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World Bank to loan Kenya $1.1 bln for northern region, bank VP says

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya will get a World Bank loan of $1.1 billion for infrastructure projects in the country’s arid northern region, the bank’s vice president for Africa said.

The loan is the latest in series to Kenya, which amount to $5.5 billion, excluding the new package.

“It is an unprecedented financial commitment to this part of Kenya,” Makhtar Diop told Reuters in Nairobi over the weekend.

The funds will be used to build roads, improve water and energy supplies and support livestock keeping. They will have a maturity of 50 years and an interest rate of less than 1 percent. The package was prepared at the request of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Diop said.

He did not say when the full disbursement of the funds would take place, but technical work on some projects has already started. Projects to be funded with the facility included a modern road linking Isiolo, a town in the lower eastern region, with Mandera, a town close to the border with Somalia.

Diop said the World Bank expected Kenya’s economy to expand by 5.9 percent this year, close to the government’s forecast of 6 percent. It grew 5.6 percent last year.

“Kenya is doing pretty well in the Africa context and in the global context, but the ambition of the government is to sustain that growth rate and accelerate it,” he said.

To attain faster growth, the country needed to increase efficiency in state-owned firms and improve competitiveness, through investments in infrastructure.

Last week, the government forecast a higher budget deficit of 9.3 percent of gross domestic product for the fiscal year starting next month as it increases public investments.

“Overall the fiscal deficit is financeable,” Diop said, adding total debt was increasing but remained sustainable at about 50 percent of GDP.

The World Bank cut its average growth forecast for sub-Saharan Africa to 2.5 percent this year because of lower commodity prices.

Diop said the continent could attract investment because of higher returns than other regions of the world, but he said some African nations needed to avoid building up their dollar-denominated debt.



(By Duncan Miriri. Editing by Larry King)


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South African investment firm RMB Holdings to buy stake in Mall of Africa developer

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African investment firm RMB Holdings Ltd. plans to expand its portfolio by buying a stake in unlisted Atterbury, builder of the Mall of Africa, one of the largest shopping venues in the country.

RMB Holdings Limited, which holds a 34 percent stake in FirstRand, the largest banking group by value in Africa’s most industrialised economy as its only major asset, said on Tuesday it will buy 25.01 percent of Atterbury.

Although it did not put a price on the cost of investment for Attebury, RMB Holdings said in the statement it would fund the deal through preference shares.

RMB Holdings said in a statement it aimed to use Atterbury to spearhead its retail and industrial property business.

The Mall of Africa, which opened its doors last week, targets consumers in Midrand a middle-class suburb north of the commercial hub of Johannesburg.

“We thought it was a missing element of our overall portfolio,” RMB Holdings Chief Executive Herman Bosman told Reuters, referring to property investments.

Shares in RMB Holdings fell 4.60 percent on the bourse by 1358 GMT, as stocks tumbled across the board tracking a sell-off in emerging markets.


(Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by James Macharia)

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Glencore to invest $1.1 bil in Zambia, kwacha gains

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Glencore will invest over $1.1 billion in Zambia to sink three copper mine shafts with new technology that will extend mine life by over 25 years, pushing the kwacha to its highest in two months.

By 1040 GMT the currency of Africa’s number 2 copper producer had gained 1.3 percent to 11.1100 per dollar, its firmest level since Jan. 19.

“The news from Glencore obviously sent a positive signal but overall we are seeing a lot of dollar supply with very little demand,” analyst Maambo Hamaundu said.

Glencore plans to make the investments between now and 2018 and it was expected that Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) would be turned into a world-class mining operation by 2023, it said.

“We firmly believe that we shall be able to overcome the challenges that we face today as a company and become profitable and operationally efficient,” Mopani said in a statement.

Glencore was fully committed to Mopani and had invested over $3 billion in upgrading infrastructure and in major capital expansion programmes since 2000, Mopani said.

An electricity shortage in the southern African country and weaker copper prices have put pressure on Zambia’s mining industry, threatening output, jobs and economic growth.


(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Susan Thomas)

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Cyrille Nkontchou, African business tycoon with a conscience

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

Cyrille Nkontchou

Always a firm believer in his continent, the Cameroonian businessman now is investing himself in Africa’s future.

Having recognized the potential of his continent early on, Cyrille Nkontchou was one step ahead of the rest by investing and believing in Africa. A man of the world, he lived, studied and worked across the globe before finally returning, full of knowledge and experience, to his motherland. The serial entrepreneur operates from his Sandton office in the heart of the exclusive suburb of Johannesburg. Quiet and discreet, this tycoon has already pioneered a way to bring investors to Africa. Now he wants to help educate his academic and entrepreneurial successors.

Getting started

Nkontchou spent his formative years in his country of birth, Cameroon. Leaving at the age of 13 he moved with his diplomat parents to France. A good and committed student, he studied Economics at the Paris Institute of Political Sciences before earning a place at the illustrious Harvard Business School, coming away with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. His impressive education led him to work for the likes of Andersen Consulting, in their branch in the French capital and Merrill Lynch investment bank in London, where he started his career as an investment adviser for international companies interested in opportunities in Africa. Here he gained experience that would prove invaluable for his future pursuits.

In 2000, the young aspiring entrepreneur took a leap of faith, packing his bags as he set off for Johannesburg to create Liquid Africa. With many years experience it was a calculated risk but nothing could prepare him for his first failure. Hailing his primary business as a platform to access financial info on the internet proved to be unviable in Africa. It was back to the drawing board, which gave the Cameroonian businessman the opportunity to successfully re-orientate his company as an investment banking business. “Fortunately, from 2005, Africa has again become fashionable, and we had a lot of success,” said Nkontchou.

Sharing good fortune

On the back of his first venture’s triumph, the winner of the accolade “Young Global Leader in 2006” at the World Economic Forum, decided to go into business with his brother. Together in 2007, they created Enko Capital, an asset management company that deals with launching and managing investment funds for clients. Investments are made in public and private equity, and fixed income markets, mainly in the African continent. The company is still going strong, with offices in London and Johannesburg.

This hard-earned prosperity has given Nkontchou the opportunity to put something back into his continent. “In addition to the infrastructure, in particular energy, agribusiness is a promising sector in Africa,” he said. Whilst working with a pesticide company in West Africa he realized that many small producers struggled because of a lack of capital. He decided he could assist by providing pesticides to farmers on credit. Re-payment is then not required until crops have been harvested and sold. Already more than 50,000 small producers have benefitted from Nkontchou’s lending scheme.

Enko Education

Enko Education

Investing in the future

After many years of hard work Nkontchou is not ready to put his feet up. Instead he is continuing to use his privileged position to focus on the social issues that surround him. In 2013 he set up Enko Eduction: private schools that aim to assist the youth of Africa’s increasing middle class. Having benefited from a good education in France, he feels it is hugely important to bring this same opportunity to the African entrepreneurs of tomorrow. He believes this can best be done through the private sector, as he expressed, “Africa will come to work when governments will rely more on the private sector which is more effective in management.”

Enko Education has a goal, to welcome 20,000 students across a network of 45 schools, in 30 countries in 5 years. Cyrille Nkontchou also has a goal, to put back what he can into his continent and to help pave the way for all its bright future graduates. He has a legacy that he wants to share, that Africa is worth investing in. “You know, at the beginning of a career one thinks only to accumulate the most wealth possible but, from a certain age, we think more to give and leave an intangible heritage,” said the conscientious businessman.

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South Africa’s Finmin says new investment law no ‘deal-breaker’

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Thursday defended a controversial investment law, saying investors had nothing to fear.

Pretoria let bilateral treaties agreed with European nations shortly before the end of apartheid lapse in 2013, triggering concern among foreign investors over whether the replacement law will offer the same protections.

President Jacob Zuma signed the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill into law last month. The law would come into force on a date yet to proclaimed by Zuma.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, reappointed last month after a bungled cabinet reshuffle, told 702 Talk Radio investors would be adequately protected.

“I don’t think it should be a deal-breaker because we provide world-class investment protection,” Gordhan is qouted as saying.

The law rolls over existing guarantees against state seizure of assets from a raft of individual, 20-year old treaties but removes the explicit possibility of recourse to international arbitration in the event of a dispute.

European nations affected by the lapse in bilateral treaties include Germany, Spain, Belgium and Switzerland.

Europe accounts for around three-quarters of all foreign direct investment in South Africa, although Pretoria has been pushing hard to attract capital from other big emerging markets such as China.


(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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Middle Eastern investment in global real estate surges

Comments (0) Business, Featured, Middle East

London real estate

Investment in real estate can be a fickle mistress. The ebb and flow of the cyclical patterns of real estate values can be hard to read at times, and investments, particularly in residential real estate, can lead to decreases or stagnation of your original investment. But some sectors are relatively safe, especially for experienced players who look at the patterns established over many years. Foremost of these ‘safer investments’ are the areas of commercial and hospitality real estate which can both offer big returns when the correct choices of properties are made. And of course, the old adage of any investment in real estate is ‘location, location, location’ and that is especially true when you are looking at the higher end of the market, be it commercial or residential.

Record spending on commercial real estate

Recent research by CBRE, the world’s leading commercial real estate company, highlights rising levels of outward investment in commercial real estate from Middle Eastern countries, and showed that in the first half of 2015 around US$11.5 billion was spent on commercial property worldwide. This far surpasses the previous high of US$9.6 billion recorded in the first half of 2007. Much of this investment comes from sovereign wealth funds (SWFs), particularly those of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Of the US $11.5 billion coming out of the area, US$8.3 billion (or 72%) of that came from SWFs.

From a macroeconomic perspective this increase in real estate spending by Middle Eastern investors is not surprising. Oil prices sit at seven year lows and investment bank Goldman Sachs predicts that this situation will not improve any time soon, especially with increases in supply and reductions in demand an ongoing issue. So, with potential revenue decreasing at a steady rate, the fund managers of the Middle East are looking at the best options to invest and receive a high level of return.

The real estate industry will continue to grow

The real estate industry globally has generally managed to weather the recent recessions better than some other sectors. This is partly due to increased activity in Asia which has offset any declines in other areas. Higher disposable incomes and relatively low rates of unemployment in many economies has also been a factor that has protected the real estate industry. Forecasts of the 10 year period from 2010 to 2020 predict that industry value added may increase by 4.5% per annum – well ahead of predicted global GDP growth in the same period. With annual revenue of over US$3 trillion and a global workforce of over 11 million, this is a sector that will continue to grow and adapt to the cyclical patterns of individual markets and economies.

Location, location, location

New York real estateAs mentioned, location is a crucial factor, and it comes as no surprise that some of the world’s major conurbations are the primary beneficiaries of this surge in spending. London leads the field, with US$2.8 billion spent on commercial property in the first 6 months of 2015, with Hong Kong (2.4 billion) and New York (1.1 billion) following in its wake. It is worth noting however that if we examine total real estate investment rather than just that originating in the Middle East, New York is leagues ahead of its English rival with a staggering US$40.1 billion of investment in real estate over the first half of 2015 compared to London’s 19.4 billion and Los Angeles’ 19.3 billion.

Change in focus to hotel properties

As well as the dramatic increase in total investment from the region, there is another distinctive factor in Middle Eastern spending on real estate. In every year from 2007 to 2014, the bulk of investment has been aimed at the office market. As this has reached saturation point in many cities, characterized by empty units, falling rents and an increase in incentive packages to attract tenants, the fund managers and individual investors have shifted their focus to the hospitality sector and to hotels in particular, which offer attractive long-term revenue streams. Of the US$11.5 billion spent in the first six months of 2015, $6.8 billion was invested in the hotel industry, with $2.5 billion being spent on hotels in London and $2.4 billion in Hong Kong. Given that this sector only attracted $1.8 billion for the whole of 2014, this is a significant increase and emphasises the increasing diversity of investment strategies by Middle East based investors.

Middle Eastern money looks for new opportunities

This increase in real estate spending, and indeed the change in focus, does not look like it will abate in the near future. Investment in the Americas looks like it will continue to increase into 2016 as Middle Eastern money looks for new opportunities outside the energy industry and outside its traditional comfort zone of Europe. While Asia appears to be a market that has so far eluded investment from the Middle East – mainly due to the dominance of China in many of the developing economies – one cannot rule out astute investors continuing to cast their net over a wider geographical area.

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IMF says Zambia’s electricity price to attract investment in power sector

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia’s electricity price hike will ease power shortages that have put pressure on the economy of Africa’s No. 2 copper producer, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Thursday.

Zambia’s economy is likely to grow by less than 5 percent in 2015 due to the power crunch, which has hit output at mining firms, already grappling with a slide in global copper prices, the government of the southern African nation has said.

Zambia’s energy regulator allowed state power utility Zesco to raise the average price of electricity to 10.35 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour (KWh) from 6 U.S. cents per KWh. The new tariff became effective on Thursday.

However, mining companies were unaffected by the increase because most of them get their power from Zambian power supplier Copperbelt Energy Corp. which buys electricity from Zesco in bulk and sells it to mining companies including the local units of Vedanta Resources and Glencore.

“Today’s increase in electricity tariffs is a key part of laying the foundation for needed investments in new power generation,” IMF country representative Tobias Rasmussen told Reuters.

“The move, on its own, does not ensure full cost recovery in electricity provision, but this is an important step towards putting the power sector on a sustainable footing and overcoming the electricity shortages that have plagued the economy.”

Zesco Ltd had applied for the higher tariffs in October, saying it had to increase the price of electricity due to rising costs and a depreciation of the kwacha currency, which had pushed up import prices.

Zambia’s electricity deficit rose to 985 megawatts (MW) in September from 560 MW in March as water levels in reservoirs at its biggest hydropower station fell due to drought.

Zambia’s power generation capacity stands at 2,200 megawatts (MW), with the bulk of the electricity produced from hydropower, but supply is often erratic. Zambia’s output fell to 1,900 MW in March due to low water levels in dams.


(By Chris Mfula. Editing by James Macharia and Mark Potter)

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Dow Chemical seeks to triple Africa revenue in five years

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters, US

dow chemical

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Dow Chemical Co plans to triple its revenue from sub-Saharan Africa in the next five years and is investing in offices, local staff and manufacturing plants on the continent to meet that target, its head of the region said.

The company sees opportunities in agriculture, where it supplies crop protection chemicals, infrastructure, where it offers water treatment chemicals, as well as in mining and manufacturing.

“We expect to triple our revenue from Africa over the next five years. That is our objective and we are on track to do that,” Ross McLean, president for sub-Saharan Africa, told Reuters in an interview in Nairobi, without saying what revenue the company already achieves there.

“Dow is absolutely betting on Africa’s growth,”

Dow, whose group sales reached $12.9 billion in the second quarter, has opened hub offices in Kenya, to serve East Africa, and another in Ghana, serving West Africa. It is also opening offices in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Angola, as well as in other markets.

“Most multi-nationals, that are driving a growth strategy in Africa, are starting from a very low base, and currently they may be at 1 or 2 percent of the global revenue of the company,” he said, putting Dow’s revenue breakdown in line with that level.

Dow is also investing in a production plant in Egypt, and another in Saudi Arabia, where it has partnered with Saudi Aramco, in order to be consistent with supply of its products to African markets, McLean said.

He said challenges the company faced included weaker currencies in the region, and declines in prices of commodities and oil.

The World Bank cut its 2015 growth forecast for the region last week to 3.7 percent, the slowest since 2009.

McLean said that did not affect Dow Chemical’s ambitions.

“We are here for the long term and we are not scared by the bumps in the road. Africa is a place where you have to be pretty resilient and determined,” he said.

(By Duncan Miriri, Reuters)

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Bouygues, Movenpick to invest 55 million euros in luxury hotel in Abidjan

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Europe, Latest Updates from Reuters


(Reuters) – French company Bouygues and Swiss group Movenpick will team up with Ivorian firm Saprim to invest 55 million euros ($61.56 million) on a luxury hotel in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, the firms said on Monday.

Work on the new five-star hotel will begin in the next six months and is expected to be ready within 30 months, or by the end of 2018, according to a statement by the three companies.

“The cost of the hotel is around 55 million euros of which most will be financed by Saprim and Bouygues,” said Jean-Gabriel Peres, chief executive officer of Movenpick hotels and resorts.

Four years after the end of a civil war, economic powerhouse Ivory Coast’s coastal city of Abidjan is booming and its hotels are often fully-booked.

The hotel and tourism sector currently accounts for 4.8 percent of Ivorian GDP versus 0.6 percent in 2011.

(By Ange Aboa, Reuters)

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Tower Resources signs deal for Cameroon offshore oil block

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters, UK

YAOUNDE (Reuters) – Tower Resources plans to invest at least $43 million over seven years to explore for oil in a shallow-water block in Cameroon’s Rio del Rey basin, the company and Cameroonian officials said on Wednesday.

“Our entry into Cameroon marks a shift in our risk profile from frontier to proven basins and introduces an asset with existing discoveries into the Tower portfolio,” Tower CEO Graeme Thomson said in a statement.

The Africa-focused oil and gas exploration company has a 100 percent interest in the 119 sq km (46 sq mile) Thali block.

Under a production sharing contract signed in Cameroon’s capital Yaounde, an initial exploration phase will last three years with an option to renew for two subsequent two-year phases.

Tower has the option of relinquishing the block at the end of each phase, provided the agreed minimum work has been completed.

The Rio del Rey basin lies in the eastern part of the Niger Delta and has to date produced over 1 billion barrels of oil, with an estimated 1.2 billion barrels of remaining reserves, according to Tower’s website.

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