Items filtered by date: Monday, 14 August 2017

Financial services provider, Alexander Forbes East Africa, has changed its corporate identity to Zamara following ownership changes that have seen Alexander Forbes Group of South Africa lose the majority stake it held in the Kenyan firm.

Reduction of Alexander Forbes South Africa’s stake is to enable Alexander Forbes East Africa comply with recent amendments to Kenya’s Retirement Benefits Act that restrict foreign ownership in a pension fund administrator to a maximum of 40 per cent.

The changes will see Alexander Forbes (South Africa’s) stake in the Kenyan firm drop from the majority 60 per cent to 31.3 per cent and the company’s trade name change to Zamara.
“We have valued our partnership with Alexander Forbes but the change in legislation has given us a unique opportunity to chart our own destiny,” said Alexander Forbes East Africa Group chief executive Sundeep Raichura.Mr Raichura assured Zamara’s clients that no interruption of operations or changes in management is expected as a result of the rebranding exercise.

“Our customers, employees and other stakeholders should rest assured that our operations will continue uninhibited as we enter a new and exciting phase of our business,” he said adding that Zamara remains committed to providing the highest quality of actuarial, pensions, medical and insurance solutions.

Zamara is now majority owned by Kenyan investors and the Employee Share Ownership Plan (ESOP). The company’s leadership ladder remains unchanged with Mr Raichura as Group Chief Executive and James Olubayi as Executive Director. Michael Waweru also continues to chair the firm’s board of directors.


Credit: Daily Nation

Published in Bank & Finance

WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH) has increased its stake in Seed Engine (incorporating Seed Academy and the WDB Seed Fund) from 35% to 51%, officially confirming Seed Engine as a proudly 51% black women owned company.

Venture capital company Grovest is Seed Engine’s second major shareholder with a 30% stake. The increased share underscores the long-standing relationship between WDB and Seed Engine and their joint commitment to the transformation of the South African economy through the development of black women and youth entrepreneurs.

Seed Engine incorporates Seed Academy, an entrepreneur activation business, as well as the WDB Seed Fund, a Section 12J fund focused on growth-stage businesses. Donna Rachelson, CEO of Seed Engine, says WDB’s impeccable track record of fast-tracking women entrepreneurs speaks for itself. “We know that growing entrepreneurship is one of the biggest challenges facing our country.

We also know that the development of women entrepreneurs is an even greater challenge as only one in three entrepreneurs are women and only 38% of black women owned businesses are formally funded. WDB and Seed Engine are focused on making a meaningful impact by supporting entrepreneurs who are resilient and able to build sustainable businesses that create jobs,” explains Rachelson.

The WDB Seed Fund provides access to funds, markets, high level mentorship and business support to investee companies, whilst simultaneously offering significant tax benefits for corporate and individual investors.

WDB, incorporating the WDB Trust and WDB Investment Holdings, has a 25-year track record of delivering high-impact socio-economic programmes dedicated to increasing the participation of women in the South African economy. Faith Khanyile, CEO of WDB Investment Holdings says the partnership serves both the business and social agenda of WDB in promoting true socio-economic transformation to ensure women are economically self-reliant. “WDBIH’s increased investment in Seed Engine comes from a well-established strategic partnership and we are confident that our shared vision will continue to provide strong leadership and advocacy for female entrepreneurs.”

Khanyile adds that the creation of more business opportunities for women is of vital importance which led WDB to increase its stake to 51%. “We are fully confident that our mission of ensuring even more women are equipped to compete successfully in the South African economy will come to full fruition. The fact that women entrepreneurs are currently underrepresented in relation to the population is something we aim to change one success story at a time.”

This transaction also comes at the recent conclusion of the inaugural and highly successful AccelerateHer programme, a three-month business accelerator for female entrepreneurs – a joint initiative of WDB and Seed Academy which creates a pipeline for the WDB Seed Fund.

“Constructively engaging women entrepreneurs is critical to supporting economic growth. Women entrepreneurs support and uplift their families, their communities, and have the power to profoundly uplift South Africa as a whole,” says Rachelson.

Published in Business

These days the African middle class is widely discussed as a phenomenon considered indicative of social change.

But a great deal of the debate hasn’t been very well informed. For a long time contributions lacked a rigorous analysis, failing to examine the so-called middle class in terms of its potential as a proper class. People involved in the debate hardly bothered to engage with the more methodological aspects of the analysis of classes, which has a long tradition in social sciences and should be an integral part of any analysis.

Most problematic was the fiddling with figures, which classified people according to a minimum income as middle class. This is clearly not a very sensible way to approach proper class definition. It puts almost exclusive emphasis on financial and monetary aspects. But professional and social status, cultural norms and lifestyle related attributes as well as political orientation(s) and influence were often ignored. Where they were considered, it was often only in passing.

The debate largely ignored earlier analyses on African elites. It promoted the assumption that the middle class(es) are a positive ingredient for the development of and in African societies.

But such optimism is unhelpful both in terms of the potential economic role of these loosely defined middle classes, as well as the expectations about their political relevance.

In the meantime that’s started to change. Scholars from various disciplines related to African Studies are gaining the upper hand and claiming ownership. New publications testify to increasingly concerted efforts to respond with different and more nuanced perspectives.

These engagements offer insights based on more than lofty generalisations void of any social realities on the ground. Rather, the case studies test some of the assumptions and are able to portrait existing identities and practices of social segments of societies, which might be considered as middle class - or not.

So then, what class is the middle class?

Caution required

What is lumped together as middle classes represent at best an opaque awareness – if not about themselves (in the plural) – then at least about society and their position, aims and aspirations. Such ambiguity explains the different political and social orientations of members of a middle class, their different roles and positions in social struggles and their difference in interests.

The conclusions seem to suggest that there is no social force in the making, which by status and definition would indeed be the torch bearer for more democracy, participation, human rights, social equality and redistribution of wealth beyond benefiting just the group. One might call this a class interest, shared by many members of these middle classes across the continent.

But depending on the circumstances, ethnicity, pigmentation and other criteria (not least religion) matter at least as much as (at best) diffuse class awareness.

This should not stand in the way of continued interest in this species called middle class, which at a closer look is not as new as some contributions to the wider debate suggest. After all, there were always some middle layers of societies with a set of differing interests and orientations – only that their visibility and size in African countries seems to have increased lately.

But we should be much more cautious about providing simplified and sweeping explanations about the scope for potential social and political reforms and the impact on transformation of societies these middle classes are able – or willing – to promote.

After all, it is neither the middle class(es) nor even the upper fifth of the income pyramid that has any influence on the distribution of wealth in societies. They too are at the receiving end.

It is indeed the top decimal if not the top 5% or an even smaller fraction that drives inequality, and it is these haves that have grasped the steering wheel. Their forms of appropriation and enrichment are the ultimate determinants of the scope and limit of poverty reduction by means of redistributive measures in favour of those in the bottom half of society.

To understand inequalities and the mechanisms of their reproduction, the motto coined by University of Cambridge economist Gabriel Palma is appropriate. He points to the decisive impact of the wealthy segment of societies as regards growing inequalities on a global scale and concludes:

It’s the share of the rich, stupid.

One is tempted to suspect that the middle class(es) hype seeks to propose a historical mission of these social layers in terms of future perspectives. But, in the light of the real (also material and political) power relations and structures of societies and the global economy, they are never able to live up to this mission.

Despite this sobering conclusion, the current engagement with the phenomenon called the African middle class(es) is anything but obsolete. Independent of their size, they signify modified social relations in African societies, which indeed deserve attention and rigorous analysis – with the emphasis on the latter.

These edited extracts are from the Introduction and Conclusion of Henning Melber (ed.), The Rise of Africa’s Middle Class: Myths, Realities and Critical Engagements.


Henning Melber, Extraordinary Professor, Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria

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

Published in Business

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