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African women making strides in technology

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

African Women’s Day.

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

TechWomen

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

Objectives 

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

Moroccan Laureate

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

From Tunisia

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

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

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

To the Future

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

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

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Laureen Kouassi-Olsson : a new wave of female leaders

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

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

Amethis: Not Just a Silent Investor

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

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

A Strong Policy of Encouraging and Promoting Talented African Females 

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

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

Qualifications and Career of Laureen Kouassi-Olsson

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

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

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

Females Leading the Way

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

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

The Gender Disparity Must Be Eroded in Africa

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

Photos : jeuneafrique.com – agefi.fr

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Zindi: finding solutions by encouraging competition

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Social enterprises, companies, and NGOs are always looking for new and innovative ways of solving problems that can be used in real time and in real situations. Cape Town-based Zindi, founded in 2018, have combined that aim of solving problems with the natural competitive spirit that exists in us all. 

Zindi works by bringing together any organisation – including private sector companies, government bodies, or NGOs – to put together a challenged based on data. Their platform has more than 9,000 data scientists from across Africa already enrolled, and they can choose to join any particular competition, submit their solutions, and gain points to move up a leader board and win cash prizes. To date, the highest prize pot has been $12,000, and it was split between the top three data scientists in that competition. 

A good example of what they are trying to achieve is the completion being held for FarmPin, a South African startup that wants solutions as to how to classify fields by the crop type they produce or can produce. Their idea is to find a simple process combining satellite imagery with the smart phones now so common across Africa. Step forward Zindi who brings together the data scientists vying for the $10,000 prize. This brings together experts in that particular area who may have little work at the time and helps to produce a practical solution that can help increase crop yields in areas that need it.

Corporate Interest 

A good indicator of how well a startup is performing – or how good their idea is – is the interest that comes from corporate giants. And it hasn’t taken long for Zindi to come to the attention of a couple of major companies both within and outside Africa. 

African communications giant, Liquid Telecom, which operates across much of Eastern and XCentral Africa, has been hosting competitions on its network on behalf of Zindi. And in August of 2029, Zindi announced a partnership with Microsoft which will see the corporate behemoth’s cloud based system, Azure, powering Zindi’s platform. Microsoft will also host and provide the prize money for another two competitions to support Africa’s AgTech industry. 

The Continent’s First Ever Inter-University Machine-Learning Hackathon

But Zindi look beyond current data scientists and have one eye on the future of Africa. Their latest project sees students from across Africa invited to take part in the continent’s first ever inter-university machine-learning hackathon. The idea is for the students, in teams of up to four, developing machine-learning solutions to one of three real-world problems. 

UmojaHack Africa offers the winning team a share of $2000 for them and a share of $15,000 for their university in each challenge as well as runners-up prizes. With reams registered from universities from more than 10 African countries, Zindi CEO, Celina Lee sees this as an ideal model to both stimulate student interest in their projects and to find real solutions that can be applied across the continent. 

The competition is sponsored by African Bank and Alliance4AI, and Data Science Nigeria is also on board as a regional partner. 

As Africa’s tech sector continues to grow, startups such as Zindi will continue to lead the way, bringing together established and experienced data scientists with the best students Africa’s universities has to offer. 

Photos : globalafricanetwork.com / aiexpoafrica.com /

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The Green Girl hurdling barriers in the race for sustainability

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Many observers see that out of the many challenges facing modern Africa, two in particular stand out. The first of these is the continent’s massive untapped renewable energy resources. The African Development Bank estimates that there is an annual potential of 350 GW in hydroelectric power, 110 GW from wind, 15 GW from geothermal and a huge 1000 GW from solar. In addition, the International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that surplus forest wood could provide 520 GW/year in bioenergy.

The second and perhaps more daunting challenge is breaking down the gender disparity barriers that have been entrenched since colonial days. The World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Gender Gap index estimated that it would take 135 years (at current rates of progress) for the gap to finally close in sub-Saharan Africa, with North Africa taking even longer at 153 years.

Anything that attempts to meet these challenges should be applauded and promoted, and when a person or project attempts to tackle both of them at the same time, then there should be even higher levels of recognition and encouragement.

Monique Ntumngia Determined To Give Something to Those Who Lacked Opportunities

Enter Monique Ntumngia, founder of Cameroon’s ‘Green Girls’ and a renewable energy entrepreneur. The 29-year-old Cameroonian had a hard childhood as an orphan. And as she entered adulthood, she was determined to give something to those who lacked opportunities.

The idea for Green Girls was born in September of 2014 when Ntumngia was working in Nigeria for the NGO, Human Rights and Education. While taking part in the traditional distribution of school supplies at the start of the school year, children kept asking her: “Madam, how are we going to use these notebooks and books without light?”

It was at that point that Ntumngia decided that her path forward lay in marrying sustainable development with the promotion and spread of renewable energies. She began organising fundraising events and contacting organisations such as UNICEF and the EU. After raising US$10,000 in just two months, she bought 2,500 solar lamps from Norway that she distributed across Nigeria.

Only 10% of The Population Have Regular Access to Electricity.

After Nigeria, she wanted to do the same in Cameroon. Her home country – and Africa as a whole – suffers from a real problem as far as electricity production and distribution are concerned. Most rural areas have no supplies all. Across Africa as a whole, only 10% of the population have regular access to electricity.

Monique Ntumngia: Leading the way in promoting renewable energy and sustainability in Africa

But this young social entrepreneur quickly realised that solar lamps were not a long-term answer. She carried out an in-depth survey looking at the sustainability of local economies across Cameroon. She also realised that many of these local communities had an acute waste management problem. Biogas seemed to be an obvious answer to work alongside solar energy. Biogas is a renewable energy source made from the anaerobic fermentation of organic waste. She set up a company – Monafrik Energy – to develop solar and biogas solutions, to provide affordable energy, and to help support sustainable communities. Since December of 2015, the company has built eight solar installations and twenty bio-digesters for biogas production.

But Monique’s vision extended far beyond simple provision of electricity. She wanted to tackle gender disparity and the poverty that both causes and accompanies it. In August of 2016, she founded the charity, Green Girls. Its mission? To promote sustainable development in every African rural community through the infiltration of renewable energy; and getting African governments to develop gender policies that provide access to finance in order for these women to run clean energy businesses.

To Plant Trees To Replace the Forests Used As Sources of Firewood

The charity also plants trees to replace the forests used as sources of firewood before the communities had bio digesters constructed. Within just a few months of starting the charity, 623 girls between the ages of 14 and 18 had received training in three areas of Cameroon.

The charity now operates programmes on several levels. They train girls in how to construct and maintain solar panels and bio digesting equipment. They also teach them about the relevant Sustainable Development Goals so they understand better the sustainable community models. In order to encourage financial independence, they train the women in how to set up SMEs, with businesses aimed at the packaging and selling of organic fertilizer, growing organic crops, and making solar lanterns.

In order to expand the ideas and the training, one aspect of the Green Girl programmes is identifying future leaders and training them to be trainers. This offers the potential of rapid multiplication of women and girls taking part in the various programmes as well as an expansion of ideas and practical solutions.

To Expand the Green Girls Operations across All of Africa

Her hard work and innovative ideas have led to global recognition. To date, she has been awarded the following prizes: WWF Africa Youth Champion award (twice), US$100,000 Visa Everywhere Initiative Award 2019, the Africa Youth Connekt prize for Best Project and best Pitch, and the Cameroon special tourism award for promoting sustainable development

Ntumngia’s vision is to expand the Green Girls operations across all of Africa but she knows that there are many hurdles to cross and that both governments and African society need to be part of the battle to break down gender barriers as well as working towards a more sustainable Africa.

Photos: afrohustler.com/ Facebook.com / visamiddleeast.com

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Danièle Sassou Nguesso : Breaking Down Gender Barriers

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In a continent which has suffered from gender disparity for so many years, the recent spate of stories about strong African women gaining prominence at every level of society has been an encouraging and heartwarming trend. These women, more than any other factor, are what will inspire a new generation of African girls to stay in education and to pursue their dreams. One such woman is 43-year-old Danièle Sassou Nguesso

Born in Dakar, Senegal, in 1976, Nguesso had a privileged upbringing, something that made her even more aware of the many who were not so lucky. Her mother had a PhD in Pharmacy and her father was a doctor, and Nguesso studied in Paris, first gaining a Baccalaureate in science at 17, then later qualifying as an optician at the Ecole Supérieure des Opticiens de Paris. After some time working in France, Nguesso decided to return to Africa and she opened her first optician’s shop under the brand name, “Optical”, in Libreville, Gabon, in 2003, notably becoming Gabon’s first female optician at the same time. The brand is now well-established in five major African cities. 

Danièle Sassou Nguesso : to facilitate the empowerment of women

At that point, Nguesso could have continued on the standard pathway of many entrepreneurs, focusing purely on building a business empire. But her travels around Africa made her realise she wanted more than that. Everywhere she went, she saw gender disparity and institutionalised discrimination, which were leading to a continued marginalisation of women as well as physical and psychological abuse. She also saw how the poorest and most vulnerable children were denied access to education and she realised that among these children could be future doctors, future authors, or future leaders. 

In 2008, she set up Le Petit Samaritain to promote and support access to education. Then in 2015, she set up the SOUNGA Foundation in order to break down gender barriers and to facilitate the empowerment of Congolese women. As Nguesso says: “It is important for our girls to receive the same training like our boys; so that they can pursue the same jobs opportunities as their male peers.”

The foundation has set up several projects in order to support women towards those opportunities. “Sounga Nga” is an incubator project that offers training in skills such as accounting and marketing to women looking to set up businesses. The project also offers low-interest loans to help the women capitalise their business. 

The Sounga Gender Label partners with various Congolese Ministries as well as private organisations to encourage good corporate governance and to promote the employment of women across several sectors and levels. 

And the Sounga Focus Group is an annual study of what women at every level of Congolese society is thinking and feeling and a way of identifying socio-cultural needs. This allows the foundation to then feed their findings back to the government in an effort to facilitate change.

Her family connection as a major advantage

One difficulty Nguesso does not face is communications with the government. She is married to controversial Congolese politician, Denis-Christel Sassou Nguesso. He is the son of Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has been President of the Republic of the Congo since 1997. Her husband is also tipped to replace his father when he eventually retires. She sees her family connection as a major advantage as she does not have to navigate the mazes of bureaucracy in order to get her powerful and important message across. 

Despite her schedule with the foundation, and having four children to raise, Nguesso completed a Master’s in Politics and Development Management at Sciences Po in Paris in 2016. And in 2018, she was awarded the African Inspirational Female Leader of the Year award at the East African Business Summit & Awards. With plans to continue expanding the foundation across Congo and other countries, Nguesso is inspiring and supporting thousands of young African women and girls. 

Photos : elle.ci / Facebook / magazine.inafrik.com / griote.tv/

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John Dodelande, curator of contemporary art, launches a reference database for Chinese Contemporary Art

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John Dodelande

John Dodelande has been active in the contemporary art market for more than ten years. He has more specifically focused his collection on Chinese contemporary art works and young artists of the new generation (Wang Yuyang, Wang Sishun, Wang Guangle among others…) who are moving away from both the aesthetics and the spirit of his elders (notably the cynical realists movement which became known to a large audience at the international level by artists such as Yue Minjun, Ai Wei Wei…).

Like all market players, he was led to question the tools available to him to carry out his day-to-day business, particularly in the digital environment.

Beyond the institutional websites and networks of the auction houses and the databases most used by practitioners (Artnet.com, ArtMarket.com, Artprice.com), he noted the monopoly of certain players on the one hand, and on the other hand, the fragmentation and splintering of information and the difficulty of sorting through dozens or even hundreds of sources, each of which obey their own logic and their own rules.

Thus, he most often felt that he had to define for himself the parameters and criteria that would enable him to guide his choices and actions.

With regard to the field that interests him more particularly that of contemporary art and Chinese art in particular, he noted the absence of a relevant, effective and pragmatic reference tool capable of identifying works and artists, of drawing up an inventory of the market and practices and finally of guiding the choices of market players.

John Dodelande confides to us: “Being myself a Digital Native, the world of social networks, digital tools are my usual environment. However, I very quickly had the feeling that I couldn’t find what I was looking for and that I was wasting a lot of time because I didn’t have a real database organized by type of market, category of works, which would take into account the geographical and economic dimension, which are fundamental factors in understanding the market as a whole”.

John Dodelande is thus developing with partners a new tool that is destined to become the reference database for Chinese Contemporary Art and, in the long term, for Asian Art in general. This database, accessible to the general public free of charge for its educational presentation component, will be available by subscription to professionals who will have access to valuable information on artists, works and transactions, providing an overview of this particular market and its evolution.

It goes without saying that John Dodelande’s vocation is to deploy this technology on other target art markets and even other sectors of activity.

John Dodelande is expected to announce the launch of this innovative platform in 2020.

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Dr. Bouamatou: breaking down the gender barriers in banking

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While it would be fair to say that actual talent in the world of finance is distributed equally by gender, it would also be fair to note that this talent is not equally distributed among the top tiers of management. In fact, it was only in October 2019 when the Royal Bank of Scotland announced that Alison Rose would be its next chief executive that a woman finally reached the top position in a global bank. The same month, Citigroup named Jane Fraser as President, a move many commentators see as preparing her for the CEO position. IMF figures show that only 2% of banking CEOs globally are women. 

There is plenty of female talent within the finance industry, but generally, the glass ceiling tends to hold them back from the top positions. That glass ceiling often means salary disparity too. In January 2019, Citigroup revealed that its female employees receive on average 71% of their male counterparts. Given that they have over 200,000 employees, with more than half of them women, hopefully, this honesty will see the pay gap closing. 

In emerging economies, the appointment of women to top positions is doubly important. Not only does it address gender disparity, a major issue in many African and Latin American countries, but it also helps the institutions connect more readily with the 1.8 million unbanked women that the World Bank is targeting in Africa and Latin America as part of their 2020 financial inclusion goals. 

Dr. Leila Bouamatou : An Impressive Credentials 

One such woman who currently stands out is 35-year-old Dr. Leila Bouamatou, who is currently Managing Director and Board Member at Générale de Banque de Mauritanie (General Bank of Mauritania). Dr. Bouamatou holds a Master’s Degree in Finance from Barcelona’s EADA Business School, an Executive MBA in Business Administration from South Mediterranean University, and a Doctorate in Business Administration from Fox School of Business & Management. Impressive credentials quickly silenced any critics who say she gained her position through her father, Mohamed Ould Bouamatou, who founded GBM in 1995 as the first private bank in Mauritania. 

Dr. Bouamatou trained in Tunisia with Deloitte’s, with MediCapital Bank in London, and then with BMCE Bank International Plc – who specialize in African investments – also in London. She had just been offered a lucrative contract in London when her father asked her to return home and join the treasury department of GMB. She served as Head of the Treasury Department for 10 years, before being promoted to managing director and board member.

While Mauritania is one of the poorer African countries at the moment, economic development looks good, thanks mainly to a program of reforms which will hopefully be continued by the new president, Ould Ghazouani, who won the election of June 2019, taking over from retiring president, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. On an optimistic note, it is worth remembering that this was the first peaceful change of ruler since the country gained independence from France in 1960. Those reforms have meant that Mauritania is ranked in the top 10 of global reformers. But it is also worth noting that the country continues to have a large foreign trade imbalance though GDP is forecast to rise by 5.2% in 2019 after two years’ steady at 3.5%.

To Break Down the Disparity Barriers in Africa

Dr. Bouamatou is a huge supporter, not only of financial inclusion for women but also of empowerment and breaking down the disparity barriers across the continent. Speaking to her alma mater, Fox School of Business & Management, she said:

“Women are getting more and more educated and becoming more and more ambitious. Fathers are more and more supportive of their daughters and more open-minded, compared to previous generations.”

Dr. Bouamatou is married to Tah Meouloud, a fellow graduate of Fox School of Business & Management, and an economist who was head of human resources at BSA subsidiary BSA Technologies. They have two children.

A Statement against Discrimination against African Women 

Dr. Bouamatou always wears an El-melhfa, a traditional piece of cloth which covers her from ankles to face. While many see El-melhfa as a Muslim tradition, it is more a Saharawi tradition, one which is worn by all religious and ethnic groups of the Saharawi. It is a symbol of Saharawi pride and resistance, especially in what these people view as ‘occupied territories’. Because of its visibility, wearing it can often lead to discrimination against women. By choosing to always wear it, Dr. Bouamatou not only acknowledges her heritage, but she also makes a statement against discrimination against women throughout Africa.

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Barclays Africa lifts profit, looks to Nigeria for growth

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Leaders, Politics

By Ed Stoddard

(Reuters) – Barclays Africa Group, South Africa’s No.2 lender by market value, plans to extend its reach throughout the continent, it said on Thursday after posting annual profit up nearly 4 percent.

Chief Executive Maria Ramos said the bank, which is changing its name back to South African brand Absa after its split from former parent Barclays, aims to enter Nigeria as it seeks to lift its share of the African market to 12 percent from 6 percent over the medium term.

Finance Director Jason Quinn told Reuters that Nigeria has been in its sights for some time.

“We would have to think carefully about how and when to enter the Nigerian market and that is what we are going to start doing,” he said.

“We have to decide how we enter, whether we acquire or build.”

The bank had earlier reported normalised diluted headline earnings per share — the primary measure of profit in South Africa, stripping out one-off items — up 3.9 pct at 1,837.7 cents for the year to Dec. 31, helped by a 20 percent drop in credit impairments.

Net interest income, a gauge of lending profitability, rose by 1 percent to 42.32 billion rand ($3.56 billion), while its net interest margin was unchanged at 4.95 percent.

Growth in the United States was the positive surprise in the second half, even as Europe, Japan and China grew at or above consensus expectations, the bank said.

This more than made up for slow economic expansion in its main markets, which account for about 80 percent of group income.

Barclays Africa and its rivals have struggled to increase lending as slowing economic growth in many African markets tempers demand from corporate clients while retail clients in its home South African market feel the squeeze from rising interest rates.

However, confidence in its domestic market has been buoyed by the Cyril Ramaphosa’s elevation to the South African presidency last month, pledging to revitalise the economy.

Barclays Africa said it expects growth in loans and deposits to improve in 2018 and forecast stronger loan growth from the rest of Africa. It also forecast stronger loan growth in corporate and investment banking in South Africa.

($1 = 11.9025 rand)

(Additional reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng in Johannesburg and Esha Vaish in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Coates and David Goodman)

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South Africa economic confidence to get a lift after cabinet reshuffle.

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Confidence in South Africa’s economy will get a boost after Monday’s cabinet reshuffle by President Cyril Ramaphosa returned trusted hands to crucial budget-related ministries, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday.

Seventeen of the 20 economists surveyed in the past three days said Monday’s reshuffle would have a significant positive impact on South Africa’s economic confidence this year.

One economist said it would be very significant, while the remaining two said it would have an insignificant impact.

In that same sample, 18 indicated they were optimistic the country’s business sector would play a bigger part in job creation in the next two years. One economist was very optimistic while the remaining one was pessimistic.

“Both business and consumer confidence is likely to be boosted by the election of Cyril Ramaphosa to President of the Republic and the cabinet reshuffle that (followed),” said Jeffrey Schultz, economist at BNP Paribas in Johannesburg.

South Africa’s business confidence rose for a third month in a row in January to its highest since late 2015, on expectations the new leadership of the ruling party would stabilise economic policy, a survey showed last month.

“President Ramaphosa clearly has his sights set on improving the domestic business climate and promoting more public-private sector participation,” said Schultz.

Gross domestic fixed investment – normally capital spending, such as buying new machinery for future production – fell into a recession in 2016, recovering only slightly early last year before hitting another slump in the second quarter.

The private sector makes up nearly two-thirds of the gross domestic fixed investment contribution to GDP, although it has played a smaller role in recent years, with government pushing infrastructure projects to raise jobs.

Schultz added that it would take some time for the trust between business and the government to be rebuilt, but it was clear the new government has realised it needs business sector buy-in to get growth and reduce unemployment.

Unemployment was at just over 20 percent a decade ago and now more than a quarter of South Africa’s labour force is jobless.

 

OLD TRUSTED HANDS BACK AT HELM

Ramaphosa appointed Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister on Monday and Pravin Gordhan as public enterprise minister. All but one of the 20 economists polled singled out these two National Executive appointments as most likely to inspire economic confidence.

Both Nene and Gordhan served as finance ministers in the last administration but were unceremoniously sacked by former President Jacob Zuma.

A poll last month suggested South Africa’s new leadership would need to be prudent and creative in managing the economy to avoid a credit rating downgrade, by raising taxes without suffocating a chance for growth. [ECILT/ZA]

Moody’s is due to publish a review later this month, which economists said in February would offer the country a reprieve.

 

 

(By Vuyani Ndaba; Editing by William Maclean)

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Jonathan Gray: shaping investment opportunities for the Middle East

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Jonathan Gray

Jonathan Gray is currently heading several businesses within various industries through ventures such as Beauchamp Estates France, JG Events and First Idea Ltd.

A bona fide entrepreneur

Jonathan Gray’s business life started early in 1997 at the age of 16 after a chance encounter with a Buena Vista International executive during the Cannes Film festival. A few years on he would create several companies within various industries. Most notably in his early career stands JG events, a successful international event company specialising in luxury private and corporate events in the South of France.

A few years later, in 2004, he participated to the launch of the exclusive global concierge company Quintessentially, which he spearheaded from 2005 and sold in 2009.

Simultaneously, he launched his own estate agency in 2005 and then closed a business opportunity in 2007 with powerhouse London broker Beauchamp Estates, a main player in the premium property market focusing on a select range of exclusive quality properties. Together they launched the exclusive French branch of Beauchamp Estates in Cannes. Within six years, Beauchamp Estates France multiplied its turnover fivefold.

First Idea, a firm specialized in the Middle East region

With his track record and after having developed a strong and influent network of ultra high net worth individuals, Jonathan Gray decided to transition towards more personal passions such as strategic and investment consultancy.

Thus was born the strategic consulting firm First Idea Ltd. First Idea was the opportunity for Jonathan to develop the concept he had in mind. First Idea selects investment opportunities aligned with the principles of the positive economy by focusing efforts in identifying corporate or institutional entities willing to address societal and economic change.

Far from being a run of the mill investment boutique, First Idea strives to be both a laboratory of positive ideas for clients and an aggregator of talents, aiming to design new levers of economic, social, societal and cultural developments and respond to the challenges of tomorrow’s world through creative, innovative and bespoke solutions.

More concretely, First Idea is a firm specialized in the Middle East region. It assists its clients in reshaping the economy for a post-oil order through the deployment and implementation of hallmark Vision 2030 programs developed in most Gulf countries. Within this frame, First Idea raises awareness about the giant and numerous investment opportunities such national plans offer to worldwide business leaders & companies, with a special focus on French business circles.

First idea’s efforts focus on positive sectors. Indeed, Jonathan Gray is an idea man, devising solutions (ideas, innovation or policies) to positively impact the Gulf’s economy and society as a whole by creating sustainable foundations for flourishing and innovative ecosystems.

Therefore, First Idea aims at facilitating Vision 2030’s successes, at helping answer Middle East’s most critical challenges, with a strong focus on Food security & safety (Agritech), Water security (Watertech), Green construction, Carbon sinks, Carbon valuation, EcoTourism.

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