyan Digitial Taxi Association to lobby for worker rights and better pay deals. Drivers now have more leverage as they are able to simply move to a rival company if they feel the benefits are greater.

As competition for ride hailing services in Kenya steps up, if Uber want to avoid being overtaken by African innovation, they will have to work to the famous idea of “Think globally, act locally”.

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Ibrahim Hissein Bourma is the 27 year old millionaire with big dreams for Chad’s future.

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Ibrahim Hissein Bourma is only 27 years old and yet, after only 7 years in business, he already runs 3 companies with a value of around $30 million. Bourma was born and raised in Chad, and a passion for his home country is central to his business ethos, as he aims to create more than just a personal empire, but to help his nation prosper too.

3 companies inside 7 years

Bourma was born and raised in Chad, but he went to France in order to pursue higher education, graduating in 2009 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and Finance. Although Chad is not a country with a well-established history of entrepreneurship, Bourma was determined to return to his homeland in order to begin his business career. After graduation, Bourma set up his first company in Chad – Umm Alkheir Construction – which later became known as Imperial Construction. The move into construction was one that seemed logical, as Bourma’s father runs Chad’s first ever construction company. By 2014, Bourma decided to set up a second company, operating in a field that he was personally passionate about – cars. Iby Motors turned a hobby into a thriving business, as Bourma began importing automobiles of numerous types to sell within Chad, while also offering affordable maintenance at the largest garage complex in Chad.

Diversification of interests paid off, and his success encouraged Bourma to move into a third arena of enterprise – the fashion industry – as he launched Iby Fashion. Iby Fashion offered central African nations imported European fashion brands, in much the same way that Iby Motors offered car enthusiasts in Chad the opportunity to buy imported automobiles. As the 3 companies that Mr. Bourma created continued to flourish, he created the holding company Oum Alkheir Holding, of which he is the CEO. Oum Alkheir Holding had an annual turnover in excess of $30 million by last year, and Bourma is driven to continue growing his businesses, and providing Chad’s people further opportunities for work.

The future for Bourma and Chad

Mr. Bourma has made major decisions in his personal life, but even some of these are linked to his burning desire to open up more markets within Chad. Bourma is married, and after his wife gave birth to their first child he moved himself and his family to Dubai. However, despite this change in his living arrangement, his commitment to Chad’s economic development remains unwavering. Bourma explains that the main motivation behind his move was to create business connections that could benefit Chad, saying that his thought process was “If I move to Dubai, it is (with) the aim to make…relationships in the midst of international investors.”

Bourma already plans to open an Iby Fashion store in both Dubai and Montreal, as Iby now creates its own range alongside stocking established fashion labels. While 80% of Oum Alkheir Holding’s profits currently come from the Imperial Construction wing of its operations, Bourma sees opportunities to create new projects that will create more jobs within Chad. Bourma says that he is open to any proposal for new business ventures in Chad, and that he carefully looks at any new idea from prospective collaborators. Moreover, Bourma is convinced that entire areas of industry can be better organized to change Chad’s fortunes. With his existing interests in fashion, the textile industry is one that stands out, as Chad is a net exporter of cotton. Bourma states that, “While the stock is at hand, Chad has no textile industry.”

As Chad’s economy improves, Bourma sees openings in numerous areas, explaining that he wants to “revive industry in Chad” and that “everything remains to be done, in textiles, in food processing, leather etc…I’m open to new ideas and people…I like the risk, but only when controlled and calculated.”Bourma already employs 600 people, and if his ambitions for new ventures are met, than this number should grow rapidly, bringing new employment and revenue to his country of birth.

Ibrahim Hissein Bourma is already a renowned name within Chadian business and industry, but at such a young age he has years in which to make an even grander reputation for himself and his country. Only 7 years into his career, he has already created firsts within Chad’s economy, and his determination to continue in this vein should provide exciting times ahead for commerce in one of central Africa’s often overlooked nations.

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Vangsy Goma – the entrepreneur behind an African Uber.

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Vangsy Goma is the young man behind Africab, the latest Uber style taxi service within the continent of Africa. Goma himself is only 31 years old, but his company has already had an immediate impact in the Ivory Coast, and his fresh approach to the industry could reach far further than its launch site.

From Africa to Europe and back again

Vangsy Goma was born in the capital of the Republic of Congo, Brazzaville, into a powerful Congolese family. Goma’s grandmother is the wife of Congolese president, Denis Sassou Nguesso, and yet his privileged upbringing did not dent an enthusiasm to create changes in his home continent. Goma went to pursue further education in France, and eventually graduated with a degree in management and marketing from France’s IDRAC institute. Goma decided to return to Africa, and his home country, where he began working as a project manager for Congo’s Assistance Foundation – a body that focuses on spreading access to education for children within the Lower Kouilou region. By 2012, Goma changed path, and began working for the oil company CNPC as a commercial services manager; before another move into a higher position, as commercial director, at Congo’s MBTP construction company. It was during his time with MBTP that Goma devised his plan for Africab, and he began talks with professional colleagues and the investment group, CEMAC, about his vision.

The creation of Africab

While Goma could have easily avoided the stress and financial risk that comes with starting up your own business, nothing in his background (or successful early career) appears to have reduced his entrepreneurial spirit, or desire to help his own people. Goma says that it was a conversation with a friend, and fellow entrepreneur, Vérone Mankou, that led to him formulating his idea for Africab. Mankou is the man behind a highly successful Congolese mobile phone company, VMK, and Goma explains that his business model was one that inspired him, because “he turned great local demand for imported products into inclusive local economic growth. VMK means new jobs and new skills for Africa.”

Goma felt that this was something he could also use as a model to rectify a problem that he had noticed on a visit to the Ivory Coast’s capital city, Abidjan. Goma explained, “Africab is a ‘startup’ born from the observation…that African urban populations had new transportation needs.” Goma observed that many African nations had a rapidly growing middle class, and that existing transport systems were unreliable, unsafe or lacking modern facilities that many consumers desired. The initial target audience was the men and women of the professional middle classes, which is why Goma proudly describes how “In our taxis, we have electronic tablets, on which you can check emails and city guide. There is also a 4G network available on board.”

Abidjan is only the beginning

Despite being Congolese, Goma chose Abidjan as his launching point, due to “purely economic reasons and opportunities”, as the city (and Ivory Coast as a whole) has a well-established middle class, with stable growth, and a high demand for new services. However, Goma’s goal is to revolutionize transport across sub-Saharan Africa, and he is eager to bring Africab to his hometown of Brazzaville as well as many other destinations.

While Abidjan’s relative prosperity was ideal for the company’s launch, Goma wants his company to not only work for the customers, but also for its employees. Unlike Uber, and other established taxi apps, Africab owns all of its cars, directly employs its drivers, and sees long-term job creation as one of its core components. Goma says he wants it to be a truly pan-African company that provides its staff with training, and opportunities to develop their potential.

Since Africab launched in February of this year, the fleet of cars has extended from 30 to 50, and has already ordered 120 more vehicles, such is the demand! Goma states that 10,000 potential customers have downloaded the app, and he recently signed a deal with the Beninese Company, MIG Motors, which will be responsible for rolling out the service in Benin. Vangsy Goma is still only 31, but his success looks likely to continue, and investors will be watching his progress with interest.

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Peter Njonjo : from a top IT job to BBQ!

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Peter Njonjo made a risky decision last year. He left his top IT job at the European Union to launch his own prepared meats company, Gregos Foods. He says he was compelled by his love of cooking and his search to finding high-quality barbecue products in his native Kenya. He explained: “Kenya has the best meat in terms of the world, but what we are actually getting in terms of retail is not the best. I thought we could do better so we started off.” In just over one year he’s gone from a backyard conversation to seeing his products on supermarket shelves. This is a massive achievement in a country that is dominated by one industry leader: Farmer’s Foods, which has an enormous 44% of the market share. Avid cooks, Njonjo and his friends were inspired to make their own meat products by a lack of processed meats available in stores. They realized there was a gap in the market and that their homemade products were in demand and could be produced on a larger scale. He conducted a vast amount of market research and customer testing before deciding that this was a viable business. They created products such as goat sausages, bacon and beef burgers and wrapped chicken thighs, which were all extremely popular with their product testers. Although he initially knew very little about this industry, he was determined to make the company a success.

Smart business decisions that have led to success

Seven months later the first factory was opened. There were a number of factors that determined the success of the company, most of which were related to Njonjo’s business acumen and sharp, academic mind. First, he chose to rent space in an already operational factory that was running under capacity instead of an expensive new build. This factory was located in Kikuyu, a small agricultural town about 20 km outside of Nairobi. It was a central location for distribution, but considerably cheaper than renting inside the capital city, and much closer to the meat producers they would rely on. Next, he reached out to his network of friends and ex-colleagues for assistance in areas that he lacked specific expertise, such as HR, finance and marketing. This avoided expenses on external consultants services, and reduced the startup costs considerably. They relied on social media marketing, local events and word-of- mouth for publicity and slowly built a loyal consumer base through their home and business deliveries. They eventually broke into retail and secured deals with supermarkets to stock their products.

Savvy spending of profits, brand awareness and driving sales

He explained that they don’t expect to make any money in the first year, offering deals to spread brand awareness and ploughing profits back into increasing production capabilities. The company also elected to use influencers and food bloggers to drive sales and publicity. The biggest challenge, says Njonjo, is competing with industry leaders, who have significant visibility and customer loyalty. The focus has been maximizing their exposure to challenge these market leaders, something many competitors/newcomers have failed to do in the Kenyan food industry.

The future for Njonjo and Gregor Foods

After just one year in business, “Gregos Foods” is booming. The company has plans to expand its manufacturing capacity to meet growing demand and have recently expanded into wholesale, as well as catering for hotels and restaurants. The long-term goal is to expand into the export market, supplying products to neighboring African countries, and even beyond. They intend to collaborate with other small-scale producers who have unique recipes and are looking for production and distribution partners. This could see Gregos Foods growing into a parent company for a number of different producers, while at the same time helping other people like Njonjo who had a plan/an idea but struggled to compete with dominant giants in the food industry. His advice to other entrepreneurs is to be realistic about the market: “Give yourself time to grow, go for what you can do best and ensure that you add value as opposed to being ordinary.” With the rise of food and manufacturing entrepreneurs across the continent, people like Njonjo have been encouraged to follow their dreams. Although he has no experience in the in food industry, his business expertise has enabled him to succeed where others have failed.

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Algerian billionaire bets on investments abroad

Comments (0) Africa, Business

Sugar refining fueled the fortune of Algeria’s richest man, Issad Rebrab.

Originally trained to be an accountant Rebrab launched Cevital, Algeria’s largest private company and owner of one of the largest sugar refineries in the world as well as a string of companies in the country and abroad.

The son of revolutionaries who fought for Algeria’s independence from France, Rebrab became the country’s first billionaire in 2013. Forbes estimates his net worth at $3.4 billion, making him the ninth wealthiest person on the African continent.

Now 72, Rebrab came from modest beginnings. He completed accounting studies at a vocational school and started his career teaching accounting and business law. He went on to start his own accounting firm in 1968.

Invests in metallurgic industry

He followed a client’s advice to invest in the metallurgical construction business, and in 1971, he acquired a 20 percent stake in Sotecom, a metallurgic manufacturing company.

Rebrab later said it was a risky move, but “at worst, I knew I could always go back to teaching.”

His fortunes took a nose dive in 1995 when terrorist attacks destroyed his factories costing him more than $1 billion. He was then forced into exile to France.

Three years later he returned to Algeria to establish Cevital.

Refinery produces sugar, oil and margarine

The company headquartered in Béjaïa is one of Algeria’s largest exporters in addition to providing products for domestic consumption, including sugar, vegetable oil and margarine. The sugar refinery produces 1.5 million tons annually. In 2012, Cevital produced 450,000 tons of oil for domestic consumption as well as quantities of liquid sugar for the country’s sodas industry. Cevital products are exported around the world, including to West Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

His other industrial interests include petro chemistry, steel, and naval and automobile construction. Rebrab is the sole Algerian enacting agent for Samsun Electronics in his country thanks to his subsidiary company named Samha .Cevicar another subsidiary is the sole agent of the car rental agency Europcar.

All five of his children now work in his businesses, which employ a total of more than 13,000 in Algeria.

Rebrab is betting that his country can compete with China for cheap labor. “We have huge potential; we can make up for lost time very quickly,” he said.

A string of investments in Europe, Sudan

He is also one of only a few Algerian businessmen that have expanded activities outside the country.

Rebrab has diversified his holdings by acquiring distressed companies in Europe.

In 2014, he acquired Groupe Brandt, a large maker of appliances based in France that had filed for bankruptcy protection. Cevital invested more than $200 million to build a Brandt plant in Algeria, which will employ 7,500 people.

Since 2013 the company has also purchased the Spanish aluminum smelter Alas Aluminum, the French assets of the Spanish household appliance manufacturer Fagor, and the Italian steelmaker Lucchini.

Cevital has also ventured south, with a 2014 agreement to invest $3 billion to develop production of sugar cane in Sudan.

Court cancels sale of Media Company

Earlier this year, Rebrab agreed to buy the media group El-Khabar for $35 million. The newspapers is published in Arab-language publication with a circulation of more than 500,000.

The Algerian Ministry of Communication challenged the acquisition, citing a law that prohibits a company from owning more than one general news company Rebrab already owning the French-language newspaper Liberté.

In July, an administrative court of Algiers gave reason to the government and cancelled the sale of El-Khabar.

 

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Tidal Wave of Change for London’s Property Market

Comments (0) Business, Middle East, UK

In late June of this year, the United Kingdom shocked the world when it voted Leave to the referendum on the European Union. The effects of the vote were immediate: the British pound plummeted 11%, reaching its lowest point against the American dollar since 1985 and the booming commercial real estate sector in London hit a wall. One-third of on-going deals either collapsed or had to be re-negotiated as realtors and buyers dealt with the news of the “Brexit.”

The Gulf Steps In

Some overseas investors, however, were not quite so shakened: buyers from the Middle East, particularly from the Gulf region, identified an opportunity. With the drop in value of the Pound, wealthy Saudis moved in to purchase Londonian properties that were out of their budget weeks ago.
One notable example was the $1.3 billion bid put forward by a group of Saudi and UK investors for the London Grosvenor House hotel as well as a share in the Plaza and Dream Downtown hotels, both being located in New York. Prior to the vote, institutions based in EU countries were the largest consumers of British property but, following the Brexit vote, a “window of opportunity” opened for “more agile private investors and corporates seeking to make the most of currency shifts.”
Jassim Alseddiqi, chief executive of Abu Dhabi Financial Group, said his company is looking to acquire other London properties while potential rivals are hesitant to wade into the post-Brexit market. Abu Dhabi Financial Group (ADFG) has already an impressive portfolio of about $2.6 billion in capital developments in London. ADFG includes investors from Abu Dhabi’s elite, including the royal family. The company plans to bid on Hyde Park Barracks in the upscale London neighborhood of Knightsbridge. The properties are currently owned by the British Minister of Defense, who is looking to sell.
According to Mr. Alseddiqi, investment requests from Gulf buyers have increased by about 25% since the referendum. What makes this all more interesting is that most of Mr. Alseddiqi’s clients had shown no interest in capitalising in real-estate investment prior to the vote.

Those Closer to Home Step Back

While opportunities for investment are increasing, European institutions are retreating from the market. Germany’s Union Investment pulled out of a long-negotiated potential settlement to purchase a $610 million office building to the City of London in the immediate aftermath of the referendum.
James Beckham, head of central London investment firm, Cushman & Wakefield, is confident in that this trend is temporary : “institutional investors have become more cautious. For them it’s a ‘wait and see’ approach over the summer. They will come back in September and see what the temperature is like.” One can only hope that the property investment climate is warmer than the infamously grey British summers. Middle Eastern investors are not the only ones capitalizing on the delightfully low value of sterling: Chinese investors, particularly those from Hong Kong, are also seizing the opportunity to purchase properties in some of London’s most elite neighborhoods. The reason behind this is, according to those in the know, that for those who have been in the property game for a long time the chance to buy a building at a 10% discount is simply too good to pass up. It will be interesting to watch what happens to London as the population demographics of property owners change in the city’s commercial and high-end neighborhoods.

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Olatorera Oniru and her journey to successful e-commerce business leader

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Leaders

At just 29 years old, Oniru has achieved more in the last decade than many people do in a lifetime. She grew up partly in Nigeria, and partly in the USA, which provided her with a unique mix of cultural experiences and educational background. She moved to the US with her family at the beginning of high school, after which she completed a business administration degree at North Carolina A&T University in 2008.

Wall Street, Banking and Life in New York

After university, she was recruited to Wall Street where she spent two “exhilarating” years at Bank of America Merrill Lynch as a Senior Analyst. Africa was still on her mind however, and she always knew she would return to her homeland. During her years at Wall Street, she also served as the co-founder and president of the Network of African Professionals in New York City. Following her success in New York, she accepted a role with the Bank of Nigeria as a Senior Supervisor which she eventually gave up to complete her Master’s degree at Emory University, Atlanta. During her years in the business world Oniru traveled to over 50 cities in four different continents. This exposure to different industries, cultures and environments was instrumental in the development of her later business. She had aspirations to connect Africa with the rest of the world through something she loved: Fashion.

Unfulfilled by the Corporate World

The majority of the business plan for Dressmeoutlet was finalized while she was completing her Master’s degree at Emory. She had spent several years working for fortune 500 companies in both the USA and Nigeria and had established herself in the corporate world. Despite holding prestigious roles and earning a substantial salary, she says she never felt 100% comfortable in this environment. She felt ill at ease living in a materialistic, corporate environment, knowing the poverty rate was over 65% in her native Nigeria. She took her financial experience and business acumen and established her e-commerce fashion startup in January 2016. It has been referred to as “the Amazon of the fashion world” and essentially connects retailers and consumers via a giant online shopping database. After just six months of operation it has customers in over 15 different countries including the US and France. Although it showcases apparel, accessories and beauty products from all over the world, it strongly favors African producers, which is the motivation behind the company. Oniru wants to create global visibility for African products while creating employment and opportunities for people throughout the continent.

Big Plans for an even Bigger Picture

Oniru only thinks in grand terms. She wants her business to act as a catalyst for the African fashion industry’s emergence, while also combating cyclical poverty and youth employment in undeveloped areas. She said recently, “Success for me, means witnessing a reduction in poverty across Africa, witnessing a worldwide increase in the appreciation of human creativity.” She believes in her company 100%. Her dream of fighting youth unemployment while becoming a role model for other entrepreneurs and women inspired her. She took a leap of faith, leaving her lucrative career in finance to found her ambitious start-up venture. Fortunately, this has paid off and her website already stocks over 1000 different products from across the globe. In just six months it has become a major player in the e-commerce world, and has connected over 500 artisans with consumers. Oniru is more invested in this than most entrepreneurs, funding the startup entirely from her own savings. She explains: “I love fashion, I love the retail industry, and I love Africa. Beyond that, I have always had the yearn to go entrepreneurial and develop my own empire that would serve as a role model to other startup journeys”. Oniru’s tenacity, experience and drive are evidently a winning combination. She is committed to social change and inspired by fuelling development in Africa. If the last six months are anything to go by, this fashion retailer is here to stay.

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Tech start-up MAGNiTT and its founder Philip Bahoshy

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Leaders, Middle East, Technology

Philip Bahoshy and his groundbreaking company MAGNiTT are revolutionizing the start-up industry. What’s interesting is that MAGNiTT is itself a start-up firm. So how is Bahoshy simultaneously helping new companies, while nurturing his own venture through its infancy period? Bahoshy, 31, was raised in the U.K and has Iraqi roots. He obtained a BSc in Economics from the prestigious London School of Economics which he completed in 2006. In 2007, Bahoshy made a move to Dubai to work for the highly regarded management consultancy firm Oliver Wyman, where he immersed himself in the corporate world. He then made a move to Barclays Wealth in 2010 to work as the chief of staff for the CEO of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

A start-up for start-ups

His high-flying corporate career bestowed him with an acute understanding of the business and investment landscape in the MENA space. Upon completion of his Master’s degree in 2013, Bahoshy was looking to go solo and start his own firm. Armed with a slew of business ideas, he was keen to get the ball rolling; however, he struggled to find investment, guidance and concept validation. After speaking with other start-ups, Bahoshy came to realize that although Dubai was a vibrant and energetic hub for all kinds of business people, new firms weren’t always making the right connections. He described this as “start-ups struggling in isolation.” This realization gave birth to MAGNiTT, which Bahoshy founded late in 2014. He envisaged building an online ecosystem that would make life easier for start-ups to find the various supports they need, while enabling external parties to identify fledgling firms that they are interested in. Initially, MAGNiTT solely focused on linking start-ups with investment. He explained: “We identified that the real pain point in the region is access to angel funding – basically $100,000 to $250,000.” He elaborated, explaining that start-ups often struggle making the transition from setting up the firm with their own capital, to developing a viable business that is ready for substantial investment from venture capitalists. Linking start-ups with angel investors is often critical if firms are to bridge this gap.

An online pitching platform and more

Bahoshy already had other ideas about how MAGNiTT could develop and provide further services. Firstly, he realized that it can be bewildering for investors and other parties when trying to identify start-ups, and that his product needed to work seamlessly. He focused on making MAGNiTT a streamlined online portal where start-ups have to outline the core concepts of their product. They have to succinctly present their business idea and the problem it solves, their elevator pitch, their target market, the competition, and finally, monetization. External parties can filter and search profiles for concepts they are interested in, analyze the product outline, access further information and ultimately connect with firms that they want to start a dialogue with. Bahoshy was already aware that start-ups need more than just funding to get off the ground. He focused on bringing mentors, accelerator programs, service providers and co-founders to the ecosystem. For start-ups, they can request what kind of support they are looking for. According to MAGNiTT’s data, 58% of start-ups on the site have listed that they are looking for mentorship, 56% are interested in showcasing supports, while 26% are looking for legal support or backing.

Major interest, new features and the future 

In January, Bahoshy had a respectable 200 start-ups signed up to MAGNiTT. Since then the site has exploded and today there are over 1400 start-ups and thousands of users registered on the platform.The site is already helping to forge valuable connections that are taking start-ups to the next level. Bahoshy has said that he wants to bring resources such as video conferencing, legal, marketing and HR services to the site. Additionally, MAGNiTT has recently launched a blog alongside a raft of materials relevant for start-up firms. He is also looking to bring Venture Capitalists into the platform to assist start-ups later down the line. MAGNiTT is itself listed as a start-up on MAGNiTT. Uniquely, its own success is being defined by how well it creates opportunities for all of its parties. For Bahoshy it’s so far so good and he is currently in negotiations with interested investors. It looks as though MAGNiTT is set to take off while bringing other great business ideas along for the ride.

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