No. 37 – 3AMReads: Upside in African Financial Services | Lonmin Moves Ops to Marikana | China Pledges $100B

Investor Highlights African Financial Services Opportunity Despite Headwinds

Kurt Davis surveys the financial services industry across Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cote d’Ivoire as ones where investors will find an upside though the current state of the industry isn’t the prettiest to look at. His projection of Cote d’Ivoire becoming the centerpiece of regional financial services action in West Africa is a really interesting that makes sense given the countries growth trajectory so far. Before that happens, I’m going to need the military to improve its operations, find money to pay soldiers, and decrease the specter of mutiny.

Lonmin Moves to Marikana

My mind immediately went to the Marikana Massacre a few years ago when I saw the news that Lonmin was moving it’s Johannesburg office to Marikana where dozens of Lonmin workers were killed by South African police during a wildcat strike. A couple years after that, the company along with the rest of South Africa’s platinum miners went through a very long strike that really put a dent in South Africa’s already struggling growth rate. Lonmin CEO Ben Magara got his start working in the mines and says that he wants to be closer to the company’s operation. Relations between the company and its employees aren’t getting any better with workers protesting last week. Hopefully this move helps improve relations.

China Pledges $100B to Finance Projects Globally

Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted several global leaders for China’s One Belt, One Road Forum. A year or so ago, China launched this effort as part of its aims to connect 60+ countries through a vast transport and logistics network to drive trade. Kenya and Ethiopia’s presidents were in attendance, and both have already seen hundreds of millions of dollars in investment as part of this effort. China’s trade with African countries is already sizeable at $39B for Q1 2017, and we can expect that number to grow significantly in the coming years if China is able to execute the projects it targets and gets paid back. If not, there could be a lot of debt floating around the world. African countries, particularly the ones that have issued large bonds in recent years, would do well to really ensure they have revenue streams to cover more debt should they pursue it.

No. 36 – 3AMReads: Nigeria’s BOI Incentivizes Entrepreneurship | Cars45 CEO Speaks Out | China-Africa Trade Keeps Growing

Nigeria’s Bank of Industry Provides Interest-Free Loans to National Youth Service Members

Nigeria’s Bank of Industry has developed a Graduate Entrepreneurship Fund in partnership with the country’s National Youth Service Corps. The program provides NYSC members with loans they can use to further establish their businesses, and it seems like a nice program. Nigeria requires recent college graduates to participate in the NYSC, completing a year of national service in another part of the country. The program came about after the Biafra War in order to foster national pride and encourage understanding between the various parts of the country. This year, the BoI has distributed about $834,000 to 177 Corps members, an average of $4700 per member. Over the two years of the Fund, the BoI has distributed about $1.8M. I look forward to seeing how the program grows.

Video: Cars45 Explains Online Used Car Marketplace

Last week, I posted about Cars45 raising $5M for it’s online used car platform. Here’s an interview CNBC Africa did with Etop Ikpe, CEO of the company, this morning.

 

China’s Trade With Africa Keeps Growing

China’s commerce ministry says that the country’s trade with African countries totaled nearly $39B in Q1 2017, driven by a steep increase in agricultural imports. For comparison, the US did about $37B in trade with African countries over the whole of 2015. There’s been much discussion about US-China competition across the African continent. In terms of sheer volume, China continues to win out, while US stakeholders hang their hats on the quality of US-Africa partnerships. The difference in scale of trade levels is just incredible though. I look forward to seeing how China’s trade data takes shape over the course of the year and what stories come out about this sharp increase in demand for agricultural imports.

President Obama’s Business in Africa Advisory Council Held First Meeting This Week

Last year, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker stood up the President’s Doing Business in Africa Advisory Council, a group of small, medium and large US businesses currently engaged in business on the continent and tasked with helping shape U.S. policy for business engagement with the continent. 

The makeup of the council is very interesting. You’ve got people ranging from Dominic Barton, head of McKinsey, to Kevon Makell, head of a renewable energy consultancy based in Charlotte, to Karen Daniel, CFO at Black and Veatch. 

If you’re as slow as I am at washing dishes, that two hours will give you enough time to watch this two-part recording of the advisory council’s first meeting on April 8. 

Part 1

Part 2 

Three things caught my attention during the meeting:

  1. Mr. Barton challenged the Council to think big, specifically in positioning the US to double its share global trade with the continent in five years. In 2013, our share was down to 7 percent from 13 percent in 2001. Compare that with China which has gone from 3 percent to 14 percent in the same window. 
  2. Wal-Mart was very clear in communicating that African countries not meeting its logistical needs amongst others should not expect partnerships equal to what countries that did meet their needs would experience. 
  3. The various US agencies that have significant engagement on the continent don’t really know what tools they have respectively for engagement on the continent. This includes OPIC, USAID, the State Department, and the U.S. Ex-Im Bank. Their representatives seemed to agree on the need for better coordination. 

One of the recommendations that stood out was a US-Africa Infrastructure Center which would equip US infrastructure developers to more effectively compete for deals on the continent. This struck me as a platform that could be helpful in tracking progress in closing the gap on the World Bank’s projection of $93B per year for 10 years investment in infrastructure across the continent

Further, the platform could serve as a helpful marketing tool in showing the effectiveness of US infrastructure developers in terms of time to completion, total project cost, lifespan of finished projects before maintenance, among other metrics.  Then again, it may be a better move to invest in the work already done by the African Development Bank, World Bank, and other stakeholders in setting up a platform focused on infrastructure development. 

The council meets next in September or October. I look forward to tracking their progress. Hopefully, I would have figured out how to be helpful to their work in some way by then. 

Is AGOA Right For US Trade With Africa?

The African Growth and Opportunity Act is up for re-authorization on September 30, 2015. The Act essentially makes it easier for certain African countries to export some of their goods to the United States, by making them duty-free. The goal of the Act was to support development on the continent and increase US-Africa trade. Fifteen years later, the program has fostered some development in participating countries, though the deepening of US-Africa trade is debatable.

It will be interesting to see AGOA data for all of 2014, once it comes out later this year. The Q1 2014 data showed a 34 percent drop in US imports of Sub-Saharan African countries. That brought US imports from Sub-Saharan Africa to 1.2 percent of its imports from the world – $6.7 billion. It doesn’t help that crude oil has taken the major share of AGOA usage over the years, and the US has drastically increased domestic oil production. This year Nigeria stopped selling oil to the US last year. Hopefully, US imports from the region have not dropped below 1 percent.

Source: US Energy Information Administration

Perhaps the rise of Africa’s fashion industry will show up in the 2014 data. Congress included apparel preferences in the Act in hopes that African countries would be able to replicate the success Southeast Asian countries have had using the apparel industry to develop their economies.

One thing that stands out about US-Africa trade is that the US does not have a two-way trade agreement with an African country. The last time this came up was with South Africa in the mid 2000s, but those talks fell through. Unless Ambassador Froman got some inspiration from the US’ secret talks with Cuba, I don’t imagine we will be seeing any free trade agreements or the like come up in the next year or so. If those sort of talks kicked off again, I imagine the US would approach South Africa first. That could be an interesting conversation, considering South Africa’s BRICS status and role with the development of the BRICS bank, though I’m not sure what relevance that would have to any potential trade negotiations. Would Russia try to insert itself in those negotiations? Let me put the reigns on my imagination.

Another issue is the low usage of AGOA. Apparently, half of the participating countries exported less that $1 million worth of goods. I don’t know if that is a capacity issue, or what, but it would be good to see more of the participating countries not leave money on the table here. Like Rosa Whitaker’s tax credit idea, I will keep an eye on this, talk to folks who know a lot more about the Act than I do, and put together a more organized piece on this.

Business Exchange Encourages Business Deals Between Swiss and African Businesses

Business people from African countries and Switzerland will gather for the Fourth Swiss-African Business Exchange in Geneva this week to dig in and find ways to do business with one another. Exchange sessions will cover several topics including manufacturing, East African trade and investment opportunities and renewable energy.

The following manufacturers will make up part of the manufacturing panel and are sure to provide a solid on-the-ground perspective of manufacturing in African countries:

-Gary Hannam, Olivado Limited – avocado oil plant in Kenya
-Hans Peter Werder, HPW AG – dried fruit factory in Ghana
-Ramadhan Madabida, Tanzani Pharmaceutical Industries – pharmaceutical plant in Tanzania

Tony Hawkins, a professor at the University of Zimbabwe, painted a dreary picture of African manufacturing prospects. According to his assessment, South Africa generates 60 percent of the industrial output on the African continent. In the continent’s de-industrialization, Africa cannot compete with Asia which is producing high-tech products for the global market compared to the localized low-tech products African manufacturers are producing, according to Mr. Hawkins. Combatting this analysis are manufacturers like Nigeria’s Dangote Group which is successfully manufacturing rice, cement, flour, and other commodities for African countries. Dangote Cement’s initials will soon be scrolling across the London Stock Exchange.

Trade and investment opportunities in East Africa will be a topic covered by the following:

-H.E. Menilik Alemu – Ethiopian Ambassador to Switzerland
-H.E. Jacques Pitteloud – Swiss Ambassador to Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Somalia, and the Seychelles.
-Professor Maggie Kigozie, Executive Director, Uganda Investment Authority
-John Gara, Rwanda Development Board

As Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and the Seychelles continue their rapid growth, Switzerland will need to invest in establishing embassies solely focused on each of these countries. Between 2001 and 2010, Rwanda was one of the ten fastest growing countries in the world. Ethiopia was one of the six African countries on that list and is projected to retain that spot for the next five years. For Switzerland to maximize business relationships with these countries, a focused presence in each will be essential to success. One ambassador is not able to develop the deep relationships and knowledge of these very different countries, in efforts to support all types of relations with Switzerland.

Executives in the renewable energy sector include:

-Felix Obada – Managing Director/CEO, Global Biofuels Limited, Nigeria
-Jorgen Sandstrom – Deputy Managing Director, Addax Bioenergy Management SA, Sierra Leone

On his visit to Atlanta, Kenyan Ambassador to the United States Elkanah Odembo discussed the effort Kenya is making to be primarily reliant on renewable energies like solar power and geothermal energy by 2030. The African continent has a lot of sunlight and strong rivers among other resources. The opportunities to harness that energy responsibly will make for a great discussion.

The exchange line up is sure to make for stimulating discussion and the initiation of business deals that will contribute to the economic growth of African countries. Click on the following link for more information on the Swiss-African Business Exchange: