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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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Can Bahrain’s Fintech Bay hub lead the region?

Comments (0) Business, Featured, Middle East

The Fintech (Financial Technologies) market is a huge one and one that continues to grow. It consists of products, such as apps, platforms, and other technologies, catering to the financial sector. It can cover anything from bank to bank transfer technology through to consumer contactless payment apps. In 2018, the global fintech market had a value of around US$127.66 billion and that value is forecast to grow to $309.98 billion by 2022, an impressive annual growth rate of 24.8%. 

More and more companies are looking to cashless payment systems to pay for goods bought online or in the physical world. One of the industry giants, PayPal, had reached 267 million active users by the end of 2018 and there are many other competitors looking to increase their market share. 

It was perhaps inevitable, in a long evolutionary chain from Silicon Valley and other such sites, that small areas dedicated to companies working in Fintech would emerge. They offer ideal locations for Fintech startups – and some already established companies – to work in close proximity and to encourage tech development. In February of 2020, there were 8,775 such startups in America, 7,385 in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and 4,765 in the Asia Pacific region.

Sao Paulo, Bangalore, Mumbai, and New Delhi are challenging the traditional financial fiefdoms 

In recent years, countries in the Middle East have been investing heavily in the future of various sciences and technologies. With Dubai leading the way with the region’s first Fintech hub – now 15 years old – other countries in the region have looked to join a lucrative and booming sector that offers many opportunities and creates new jobs. 

The Findexable Global Fintech Index City Rankings identifies that the growth of these Fintech hubs marks a movement away from the traditional financial centres of the past. While no Fintech companies have yet to make the Fortune 500 or the S&P 500, that could be in part to the very nature of many Fintech companies. They tend to be young and ambitious and often focusing on niche markets such as cashless payments within a small geographical area. And while the traditional centres of the financial industry still feature in any Top 20 list of Fintech hubs, it is the new entries that are most interesting. Cities such as Sao Paulo, Bangalore, Mumbai, and New Delhi are challenging the traditional financial fiefdoms of old and Dubai and Bahrain are not far behind. 

Successful Fintech Hub: Bahrain Is an Attractive Choice

Deloitte believes there are four essential factors needed for a successful Fintech hub: capital, talent, demand, and policy & regulation. Capital is something that is not lacking in the region and the Bahrain hub is aiming to attract talent not only from the Middle East and Africa but from anywhere in the world. By also attracting existing experts in the field, they hope to nurture their own and regional talent. As far as demand is concerned, the demand for new and better Fintech products continues to grow, even in the midst of a global pandemic, and in some ways that crisis has increased need. 

Finally, Bahrain Fintech hub offers many incentives and positive policies that makes choosing Bahrain as a location an attractive choice. With access to international partners and a global network, Bahrain Fintech Hub offers attractive potential to new startups. Its geographical location is also a major advantage as it is ideally situated to not only serve the Middle East and Africa, but also Europe and Asia. Bahrain has also introduced fast track regulatory frameworks that allows it to bring in regulations quickly for newly emerging ideas and products, something other hubs do not always offer. 

Bahrain’s Fintech Hub Can Only Grow 

In January 2020, the Bahrain Fintech Hub announced a major partnership with Standard Chartered, the British multinational financial institution that operates in more than 70 countries. This will not only allow startups access to one of the world’s leading banking group but will also allow Standard Chartered potential access to new ideas as they happen. 

Fintech is an area that will continue to grow, and Bahrain is positioning itself to take advantage of that growth and to challenge the current Top 10 Fintech hubs. Even with a pandemic causing disruption in most business sectors, Fintech experts and entrepreneurs continue to develop new ideas and systems. With the financial backing and strong policies they have in place, Bahrain’s Fintech hub can only grow and grow. 

Photos : bahrainedb.com – bibf.com – unfoldbrics.art – bizbahrain.com

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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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New Challenges Faced by the Food Industry in Emerging Markets

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Matthieu Malige

Between physical sales, ensuring a brand’s visibility and enabling the development of customer experience, as well as harnessing digital sales and ensuring a wide geographical reach, the heart of the food giants is in balance. Matthieu Malige, Chief Financial Officer of the Carrefour group, offers us some food for thought.

Physical Sales, a Necessary Step

Physical presence in emerging markets is essential: a reason why many groups develop solid subsidiaries abroad. Matthieu Malige, Chief Financial Officer of the Carrefour group, told us that this was the case for his business, which has formed partnerships with the Majid Al Futtaim group (250 stores in the Middle East and Africa, including 6 in Kenya) and the CFAO Retail group (3 stores in the Ivory Coast, 1 in Cameroon and 1 in Senegal).

The physical sales format, “Cash & Carry”, persists as a particularly popular for customers within emerging markets. Carrefour, via its CFAO subsidiary, intends to massively deploy the “Cash & Carry” format in Senegal, the Ivory Coast and Cameroon,  in their “Supeco” supermarket chain. Matthieu Malige, Chief Financial Officer of the Carrefour group, aims to develop around 100 stores of this type across the African continent over a ten year period, already representing an investment of around 30 million euros in 2019.

But beyond the above scope, and despite its costs, it remains essential to commit to the digital development of emerging markets.

Digitalizing to Conquer Targets with High Purchasing Power

If physical sales can convince very large segments, a digital strategy should make it possible to reach a broader target, particularly customers with high purchasing power. While the digital industry is still emerging on the African continent, it has proved its ability to reach a  bracket of the population that is connected and eager to buy international products.

While the online sales sector in Africa is largerly dominated by American Gafa (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) and Chinese BATX (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and Xiaomi) a few African players do remain present on the scene, including Jumia, MercadoLibre, Shopee and Konga.

And indeed it was with Jumia, a local actor, that Carrefour chose to collaborate with. In 2018, Matthieu Malige, Chief Financial Officer of the Carrefour Group, announced the online sales of Carrefour products with the e-commerce leader on the African continent. This partnership has already enabled the marketing of Carrefour product ranges in four African countries: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Senegal.

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Dubai Expo 2020: Connecting Minds, Creating the Future

Comments (0) Business, Featured, Middle East

It would appear that Dubai can do no wrong at the moment. With visitor numbers in 2019 up 5.1% from 2018 to a new high of 16.73 million, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates continues to look for new ways to bedazzle the world. 

As the first city in the Middle East to hold a World Expo, Dubai has a chance to not only put its own achievements and plans for the future on show but to host countries from around the world willing to share, show off, and sell their own ideas and developments.

But just what is a World Expo?

The idea originated with France’s national exhibitions with 1844’s French Industrial Exposition often touted as the greatest of the time. But it was 1851’s “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations’ held at London’s Crystal Palace that is seen as the blueprint for all the world expos up to the present day. The London World Expo is viewed as the first exhibition of manufactured products from around the world and is seen as having a major influence on trade, tourism, and art & design for decades to come. 

The development of World Expos is split into three distinct eras. The first, from 1851 to 1938, focused very much on industrialisation, and showcased technological progress and inventions. From 1939 to 1987, it was the era of culture, with the sharing of cultural ideas as well as innovation. The modern era, which began in 1988 in Brisbane, focuses more on the idea of nation branding, with countries seeking to improve their image to potential investors and tourists. 

It is difficult to judge the economic benefits to countries that participate in the Expos. The average cost of a pavilion at Hanover’s Expo 2000 was €12 million ($13 million), a figure that puts many countries off. However, an independent study into The Netherlands’ investment at Hanover estimated that their €35 million pavilion generated around €350 million in revenues for the country.

Few If Any Countries Do It Better Than Dubai

When it comes to nation branding, few if any countries do it better than Dubai. It’s a name that has become synonymous with luxury and with making dreams come true. Global recognition of Dubai is extremely high, thanks in no small part to the state carrier, Emirates Airlines, whose sponsorship deals outstrip any of their competitors. They sponsor Arsenal, Real Madrid, and Paris St Germain, three of Europe’s leading football clubs. 

World Expos take place every five years and last for six months. Dubai won a resounding victory in 2013 at the 154th General Assembly of the governing body of world expos, the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE).

Dubai 2020’s central theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” reflects the philosophy Dubai follows in attracting some of the world’s leading scientists and tech innovators to work in this small gulf state. The Expo also has three subthemes:

  • Opportunity. Bringing together the people with the potential to help shape our future. 
  • Mobility. Creating a smarter world where it is easier for people, ideas, and goods to move around the world. 
  • Sustainability. Respecting the world we live in and finding ways to preserve it. 

The Expo site itself lies in the Dubai South district, within easy reach of three airports (Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai International Airport, and Abu Dhabi International Airport) as well as the Dubai and Abu Dhabi cruise terminals. The Dubai 2020 site will also have its own metro line which will be capable of transporting 40,000 passengers per hour. The Expo site is open from 9am to 1am every weekday and from 10am to 2am at weekends and on holidays. 

Millions of Visitors, 200 Participants, 192 Countries

Over the six months’ duration, millions of visitors will visit the pavilions from some 200 participants representing 192 countries. Given that previous World Expos have given us architectural wonders such as the Eiffel Tower and the Seattle Space Needle, as well as things we now take for granted such as the typewriter or Heinz Tomato Soup, the anticipation is already growing for the Expo’s opening on October 20th.

The focal point of the Expo will be the Al Wasl Plaza, named after Dubai’s historical name of Al Wasl – the connection – due to how it connected people from around the world. The site will have three thematic districts, anchored by an accompanying pavilion, and all linked to the Expo’s theme and subthemes. The UAE will have its own pavilion, designed by Santiago Calatrava and resembling a falcon in flight. With exhibitions, performances, art, music, gardens, and food from every corner of the globe, Dubai 2020 promises to be as spectacular as Dubai itself. 

Photos : rnz.de / e3.capital/ apnews.com

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Nkwashi: An African educational hub of the future?

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Politics

As we move further into the 21st century, urban planners and developers customize many of their ideas to suit not only the changing needs of their demographic targets, but also the changing demands of society. One great example of this changing focus is Nkwashi, a satellite town being built 36 kilometers east of the City of Lusaka in Zambia.

Zambia is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and is the continent’s second-largest copper producer. The country reached middle-income status in 2011 amid a decade of strong economic growth. However, these economic strengths only reached a small percentage of the population and Zambia remains one of the countries with the highest economic inequality in the world with 58% of Zambians earning less than the international poverty line figure of $1.90 per day (World Bank figures as of 2015). 

While many identify an emerging middle class in Zambia with higher levels of disposable income, accurately defining this group is problematic, especially given the wide range of inequality in the country. However, Nkwashi is definitely a city aimed at this group as well as the industrialists and entrepreneurs who have capitalised on the country’s growing economy. 

The beauty of developing a new satellite city from scratch is that you can combine the practical with the idealistic. With a set number of residential units (initially at least), you can plan for the exact services such as power, water, sewage, etc., that you are going to need (while allowing for a future increase in capacity for all). Almost 9500 residential plots will be made available, with sizes ranging from 360 to 1300 square metres. The houses themselves are being designed by the architects behind South Africa’s V&A Waterfront and Green Point football stadium, so will be of the highest standards. 

Nkwashi: An Incredible Opportunities Land Ownership

What makes Nkwashi extremely attractive for families and couples is the incredible opportunities land ownership. Prospective owners apply for a particular size and location and, once approved, they can decide on their payment plan. They can choose from making a whole payment, or monthly payment plans over 2, 5, 10, or 20 years. There are no interest charges on these payment plans and prices on a 5-year flexi plan start as low as 400 Kwacha (25 Euros) per month. Once 48 months of payments have been received, owners can then move to constructing a home, choosing between self-build or construction by a professional builder. 

Zambia’s new satellite city offers exciting opportunities to live, work, learn, and play.

The town has been designed on four main “foundations”: Live, Work, Learn, Play. The Live part is covered by the affordable housing options available spread over 12 districts and with all the amenities one would expect from a modern town. The work part is covered by a well-planned commercial area (and Lusaka is only a 30-minute commute for those who want to keep work and home separate). Play involves a 40,000 square metre mall – with pubs, cinemas, shops, etc.) – as well as 40 acres of parks, over one hundred acres of green spaces, and two lakes for relaxation and watersports.

But it is perhaps the Learn aspect that will most attract young families who identify good education as essential to Zambia’s continuing development. Nine primary and secondary schools are planned, including the flagship Thebe International School offering world-class education to day students and boarders and which is planned to be the best school in Zambia. 

The planned American University will have a 10,000 student capacity and is aimed at both Zambian and international students. The university, situated on a 130-acre campus, will have research as its primary focus and hopes to attract a high standard of international teaching staff. The university’s sports facilities will also be available to the city’s residents and it is hoped this will create an encompassing sense of community. 

An Ambitious Project and an Opportunity to Live In a Self-Contained and Self-Sustaining Community

The company behind Nkwashi, Thebe Investment Management, is run by Mwiya Musokotwane, son of the country’s former finance minister. He sees Nkwashi – and other satellite cities like it – as the perfect answer to the problems of urban expansion in Africa where even affluent neighborhoods can lack total access to required amenities. With a forecast total population of between 60,000 and 100,000, one third of the plots have already been purchased. How successful this new city will be is going to depend not only on plots of land being purchased but on those plots being developed into homes. 

It is an ambitious project that offers the opportunity to live in a self-contained and self-sustaining community that still allows easy access to Lusaka. Satellite cities are also in development in other parts of Africa. Kenya’s government hopes that Konza City will become Africa’s Silicon Valley, an ambitious idea whose success remains to be seen. But the concept of satellite cities certainly offers an attractive option to the congestion of the urban metropolises, and make planning for services and amenities far easier. Could Nkwashi become an educational hub? Only time will tell. 

Photos : nkwashi.com /

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Tourist numbers to Dubai continue to grow in 2019

Comments (0) Business, Featured

When you look at most cities in the world that serves as major tourist destinations, they tend to have long and illustrious histories. London and Hong Kong both have histories dating back 2,000 years or more, Luxor dates back over 5,000, and Athens some 3,500 years. But Dubai is very much a modern city in every way with little in the way of history, so it was very much a sandy tabula rasa for the rulers to write their ideas and dreams on. 

Although Dubai has brief mentions in the annals of travellers and traders as far back as the 11th century, it was little more than a waypoint though the general area was popular for pearl fishers. The Al Abu Falasa dynasty founded Dubai proper in the early years of the 19th century and one early historical footnote of interest is the signing of the “General Maritime Peace Treaty” between several of the regions sheikhs and the British government which was the first formal denunciation of slavery in history. 

In 1892, Dubai became a British protectorate, with tax exemption granted to foreign traders in 1894. By the early years of the 20th century, the Sheikh of Dubai had convinced a British steamship company to make Dubai a port of call, perhaps the first real hint of the city’s future. The merchant class gained strength with Dubai cementing its position as the main – and busiest – port in the Gulf, and they continue to be at the heart of the city’s political and power structures.

Dubai had a lean period between 1920 and the late 1960s with economic blows from the collapse of the pearl industry, the Great Depression, and World War II. This period was marked not only by poverty but by political unrest and instability. 

Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum : the Modernisation and Revitalisation of Dubai

Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum became ruler of Dubai in 1958 and it was he who was the driving force behind the modernisation and revitalisation of the city. The United Kingdom’s announcement in the late 1960s that they were withdrawing protection led to the foundation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971 in order for the small kingdoms to work together in defence and economically. 

But it was oil that was the real game-changer for the area but for Dubai in particular. With the discovery of oil in 1966 and the first shipment in 1969, the ruling family now had the funds to start realising their visions for the city.

Emirates Airlines has played a big part in the growth of Dubai. It operates over 3,600 flights a week from Dubai and the geographical location of Dubai has helped it become the major hub for many long-haul flights. The government saw that people looking to break up 15-25 hour flights offered huge potential tourism wise and billions of dollars were pumped into that area. They also realised that as oil production slowed down in the early 1990s – not to mention the constantly fluctuating prices – they need to diversify in order to survive and grow. 

A New Record of 16.73 Million of Tourists

That diversification has seen Dubai become not only a major tourist destination but also a regional centre for finance and real estate. Its diversity is perhaps underlined by the fact that some 90% of its population are foreigners, with many seeing the rich emirate as an ideal hub for many types of businesses.

2019 was a record year, with visitor numbers rising 5.1% from the previous year to a new record of 16.73 million. India keeps its top spot of providing the most visitors, with just under two million tourists, and Saudi Arabia and the UK stay 2nd and 3rd respectively. Omani tourists saw the biggest jump with a 24.3% increase in visitors from 2019. 

So why do so many tourists continue to flock to Dubai? As mentioned, a major factor is the city’s location combined with the routes flown by Emirates Airline. Many people initially chose to just have a one-day layover in the city to break up their long haul flights and to reduce the effects of jet lag. But now, the average length of stay is 3.5 to 4 nights, giving visitors an opportunity to sample some of Dubai’s many attractions. 

The Magnificence of the Burj Khalifa and the Splendour of the Burj Al-Arab

And this is where Dubai excels. They have taken a hot and arid desert with average temperatures that range from 25 degrees Celsius to the low 40s and turned it into an air-conditioned paradise for tourists and expats. The magnificence of the Burj Khalifa and the splendour of the Burj al-Arab (the world’s tallest hotel) continues to wow visitors. The Dubai Mall offers a cornucopia of shopping and entertainment choices and the Dubai Aquarium attached to the mall is one of the city’s most popular tourist spots. 

But not all the attractions are modern. The beauty of the Jumeirah Mosque is a must-see and the souks of Deira give a glimpse into Dubai’s merchant past. Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is perfect for nature lovers and Kite Beach is ideal for those looking to soak up some rays or watch the spectacular kite-surfing. 

Dubai is a destination that offers something for everyone – if you can afford it – and numbers will likely continue to grow throughout the coming decade. 

Photos : gulfnews.com/ arabianbusiness.com/ thenational.ae

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The Green Girl hurdling barriers in the race for sustainability

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

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

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

Monique Ntumngia Determined To Give Something to Those Who Lacked Opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Expand the Green Girls Operations across All of Africa

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

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

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

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