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Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Zimbabwe’s mining companies say local banks are delaying processing of foreign payments by three months as the country battles a shortage of dollars, which could threaten production.

Mining accounts for more than half of the southern African nation’s export earnings, which amounted to $1,3 billion in the first nine months of 2016. Zimbabwe, which is battling a banknote shortage, last year imposed a priority list for foreign payments and banned non-critical imports to manage the little available foreign currency.

On the list, payments for critical inputs for the productive sector are given high priority but a Chamber of Mines economist Pardon Chitsuro told a Parliamentary Committee on Finance that miners were facing delays of up to three months to have their payments processed.

“We have been facing a crippling foreign payments gridlock with delays of up to 12 weeks impacting negatively on production….we continue to appeal to the reserve bank to prioritize the mining sector in light of its centrality in terms of generating foreign exchange,” he said.

Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) president Charity Jinya told the committee that an increase in the volume of transactions had put a strain on the banks’ systems. “Delays differ from bank to bank but depending on the priority, it can be well beyond a month behind before the request is processed.”

 

- The Source

Published in Bank & Finance

Zimbabwe has been guaranteed of continued power supply from South Africa’s power utility, Eskom, despite a power trading deal coming to an end, Energy Minister Samuel Undenge has said.

Zimbabwe has been importing 300 megawatts from its neighbour since December 2015 to help reduce rolling power cuts that decimated its industry and mines, but that deal is ending ‘soon.’ The two parties are negotiating to extend the arrangement, Undenge told journalists after a meeting with Eskom officials in Harare on Monday, adding that South Africa had “assured continued support.”

“The utilities are working out the details. It is a commercial arrangement, we are going to pay for what we import. There are various modalities of payment that are being discussed and as Zimbabwe we are going to honor our obligations….we will pay up what we owe,” he said.

Last year state media reported that Zimbabwe’s power utility Zesa, had run up a $12 million debt forcing government to step in with a guarantee to pay after Eskom had threatened to cut supply.

South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Mphakama Mbete who was also present at the meeting on Monday told journalists that the negotiations were progressing well. ‘We are hoping out of this there will be stronger consolidated bilateral energy collaborations which will strengthen our economies on a long term basis.”

As of March 2, Zimbabwe’s power output including imports was at 1,350MW against demand of 1,400MW.

Published in Engineering

In its maiden edition marking International Women’s Day and coinciding with the 2nd year anniversary of Access Bank’s award winning “W” initiative, the National Women Summit has been applauded by leading women advocates for highlighting key issues that are affecting women development in Ghana.

High-profiled women personalities such as Dr. Joyce Aryee, Chairperson for the event touched on the essence and need for women to maximize opportunities around them, as well as create their very own prospects with which they can improve their current statuses.

The CEO of Airtel Ghana and Access Bank’s ‘W’ Ambassador, Lucy Quist; CEO of Forever Clair and ‘W’ Ambassador Grace Amey-Obeng; Pioneer of Spelling Bee in Ghana and ‘W’ Ambassador Eugenia Techi-Menson; and several other panellists who graced the occasion, took turns to motivate young entrepreneurs who attended the event. They urged them to thrust forward, looking past obstacles and to press on towards excellence.

They hinged on the importance of integrity, authenticity and professionalism as a vital tool for success.

The Women summit organised in partnership with Charter House attracted over 1,000 participants comprising traditional female leaders, students, corporate and women entrepreneurs and a few gentlemen.

Addressing the gathering at the event on the theme “Celebrating Ghanaian Women, 60 years after Independence, the achievements and the future”, the Head of Exclusive Banking at Access Bank, Matilda Asante-Asiedu highlighted the need for every Ghanaian woman to make it their duty to ensure the change we seek in national discourse for women begins with them as their contribution to developing other women.

The summit forms part of a series of activities marking the second anniversary of Access Bank’s ‘W’ Initiative which was introduced in March 2015.

The ‘W’ Initiative seeks to inspire, connect and empower women by offering a bundle of tailor made products, services and opportunities to women, ranging from young professionals, women with family and women in business.

Last year, Access Bank’s ‘W’ was recognised as the Most Outstanding Banking Initiative at the 3rd Women in Business and Finance awards. The Bank also launched the Maternal Health Support Scheme (MHSS) to offer women a financial lifeline in accessing various fertility treatments at specialist hospitals in Ghana and around the world.

The Bank continues to commit resources to improve the wellbeing of key areas such as education, health and social improvement across several communities in Ghana. It is also committed to sustainable business practices that drives profitable, sustainable growth and is also environmentally responsible and socially relevant.

Source: thebftonline.com/Ghana

Published in Bank & Finance

Telcos across Africa are increasingly focusing on effectively maximizing their return on investment from data and on monetizing emerging opportunities such as the Internet of Things (IoT) to remain competitive and afloat, according to George Kalebaila, research director for telecommunications, media, and IoT at International Data Corporation (IDC).

This is due to increasing levels of competition that is forcing them to seek new methods to stem the steady decline of traditional voice services.

"We expect to see greater market consolidation as telcos increase their efforts to acquire smaller ISPs in response to the challenging marketing conditions," says Kalebaila. "Particularly in West Africa, this is being driven by heightened market saturation, declining average revenues per user (ARPUs), increasing operating expenditure, and diminishing profit margins on services.

As such, IDC expects some consolidation within the market, especially between local ISPs that possess 4G LTE frequencies and fibre-to-the-x (FTTX) infrastructure and multinational telcos with solid financial support."

In markets where 4G adoption is already gaining traction, discussions around fifth-generation network technology (5G) will take center stage, creating awareness and bringing the possibilities and expectations of future data networks to the forefront. "IDC expects vendors to focus on the higher bandwidth 5G offers and the technology's potential ability to support emerging services such as IoT, seamless video on demand or IPTV, drone video recording, smart city solutions, and virtual reality applications," says Kalebaila. "We also expect 5G to deliver gigabit connections that enable the seamless delivery of rich multimedia services and applications."

As competition continues to increase in Africa's more mature telecom and IT markets, the need to attract and retain customers through differentiation has become imperative. This means that telcos must move beyond traditional connectivity offerings and provide IT services such as unified communications and collaboration, cloud, and datacenter services.

"In the medium to long term, telcos will be forced to re-evaluate their business models to efficiently design, develop, and deliver cost-effective solutions and services," says Kalebaila. "This may compel telcos to migrate from operating legacy networks to deploying agile systems that are capable of increasing operational efficiency while speeding up the time to market of new solutions. Those telcos that prioritize technologies such as network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) for the delivery of connectivity, cloud, and datacenter services will be well placed to maximize cost savings, achieve greater efficiency, and increase productivity."

In 2017, telcos are also expected to focus more on 4G monetization strategies such as enhanced data offerings, service bundling, and partnerships with digital media companies from a content perspective. While the deployment of 4G networks is already gaining traction across Africa, spectrum availability, low customer awareness, low coverage, high tariffs, and the cost of 4G smartphone devices remain key challenges.

"The availability of affordable 4G smartphones is expected to increase 4G penetration, and those telcos that are creative in their offerings and allow customers to trade in their existing 3G devices will differentiate themselves from the competition," says Kalebaila. "Rather than focus on extolling the features of 4G, telcos could further drive adoption by introducing innovative data bundles and transparent prices, particularly as 4G provides an opportunity to start transitioning to a data-centric model and begin preparations for a voiceless future."

Open application programming interfaces (APIs) is expected to become more commonplace, enabling the developer ecosystem to drive innovation and for telcos to improve partner management. "Historically, open APIs were used in traditional telco services such as USSD and SMS," says Kalebaila."Going forward, we expect to see remarkable growth in financial services platforms like mobile money and breakthrough emerging technologies like IoT, in a bid to drive the release of APIs by telcos to the developer ecosystem. This will allow telcos to harness innovative and localized solutions."

Kalebaila says that telcos that take concrete steps to transform themselves internally will be best positioned to survive digital disruption. "The key focus areas in 2017 will include business model transformation and network efficiency improvements using so-called '3rd Platform' technologies, namely cloud, big data, mobility and social business," he says.

Before they can become digital transformation partners to their clients, telcos will first need to harmonize their internal IT environments with external-facing IT systems and become digital providers to their own internal business functions. "By streamlining, optimizing, and modernizing their own IT environments, telcos can leverage the lessons learnt internally to optimize customer service and experience to their external clients," says Kalebaila.

He adds that telcos need to identify their key challenges, prioritize the development of unique digital transformation strategies, and implement a phased approach to digital transformation. "For example, Telcos can use big data technologies to upsell and cross-sell services, design new products and services, or create new revenue generation streams from existing customer data assets," says Kalebaila. "Understanding and tracking customer behavior will also help telcos provide personalized and optimized offerings to their subscribers, and therefore help enhance customer loyalty."

 

Published in Telecoms
Tuesday, 14 March 2017 08:38

Ghana records 2,900 millionaires in 2016

The High Network of Wealthy Individuals (HNWI) in Ghana is expected to grow by 80% in the next 10years reaching 5,200 individuals in 2026.

This is according to the “The Wealth Report 2017”, a global perspective report on prime property and investments put together by Knight Frank.

The report which was launched for the first time in Ghana yesterday in collaboration with Stanbic Bank Ghana a member of the Standard Bank group based in South Africa, also revealed that, Ghana currently has 2,900 wealthy individuals with each one of them having a net worth (assets) of over $1million.

The report which was put together by the world’s number one investment and property firm Knight Frank gives a good view from geopolitical shifts to luxury spending trends, bringing together the latest intelligence and the sharpest insights into the issues that matter most to the world’s wealthiest people.

According to the report, Ghana has seen 43% growth with its wealthy individuals in the last 10years, growing from 1,900 persons in 2006 to the current 2,900 recorded in 2016, but due to the fall in the prices of commodities, Ghana only saw a 7% growth in 2016 recording only 200 individuals crossing the over $1million mark.

In terms of multi-millionaires that is individuals with net assets with over $10million, Ghana as at 2016 recorded 120 individuals from the 80 it had in 2006. The Wealth Report of Knight Frank also projects that Ghana may hit 220 individuals with over $10million worth of net assets excluding the current residency.

The Knight Frank Wealth Report revealed that, wealth preservation, capital growth and succession planning are the three most important factors that, high net worth Ghanaians consider when making wealth management and investment decisions.

Currently there are 30 individuals in Ghana with over $30million net assets, but there was however no addition to the ultra-high network of wealth individuals in the country from 2015 to 2016 where there are only 4 individuals who are worth over $100 centa-millionaries.

But the report also revealed that Ghana since 2006 has not seen or produced a single billionaire.

Speaking to the B&FT at the sidelines of the launch of the report the Wealth Report Editor, Andrew Shirley said, financial services is the main industry from which the HNWI Ghanaians have acquired their wealth.

“The Financial Services sector forms the largest area where most Ghanaians have made their wealth. It is the primary sources of wealth for 24% of local HNWIs’ Other important industries for them include real estate and construction (16%), fast moving consumer goods (13%) and mining/agricultural constituting 10%.”

“So, what we have seen over the last 10years is a strong growth in terms of the wealth population in Africa. Of course, growth has been variable across African continent, as some countries have done much better than the others, we have seen the impact of lower commodities price on some countries like Nigeria where growth has been much slower and economies which is more diverse like Kenya and Ghana, we have seen much stronger growth. This is because Ghana is very stable politically, stable economy and very much a safe haven in west Africa, so the outlook for Ghana is very positive,” he added.

Commenting on the report, the Head of the Wealth and Investment at Stanbic Bank Ghana, Benjamin Mensah said, “As part of our holistic wealth management proposition, Stanbic Bank Wealth and Investment have created an association with Knight Frank throughout Africa to offer our clients access to the world property experts as we see Real Estate as a major assets class. We continue to see an evaluation pf the high network of the wealthy market in recent years and in the needs of our clients. With increasing sophistication, challenging markets, growing regulatory changes, wealth management has had to evolve.”

Benjamin Mensah further noted that, “what hasn’t changed is our focus on helping clients continue to generate and preserve wealth by providing them with best of breed investment solutions. Our wealth management philosophy centers on managing, growing and protecting the generation wealth of our clients and their families.”

Across Africa the report revealed that, the HNW millennials priorities capital growth at 65%, innovative investing is also at 65%, minimising tax is 40%, ability to move wealth quickly around the world is 40%, and portfolio diversification is at 38% while globally, the HNW millennials are prioritising capital growth at 64%, innovative investing at 43%, portfolio diversification is at 39%, income return is 36% and wealth preservation is at 30% in that order.

On education, wealth managers and advisors for Ghanaians High Network Wealthy Individuals believe more clients are choosing to send their children abroad to study, constituting about 47%, compared to a 28% global average and the 47% recorded across Africa.

Source: Norvan Acquah - Hayford/thebftonline.com/Ghana

Published in Economy

Entry of the mobile technology ride-sharing service, Uber, into passenger transport markets across the world has brought disruptive competition with substantial benefits to consumers. Africa is no exception.

Uber is currently the dominant ride-sharing app used in Africa. It has rapidly grown its African footprint and now has operations in eight countries; Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania.

Disruptive competition through technology can bring substantial benefits to consumers, but it also raises competition and socio-economic issues. These result mainly from the displacement of traditional service providers. These issues cannot be ignored in a developing country. Regulation needs to at least ensure that conditions for competition are consistent and not only free but fair across competing services where possible.

There are also concerns that Uber, with its first mover advantage within the ride-sharing market, is growing into a monopoly despite the benefits to consumers.

These concerns have been raised by incumbent taxi operators in Kenya and South Africa. As is the case across the globe traditional metered taxis are seeing red. In South Africa, traditional metered taxi operators have protested and also tried, so far unsuccessfully, to get the competition authority to prosecute Uber for what they see as anti-competitive behaviour. In Kenya, there have been attacks on Uber drivers by business rivals.

But there are also signs of a rising challenge to Uber by new rivals. The Kenyan and South African experiences are worth noting. The different trajectories developing in these two markets make for an interesting comparison.

Uber firmly in the driving seat in South Africa

In South Africa new entrants into the ride-sharing app market have made little progress in attracting substantial demand. These include:

  • Taxify which entered the market in 2015. It struggled and had to re-launch its brand with a new business model in 2016 to access a wider market, in which it now holds around a 10% share. Its strategy is based on 15% lower prices and higher proportional pay out to drivers.

  • Zebra Cabs, an incumbent metered taxi company, adopted the electronic taxi hailing technology to launch the Zebra Cabs app in 2016, a direct rival to Uber.

  • Jozibear entered the market late in 2016 and currently operates in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

But Uber has built a strong brand among local customers since entry in 2013, in a market with important first mover advantages.

Even though competitors may offer better quality or cheaper services, customers will be attracted to Uber’s because it has established a stronger brand and larger driver network. To compete, entrants have to develop rival platforms which are frictionless and able to attract both drivers and passengers.

Changes in regulation to encompass ride-sharing have formalised aspects of the industry in South Africa. These include licensing and permit conditions. But these changes have not necessarily led to a stronger competitive position for rivals, including metered taxis.

Why Little Cab in Kenya may be different

The picture is very different in Kenya. There Safaricom, the largest telecommunications operator, launched an app-based ride-sharing service called Little Cab in July 2016 in partnership with Craft Silicon, a local software firm.

Little Cab introduced free Wi-Fi to passengers in addition to the option to process payments using M-Pesa, the mobile-phone based financial service. M-Pesa is the most widely used mobile money service developed by Safaricom with 66% market share in Kenya.

Little Cab promises to be an effective competitor to Uber in Kenya’s ride sharing economy particularly due to its link to the mobile money platform.

It’s still not clear whether Uber can integrate the M-Pesa payment solution to its service in Kenya. A failure to address this challenge may limit the company’s ability to retain its position in the market. This is partly because most Kenyan’s don’t have credit cards, a fact that led Uber to introduce cash payments three months after entering the Kenyan market in January 2015. This adjustment has been pivotal to its growth in the country.

Little Cab appears to be performing well given its plans to expand into Uganda and Nigeria in 2017, its first operations outside Kenya. These are not entirely new markets for Safaricom given that its largest regional operations are based in Nigeria under Craft Silicon.

Similarly, Safaricom has operations in Uganda, and plans to use its existing knowledge of these markets to gain entry and compete with other ride-sharing services.

Too early to call?

There’s a fascinating competitive clash emerging in Kenya which may play itself out throughout the east African region. M-Pesa’s attractiveness to both markets (ride-sharing and mobile money users) gives Safaricom and Little Cabs a competitive advantage.

Safaricom is able to leverage its large mobile money subscriber base and technology to compete with Uber in a market where mobile money payments are ubiquitous. On the other hand, the rival has first mover advantages in terms of branding and convenience in the ride-sharing sharing economy. However, Safaricom appears to have overcome the seemingly insurmountable first mover position enjoyed by Uber, and brand-related entry barriers by simply leveraging its own strengths in Kenya.

Who will win the market in the region is now anyone’s guess.

Uber’s position in South Africa looks more assured. But it does face challenges. Ongoing protests, the most recent of which led to gridlock near the country’s largest international airport, could lead to continued scrutiny of its operations.

And the company has had to adjust its model to suit local conditions. Uber grew rapidly when it first launched using its standard transacting mechanisms due in part to the fact that in 2015 54.9% of South Africans had credit cards. But it has had to reconsider its banking card only payment mechanism and now allows cash payments.

Thando Vilakazi, Senior Researcher, Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development, University of Johannesburg and Shingie Chisoro Dube, Economist Researcher/PhD Candidate, University of Johannesburg

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Published in Travel & Tourism
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