Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Q-KON’s private networks enable satellite growth in Africa

satelite_328808723The arrival of innovation in the satellite technology space will continue to deliver significant value to trade and commerce…

This is the view of management at Q-KON, an established specialist service provider focusing on providing ready to use communication solutions and managed network services for the African market.

Q-KON remains ahead of technology trends and best practices by adopting innovative solutions to improve communication needs. “Our influence and achievements to date are due to our long-term partnerships with leading solution manufacturers and respected customers across Africa,” says Dr Dawie de Wet, CEO of Q-KON.

Are all satellites created alike?

As a communication technology, satellite networks are powerful, flexible and very diverse. Because of its “over-the-air” nature plus the advances in recent technologies, satellite networks have become much more flexible, cost effective and dynamic solutions than fibre or copper cable networks.

“As a reference to this point, consider that cabled networks are fundamentally fixed point-to-point installations often from a central point to multiple customer sites. The flexibility offered by this type of fixed point-to-point network can simply not be compared with the dynamic and flexible nature offered by satellite networks,” Dr de Wet continues.

From this flexibility and dynamic nature of satellite technologies follows the additional benefit that different satellite networks can be designed for completely different user requirements. In this way satellite technology can similarly be used to provide consumer grade broadband services or high availability mission critical connections for remote oil and gas operations. As the technology evolves and the applications thereof grows, it becomes increasingly important that user groups appreciate this dynamic power of satellite networks and differentiate between different satellite networks for different user requirements.

Customized Private Networks

“One market sector which has seen significant growth is the deployment of custom-built satellite networks which are designed, implemented and operated to address very specific customer needs,” he adds.

Customer needs such as mitigation of unexpected power losses to branch offices, interim communication to a sales office in a new territory or mission critical communication to a network of remote monitoring points are all specific applications that can be resolved efficiently and cost effectively using satellite networks.

For these types of requirements it is more effective to develop networks that address the customer’s specific requirements than providing service from a generic satellite access network. This customization can mostly be achieved by leveraging the technical advantages linked with Q-KON’s system engineering skills and capabilities to develop a user specific network.

“Because these networks are implemented using proven technologies and secure satellite services it can offer both the reliability and cost points required by the business; which results in a “best of both” worlds scenario,” says Dr de Wet.

When is a Private VSAT Network better?

A private VSAT Network is an ideal solution for a customer who needs reliable anywhere and anytime communication from multiple remotes sites to a central core network. This could be a banking network to provide connectivity to large numbers of branch, ATM and POS sites, or a mining network that requires high capacity links between a couple of remote operations in a mining region. Private satellite networks operate independent from any other local telco infrastructure (no integration between ADSL, 3G or wireless) which makes these networks elegant and effective to operate. Q-KON takes control of the operation, support and maintenance – this makes the process seamless and much more effective because there are no 3rd parties to blame when something goes wrong.

“By integrating the power of today’s satellite technologies with customer demands through an structured system engineering process we are able to both enable business growth for our customers as well as wider adoption of satellite technology within the Africa landscape,” Dr de Wet concludes.
Source: Balancingact-Africa

Uganda: Banks Partner Telecoms to Cope With Mobile Pressure

mobile-banking11_webThe explosion of mobile phone usage, internet data, and other technologies has expanded rapidly into traditionally underserved markets and customer segments, changing the way people transact and communicate.

Ugandan banks seem to have realised the threat as more of them are partnering telecoms to swiftly roll out mobile banking products to boost their customer base and increase revenue streams.

Bank of Africa, for example, recently launched its first mobile banking app dubbed 'Tap Tap', which allows its customers access their accounts and withdraw cash across all the banks with whom it has partnered on the Inter-switch platform, and selected mobile money outlets across the country.

Similarly, one can pay utility bills such as electricity, water, DStv/GOtv, school fees, and money transfers, among others. This means that their mobile money accounts will no longer be just about money transfer. Instead, they will become virtual bank accounts.

According to Claver Serumaga, the general manager, business development, at Bank of Africa, mobile banking is poised to offer more sophisticated banking services, which can make a difference in people's lives.

"The mobile phone has revolutionised the way we access funds and it's becoming the preferred banking hall for many of the future majority users," he said.

"As banks, we just can't sit back; investment in brick and mortar is quite expensive for us. What we are saying is let's partner with the telecoms that have very wide coverage and be able to provide more financial services," he added.

According to data from the central bank, Ugandans are embracing mobile banking faster than they did with ATMs. For instance, the number of mobile money account holders grew faster than those opening up traditional bank accounts, hitting 18.8 million as of December 2014, up from 13.2 million in 2013.

The number of mobile money agents shot to 79,000, up from 51,000 agents in December 2013, while there were 861 ATMs as of late December 2014, up from 786 in 2013. The growth signifies a narrowing space for banks as the majority of the unbanked Ugandans show interest in mobile money services.
Source: Balancingact-Africa

Thursday, 18 June 2015

New free trade area deal to scale up Africa's economic integration

africa new trade_webThe 19th century British colonialist Cecil Rhodes’ dream of unifying Africa from “Cape to Cairo’ was not too far-fetched after all.

In a poetic sense, tinged with a dash of de ja vu, this dream was fulfilled with the launch of the Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement (TFTA), in the idyllic Egyptian city of Sharm el Sheikh on the Red Sea when 26 African Heads of State endorsed an economic integration plan for the continent on a scale never witnessed before.

The new trade arrangement, signed on Wednesday, June 10, was described by president Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe as creating a “borderless continent”.

It assembled three (RECs) regional economic communities into a single free trade area that establishes a framework for preferential tariffs to ease the movement of goods and people in the region.

“We have told the world today…of our desire to adopt practices that are necessary to increase trade among ourselves. We will do whatever is possible to activate this agreement,” said Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when he hosted 26 Heads of State, representing the largest trading bloc in Africa, and one of the biggest free trade areas in the world. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) combine a population of over 625 million people, making up over half of Africa’s population and a GDP of over $1 trillion.

Negotiations for the TFTA were undertaken in two phases. Phase I covered trade in goods, while phase II covered trade-related aspects; in particular trade in services, intellectual property rights, competition policy, trade and development and cross-border investments. An agreement on the movement of business persons was to be negotiated parallel to that on trade in goods.

Numerous players and development partners were delighted by the pact signed by the African leaders and hoped that respective parliaments will expedite the process of authenticating the agreement. One such partner said in a statement: “As a strong active supporter of the EAC in the negotiations leading to the TFA, TradeMark East Africa is proud to be associated with this momentous event.”

The World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said with the launch of the TFTA: “Africa has made it clear that its open for business”. The final communique signed by the 26 Heads of Sates stated that: “The establishment of TFTA will bolster intra-regional trade by creating a wider market that would increase investment flow…and ensure regional infrastructure development.”

The TFTA takes a development approach to integrating the economies of the 26 member-states and is based on three main pillars – market integration, infrastructure development and industrial development and follows the logic of integration efforts in the three RECs in the eastern and southern parts of the continent in the face of a myriad obstacles to trade in the region that hold back the proliferation and diversification of industrial production, movement of people, services and goods.

It is envisaged that by harmonising trade policies, removing trade barriers and promoting trade facilitation it will create enormous benefits for the regions’ economies and populations. The goal is 100 per cent liberalisation of tariff lines. Earlier Tripartite trade negotiations agreed that no country should face higher tariffs under the new tariff regime. It is also expected that member countries of existing free trade areas in the RECs will consolidate their existing tariff liberalisation levels into the TFTA in line with the principle of ‘Building on the Acquis’ (the accumulated legislation, legal acts, and court decisions acquired or obtained for an economic community). Furthermore, upon entry into force of the TFTA, 60-85 per cent of tariff lines should have been liberalised and thereafter, the remaining tariff lines will be liberalised over a period of five to eight years.

However, a few sticky points remain in the new arrangements. Within FTAs, trade is governed by rules referred to as rules of origin that ensure that only goods produced in the region benefit from the preferential trading arrangement. Nevertheless, each tripartite REC has its own rules of origin and a set of rules of origin for the Tripartite is to be negotiated.

Although interim rules of origin have been agreed upon, these are not conclusive. It has been agreed that negotiations should be finalised within six to twelve months of signing the agreement even as each member state awaits parliamentary approval of the TFTA.

A separate agreement of movement of business persons is being negotiated to facilitate trade in the Tripartite by making it easier for business persons to move freely within the TFTA although progress towards agreement has been slowed down by considerations relating to security and protection of domestic labour markets. The agreement is that negotiations on movement of business persons be finalised as soon as possible after the agreement is signed.

Trade in the TFTA will always be limited if production and trade in industrial goods remains low in the region. This applies particularly to production of intermediate and capital goods which are necessary inputs to enhance the productive capacities to address supply side constraints.Read More...

New Bond Issue Set to Help Africa Go ‘Green’...A Way of Bankrolling a Clean Energy Revolution

Faced with this record growth and its foreseeable impact on the city’s aging infrastructure and social services, Johannesburg’s Executive Mayor Parks Tau gave a nod to a greener path for development in his 6 May 2015 State of the City address. Among the promised innovations he listed were low-flush toilets and water-saving urinals to become a standard feature in Johannesburg homes, offices and commercial sites, alleviating the pressure on the city’s scarce water reserves.

Organic waste is to be harvested for fuel and energy, and solar heaters and smart metres installed to reduce the consumption of electricity. Furthermore, to lower pollution, he hopes to reduce the commuters’ reliance on private vehicles in favour of walking and biking. The mayor also promised to improve the public transport system and switch to diesel fuel to lower the city’s carbon footprint.

To finance these initiatives, the city auctioned its first ever “green bond” on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) last June. The bond, which is worth $143 million and is expected to mature in 2024, was 150% oversubscribed – a success! In a speech delivered shortly after the listing of the bond, Mayor Tau said it was a clear demonstration of “investor confidence in the City of Johannesburg and commitment to environmental stewardship and climate change.”

A bond is a type of loan or an IOU which companies, governments or banks use to finance projects. The issuer is obliged to pay back the debt within a time agreed and with a certain interest. What warrants the “green” label is that the proceeds are allocated to climate and environment-friendly projects. By issuing this type of bond, Johannesburg became not only a pioneer in Africa, but also within the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a network of megacities sharing best practices and feasible solutions to changing weather patterns.

Green bond allure
Green bonds are not different from conventional bonds in their pricing. Much of their allure lies in the fact that investors feel they are being “socially responsible” and that they are having a positive impact on the environment. According to the World Bank’s senior sustainability advisor, Laura Tlaiye, investors are increasingly recognizing the threats environmental degradation and climate change can create for long-term financial value, and are considering it when they choose their investments.

At the same time, investors are also drawn to these fixed-income green loans that promise regular returns and a full refund of the principal amount once the bond has matured. And in the case of the World Bank, one of the largest financiers for climate-smart projects in developing countries, their bonds bring triple “A” ratings, indicating they are extremely safe and low-risk. But as the market expands, so does the need for more clarity on how the capital raised is used. International institutions providing development financing, like the European Investment Bank (EIB), were the first to enter the green bond market in 2007. A year later, the World Bank joined forces with the Swedish financial group, SkandinaviskaEnskildaBanken AB (SEB), to respond to a demand by Scandinavian pension funds looking to invest in environmentally friendly fixed-income products. Since then, the World Bank has continued to raise a lot capital for projects that seek to mitigate climate change in developing countries or seek to help affected people adapt to it.

So far, Tunisia has received a loan of over $30 million to promote better water management by using the country’s irrigation and drinking water more efficiently, while Morocco has successful applied for funds to build North Africa’s biggest solar power plant in an effort to curb its reliance on coal and other fossil fuels. To date, the bank has issued the equivalent of $8 billion in green bonds through more than 90 transactions in 18 currencies.

Socially responsible investors
Climate change is presently one of the greatest challenges confronting the developed and the developing world, warns the African Development Bank (AfDB), which set up a green bond programme in 2013. Without a concerted effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, echoes the International Finance Corporation, an affiliate of the World Bank, the earth’s temperatures could rise considerably within this century. In order to keep global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius as agreed by negotiators during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) negotiations.

Business editor and author Mark Gunther, in the Yale Environment 360 online magazine, questions whether green bonds could “bankroll a clean energy revolution” and is uncertain where the money would come from. In a sense, he argues, green bonds are the latest example of “themed bonds for a specific purpose ” pointing to the 1862 civil war bonds that helped finance the US army and World War II bonds sold by celebrities at the time.

With the market raking in billions of dollars a year, it seems the appetite for these new debts is growing as well as the emergence of new types of issuers as evidenced by the case of Johannesburg. In March 2014, corporations like Toyota joined the fray to fund consumer loans for electric and hybrid cars. During the same period, the global consumer goods company Unilever and the French utility company GDF Suez of France issued green bonds to finance their renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

Although there is no market standard for the definition of green, Marilyn Ceci, managing director and head of Green Bonds at JP Morgan wrote in the global knowledge sharing platform called Meeting of the Minds, in February 2015, that there are the Green Bonds Principles (GBP), which serve as voluntary guidelines on transparency and disclosure and are endorsed by environmental groups, investors and other issuers.

The four components of the GBP include a description of how the proceeds of the bonds are to be used, an outline of the decision-making process disclosing the criteria used to review and determine the eligibility of the project, as well as tracking the proceeds and reporting on how they are being used at least once a month.

The World Bank initially set the bar high with its rigorous six-stage selection, approval, review and reporting process. The eligibility criteria are verified by experts from the Norway-based Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO). Interested investors can check the institution’s website to get detailed updates on the projects, complete with pictures, graphics and summaries.

The World Bank applies a “gold standard” in the selection of its eligible projects. For example, the bank’s green bond portfolio will not include nuclear projects or those that deal with natural gas extraction by fracking. The bulk of the bank’s green bond projects are in middle-income countries like Mexico, China and Africa’s Maghreb region like Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco whose low-carbon projects funded by the World Bank are in full swing.

Projects in sub-Saharan Africa receive support through the International Development Association (IDA), the bank’s fund for the poorest, which doles out “low-interest loans, credits or grants from donors rather than from capital markets”.

However, while African countries south of the Sahara have made a grand debut into the international debt market scene, their presence in the green bond market is nascent. For now it seems, Johannesburg is leading having listed the first “African green city bond” in the region. 
Source: Modern Ghana

Crystal Telecom IPO oversubscribed by 123%

crystel telecomCrystal Telecom’s initial public offering (IPO) has been oversubscribed by 123 per cent, according to a statement by the firm.

The firm was offering about 270.17 million shares which is 20% of MTN Rwanda.

Renaissance Capital, the acting Lead Transaction advisor confirmed that they received over 2300 applications from Rwanda, the East African Region and beyond during the share sale that closed on June 5.

During the two week period, the IPO was at Rwf105 with the minimum share application at 1,000 shares.

The company is expected to begin trading on the Stock Exchange on July 17.

Commenting on the development, Celestin Rwabukumba, the Chief Executive of the Rwanda Stock Exchange (RSE) said that the firm had set the pace as the first full private sector company to utilize capital markets as means to raise finance.

He said as a result, they expect to see growth in the performance of capital markets in coming months.

“We expect to see growth in our sector over the coming months as other companies seek to do the same. We also encourage other businesses in the private sector, large or small, to engage in the capital markets by either listing their companies or investing & trading in listed securities,” Rwabukumba said.

Jack Kayonga, the chairperson of Crystal Ventures Ltd, the parent company of Crystal Telecom said that the firm was upbeat on the uptake of the IPO by both local and international investors.

Crystal Telecom was the country’s third IPO after Bralirwa and Bank of Kigali.

Crystal Ventures has been a shareholder in MTN Rwandancell Limited since 1998.
Source: New Times