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ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.


A round-up of recent news from the UK, Africa and around the world.

A round-up of recent news from the UK, Africa and around the world.

Launch of the 2017 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards seek to encourage entrepreneurial activity and recognise the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. These Awards operate globally, celebrating those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses. Entries will be grouped into regional programmes, with regional winners going forward to compete for the Overall UK Entrepreneur of the Year title. The UK overall winner will then go on to represent the UK at the World Entrepreneur of the Year in June 2018. The benefits of entering include the following: Opportunity to join a global business network; Opportunities to excel - from regional to national to global success; Significant profile-raising through regional and national media coverage. The categories for 2017 are as follows: Disruptor; International; Master; Rising Star; Scale up; Transformational leader. UK entrants must be based or have their chief operations in the UK, and must have been incorporated for at least two years as of 1 January 2017. The deadline for receipt of applications is Friday 24 March 2017. Further details can be accessed at the EYT website

Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust Welcomes Applications for 2017

The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust welcomes applications from organisations whose work is legally charitable as defined by UK law. The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) is interested in funding work which focuses on removing problems through radical solutions, and not simply about making problems easier to live with has a clear sense of objectives, and of how to achieve them is innovative and imaginative and where the grant has a good chance of making a difference. Applications can be made at any time under the following priority areas: Peace and Security to support a transition towards the use of 'soft', rather than 'hard' power as a first line of response to conflict within society and around the world; The de-legitimisation of violence as a tool for responding to conflict, securing interests or projecting power; and a culture of human rights and non-violent problem-solving, promoted at all levels of society. Power and Accountability - to support people to create a world in which power is more equally shared, and in which powerful institutions are responsive and accountable to wider society and aligned with the long-term public interest. Rights and Justice - to promote racial justice and equality of opportunity as a basis for a harmonious multi-racial, multi-ethnic society in the UK. Sustainable Future - to develop and promote sustainable, low-carbon alternatives to the current consumerist and growth-based paradigm. Northern Ireland - to fund work which will contribute as a strategic level to the ongoing transformation of the Northern Ireland conflict. Organisations should be undertaking work at a national level. This means work that seeks to make positive change across the UK as a whole, or across one or more of its member countries - England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. The deadlines for applications for Northern Ireland, Sustainable Future and Cross Cutting applications are 27 March 2017 and 21 August 2017 (12 noon). The deadlines for Peace & Security, Power & Accountability and Rights & Justice applications are 10 April 2017 and 4 September 2017 (12 noon). Further information and an online application form can be found on the JRCT website

Comic Relief Invites Applications for £2.2m Levelling the Field (International) Programme

Comic Relief is inviting UK based partnerships to apply for funding for proposals which use the power of sport to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls in Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda, Colombia and India. Comic Relief and the Scottish Government are seeking proposals to their new £2.2 million initiative. The Levelling the Field International funding programme is offering grants of up to £150,000 over a period of 36 months to support proposals from UK based partnerships which use sport to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls in Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda, Colombia and India. Eligible proposals must work towards the overall outcome of inspiring women and girls to reach their full potential. In addition, proposals must work towards a minimum of one of the following outcomes: Reduce gender stereotypes that have a negative impact on women and girls (the use of realistic role models may be appropriate); Increase social inclusion of women and girls (proposals must focus on more than just bringing women and girls together); Increase opportunities for women and girls to access education, employment and training (these activities may, or may not be within the sport industry); Improve the leadership skills of women and girls, equipping women and girls with the skills to become leaders, in the setting appropriate to them. Comic Relief will also support proposals that tackle violence against women and girls, which enable women and girls to live free from harm and with access to crucial support. This approach aligns with ‘Equally Safe’, Scotland’s strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls domestically. Applicants should have been registered for at least three years and have a turnover of at least £100,000. The deadline for applications is 16 March 2017 (12 noon). Further information is available on the Comic Relief website

75% of UK Fathers Want Flexible Working

Many UK working fathers are facing a ‘fatherhood penalty’ if they want to take part in family life more fully, warns new research from Working Families and Bright Horizons. According to the 2017 Modern Families Index report, almost three-quarters (70 per cent) of dads want to work more flexibly to accommodate activities such as dropping and picking their children up from school – which 25 per cent of dads are already involved with daily. A tenth (11 per cent) of the 2,750 respondents said their boss makes no allowances at all for their family life, and nearly half (47 per cent) of working fathers said they would rather downsize into a less stressful job altogether. A further third (38 per cent) said they’d rather do a job that involved taking a pay cut if it meant they had more family time. The ‘fatherhood penalty’ – where fathers deliberately stall their careers as they seek to find better ways to combine work with family life – is a worrying development. A third of working fathers surveyed said they felt ‘burned out’ at work, while a further fifth (20 per cent) said their employer was, at-best, unsympathetic about childcare. Nearly half (44 per cent) of dads said they had lied about family commitments that could be seen as ‘getting in the way’ of work. ‘Millennial fathers’ are feeling the work-life conflict most keenly; 53 per cent of fathers in this demographic said they wanted to switch to a less stressful job to make more time for their home lives, and a further 48 per cent said they would be willing to take a pay cut if it meant giving them a job that enabled work and family life to be more equally balanced. The report also found that almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of parents have to do extra work in the evenings and at weekends, with one-fifth putting in an extra five weeks per year of additional work. Half of parents surveyed agreed that work-life balance is an increasing source of stress.

Duke of Cambridge Announced as new Royal Patron of The Royal African Society

The Royal African Society has announced that H.R.H. The Duke of Cambridge is the organisation’s new Royal Patron, following Queen Elizabeth stepping down as Royal Patron of the Society after 48 years. The Royal African Society also received a £2,500 gift from The Patron’s Fund, the charitable fund set up to acknowledge the work of the charitable organisations for which The Queen acts as a Patron, on her 90th birthday. The Society promotes Africa globally across four main areas: academia, business, politics and the arts. This year the Society will host its annual Africa Writes and Film Africa festivals, showcasing the best in contemporary African literature and film to approximately 10,000 people in London and across the UK. Alongside its regular programme of events and publications, the Society oversees the Africa All Party Parliamentary group which encourages greater engagement with African issues from UK parliamentarians. It also runs a business programme, engaging companies working in the continent that want to make a positive contribution to Africa’s development.

UK’s Top Universities Have No Black Academics for Third Successive Year

New data has shown there are no black academics in senior management positions, such as directors, managers and senior officials, in any British universities for the third consecutive year. Records published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) revealed that of the 535 senior officials who declared their ethnicity, 510 were white, 15 were Asian and 10 were recorded as ‘other, including mixed’. Between 2012 and 2013, HESA recorded that there were five black members of staff in the most senior category, but the precise figure may have been between three and seven because of the agency’s policy of rounding figures. The statistics, which cover staff at 163 of the UK’s state-funded higher education institutions and the privately funded Buckingham University, showed that universities employed 3,205 black people as academics. Some 1,805 black members of staff were found to be in secretarial roles, and a further 1,410 in ‘elementary occupations’ such as cleaners, porters and security guards. In contrast, there are around 158,000 white staff in academic posts and fewer than 70,000 performing clerical or manual labour. Women also made up less than a quarter of the 20,000 professors currently working in UK higher education. However, this does represent an improvement on previous years. Women made up 45 per cent of academic staff and just under half (48 per cent) of the overall workforce, with around two-thirds employed on part-time contracts.

Senior Managers Lack People Skills Needed to Succeed, finds report

Senior management professionals lack the right balance of effective people management competencies and technical skills, new data from the CIPD has found. Although ‘performance management’ and ‘people management’ were voted as the top leadership behaviours and skills needed by organisations over the next three years, many of the 629 HR professionals surveyed said leaders’ skills were lacking in these crucial areas. Of those who cited performance management, more than half (53 per cent) said senior leaders’ current skills in this area were ineffective. A further 44 per cent of those who named people management as a crucial skill felt senior leaders’ abilities in this arena were lacking. The CIPD’S HR Outlook report winter 2016-17 found that leaders were rated as being most effective on technical ability (30 per cent), budgeting and financial management (19 per cent) and operational management (15 per cent). Only one of these skills – budgeting and financial management – was named by HR professionals in the top 10 leadership behaviours and skills needed in the next three years.

British Council Opens Cultural Protection Fund’s Large Grants

The Cultural Protection Fund which aims to safeguard and promote cultural heritage in conflict affected countries in the Middle East and North Africa is accepting expressions of interest for its large grants programme. The £30 million Cultural Protection Fund was established by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in partnership with the British Council last year to support projects focusing on the protection of cultural heritage under threat in one or more of the Fund’s target countries. The fund will run from 2016 to 2020. The Fund offers both small and large grants in support of not-for-profit organisations that protect cultural heritage in countries in the Middle East and North Africa region. Non-governmental organisations (NGO), charity or voluntary organisations, public sector organisations, and academic institutions based in the UK can apply. The grants are suitable for applicants working with local partners in one or more of the Fund’s target countries: Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen. Cultural heritage includes many different things from the past that communities value and want to pass on to future generations. There are two levels of funding: Small Grants of between £5,000 and £100,000. Large Grants of between £100,000 and £2 million. Organisations are limited to a maximum of £3 million in funding from the Cultural Protection Fund from 2016-2020. This is a cumulative total representing all grants awarded for projects. There are separate application processes for small and large grants: Large grants will have two funding rounds per financial year. Small grants will run on a rolling basis with quarterly decision meetings. The deadline for expressions of interest for Large Grants is 31 March 2017. Full details can be found on the British Council website

Four in 10 UK Workers Believe They Will Never Retire

Almost half of UK employees believe they will never be able to retire, a new survey has found. The online poll of 1,599 people of working age, carried out by market research company Mintel, found that only 35 per cent were confident they would ever be able to stop working, while 39 per cent expected never to retire. There were also significant regional variations among the figures – 45 per cent of Londoners said they would never fully retire, compared with just under a third (32 per cent) in Scotland. Many respondents said they wanted to retire as soon as they were financially able to do so: 32 per cent planned to retire as soon as they could claim the state pension, a figure that reached 42 per cent among men aged 25 to 44. Men can currently retire at 65 and women at 63, but this is set to rise to 66 for both genders by 2020 and to 67 between 2026 and 2028. Around 6 in 10 (61 per cent) workers said they believe their generation will not enjoy as comfortable a retirement as previous generations. This figure rose to 65 per cent for those born between 1965 and 1979, known as Generation X. The survey also revealed that gender is a factor in how much people save for their retirement. It found that more than half (55 per cent) of full-time employees, and 42 per cent of men, have a pension of some kind. This figure fell to 35 per cent for part-time workers, 17 per cent for self-employed individuals and less than a third (31 per cent) for women. Aside from pensions, 20 per cent of respondents expected to use funds from a cash ISA to help fund retirement, while one-third (33 per cent) planned to use money from a savings account.

Launch of the 2017 Deutsche Bank Awards for Creative Enterprises (UK)

The Deutsche Bank Awards for Creative Enterprise help young creative entrepreneurs turn their ideas into reality. Aspiring artists, designers and performers who want to go into business and need practical and financial support are being targeted through the programme. The intention is to enable art students around the UK to explore, develop and establish their creative ideas into sustainable ventures - through business planning training, mentoring and capital funding for starting-up in business. 2017 sees prizes of £10,000 for winners of the following five categories: Arts & Photography; Craft & Design; Film; Music; Performance. All winners and shortlisted applicants will also receive two days' intensive small business training. Winners will also benefit from a business mentor to support them through the process of getting their ideas off the ground. Applicants will receive support to develop a business or project plan for their crucial first year after graduation. The programme will develop capacity in colleges to support business and project planning, giving college/university professionals the opportunity to take part in enterprise training and access intercollegiate professional networks. All graduating arts degree students in the UK (and those who have graduated within one year) will be eligible to apply for the Awards. Graduating students from a relevant department of a participating college and those who intend to follow a freelance career or develop a specific project are also eligible to apply. Applications are open until 12 March 2017. Further details can be accessed at the programme website

East Africa is Continent’s Fastest Growing Region

East Africa is the fastest growing region on the continent and its development prospects remain positive, says UK-based accountant’s body, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) say in its latest report. The more diversified East African economies are faring better than those of southern, central and western Africa. Growth prospects remain divergent by region, with Central and West African economies struggling with weak commodity demand, the Economic Insight: Africa Q4 2016 report says. The report produced in partnership with Oxford Economics provides a snapshot of the continent’s economic performance. ICAEW notes that the Central Bank of Kenya has been able to ease monetary policy in recent months through legal changes that could help fuel further economic growth. It says Kenya’s growth outlook has improved in recent months, with the tourism sector recovering from the effects of previous terror attacks and travel advisory warnings. It also notes the progress made in the business environment. The World Bank’s Doing Business 2017 report ranked Kenya 92nd globally for being one of the top 10 reformers in the world over the past year. The country has set itself the target of 50th in the world by 2020. Kenya’s economic growth is projected to reach 5.9 per cent this year, before trending towards seven per cent over the medium term. But the report says that as 2017 approaches, businesses across Africa are focused on a range of domestic and external risks to economic stability. The ICAEW report warns that higher food prices will be a significant driver of inflation across East and South Africa in 2017.

Ideas Matter Research Fellowships for West African Scholars

The West African Research Association and The MasterCard Foundation have announced the recipients of the Ideas Matter Fellowship Program, a new fellowship which supports the research of young academics in the region focusing on women, technology and entrepreneurship. The USD$4,000 grants will allow recipients to solve some of the most trenchant health and economic challenges facing Africa today. In this inaugural competition, the Ideas Matter Doctoral Fellowship program received 63 applications from graduate students representing 10 West African countries and fields as diverse as biology, agronomy, political science, medicine, public health, chemistry and pharmacy. While only 17 of the 63 applicants were women, the three applications which won were all submitted by young women - attesting to the growing role of women in science and technology. The three candidates selected were: Akomoun Blandine Kapko (Benin), Université d’Abomey-Calavi, will develop an inventory of plants used in the traditional treatment of typhoid fever, further working to identify and isolate their active properties; Osemudiamen Anao (Nigeria), University of Benin, will explore the health effects of a toxic common component of e-waste capable of acting as an endocrine disruptor, carcinogen and neuro-development toxicant, and Gloria Tetteh-Kubi (Ghana), University of Cape Coast, will investigate measures aimed at reducing widespread pesticide use in cowpea cultivation, contributing to poverty reduction, food security and biodiversity conservation. The Ideas Matter Fellowship Program reflects WARA and The MasterCard Foundation’s commitment to increasing opportunities for emerging West African scholars who are transforming ideas into active solutions to the challenges facing the region and the world at large.

Sharp Increase in the Activity of Moroccan and French Companies in Sub-Saharan Africa

Aware of the unprecedented impetus of African economies and of the potential offered by the various national and sub-regional markets, Moroccan and French companies are demonstrating new ambitions in Africa, which are expressed in their development strategies on the continent. According to the third edition of BearingPoint’s International Development Barometer of international firms, "Developing in Africa: comparisons of Moroccan and French companies", which is produced in conjunction with the Moroccan Exporters' Association (Asmex), the five main countries where the 250 Moroccan and French companies surveyed are most established are Algeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal. Senegal, Ivory Coast and Gabon are in the lead for the Moroccan companies questioned, which are mainly present in West Africa. Ivory Coast, Morocco and Cameroon hold the first three places for the French groups questioned, which are also based in some English-speaking countries (Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya). Regarding the type of operations conducted by the companies in the group, over 60% of Moroccan responders’ export and distribute their production in sub-Saharan Africa, often through a network of partners, which represents the first step before considering setting up in the region. A step ahead, the French companies have more local sites, especially in the conversion and industrial sectors. This optimism is also observed in France. Five years ago, 49% of the companies questioned said that Africa represented less than 5% of turnover. In 2020, this figure will have dropped to 14%. In ten years, Africa’s share of the total turnover of respondents will have increased by 75%. The potential of African markets (purchasing power and number of customers) is the first criterion accounting for the presence of French companies in Africa, and the second criterion for their Moroccan counterparts.

‘Revealing Benin’ Aims to Kickstart Country’s Development

Following a comprehensive diagnosis of the country’s potential, this development programme aims to transform Benin’s economy, while reinforcing social protection and improving living conditions for the country’s population. The country possesses considerable strengths, including its advantageous geostrategic position, its agriculture expertise and its strong, but currently underexploited, potential for tourism. “Revealing Benin” will be implemented through domestic and international public-private partnerships. The investment totals 9.039 trillion FCFA (13.78 billion euros), which is an unprecedented amount in the country’s history. This has the power to increase purchasing power, improve the population’s well-being, create a more dynamic economy, and showcase Benin to the international community. Once completed, the programme will generate as many as 500,000 new jobs. The programme acts simultaneously in institutional, economic and societal areas. It comprises of 45 major projects, representing 7.086 trillion FCFA (10.8 billion Euros) alone in key sectors for development: tourism, agriculture, infrastructure, electricity, urban development, drinking water, social protection, digital technology and the knowledge economy. For instance, the government plans to make the Pendjari/W national park the leading park in West Africa through its rich fauna. In infrastructure, the government will build a world-class airport, well-connected to downtown Cotonou through an expressway. Education will also see notable investment, including the creation of an International City of Innovation and Knowledge (CIIS). The City will promote centres of excellence for higher education, scientific research and entrepreneurship across Africa, and foster the growth of national and regional champions in various areas of innovation. The government has created a system, which sits underneath the Presidency, charged with implementation and follow up to ensure the programme is implemented. This includes agencies tasked with implementation of specific projects and the Office of Research and Analysis. This will ensure efficient governance and increase the country’s ability to manage investments, to accelerate the implementation of the programme’s projects. Universal healthcare will also be put in place to support up to 4 million Beninese citizens.

Ugandans Lead in Mobile Money Remittances

The World Bank estimates that $1.099billion in remittances were sent home by Ugandans abroad in 2016, contributing to four per cent of GDP. New data released by money transfer service World Remit shows that Ugandans are leading the globe when it comes to a new way of receiving remittances - getting them sent direct to their phones. The reason behind this rapid change is the tremendous success of Mobile Money in recent years. According to Bank of Uganda, only about six million Ugandan adults have an account at a formal financial institution, a figure which hasn't changed much over the years. Mobile money on the other hand has seen a dramatic growth. There are now 21 million mobile money accounts in Uganda - and most adults have one. In the space of a year, WorldRemit customers now send 20,000 transfers to the MTN Mobile Money accounts of their friends and relatives in Uganda, with over 100 new customers signing up every month and 77% of all WorldRemit transfers to Uganda now go to mobile money accounts. Uganda is already renowned for being one of the most tech-savvy countries in the world when it comes to the adoption of mobile money. With over 400 million registered accounts worldwide, Mobile Money is transforming lives by allowing people to access financial services for the first time.

Study Provides Insights into Mobile Money Use in Kenya

A recently published study on the long-run effects of mobile money on economic outcomes in Kenya provides some valuable insights that will benefit economic development and financial inclusion policies across Africa. The study found that increased access to mobile money has reduced poverty in Kenya, particularly among female-headed households. Rapid expansion of mobile money has lifted an estimated 2% of Kenyan households (some 194,000) out of extreme poverty. It has also enabled 185,000 women to move out of subsistence farming and into business or sales occupations. Mobile money is a form of electronic money that allows you to conduct financial transactions using your mobile phone. It allows financial services to be extended to unbanked people at a significantly lower cost because physical infrastructure isn’t needed. Mobile phone penetration is rising across sub-Saharan Africa, with almost 76% of the population having a mobile phone subscription. The growth in mobile phone ownership raises the potential for mobile money to reach unbanked people, providing them with a more affordable payments system. M-PESA, Africa’s first mobile money platform, was launched by Safaricom in Kenya in 2007. The service was designed to enable remittances to be sent home, and has enjoyed widespread adoption. Today 96% of households outside Nairobi have at least one M-PESA account. The impact on poverty reduction appears to be the result of improved financial behaviour – by facilitating easier and safer savings – and changes in the occupational choice of users. Mobile wallets offer a secure place to save as funds are stored virtually. And both the mobile money facility and the mobile phone can be password-protected. Savings can be used during hard times or for productive investments, like establishing or expanding a small business. Before mobile money the transaction costs of sending money over large distances were high. This was true both in terms of time as well as the financial resources needed to effect transactions. High transaction costs meant that households were limited to forming risk sharing networks with others in close proximity. This reduced the effectiveness of informal risk sharing as all households in the network were vulnerable to experiencing the same shocks at the same time. Examples of shocks that could affect an entire community include droughts, fires, crop or livestock diseases and floods. Mobile money enables quicker, cheaper and more reliable money transfers over greater distances. In turn, this has allowed mobile money users to diversify their informal risk-sharing networks and draw on a wider network of social support. M-PESA has significantly reduced transaction costs in Kenya. When it was launched the average distance to the nearest bank was 9.2 kilometres. Eight years later in 2015 the average distance to the nearest M-PESA agent was a mere 1.4km. Mobile money users are therefore more financially resilient and can protect themselves better against economic and other shocks. It also allows them to increase their consumption in bad times. This is key to enabling households to lift themselves out of extreme poverty. The recent findings also show that in areas that have experienced large increases in access to mobile money people were more likely to be working in business or sales rather than in subsistence farming. Additionally, fewer people in these areas reported having secondary occupations. Both these findings were seen to be particularly true for women. This was found to be true in female-headed households as well as male-headed households. An estimated 185,000 women have been induced to switch from subsistence farming to business or sales as their primary occupation as a result of mobile money access. That mobile money has a positive impact on economic outcomes for women is particularly notable when seen against some historical studies on related subjects. For example, studies on the impact of micro-finance on female clients, and on the economic returns to capital grants for female-operated small businesses, have tended to show limited results.

Nigeria Expands Fintech Space

Africa has caught the world’s attention with its advancements in the financial technology (fintech) space and usage of mobile money. The Nigerian fintech landscape, specifically, has the capability to become one of the most significant leaders in Africa’s innovation. Nigeria has exhibited growth in mobile money operations from an average monthly transaction value of $5 million in 2011 to $142.8 million in 2016 1. There are a few key ingredients that are enabling Nigeria to be a leader in fintech innovation; its growing population (according to the UN’s projections, the population in Nigeria is expected to be larger than the population in the United States by 20502) and talented workforce with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. A survey conducted by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor reveals that 85% of Nigerians see good opportunities to start a firm in the area where they live, and 87% believe they have the required skills and knowledge to start a business5.  Additionally, mobile penetration and usage is very high with smartphone penetration of over 23 million and an estimated 150 million active subscriber lines in the country1.  Lastly, like many countries in Africa, Nigeria is not constrained by the legacy systems of the traditional banking industry, allowing for new technologies and solutions to fill the financial gap.

Marriott International Expands Presence in Algeria

Marriott International has announced further expansion in Algeria with the opening of its seventh hotel in Algeria, Sheraton Annaba. The company already operates six hotels in Algeria including Constantine Marriott Hotel, Renaissance Tlemcen Hotel, Sheraton Club des Pins, Sheraton Oran, Le Meridien Oran and Four Points by Sheraton Oran amounting to 1580 rooms. With another six hotels under development the company is set to double its footprint in the country. Situated on the north-eastern coast of Algeria, Annaba is the fourth largest city in the country and the capital of Annaba Province, often referred to as the “Pearl of East Algeria”. It is one of Algeria’s main commercial hubs and also a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches.

Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway officially completed, creating high speed link between Djibouti and Ethiopia

The Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, a new 752km track linking Ethiopia’s capital with the Port of Djibouti, has been completed. The new railway can reach speeds of 160 km/h for passenger trains and 120 km/h for cargo trains. It will cut cargo journey times between the Port of Djibouti and Addis Ababa from three days by road to just 12 hours. Trial services for the new US$4.2 billion railway began in October 2016, with regular services transporting goods and passengers expected to begin early this year.  The railway is a major milestone for trade in the region. Currently, more than 90% of Ethiopia's trade passes through Djibouti, accounting for 70% of the overall activity at Djibouti’s ports. With Africa’s GDP predicted to double by 2035, and the population expected to reach 2.5 billion over the next 30 years, the continent is in need of major new infrastructure links. In addition to building links with Djibouti’s port facilities, the railway will support the development of Djibouti’s International Free Trade Zone (DIFTZ), which will help spur the nation’s manufacturing industry and provide employment opportunities for its citizens. The railway project has been coupled with a US$15 billion expansion programme to improve Djibouti’s port facilities, and build new highways and airports in the country. With journeys now also possible from Djibouti, the new railway represents the next step in plans for a 2000km long track that will also connect Djibouti and Ethiopia to South Sudan. The vision is that this could one day evolve into a Trans-African railway crossing the continent from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, a journey which by sea currently takes eight weeks.

ENGIE Signs Agreement for the development of Renewable Energies in Senegal

ENGIE has signed a partnership with ANER, the National Renewable Energies Agency in Senegal to accelerate the development of renewable energies in the country. The first part of this agreement involves the development of solar energy for individuals in multi-occupancy or individual housing. The aim is to study the initial deployment of these solutions to 11,000 households in the city of Dakar and its suburbs. The main focus will be on photovoltaic solar panels for the production of electricity and solar water-heaters for the production of hot water. Together, ANER and ENGIE will look into financing solutions for this equipment to facilitate their deployment to clients.  As part of this agreement, ENGIE also commits to market energy performance contracts (EPC) to industrial operators and the tertiary sector in large urban communities in Senegal. The goal is to reduce sites’ energy consumption and help to balance the Senegalese electrical system. In Senegal, ENGIE will adapt the concept of EPC that it has used in all its industrial client and large tertiary markets around the world for many years.The final part of this agreement involves ENGIE’s participation in an industrial cluster to promote renewable energies, particularly by professional training actions and strengthening the local industrial network. In Senegal, ENGIE has been selected for the Dakar TER project in partnership with Thales for the design and production of infrastructures and systems, with a contract amounting to 225 million euros. The Group is also involved in the Senergy project, a 30 MW photovoltaic power station in the town of Santiou Mekhé, scheduled for commissioning in 2017.

Quantum Global’s Hotel Fund Acquires Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel Accra

QG Africa Hotel LP, a Mauritius based investment fund managed by Quantum Global Investments Africa Management Ltd., has announced the acquisition of the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel Accra from Kingdom Holding Company (KHC). The transaction which closed on 28 December 2016 marks the most sizable open-market hotel transaction in Sub-Saharan Africa to date. Complementing Quantum Global’s already significant African investment portfolio the value proposition of this transaction is underpinned by its status as one of the largest hotel and mixed use properties in West Africa. The hospitality industry across Africa is an indicator of the vitality and attractiveness of key locations across the continent and Movenpick Ambassador Hotel Accra comprises extensive food and beverage as well as conference facilities making it the largest 5-star conference hotel in Ghana. The property is also complemented by retail as well as office facilities that form part of a unique environment, valued by tenants as well as hotel guests. QG Africa Hotel LP is a USD 500 million investment vehicle which aims to capitalize on the emerging opportunities in the hospitality sector. The fund is a long-term direct equity investor in hotel projects across sub-Saharan Africa, including greenfield and brownfield operations. The investment activities include construction, conversions, acquisition and renovation of hotel projects across sub-Saharan Africa.

IFC Announces Financial Inclusion Microfinance Partnership in DRC

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, together with The MasterCard Foundation, has announced a cooperation agreement valued at $1 million with microfinance institution FINCA in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Under the agreement, FINCA will expand access to credit and digital financial services for low-income people and small-scale entrepreneurs. The Democratic Republic of Congo has made great strides in increasing financial inclusion in recent years, yet less than 11 percent of adults in the DRC have an account with a formal financial institution, and only 2 percent have access to formal and regulated credit services. Such financial exclusion can be a significant constraint on individual and overall economic development. While mainstream commercial banks in the DRC almost exclusively serve large corporate clients, FINCA DRC focuses on providing financial services to small-scale entrepreneurs that constitute the largest part of the informal economy. FINCA DRC currently is the largest microfinance institution in the Democratic Republic of Congo, operating in four regions of the country through a network of 20 branches and 900 FINCA eXpress agents. About half of its 256,000 customers are women. IFC will provide advisory services for two years to help FINCA DRC strengthen its ability to offer access to credit for customers and to expand its mobile banking operations to increase its reach by 200,000 new clients. The project is part of the Partnership for Financial Inclusion, a joint initiative of IFC and The MasterCard Foundation to expand microfinance and advance digital financial services in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Digital Finance Could Add $3.7 trillion to Emerging Economies’ GDP

It is estimated that digital finance could add about $3.7 trillion to emerging countries’ gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025, if is widely adopted, and represents a six per cent increase above business as usual. In low-income countries with very low financial inclusion rates, such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, and India, GDP could increase by as much as 12 per cent. Financial inclusion facilitates the delivery of financial services at affordable costs to sections of disadvantaged and low-income segments of society. Through digital finance, access to financial services can be expanded to other sectors, including agriculture, transportation, water, health, education, and clean energy. However, entrepreneurship, investment and economic growth suffer when savings are stored outside the financial system, and credit becomes scarce and expensive. Fortunately, a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), said digital technologies especially with mobile phones can rapidly fix this problem and foster faster, more inclusive growth. Mobile phones and the Internet are believed to be capable of reducing the need for cash and bypass traditional brick-and-mortar channels like banks. MGI said this dramatically reduces financial-service providers’ costs, and makes their services more convenient and accessible for users – especially low-income users in remote locations. According to the report, digital finance can boost GDP in several ways. Nearly two-thirds of the expected growth would come from increased productivity, because businesses, financial-service providers, and government organisations would be able to operate much more efficiently if they did not have to rely on cash and paper recordkeeping. Another one-third would come from increased investment throughout the economy, as personal and business savings were moved into the formal financial system, and then mobilised to provide more credit. Digital finance has positive effects on financial inclusion by expanding access. In emerging markets in 2014, only about 55 per cent of adults had a bank or financial-services account, but nearly 80 per cent had a mobile phone. That 25-percentage-point gap could be closed by making mobile banking and digital wallets a reality. However a gender gap will also need to be closed: worldwide, about 200 million fewer women than men have mobile phones or Internet access. Digital finance also reduces costs: MGI estimates that it would cost financial-service providers 80-90 per cent less – about $10 per year, compared to the $100 per year it costs today – to offer customers digital accounts than accounts through traditional bank branches. Using purely digital channels enables the needs of low-income customers to be met and financial inclusion becomes profitable for providers even when account balances and transactions are small. With digital finance, as many as 1.6 billion unbanked people – more than half of whom are women – could gain access to financial services, shifting about $4.2 trillion in cash and savings currently held in informal vehicles into the formal financial system. According to MGI, this would allow for an additional $2.1 trillion to be extended as credit to individuals and small businesses. However, governments must establish universally accepted forms of identity as well, so that service providers can control fraud. In emerging economies, one in five people are unregistered, compared to only one in ten in advanced economies. Nearly 20 per cent of unbanked women in emerging countries do not have the documentation necessary to open a bank account. Even when people have recognised identities (IDs), they must be amenable to digital authentication. Digital IDs that use microchips, fingerprints, or iris scans could prove useful and are already gaining popularity in emerging economies.

Equatorial Guinea Presents Offer to Join OPEC in 2017 and Agrees to Production Cuts

Equatorial Guinea has submitted its interest to join the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 2017. With 32.5 million barrels per day of output projected this year, OPEC is the world’s largest organization of oil producers. In December 2016, Equatorial Guinea agreed to join 10 other non-OPEC countries to reduce 558,000 barrels per day of total oil production in 2017. Equatorial Guinea’s share of the cut is 12,000 barrels per day. Even through a two-year sustained slump in oil prices, Equatorial Guinea has maintained liquid output levels at a competitive level. Equatorial Guinea is the third largest oil and gas producer in sub-Saharan Africa. Its $10.6 billion of annual oil and gas exports account for 95 percent of the country’s total exports, with shipments sold every day to China, India, Japan, Korea and many other countries. The country has remained committed to investing in the entire energy supply chain through landmark projects such as the Bioko Oil Terminal, the Fortuna Floating Liquefied Natural Gas project, the Riaba Fertilizers plant, compressed natural gas and LNG. Equatorial Guinea is currently hosting its latest oil and gas licensing round, EG Ronda, putting on offer all of open acreage not currently operated or under direct negotiation. Equatorial Guinea has made 114 oil and gas discoveries to date with a drilling success rate of 42 percent.

Nigerian Government Announces Diaspora Bond for March 2017

The Federal Government of Nigeria is reportedly set to issue its first diaspora bond in March 2017 according to reports from Reuters, quoting a source from the Ministry of Finance. According to the report, the diaspora bond will commence soon after the government completes its $1 billion Eurobond sale. The Federal House of Representatives last April, approved the president’s request for an increment i the Diaspora bond offering from $100 million Euro bond to $300 million Euro bond as part of Federal Government’s borrowing plan. The Federal Government plans has earmarked about N2.4 trillion in new borrowings in its 2017 budget of N7.3 trillion. Debt offerings are expected to be a mixed of local and foreign bond offerings.

$300 million Health Facility Set for Constructed in Ghana

A US$ 300m health facility is set to be constructed in the northern part of Ghana by The Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) which is the biggest health facility in the northern part of the Ghana. The new facility named, ‘Medical Centre of Excellence’ and to be christened “KATH TOWER”, is a joint venture project between KATH and Kudaar Ark Investment, it will be made up of a 20-storey medical structure and is anticipated to provide first class medical service to the citizens. Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) is the biggest health facility located in Kumasi, the Regional Capital of Ashanti Region with a total projected population of 4,780,380 (2000). The geographical location of the 1200-bed Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, the road network of the country and commercial nature of Kumasi make the hospital accessible to all the areas that share boundaries with Ashanti Region and others that are further away. Its vision is to become a medical centre of excellence offering Clinical and Non-Clinical services of the highest quality standards comparable to any international standards’, within 5 years.

Construction begins on Djibouti International Free Trade Zone (DIFTZ)

Construction has begun of a Djibouti International Free Trade Zone (DIFTZ). The project is being led by DIFTZ Project Preparatory Group, which consists of Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority (DPFZA) together with three major Chinese partners: China Merchants Group, Dalian Port Authority and IZP. The Group are working together to establish a world-leading international free trade zone that capitalizes on Djibouti’s strategic location and attractive investment policies. Once complete, the total size of the free zone will span an area of 4,800 hectares and a total investment of more than $3.5 billion. China Merchants Group and Dalian Port Authority bring over a century of experience and global expertise in trade and logistics to the project, while IZP will assist the new venture’s efforts in internet cross border trade and big data. DIFTZ’s establishment further cements Djibouti’s role as a key African trade hub and a critical junction on the “Maritime Silk Road”, a Chinese initiative aimed at investing and fostering collaboration in Southeast Asia, Oceania, and North Africa. Companies setting up in DIFTZ will also benefit from an integrated “one-stop-shop” managed through state of the art online platforms. This will enable companies to conduct business quickly and efficiently, further improving the ease of doing business in Djibouti. The project is also set to create employment and business opportunities for the people of Djibouti and the wider region, through the development of export manufacturing and processing capacity in several key sectors including food, automotive parts, textiles and packaging. Overall, the DIFTZ is estimated to create over 200,000 new jobs. Representing a $370 million investment, the initial phase of DIFTZ’s development will involve the construction of a 240-hectare free trade zone and will be fully functional by October 2017. It will offer vital services for export processing, logistics, trading, warehousing and distribution. Known as the Pioneer phase, it will also include the construction of office buildings, a hotel and serviced apartments. These investments will be supported by the utilities needed for the long-term success of the projects, including high-speed telecommunications, power and water supplies. Construction of DIFTZ begins just a week after the completion of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, a new 752km track linking Ethiopia’s capital with the Port of Djibouti. In addition to this, Djibouti has invested in a new national airline, airports and highways which – as part of a $15 billion expansion programme to improve transport and logistics facilities - are establishing the nation as the gateway for some of the world’s fastest growing economies. Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority (DPFZA) is the governmental body overseeing ports in the country. The organization also oversees the national free trade zones, serving as a liaison between the companies working therein and other government agencies.

Senegalese Mobile Money Company Wari to buy Millicom’s Tigo

Senegalese mobile money company Wari, a leading platform for digital financial services in Africa, is to buy Millicom’s Tigo mobile business in the country for $129 million. There is no indication whether Wari will continue to use the Tigo brand, which Millicom uses in its African and Latin American businesses. Wari describes itself as an international cash-to-cash funds transfer service with the aim to meet basic financial services in a cash-based economy. It offers 14 types of services and operates in 25 countries, and can be accessed in Europe, Asia, America and Africa. Orange completed the $160 million acquisition of Tigo in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2016.

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