Featured
Category

The IMF predicts considerably growth in the Ivory Coast’s economy

Comments (0) Economy, Featured

The Ivory Coast is West Africa’s largest, French-speaking economy, and its growth looks set to continue, as the IMF predicts a 7.4% increase in the nation’s GDP over the next 3 years. The nation’s government is even more confident, predicting greater growth over the next two years than IMF figures, but either way it shows the increase in stability within the nation since President Alassane Ouattara came to power in 2011.

Greater stability, greater growth

Since Alassane Ouattara officially took office in 2011, the Ivory Coast has been in a period of sustained political stability that has led to marked economic growth. Ouattara has invested heavily in Ivorian infrastructure, and targeted outside investment to help the country continue its economic development. A reduction in red tape has allowed businesses to flourish, and staple crops such as cocoa have yielded even greater returns, with the Ivory Coast now responsible for around 45% of the world’s cocoa supply.

The IMF said that the West African nation’s GDP expanded by 8.6% in 2015, and 8.5% this year. The continued growth in 2016 comes in spite of poor weather that limited the nation’s cocoa crops, after a record haul of 1.8 million tons in the 2014-2015 season.

With this continued economic expansion, the IMF has predicted that between 2017 and 2020, the Ivory Coast will average 7.4% growth. However, Ouattara’s government is even more optimistic as they state that growth for 2016 will actually be 9%, and not the 8.5% predicted as an end of year figure by the IMF. Similarly, the Ivorian government claim that there will be 9% expansion in GDP in 2017; a figure that is 1% higher than IMF projections.

The construction of new roads and dams has also helped bolster the economy, and a new constitution aims to ensure that the armed conflicts of the past do not return to unsettle this new political and economic stability.

Investment for the future

While investment in infrastructure has been a key part to increasing crops and the ability of domestic businesses to flourish, attracting outside investment is also integral to prolonged growth. The Ivory Coast is looking to maintain its traditionally strong areas of production, such as its cocoa exports, while creating new sources of revenue and development.

As such, President Ouattara has targeted foreign investors to help fund his 5 year plan for growth within the country. In May of this year, the Ivory Coast’s government secured more than $15 billion in support from external investors and donors. With the new constitution passed into law, the government hopes that foreign direct investment (FDI) flows will increase, as concerns of security will continue to diminish.

The amount of pledges announced in May will offer great encouragement to both the government and the people of the Ivory Coast. When targets were set for a Paris meeting that aimed to attract FDI’s, the government said it hoped to raise $8.8 billion, so with over $15 billion actually achieved, it indicates a huge step forward for the economy. Ouattara’s plan was to put around $60 billion, in total, into projects that would run from 2016 to 2020. After receiving almost double its target from foreign investors, Ivory Coast’s government said that this success showed the “full support of the international community”.

In September of this year, Ouattara went to New York to make a speech at the U.S. Africa Business Forum, as he looked to continue his drive for foreign finances. During the speech, the President stated that the Ivory Coast has no preference over whether investment comes from public or private sources.

In addition, he made it clear that all areas of the world were valued equally in terms of how attractive their investment was to the Ivorian government, and added that, “We just want the maximum amount of investment possible.”

As foreign investors continue to show interest, Ouattara’s government will hope that they can maintain the growth that the country has shown, since the post 2010 election conflicts ended. Moreover, if the government’s figures are accurate, then the Ivory Coast will look to outperform the, already positive, predictions of growth that the IMF has announced. Potential investors will be watching with interest as the 2016-2020 plans develop.

Read more

Shuffling the Deck: Saudi Arabia favors new minds over lifetime politicians

Comments (0) Featured, Middle East, Politics

Amidst a global re-shuffling of political office and norms, Saudi Arabia has appointed a new Minister of Finance. Mohammed Al-Jadaan has replaced Ibrahim Al-Assaf, who worked within the ministry for the previous two decades before being appointed its top position. Al-Jadaan is seen as a breath of fresh air for the Saudi Arabian economy, bringing with him an outsider’s view, free from the restrainst associated with career politicians. While Al-Jadaan has vast experience with trade policies and restrictions from his time at Capital Markets Authority, this will be his first governmental ministry post.

Re-gilding of the government

A royal decree announcing the appointment of Al-Jadaan was issued earlier this month by King Salman, the leader of Saudia Arabia. Al-Assaf has been appointed Minister of State and has been made a Member of the Cabinet, moving his expertise from finance to a broader scope of affairs. Al-Jadaan was integrated in the 2015 opening of the Saudi market to foreign investments and is expected to ease existing barriers in an effort to attract more overseas capital. According to Jason Tuvey, Middle East economist at Capital Economics, Al-Jadaan “already has policymaking experience having overseen the opening up of the Saudi Tadawul to foreign investors over the past couple of years,” which is expected to positively influence his role as Minister of Finance.

Al-Jadaan studied both Islamic law and Islamic economy at Imam Mohammed Ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh. Before his appointment as the chairman of Capital Markets Authority, Al-Jadaan was a founding partner of the Al-Jadaan and Partners Law Firm. He was listed in Chambers and Partners as a leading lawyer in corporate/commercial law and banking/finance practice for a decade and is expected to bring this wealth of real-world experience into the Ministry of Finance.

Right Hand Man

King Salman has already been seen as a mover and a shaker, mixing up the tenured ministry heads with younger men from a variety of backgrounds. He has notably centralised power, and is making an effort to ensure those around him will remain loyal and share his vision for Saudia Arabia. Al-Jadaan is expected to assist the new King in his desire to diversify the Kingdom’s economy from largely hydrocarbon based to other industries such as financial services. His appointment coincides with first ever sovereign bond sale, an order reaching $67billion. Many are lauding this as a sign of the freer economy to come, but experts caution against overexuberance, pointing to the Kingdom’s recent history of austerity as a better indicator of what lies ahead.

A diversified economy is, of course, the long term goal, but Al-Jadaan has inherited more immediately pressing matters, chiefly alleviating current market conditions. Saudi Arabia has been running a deficit due to the low price of oil. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that without a significant increase in the price of oil matched with level demand, the current budget deficit will continue to grow and will exhaust foreign exchange reserves as early as 2020. This would be disastrous for Saudi Arabia.

The oil price crisis is the umbrella underwhich Al-Jadaan will operate. He will be a key player in on-going discussion with Iran as other OPEC members continue to lobby for a reduction in oil exports from the Kingdom. Iran and Saudi Arabia do not currently have private negotiations on this or any other topic, but if Al-Jadaan is able to reopen such talks, his aim will be to get as many concessions from Iran as possible.

Another piece in the puzzle of 2016

Al-Jadaan’s appointment is but one among many injections of new men into global governments. As the world shifts away from the previous decades of western democratic hegemony into uncharted territory, it will fall upon men like Al-Jadaan to find a new balance.

Read more

Africa looks set to for a revolution in technological innovation

Comments (0) Africa, Economy, Featured, Technology

Africa is changing, and technology is the catalyst for the unprecedented changes that are occurring continent wide. Although there are still large areas of the continent that lag behind, the levels of tech access found in, Europe and the USA, change is happening at an incredible rate. These changes are fueled by Africa’s innovators, who are helping alter how the rest of the world sees the globe’s second largest continent.

The rapid growth of technology

The growth of cellphones and the internet in Africa has happened so rapidly that access to personally owned technology has often happened before nations have built more routine infrastructure. Before many nations have even constructed reliable, national electricity supplies, individuals have access to cellphones that are fueling innovation, and changing people’s outlooks.

The cellphone company Ericsson, says that by 2019 there will be 930 million cellphones in Africa. The majority of Africa’s population is under 30, and the lack of infrastructure in many countries has proved to be a spur for creative solutions to everyday problems. Cellphone money transfer systems are one of Africa’s most popular technological services, in part fueled by the lack of access to banks that many people experience. This technology has now moved to the west, showing an intriguing reversal of the flow of new inventions. The developed world is now importing some of the developing world’s ideas and creations.

As broadband penetration expands, the opportunity for further innovation will become even greater. Access to regular cellphones is gradually moving towards access to smartphones. Around 20% of the continent currently has access to the internet, but this is expected to treble over the next 5 years. According to The Guardian, cellphone technology will account for 8% of Africa’s GDP by 2020, a figure that is more than double what it is anywhere else in the world.

African created apps now cover a broad range of areas, from providing question and answer services with registered doctors, to allowing farmers market figures to ensure they maximize their profits. A young generation of Africans across the continent have bypassed traditional technologies, such as landline phones and branch banking, and simply moved straight into a world of conducting everything via their cellphone.

Confronting the obstacles

Despite the swift growth in personal technology in Africa, there are still clearly issues around more routine forms of modernity that need to be overcome. For instance, in sub-Saharan Africa only around a third of people have access to grid electricity.

Cellphones are one thing, but for technology to become a genuine driving force – against poverty – there does need to be a minimum level of infrastructure.

Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, said, “If you can’t have electricity you can’t drive any industrial development… electricity drives everything, so until we fix that problem Africa faces huge challenges.”

This is an issue that organizations like the African Development Bank are addressing, with the ADB investing $150 billion over the next 10 years in order to try and provide connectivity to a further 130 million people.

Several nations have invested heavily in technology, in order to draw investment from major, foreign corporations, and also to provide openings for domestic talent to shine. Kenya in particular has looked to announce itself as a global leader in nurturing tech innovation, including the construction of an entire tech city (Konza) to create jobs, support start-ups and attract foreign investment.

Continuing to adapt

There are areas in which Africa has incorporated new technology very quickly, with e-commerce being one of the most notable success stories. Nigeria’s Jumia Group is Africa’s first tech “unicorn”, meaning that the company is valued at $1 billion.

For other companies to have such success, and for Africa’s tech entrepreneurs to feel empowered, there needs to be cross continental support from governments. There are signs that several governments intend to help support tech innovation, and the hope has to be that as this brings increased prosperity to individual nations, so their neighbors will follow suit.

Mteto Nyati, chief executive of MTN (South Africa’s second largest telecommunications company), says that the continent needs “partnerships between governments and mobile operators” in order to ensure that future technology, such as 5G, is widely available.

Aside from the money that Kenya’s government has invested in technological infrastructure; there are other governments showing determined efforts to embrace the opportunities that technology offers. Rwanda aims to become Africa’s first “cashless society” in terms of the public sector, and it has spent 15 years working to digitize much of society.

What is most exciting in such a fast changing continent is that this leap forward in tech innovation can help solve long term difficulties faced by normal people. Technology commentator, Ory Okolloh, states that many African startups now are “thinking about innovative ways to solve real problems in the market.” The next generation of African entrepreneurs looks set to benefit from a continent that has truly embraced technology.

Read more

The MIT graduate who is building Africa’s first STEM school

Comments (0) Africa, Education, Featured

Obinna Ukwuani was given a great advantage in life, when his parents moved from Nigeria to the USA, and thus gave him access to an excellent education. Ukwuani made the most of his opportunities, and recently graduated from Boston’s prestigious MIT. However, rather than take a comfortable job in the US, he is looking to create a STEM school in Nigeria that will offer others the chances that he had.

From STEM school to STEM school

Obinna Ukwuani grew up in Washington D.C., where his parents had moved in order to give their son access to as good an education as they could find. Although the family lived in the USA, his parents were determined that a young Obinna would not lose touch with his heritage, and as such they sent him back to Nigeria for his 8th and 9th grade years of school. A successful education and a passion for technology saw Ukwuani gain a place at the prestigious MIT in Boston.

However, his previous visits to Nigeria were not something he wished to forget, so he returned there during his freshman year at college. It was on this trip that Ukwuani saw how little opportunity within STEM fields there was for most Nigerian students.

Recalling his trip, he said, “It was shocking to see how far behind me they were…I knew I wanted to improve things in Nigeria.”

Ukwuani took immediate action, and in 2012 he launched a robotics summer school in Lagos, Nigeria that ran for 3 years. The school taught 113 students from 17 Nigerian states, how to code and construct robots, over the course of 5 weeks in the summer. The school hired MIT students to provide guidance and had funding from Shell. Ukwuani saw an immediate impact on the students who attended, explaining, “In 3 days, kids who’d never seen a computer were writing code.”

Makers Academy

The success of his summer school inspired Ukwuani to move into STEM education fulltime, once he graduated. While it would have been easy to take a well-paid job in the U.S, Ukwuani is clearly passionate about creating change within his parents’ homeland. After creating a business plan, the MIT graduate spent 5 months finding investors who would back his dream of creating a fulltime STEM school in Nigeria. His search was successful, and with backing in place, he is now in the process of creating his school, Makers Academy, in Ubuja, Nigeria.

Ukwuani expects the school to open in 2018 or 2019, and it will play host to 600 students who have shown an aptitude and interest in STEM fields. While some schools in Nigeria teach these subjects, no school will contain the cutting edge technology, such as 3D printers, that Makers Academy will have.

As a recession hits Nigeria, Ukwuani feels that changing education could be a long-term benefit for the whole country, saying, “Now more than ever we need more options…and we don’t have them.”

It may well be that Makers Academy is the start to ensuring that those options, are something that Nigeria’s future generations will not have.

Read more

The African school girls who are coding their way to new opportunities

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Technology

In the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), women are widely underrepresented in both further education and professional roles. This issue is even more pronounced in developing nations, where an increase in female representation, within these areas, could help break cycles of poverty, and offer the next generation role models that help foster long-term change.

However, there are projects that are already addressing this, and in several African countries high-school girls are learning coding skills that could help change both their futures and those of women across developing nations.

Coding for a new tomorrow

In a world in which social media and smartphone apps are ubiquitous aspects of the developed world, coding has become a huge area of employment and invention. In the developing world, cellphone technology is widespread, and the proliferation of smartphone technology is spreading.

However, for girls and women in countries like Kenya, long standing ideas around gender combine with widespread poverty to make the internet age inaccessible for many of them. In the slums of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, only 20% of women have internet access, compared with 57% of men.

This situation not only holds back women, but the country at large, as STEM employment opportunities spread best when there is a large base of potential talent. The current imbalance may well begin to change, as several organizations are now helping to provide tech education to girls in Kenya, Uganda and Senegal.

The charity, Theirworld, is running “Code clubs” across these three nations, in which schoolgirls can learn a variety of skills within STEM fields, something that can help alter ideas about education, while providing the girls in question with new skillsets.

Theirworld launched the first code club in conjunction with Kano Code Academy and Africa Gathering, and they had funding from Facebook. Theirworld President, Sarah Brown, explained, “With a safe space to learn and play, a mentor to inspire, and access to technology…we can increase learning opportunities, and empower girls to fulfill their potential.”

Before International Women’s Day, Theirworld launched a social media campaign with the title #RewritingTheCode, which aimed to raise awareness about the problems facing girls around the world within STEM fields and education at large.

Even more promisingly, this is not the only organization that has looked to provide females with educational support within Africa, and there are already success stories that show how beneficial such provisions could become.

From Kenya to beyond

In Kenya, one group of schoolgirls took advantage of another program supporting girls in STEM fields, and found themselves as finalists in a global competition for schoolgirls in technology. Kenyan cellphone company, Safaricom, operates a scheme that provides technology education to girls, along with access to mentors who help them build upon their new skills.

Harriet Karanja is only 16 years old, but with support from Safaricom’s scheme, she created an app with friends called M-Safiri, which means “traveler” in Swahili. The app allows users to buy bus tickets remotely, and then get GPS guidance to the bus-stop of your choice, without having to wait on the street.

Karanja and her friends made the finals of a global competition, held in San-Francisco, a huge achievement for them, but also a glowing endorsement of the project.

While it is admirable that charities such as Theirworld are helping females access the STEM world in Africa, it is even more encouraging that domestic tech giants like Safaricom are recognizing the need for change, and the wealth of talent that they can help foster. The American company, Intel, has also funded mentor schemes in Kenya, and Kenya’s already blossoming tech scene looks set to finally make use of all of its young talents, rather than losing 50% of its potential due to gender discrimination.

If Kenya can lead the way, then the projects in Uganda and Senegal can surely follow in their success, and bodies like Theirworld already plan on expanding into another 3 African nations by the end of the year. Marieme Jamme, Co-Founder of Africa Gathering, said “Africa is crying out for young women with STEM skills and knowledge.” Hopefully the changes occurring will ensure that what Africa is crying out for, will soon be something that Africa gets.

Read more

Andrew Mupuya is an award winning entrepreneur, and he’s not yet 25

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

When Forbes magazine lists you as one of the 30 most promising young entrepreneurs in Africa then you must be doing something right. In the case of Andrew Mupuya, he was named one of Forbes’ “30 under 30” in both 2013 and 2016. The list highlights entrepreneurs under the age of 30 who are on the way to achieving great things within their chosen industries. Remarkably, Mupuya has been in business for 8 years, and yet is still only 24 years old!

From humble beginnings

Andrew Mupuya was born, in the Manafwa district of eastern Uganda, to a large, extended family with very little income. Mupuya’s family struggled to buy clothes for him and his siblings, and he was only able to get an early education due to the help of government grants.

Such a background does not provide the greatest opportunity for entering the business world, but the struggles that Mupuya experienced helped foster a work ethic and determination that has held him in good stead.

In 2008, everything changed, and it was a combination of bad luck in his family and new government legislation that paved the way for Mupuya’s business. Both of Mupuya’s parents lost their jobs, making their financial situation precarious once more, and at only 16, Andrew realized that he needed to help ease their burden. At the same time, the Ugandan government banned the use of plastic bags due to environmental damage that they were causing, and within this moment the young entrepreneur saw an opening.

Remembering the initial process, Mupuya says, “”I conducted a feasibility study, market research around retail shops, kiosks, supermarkets around Kampala and discovered there is need and potential market for paper bags.”

Mupuya worked out that he needed around $14 to start a small enterprise, producing paper bags, so he collected 70 kilos of plastic bottles which he sold to a recycling plant for $11, and he then borrowed the remaining $3 from his school teacher. His company was named, YELI (Youth Entrepreneurial Link Investments) Paper Bags, and it has gone from strength to strength.

Award-winning success

Not only was the company successful in a short period of time, but it was the first registered company in Uganda for the production of paper bags. By 2012, and still only 21 years old, Mupuya had been put forward for the prestigious Anzisha prize for young entrepreneurs in Africa. Against stiff competition, Mupuya won the award, and with it, $30,000 that he immediately put into developing the company.

Although he is still only 24, Mupuya has twice made Forbes magazine’s list of 30 African entrepreneurs below the age of 30 to watch out for. YELI paper bags currently produces around 20,000 paper bags per week, and employs 16 people in Uganda. Since he began his business, Mupuya has overseen production that exceeds 5.6 million bags, which have been sold both locally, to neighboring nations like Kenya, and as far afield as the U.S and Norway.

Andrew Mupuya is clearly buoyed by the recognition he has had saying, “The awards I have won give me courage to push on with my business.”

What should please Ugandans is that not only does this young man want to create more opportunities within his home country, but he is looking to do so with a company that can benefit the whole continent.

Mupuya explains that he has much grander plans for YELI, stating, “My vision is to have a cleaner Africa by eradicating use of plastic bags…I dream of having a big plant where I am able to supply paper bags all over Africa…so I believe this is just the start.”

Read more

Ecobank commits to continue battling disease in Africa

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Health

The Pan-African bank, Ecobank, recently committed a further 3 years of funding for its work with the organization the Global Fund, in the battle to fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis (TB) in Africa. Ecobank first partnered with the Global Fund in 2013, and at a signing ceremony in Montreal, Canada, the bank confirmed its additional funding for the various projects that target 3 of Africa’s most deadly diseases.

Changing Africa

 The Global Fund is an organization committed to ending the epidemics of AIDS, Malaria and TB, and it works closely with governments and the private sector to help fund initiatives to combat these diseases in over 100 nations. Although the body is committed to its cause on a global scale, it is Africa that suffers the most from AIDS and Malaria in particular, and as an African enterprise, Ecobank has shown that it views the battle as part of its responsibilities.

The Ecobank Foundation is the branch of the bank responsible for funding social programs across Africa, and Ecobank CEO, Ade Ayeyemi, pledged that a further $3 million of funding would be made available to the work that the Global Fund is carrying out within the continent. Funding from the Global Fund has provided 659 million mosquito nets to families, given TB treatment to 15.1 million people, and provided antiretrovirals to 9.2 million HIV sufferers.

Ecobank operates across 35 African countries, and its goal of bringing greater prosperity to African people is one that clearly involves the support of health initiatives. Philip Chikwuedo Asiodu, Chairman of the Ecobank Foundation, says, “Access to quality health care for all is vital to the growth and prosperity of Africa…we are proud to be partnering with the Global Fund in combating these three diseases throughout Africa.”

Financing the Future

It is evidently essential to reduce the number of people suffering and dying from treatable diseases, in order to create an environment that allows people to improve their economic situations. While some of the tools needed for fighting 3 of Africa’s biggest killers are obvious purchases, such as mosquito nets, it is also necessary to help nations organize their use of funds. The Ecobank Foundation joined with the Global Fund to help countries not only receive greater funding for health schemes, but to manage their funds more effectively.

Support was provided to grant recipients in Nigeria, South Sudan and Senegal over the past 3 years, and it is great news for ongoing projects that Ecobank has committed itself to at least 3 more years of backing.

The Ecobank Foundation CEO, Julie Essiam, signed the extension to their partnership with Global Fund with the Executive Director of Global Fund, Mark Dybul.

Essiam expressed excitement about the continued collaboration, calling it “a historic moment with the Global Fund” and explaining their shared goal “to create a ‘thriving Africa’, and a prosperous continent.”

It is to be hoped that such partnerships encourage further investors to help support changes that the whole of Africa, and the wider world, will benefit from.

Read more

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”.

Read more

Why Forbes thinks Isaac Oboth is one of Africa’s finest young entrepreneurs

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

It seems that these days Africa is bursting at the seams with young innovators. 26-year- old Ugandan Isaac Oboth is a fantastic example of one such individual. The young man is the founder and CEO of Media 256 Ltd, one of East Africa’s fastest emerging film and television production companies. Oboth has scooped coveted awards and been recognized as one of Africa’s hottest emerging entrepreneurs. It is peculiar that many highly successful individuals have often suffered tragedy during their childhoods. Perhaps by enduring such hardships they develop uncommon tenacity and fortitude. In Oboths case, by the time he was seven years old, both of his parents had passed away. The young orphan was taken into care by his older brother Ivan, who worked hard to provide for him.

An entrepreneurial spirit

When Isaac was 16 and still attending school, his brother lost his job. Isaac said “It was a pivotal point for me, Ivan was my sole provider," Ivan could no longer afford to send Isaac to school, and asked his younger brother to start earning money. However, Isaac wasn’t going to let his education slip away easily. In his first foray into entrepreneurialism, he started making rock cakes, a fruity snack which he sold to finance his schooling. Isaac quickly devised other methods of making money. He sold photo DVD albums as well as and drinks at rugby games.

The genesis of a media master

The seeds of his current business were born because of his high school prom. He wanted a way to commemorate the special event, so he decided to produce an alumni album. However, cost was a major concern, as printing costs were astronomically expensive so Isaac decided to produce a digital album which was much more affordable. At the time, Isaac didn’t have the skills to produce the album by himself, so he hired a contractor to film photograph and edit.

Isaac was disappointed with the final product. He felt the editing was shoddy and that the photography was second rate. Despite the lack of quality, the album was popular and sold out. He realized that if poor quality media products still sold, that top quality work would be highly sought after. That’s when he resolved to go into the multimedia business. He spent countless hours learning about filming and editing by watching videos at a local internet café. He rented equipment, and after tirelessly promoting his material and searching for work, he managed to land a contract to produce a short film for the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange. The film was a success, and Isaac earned enough money to buy his own equipment.

Heavyweight clients and serious recognition

His business then grew in leaps and bounds. He offered his services for free to Coca Cola who were so impressed with his work that they signed him up for future productions. Isaac has since gone on to produce great work for the likes of the African Leadership Academy, USAID, the UNDP and the Mara Foundation. One of the companies most recognized project’s is a ten part series called Discover Uganda which aired in multiple African countries before its success saw it picked up by The Africa Channel, a US cable outlet. Today, Media 256 is a profitable fully fledged business. The team currently consists of 7 full-time videographers and editors as well as support staff, and Isaac intends to keep on growing. Forbes magazine has recognized Isaac’s significant achievements, listing him as one of Africa’s 30 most promising young entrepreneurs. He was also the recipient of the much coveted Anzisha Prize, which also awards the best young talent on the continent.

Read more

Stephen Saad : Entrepreneur of the Year at the All Africa Business Leaders Awards

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

Stephen Saad was announced as the latest winner of the Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the annual All Africa Business Leaders Awards ceremony, which was held this year in Johannesburg. Saad’s success within the pharmaceutical industry is long-standing, but the massive growth he has achieved with his company, Aspen, in the past year saw his success recognized by one of Africa’s most prestigious business awards.

Over 2 decades of success and no slowing down

Saad turned 52 this year, and the Durban born businessman could have been content with a highly successful career well before he made the moves that established him as one of Africa’s top 20 richest people. After graduating from the University of Natal with a BA in Commerce, Saad began working within pharmaceuticals for Quickmed. Quickmed stand out within South Africa’s recent history for being a company that offered prescription medicines within black townships during the nation’s appalling apartheid regime.

Saad quickly moved upward, and by the age of 29 he had sold a share in another company, Covan Zurich, for $3 million making of him a millionaire. However despite this success nothing has dampened his enthusiasm for innovation within the industry, and in 1997 Saad set up his company Aspen Pharmacare (changed to Aspen in 1999) with co-founder Gus Attridge.

Back in 1999, Saad told an interviewer that he planned to utilize local skillsets to grow his company and enter first world markets, saying “I’m talking about people, contacts, research, development, manufacturing processes etc, which we have in South Africa… we’re going to be manufacturing from South Africa for First World markets offshore.”

As good as his word, Saad kept Aspen’s manufacturing hub within South Africa, and aside from creating jobs for his home country, he has turned Aspen into the world’s 6th largest producer of generic pharmaceuticals. Aspen now provides medicines in 150 different countries, and Saad has an estimated personal fortune of $1.27 billion. Accepting his entrepreneurial award, Mr. Saad gave a speech that reflected exactly the ethos he had laid out 17 years ago, enthusing “We are a company with roots in South Africa and manufacturing in South Africa. We’ve grown our local talent to become a world player and Aspen is just a wonderful South African story.”

Only the beginning

Despite the huge success that Saad and Aspen have achieved within their market, predictions for the future suggest that even more growth is likely. Over the past 3 years, Aspen has established extensive distribution and technolgy networks within Europe, and forged numerous new partnerships, which Saad has said would support a company “twice the size we are now”.

This year alone, Aspen has purchased the $341 million GlaxoSmithKline anesthetics portfolio and AstraZeneca’s, $770 million, anesthetics range too. These acquisitions will expand Aspen’s share of the anesthetic’s market outside of the US to 20%, and analysts predict that Aspen’s earnings will grow by 121% for the next 2 years.

Stephen Saad was clearly proud of his Entrepreneur of the Year Award, but it evidently won’t see him resting on his laurels.

Read more