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Can Russia be a major player in Africa? Outcomes from Sochi.

Comments (0) Africa, Economy, Politics

With the ongoing competition between Russia and China trying to take the lead on African investment and partnerships and the United State’s revived interest over the continent, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted a Russia-Africa summit in Sochi from the 23rd to the 24th of October.

National belts are tightening globally, and FDI (foreign direct investment) has been decreasing worldwide, yet Africa has been the one region to see the opposite, with FDI to the continent rising in 2018 to US$46 billion, a year on year rise of 11% from 2017. Yet while we may see China and Russia as the ‘main players’ in Africa, the two superpowers remain behind other nations in terms of total investment, with France leading the way followed by The Netherlands and the UK. In terms of development aid, the show continues to be run by the U.S., China, and Japan, with little in the way of ‘no strings’ aid coming from Russia.

Many considered investment in Africa to be like a modern second wave of colonialism, where nations and multinationals sought to reap the benefits of expanding economies and massive amounts of untapped resources. But this time, the African nations have a lot more power when it comes to accepting investment, and the huge amounts of money flowing inwards are being channelled into infrastructure, transport systems, and bringing some of the lagging economies into the 21st Century.

This summit was meant to be a rallying call, an announcement to the world that Russia was back in Africa, a statement of intent that Russia’s decreased influence in Africa was about to reverse. So, did anything actually happen at Sochi?

54 countries, US$12.5 billion in deals signed

All 54 countries in Africa responded favourably to Vladimir Putin’s invitation. And 43 of these nations were directly represented by their respective heads of state like the President of Congo, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, or the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who co-chaired the Sochi summit alongside Putin,

“US$12.5 billion in deals signed” claimed the banner headlines out of Moscow. But it is worth taking a step back and realising that most of these deals were memorandums of understanding, and these MOUs do not always come to fruition, so it is far too early to declare Sochi a success or a failure.

Russia has been the main military partners of some African countries for many years and has consistently been the main source of African arms over the last decade. So during this summit, Russia has confirmed it is multiplying military cooperation and defence agreements with several African countries like Mali.

Other areas where Russia is already doing very well in Africa are in the energy and transport sectors:

The Russian state corporation specialised in nuclear energy, Rosatom, has signed an agreement with Rwanda for the upcoming construction of a Nuclear Science and Technology Centre. This Centre plans to organize the production of radioisotopes that could be used in industry, agriculture and medicine. It will also be equipped with a nuclear facility powered by a 10 MW pressurized water reactor.The Russian railway equipment manufacturer, Transmashholding, has signed a €1 billion with Egyptian National Railways for the delivery of 1300 passenger cars. The company chaired by Andrey Bokarev has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Nigeria for the delivery of rolling stock for the Nasarawa-Abuja railway section construction project.

Andrey Bokarev, President of Transmashholding

Africa determines the future of the world’s agenda

If Russia is to continue competing in Africa, it must play to its existing strengths. While Russia may not be able to compete with the U.S. and China in terms of consumer goods and electronics, it should value its expertise in heavy industry and energy. If they fall behind too much in this game, then their own economy may stagnate, something the country wants to avoid. Thanks to this kind of summit, investment from Russia may increase in the years to come.

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Transmashholding Signs Major Egyptian Deal

Comments (0) Business, Transport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A radical change for Egypt

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

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

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

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Is The 4IR the Way Forward for Africa?

Comments (0) Africa, Economy

To be able to look at Africa’s place in the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) we need to first consider what 4IR actually means. The third industrial revolution, or digital revolution, was the development of computers and information technology. 4IR, while seen by some as merely an extension of 3IR, is better separated into its own cycle, mainly because of the rapidity of progress in some areas and the wider repercussions and effects resulting from these new developments and technologies. 

A simple definition of 4IR would be: “The fourth industrial revolution is the current and developing environment in which disruptive technologies and trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the way we live and work.” (1) 

Is Africa ready to accept and embrace 4IR? Or is it, as some have suggested, even ready to lead it? Africa has almost half of the world’s fastest-growing and developing nations. It also has the youngest population of any continent. But the other side of that coin is the fact that 27 of the world’s 28 poorest countries are in sub-Saharan Africa and the average poverty rate is just over 40%. The World Bank also estimates that if current patterns continue, then by 2030, 87% of the planet’s extreme poor will be in Africa. 

“To provide digital skills to those that do not have them”

Could 4IR play a major role in reducing those figures? South Africa certainly thinks so. While many think that 4IR could take jobs away from people, South Africa sees it as an opportunity to revolutionize the jobs sector across the continent and to train a new generation in the necessary skills to boost African economies. 

South Africa’s Communications and Digital Technologies Minister, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, said: “We have to provide digital skills to those that do not have them. We have to make sure that we invest in different resources that we are going to need but most important is to identify what must be Africa’s niche in the fourth industrial revolution.”

A lack of internet penetration across Africa

One major barrier to Africa’s participation in 4IR is the fact that the majority of their available workforce is low-skilled or unskilled. Another, and perhaps more crucial, barrier is the current lack of internet penetration across the continent. Estimates from 2001 state that less than 14% of the population have access to the internet. For access to broadband services, that drops to 1% or lower. In 2015, the number of Africans using the internet varies greatly, from 1% in Eritrea to 57$ in Morocco. 

A declaration of willingness to fully participate in 4IR is not enough. And the idea of being the leader of 4IR will require more than optimistic words at a conference. There is a real need for urgent action, development, and investment in the following areas: heavy infrastructure such as railways, roads, energy supplies, light infrastructure such as ISPs and internet connections, training and education to transform that low-skilled/unskilled workforce into a computer literate, digital-savvy one. 

A monumental investment to create a 4IR economy in Africa

The investment to achieve all of this and to create a foundation on which Africa can create a 4IR economy of any type is monumental. Governmental funds could not hope to cover the amounts needed, so governments need to also create an atmosphere and conditions which will attract inward investment. There is also the option of loans, a very real possibility given the ongoing economic war of attrition in Africa between the three global superpowers. Going the loan route could be a double-edged sword though. On one hand, the current competitiveness between the superpowers means that for once, the country seeking the loan has some advantage in negotiating terms. But as with any loan, the downside is the repercussions should the country default on loans, repercussions which could be dire for decades after. 

To achieve any progress in this area, the lead has to be taken by the African Economic Community (AEC). A major part of even beginning on that path to progress is the African Continental Free Trade Area which fully came into force earlier in 2019. But with so much economic disparity across the continent, can the AEC or the Free Trade Area manage to achieve the balance between the nations or will the economic powerhouses such as South Africa be the only countries who can really take their place in the 4IR marketplace?

(1) https://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/fourth-industrial-revolution

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Russia and Uganda Sign Major Nuclear Energy Deal

Comments (0) Africa

For several years now, Africa has been the new battleground of the world’s superpowers. But this has not been a war fought with guns, tanks, or fighter jets, but rather one fought with loans, supply contracts, and doing anything to be one up on your competitors. 

The latest salvo in this ongoing economic war has been fired by Russia, or to be more exact by Rosatom, the Russian state corporation founded by Vladimir Putin in 2007 and which specialises in nuclear energy. A quick look at some of their statistics show just how big a player this corporation has become in 12 short years: largest electricity generator in Russia, producing almost 20% of the country’s electricity in 2017, ranks first in regards to foreign projects; 33 nuclear plants in 12 countries, leading provider of global uranium enrichment services with 1/3 of the world market, $300 billion of portfolio orders as of January 2017.

Energy and mining are the two sectors where Russia is particularly active in Africa, with Rosatom, Alrosa (mining), and Gazprom (natural gas extraction) leading the way. 

3 African countries in the top 10 list of global uranium producers

With the formal signing of an agreement on September 18th of this year for Rosatom to build a nuclear reactor in Uganda (the Memorandum of Understanding having been signed in 2017), Russia and Rosatom have cemented their position on energy production even further. 

It’s no surprise that nuclear energy is spreading across Africa. Three African countries (Namibia, South Africa, and Niger) are in the top 10 list of global uranium producers. Surveys by the Ugandan Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development estimate some 52,000 square kilometres of deposits across the country. 

Rosatom are slowly spreading their reach across the continent. They are currently building a $29 billion nuclear reactor in Egypt, though 85% of that cost is covered by loans from Russia, a fact that has some commentators worried about what possible defaults could mean. Rosatom have also signed a deal to build a reactor in Nigeria, as well as signing MOUs with Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Ethiopia. As well as infrastructure and supply contracts, Russia and Rosatom are also investing in human resources. They already have a scholarship programme running in Kenya and are training locals to work in the nuclear industry in several African countries with a view to establishing close and long term relationships. 

With only one nuclear reactor, in South Africa, currently operating on the continent, it is still early days for the industry. And while Russia and China may be the current leaders in signing nuclear deals, don’t count out the USA just yet. While their once mighty 90% share of the global market has dramatically shrunk to around 20%, there is a renewed interest from the US State, Energy, and Commerce departments who are seeking to establish early relationships with countries who have long term plans to build a nuclear reactor in the future. 

Nuclear the best option for Africa?

But for now, it is Russia and China leading the way, with Russia looking to have the edge across Africa. This new deal, while it may take many years to come to fruition, illustrates future paths for other African countries. And though there are currently no financial details available for the Ugandan deal, it would be no surprise if there were loans in place similar to the deal with Egypt. And with constant developments in the field of nuclear energy, deals and MOUs agreed now may see different technology being applied when the reactor plants actually come to be constructed. Rosatom has the RITM-200 series reactor, a small modular reactor which is currently installed on some ice-breaking ships and which are expected to be installed in land-based plants around 2027, the same approximate timeframe as when there will be a proper framework, both infrastructure and regulatory, in the sub-Saharan region. 

Russia and Rosatom are playing a long game here, but with an eye of the growth of Africa’s population and industry which will demand cheap energy sources. If any regulatory framework can guarantee safety levels, then nuclear seems the best option for the rapidly growing continent.

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Making a Mark in Africa: Global Brands Dominate

Comments (0) Africa, Business

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

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

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

African consumers tend to be loyal

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

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

African brands have been declining year on year

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

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

Anbessa Shoe Share Company: the most impressive African performer

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

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

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

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

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

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Adamant, the new african digital adventure

Comments (0) Africa, Entertainment and Lifestyle

Adamant is a new digital medium aimed at connected African youth. The media promotes continental ambitions through a network of creative and offbeat influencers. Meeting with its founder Denis Cantin and its program manager Angélique Amougou.

  • Denis Cantin, you are the founder of Adamant Media, before talking about your new digital media, let’s talk about you and what led you to create Adamant?

Denis: I was heading the content sales over Europe-Middle East- Africa for A+E Networks (Disney / Hearst) for 5 years in London and I thought there was still a place in Africa for high level Entertainment media , gathering Africans and Diaspora, offering the best of comedy Series, sketches, Beauty, Sports and news. And that media should be digital, free and on mobile to reach everyone. I left my job last summer and we have launched Adamant on the 1st of April 2019.

  • Can you explain how Adamant works? 

Denis: We are settled like a proper Media group and we control the whole chain from Creation and Production to Broadcast and Advertising: 

First, adamant is the media of Continental Entertainment. Millions of people watch us and enjoy fresh high quality African content on a daily basis. 

adamant is also a studio, aggregating and supporting the best producers and talents from every corner of West and central Africa. 

Last but not least, adamant is an unique expertise in digital communication and marketing over the the whole Continent. Africa is experiencing massive growth you could compare it to a startup for that matter. Africa is as digital as you can get. We are in our element. Our logline is indeed “ Digital, Continental, adamant”. 

  • Angélique Amougou you are in charge of influencer relations at adamant, what drives the talents and influencers to join Adamant, according to you? 

Angélique: Quite honestly, there’s no better home than adamant for talented influencers. Our business model has been set up to allow comedy influencers, our A-Producers,  to grow without losing their soul and their business. We encourage creation, we finance the best talents. Not only, we are also sharing our experience in terms of storytelling , post editing, promotion and access to sponsors. 

Some influencers are already big in their own country like the super popular duo the Pakgne (Murielle Blanche and Marcelle Kuetche) in Cameroon with already 1 million followers.  With us, they have become continental stars. Some are less known, and when the adamant team feels they’re good, we offer them an A class treatment and after a few weeks, it looks like they have always been famous.

“babatché à tout prix” was watched by a few thousands people before we got involved, it was promising but still limited. Now with adamant, each of their episodes is followed by between 300 000 and 2 million people! They are some genuinely International stars now. We did the same for the couple Thakai and many others. We have now the biggest team of influcencers in this part of the World. And we can tell you: each and every of them count. 

African talents are amazing and we are glad to share this with the rest of the world.

Les gos Babatche – adamant
  • What kind of audience Adamant is targeting ? 

Denis: Our audience is mostly between 18 and 44 years old. They are adults and parents. Social networks in Africa are usually male skewing but we are very balanced between male and female at 50/50. Our audience is connected and engaged. Our engagement rate is just tremendous: 34%!  Our audience is urban and strongly connected. Our first cities are Abidjan, Dakar, Douala and Paris but we do not only reach the big cities; adamant is followed in every corner of Francophone Africa and the world. You can’t imagine how global we are.

  • What new programs are you trying to put in place? 

Denis: adamant will remain pure entertainment and close to our audience’s everyday life. So we won’t explore genres like crime, sci-fi …Unless there is a twist, a good idea and lots of fun! 

 I will tell you that the quality will only go in one direction: up. And more and more content will be original and never seen on line. Stay tuned!

Angelique: Talent wise, we have wonderful talents in the key territories Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon now. We are about to contract with influencers in Burkina Faso, we are digging in Mali, Madagascar, Guinée. Be sure we won’t forget any territory.

  • So you are producing branded content, what do you bring to advertisers that is unique to adamant?

Denis: The affinity. adamant is close to our audience thanks to a very dedicated team and our influencers. We make people laugh on a daily basis. There is no better communication than a smile.

And with this smile, we provide the top notch values services of a digital agency with reflection, strategy, tactics, ads and even more important, high value video production. We invent formats and new series on demand. We clearly do our best to spoil our clients ad we are committed on our targets and KPIs.

  • What are your ambitions, your future plans or projects for Adamant?

Denis: adamant is fast and furious (smile). We are launching this week our free VOD site with all our videos. We will announce soon a business partnership with a leading Film production and talent agency in the heart of Nollywood. This allows us to produce both in French and English original with top influencers. We are post producing our first animation for pre-school children with our talent’s voices. We will of course expand out of the Francophone area soon, but first thing first, we have to make sure our clients are spoiled and that we remain the leaders.

Ah yes, maybe a last one;  the Studio veteran is now talking, my sincere dream would be to produce the Pan African comedy feature Film starring all our great influencers. And this will come true sooner than later!

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Russia’s Return to Africa

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Once an important player on the African continent, Russia has renewed its aspirations for economic, military, and trade ties with several African nations. From Algeria to Zimbabwe, Russia is investing in energy and resource projects, lending military and diplomatic support to embattled African leaders, and once again positioning itself as an influential presence in the region.

Historical ties with Africa and shifting interests

During the height of the Soviet Union, newly independent African countries such as Mozambique, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Ethiopia, Angola, Benin and Uganda all received valuable materials and ideological support from the Russian superpower, including training and education to many of these country’s leaders. The Soviet Union’s influence across African states was widespread until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the regime in 1991.

Fast-forward to 2018, and Russia appears set to return to its influential position over the continent – yet with a very different approach and goal in mind. As African nations are opening up to being courted by new strategic partners, the time is ripe for new foreign entrants to make their mark on the continent. Russia is thus in a good place to re-establish itself across the region – and indeed appears to be doing so – via strategic investments in energy and raw materials.

Investment in Energy and Minerals – new opportunities arise

According to ISS Africa, trade and investment between Russia and Africa grew by 185% from 2005 to 2015. Whilst in 2017 alone, Russia’s trade with Africa rose by 26% to $17.4 billion. Senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Paul Stronski says there are many advantages for Russia engaging with resource laden countries on the African continent. With a shortage of minerals such as chromium, bauxite, and manganese, all of which are important to industry, Russia is looking for rights to extract minerals, oil, and gas in less complicated or costly places than Siberia and the Arctic, Stronski says. With a strong presence on the national soil and a proven expertise in raw material extraction, no doubt that CEOs such as UMMC’s Iskander Makhmudov will be setting their eye on the continent sooner or later.

Economically, the focus of Russian investment is on energy. Russian power companies, such as Lukoil (oil), Gazprom (gas), and Rosatom (nuclear energy) are already active across the continent, with most activity being in Uganda, Nigeria, Egypt, Angola and Algeria. Others, such as Kuzbassrazrezugol (a coal mining organization, and also a company Iskander Makhmudov has stakes in), are already global exporters and could very well aim to penetrate the African market in the future. Others, such as Transmashholding (also a company Iskander Makhmudov has interests in), already trade with Egypt and South Africa – admittedly some of the most developed markets on the continent.

According to energy news site Power Technology, a deal between Rosatom and Egypt’s Ministry of Electricity to create the country’s first nuclear power plant has already been finalized. As most large Russian corporations are fully or partially state-owned, Russian interest takes the form of public/private partnerships.

Indeed, although Russia’s main arms exports are to Asia, according to the BBC, sales to Africa continue to rise, strengthening Russia’s position on the continent.

A growing geopolitical influence…

Another reason Russia may wish to gain a foothold on the continent is that diplomatically, Africa is a geopolitical strategic landmark. African states comprise of the largest voting bloc across diplomatic, security and economic institutions, such as the UN Security Council. Therefore, holding influence over Africa could have a global reach. Other emerging economies, such as China and India, have also expanded trade significantly across the African region. According to US research group the Brookings Institute, China provided some $60 billion in financial support to Africa in 2018.  

Although Russia lacks the financial muscle of China, through strategic investments, military might and soft power, the country will see a gradual increase in influence across the African continent, according to ISS Africa research analyst Stephanie Wolters. She believes that, amid a new ‘scramble for Africa,’ it will be up to African leaders to exploit the renewed attention from Russia by brokering favorable deals on good terms, rather than fall victim to previous exploitation by Europe and the West.

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Kilamba, a chance for the Angolans

Comments (0) Africa

Kilamba

During the post-war reconstruction process in Angola, China and some European businesses have been actively working to bring about a number of important building projects. Of these, the star project is the city of Kilamba, where efforts have transformed a rural zone into a undeniably modern city. Kilamba is the fruit of a collaboration between two companies: The Chinese company CITIC Construction, led by Chen Xiaojia, and the investment fund Pierson Capital, led by Pierre Falcone.

Improvement of the Quality of Life

The new residents are particularly satisfied by their new life in Kilamba. They confide to Meng Qingshang, journalist for a Chinese television channel: “The conditions in we were living before were not good. It was a house which did not belong to us, and it was far from the city. With the improvement of our revenues, we were able to move into this new city. We live much better.” Indeed, their apartment is more than 120 square meters, and is a spacious residence for a family of five.

The Santos family makes up some of the thousands whose prospects have improved thanks to the huge building project by CITIC Construction and Pierson Capital. For the children of this family, it is also the chance to meet new people, and to interact with their neighbors. The cadet, Eduane Santos, confided to the journalist that “My life here is very different. Here, it is modern. I have made many new friends here. Before this, I often played alone.”

Kilamba is ideally situated a few kilometers from Luanda. A portion of the city’s buildings have been reserved as social housing. Thanks to this project these Angolans live a better life, and indeed for many residents, it is the first time that they live in their own apartment. The group of apartments consist of residencies which represent a large split from their old homes. The apartments have running water and electricity 24 hours a day, which was formerly difficult to find due to the ravages of the war in Angola.

A four-year-old Construction Site

The buildings of Kilamba comprise one of the largest residential sectors in the world. The city consists of over 100,000 residents. But the construction has not been without its issues, when the project started in 2008, the artisans had  difficulty in finding quality building material on the local markets. They were then compelled to send more than 2 million tons of material directly from China. In total, it has took four years to complete the project.

A City-Sized Development

Today, the post-war construction continues to go forward, leaving in place new ambitions more important still. The Angolans continue to believe that the development of the city will continue, and will continue to bring them new professional and commercial opportunities.

Chen Xiaojia, president of CITIC Construction, has declared that “the project has improved local employment opportunities as well as the quality of life. […] The residencies are well equipped, and the city offers a large range of public infrastructure. We have built schools, sewer systems, as well as electric and water systems. I have learned that the residents of Luanda are proud to live in Kilamba New City. It’s because of this that we are proud.”

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Digital Finance needs to be a top priority for African Growth in 2018

Comments (0) Africa

digital finance

In an annual report released by the Africa Growth Initiative, there is a call for African nations to embrace digital technology as one of the major priorities for 2018. The report, entitled “Foresight Africa: Top priorities for the continent in 2018”, identified six priorities for the continent to capitalize on new technologies that would have the potential to bring more economic prosperity at every level of civil society. Technology-based solutions to long-entrenched problems are believed to be the catalyst the continent needs in order to strengthen its institutions and improve its standing on the global stage.

The Africa Growth Initiative was created in 2011 by the American think-tank The Brookings Institution. The Foresight Africa project is a series of reports, commentaries and events that aim to help policymakers and Africa watchers stay ahead of the trends and developments impacting the continent. Since 2011, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative has used the occasion of the new year to assess Africa’s top priorities for the year.

Education and agriculture could develop more innovative solutions

This year, a particular focus was placed on “harnessing Africa’s digital potential.” By focusing on technology and digitization, countries are better able to shift their economic structures and transform both the labor market and public services. Entrepreneurs with sustainable business models would benefit from opportunities for financial inclusion, easier retail payments, and improvements in administrative services. Other sectors such as education and agriculture could develop more innovative solutions as a result of improved access to key information such as market feasibility.

One of the biggest areas of opportunity is in mobile payment technology. Given that an estimated 50% of the world’s population is considered “underbanked” or “unbanked”, the development of such technology in the early 2000s gave thousands of people access to a formal banking system in societies that were to-date highly cash-based. On the African continent, the success of the mobile phone-based money transfer system M-Pesa has helped African economies save billions of dollars. M-Pesa made it easy for its users to deposit, withdraw, and transfer money without needing to visit a bank or carry a large amount of cash. For low-income people, especially women, it became easier to borrow and save money.

Public and private investors attracted

Mobile payment technology in development has attracted both public and private investors who see its potential to improve the efficiency of government institutions and private operations, saving money while increasing the volume of business. It has allowed for innovation in other areas: M-Akiba allows for people to invest in bonds issued by the Kenyan government; M-KOPA makes it easy for people to acquire solar power; M-TIBA helps people set money aside for health expenses; and the One Acre Fund invests in small farmers and facilitates the acquisition of seed and fertilizer, training, and loans.

By moving towards digitization, some of Africa’s most intractable problems could be addressed, including corruption, administrative break-downs, and the diversion of public money that has choked the public sector. Rather, the Africa Growth Initiative pushes the public to move towards democratizing access to public services (taxes, commerce, transportation) by shifting the operations online.

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Tunisia Becomes the 21st Member Country of Arabsat

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It was announced April 12, 2018 that Tunisia has been formally elected as a new member country of Arabsat (Arab Satellite Communications Organization) by the Tunisian Minister of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy, Anouar Maarouf. Now with 21 member countries, Tunisia enters with a 0.7% stake in the organization and acted as the host of the 42nd Annual Conference of the Arab Satellite Communications Organization in Gammarth.

While there have been issues in the past with member countries acting in a coordinated fashion, Arabsat’s unique coalition and organization structure is a boon to the technology field throughout the Arab world. The addition of Tunisia to Arabsat seems to be a massive win for the quality of services in the region.

Under the new agreement, Tunisian television and radio will now be broadcasting directly through Arabsat due to the creation of a new satellite station with the National Broadcasting Corporation (ONT). Thanks to this change, picture and sound quality will greatly improve to higher levels capable of taking much better advantage of high definition televisions. Arabsat already offers over 500 standard definition, 95 high definition (HD), and 200 radio stations for its user base. With this added footprint, it is very likely that there will be more and more HD programming coming shortly. Better programming will hopefully means more technology sales and a greater incentive to create more diverse programming across the Arabsat networks.

To increase the planetary footprint of Arabsat

With Tunisia on board, Arabsat Executive Chairman, Khaled Ben Ahmed Balkheyour mentioned the satellite telecom coalition is currently seeking to invest over $600 million (1440 dinars) in two brand new industrial satellites. One of the control stations will be located in the Edkhila region of Manouba in Tunisia while the second will be featured in Saudi Arabia. The goal of will be to increase the planetary footprint of Arabsat, and strengthen coverage in the rest of Africa and Europe. Not only allowing for better television broadcasting, but also better internet services, and better maritime and military communications. As of now, the expectation is that each of the new stations will be operational by the first quarter of 2019.

Like with any satellite venture, much of the costs are up front. It requires a great deal of capital to build and launch a satellite into geosynchronous orbit around the planet. Such an early sizeable investment explains the need for over 20 countries at its inception. Making satellite technology viable and profitable takes a great deal of time and effort and backing money. This is a major explanation for the fact that while it was started in 1976 (with much unofficial history before that), Arabsat did not have its first satellite in orbit until 1985. However, in the 21st century, Arabsat has more support than ever as well as the ability to bring in revenue on its own thanks to its robust content and internet offerings. Arabsat has become a major player in the telecom industry and experts say that its very existence is a powerful beacon of collaboration throughout the Arab world.

A new member country: the continued expansion of the organization

As one of the most massive telecom conglomerates in the world, this year’s conference saw the chairman speak highly of the host country, playing up Tunisia’s role in promoting the direction and connection of Arabsat. He also announced Arabsat’s profits in 2017 reaching $120 million (288 million dinars) and a strong hope for future growth in the industry. With Tunisia on board, Arabsat seems to believe the future looks very bright. A greater footprint, more satellite stations, and a new member country signal the continued expansion of the organization and its reach to citizens living and working all over the world.

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