Category Archives: ideaexchange

Absa and the Spirit of Highway Africa

My first trip to South Africa was back in 2006 to attend the combination of Highway Africa, and the inaugural Digital Citizen Indaba which was Africa’s first-ever major blogging conference.  Highway Africa, billed as the largest gathering of African journalists, was run by the Rhodes University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies. It was supported by the South African Broadcasting Corporation, South Africa’s Department of Communication, Absa bank, Multichoice, MTN, South African Airways, Sunday Times, among others.

So it was a pleasant surprise this month to encounter the spirit of Highway Africa and reconnect with those  pioneer conferences. This was at a data journalism masterclass, at Enashipai Resort, in Naivasha, Kenya. Absa has been sponsoring the data class that aims to assist financial journalists to report on complex financial matters since it was a part of the two-decades-long Highway Africa that is now on hiatus.

In 2019, the classes have been held in Uganda, Kenya, Zambia and  Tanzania. Four more countries will be covered in November. The program is done in conjunction with Rhodes University and is led by Peter Verweij.

The masterclass had themes of finding and scraping data, and also analyzing, mapping, and visualizing data for presentations that enrich stories. This was done using free tools and diverse data sets to infer correlations on subjects such as sub-Saharan African debt, sovereign ratings and financial inclusion.

There were also sessions about the ongoing plans at Barclays Africa which is rebranding to Absa in twelve African countries. Barclays has been operating in Kenya for 103 years, and the bank which is listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, remains one of the top-performing banks this year in terms of capital efficiency and returns to investors.

Kobo360 and SWVL launch in Nairobi on the same day

On one day late in August 2019, two young disruptive, but non-competing, logistics companies had parallel breakfast events to mark significant milestones in Nairobi.

Kobo360: There was the formal launch of Kobo 360, the pan-African logistics company which has been operating for five months in Kenya. Kobo360 pairs cargo owners with transporters, enabling the seamless booking and transport of goods to destinations while lorry owners get extra business and revenue from the running their trucks on the company’s platforms.

Kobo360 aims to is introduce efficiency and predictability to the $150 billion Africa logistics industry through real-time data, by providing insurance & tracking, and all to facilitate trust in delivery and payments. They operate in Nigeria, Kenya, Togo, Ghana, and Uganda and make deliveries to other countries in West, Central and Southern Africa from port cities.

Founded in Nigeria, they view tech adoption as being  higher in Kenya and they want to use it as a launchpad for the East Africa region. Kobo360 has offices in Mombasa and Nairobi and currently have 3,000 trucks and access to 4,000 drivers on their platforms. They have raised funding from the IFC, Goldman Sachs, TL Com, Chandaria Capital, Verod, Asia Africa and WTI.

SWVL Kenya official launch: The same day as the Kobo event, SWVL also announced their official launch in Kenya with a Kshs 1.5 billion expansion of its Kenya operation. This is equivalent to $15 million which is a lot of money that will go towards increasing their route network offering of high-quality public transportation. The company which was started in Egypt in 2017 has been operating in Nairobi for six months now and recently raised $42 million from its investors including BECO Capital and Sweden’s Vostok New Ventures. It has gone from operating four routes on which passengers can book rides on SWVL shuttles to fifty-five routes now across Nairobi. Here is a rice review of using SWVL by a Nairobi commuter.

BA 2119: The Flight of the Future exhibition

A guest post by Elsie Kibue-Ngare.

I was fortunate enough to be invited/gifted a ticket to an interactive exhibition by British Airways in collaboration with students from the Royal College of Art (RCA) at the Saatchi Gallery as they showcased the future of flying in the next 100 years.

This year, British Airways is celebrating its 100th Anniversary as being part of a predecessor company AT&T (Air Transport & Travel Ltd) and this exhibition is a celebration of that long history by looking at aviation through history via FLY, an interactive, multisensory, virtual reality experience that turns you into a time traveller from being a bird, into Leonardo Da Vinci’s studio in Florence all the way to 100 years into the future to what aviation might look like with an aircraft that is guided to land by sight as one of the possibilities of air travel.

Together with FLY, eight other concepts were showcased at the exhibition. These included:

  • AVII (AVY), which I particularly liked as a concept to improve the experience of travellers using Artifical Intelligence (AI) in collaboration with cabin crew. The idea is to submit your needs as you book your flight, for example, if you have particular dietary needs and this information is fed back to the cabin crew who in return provide personalised service throughout your flight without even you asking.
  • Another concept, TASTENATION, uses data collected from DNA and body health to 3D print food for a new multi-sensory in-flight dining experience. This idea does away with food waste as meals are prepared from scratch onto edible cutlery and plates. Yet at the same time provide the necessary nutrients whilst on the air as it prepares the body to adjust to the cuisine of the traveller’s destination.
  • In line with reducing waste, THE FUTURE OF LUGGAGE is another concept that can also be realised. The vision where travellers would travel without any luggage as they will have to upload their clothes onto a digital wardrobe together with their measurements and depending on the weather, duration of their stay, etc. and the idea that you would arrive at your destination and find a set of clothes waiting for you at the airport lounge at your destination is pretty awesome. Clothes will be made from recycled materials that at the end of your trip, you drop them off at the airport where they are recycled.

There was so much to detailing to see at this exhibition from personalised wearable seats called AIRWEAR, to flying green with AERIUM, where the air we breathe and the water that we drink whilst flying is generated through bioavionics systems integrated as part of the plane. CURIO, a hypersonic modular aircraft with zero emissions and weird seating is one I did not get. And so did AER, a shape-changing smart luggage transportation concept.

Of the concepts, I saw at the exhibition, AVII(AVY), AERIUM, TASTENATION and THE FUTURE OF LUGGAGE looked like the ones that are likely to happen in the near future leading up to 2119 with the other concepts looking very unlikely, but I could be wrong and years beyond 2119, these other concepts could be a reality for many.

All in all, it was amazing to see how history and the advancement of technology inform us of the ideas and innovations of what is yet to come.

African Banker Awards 2019 Nominees

The winners of the 2019 African Banker Awards will be announced on June 11 at the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. 

Multiple nominees this year include Absa, the Trade & Development Bank, Equity Bank, and Standard Bank while first-time nominees include Family Bank of Kenya who partnered with Simba Pay to enable payments via WeChat to China, Kenya’s largest trading partner. There are also nominees for arranging sovereign Eurobonds and IPO’s, while UbuntuCoin, an asset-backed digital currency that was a finalist at last year’s awards, is nominated again.

The complete list of shortlisted nominees for 2019 are:

African Banker of the Year:  Admassu Tadesse (Trade and Development Bank), Brehima Amadou Haidara (La Banque de Développement du Mali), Brian Kennedy (Nedbank, South Africa), James Mwangi (Equity Bank, Kenya) and Johan Koorts (ABSA, South Africa).

Award for Financial Inclusion: 4G Capital (Kenya), Amhara (Ethiopia), Bank of Industry (Nigeria), Cofina (Senegal), Jumo (South Africa).

Best Retail Bank in Africa: Coris (Burkina Faso), Ecobank (ETI), Guarantee Trust Bank (Nigeria), KCB (Kenya), QNB AlAhli (Egypt).

Deal of the Year – Debt: Absa ($350M Old Mutual Renewable Energy IPP), Afrexim – ($500M ChinaExim Syndicated Loan), CIB ($389M Egyptian Refining Company), Rothschild ($2.2 billion Republic of Senegal Dual-Currency Eurobond), TDB ($1 billion Sovereign Loan to the Government of Kenya).

Deal of the Year – Equity:  Al Ahly (Canal Sugar Equity), EFG Hermes (ASA IPO), RenCap (CiplaQCIL IPO), Standard Bank / RMB (Vivo Energy IPO), Standard Bank IBTC (Flour Mills of Nigeria Rights Issue).

Infrastructure Deal of the Year: Absa (Enel Green Power), Afrexim (Syndicated Loan for EBOMAF/Government of Cote D’Ivoire), National Bank of Egypt (ElSewedy Electric Hydropower Project), RNB (Roggeveld Wind Power Project), TDB (Mozambique FLNG Project).

Innovation in Banking:  ABSA (South Africa), Family Bank (Kenya), KCB (Kenya), MCB Capital Markets (Mauritius), and Ubuntu Coin (Côte d’Ivoire).

Investment Bank of the Year: ABSA (South Africa), Coronation Merchant Capital (Nigeria), NedBank (South Africa), Rothschild, Standard Bank (South Africa).

Socially Responsible Bank of the Year: Access Bank (Nigeria), Bank Misr (Egypt), Equity Bank (Kenya), KCB (Kenya), Qalaa Holdings (Egypt).

Stanchart opens eXellerator Lab in Nairobi

Standard Chartered Bank today announced the opening of an innovation lab in Nairobi, its first in Africa.  Run by Standard Chartered Ventures (SC ventures), the eXellerator lab will work with clients, staff, and local fintech companies on banking solutions for the future. This will be the fifth such lab after the first in Singapore, then Hong Kong, San Francisco, Bangalore, London and now Nairobi.

Stanchart Kenya CEO Ngari Kariuki CEO said that SC ventures, launched in March 2018, had a mission to invest in disruption and come up with new business models by partnering with fintechs in Asia, Middle East And Africa, scaling little ideas, giving them a global platform and investing in the companies. Kennedy Mubita the Africa Regional Head for SC Ventures said that the eXellerator was based on principles of human-centred, design, having a lean startup mentality, embracing an entrepreneurial spirit  (enabling staff of the bank to suggest ideas and develop them into products with rewards) and that the bank would also invest in local companies through a $100 million innovation fund. So far they are developing ten ventures drawn from 1,500 ideas submitted globally, with a notable one being Credit Card Buddy from Indonesia.

At a Q&A after the launch, It was queried what pipeline of projects Stanchart would target given that there were very few companies able to absorb series B funding here. The bank will have a country venture challenge, one of three in Africa, and will seek to work with companies to address payment gaps and trust gaps in value chains across all sectors.

Like with the video banking launch, tried and tested in Asia, Nairobi is the launchpad for the eXellerator lab program in Africa. Other banks with innovation labs in Nairobi include KCB with its Vooma Lab and I&M bank, which has a digital factory, called iCube.