Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

By Correspondent

It’s easy to fall into the age-old narrative that Africa is a land hidebound by corruption. But, at the annual Africa CEO Forum in Geneva this week, corporate leaders were pushing a very different theme.

In fact, the C-word was one that few delegates wanted to talk about, preferring instead to discuss the same kinds of subjects that one finds repeated and rehashed in any Western corporate forum: successful corporate acquisitions, the rise of digital technology, corporate governance in family-owned businesses.

The atmosphere is upbeat. In Africa, far from being vilified like they often are in the west these days, business bosses are increasingly seen in popular opinion as the agents for positive change, modernity and progress.

Take Chris Kirubi. Western readers may not have heard of him, but in East Africa, and in particular Kenya, he is seen as Africa’s answer to Sir Richard Branson. Little surprise, then, that he was declared chief executive of the year.

Despite his 70-something years – “we Africans never know our age, but I feel 25 all the time,” he says – the garrulous Mr Kirubi DJs on a popular Kenyan radio rock show and dispenses advice to thousands of young Kenyans on how to get ahead in business. With his 314,000-strong army of Twitter followers, he’s none too shabby on social media either.

Forbes magazine puts his worth at $220m (£145m), making him a Kenyan shillings billionaire. Only two months ago he made $30m selling his stake in the East African insurer UAP to Old Mutual.

It’s one of many companies he’s bought and sold since starting off in business doing up decrepit office blocks in Nairobi.

“They are the model of the colonial era, the Cargills of this world. They buy grain, they trade it online, but they never say, ‘What is the minimum return a farmer should get to encourage him to continue farming and to continue to exist for the next crop for me to buy?’ It is like selling milk but not caring where the cow lives and eats. Sooner or later, there will be no milk to sell.

“Agriculture in Africa is a paradox. The very poor maintain and feed the well-off. The people in the middle make all the money.”

Farmers need protection by governments like they receive in Europe. “Kenya is hardly producing half the coffee it has done in the past,” he says. “In my farm, in the past 10 years I only made money in one year. So I’m now at a crossroads: do I continue farming coffee or do I use my land for other things? I cannot continue to subsidise the rich coffee drinkers. I have first-class coffee, but I would rather not be part of that chain.”

Think of Nigeria’s economic resources, and you think “oil”.

For decades, the country’s Delta region has been the fuel that has powered the country’s economy, with all the benefits and pitfalls that entails.

For so long synonymous with corruption, the country’s oil reserves have been squandered for years, with what is known in the accountancy world as “leakage” happening both on a literal level – with disastrous pollution – and metaphorically, in terms of graft.

Just before last year’s Africa CEO Forum, the central bank governor claimed up to $20bn of oil money had disappeared between January 2012 and July 2013, meaning the country’s foreign reserves were under huge pressure. The governor, Lamido Sanusi, was promptly sacked for his troubles.

After consistent complaints that Nigeria should have been doing more to save its oil windfalls for future generations, in 2011 the country decreed that it should form a sovereign wealth fund to invest the money it makes from the black gold into other assets around the world.

The fund has started small, with only $1.5bn (Norway’s, the world’s biggest, has $863bn). But the man charged with investing the Nigerian pot, Uche Orji, makes no apologies.

Formerly at UBS in New York and JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs in London, Mr Orji is every inch the internationally experienced banker, right down to his family home in Knightsbridge.

“Many sovereign wealth funds started off small,” he says. “It is not how you start but how committed you are and how long the fund lasts that really matters.”

Nor does he have much truck with the criticism that Nigeria came a decade too late with the launch of its fund. The oil price is now half its levels a year ago, with little immediate sign of a rebound, while Nigeria’s output has long since peaked.

Its chief executive is a Parisian, Sacha Poignonnec, but it operates as a large number of autonomous businesses run by local managers. Each requires a multimillion-euro start-up investment in warehousing, logistics and customer support. That’s a big risk, but Mr Poignonnec says it’s one that his investors – Berlin’s Rocket Internet, London-listed Millicom and Johannesburg-quoted MTN – are prepared to accept. “Our backers know there is a huge demand for these services in Africa from a growing middle class, and supply is not growing to fill that demand.”

He adds: “Go to the Heathrow or Charles de Gaulle where people are going to Africa, and what do you see? People carrying tonnes of merchandise. Is it because they want to give money to the airlines? No, it’s because they can’t get the goods at home. And that’s where we come in.”

This article was first published on The Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/the-leaders-turning-africa-into-the-bright-continent-10124636.html)

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Safaricom has set a new record after its market value rose to Sh635 billion at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), at the close of business on Thursday.

That was a Sh5 billion gain from the Sh630 billion it had set on Wednesday and the trend may continue. Shares were trading at an all time high of Sh15.85.

With that Market Capitalization, Safaricom is larger than the next 3 biggest firms on the NSE combined.

Number two on the list is EABL with a market capitalization of Sh248 billion, followed by Equity at Sh190 billion and KCB at Sh183 billion. These 4 companies are more than half the entire NSE.

Now, how does Safaricom compare to the GDPs of African countries?

If Safaricom was a country, it would be a healthy number 36 in Africa, just below Rwanda.

Here’s a table from Wikipedia.

1  Nigeria 594.257
2  South Africa 341.216
3  Egypt 284.860
4  Algeria 227.802
5  Angola 131.407
6  Morocco 112.552
7  Sudan 70.030
8  Kenya 62.722 Revised to $53.40 billion[8]
9  Ethiopia 49.857
10  Libya 49.341
11  Tunisia 49.122
12  Tanzania 36.620 Revised to $41.33 billion[9]
13  Ghana 35.475
14  Ivory Coast 33.963
15  DR Congo 32.665
16  Cameroon 32.163
17  Uganda 26.086 Revised to $24.69 billion[10][11]
18  Zambia 25.611
19  Gabon 20.675
20  Mozambique 16.590
21  Botswana 16.304
22  Senegal 15.881
23  Chad 15.841
24  Equatorial Guinea 15.396
25  Congo 14.114
26  Zimbabwe 13.739
27  Burkina Faso 13.382
28  Mauritius 12.720
29  Mali 12.043
30  Namibia 11.982
31  South Sudan 11.893
32  Madagascar 11.188
33  Benin 9.237
34  Niger 8.290
35  Rwanda 8.002
36  Safaricom 6.91
37  Guinea 6.770
38  Sierra Leone 5.411
39  Togo 4.838
40  Malawi 4.408
41  Mauritania 4.286
42  Eritrea 3.870
43  Swaziland 3.842
44  Burundi 3.037
45  Lesotho 2.458
46  Liberia 2.073
47  Cape Verde 1.975
48  Central African Republic 1.731
49  Djibouti 1.582
50  Seychelles 1.473
51  Guinea-Bissau 1.040
52  The Gambia 0.918
53  Comoros 0.722
54  São Tomé and Príncipe 0.362
55  Somalia
56  Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

*Wikipedia figures

Well, as big as these figures may be, lets not forget that Apple has a market capitalization of nearly $800 billion and recently just announced first quarter profits of $18bn. If it were an African country, it would essentially be the wealthiest.

Will.i.am has predicted that one day tech gurus will be able to use 3D printing to make entire human beings. The musician and entrepreneur has just founded a design company called EKOCYCLE which turns old plastic bottles and other bits of rubbish into high end designer goods.

Speaking at the launch of his new firm, Will.i.am called for “new morals, new laws and new codes” on 3D printing. “Eventually 3D printing will print people,” Will.i.am told Dezeen.

“I’m not saying I agree with it, I’m just saying what’s fact based on plausible growth in technology.” “Unfortunately that is the reality, but at the same time it pushes humanity to have to adhere to new responsibilities.”

He is chief creative officer of a 3D printing firm called 3D Designs and has just launched EKOCYCLE at a glittering event Harrods.

So far he has designed luggage, a bike and even a 3D printer made out of recycled materials. “It’s the first time green products have been designed with aspiration,” he said.