Business
Category

Can Bahrain’s Fintech Bay hub lead the region?

Comments (0) Business, Featured, 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

Read more

Agricultural data is becoming big business in Africa

Comments (0) Business, Featured, 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

Read more

Dubai Expo 2020: Connecting Minds, Creating the Future

Comments (0) Business, Featured, Middle East

It would appear that Dubai can do no wrong at the moment. With visitor numbers in 2019 up 5.1% from 2018 to a new high of 16.73 million, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates continues to look for new ways to bedazzle the world. 

As the first city in the Middle East to hold a World Expo, Dubai has a chance to not only put its own achievements and plans for the future on show but to host countries from around the world willing to share, show off, and sell their own ideas and developments.

But just what is a World Expo?

The idea originated with France’s national exhibitions with 1844’s French Industrial Exposition often touted as the greatest of the time. But it was 1851’s “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations’ held at London’s Crystal Palace that is seen as the blueprint for all the world expos up to the present day. The London World Expo is viewed as the first exhibition of manufactured products from around the world and is seen as having a major influence on trade, tourism, and art & design for decades to come. 

The development of World Expos is split into three distinct eras. The first, from 1851 to 1938, focused very much on industrialisation, and showcased technological progress and inventions. From 1939 to 1987, it was the era of culture, with the sharing of cultural ideas as well as innovation. The modern era, which began in 1988 in Brisbane, focuses more on the idea of nation branding, with countries seeking to improve their image to potential investors and tourists. 

It is difficult to judge the economic benefits to countries that participate in the Expos. The average cost of a pavilion at Hanover’s Expo 2000 was €12 million ($13 million), a figure that puts many countries off. However, an independent study into The Netherlands’ investment at Hanover estimated that their €35 million pavilion generated around €350 million in revenues for the country.

Few If Any Countries Do It Better Than Dubai

When it comes to nation branding, few if any countries do it better than Dubai. It’s a name that has become synonymous with luxury and with making dreams come true. Global recognition of Dubai is extremely high, thanks in no small part to the state carrier, Emirates Airlines, whose sponsorship deals outstrip any of their competitors. They sponsor Arsenal, Real Madrid, and Paris St Germain, three of Europe’s leading football clubs. 

World Expos take place every five years and last for six months. Dubai won a resounding victory in 2013 at the 154th General Assembly of the governing body of world expos, the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE).

Dubai 2020’s central theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” reflects the philosophy Dubai follows in attracting some of the world’s leading scientists and tech innovators to work in this small gulf state. The Expo also has three subthemes:

  • Opportunity. Bringing together the people with the potential to help shape our future. 
  • Mobility. Creating a smarter world where it is easier for people, ideas, and goods to move around the world. 
  • Sustainability. Respecting the world we live in and finding ways to preserve it. 

The Expo site itself lies in the Dubai South district, within easy reach of three airports (Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai International Airport, and Abu Dhabi International Airport) as well as the Dubai and Abu Dhabi cruise terminals. The Dubai 2020 site will also have its own metro line which will be capable of transporting 40,000 passengers per hour. The Expo site is open from 9am to 1am every weekday and from 10am to 2am at weekends and on holidays. 

Millions of Visitors, 200 Participants, 192 Countries

Over the six months’ duration, millions of visitors will visit the pavilions from some 200 participants representing 192 countries. Given that previous World Expos have given us architectural wonders such as the Eiffel Tower and the Seattle Space Needle, as well as things we now take for granted such as the typewriter or Heinz Tomato Soup, the anticipation is already growing for the Expo’s opening on October 20th.

The focal point of the Expo will be the Al Wasl Plaza, named after Dubai’s historical name of Al Wasl – the connection – due to how it connected people from around the world. The site will have three thematic districts, anchored by an accompanying pavilion, and all linked to the Expo’s theme and subthemes. The UAE will have its own pavilion, designed by Santiago Calatrava and resembling a falcon in flight. With exhibitions, performances, art, music, gardens, and food from every corner of the globe, Dubai 2020 promises to be as spectacular as Dubai itself. 

Photos : rnz.de / e3.capital/ apnews.com

Read more

Tourist numbers to Dubai continue to grow in 2019

Comments (0) Business, Featured

When you look at most cities in the world that serves as major tourist destinations, they tend to have long and illustrious histories. London and Hong Kong both have histories dating back 2,000 years or more, Luxor dates back over 5,000, and Athens some 3,500 years. But Dubai is very much a modern city in every way with little in the way of history, so it was very much a sandy tabula rasa for the rulers to write their ideas and dreams on. 

Although Dubai has brief mentions in the annals of travellers and traders as far back as the 11th century, it was little more than a waypoint though the general area was popular for pearl fishers. The Al Abu Falasa dynasty founded Dubai proper in the early years of the 19th century and one early historical footnote of interest is the signing of the “General Maritime Peace Treaty” between several of the regions sheikhs and the British government which was the first formal denunciation of slavery in history. 

In 1892, Dubai became a British protectorate, with tax exemption granted to foreign traders in 1894. By the early years of the 20th century, the Sheikh of Dubai had convinced a British steamship company to make Dubai a port of call, perhaps the first real hint of the city’s future. The merchant class gained strength with Dubai cementing its position as the main – and busiest – port in the Gulf, and they continue to be at the heart of the city’s political and power structures.

Dubai had a lean period between 1920 and the late 1960s with economic blows from the collapse of the pearl industry, the Great Depression, and World War II. This period was marked not only by poverty but by political unrest and instability. 

Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum : the Modernisation and Revitalisation of Dubai

Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum became ruler of Dubai in 1958 and it was he who was the driving force behind the modernisation and revitalisation of the city. The United Kingdom’s announcement in the late 1960s that they were withdrawing protection led to the foundation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971 in order for the small kingdoms to work together in defence and economically. 

But it was oil that was the real game-changer for the area but for Dubai in particular. With the discovery of oil in 1966 and the first shipment in 1969, the ruling family now had the funds to start realising their visions for the city.

Emirates Airlines has played a big part in the growth of Dubai. It operates over 3,600 flights a week from Dubai and the geographical location of Dubai has helped it become the major hub for many long-haul flights. The government saw that people looking to break up 15-25 hour flights offered huge potential tourism wise and billions of dollars were pumped into that area. They also realised that as oil production slowed down in the early 1990s – not to mention the constantly fluctuating prices – they need to diversify in order to survive and grow. 

A New Record of 16.73 Million of Tourists

That diversification has seen Dubai become not only a major tourist destination but also a regional centre for finance and real estate. Its diversity is perhaps underlined by the fact that some 90% of its population are foreigners, with many seeing the rich emirate as an ideal hub for many types of businesses.

2019 was a record year, with visitor numbers rising 5.1% from the previous year to a new record of 16.73 million. India keeps its top spot of providing the most visitors, with just under two million tourists, and Saudi Arabia and the UK stay 2nd and 3rd respectively. Omani tourists saw the biggest jump with a 24.3% increase in visitors from 2019. 

So why do so many tourists continue to flock to Dubai? As mentioned, a major factor is the city’s location combined with the routes flown by Emirates Airline. Many people initially chose to just have a one-day layover in the city to break up their long haul flights and to reduce the effects of jet lag. But now, the average length of stay is 3.5 to 4 nights, giving visitors an opportunity to sample some of Dubai’s many attractions. 

The Magnificence of the Burj Khalifa and the Splendour of the Burj Al-Arab

And this is where Dubai excels. They have taken a hot and arid desert with average temperatures that range from 25 degrees Celsius to the low 40s and turned it into an air-conditioned paradise for tourists and expats. The magnificence of the Burj Khalifa and the splendour of the Burj al-Arab (the world’s tallest hotel) continues to wow visitors. The Dubai Mall offers a cornucopia of shopping and entertainment choices and the Dubai Aquarium attached to the mall is one of the city’s most popular tourist spots. 

But not all the attractions are modern. The beauty of the Jumeirah Mosque is a must-see and the souks of Deira give a glimpse into Dubai’s merchant past. Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is perfect for nature lovers and Kite Beach is ideal for those looking to soak up some rays or watch the spectacular kite-surfing. 

Dubai is a destination that offers something for everyone – if you can afford it – and numbers will likely continue to grow throughout the coming decade. 

Photos : gulfnews.com/ arabianbusiness.com/ thenational.ae

Read more

Moroccan-American Team Wins First African Solar Decathlon

Comments (0) Business, Featured

In a time where climate change is a phrase on many people’s lips, it is heartening to see renewed efforts to find ways to use renewable energy in our daily lives. One such effort is The Solar Decathlon Africa, first held in Morocco in September, 2019. The principal idea behind the contest is for international collegiate teams to build a house – judged over 10 categories – that is solely powered by the sun. The contest is modelled on the original Solar Decathlon held every second year in the U.S. since 2002. 

The contest has expanded from America, with Solar Decathlons now held in Europe, China, Latin America and Caribbean, and the Middle East, as well as this new one in Africa. 

To Design and Construct a House That Uses Zero Net Energy

The inaugural African competition, held in Ben Guerir in Morocco’s central Rehamna Province, took place from September 13th to the 27th, 2019. With more than 1,200 entrants from 20 countries, the competition is not only international but is also underpinned by international cooperation as many of the teams comprised members from more than one country. 

The idea is to design and construct a house that uses zero net energy. That is to say, the whole house must be powered by renewable energy, in this case solar. Teams are judged over the following 10 categories, with each category offering 10 points to be won (architecture, engineering and construction, market appeal, comfort conditions, appliances, sustainability…).

There were two primary organisers of the competition in Morocco. The first was IRESEN; a research organisation and institute founded in 2011 by the Moroccan Ministry of Energy, Mining, Water and Environment, and which cooperates with several of Morocco’s key energy companies. The second organiser was Ben Guerir’s University Mohammed VI Polytechnic. The jury consisted of 27 members, chosen from a wide range of fields including education and business and representing several countries. 

One factor all teams were asked to incorporate into their designs was recognition of Africa’s cultural and architectural heritage. With harsh conditions across the continent, building design has often evolved to recognise this challenge and to include features which protects inhabitants against these climactic factors. A good example of this is the narrows streets and thick-walled houses found in Morocco’s Medina which keep the heat out at the height of summer and in when the winters get cold. 

The Inter House Winner of the First African Competition

The winners of this first African competition were the Inter House Team, a multidisciplinary cooperative effort between Colorado’s School of Mines, Marrakech’s National School of Architecture, and Cadi Ayyad University, also from Marrakech. They used CSEBs (Compressed Stabilised Earth Blocks) as their primary building material for the house walls, comprised of 95% local soil and 5% lime cement to stabilize the blocks. Not only do these CSEBs reflect the traditional brickwork of Morocco, but they also provide work for locals while offering a sustainable and energy efficient building material. 

One thing the team wanted to achieve was the marriage of modern and traditional values and styles. Taking inspiration from the famed courtyards which often form the heart of Moroccan homes, the team also made the courtyard the centre of their design. As well as offering a private outdoor space, the courtyard divided the home in two, with sleeping areas to the northwest and living and dining areas to the southeast.

But, of course, the main idea behind these designs was to be energy efficient, a real challenge in the local climate. The house’s CERV (conditioning energy recovery ventilator) utilised a highly efficient heat pump that exchanged energy between the incoming supply and the outgoing exhaust air. Combined with the CSEB walls used, this system not only keeps the house full of fresh air, but also monitors air quality throughout the house using special sensors. The system also allows occupants to monitor and set the home’s VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) and CO2 levels as well as temperature and humidity levels. 

To Allow To Control Lighting, Window Shades

The home also features a state of the art HACS (Home Automated Control System) that allows the homeowners to not only monitor several environmental aspects of the home’s interior but also to control things such as lighting, window shades, etc. 

Power for the house comes from two types of solar panels. The first is a rooftop system that supplies most of the house and the second is a solar thermal system to supply renewable hot water. The way the system was designed using heat transfer eliminates any need for boilers or electric pumps. 

One of the most innovative features of the winning design was its constructed wetland, a specially designed and built black water filtration system. The water filters through rocks and plants where natural bacteria remove or breaks down any toxins or pathogens. This not only sustains the plants in the filtration system but also provides water to use for landscaping or irrigation. 

An Increasing Level of Cooperation across Borders and Between Diverse Organizations

With increasing worry over a changing climate, it is encouraging to see not only innovative ideas in creating energy efficient homes, but also the increasing level of cooperation across borders and between diverse organizations. While the homes in the competition, complete with all their technological gadgetry, are mainly aimed at middle class buyers, many of the ideas will be able to be incorporated into lower income homes in the future. 

Photos : insidearabia.com / iresen.org

Read more

Anbessa: Best Foot Forward for This Ethiopian Shoemaker

Comments (0) Business, Featured

When you think of an international shoe exporter, Ethiopia may not be the first country that springs to mind. Yet Anbessa Shoe Share Company, based in the Akaky Kaliti suburb of Addis Ababa, has been making its mark across Africa as well as several international export markets. 

Originally founded in the 1930s by an Italian expatriate living in Ethiopia, the company has had an at times turbulent past. Operating as DARMAR in the 1950s, it made shoes for men, women, and children. But in the 1970s, it was nationalised by the Derg Regime, the shortened name for the ‘Provisional Military Government of Socialist Ethiopia’, a Communist Marxist-Leninist military junta that ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987. The fall of communism worldwide also affected Ethiopia and led to the formation of the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in February of 1987. 

The company remained under government control until 2011 when it was purchased by the current owner, Ato Tedla Yizengaw. Yizengaw, a serial entrepreneur who owns several thriving Ethiopian businesses, and who has guided Anbessa into a new era with the backing of a strong board of directors.

Anbessa exports to Africa, the USA, EU, Middle East, and Asia

With a staggering 65-70% of the domestic market, Anbessa also exports to the rest of Africa as well as the USA, EU, Middle East, and Asia. While its primary product is shoes, it also manufactures bags and belts, ensuring that no leather is wasted in the production process. 

Its growth and success has been recognised by the Brand Africa 100 ratings, with position #23 in 2018 followed by an impressive climb to #12 in 2019. It is the sole Ethiopian brand recognised in the Brand Africa charts. Export figures for 2017 exceeded $750,000, a figure they hope to grow steadily with a new factory looking to increase production levels.

In September 2017, the company moved into a new UD$15 million production plant in Akaky Kaliti. The primary aim of the new plant was to ramp up production from the previous 3500 pairs of shoes made daily to a new output of 10,000 pairs daily. But Yizengaw is an astute businessman and knows that it’s not just about quantity; he needs to improve and maintain quality to increase their export market. So the company has partnered with the Leather Industry Development Institute (LIDI), an Ethiopian organisations founded in 2010 to offer training to all areas of the leather industry and to improve skills at all levels of the workforce.

To increase their export volume from 10% to 70%

More recently, Anbessa bought the bankrupt Habesha Tannery in July of 2019 for just under 1 million US dollars. This will allow the company to not only produce their own leather but also to have a much more hands-on approach to quality control at every stage of the manufacturing process. Anbessa sees the acquisition of the tannery as a crucial part of their plan to vastly increase their volume of exports. The machinery in the tannery – which Anbessa plans to expand – was worth over US$1 million alone, so it was a clever bit of business. The Turkish company who had owned the tannery had become bogged down in default payments with the Development Bank of Ethiopia. Anbessa hopes that the new acquisition combined with their new factory will increase their export volume from 10% to 70%. 

As well as the quality of their footwear, many commentators point to Anbessa’s business practices as a major positive. All the material they use in production comes from sustainable sources, a major selling point when it comes to international markets. And their focus on fair treatment for all their workforce – up to 1,636 since moving to the new factory – also draws praise. The staff received discounted meals in the factory’s modern and clean cafeteria. Every staff member also receives free medical check-ups, and the factory itself meets stringent safety standards. The company also adheres to International Labor Organization (ILO) regulations, ensuring that all staff are of minimum working age and that no minors are ever employed. 

With experienced and forward-thinking management, a dedicated and well-treated workforce, and quality products that are being more and more recognised internationally, Anbessa is a success story that looks like it will keep on growing. 

Photos: resolution.studio / squarespace-cdn.com / twimg.com

Read more

Transmashholding’s African Adventure

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Transport

Andrey Bokarev’s railway machine manufacturing company, Transmashholding, acquires its First Factory in Africa as the Continent Seeks to Revitalise its Railway Systems and Trains

With Africa, the second-fastest-growing continent from an economic perspective, development of efficient and cost-effective transport and logistics infrastructure are of paramount importance. The continent is not only rich in resources but is also fast developing as a robust manufacturing centre. The challenge for these economies is to ensure swift transport of containers and goods to the various African ports and onto global markets. 

Rail transport is at the forefront of any logistics development and recent years have seen increased investment and new initiatives. And with the planned Africa Integrated High-Speed Network – part of the Agenda 2063 Continent Development Plan – gathering steam, almost every African country is now looking to invest, or seek investment, in improving their railway infrastructure and stock.

The Real Way Forward is the Railway

The main hurdle facing these plans is that existing railways systems, mainly dating from the colonial era, are often in poor states of repair or the routes are unsuitable for future plans. The latter of these factors is mainly due to colonial planners usually using the shortest or quickest routes rather than ones which brought benefits to the country as a whole. Another long-range hurdle to continental integration is the fact that there are at least six different gauges in use. 

The inauguration of Transmashholding’s (as TMH Africa here) first African factory in April of 2019 illustrates the Russia-based conglomerates’ commitment to expansion and investment across Africa and Company’s president Andrey Bokarev business talent (a few months after a €1bn five-year contract between Egyptian National Railways and Transmashholding-Hungary  were signed in 2018.) The 45,000m² plant, situated in Boksburg, Gauteng, has been producing rolling stock since 1911, thus allowing TMH Africa to hit the ground running with an existing facility and workforce. 

The South African factory marks stage one of TMH International’s planned investment in Africa of over $32 million, and initial plans at Boksburg include the upgrading of the factory and machinery as well as retraining and upskilling of current employees.

TMH Enters the South African Train Market

It is also worth noting that Gauteng Province is the location of the Tambo Springs Project, a greenfield transport hub comprising road, air, and rail, and valued at $15 billion. There is also the planned container terminal at Ekurhuleni, some 20km from the new TMH International facility. 

South Africa is now the leading country in Africa for rail freight – at 99.5Mt a kilometre – and the map below shows not only how intensive the African Union’s plans for developing transport infrastructure is, but also how central to that plan South Africa is. 

Jerome Boyet, CEO of TMH Africa, sees the company’s role in Africa as being a local partner with local and global manufacturing companies seeking to fulfil orders across Africa as well as producing their own rolling stock. As Boyet pointed out, a large part of their decision to choose this location was based on: “…our understanding that South Africa’s real potential to become a leader in rolling stock manufacturing for Africa remains untapped.”

With continued economic growth and inward investment to transport systems across the continent, most observers would agree that TMH Africa’s investment is one with long term promise.

Read more

7th Single Window Conference Looks to Boost Trade Links

Comments (0) Africa, Business

Between the 17th and 19th of September 2019, the 7th annual International Conference on Single Window of the African Alliance for Electronic Commerce (AACE) was held in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. Present were leading players in logistics and supply chains, and over 40 delegations for foreign countries including 18 African countries. 

The idea behind a single-window system is to improve the efficiency of international trade, in this case particularly the concept of intra-African trade across the region. In order to work properly, this would require a single entity or location where companies would submit all their documents such as customs declarations or permits for import and export. So, if a company in Kenya wished to export its goods to 12 other African countries, rather than going through 12 separate sets of regulations and multiple submission of documents, they would instead do it all through one single entity. 

A single market with a billion consumers

Africa has seen a lot of rapid economic development in recent years, much of that down to cooperation across the continent. Recent developments have included the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) in March of 2018, which has committed to removing intra-regional tariffs on some 90% of goods. If this agreement is successful it will create a single market with in excess of a billion consumers and a total GDP of over US$3 trillion. It was an agreement that the continent needed badly; in 2017, African intra-region trade only accounted for 17% of exports. When compared to Asia (59%) and Europe (69%), it is clear that as a potential trade bloc, Africa was lagging behind and missing out on the many benefits that come with such high rates of ‘local’ trade. 

The September conference focused on two main aims; the growing potential of e-commerce across the continent, and optimizing the supply chains of landlocked countries with no port access. The latter of these is something that will need massive investment in infrastructure, particularly railways and roads. And we are seeing that investment already happening across Africa.

450 million African mobile users and 300 million more expected

But it is the e-commerce factor which is perhaps the most exciting as it needs a lot less in terms of total investment. In some ways, Africa has been able to leapfrog many developed nations in terms of developing e-commerce. With lower rates of banking and credit card use, there has been a need to develop innovative payment methods such as e-wallets which people can top up at local agents, giving them a balance on their mobile with which to purchase goods. And with generally widespread internet penetration across much of Africa, there are large numbers of new consumers coming online. With around 450 million mobile users currently and another 300 million expected to have access in the next 3 years or so, companies are recognizing the potential of this reservoir of consumers with disposable income. 

The concept of the single window is a natural step in the development of AfCFTA. These annual conferences aim to develop the single window concept following the guidelines already established by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the World Customs Organisation (WCO). While a continent-wide single window may be some years off, The African Alliance for e-Commerce hopes to establish national and regional ones as a stepping stone to a continental one. Many African countries are already cooperating on cross border trade already, with several trade zones already in operation. Of particular note is the East African Community (EAC) which comprises Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. It has shown the best progress as far as moving towards a common trade area is concerned and could serve as a template for the continent as a whole. 

A single window to reduce tax and to optimize the African potential

Developing single window systems will reduce tax and tariff burdens and make the movement of goods across borders far easier than the present. But there are still many barriers to successful implementation. The continuing conflict in some areas, low-level corruption at borders and customs points, and even the motives of individual countries may hamper a quick solution. But with the massive potential for businesses, there will be a continued push to establish an Africa-wide single window in the near future.

Read more

Transmashholding Signs Major Egyptian Deal

Comments (0) Business, Transport

Summary: The deal between Egyptian National Railways and Transmashholding-Hungary Kft. looks like being the start of a long and fruitful relationship.

When Egypt’s first railway system was commissioned by the Regent of Egypt and Sudan, Abbas I, in 1851, he chose for it to be built by one of the 19th Century’s greatest engineers, Robert Stephenson. The vision was that Egypt’s transport system would rival the best transport systems globally.

Sadly, after many years of poor maintenance and management, Egypt’s rail system has in the last few decades become known as one of the world’s most dangerous. This has led to the Egyptian government making the decision to revitalise the entire infrastructure and rolling stock as well as investing in new routes. This was an important decision, not only in terms of improving safety but also in terms of economic development. Egypt’s rail network not only transports some 1.4 million passengers a day but is also a vital component in goods and container transport, especially when you consider that Egypt has the highest container traffic in Africa with almost 7 million units shipped annually. As most of this traffic passes through the Suez Canal, increasing rail capacity would help the country diversify its commercial transport networks.

1,300 passenger cars in 5 years with ENR Worth Over 1 Billion Euros

The announcement in September 2018 that Egyptian National Railways (ENR) had signed a contract with Transmashholding-Hungary Kft. (a Russian-Hungarian consortium) to produce and deliver 1,300 passenger cars represents a major part of the Egyptian government’s plans. Worth in excess of 1 billion Euros, the contract is for five years from the date of signing. Such a deal is also based on the close economic links between Egypt and Russia, and the choice of Transmashholding is no coincidence: the company led by an influential Russian businessman, Andrey Bokarev, is a world leader in railway manufacturing.

Transmashholding-Hungary Kft.’s production of the rolling stock represents a major part of Egypt’s planned investment in their railway systems, with over 3 billion Euros of total investment already announced. It is also the largest single contract ever agreed by Egyptian National Railways (ENR). Transmashholding-Hungary Kft. beat bids from companies from several other countries, including China, India, and Italy.

Production of the five different classes of passenger car will be split equally between the Hungarian side of the consortium, Dunakeszi Jarmujavito Kft., and the Tver Carriage Works in North-western Russia, which is owned by Transmashholding.Final assembly and fitting of the rolling stock will take place at a specially created plant in Egypt which will be a partnership between TMH International AG (part of JSC Transmashholding) and the National Organization for Military Production in the Arab Republic of Egypt. The plant will also enable maintenance of the new passenger cars.

A radical change for Egypt

Martin Vaujour, CEO of TMH International said: “This move could mean a radical change for the country because Egypt, despite being a very large country, has not really developed any railway industry at all.”

Even with such a massive project just signed, Transmashholding-Hungary Kft. is already looking to the future with plans to improve the connectivity of, and invest in, Cairo’s metro system which carries 4 million passengers per day. They are also looking at the potential of suburban trains for future projects.

With this initial contract signed at the beginning of Egypt’s redevelopment of their railway infrastructure and stock, future projects and involvement look promising for the Transmashholding-Hungary Kft. consortium.

Read more

Making a Mark in Africa: Global Brands Dominate

Comments (0) Africa, Business

With Africa being one of the fastest growing markets for consumer goods worldwide, global brands have increasingly focused their efforts on the continent’s vibrant economies. Two major factors are worth noting here; Household consumption in Africa has outpaced GDP growth, and GDP growth across Africa is consistently outperforming global averages.

Consumer expenditure in Africa has been growing at a compound rate of 3.9% since 2010, reaching a total of $1.4 trillion in 2015, with that figure expected to reach $2.5 trillion by 2030. (1)

The planned Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) is also due to be implemented by 2030, and if successful, will offer a single continental market for consumer goods and services as well as free movement of investments and businesspeople. This opens the doors to a potential 1.7 billion customers (based on projected population by 2030). 

African consumers tend to be loyal

With such ambitious plans and rapid growth, cementing a place as a major brand across the continent is a priority, not only for global corporations but also for African brands. 

Research has shown (2) that African consumers tend to be loyal to their chosen brands but also discerning in their choice of brand. While currently most consumer activity in Africa tends to still happen in informal market settings, there is, and will continue to be, a shift towards more modern shopping settings, including shopping malls and e-commerce, two sectors which will offer good growth potential at several levels. 

African brands have been declining year on year

However, the latest Brand Africa 100 ratings in May – published every year by African Business Magazine – show a continuing worrying trend, at least as far as African businesses are concerned. From a high of 25% of the list in 2013/14, African brands have been declining year on year and are now at a low of 14% from 17% in 2017/18. Asian brands have also suffered, falling 10% from the previous year. US brands saw the largest growth, up 17% to 28%, while the dominant European brands rose 2.5% to 41%. 

As you would perhaps expect, the leading brands are global household names, with Nike, Adidas, Samsung, and Coca Cola all retaining positions in the top 4 from 2017/18. The highest ranked African business is South Africa’s MTN Telecoms at 8th (down 2 positions from last year). The company operate in 21 African countries so far with more expansion planned, so their top 10 position should not only be safe but may improve again in future lists. 

Anbessa Shoe Share Company: the most impressive African performer

Ethiopia’s Anbessa Shoe Share Company, originally founded in the 1930s by an Italian expat, was the most impressive African performer. In the 2019 chart, it moved up 11 places to #12. As well as having around 65-70% of the Ethiopian shoe market, the company also exports to USA, EU, Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

There were only two new African names on this year’s list, South African retailer, Pick n Pay, who re-entered at #84, and Africa’s largest e-commerce firm. Jumia, who debuted at 74 after a successful launch on the New York Stock Market in April. 

With continued economic growth forecast as far ahead as 2030, African companies must now look at how they can compete with the global giants. 

(1) https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Africas-consumer-market-potential.pdf

(2) Spivey L. et al. (2013) “Ten Things to Know About African Consumers: Capturing the Emerging Consumer Class,” Bcg.perspectives.

Read more