UK-based online money transfer start-up WorldRemit, which also services Zimbabwe, has raised $100m in its latest round of funding.
The investment will be used to bring its low-cost transfer service to more countries. The funding round was led by Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV), with participation from existing investor Accel Partners.
Commenting on the development, WorldRemit founder and CEO, Ismail Ahmed said: “I am delighted that TCV is joining WorldRemit in our mission to enable the seamless movement of money between people across borders.
“We have an amazing opportunity to shake-up a stale industry and to save our customers time and money. We are taking money transfers into the mobile age, where people send from apps and receive on Mobile Money services.”
TCV General Partner John Rosenberg added: “The $550bn global remittance market is undergoing significant disruption with a clear shift to online and mobile solutions for international money transfer.
“We are delighted to partner with Ismail and the WorldRemit team, who are at the forefront in offering convenient, low-cost solutions, backed by a market leading technology platform, compliance infrastructure, and geographic footprint”.
The company said it was now processing 250,000 transfers every month. Customers can send money from 50 countries and receive money in 117 countries, but the service will soon expand to cover more countries and currencies.
Unlike banks and other services for international money transfers, WorldRemit only charges a small fee per transaction.
Launched in 2010 and headquartered in London, the company employs more than 100 people and has previously secured funding from £25m Series A funding from Accel Partners and £4.7m seed funding from supporters at the London Business School.
Ahmed said WorldRemit was mostly used by expats and migrant workers who want to send money to families and friends back home.
"Popular receiving countries include the Philippines, India, Ghana, Zimbabwe," he said
"We also offer a variety of ways for people to receive their money, including on mobile money wallets -- which are very popular in developing countries, where people tend to use their mobile phones instead of cash."
He added that said the money transfer industry was finally starting to feel the effects of the "internet revolution" and that old models were changing extremely quickly.
"People will no longer tolerate the inconvenience and expense of using offline, brick and mortar agents when they can just pick up their smartphone and send money quickly and at low cost to friends and family around the world." -
Kuwait-listed logistics firm Agility plans to spend up to $100 million this year on its expansion plans, with Africa the main target of its investment, a senior executive said.
Among the target markets for the company's expansion would be Ghana, Mozambique, Angola and Nigeria as they were benefiting from blossoming oil and gas sectors, and growing populations and consumer spending, Essa Al-Saleh told reporters at a media event in Dubai.
"Africa is a growing market and it's one of our last frontiers -- we've invested but not as much as we would have liked," said Saleh, who is chief executive of Agility's logistics unit Global Integrated Logistics.
The logistics unit moves, manages and distributes goods from various industries, including the chemicals industry. The figure for spending in 2015, which would be almost entirely on organic growth, was broadly in line with that spent in the previous year, he added.
The fall in oil prices in the last few months would have an impact on Agility's costs, although the savings would unlikely be more than single-digit percentage points unless there was a long-term decline in prices, Saleh said, due to airlines having hedged their fuel at higher costs.
Saleh added that airlines were also shifting from quoting separate pricing for fuel and shipping costs to having one all-encompassing price, which hid the benefits of falling oil prices on fuel costs.
Agility, which has operations in more than 100 countries and is one of Kuwait's corporate success stories, generates nearly 25 per cent of its revenue in the Middle East and Africa. Its third-quarter revenue was KD337.1 million ($1.14 billion) and its net profit was KD13.04 million. Agility has yet to report fourth-quarter numbers. -
Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Vodacom are offering aggressive prices on bundled tablet and data deals
As voice revenues start to stagnate, mobile operators are turning their focus to data to bolster their financial performance. Vodacom’s latest financial results showed that its data traffic grew 62.2% in South Africa year on year, and now makes up 27.4% of service revenue.
The company now has 16.8 million active data customers on its network, mainly thanks to an increase in the number of smartphones and tablets on its network. The number of active smartphones and tablets on Vodacom’s network grew 23.6% to 9.5 million devices.
People are also using more data. The average monthly data usage increased 41.1% to 358MB on smartphones.
More devices = more data use
The mobile operators are driving data adoption by increasing the number of data-capable devices on their networks. One of the best ways to achieve this is to launch low-cost smartphones and tablets. MTN unveiled its own branded Android tablet – the MTN Steppa – in November 2014 to target the low-end market in South Africa.
This followed the launch of the Vodacom Smart Tab 3G 7-inch Android tablet at R999 in October 2014. The device is also available on a 24-month contract with 500MB of monthly data for R79 per month.
This raises the question as to how the mobile operators’ most affordable tablet deals stack up against each other.
"We are using mobile feeders to deliver the coal to the units at Majuba. They are basically temporary conveyer belts," spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said.
A silo at Majuba collapsed last year, triggering a wave of rolling blackouts that disrupted business and annoyed the man on the street in Africa's most advanced economy.
If when you say internet, you think of a computer, then you probably don't live in an African country.
The continent has some of the lowest fixed-broadband subscription rates in the world, with most people's first encounter with the world wide web coming via their mobile phones. Around 70% of mobile users browse the internet on their devices, and Africa's mobile broadband growth is increasing at a rate of more than 40% -- twice the global average.
This is largely due to the weak land-line infrastructure on the continent, which makes connecting through a desktop computer difficult. Low-cost or second-hand feature phones are also much cheaper to buy, which has made them ubiquitous across the continent, and it is estimated that by 2016 Africa will have a billion mobile phones. Feature devices also stay charged for longer -- a crucial requirement in a part of the world where the supply of power is irregular and unreliable.
"More people in Africa have a mobile phone than access to electricity," according to Toby Shapshak, editor and publisher of Stuff Magazine. "That means, for a phone to be functional, it needs decent battery life. These feature phones have anywhere up to a week." This has created a unique environment where mobile technology have been adapted for a wide range of usages, from lowering information barriers and improving access to financial and health services to boosting commerce and bringing people together.
Mobile money transfer systems such as M-Pesa, which launched in Nairobi in 2007, allow customers to send cash to remote areas with the touch of a button. The service has nearly 17 million active customers who make more than US$1.1 billion worth of transactions per month. And if you're worried that the medicines you bought might be counterfeit, you can check their authenticity through mPedigree, a mobile application which gives you a "genuine" or "fake" answer after you text the drug's serial number.
Mobile phone technology has also moved into sectors outside the traditional tech remit. Farmers can access information about the weather, real-time market prices, and new farming tips though mobile apps like Farmerline and Esoko.
Mobiles have even infiltrated arts and culture, with Badilisha Poetry X-Change, the world's largest archive of African poets featured on a mobile first website.
The spread of internet-enabled cell phones has also had an effect on the fiber of society: "The impact of Internet access via mobile devices on the continent has been a game changer on the continent," according to Nmachi Jidenma, manager of mobile disruptors at PayPal. "Access to social networks has given youth a platform for self-expression and civic participation in ways that are having real impact on elections, governance and accountability."
Source: CNN NEWS
Barely two weeks after the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and United States Pharmacopeia (USP) awarded National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) with ISO/IEC 17025:2005 certification, the agency is on the verge of being declared the regional centre for food safety, a feat that has never been attained in the country.
This is as its food laboratory in Oshodi has been pre-selected by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as Africa's Regional Designated Centre (RDC) for food safety.
While announcing the international body's intention, experts of IAEA, Prof. Eric Mitema and Ardjouma Dembele, in collaboration, said they are sure that Nigeria will meet the basic requirements needed for its approval as Africa's RDC for food safety. They spoke during the media briefing of the pre-selection phase in Lagos recently.
Mitema explained that it will mean that the agency can generate money for the country through various dealings that would be carried out in the food centre ranging from IAEA sending students from different countries for training and recommending the centre to other food and drug bodies such that their products can be certified here in Nigeria.
Describing the pre-selection phase as a road to a landmark achievement, the NAFDAC boss, Dr. Paul Orhii said the agency will serve as a regional centre for food safety, where personnel would be trained if its food laboratory is eventually selected.
He said: "selected RDC will be one of the region's leaders and models in food safety through application of nuclear and closely related techniques on the continent as well as provide training to other member states in the region among others."
The DG also noted that by this accreditation, it will be a source of revenue to his agency and the country.
Orhii also observed that the specific tasks of the expert mission are to evaluate institutions based on human capacity availability - number of various scientists, professionals, administrative, technical and support staff on job training opportunities, number of Master or Doctoral students and any scientific publications from the institutions among other issues.
"The IAEA experts assignment also involve assessment of infrastructure availability, examples are number of training facilities, laboratories, GLP compliances, ISO standards, SOP manuals, seminar rooms, number and model of major equipment/ infrastructure including software and so on," Orhii said.
Other tasks of the IAEA experts, the NAFDAC boss said are: institutional and laboratory management assessment.
Source: THISDAY NEWS NIGERIA
One of the mostly firmly held imperatives in traditional African society is respect and compassion for the elderly. If the taboo is flouted, it implies something is very seriously amiss with a particular old person. So when Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president who turns 91 on Saturday (February 21), missed his footing as he stepped off a podium to land hard and on his hands and knees, the reaction was a national outburst of jubilation.
His close security ordered photographers to delete the frames, but a few slipped away into the crowd, the images safe on their mobile phones. Within a couple of hours, pictures of the tumble had swamped the internet, reaching the country's remotest villages and the Zimbabwean diaspora across the globe.
Then came the digitally altered "memes" that unflatteringly violated the respect rule: the irony of him fleeing one of his own whip-wielding riot police. And the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Zimbabwe, to give him his full honorific title, on his hands and knees, being mounted from the back by a poodle.
Even Zimbabwe's two independent daily newspapers, Newsday and the Daily News, didn't expect the strength of the reaction. They put the pictures of the fall on their front pages and upped their print runs sharply. They each sold out, for the first time ever.
If Nelson Mandela had fallen in public, the publicity may have been perhaps as intense - but it would have been alarm and compassion. It is also unlikely that Mandela's aides would have attempted to censor the images.
For all but a small coterie of ostentatiously wealthy political cronies, Mugabe has brought death, pain, ruin, hunger, poverty, disease and despair to the people of Zimbabwe. And after 35 years, Africa's second-longest ruling leader, he still won't go away, promising at his party's congress last December that he's staying put until he dies.
For years he and his blackguards have lied about his numerous trips to the Far East for medical attention, claiming his several weeks in Singapore were for a cataract operation, which for ordinary folk is a five minute procedure and immediate release. He returns and the public is told he is "fitter than two fiddles."
The day after the fall, state newspapers tried desperately to play down the incident. He hadn't actually fallen but tripped on a lump in an ill-laid red carpet, and then steadied himself (on his hands and knees?). He was at his office the next day at the usual time, "his usual sprightly self," they chirped.
The truth was they fooled no-one. Their attempts to cover it up made it worse. The fall was a thrilling vindication of the absurdity of him clinging to power, as well as a sadistic pleasure at seeing the man ascribed with godlike powers by his cronies, become like any old person, physically out of control and in shock, fear and pain.
Mugabe is wounded in the public eye now, his stature and the awe in which he was held is diminished. It breeds hope that the end is nearing. His hold over Zimbabweans is seriously undermined.
And when he eventually dies, the release of pent-up longing can be expected to turn into open, wild elation.
But there is more trouble in the family. They left Harare before Christmas on their annual holiday in the Far East and Mugabe returned in late January, alone. He announced to the usual bussed-in crowd at Harare airport that his wife, Grace (49), was recovering from an appendectomy she underwent in Singapore.
She returned unexpectedly on Sunday (Feb. 15). The state propaganda Herald newspaper pictured her on the front page as she arrived at Harare airport, looking years older than the firm-faced, strong, lively woman she was in early-December.
She looked as she had lost weight around her face and upper body, two long deep lines marked each side of her face and she had dark rings about her eyes.
She delivered an inexplicably long and detailed history of her health: a tonsillectomy when she was 31 (she thought her cook was feeding her "potions"), a gall bladder operation at 39 and this time, she said, she developed an inflamed appendix, and had it out. It went septic and the incision had to be reopened. She said had been experiencing pain in her side "for years."
"The medical community certainly doesn't believe it's appendicitis," said a leading Harare medical specialist. When the appendix becomes inflamed, the pain is felt acutely within days, not years. "The length of time she has been experiencing pain is not indicative of appendicitis. How she looks in the paper and the time elapsed since the operation, suggests chemotherapy (for cancer)," he said.
Again, Mugabe's goons made sure they aroused suspicion about her appearance at the airport when they barred the independent newspapers' photographers from the tarmac welcome.
Her appearance and her story have thrown the future of the leadership of Mugabe's ZANU(PF) party into confusion. Grace at their marriage in 1996 was suddenly became critically important in the party, as she held the key to access to her husband. A presidential appointment depended on Grace's favour.
In the latter months of last year, she launched a countrywide campaign of vicious tirades against Joice Mujuru, the long-serving vice-president who stood to succeed Mugabe on his death or retirement. Mujuru and the faction which supported her were hurriedly expelled from office and replaced by the other faction dominating Zimbabwe politics, under the sinister party veteran, Emmerson Munangagwa.
Grace was made head of the party women's league and at the end of December was at the apex of her power, widely perceived as the successor to Mugabe - "a bedroom coup," as a now dismissed top party official remarked. All that is suddenly wildly uncertain.
Mnangagwa remains vice-president and ready to step into Mugabe's shoes without Grace. He is not popular, is inarticulate (though a lawyer) and now potentially subject to the African presidential tradition of never publicly announcing your successor because he or she will immediately become impatient for your departure or death.
And the large, still influential Mujuru faction licking its wounds is a threat that will not disappear. Zimbabwe's sundered opposition movements have been talking about "national convergence" against ZANU(PF) and recently feelers were put out to Mujuru.
Add this all to the economy sinking steadily into dormancy, a government unable to pay civil servants (universities went on strike last week, unpaid since October), worsening joblessness and an executive incapable of acting quickly to attract investment.
Again, Mugabe's Zimbabwe becomes the centre of toxic political and economic instability in Southern Africa, bleeding refugees, blocking transport routes and frightening off investors when his neighbours could most do without it. - politicsweb
Source: Jan Raath is a veteran Zimbabwean journalist with more than 30 years of experience.
Africa is poised to become a hotbed for mobile growth and commerce in the coming years, according to Opera Mediaworks' State of Mobile Advertising report released today. Mobile is the driving force behind the continent's accelerating internet adoption.
Based on data from two of Opera's core businesses, its global mobile-ad platform (Opera Mediaworks) and its mobile-phone browser business (Opera Software), the report examines the mobile internet and mobile-advertising landscape across Africa. It highlights the tremendous opportunity that comes with a population's move to the mobile web and smartphones.
Beyond the monetization potential of a world of new or localized apps and websites, there are distinct possibilities to harness the power of social networking and to implement innovative internet usage plans, as well as new ways to push forward digital healthcare initiatives in Africa.
Here are some key trends uncovered as part of the research:
Android devices push smartphone growth and mobile internet adoption
Africans remain more likely to use a non-smartphone compared to users globally, but the report indicates that smartphones, specifically Android devices, are a growing part of the mobile landscape. Android users, who now comprise almost 30% of the total mobile population, use the mobile web twice as much as feature-phone users. As Android phones get into the hands of more of the African population, mobile internet use is bound to increase. The strongest sub-markets for both page views and data consumption are Southern (South Africa and Namibia), Middle (Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo) and Northern Africa (Sudan and Egypt), with the latter region approaching global averages in both categories.
Social networking is the 'it' mobile activity
Taking a closer look at mobile users in Nigeria and South Africa, the data shows that social networking is the most popular activity. South African users consume many more pages of social-media content per user, however, which means there is significantly more inventory on social-networking sites and apps for advertisers to consider.
App use remains small compared to Western markets, but presents opportunity
The report indicates that only about 5% of advertising traffic in Africa comes from mobile apps, but suggests that this market will grow substantially as more users adopt smart devices. Additionally, the fact that app traffic tends to monetize better than web traffic means big opportunities in African markets.
Within the Opera Mobile Store, the world's third-largest app store, gaming apps are by far the most downloaded in both Nigeria and South Africa. In terms of app usage, South Africans use more apps under the Utilities category, while Nigerians still prefer spending time with gaming apps.
Innovative, mobile-first solutions to bring people online
Short-term web passes for internet access are an effective way of increasing mobile internet adoption, according to the report. For example, Opera Web Pass, which can be sponsored by brands or mobile operators and grants short-term access to the internet, allows users who do not want to make a full commitment to hop on the internet for limited amounts of time. Web passes not only help operators bring new internet users online, but also present a way for sites to attract users, or for brands to offer valuable incentives to engage customers.
Opportunity for healthcare-related sites and apps
Globally, interest in healthcare sites and apps appears to be tied to the availability of doctors. Countries with the most doctors per capita account for 90% of impressions to health sites, while countries with the fewest doctors per capita consume less than 1% of health-focused-site impressions. These findings reflect the global healthcare gap and reveal a large, untapped audience within the African continent for healthcare-related sites and apps. These sites will be especially critical during humanitarian crises, such as the recent Ebola outbreak.
Source: Opera Mediaworks
HARARE – At least 76 percent of Zimbabwe’s 7 million adult population is living on less than $200 a month, according to a consumer survey conducted by the country’s official statistics agency and a regional independent research house, showing worsening socio-economic conditions over the past four years.
The FinScope Consumer Survey 2014, commissioned by FinMak, a South Africa-based entity which seeks to improve financial inclusion, was conducted by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT), which handled sampling, quality control and weighting of data, and Continental – Fonkom, which conducted 4,000 face-to-face interviews.
It is the second research after FinScope 2011, and was conducted between July and September 2014.
The meagre personal income numbers dovetail with recent World Bank figures which show that real per capita incomes in Zimbabwe are lower today than they were 55 years ago in 1960, further denting the country’s prospects as a viable investment destination due to lack of sizeable markets, among other factors deterring foreign direct investment.
Fisurvey also threw up a set of bleak poverty indicators – access to water has declined, with only 29 percent having piped running water, compared with 35 percent in 2011 and 36 percent being unable to send children to school due to lack of school fees, up from 25 percent in 2011.
The percentage of people who have had to skip a meal due to lack of money went up to 44 percent in 2014, from 29 percent four years ago, while 37 percent have gone without treatment or medicine because of lack of money, compared with 20 percent in 2011.
“Adults with no income have decreased, although the majority earn $100 or less,” said FinMark project manager, Obert Maposa on Monday.
The survey also found that 70 percent of adult Zimbabweans reside in the rural areas, a 5 percentage point increase from the 2011 figure, pointing to a decline in the urban population.
There were some positives – such improvements in education as shown by the decrease in the number of people no education from 7 percent in 2011 to 3 percent in 2014. Financial inclusion also increased by 17 percentage points, from 60 percent in 2011 to 77 percent in 2014 – largely driven by mobile money products by the telecommunications sector.
The number of Zimbabweans with an insurance policy remained static at 30 percent, with funeral cover and medical aid being the major products taken out to cover risk. The survey also found that 53 percent of Zimbabweans did not save in 2014, compared with only 37 percent in 2011.
At least 30 percent or 2.08 million of the population were operating bank accounts last year compared to 24 percent (1.45 million) in 2011 as many people shunned banks while others could not afford the charges.
“Despite these improvements, more hardships were experienced in 2014 compared to 2011 due to a lack of money in this regard,” said Finscope.
According to the study, more people were accessing banking services last year compared to 2011, although the figure is still way below intended levels.
“Banking in Zimbabwe is largely driven by the use of transactional products. A high percentage of the population (70 percent) is not banked with the majority of those indicating that they do not need a bank account (74 percent),” the firm said.
Other reasons cited by individuals for not having a bank account were that they cannot afford to maintain a minimum balance required; bank charges too high and many received income in the form of cash and therefore had an insufficient balance for a bank account.
Of those who have a bank account, 67 percent regarded safety as a main reason for banking while 39 percent used bank accounts as a means to either deposit or receive money from an employer. At least 20 percent of those who are banked said it was an easy way to obtain loans.
The survey further revealed that 53 percent of adult Zimbabweans do not save with the majority claiming not to have sufficient funds after paying for living expenses while others did not have an income.
“Of the 47 percent of adults who currently save, 35 percent save to cover living expenses while 21 percent do so for education and school fees. Only 19 percent save for non-medical emergencies.”
The study further showed that 58 percent of adults do not borrow for fear of debt while others were concerned about defaulting on credit.
At least 70 percent of adults did not have insurance with most respondents claiming that insurance was “too expensive.”Of those who have insurance, 77 percent was for funeral cover and 30 percent medical aid.
The study also revealed that many people were now using mobile money remittance services. At least 58 percent of those who remit, 83 percent said they used formal channels such as the bank, mobile money and cross-border channels like Mukuru, MoneyGram and Western Union.
Credit - The Source
Lagos - The Tony Elumelu Foundation has announced the appointment of Professor Reid E. Whitlock as Chief Executive of the Foundation effective immediately.
Professor Whitlock’s appointment follows Dr Wiebe Boer, the inaugural Chief Executive of the Foundation, becoming Director of Strategy at Heirs Holdings, Mr. Elumelu’s pan-African proprietary investment company.
Founded in 2010 by serial entrepreneur and philanthropist Tony O. Elumelu, C.O.N., the Foundation is Africa’s leading advocate for entrepreneurship, responsible for programmes designed to ensure that entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship become the primary driver of Africa’s economic growth and social transformation.
Professor Whitlock brings thirty years of experience as a business school rector, diplomat, entrepreneur, strategy consultant and advisor to leaders in Africa, Asia and the Middle East on economic development. He received his Ph.D. and law degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He also holds a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard Business School and is a cum laude graduate of Princeton University.
Founder and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Tony Elumelu said: “ I welcome Professor Whitlock, who brings considerable global experience in the private, public, and academic sectors, which will significantly assist in realising the mission of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, in empowering Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurs and driving the continent’s economic and social transformation.”
Speaking on his appointment, Professor Whitlock stated “I am honoured by the opportunity the Board of Trustees has given me. I am excited to join such a dynamic institution, with a truly pan-African focus and an ambitious agenda. I look forward to leveraging my extensive experience and networks to further help the Foundation achieve its important goals.”
Dr. Whitlock will focus on supervising the Foundation’s four key projects and programmes:
• The $100 million pan-African Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme – Africa’s largest direct intervention in support of entrepreneurship.
• The Africapitalism Institute, the Foundation’s policy and research arm, which provides a rigorous programme of research and advocacy, in support of the Foundation’s goals.
• The Elumelu Nigeria Empowerment Fund, directly assisting, through private sector strategies, conflict affected and disadvantaged communities across Nigeria.
• The Tony & Awele Elumelu Prize, which champions academic excellence on the African continent.
Professor Whitlock will be supported by the Foundation’s senior leadership team, including:
• Parminder Vir, OBE, the Foundation’s Director of Entrepreneurship, responsible for implementing the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. Parminder has over thirty years of experience in the creative industries and is the former CEO of PVL Media, a specialist consultancy facilitating cross-border business development in emerging markets.
• Bob Wheeler, who recently joined as inaugural Dean to lead the establishment of the Tony Elumelu Business School. Bob has decades of experience in business education, most recently establishing business schools in Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan.
• David Rice serves as the Director of the Africapitalism Institute. David is an economist, who led the Milken Institute’s Africa programming, and was also a faculty member at New York University.
• Abimbola Adebakin, who will be joining as the Director of Operations after a successful career, including working as a consultant with Accenture, and heading the consulting arm of the Financial Institutions Training Centre (FITC), Nigeria.
Source: The Source