Atlas Mara Still Trying to Gain Footing

Last year, I brought up Atlas Mara management getting dressed down in an investor conference call due to the lack of confidence the market had in the firm. Well, their Q1 2016 results can’t be too much more encouraging considering the $2M loss the bank posted.

Apparently, management plans to implement some cost reductions and new plans for generating revenue. We’ll see how that goes. One of the early questions about the firm was how much it was paying the management team. Will they take a pay cut?

Further, is the management team still based in Dubai? If so, perhaps they should consider making a move to the continent. Hanging around Jo’burg or Nairobi on a daily basis may strike up new observations for revenue opportunities.

Then again, I’m no expert on these things. I’ll be checking with some bankers to see what they think about Atlas Mara’s performance.

Bill Janeway Knows a Lot about Technology and Economics

Barry Ritholtz did a fascinating interview with Bill Janeway, Managing Director at Warburb Pincus, a private equity shop whose name you may have seen when Timothy Geithner joined as President a few years ago.

Side note: Warburg Pincus is the largest shareholder in Kosmos Energy, the exploration company that was part of the discovery of the Jubilee oil field in Ghana nearly a decade ago. Wow. Time flies. Check out Big Men if you’re looking for a movie to watch this weekend. 

Janeway draws on economic theory and the history of the US technology sector over the course of the interview. This is one of those interviews I will listen to a couple more times to be sure I caught all the events, people, and companies I should look up, such as Ferdinand Eberstadt. Check out the interview below.

Netflix Delivers on Promise

Netflix went live in 130 countries today.

I wrote something on their shareholder letter from last summer. In the letter, Reed Hastings mentioned that the plan was to go completely global by the end of 2016.

Delivering on that goal 12 months early is amazing, or at least a good move in managing expectations.

No. 7: 3 Tuesday AM Views

1. After highlighting how problematic it is being labeled the first black woman head of South Africa’s Insurance Institute, Delphine Maidu, CEO of Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty for Africa, discussed women leadership styles, what the insurance industry could do to better serve customers, and the low insured rates in South Africa. 

2. Ushahidi executive director Juliana Rotich highlights the importance of building an ecosystem for entrepreneurs across Africa to get traction with their innovations. 

3. Tryphosa Ramano, CFO of PPC (South Africa’s largest cement company) gave her insights on the importance of women landing board seats and pushing for policies that support the development of women leadership in South Africa’s corporate world. 

I’m constantly looking for black women leaders I can reference as my daughter gets older. Leave names of others who come to mind in the comment section below. 

Netflix is Taking it Global

One more before bed.

Netflix released its shareholder letter today and had some interesting results. Jake Bright mentioned in his comments during the book launch for The Next Africa, that Netflix is paying attention to what is happening in African markets in the internet TV streaming space. So, when I saw that Netflix released its letter I figured I should take a look. Interesting highlights:

  • 43 million members in the US
  • 23 million members internationally
  • Nearly nine million more paid subscribers year-to-year in Q2 2015
  • 48 percent year-to-year international revenue growth
  • Launching Japan in Q3 2015, and Spain, Italy, and Portugal in Q4 2015
  • Plan to be fully global by the close of 2016

Hopefully, Jason Njoku, CEO of iRoko Partners, posts something about Netflix’s updated figures. iRoko continues to make moves. They went completely mobile a few weeks ago.

Does anything else stand out to you in the letter?

I Can’t Wait to Read The Next Africa

When Aubrey Hruby and finance ministers from several African countries waited for the globe at Google headquarters to rotate to the African continent so that they could see how many hits the continent was getting at the time, they were stunned to see just a couple dots compared to completely outlined countries for the rest of the world.

That story from some years ago was just one of the interesting stories Aubrey and Jake Bright shared during their DC launch of their first book, The Next Africa. Since that time, Google hits for terms like “Africa and tech” are up 1000 percent, according to Aubrey. Goes to show how things are changing in terms of the conversation around Africa.

I’m a big fan of Aubrey and Jake, and was thrilled when Aubrey first mentioned that she was working on a book covering business investment in Africa. Their book focuses on the growth the continent is experiencing with a careful eye to some of the risks that could jeopardize this growth.

I love their approach of talking to folks doing interesting things on the continent. Data points have been thrown around for some time now. Seven of the ten fastest growing economies globally. Average five percent GDP growth. $880 billion potential agriculture productivity. The list goes on. Who are the people driving this growth? What is on their mind? What drives them? I think Aubrey and Jake get at this.

With the hundreds of interviews Aubrey and Jake did for this book, we are still just scratching the surface on really interesting people and companies that are killing it across the continent right under everyone’s nose. I look forward to seeing 100 books coming out over the next several years covering various nuances of the business environment across the African continent. At least one other book comes to mind that does a nice job teasing out stories from business leaders across the continent: Success in Africa by Jonathan Berman.

What are some other books that are telling interesting stories about Africa’s growth? Help me grow my backlog of books to read and leave the titles in the comments.

Growing Exports to Nigeria Can Be Atlanta’s Secret Sauce

Atlanta is a top-10 exporter amongst US cities to Nigeria. I hope the city puts more energy behind its connection to the country. The city recently completed its Metropolitan Export Plan with support from JP Morgan and the Brookings Institution. Currently, the only African countries an exporter in Atlanta can get information about exporting to are Morocco and South Africa. Yet, the growth of Atlanta’s exports to African markets outstrips exports to other parts of the world.

While the city has seen record export growth, its ranking among US metro areas remained at No. 18. There is a lot more than $178M in sales opportunities in Nigeria. For example, the Dangote Group is in the process of investing $16B in the development of an oil refinery and two fertilizer plants. Machinery and chemicals are two of Atlanta’s top export products.  And that is just talking about one company. I believe that if Atlanta puts energy behind building its export pipelines to African markets, particularly Nigeria, the city will see it’s ranking rise.