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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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Agricultural data is becoming big business in Africa

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

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

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

A lot of Challenges to Face

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

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

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

Using Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Eco is set to replace old colonial currencies in several countries

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In the aftermath of World War 2, the French franc had been devalued so as to have a set exchange rate with the US dollar. This left France’s currency relatively weak, something that could affect France’s existing colonies in Africa and that could also affect imports to those colonies to France. A decision was taken in December of 1945 to create a new currency, the CFA franc, for 14 countries in western and central Africa. 

There has been disagreement over the benefits, especially in recent decades, of having a currency pegged first to the French franc and more recently to the Euro. In December, 2019, the former colonies agreed a deal with France to rename the CFA franc as the Eco and to remove some of the financial links with France that have existed since the CFA franc’s creation. But what does this mean for the countries involved? Will it give them more economic freedom or will it lead to problems with imports and exports?

The Eco Would Be Pegged To the Euro 

A lot of the impetus for this change comes from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional grouping of 15 countries established in 1975. For more than 20 years, ECOWAS has sought to establish a common regional currency in order to remove issues caused by trade barriers and to boost economic growth in a region that has over 380 million people living in it. While the 8 countries (most of them French-speaking) in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) bloc reached agreement in December to start moving away from the CFA franc, some issues still remain. The agreement would see the countries no longer having to keep half their reserves in France (something they had to do as France guaranteed the CFA franc). 

However, the new currency would be pegged to the Euro and that pegging would be guaranteed by France, something that is making Anglophone countries in the area such as Nigeria and Ghana reluctant to join, especially as France would have a seat on the ECOWAS board as a result. 

The Covid-19 Crisis Severely Impacts the Original Plan

The original plan was to roll out the new currency sometime in 2020. But there are two hurdles that stand in the way of that ambitious timetable. The first of those is that the criteria set for economic convergence included any countries involved keeping their public debt lower than 70% of GDP and also having inflation in single figures. As of December, only Togo – one of the smallest countries in the region – had met that criteria. The second hurdle is the current Covid-19 crisis which is severely impacting the global economy. With the next ECOWAS meeting schedule for June of this year, it remains to be seen whether it will go ahead as planned. 

Nigeria and Ghana are both looking at the proposals in more detail and Nigeria has stated that they will respond later in 2020. Ghana is enthusiastic about the plan but are insistent that any exchange rate must be flexible and the Governor of the Bank of Ghana has said that issues surrounding the new currency will take time to resolve. 

International Monetary Fund welcomes the proposals

The IMF’s managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, has welcomed the proposals. She sees them as much needed modernisation of the fiscal policies between France and its former colonies. She also recognised that WAEMU has a solid track record in recent years as far as maintaining economic growth and low inflation were concerned and that they had increased their foreign exchange reserve levels. 

Transition and Problems

The possible postponement of the ECOWAS meeting aside, there may still be more issues facing the planned transition period. 

  • The pegging of the ECO to the Euro, and the unconditional guarantees of that from France, have to be ratified both by the French parliament and by WAEMUM members. 
  • The exact terms of the guarantee from the French Treasury have still to be agreed. Will it take the form of overdraft facilities or an extended line of credit? 
  • Withdrawing the African currency reserves held in France can only happen once these two agreements have been signed. 
  • Once those reserves have been withdrawn, the interest on them will be less than the 0.75% the French Treasury currently pays. This will mean that budgets will have to be adjusted. 
  • Dates have to be agreed for when France’s representatives on the La Banque Centrale des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest’s (BCEAO) supervisory bodies should be withdrawn. 
  • Agreement as to note printing and coin minting for the Eco cannot be reached until the various positions of the regional bodies agree as to fixed or flexible exchange rates and the question of pegging. 

Hopefully, the nations involved can overcome the hurdles facing them. As Africa’s economic growth continues, such plans for regional currencies to support existing trading blocs may be a vital part of progress.

Photos : agoravox.fr / afrique.le360.ma / financialafrik.com

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Zindi: finding solutions by encouraging competition

Comments (0) Featured, Leaders, Non classé

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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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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Anbessa: Best Foot Forward for This Ethiopian Shoemaker

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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

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Spotify enters into the South African market

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Entertainment and Lifestyle, Technology

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Global music streaming provider Spotify launched its services in South Africa on Tuesday, marking its entry into Africa, where there is a rapid uptake of smartphones and improving telecommunications infrastructure.

The Swedish company, launched in 2008 and available in more than 60 countries, is the biggest music streaming company in the world and counts services from Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google Play as its main rivals.

The South Africa launch comes as Spotify prepares for a direct listing of its shares on the New York Stock Exchange, which will allow investors and employees to sell shares without the company raising new capital or hiring Wall Street banks to underwrite the issue.

“We believe South Africa is a wonderful country to start in,” Spotify Managing Director in Middle East and Africa Claudius Boller told Reuters on the sidelines of the launch.

“We looked at the technology landscape, we looked at the maturity and actually South Africa is seen globally as a very important music market.”

Spotify also has aspirations to branch out into the rest of Africa, Boller said, without committing to timelines or geographies.

An increase in connectivity across South Africa, helped by higher investment in infrastructure, as well as a growing uptake in credit cards and bank accounts has drawn global video and music streaming providers.

Its music streaming market is dominated by players such as Apple Music, Google Play, France’s Deezer and Simfy Africa, with only a few local operators such as mobile phone operator’s MTN and Cell C with MTN Music+ and Black.

Internet and entertainment firm Naspers also recently launched music streaming platform Joox, from China’s Tencent, in which it holds a 33 percent stake.

In its filing to list its shares, Spotify said its operating loss widened to 378 million euros ($465.32 million) in 2017 from 349 million euros.

($1 = 0.8123 euros)

 

(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; editing by Jason Neely and Pritha Sarkar)

 

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2017 Top African Finance Ministers

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finance

Economic and finance ministries from West and East African have set the standard for 2017’s API. Ten countries from the region have mastered macroeconomic balance with growth rates above 5% that outpace their demographic growth. Burkina Faso topped the list with 53%, followed by Senegal with 52%, Tanzania with 48%, Ethiopia with 47%, Kenya with 46%, Rwanda with 45%, Niger and Guinea with 43%, Cote d’Ivoire with a 42% growth rate, and Togo with 41%.

The API was extended in 2017 to include all African countries, instead of only those in the CFA zone, or the central and west regions, as was the case in previous editions. API 2017 also saw the inclusion of a new category for evaluation: the digital financial infrastructure worth 40% of a country’s mark, along with endogenous factors 30%, and institutional and fiscal frames, worth 30%. Although growth was substantial last year, financial website Financial Afrik warns that unless African countries can maintain growth of over 10% for over a decade there will not be any major development in the country.

Leading the pack

Topping the list of Africa’s best finance ministers is Burkina Faso’s Minister of Economy, Finance and Development Rosine Sori-Coulibaly. In office since January 2016, Sori-Coulibaly has been working to reduce the weight of current expenditure in the state budget, and has also allowed the public greater access to small business loans. She is joined by Senegal’s Amadou Ba, who brought about an increased cycle of growth garnered by the country since 2014. Third on the list is Philip Mpango, the appointed minister of finance in Tanzania since 2015. Mpango continues to create structural reforms in the country to finance free education and complete the nationalization of precious stones.

Other ministers of note include Ethiopia’s Abraham Tekeste, who is in charge of the implementation of a five-year-plan in the country to display a GDP growth of 11% per year. Over this period, industrial growth is set at 24% per year. Minister of Finance in Kenya Henry K. Rotich is at the root of several in-depth reforms in the East African country. Advocating for diversification, Rotich faces the challenge of financing Kenya’s public external debt. Rwanda’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Claver Gatete has distinguished himself in the rationalization of current expenditures, the implementation of innovative policies and the facilitation of procedures for economic operators.

Implementing policies

Rounding out the top ten is Niger’s Hassoumi Masaoudou, who has been minister of finance since 2016 and has the challenge of financing the Economic and Social Development Plan for Niger from 2017 to 2021. In a tense security environment Financial Afrik reports the first year of the plan has been quite successful. Guinea’s Malado Kaba has inherited several major infrastructure projects and is the first Guinean appointed minister of finance to obtain satisfactory results in regard to funding. Former head of the Ivorian Treasury, Cote d’Ivoire’s Adama Kone has reconciled the imperative of controlling the budget with the need for growth. The current cocoa crisis has not broken this balance and Ivorian fundamentals remain strong. Minister of Economy and Finance in Togo since 2015, Sani Yaya’s great challenge remains to restructure the country’s debt and to mobilize funds for development programs. In the two years as finance minister, Yaya’s results have awarded him respect.

Digital Financial Infrastructure

The API identifies four determinants that favor the construction of digital financial infrastructure in African countries. Innovation centers, the organization of public dialogues on financial and regulatory technologies, a national tool for digital verification of identity and the creation of a digital environment secure enough to experiment with the offer of innovative financial services. Both Kenya and Senegal scored highly in this area with both countries developing incubators of technological innovation, such as, spaces for co-creation between entrepreneurs and accelerators of enterprise. Also standing out in this area are Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Tanzania and Togo, thanks to the organization of public dialogues on the future of finance, financial regulation and inclusion.

According to Financial Afrik, Africa is improving in terms of economic and political governance, however in terms of transparency and institutional communication efforts must be made. Ministries of Economy and Finance are responsible for strengthening competitiveness between domestic and foreign companies, but at the same time, they need to ensure consumers are protected.    

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TV5Monde Afrique Launches Digital Offer for 25th Anniversary

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tv5monde afrique

As part of the network’s 25th anniversary, TV5Monde Afrique has launched a free digital offer on online and mobile programs, specifically for African users. With 1.2 billion inhabitants, 362 million internet users, 150 million social network users and 220 million Africans aged between 15 to 24, the region is becoming a hot spot for telecom investors and TV5Monde is keen to take advantage.

TV5Monde’s digital director Helene Zemmour said the growing mobile market in the African continent meant the network had to find a way to move with user habits and rethink their offer for mobile. Consisting of a new website, mobile app and offline content, TV5Monde will broadcast programs based on the centralised theme of Africa, such as, the daily Africa Journal, as well as, movies, series, game shows, sport, documentaries, and magazines. Officially launched in Kigali, Rwanda in October, it will launch from Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire on November 27th, Dakar in Senegal on December 5th, and Paris, France on December 11th. TV5Monde’s move to mobile, aims to confirm the network’s position on the continent and stay in touch with Africa’s increasing mobile consumption.

Mobile Consumption in Africa

According to the London research and consulting firm Ovum, over a billion Africans will be connected online by 2020, and this is due to the growth and influx of affordable smartphones. According to Ovum’s statistics, there are currently 419 million people online in the region, which is set to more than double over the coming five years to 1.07 billion people, by 2022. Ovum’s research shows Africa to be the fastest growing mobile market in the world and mobile data will be the main driver of growth. Researchers suggest this increase in data connectivity will also bring rising data revenue for operators, and create new platforms for digital services.

According to Bloomberg’s Matthew A. Winkler, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, hand-held phones are driving economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa as much as the railroad did in the United States of America in the 19th century. Mobile phones are letting people be their own ATMs, Winkler said, increasing economic activity by enabling payments for food, travel, school and business. This transformation is reflected in the more than 1,300 publicly traded companies that make up corporate Africa. According to data collected by Bloomberg, communications firms have increased in the last five years by 25% of the total market capitalization of African companies, up from 16%. Materials and energy, the natural resources the region is known for, diminished to a combined 18%, from 27%, for the same period. With a mere 43% mobile penetration, compared to 65% for the world, it will not be surprising if Sub-Saharan Africa will be most highly favoured region for telecom investors.    

SES-5 Satellite

Taking advantage of the high digital growth forecasts for the region, TV5Monde has also signed a long-term distribution contact with SES to broadcast three channels to French speaking viewers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The SES-5 satellite, which covers Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Atlantic Ocean, will distribute TV5Monde Afrique, the youth channel, TiVi5Monde, as well as, the lifestyle channel, TV5Monde Style HD.

The move to join SES, is also a move to strengthen the use of the French language across Africa. TVMonde’s CEO, Yves Bigot said the agreement would broaden the reach of the French language, which was becoming all the more decisive in a digital world where language is increasingly important, and the CEO of SES Video said the company would be delighted to contribute to the spread of the French language. SES-5 currently distributes over 500 local and international channels to Sub-Saharan Africa, 65 of which, are in French.

Dedicated to the audiences of the African continent and to the diaspora and fans of Africa, TV5Monde’s digital offer hopes to tap into the expanding internet audience, as well as, maintain and possibly grow the French language in the region.

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Nigeria’s President continues to divide opinions

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Muhammadu Buhari

When Muhammadu Buhari was elected as Nigerian President in March 2015; it was the culmination of a long and controversial involvement in Nigerian politics. While many have criticized his record on human rights, others have praised his seemingly incorruptible nature, and efforts to battle domestic terrorism. As recent health concerns have yet to be fully abated, the future of the President remains uncertain.

A history of political struggle

Muhammadu Buhari was born on December 17th 1942, in Daura, Katsina State, to a large family in which he was the 23rd child. By the age of 19, Buhari had joined the military, and within one year he had been sent to the UK for officer training. Buhari returned to Nigeria in 1963 and from here, until his election in 2015, he was rarely away from the political struggles within the country.

After serving the government in the Nigerian Civil War, Buhari was involved in the 1966 Counter Coup, before supporting the 1975 Coup that briefly led to him taking on nonmilitary roles within the new government.

But it is the 1983 Coup, that he led, which threw him into the limelight. Buhari took power from January 1984 until August 1985, in which time he led a fierce stamp down on political corruption, indiscipline and rising crime. While the measures were seen by many as necessary for economic reform, widespread human rights abuses were reported, and press freedom was severely curtailed.

Buhari’s brief stint in power came to an end in 1985, when he was overthrown and put into detention for 3 years. However, his ambitions as a leader saw him return to politics with a failed Presidential bid in 2003, followed by two more attempts at gaining democratic election in 2007 and 2011.

Legitimacy and the Future

Buhari finally succeeded in becoming the democratically elected President in March 2015, when Nigeria elected him to replace incumbent leader, Goodluck Jonathon. Buhari’s commitment to breaking the cycle of corruption within Nigerian politics was almost immediately displayed when he had former national security advisor, Sambo Dasuki, arrested for embezzling $2 billion worth of funds that were assigned for the battle with Boko Haram.

Several other senior government figures have also found themselves in jail, as Buhari looks to cut out the rot that he feels has hampered Nigerian progress for too long. However, this has echoes of similar moves that he made in his brief run of power in the 1980’s, and the world’s leaders are unlikely to be supportive of the other measures that Buhari employed at the time, including executions for drug users, and public floggings for people who did not line up at bus stops in an orderly fashion.

Thus far, none of the obvious abuses of the past have manifested themselves under Buhari’s new leadership, and there has been marked improvement in the security in Nigeria’s north-eastern region, which has borne the brunt of much of the nation’s Islamic extremism.

However, a recession hit Nigeria soon after Buhari’s electoral triumph, and Islamist forces pushed out of the north-east have begun to increase attacks within the nation’s oil rich, Niger Delta region. Buhari has also faced criticism over his recognition of women in government, as his cabinet is only 16% female, compared with the previous regime’s 31%.

Major concerns over Buhari’s health

Most recently, there have been major concerns over Buhari’s health, and whether he would be capable of continuing in power. In January of this year, Buhari traveled to the UK for treatment on an unspecified condition, and remained there for 7 weeks, before returning to Nigeria in March. Buhari then returned to London for more treatment on May 7th, and thus far has not gone back to his nation.

Although his wife has assured concerned Nigerians that he is recovering well, there is a growing demand in Nigeria for him to be declared unfit, and while vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, has been in control during Buhari’s absence, there are several other potential leaders looking for their chance to take the top post.

Buhari is a man who has fought in wars, coups and survived an assassination attempt in 2014; so regardless of ones opinion on his policies, it cannot be said that he is easily broken. The future of his leadership looks uncertain, but if he is physically capable, then we can be assured he is likely to do his utmost to retain his position.

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