Monday, 31 August 2015

S.Africa to impose 10 pct steel import tariff - industry group Africa's government will impose a 10 percent import tariff on steel imports to protect the struggling industry, with the possibility of hiking them further, an industry body said on Monday. Cheap imports from China are hurting steel makers in South Africa, which currently does not have import duties on steel. As many as 200,000 jobs are at risk due to a global supply glut of the commodity, ArcelorMittal South Africa has warned.

"The first application for tariffs at 10 percent of the WTO bound rate will be signed off next week with conditions which are not yet finalised," Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) said in a statement, without giving a firm date for a tariff hike.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) allows countries to raise tariffs by up to 10 percent to protect local industries.
The government declined to comment, but said in a statement it was considering "various tariff applications". Chief executives in the steel industry and labour unions also said the government in a meeting on Friday had committed to introducing a 10 percent tariff on imported steel to protect the industry.

One of the conditions for the tariff hike was that the steel industry could not raise the price of steel to "unaffordable levels", SEIFSA said in the statement, without giving details. ArcelorMittal South Africa has warned it could close a plant that employs 1,200 people while smaller rival Evraz Highveld Steel and Vanadium has been placed in the hands of administrators.

"It is a crisis that I have never seen, it's unprecedented in my history in the steel industry," SEIFSA President Ufukile Khumalo told reporters. ArcelorMittal Chief Executive Paul O'Flaherty told Reuters last week the firm was willing to cap its profit margin if the government imposed import duties on imported steel.

Jobs are a sensitive issue in South Africa, where unemployment is around 25 percent, and the government has urged the industry not to shed jobs. In a statement, the trade and industry and the economic development departments urged steel companies to submit anti-dumping applications to South Africa's International Trade Administration Commission, which has the power to raise tariffs.

The government will have a follow-up meeting in about four weeks when companies have submitted their anti-dumping applications.

South Africa's Imperial Holdings reports flat profit on weak home market African Logistics Company Imperial Holdings reported flat full-year profits on Tuesday as its vehicle import and distribution division suffered from feeble demand and a weakening currency in its home market.

Imperial, which imports auto brands such as Kia and Mitsubishi, said buyers were highly price sensitive in South Africa and were trading down to smaller or pre-owned vehicles, resulting in fierce competition between dealers.

The division accounts for about a quarter of Imperial's sales, but its 37 percent decline in profit weighed on overall company earnings to leave headline earnings per share (EPS) unchanged at 1,624 cents.

Overall company revenue rose 7 percent to 110.5 billion rand ($8.37 billion). Sales outside South Africa grew 17 percent and profits from its international operation rose 23 percent, the company said.

Headline EPS is the main profit gauge in South Africa and strips out certain one-off items.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Regional integration in Africa: Can the Tripartite FTA be a stepping stone toward a Continental FTA?

The official statements are clear: Regional leaders and policymakers want to make the 26-member Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) the main stepping stone towards the gradual establishment of the Continental FTA (CFTA) comprising the 54 members of the African Union. Indeed, during the June 2015 African Union Summit in Johannesburg leaders ambitiously insisted that the negotiations on goods and services for the establishment of the CFTA be concluded by 2017. High-level political will seems to be strong. The challenge, now, is to convert this political will into something more than a paper agreement.

The importance of stakeholder involvement
The real effectiveness any trade agreement (or the expansion of an existing one) ultimately depends on the support and the involvement of the key stakeholders—most importantly the private sector—in the design and the implementation. Surprisingly, the regional private sector has not been vocal about its support for either the TFTA or the CFTA. The absence of vigorous national debates about the pros and cons of these agreements has been quite notable. In many countries, the prevailing attitude of the business community ranges from a cautious optimism to a wait-and-see approach. Perhaps this lack of interest is due to a lack of mobilization or consultation at the local level. Or it could be due to a lack of understanding regarding the stakes and potential benefits from what many consider a top-down process.

These stakeholders will ultimately put pressure on governments to pursue or reject steps to the CFTA. Thus, in order to comprehend how the conclusion of the TFTA negotiations may affect the prospects for the planned CFTA negotiations, it is helpful to have a clear grasp of what these agreements mean for the different stakeholders. In particular, it is useful to understand how the establishment of the TFTA affects the willingness of new members (e.g., the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) or the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) economies) to join or to merge. And how might the TFTA business community react to the inclusions of those new members.

The “coincidence of wants” requirement
The expansion of the TFTA requires a “coincidence of wants” among all the interested parties—members and non-members. Non-members must want to join the TFTA, while, at the same time, the members must be willing to negotiate with potential new members to expand the TFTA. It is therefore important to examine the incentives of the existing TFTA members to expand the existing FTA, in addition to those of the non-members to join it.

Incentives of new members to join (or other blocs to merge with) the TFTA
From the perspective of non-members, the domestic support for joining an existing FTA is driven by the relative strength of the import-competing lobby and the export one. A country that considers participating in the TFTA faces a trade-off between (i) the costs of opening up its own market to the other FTA members, and (ii) the gains from obtaining better (and preferential) access to the FTA’s market. In general, the gains from the latter (i.e., preferential access) increase faster than the losses from the former (i.e., increased competition) as the size of the free trade area rises. It is then very possible that even countries that initially had no interest in participating may become interested when the FTA size becomes large enough. Following that logic, the TFTA would keep expanding until all the 54 countries belong to one super-FTA—the Continental FTA.

Incentives of existing members to expand the TFTA
When deciding whether to expand the size of the FTA, a representative TFTA member compares (i) the market enlargement effect (the gains from getting preferential access to the new member’s market); and (ii) the preference dilution effect (the losses of having to share its original TFTA preferential market with the new member). Think of the analogy of a pie getting larger, but at the same time being shared by more people. If the bloc size is small enough, the gains from the enlargement of the preferential market may be large enough to offset the losses from the dilution of preferences—enough that current members are willing to accept new members. When bloc membership reaches a critical size, however, the current members’ incentives for further expansion may be reduced and could eventually go to zero before the FTA encompasses the entire continent. In other words, a gradual expansion of the TFTA may not automatically lead to the CFTA.

If Egyptian firms, for instance, can already secure preferential access to the dynamic and lucrative South African and Kenyan markets under the TFTA, what are the guarantees that they will still be supportive of further expansion of the FTA—which means having to share that preferential access with the likes of Nigeria? Would their gain from better access to the Nigerian or the Cameroonian markets be enough to compensate their losses from having to share the South African and the Kenyan markets with Nigerian or Cameroonian firms? At some point, some of the TFTA members could start to say, “Our market is big enough.” Including ECOWAS or ECCAS members into the mix could just dilute the trade preferences that they are getting in the SADC (Southern African Development Community), COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), and EAC (East African Community) markets. The business lobbies in those countries will then resist, or at the very least stop supporting, the move toward the Continental FTA.

The key question
To transform the political will into reality, regional policymakers and negotiators need to address the following question: “How can we ensure that the TFTA is indeed a stepping stone and not a stumbling block towards the Continental FTA?" This is not a trivial question, and the answer is probably not straightforward. Whatever it is, it will definitely require more vigorous stakeholder (private sector, consumers, labor organizations, and CSOs) mobilization or consultation at the national level. In the predominantly mercantilist mindset that currently guides trade policymaking in many countries, the benefit accruing to the consumers in the form of reduced prices and increased product variety is unfortunately often ignored. Systematic awareness-raising activities regarding these types of benefits, accompanied by specific measures to compensate potential losers, could help broaden support for a gradual expansion of the TFTA toward the CFTA.

African survey data point to robust growth

Amid all the carnage, in emerging markets and developed ones, it is nice to discover some good news. At least it is if it can genuinely be believed. Figures out on Monday suggested Africa’s headline sales managers’ index, broadly analogous to the purchasing managers’ indices widely followed elsewhere, rose to a 28-month high in August. The index ticked up to 60.2, from 59.3 in July, on a scale where 50 is the dividing line between an increase or a decrease in activity, the highest rate since May 2013 (see the first chart).

The service sector led the way, with an SMI of 61.1, but manufacturing was not far behind, at 58.1. All of the five sub-components that feed into the headline figure were also positive, notably the business confidence index, which measures how sales managers expect the economy to perform over the coming months, which came in at a punchy 75.6.

Wonderful news, of course. But then we also know that Africa is far from immune to the economic and financial chaos sweeping the planet. China’s imports from Africa have slumped more than 40 per cent from their peak, in value terms at least, as the prices of oil and other commodities have collapsed (see the second chart). That Africa’s imports from China have also started to fall suggests this weakness has fed through to consumer spending.

Many African economies are running down their foreign exchange reserves as they battle to stem, or at least slow, the falls in their currencies. This pressure is also forcing central banks to maintain tighter monetary policy than their domestic situations would merit.

Admittedly, the IMF hailed the “resilience” of sub-Saharan Africa when it produced its latest World Economic Outlook document in April. But even at that point, before the current rout really kicked in, the IMF foresaw economic growth slowing to 4.5 per cent this year, from 5 per cent in 2014. For major north African countries, such as Egypt and Algeria, projected growth was weaker still, at 4 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively.

So how much store, if any, should one put on the SMI index? It would appear to have a decent pedigree, being produced by World Economics, whose parent company Information Sciences developed the European and Asian PMI indices, now owned by Markit.

However, the breadth of its African product is rather limited, based on activity in just four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Algeria, although this quartet does provide a reasonably broad mix.

Of these four countries, Nigeria currently has the highest SMI reading, 66.3, followed by Egypt (64.2), Algeria (58.9) and South Africa (53.6). Perhaps more tellingly, the index appears to be more than a little obscure. Even Jan Dehn, head of research at Ashmore Investment Management and an old African hand, says he has not heard of it.

Is its upbeat message credible? Here opinion differs. Joseph Rohm, an African equity portfolio manager at Investec Asset Management, suggests possibly so. “That it reflects the manufacturing and service sectors, it is to some degree plausible,” says Mr Rohm, who argues these arenas have remained robust, even as commodity exports have tumbled.
He points to Nigeria, an oil exporter that has enjoyed strong growth over the past decade. Even there, Mr Rohm says, “the growth has come in the manufacturing and service sectors,” with the oil industry pretty much “stagnating” over the past decade.

In countries such as Nigeria and Kenya that have rebased their gross domestic product calculations, it was service industries such as telecoms and media, as well as manufacturing that were found to be larger than expected. “In a world where emerging market growth is falling and commodity prices are under pressure, I believe there are some really healthy underpinnings. The cost of labour has become cheaper and cheaper relative to China, for example, [so] low-skilled assembly plants are being constructed,” says Mr Rohm, who points to investment by Chinese shoemakers in Ethiopia and Asian multinationals such as Honda, LG and Nissan in Nigeria.

“I don’t think what we are seeing in the emerging market world has really affected that to any degree,” he adds, pointing instead to beneficiaries from the wider market crash, such as the countries and companies in east Africa that are gaining from low oil prices. Moreover, despite data such as that above showing the slump in Africa’s trade with China, Mr Rohm believes intra-African trade is rising, albeit from a low base, amid efforts to remove barriers to such activity.

“Intra-African trade today is 5 per cent of GDP, in Europe it is 40 per cent,” he says. “In South Africa trade north of the border was insignificant going back 10 years. Now every single corporate has a strategy to increase its trade north of the border.”

Others are not convinced, however. “Our view is that growth in Africa is slowing pretty sharply,” says William Jackson, senior emerging market economist at Capital Economics. “I find it pretty surprising that some of the survey-based data is pointing to some improvement.”

Mr Jackson accepts that the export-led commodity sectors are bearing the brunt of the pain, but says in turn that this is eroding many governments’ foreign currency earnings, putting pressure on them to cut public spending.
He predicts that South African GDP data, due on Tuesday, will show growth has slowed to just 0.4 per cent annualised, quarter on quarter, while Nigerian data, which may also come on Tuesday, will show year-on-year growth falling from 3.9 to 3.5 per cent.

As for Egypt and Algeria, he believes the former’s economy has slowed due to restrictions on access to foreign currency that have hit manufacturers, while the latter has been damaged by its reliance on oil and gas exports.
Mr Dehn also points to the “major macroeconomic adjustments” being faced by exporters of oil and other hard commodities, leading him to expect a slowdown. But he does believe some countries, such as exporters of food and other agricultural produce, are less affected.

Yet he does hold out hope that the sell-off, in bond markets at least, may be overdone. “Lowly rated African bonds are the first to be cut by market makers due to regulatory rules. Hence, liquidity, and therefore prices, falls more rapidly than justified by fundamentals,” Mr Dehn says.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Facebook and Airtel are trying to win Africa’s next generation of internet users

It is no secret that Bharti Airtel’s African adventure has not quite gone to plan. But the Indian-based company and the world’s third largest mobile carrier may have found an ace up its sleeve to help spur the company’s business on the continent: Partnering with Facebook.

“We have a strong partnership with Airtel and we continue to roll out with Airtel throughout Africa. With Airtel, we will be rolling it out in more countries after this month,” Chris Daniels, vice president of product for at Facebook, said last week.

In its march to grow its users around the world, Facebook, the world’s most popular social networking site, helped launch, a free mobile internet service, last year in Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania. Accessible via Internet, or as an app via Google Store, the platform makes certain sites available for free through select mobile service providers.

Despite boasting over 100 million users on the continent, this is a mere 10% of the Facebook’s global numbers. For a young continent, where the median age is 19 years old, the demographic typically interested in the social networking platform, the number could easily be higher.

“Africa’s attractiveness to companies such as Facebook is a no-brainer,” Manji Cheto, vice president of Teneo Intelligence, told Quartz. “Yet, the continent’s low internet penetration was always likely to constrain the company’s ability to significantly boost its user numbers.”

But mobile phone penetration stands at 69% and, through, Facebook is hoping to turn these users into Facebookers. “By partnering with Airtel, Facebook is able to access a much larger market than it may [not] ordinarily be able to do on its own—mobile phone subscribers on the continent are estimated at 650 million and Airtel holds significant share of this market,” Cheto says.

Through, Airtel customers are able to access, for free, such sites as BBC News, BBC Swahili, Facebook, Messenger, SuperSport and Wikipedia.

“The approach devised—where new users get free access to Facebook and a small amount of Internet content—is bit like a very small version of AOL in the early days of the Internet,” Russell Southwood, chief executive of Balancing Act, a research firm, told Quartz.

Both Facebook and Airtel, are hoping that is “transitional” for users, meaning that it will convert mobile users into becoming data subscribers. “It is a walled garden and in this instance if you stray outside you start paying data charges,” Southwood says.

There have been critics of Facebook’s, who argue that this is an attempt to mediate the internet experience for users in the developing world. “[Facebook] is doing its best to make the rest of the internet irrelevant,” The Guardian wrote in 2013. “Facebook is aiming for the one every big tech company tries for: monopoly or oligopoly.”

Not everyone agrees. “While concern that is ‘controlling access to information’ is somewhat justified, the service must equally be given credit for paving access to the internet,” Cheto says.

FOREX Africa: A Weaker Chinese Economy Could Destabilize SADC Countries

Concerns of a slowdown in China, the world’s second largest economy and Africa’s top trade partner, after the Asian giant devalued its currency by 2 percent a fortnight ago has seen markets across the world retreat to multi-year lows.In Africa, where most economies rely heavily on sale of commodities, currencies have been hit or are expected to be hurt by the slowdown in China’s growth, a major buyer of raw material from sub-Saharan Africa.

South Africa’s rand fell to a record low against the dollar in early trading on Monday as other global markets like Germany and Japan also reeled from an equities slump in China. Other Southern Africa currencies in Angola and Zambia, which have strong trade ties with China, are expected to follow the trend.

All of these countries, which are members of the Southern Africa Development Committee (SADC), rely heavily on minerals and oil export to generate revenue for their annual expenditures, including recurrent ones.While some analysts say a slowdown in China’s economy could hurt the whole global economy as commodity prices fall further, in Africa the SADC countries look poised for a rough time once earnings from their export dwindle.

“Next year at a time like now we will look back and see that what we’re looking at here is a global slowdown and China is just one factor,” Ian Marnett, chief investment strategist at Absolute Strategy Research, told Bloomberg TV.
While countries in the Southern part of the continent struggle, their counter part in East Africa are expected to benefit from cheaper goods from the china after the currency devaluation.

Analysts foresee economies in Africa, such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Mozambique, benefiting from a yuan devaluation, but still caution that the ripple effect of China’s slowdown to the global economy is of far much concern to the continent.

Amadou Sy, a director at Africa Growth Initiative, the devaluation of the Chinese yuan may have little effect in African countries, since trade with China is mostly in US dollar, a currency that has been strengthening in relation to sub-Saharan units.“Because the U.S. dollar has been appreciating against African currencies, the impact of the Chinese devaluation is less important for African countries than for the U.S.,” Sy said in a Brookings opinion piece.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Southern Africa: Zuma Arrives in Botswana for SADC Summit

President Jacob Zuma arrived in Gaborone, Botswana on Sunday ahead of the 35th Ordinary Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state summit, the presidency said.

The summit runs from Sunday to Tuesday, under the theme of accelerating industrialisation of the bloc's economies, through transformation of natural endowment and improved human capital, spokesperson Bongani Majola said in a statement.

"President Zuma is accompanied by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, State Security Minister David Mahlobo and Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas."

Ramaphosa, as the SADC facilitator in Lesotho, and who is in Botswana for the meeting of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, of which South Africa, represented by Zuma, is outgoing chair.

"South Africa will give a report to the summit on matters relating to the work of the Organ," Majola said. Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa would be the acting president while Zuma and Ramaphosa were out the country.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Southern Africa: Zuma Arrives in Botswana for SADC Summit

President Jacob Zuma arrived in Gaborone, Botswana on Sunday ahead of the 35th Ordinary Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state summit, the presidency said.The summit runs from Sunday to Tuesday, under the theme of accelerating industrialisation of the bloc's economies, through transformation of natural endowment and improved human capital, spokesperson Bongani Majola said in a statement.

"President Zuma is accompanied by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, State Security Minister David Mahlobo and Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas."

Ramaphosa, as the SADC facilitator in Lesotho, and who is in Botswana for the meeting of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, of which South Africa, represented by Zuma, is outgoing chair.

"South Africa will give a report to the summit on matters relating to the work of the Organ," Majola said. Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa would be the acting president while Zuma and Ramaphosa were out the country.

WHO Declares Africa Free Of 'Wild' Cases of Polio

Chalk up a major win for global health: according to the World Health Organization, Africa has been free of wild cases of Polio since July. This comes down to a dedicated vaccination campaign that has advanced the continent towards zero cases.This news doesn’t mean that the continent is completely free if the disease. Africa is still a little ways from zero cases: WHO reports that there’s still some ongoing work in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, but that in each case, the transmission of the illness has been interrupted. On August 11th, 2014, Somalia reported its last case, and in July, according to the WHO, the final country to report zero cases was Nigeria.

The director of the Polio Global Eradication Initiative, Dr Hamid Jafari, Director, indicated that while the continent was free of wild cases of the disease, there are still challenges when it comes to eradicating the disease completely.

The elimination of the disease from much of the world thus far is the product of a dedicated and time-consuming vaccination campaign.

With the introduction of vaccines in 1955, instances of the illness fell to fewer than 10 in the 1970s, and that as of 1979, no cases of Polio have been transmitted within the country’s borders. India was the last major country in the world to report cases in 2011, and around the world, concentrated polio vaccine campaigns have pushed the illness back from human populations.

The goal of the Initiative has been to interrupt the natural transmission (wild cases) of the virus, which seems to be the case so far. The next step, according to WHO, will be to continue to monitor the region for additional cases. If none appear in the next two years, the continent will be certified Polio-Free.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

South African black doll breaks the mould in high style

She is black and trendy, and young South African girls are learning to love her. Meet Momppy Mpoppy, who is a step ahead of other black dolls across Africa who are often dressed in traditional ethnic clothes. Decked out in the latest fashions and sporting an impressive afro, complete with a tiara, Momppy could play her own small part in changing the way that black children look at themselves.

Maite Makgoba, founder of Childish Trading and Manufacturing, told AFP she started her small business after realising that black dolls available on the market "did not appeal to children". "They were frumpy and unattractive, some in traditional attire. That is not the reality of today," said the 26-year-old entrepeneur.

The dolls are assembled in China, but the real work starts in Makgoba's tiny workspace in downtown Johannesburg, where they are styled and packaged before they are sent to independent distributors. Inside the two-room warehouse, miniature pieces of clothing are sewn and pressed by hand. Appearance is everything.

Eye-catching ballerina skirts, denim pants and "on trend" jumpsuits with bright high heels are some of the items in Momppy Mpoppy's impressive wardrobe. Among the different Mpoppy outfits are "Denim Dungaree Delicious", "Rockstar Tutu", "Mohawk Fro" and "Seshweshwe Fabolous" -- with each doll costing 180 rand ($14, 12 euros). To complete the experience, the company also makes matching clothes for girls who own the doll.

"This is more than just a business, we are creating awareness, that our dark skin and thick afro hair are pretty as they are," said Makgoba. "We want kids to see beauty in Mpoppy, to see themselves while playing with her. "Dolls are often white, people in magazines are white, even in a country like South Africa where the majority are black. "Black children are confronted with growing up in a world that does not represent them, everything is skewed towards whiteness."

Makgoba admits that the fledging company which she started in 2013 faces a stiff competition from established toy brands, but she was encouraged by the "overwhelming response" from buyers.

"Parents and children have quickly taken to the doll. But we still need to convince large retailers to sell our brand," she said, declining to reveal exact sales numbers.

Nokuthula Maseko, a 30-year-old mother of two, said her children had "fallen in love with the unusual doll" after she came across it on social media -- the company's biggest marketing tool.

"I like the fact that the doll looks like my kids, in a world where the standards of beauty are often liked to caucasian features," said Maseko.

"The kids love the doll." "This is a big social movement... it can help prevent body image insecurity among children," she added. However, the Johannesburg mother said she was not in a hurry to throw away her kid's white dolls. "At school they play with their white friends, so this is my idea of maintaining that realism, so that they are aware of different races and not that everything is just white and only look a certain way," she told AFP. Black dolls are not new, but the African market has for a long time been flooded with white dolls, creating an image of porcelain skin perfection with long shiny tresses.

The iconic 57-year-old Barbie range has dominated global sales, selling over one million a week globally -- including a selection of black dolls. It's a tough challenge to build a brand name for start-up companies like Makgoba's and others such as Queen of Africa, a popular black doll from Nigeria who is kitted out in ethnic attire. According to Johannesburg child psychologist Melita Heyns, toys have a long-term influence on children. "It's not just entertainment... dolls are a big part of a girl child's life, therefore it is important that such toys help build a child's character and self-esteem," said Heyns. Mpoppy's creators now plan to export to neighbouring African countries, changing young mindsets one doll at a time.

Austin-based nonprofit changing lives in Africa

Despite our drought restrictions in Central Texas, water is still not that hard to come by. In other parts of the world however, it’s a much different situation.But local organization Well Aware is trying to change that. Well Aware is an Austin-based nonprofit that funds and implements clean water systems for impoverished communities in Africa.

Sarah Evans and her team just returned from a trip to Kenya, where they put in their 26th high-yielding water system. National Geographic Creative photographer Greg Davis traveled with the Well Aware team and photographed them implementing this water system.

The photographs will be on exhibit Friday night from 7-10 p.m. at for a special event.

UAE workers and companies build bridges to Africa

Gary Robinson is flushed with success. In his recent business trip to Nairobi, he oversaw his company’s first foray into bridging the markets of China and Africa, using the UAE as its base.

As the international events director of MIE Events in Dubai, Mr Robinson was part of the team behind China Trade Week last month. At the promotion, hundreds of Chinese manufacturers exhibited in Kenya’s capital as they searched for local partners to help them gain access to an increasingly fruitful African market.

The event’s success in attracting visitors surprised Mr Robinson, who says he has booked twice the amount of exhibition space for next year’s event.

“There is a growing middle class throughout Africa who want all the accoutrements of their new financial status,” he says. “Most Africans are very similar to their Middle East counterparts inasmuch as there is a burgeoning small- and medium-enterprise (SME) market, so anyone wanting to target SMEs should do well.”

Working in Africa, as with any new market, will bring its own challenges, says Mr Robinson. He emphasises the need for research and plenty of time on the ground to find the right opportunities and partners. Poor infrastructure, he says, are among the challenges.

“Patience and adaptability are essential in order to do well,” he says. Mr Robinson hopes MIE Events can continue to take advantage of the UAE’s location as a gateway into African markets for Chinese clients. It is an opportunity that other organisations are using as well.

“The UAE is a great headquarters for Africa,” says Mitchell Prather, the managing director of Djembe Communications, which operates in Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria and Dubai.

The company, which will open an office in Ghana this year, has found success with its formula of building an African communications network that is internationally focused. It has grown from a staff of four to 27 in just over a year.

“The Middle East has a long history of doing business in Africa,” says Mr Prather. “It’s easier for us in Dubai to get to most points in Africa than it is for our colleagues in Switzerland or London.”

He believes that companies looking to venture into the African market do not necessarily need to be big brands, citing ongoing investment in a number of African countries looking to tap entrepreneurial efforts as part of their wider economic development.

“There’s a lot of opportunities for SMEs to make inroads and grow in all African markets. And for that growth to accelerate there’s a need for a lot of cross-border activity,” he says. Skills development is pivotal to making this happen.

“For clients in Africa you need to have a lot of local insights, but what you also need is to upskill local teams, teams that are passionate about communications but also about developing their skill set. Dubai is a great centre of excellence for that,” says Mr Prather. “Before Africa can continue on its growth path it needs to expand its skill set. It’s not just building bridges, but teaching too. You have to be committed to the region in order to be successful.”

It is a formula that has helped businesses from China to thrive in Africa, as they offer knowledge transfer and capital infusion to gain ground and secure a competitive advantage.

“Particularly in East Africa there is no lack of either business and investment opportunities, or access to skilled labour,” says Oscar Wendel, a former UAE resident who is now the event director for TEDx in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

“What is lacking however is both the in-depth technical knowledge and application in many high-tech areas, as well as access to capital to fund significant projects.”

He says these examples point to a role that Arabian Gulf businesses can also take on to meet a need in African markets.

“There is a lot of potential reward to be had for investors that are able to attract the right talent, hone their skills and develop market offerings to meet the increasing demand from many growing sectors,” he says.

The development of computer games and mobile phone apps is “booming right now and particularly promising for UAE companies”, says Mr Wendel.

“Real estate development, agriculture, tourism and financial services for the growing middle class, are all expanding and open for foreign investment.

“For UAE companies that can find the right blend of talent, training and endurance, Africa may put future growth in a vibrant market well within reach.”

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

African collaboration helps future leaders master public policy

A new master’s degree that will be offered by 12 universities across Africa aims to develop the continent’s next generation of public policy leaders.The master’s in research and public policy will give aspiring and practising development professionals an understanding of the common challenges confronting countries across the continent, such as education, poverty and HIV/Aids, while training them in global social policy concepts.

The qualification, which was set to be officially launched on 12 August in Nairobi, Kenya, has been developed by the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research and the partner institutions.

Tade Aina, executive director of the partnership, said: “We are developing the next generation of public policy leaders in Africa.”

Already, 150 students have enrolled on the two-year, full-time course, which includes a placement in a policy or research institution.

The 12 partner universities have agreed to deliver the course using a common curriculum, with the hope that graduates will be prepared for careers in government, civil society organisations and development agencies.

The founder institutions include the University of Lagos, the University of Jos and the University of Ibadan, all in Nigeria. The course will also be offered by Maseno University and Egerton University (both in Kenya); the University of Dar es Salaam and Mzumbe University (both in Tanzania); and Uganda Christian University and Uganda Martyrs University (both in Uganda). Other providers include the universities of Ghana, Sierra Leone and Botswana.

Europe, Asia? No - Airbnb's next big push is in Africa

Airbnb, the world's leading service to rent out rooms or properties over the Internet, has announced plans to rapidly accelerate its growth in Africa, particularly in key markets such as Kenya and South Africa.

The service has already seen its listings more than double in the continent in the last year, while the number of users in the region has increased by 145%. Now, the San Francisco-based company want to capture an even bigger share of the 60 million tourists that visit Africa each year.

Airbnb's CEO Brian Chesky was one of the attendees at last month's Global Entrepreneurial Summit 2015 in Nairobi -- also attended by U.S. president Barack Obama and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta, as member of a group of U.S. business leaders committed to helping to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs around the world.

A vibrant startup scene"We were really taken aback by the strength and vibrancy of the startup scene in Nairobi and the entrepreneurs we met at the GES Summit," Nicola D'Elia, general Manager Middle East & Africa for Airbnb, told CNN.

"We found the spirit of entrepreneurialism in Kenya to be very similar to San Francisco and Silicon Valley," D'Elia added. "In fact, it's newer, more nascent and more exciting too.

Kenya alone has over 1,400 listings on the platform, with the greatest concentration in Nairobi (788). People in the country are also embracing Airbnb as a way of traveling, with the number of Kenyan guests using Airbnb tripling in the last 12 months.

South Africa leads the way
Airbnb's largest African market is currently South Africa, with 9,400 homes listed -- an increase of 138% in the last 12 months -- while the number of guests has grown by 257%.

The country is also home to two of the five largest markets for Airbnb in Africa: Cape Town and Johannesburg.

"This growth has largely been driven organically by word of mouth," D'Elia said. "By building a team to focus on the region, we hope to further accelerate this growth."

Finding tailored solutions
The expansion in Africa comes in the wake of Airbnb's recent launch in Cuba, which has already become its fastest growing market.

Some of the initiatives employed to overcome challenges around internet literacy and mobile payment infrastructure will be applied to Africa as well.

"One of my first priorities is to look at payments and how we can create solutions more tailored to Africa. M-pesa has been hugely successful here and we will certainly be looking closely at it along with other local payments services," said D'Elia.

A regulated future?
Sharing services like Airbnb operate outside of traditional regulations, which can be a boon or a bane: "Whilst an unregulated environment could mean great opportunity, it can also mean uncertainty, as regulations can change overnight, sometimes on the flimsiest of grounds," Trevor Ward, a specialist consultant in the hospitality and leisure industries with a special focus on sub-Saharan Africa, said than an unregulated environment could mean great opportunity, but also uncertainty, noting that "regulations can change overnight, sometimes on the flimsiest of grounds."

"Africa is composed of 54 very diverse nations, with huge differences among them and different legal systems, which will bring questions regarding whether Airbnb is legal, illegal or unregulated -- and the lack of knowledge on the part of the regulators won't help," he added. "I do believe it needs to be regulated in some way."

Nevertheless, the competition with traditional offering could also spark some benefits: "There are huge opportunities in some destinations, where hotel prices are incredibly high compared to the product offered. Encouraging home stays fosters greater understanding between peoples. Bringing even small amounts of money to communities can make a big difference (one night's stay can equal a month's school fees).

"Today's renters of a room are tomorrow's hotel owners. Increasing domestic and intra-african travel brings greater demand for accommodation, at a price point where many of the existing offers are very poor, or worse."

Africa moves a step closer to polio eradication, but more work to be done – UN

Africa has made great strides towards eradicating polio but the job remains to be finished through strengthened immunization campaigns and surveillance measures, according to the United Nations.

Observing yesterday the one year mark since the last case of wild polio was confirmed on the African continent, the world body has recalled that despite such laudatory progress, the milestone could not yet be considered “official” by the Organization’s strict standards.

Nigeria, the last endemic country in the African region, marked one year without a case of wild polio on 24 July 2015. If continued lab results in the coming weeks confirm no new cases in Nigeria, and if the UN World Health Organization (WHO) African Region then goes two more years without a case of wild polio in the face of strong surveillance, it could be certified polio-free by the Africa Regional Certification Commission. Similarly, transmission in Kenya and Ethiopia has also been interrupted.

“Globally, we are on the verge of totally eradicating a disease for only the second time in history,” remarked Peter Crowley, the head of the UN Children Fund’s (UNICEF) Polio unit, on his blog. “As we approach the General Assembly’s endorsement of the Sustainable Development Goals, what a wonderful time to be able to encourage the global community to set ambitious goals and to know that such goals can be met – if we believe.”

According to the UN, African leadership has been instrumental in reaching the milestone and pushing towards wider eradication through the African "Kick Polio out of Africa" campaign. Likewise, the support of the international community has also been key to success and continued support remains essential to achieve a polio-free Africa through improved vaccination campaign quality and surveillance, particularly in the Horn and Central Africa.

“With Africa now on track, we are left with only two countries where polio transmission has never been interrupted: Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Mr. Crowley continued. “Here too, despite enormous challenges, communities, governments and partners are working with courage and determination to end polio once and for all.”

Polio is a virus transmitted by person-to-person contact and spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis.

Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented by immunization.

If eradication in Africa is achieved, there would be only two countries where polio transmission has never been interrupted: Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Djibouti: Mogadishu’s SIMAD University Activities Strengthening Local Economies

Public Diplomacy and Regional Infrastructure Initiative News. A new Somalia is emerging,” believes Ahmed Tall, a business and accountancy lecturer at Mogadishu’s SIMAD University.

The former Federal Minister, Farah Abdulkadir visited Mogadishu’s SIMAD University, and congratulated the new facilities, Council members and expressed the importance of higher education in Somalia, and he added his statement, “Mogadishu activities strengthens the quality of education and investments in Somalia.”

In Mogadishu, good planning and time keeping is crucial in this superbly beautiful city of 2 million people. The mission and the vision of SIMAD UNIVERSITY is to provide high quality education, research and community services with the commitment of excellence to Strengthen Local Economies in Somalia.

Other Examples of University Activities Strengthening Local Economies: Couples are walking leisurely along the rocky shoreline, bathers splash in the waves, young boys kick a ball in the sand. Under a row of shady umbrellas, beachfront restaurants serve seafood and tea.

Only four years ago, Lido Beach was a dangerous no-go zone in Somalia’s war-torn capital, Mogadishu. Islamist militant group al-Shabaab partially controlled the city. Violence and bloodshed confined people to their homes.

Today, hundreds of families come to relax on Mogadishu’s coastline each weekend. Hotels are being built along the shore and restaurants have opened, while vendors sell ice cream on the beach.

“I was born and raised in a hostile environment, in Mogadishu, now we see a promising future,” Asho Elmi tells dpa while lugging a heavy cooler box filled with soft drinks and ice cream along Lido Beach.

“The fear has gone. We work here until 21:30″ when the sun goes down, the 20-year-old says. Somalia suffered two decades of anarchy and fighting between rival warlords after the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991.

Only since an internationally-backed government was installed in 2012 and al-Shabaab pushed out of Mogadishu and other strongholds has the East African nation of roughly 10 million people become more stable.

Its economy grew by 3.7% in 2014, with growth projected to reach 2.7% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Somalis can feel this progress in their day-to-day lives. Mogadishu’s construction industry is booming. Multi-storey buildings are being erected in the city centre, while the bullet-riddled facades the capital was famous for are disappearing behind new coats of plaster and paint.

Visitors now have a choice of more than 200 hotels in Mogadishu, up from a mere 12 in 2012. In the heart of the city, Bakaraha Market with its hundreds of shops selling fruit and vegetables, clothes and household goods – once a battlefield between peacekeeping troops and al-Shabaab terrorists – has again become a bustling commercial district where residents do their daily shopping and chat in small restaurants and coffee houses.