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Demand for Internet Growing, but Infrastructure lags Behind

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Broadband penetration across the African continent is limited, and to meet the growing demand, the continent needs an additional 700 data centers, which will require collaboration between engineers, telecoms and governmental organizations.

Current state of internet in Africa

Broadband penetration across the African continent is limited. Even the leaders for internet penetration – South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya – only have broadband penetration of 64%, 45% and 40%, respectively. This is a far cry from countries like the UK, that boast a 96% penetration. This disparity has been highlighted by the pandemic, but even putting aside the increased demand on internet services during Covid-19 restrictions, demand for internet is growing fast on the continent, following a similar path to the rest of the globe. Streaming services, ride-hailing and banking are all leading the growth in content consumption. A new report by African Data Centers Association (ADCA) and Xalam Analytics has calculated that in order to meet the growing demand, the continent needs an additional 700 data centers for an additional 1000MW of capacity.

Differing responses to pandemic pressures

Across the world, the Covid-19 pandemic forced people to work from home and stay indoors. In countries with high broadband penetration internet usage more than doubled. On the African continent the situation varied. In Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria peak traffic actually decreased at the end of March 2020, while in South Africa usage spiked. This has been put down to the fact that in offices in Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria there is typically a good internet connection. This allows high-bandwidth applications to be used, but as people adjusted to working from home and using their own, often limited internet connections, these high-bandwidth applications caused problems. By contrast, in South Africa where internet infrastructure is more developed, industries were much better prepared to work from home, and so internet usage increased.

Server racks with telecommunication equipment in server room

With growing demand, Africa offers opportunities

For the data center sector, Africa offers a land of opportunity. The industry only entered the continent in 2008, and investment and development has been slow and uneven. IBM entered in 2016, and more companies like Microsoft and Huawei have joined since then. More than 30 Tier III or higher data centers have come online since 2016, effectively doubling the region’s hosting capacity. Despite this, only one third of Africa’s cities with a population of over 1 million have a local data center that meets Tier III standards.

Demand for internet services is growing across the world and more and more devices and industries are taking advantage of high-speed internet, so demand will not shrink. On top of that, Africa’s median age is 20 years old, less than half that of Europe, and an age at which data consumption is particularly high. This makes Africa a golden opportunity for those looking to invest in data centers. Investment was valued at $2 billion dollars in 2020, and the data center industry in Africa is expected to value $6 billion by 2026.

Concerted, coordinated effort required to meet requirements

ADCA’s report, while positive about the future growth prospects of internet in Africa, did warn that achieving the 700 data center target would be challenging. The land, power, and water requirements for data centers of a meaningful scale would need national, regional, and local government involvement. It also would come with a high cost. The average yearly cost to operate a large data center ranges from $10 to $25 million, before taking into account the upfront costs of building the data center and the initial set-up. When including access, power, network connections, servers, storage units, and software licenses the cost can be significant. One mile of fiber-optic connections alone can cost as much as $250,000. To make things more difficult, the infrastructure supply chain in Africa is significantly less developed than in Europe, Asia or the USA and many important components will have to be brought in from overseas.

With such a high price tag, it is clear that collaboration will be important. Industries must invest in connectivity across the continent, with engineers, telecoms and governmental organizations working together to improve connectivity and capacity across the continent as a whole.

A varied continent means varied challenges

While unified and coordinated action is required, addressing the continent’s data problems will also require looking at each region individually. With 54 countries, 2,000 spoken languages and vastly differing populations and population density, there is no universal approach to the problem. In many of the remote and poorly connected areas mobile internet like 4G may be the most economical option, and still a lack of access to electricity will be a major consideration. Nonetheless, the prospects of rapid growth demand and usage of the internet makes the investment a promising one.

Photos : cio.com / infotechlead.com / iclg.com

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Music Streaming Service Anghami gets listed and moves to the UAE

Comments (0) Business, Featured

Anghami is now the first Middle East Tech Company to be listed on NASDAQ, following its acquisition by a SPAC and pending relocation the United Arab Emirates

The Middle East’s Top Music Streaming Platform

In 2012, Anghami revolutionized the way music was consumed in the Middle East by launching the first legal music streaming company in the Arab World. Now, it becomes the first Middle Eastern tech company to list on NASDAQ after merging with a special acquisition company (SPAC), Vistas Media Acquisition. With a music catalog including Arab labels such as Melody, Mazzika and Platinum Records alongside international labels like Sony and Warner, Anghami quickly grew in popularity. Initially launched in Lebanon, the company is relocating its headquarters to the United Arab Emirates with the support of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office’s (ADIO) Innovation Program. Anghami co-founder Elie Habib has been quick to make sure people know that they will “continue to have offices and teams and [they] are still recruiting in Beirut.”

Where Spotify goes Solo, Anghami goes Social

Anghami faced tough competition when it initially launched, with French company Deezer pouring $130 million into a regional expansion in the same year. Since then competition has only increased, with Spotify, Apple Music, and of course YouTube having a global reach, and significantly more resources at their disposal. Despite this, Anghami has managed to grow to have more than 70 million registered users, with over 1 billion streams every month.

Despite the crowded space, Habib was never worried about competition from these other providers as he felt the product was fundamentally different. He has stated that “We aren’t exactly tit for tat with Spotify – we have our own roadmap and differentiators that we focus on…we noticed, for instance, that most users were sharing music with others on WhatsApp, and a lot of our incoming traffic [also] happens via WhatsApp. If users use WhatsApp to send music, this means that they want to share.”

It is sharing that has been key to Anghami’s success. Habib’s theory is that music was meant to be social, not consumed alone, so the service makes it easy to connect with people and bond over music choices. Deep-learning and machine learning algorithms are used to match listeners with profiles that choose similar music, which led to people following more playlists from their matched users.

Anghami has continued with this focus, launching a live radio that features real-time text chat and voice chat to let any user, including artists and DJs talk to each other while playing songs and podcasts from Anghami’s library.

Another Tech Company in Abu Dhabi

The Government of the United Arab Emirates has been trying to entice innovative tech companies for some time, with the goal of turning the country from a consumer of technology to a producer of technology. Its Hub71 incentive program offers subsidized housing, office space and health insurance for companies in the seed and emergent phase, and while Anghami might be beyond that, Habib has stated that the city will invest in both the team and their research in the years to come. Part of the merger agreement is a $40 million commitment from UAE financial firm Shuaa Capital.

Capitalizing on the Extra Capital

Anghami will continue to operate under its own name after the merger with Vistas Media Acquisition. The pro-forma enterprise value is listed at $220 million, and it has been speculated that the company could be valued at close to $300 million following the deal. It is the first time a Middle East Tech Startup has made it on to NASDAQ and speaks volumes to the success of the company. Habib has said that they want to have “deeper penetration into high-growth, high revenue markets.” The newly raised funds are expected to be used to expand further in both Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Photos : Voicebot.ai – oerlive.com

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Pure Harvest Aims to Change the Face of Fresh Food

Comments (0) Business, Featured

Having secured $60 million in funding, Pure Harvest Smart Farms is looking to expand its operations into Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, using advanced technology to bring food security to the arid Middle Eastern climate.

Year-round Local Fresh Food

Pure Harvest is a farming startup using hi-tech, fully climate-controlled greenhouses and a coconut shaving hydroponic solution. Their aim is to provide year-round fresh food in a region where nearly 90% of food is imported. Having secured $60 million in funding, with a further $100 million earmarked by Kuwait’s International Investment Company (Wafra), Pure Harvest Smart Farms is looking to expand its operations into Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, using advanced technology to bring food security to the arid Middle Eastern climate. CEO and co-founder Sky Kurtz described their pilot project in Abu Dhabi as showing promising results with the “potential for year-round local production at very high quality and at a very good cost structure.”

Taming the Desert with High Tech Solutions

Farming consumes huge amounts of water, leading to water scarcity even in temperate regions such as Europe and America. In the arid, dry desert wasting even a drop of water is inconceivable, and Pure Harvest Smart Farms claims their self-contained greenhouses offer a level of efficiency 30 times greater than traditional field farms.

This model of controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) uses greenhouses that go far beyond glass walls to isolate plants. A climate chamber removes heat and humidity from the outside air; this humidity is condensed and fed to the plants inside. There is no soil as plants are grown inside a nutrient rich solution and monitored by sensors to keep the plants healthy. Triple-paned smart glass windows and over-pressurized airflow help manage temperatures to within a 1 degree Celsius margin and carbon dioxide is added to optimize plant growth. 

Kurtz claims that Pure Harvest is expecting a yield of six to eight times more food per meter than other greenhouse farms, while using only one-seventh the amount of water. It will produce 17 to 23 times more food per meter than a traditional field farm.

A Large Market but Pure Harvest struggles to Gain Funding

Despite the success of the pilot, Pure Harvest has a long way to go. According to Kurtz, once they are producing at a scale of 30,000 square meters the produce should be 20-40% cheaper than imported fresh food giving them a very promising market.

But even with the investment of $60 million, and the $100 million soon to follow, Pure Harvest has struggled to secure the funding to expand. The industry is extremely capital intensive, and the Middle East venture capital market is less developed than in other countries. The company has managed to raise $50 million through bonds known as “Sukuk,” Shariah law compliant Islamic bonds, with a further $10 million investment from a January fundraising round led by Sancta Capital.

With the additional $100 million from Wafra, the total sum might appear to be significant, but compared to comparable ventures it is low. Recently a vertical farming firm in the U.S., Plenty, raised more than $500 million in funding.

A Promising Future for Local Food

With global supply chains heavily disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and further shaken by the blockage of the Suez Canal by the Ever Given in March 2021, the UAE region has become increasingly concerned about securing a food supply. If Pure Harvest can deliver on their promises, they stand to benefit handsomely. At the moment there is no reason to suspect otherwise as the company moves forward with expansion plans. Already the Pure Harvest has reached a $35 million agreement with The Sultan Centre in Kuwait to build a farm stretching across 80,000 square meters that can produce millions of kilograms of fresh fruit and vegetables, well past the size that Kurtz marks for profitability.

Photos : findwonder.abudhabi / agfstorage.blob.core.windows.net

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Fujin, John Dodelande’s real estate company involved in the development of the Georgian tourism sector

Comments (0) Business, Europe

John Dodelande Fujin

If John Dodelande began his professional career with a passion for contemporary Chinese art, after having developed a leading agro-industrial activity in the Caucasus region (Georgia), he is today one of the pioneers of an ambitious real estate developments company called Fujin.

Georgia is a country where European and Asiatics cultures meet, and have been blending harmoniously for thousands of years. Regarded as Europe’s green zone and ranked seventh in the World Bank’s 2020 index on ease of doing business, with a well-developed infrastructure and a skilled workforce, this “European jewel” has been determined in recent years to becoming one of the most influential tourist areas on our continent. 

And John Dodelande quickly understood this. His goal? Make this country an attractive territory for investors. This is why this businessman of the new generation built Fujin, a hotel development company based in Tbilisi which links the country from one end to the other. 

If Fujin has been able to rapidly develop its activity in order to attract numerous European or Chinese investors, always with the aim of further developing the Georgian tourist sector, it is thanks to the large network of influential contacts along the Silk Road, but above all,  to the unequalled experience of its director in the creation of partnerships. And even today, large-scale projects are still pouring in.

Among them is the development of the Tbilisi Airport Hotel. With this new 39,000 square-metre complex, the construction of a 120-room Ibis International Hotel and the opening of different local shops, the aim is clear: to create a new travel and entertainment centre in order to take advantage of the exponential increase in the number of tourists travelling through the country in the long-term. 

John Dodelande’s projects also include the development of a ski resort.  Thanks to the new road from Tbilisi, to be completed in 2023 and which will reduce travel time from the airport to two hours, this all-season destination, should attract a larger flow of travellers curious to discover all of Georgia’s breathtaking landscapes.  

We hope that this businessman will bring new surprises for the coming year! 

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Innovation and flexibility allowed MENA startups to raise over $1 billion in 2020

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Innovation and flexibility allowed North African and Middle Eastern startups to raise over $1 billion in 2020

Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, investors continued to believe in the potential of North African and Middle Eastern tech start-ups. The growth in venture capital investments in MENA countries in the latter portion of 2020 speaks volumes about the expected high returns in the coming years. While the total number of investment transactions in 2020 decreased 13% overall from numbers in 2019, a record breaking first half of 2020 and a rebound in late Q3 led to a year that, despite a global pandemic, shattered expectations for investment numbers.

The sectors benefiting most from high investment

While the total number of deals may have dropped, several key industries have experienced major growth throughout 2020:

  • Fintech, or financial tech did very well. Despite losing 19% of the number of deals, total funding for this industry shot up to $162 million.
  • eCommerce was a sector that lost 23% in deals but managed to come out with 24% more funding than the sector received in 2019.
  • Healthcare and Healthtech was an obvious winner given the public health crisis, and investment in Healthcare start-ups soared by 280% compared to 2019 for a total of $72 million in funding

Big winners of the year included the digital healthcare agency Vezeeta, securing a staggering $40 million in series D funding in early 2020, shortly after moving their headquarters to Dubai, and Dubai-based used car marketplace, Sellanycar.com that raised $35 million to expand the number of branches across the country.

United Arab Emirates takes the lion’s share of investment funding

The UAE maintained its powerful lead in total funding, taking 56% of the total of venture capital funding raised within the Middle East and North Africa for the year of 2020. Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia follow with 17% and 15% of the total funding, respectively. As a percentage of the deal share, very little changed compared to 2019. Most changes were only 1 or 2% of the deal share, with the exception of Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia increased the share of the number of deals by 6%, likely because of the large shift towards ecommerce and Fintech within Sauda Arabia during 2020.

Seed rounds and series A receiving the biggest boost in funding

Despite the increase in funding overall, the investment landscape does seem to have been altered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Pre-seed and early stage venture funding decreased in 2020, while Seed funding and Series A investments exploded, potentially reaching up to $3 million of funding. While exact numbers are still being confirmed, it suggests investors are less willing to expose themselves to risk on companies that are yet to bring a product to market, and instead focused on those with a promising outlook for rapid growth. Given the impact the global economy has seen from Covid-19 and the many countries facing a harsh recession, this change of tactics could be seen as a more cautious approach from investors.

A promising outlook for tech start-ups in the Middle East and North Africa

Although Covid-19 is far from over and many of the long-term economic impacts are still to hit home, raising over $1 billion of funding in 2020 is an incredible achievement for MENA start-ups. Chief Operating Officer at 500 Startups Courtney Powell, among others, have said that the outlook for 2021 is positive, and if the Fintech, eCommerce and Healthtech industries can innovate and succeed through the challenging year of 2020, then there is every reason to expect they will succeed in 2021.

Sources: ventureburn.com – gccbusinessnews.com

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The Internet Economy in Africa – Key takeaways of a $180 Billion Industry

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

The e-Conomy Africa 2020 report, a unique collaboration between the IFC and Google, sheds light on the great potential of Africa’s Internet economy, the promising tech entrepreneurs driving innovation, and the growing tech talent across the continent.

The e-Conomy Africa 2020 report, a unique collaboration between the IFC and Google, sheds light on the great potential of Africa’s Internet economy, the promising tech entrepreneurs driving innovation, and the growing tech talent across the continent. Of the top 20 fastest-growing countries in the world, nineteen are located in Africa. Driven by greater access to the internet as well as having an increasingly young and well-educated workforce, the IFC and Google predict an internet economy on the African continent worth $180 billion by the year 2025. This could reach $712 billion by 2050 and despite the impact of Covid-19, this ‘e-conomy’ is expected to be more resilient to the pandemic. This offers several promising avenues for investment on the continent.

Sectors Driving the Growth of the Internet Economy in Africa

Thanks in large part to easier access to mobile internet, several key sectors have been able to flourish in recent years:

  • Fintech, or financial technology, enjoys an average of 120% growth in funding year-on-year, and is the most heavily funded sector in Africa. With large amounts of the population unbanked, startups allow people to leapfrog from physical retail banking to online banking by offering services like payment processing, personal finance, insurance and microloans. Companies like M-PESA in Kenya, Fawry in Egypt and Paystack-62 in Nigeria lead the way in, with some companies growing at more than 100% annually.
  • Healthtech received $189 million in 2019, and the healthcare market in Africa is expected to reach over $100 billion by 2030. Companies like Zipline have been operating medical supply drone deliveries to rural areas, while Helium Health has been providing technological solutions for healthcare providers.
  • Media and Entertainment has seen a rapid increase in demand, thanks in part due to lockdowns and social distancing measures put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Content specifically created in Africa can be found on globally-available streaming platforms, such as Netflix’s “Made in Africa” collection, and African-made content is expected to expand quickly.
  • E-Mobility and Food Delivery has been hard hit by the pandemic, as ride-hailing saw a decrease in demand due to work-from-home and lockdown measures. It is expected to rebound quickly however, as Africa has one of the lowest car to person ratios in the world. In some areas taxis and moto-taxis make up nearly 80% of motorized trips. Global ride-hailing companies like Uber and Bolt have entered the market in the past seven years, in addition to local startups, such as Little, Gokada, Gozem, MaxNG, Safeboda and Yassir. Startups within the e-mobility sector in Africa raised $62 million in 2019. Many of these startups have branched into food and grocery delivery to alleviate the impact of Covid-19.
  • E-Logistics platforms are helping informal retailers with companies such as Kobo360, Lori Systems, Sendy, and Truckr reducing the cost of cargo and local transportation.

Young Tech Talent in Africa Drives the Growth and Consumption of Online Services

Africa has the world’s youngest and fastest-growing workforce, one that is increasingly urbanized. Tech talent in Africa is at a historical high with nearly 700,000 professional developers across Africa, a number that is still rising. Women comprise one in five of the total developer population in Africa, higher than the United States, creating new opportunities for women, especially in Egypt, Morocco and South Africa. A skills gap still exists, with self-taught developers making up the same number of as those that are university-trained. Helping to bridge this gap will help encourage the growth of the internet economy in Africa.

With support and regulation from regional governments, the internet economy in Africa looks set to boom in the coming years, thanks to the hard work and entrepreneurship of local startups on the continent.

Photos : ifc.org – bp.blogspot.com – miro.medium.com

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Shaking up the African mobility arena

Comments (0) Africa, Business

The micromobility tale

In order to adequately assess the micromobility situation in African countries, we have to note that transport alternatives vary tremendously depending on cultural beliefs, social status, geographic hindrances, availability, needs, demand as well as pricing. Most African households cannot afford to buy a car, or even rent one. But the government is yet to invest in bike-friendly infrastructures leaving people with no other choice than being heavily reliant on motorized vehicles to reach their destination. 

With a population of over 1 billion people and almost 75% of motorized trips, sustainable options should be provided to alleviate the demand of a growing population for a flexible, fast and clean microtransport system to commute in traffic-congested communities.

Bringing micromobility to Africa 

Bike sharing has started spreading like wildfire across the world. Unfortunately, this unique technology has known rather slow beginnings in most African cities and is yet to be embraced by the users at large due to the cultural misconception that a bike is a ‘poor man’s means of transportation’. Additionally, an evident lack of bike-specific infrastructure like dedicated cycling lanes, causes companies’ launch to lag behind. 

A fleet of electric scooters or bikes will drastically reduce long queues at bus stops due to an insufficient supply of public buses and will see a drop in household expenses as bikesharing is offered at a minimal fee compared to the high cost of taxis. Micromobility can also bargain on reduced gas-powered emissions, as there will be fewer cars on the streets and solve problems of dangerously high levels of pollution. Moreover, electric scooters are more likely to be a more viable mode of transport. According to “Wired”, a gasoline-powered car can travel 0.8 miles whereas an electric scooter covers 82.3 miles on an equivalent one-kilowatt hour of energy. It is also extremely convenient that electric bikes and scooters take up less space in a parking lot.

The Big Players

Micromobility solutions have been embraced by few operators such as Cycles (Nigeria), Baddel (Egypt), Guraride (Rwanda), Smoove (Morocco), Asambe (Zimbabwe), Lime (Cape Town), 

So far, the leading players in deploying microbility programs are Egypt and Morocco. In 2016, Marrakech (Morocco), was the very first to establish a bike-sharing startup across the city. Smoove, a French company, supplied the 300+ bikes available for public use through the Medinabike program run by the Ministry of Environment. 

Baddel, headquarted in Cairo, Egypt, was the first to set up such a venture in North Africa with 101 electric and 15 dock stations. A partnership with the UN Human Settlements program has also launched hundreds more vehicles throughout the capital since 2018.

Launched in 2017, Guraride, a Rwanda-based green e-mobility company, enables customers to choose their favourite ride by combining in an app the accessibility to electric scooters, bikesharing, and smart bikes. The charging stations are solar-powered and a bike can go up to 70km in a single charge. The government has supported the improvement of infrastructure to accommodate more cycling lanes in Kigali’s centre. Compared to other African countries, Rwanda has more easily implemented the concept of public bike share as cycling is a national pride. 

In 2018, the UN Environment Program partnered with Mobike to begin bike-sharing operations for the UN’s Nairobi compound and featured during the Africa Clean mobility Week, in an attempt to showcase the positive impact of such shifts on the environment. Nairobi has also seen an overhaul in its CBD setting in view of its vision for a green e-mobility by 2030.

Pan-African company Asambe offer for e-biking perfectly fits the demand for a fun, affordable mode of transport given the fact that Zimbabwe has the highest fuel cost and is very often afflicted by petrol shortages.

In communities where all the odds are against the startups, companies like Cycles are sometimes left with no choice than to cater for Universities and residential estates where appropriate framework already exists. Smoove also launched an armada of shared bicycles in Lagos, Nigeria in 2018 but it has not seen any surge in development due to a ban on bike-hailing services imposed by the government

What Lies Ahead

There has been a renewed focus on micromobility, especially following the Covid-19 pandemic need for social distancing, solo rides rather than sharing buses, taxis or trains. This will have in prospect more single riders, fewer points of shared contacts and open-air transit options as we transition out of lockdowns.

Micromobility obviously seems as the best way to reduce congestion and pollution but it is often not considered as a political priority. We can only hope for a switch in both users and the government and that hurdles such as theft, city bans and limited infrastructure will be resolved to ensure complete adoption and that mobility-as-a-service will become the future mode of transport. 

Forecast 

Based on market research insights, the micromobility market is reported to grow at a rate of 13.20% over the period of 2020 to 2027 given the factors anticipated to be prevalent in the coming years.

Photos : shared-micromobility.com and cbinsights.com

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Forbes Identifies the Best Businesses in the Arab World

Comments (0) Business, Middle East

2020 is not looking like a good year for most businesses. Covid-19 is affecting every stock market around the world and profits and forecasts are becoming major victims of the global pandemic. 20202’s Q1 results are what many people are looking at as indicators of how companies could perform once the current crisis is over. Forbes’ recent list of the Top 100 Companies in the Middle East is a good reflection of not only what companies have been doing well (and will do in the future), but is also a good indicator of how the region itself is performing.

Regional Financial Health

Generally speaking, it comes as no surprise that an oil-rich region does well financially. But in recent years, the oil-producing nations have sought to diversify interests and investments as they keep one eye on a finite and dwindling resource that has for so long provided a steady revenue stream.

Looking at the Top 100 Companies listed, they have total aggregate assets of $3.5 trillion and a value of around $2.3 trillion in terms of market cap over 2019/2020. The total sales amassed by the businesses was $670 billion which represented $148 billion of net profits.

Who and What?

Saudi Arabia dominates the Top 100, with 33 of the 100 companies listed there. Behind them is the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) with 21 companies, and Qatar in third place with 18. So those three countries alone have 72% of the list.

As far as business sectors are concerned, the burgeouning financial sector dominates the list with 46 entries. Far behind them in second place is industrial companies with nine entries, then real estate/construction and telecoms companies with eight each.

Top Spot

Despite the increasing diversification happening across the region, it is an oil giant that holds the No. 1 spot and they would hold that spot in most lists whether regional or global. Saudi Aramco is not only the world’s most profitable company, but also the world’s most valuable listed company. It produced the biggest IPO in history and on it first day of trading in December, its market value soared to $1.9 trillion. $0.7 trillion above Apple’s market value on the same day.

To put Aramco in a global context, they pump more than 10% of the world’s crude oil supplies and produce more than twice the oil of all of Canada. Of course, being (prior to the IPO) a government-owned entity and the only oil producer in Saudi Arabia has given it a unique advantage.

Aramco covers several areas of the energy sector, including exploration, transportation, and sales of not only crude oil but also natural gas and chemicals. While other companies may focus on diversification, Aramco focuses on innovation. In 2017 alone, they were granted 230 patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

As far as the Top 100 List is concerned, Aramco accounted for 59.6% of the net profits, 11.4% of assets, 69.6% of market cap, and 49% of aggregate sales.

The Other Contenders

While dominating the list, Aramco is surprisingly the only energy company in the Top 10. The other nine companies represent banking and financial, with six out of the ten positions, two telecommunications companies, and one industrial company. The gap between first and second is telling, however. Aramco had profits of $88.2 billion, while the second-placed company – QNB of Qatar – had profits of only $4 billion.

However long the Covid-19 situation lasts, some business sectors may take considerable time to completely recover. But there will be a constant need for most of the sectors covered in the Top 100 list. While oil prices may fluctuate, the sheer size and diversity of a company like Aramco will ensure that they will not suffer too much. And for businesses such as financial and telecoms, the need for their services may grow if anything. One thing is for sure; the Middle East continues to see many companies continue to thrive and grow at both regional and global levels.

Photos :

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Vivo Activewear – a Kenyan Success Story Trying to Survive a Pandemic

Comments (0) Business, Featured

As 2020 started, the coronavirus was a small footnote to some news broadcast and no-one had any idea of the impact it would have on every aspect of our lives. Words and phrases such as lockdown or social distancing meant nothing to any of us and we planned the year ahead as normal. 

So it was for Wandia Gichuru, who was looking forward to a bumper year for Her Vivo Activewear business and a projected 40% growth rate over 2019 figures. Fast forward 6 months and she is doubtful that the company can even match the previous year’s sales and revenue figures and her focus now is ensuring that they can keep their 175 staff employed.

Viva la Vivo

Gichuru’s success story is one that is becoming more and more common across Africa. A bright young entrepreneur with a vision that recognises the potential of the continent’s massive spending power, a market that has over 1 billion consumers and a total GDP in excess of US$3 trillion. 

Gichuru founded Vivo in 2011 with her business partner, Anne Marie Burugu. Since its founding, Vivo has grown to be one of the leading fashion labels in Kenya with 14 stores across the country and a reputation for stylish and affordable clothing. It has built a reputation for bright and colourful designs that often have an edgy feel to them. The company also owns the ShopZetu e-commerce platform, selling not only its own designs but also items from 3rd party retailers and manufacturers. 

Covid 19 

The global pandemic has forced the company to circle the wagons and rethink their growth projections for 2020. While Kenya has not suffered badly from Covid 19, the company decided to close all their physical stores in mid-March. They reopened around a month later but with some precautions in place such as not allowing customers to try items on. 

But rather than sit idle for that period, Vivo switched some of their production capabilities to reusable cloth face masks. They have made more than 200,000 units to date, and these are sold through their stores, at pop-up stalls, and through their online platform. They also received bulk orders from farms, banks, and other large-scale employers. That decision was a good one, as mask sales accounted for around 65% of the company’s revenue in April. 

Strong Foundations

Gichuru has a solid business background that has helped nurture Vivo. Before founding the company, she worked as an international business advisor and was employed by the UK government, the UN, and the World Bank. And as well as the day to day demands of running a successful fashion chain, she finds time to be a life coach, a regular investor on Kenya’s version of Dragon’s Den – Lion’s Den – and is also a trustee for the Mbugua Rosemary and Charles & Rita Field-Marsham Foundations. 

She has a strong belief in the power of African commerce and that women are an integral part of the potential the continent has. As part of that belief, she looks to transform lives by training and employing women as well as supporting small independent businesses operated by women. 

While Vivo may not see the growth in 2020 they expected, there is little doubt that they will survive and continue to grow in the future.

Photos : Youtube.com and destinafrica.co.ke and nairobifashionhub.co.ke

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Rwanda : Jacqueline Mukarukundo Tackles the Problem of Electronic Waste

Comments (0) Business, Featured

Electronic Waste is poisoning Africa 

When it comes to electronic waste (e-waste), Africa has long faced two battles to fight. Not only does it have to deal with its own e-waste, but it also has to cope with the large amounts of e-waste imported, often illegally, from other continents. E-waste can refer to any electronic product that is either coming to the end of its working life or that already has passed that use by date and can include computers, televisions, mobile phones’ etc. 

For example, the UN Environment Programme’s study in 2009 found that Ghana imported 215,000 tons of electronic equipment that year with only 30% of that total being new. Of the rest, around 22,5000 tons could neither be recycled nor sold and would end up in landfill sites. The problem with the amounts that end up in landfill – something that is repeated across many African countries – is that these electronics often contain toxic elements such as mercury, lead, and cadmium, which then enter the soil and water. 

Finding Solutions, Recycling for the future.

Compared to other areas of the world, recycling is an industry still in its infancy in Africa, particularly when it comes to e-waste. In East Africa alone, and not counting any imported e-waste, some 130,000 tonnes of e-waste is produced every year and only about 20% of that is recycled. 

It needs dedication and vision to make the industry viable across the continent. And those are two attributes that you can say Jacqueline Mukarukundo has for sure. This young Rwandan entrepreneur was recently awarded the Margaret Prize which is given to women who are creative and active in the digital world.

It Began with an Accident

Her idea began with an accident back in 20011, when Mukarukundo was only around 13 years old. With some friends, she was taking part in a recycling campaign in the northern Rwandan city of Musanze. As they were working on a landfill site, a landslide happened (a common and dangerous occurrence on these sites) and her friend was lucky to escape. For Mukarukundo and her friends, that incident was the catalyst to get more involved in waste management and recycling. 

In 2018, at the age of 20, Mukarukundo co-founded Wastezon along with Ghislain Irakoze. The company uses mobile technology to link consumers and businesses who have e-waste that needs disposed of to the main recycling companies in that area. 

Simplicity Means Ease of Use

In order to make the process easy to use for consumers and recyclers, the person with the e-waste simply posts a photo of the e-waste – most often computers or mobile phones – and the recycling companies can then choose what they want and make an offer for the waste. 

Since they started, Wastezon has enabled 400 tonnes of e-waste to be sold, a drop in the ocean for now but an idea that is both working and growing. The monetisation side of the app comes from Wastezon taking 10% of all transactions. 

Low Internet Use and Mobile Phone Penetration Means There is a Long Way to Go

It has to be recognised that with a low level of internet connections (especially outside the capital, Kigali) and low mobile phone penetration (though this has dramatically increased to over 9 million subscriptions in recent years), this is an idea that is very much creating a foundation for future benefits. Rwanda also need to transform from a linear economy to a more circular one, though the amount of people repairing appliances rather than throwing away is also increasing. 

As Mukarukundo herself says: “The biggest challenge is the transformation of mentalities and funding.”

Recycling and waste management tend not to be businesses that attract a lot of funding as though the societal and environmental benefits are many, it is not a sector that sees high profits. 

Building for the Future

Mukarukundo knows that they have to keep pushing forward. They plan to expand their business to the cellular network to capture those consumers who do not have smartphones. And as 90% of the waste produced in Rwanda is organic, they also plan to expand their services to include that. 

“I dream of a world without waste, and I believe in the power of technology to achieve it.”

She also dreams of enabling other young Rwandan women to follow her entrepreneurial path and hopes to have her own funding in place one day to achieve that.

With dreams like that, and with the dedication and visions she has been showing for most of her life, there is little doubt that the amounts of e-waste ending up in Rwandan landfill sites will continue to decline and that Mukarukundo’s business will continue to grow. 

Photos : web24.news and media-exp1.licdn.com

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