Category Archives: SME solutions

How can the US engage in Africa, and go around China?

.. Extracts from “Deconstructing the Dragon: China’s Commercial Expansion in Africa,” a recent report by Aubrey Hruby that postulates what the United States can do to reposition its influence in Africa whose governments have received extensive assistance from China, mainly in terms of infrastructure projects.

The looks at the nature of infrastructure deals that have come to be dominated by China state-owned enterprises through a combination of feasibility studies, negotiations financing through Chinese loans, and eventually mobilization to start construction. Quick-decision making is a factor and McKinsey found that over half of investment decisions for Chinese construction and real estate companies were made in under a month.

The US can counter to these mainly be through US government to African business initiatives, while contracts with China’s “government to government programs.

Recommendations include:

  • Niche infrastructure that fall within the US competitive advantage like renewable energy, oil exploration and urban/smarter city solutions. However on the last one, the report points out that China has made significant inroads in media, telecommunications and security services.
  • Push for anti-corruption agenda, as this will level the playing field for US companies. This can be through supporting African government efforts to investigate and prosecute corruption cases.
  • Generate a pipeline of projects, data, and trade links to assist US businesses to invest in Africa. This can be through sponsoring competitions and investor trips.
  • Support the creativity and education sectors. There is an opportunity in the entertainment spaces as recent deals involving Netflix, Mavin Records and the National Basketball Association have shown. Also a quarter of African children (66 million) could be studying in private schools by 2021.
  • US financial institutions can work towards providing working capital, which remains a great challenge for individuals and small businesses in Africa.

It also notes that more US intuitional investors have opened up to putting more funding to African venture. These include the New York State Common Retirement Fund, which has allocated $6 billion to investments in Africa and the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund that have invested in two African private equity funds.

EDIT: A story in the Africa Report shows how a new US Development Finance Corporation (DFC), which combines the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Credit Authority of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) is part of the broader economic and trade battle led by the USA against China.  

The new organization has more latitude than its predecessors in that, it will be able to make equity investment in private firms (previously they were restricted to debt) and a restriction that OPIC could only support projects with “a significant link with the American private sector” has been removed.

Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) 2019 finale set for Accra

The Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) series for 2019, will conclude with an “Africa Business Heroes” televised gala in Accra, Ghana in November where ten finalist entrepreneurs will pitch Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Strive Masiyiwa and other judges.

The overall Netpreneur winner will get a grant prize of $250,000, the second place one receives  $150,000, with $100,000 to the third place one. These are among the largest financial prizes offered to African entrepreneurs and the other finalists will also receive financial grants.

Applications for this year’s ANPI opened on March 27 and over 10,000 entries were received from entrepreneur applicants. These were narrowed down by different evaluators through a vetting process and this week twenty finalists, drawn from across Africa, are doing interviews with,  a panel of expert judges at the Nailab in Nairobi. Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Fatoumata Ba, Fred Swaniker, Hasan Haider, Marième Diop, Peter Orth, and René Parker form the semi-finalist judging panel for this year’s ANPI. 

This all comes two years after Jack Ma’s first visit to Africa as a UN special advisor for youth entrepreneurship and small business. Dr Mukhisa Kituyi suggested that he visits Kenya as one of the countries he toured and he became inspired by a team of entrepreneurs he met at the Nailab. He then decided to support African entrepreneurs through his Jack Ma Foundation.

This is the Foundation’s first project outside of China the Prize has a mission to shine a spotlight on African entrepreneurs to be leaders of their societies in the future. It is especially focused on traditional, informal and agricultural industries and sectors, and encourages women to participate. This is a deviation from other sectors like digital, fintech, and mobile  that have attracted a lot of attention and funding on the continent. ANPI hopes to find and support 100 entrepreneurs over the next decade to be leaders across Africa.  

Through the program, they offer training at the Alibaba headquarters in Hangzhou, China, free of charge and several entrepreneurs, through the Nailab, have made that trip there. The ANPI competition remains to open to entrepreneurs in all 54 African countries, including Northern African and Western (Francophone regions). Jack Ma is expected to continue his philanthropic efforts, through the foundation, even after he steps down from being Alibaba’s Executive Chairman in October 2019.

Spanish delivery company Glovo enters the Kenyan market.

Glovo is a four years old Spanish delivery company started by Oscar Pierre and Sacha Michaud. Its headquarters are in Barcelona, Spain and Glovo has been expanding globally, and just recently begun operations in Kenya five months ago, with Morocco and Nigeria being the other two African countries using the Glovo app services.

Glovo actually means balloon in Spanish to signify the way a balloon moves easily from one place to another. Kenya has seen some new delivery companies but is yet to experience one which can deliver even a personal item that you forgot at home. We are used to the traditional delivery of items by people we know but now this app will very well facilitate an easier way. The one challenge being how safe or how trustworthy Glovo delivery people are which, and the company has placed safeguards for this.

The Glovo app is found on Google play store for Android and App Store for IoS and it doesn’t take more than five minutes to start using the app. What makes them even more competitive is their pricing which is quite the saver.

Glovo performance is improving by the day. William Benthall, the General Manager for Kenya stated that the number of Glovo bikes he’s seen around town keeps increasing with time. Just like other delivery services, with Glovo, interested partners sign up their machines, for instance, bikes, to the app and can from there, connect with clients who need items delivered.

A guest post by @themkare 

CBK launches Stawi SME pilot credit facility

The Central Bank of Kenya has launched a pilot credit facility targeting informal unbanked traders in partnership with local institutions.  This will be through an app, marketed under the name “Stawi”, that will initially be managed by five banks – Commercial Bank of Africa, Cooperative Bank, Diamond Trust, KCB Bank and NIC Group.

The pilot phase lasts two weeks and will involve 3,500 traders without bank accounts, who have turnover of Kshs 30,000 to Kshs 250,000 (~$2,500) per month and who are at least six months old. To register, besides providing their ID details, traders will need a valid business permit and an email address to create an account – this is an unusual as mobile apps just require a national ID number to match with the phone number of the loan applicant.

The businesses will be able to borrow between loans of Kshs 30,000 to 250,000 (~$2,500). Loan charges are at an interest of 9% per annum, plus a facility fee of 4%, insurance fee of 0.7% and excise tax on the facility fee – all adding up to about 14.5%.

Other features of Stawi:

  • Loans are repayable between 1 – 12 month and borrowers can top up loans once 80% has been repaid. Loans are only disbursed through the app as will all repayments be done
  • The loan rates are not cheap, but they are mild, and this program is targeted at the unregulated lenders who charge as much as 300% p.a. There was a draft financial markets conduct bill formulated to protect consumers from such practices.
  • There are also transfer fees and Stawi customers can also link up with Pesalink which allows much greater daily transfer amounts (up to Kshs 1 million) than the mobile money wallets.  
  • For now, there is no Stawi in the Google store as the program is still in a test phase. (There is an app called Stawika that has no affiliation)
  • A second round of the pilot will target 10,000 other traders.

While trying to forestall the arrival of interest rate caps back in 2016, banks, through their umbrella Kenya Bankers Association committed to set aside Kshs 30 billion for lending to SME’s including Kshs 10 billion to micro-enterprises owned by women and youth and lend to them at no more than 14%. They also committed to rank borrowers by high, medium and low risk and to work to reward low-risk borrowers with low-interest rates. To date, the credit reference bureaus piling up data on loan defaulters which good borrowing records are ignored or not rewarded with lower interest rates.

AVCA 2019 private equity and venture capital conference in Nairobi

The 16th annual conference of African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA) was held from 1st -3rd April 2019 at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Nairobi. A guest post by Marcela Sinda.

This flagship conference event for the African continent had a fantastic kick-off and turnout, bringing together private equity and venture capital investors who handle a portfolio of over $1.5 trillion in assets. This was according to Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Trade, Peter Munya who officially opened the conference on behalf of President Uhuru Kenyatta. The goal of this kind of conference, he said, is to expose investors to the diverse prospective investment markets across the Africa as the continent was now being looked at as any other region, with the focus being around checking due diligence, ethics, looking at best practices and asking the same questions around deal sourcing.

 

DFI’s Role: Kenya is an increasingly attractive investment destination and according to AVCA data, it is the 2nd most attractive country for private equity investments in Africa over the next three years and hence an obvious choice to gather the industry players for this conference. The African PE sector has been shaped for decades by DFIs, and at AVCA 2019, there was some discussion about new DFI strategies for investment across Africa. Maria Hakansson, the CEO of Swedfund, noted that, as a community, DFIs could do so much more when it comes to anti-corruption, e-waste management, customer protection principles etc. and that Africa’s portfolio is constantly outperforming in terms of impact compared to other regions portfolio.

Djalal Khimdjee, Deputy CEO of Proparco said SMEs in Africa are essential towards job creation and achieving the sustainable development goals (SDG’s) and that 60% of the 1.5 million jobs that have been created in Africa every month come from SMEs and venture capital firms. He said that PROPARCO and French development agencies had committed £2.5 billion by 2022 to support African MSMEs, including £1 billion through private equity investments. 

Mathew Hunt, Principal at South Suez Capital shared that one of the reasons why investors are in Africa and especially now is because of the tech-driven growth that’s been on the rise in recent years. Venture capital investments are new in Africa and only a handful of funds have grown successfully.  The role of African Development Bank, said Robert Zegers, their Chief Investment Officer, was to now help support the industry and act as anchor investors in these funds as a lot of development agendas can be achieved by generating value through VC’s and great businesses.

The narrative throughout the discussion panels was around the real opportunities Africa presents for investment with building blocks in place such as improved policies, the rise in middle-income earners, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, and enablers such energy, improved infrastructure and technology as pathways that cater for development needs. The most attractive areas for P/E investment were perceived to be consumer-driven sectors (financials, FMCG, agribusiness, healthcare and technology).

Deals Galore: VCs are willing and able to take risks and are looking to invest much more than they did previously. According to the  AVCA report 2018, VCs invested $725.6 Million in 458 deals a 300% leap in the total funding amount and over 127% increase in the number of deals as compared to 2017.  VC fund managers, therefore, need to have great entrepreneurial skills to identify numerous opportunities and create great pipelines for growth and expansion. This is the first generation of PE owners and from the lessons learnt, a good company always attracts a buyer and a great way for VCs to approach funding private companies is to ask; ‘if everything works out, how big can this be?’. But investors ought to be cautious not to misconstrue Africa as a single country with regard to investments, rather, and instead start by breaking down the micro trends in each jurisdiction and analyse the different risks.

Investments, not Aid: Charles Mwebeiha of Sango Capital urged investors to look at Africa while investing, like any other region in the world noting that many times, investing in Africa is made to sound like some sort of assistance. He offered that the issue should be whether returns can be made and reiterated that with good strategies, there is money to be made in Africa.

Women: It was also highlighted that having a gender-sensitive lens when investing is an imperative for an inclusive and fair investment strategy and that, especially in Africa, the number of female entrepreneurs supported is a key metric. There is an even split between male and female entrepreneurs on the continent but less than 2% of those women are getting formal funding as they are often working in hidden, informal sectors.

Exits: A major area of discussion was around exits. Carlos Reyes of the IFC,  pointed out that; “to prepare companies for exits, we try to improve reporting standards, corporate governance and we look at the bench – so if the entrepreneur leaves, who can come in? The succession process is quite important.” Exits are not the easiest but they are not deal-breakers and good exits can be achieved. At Leapfrog Investments, they evaluate exits right at the beginning, by sitting down with the owners to try to understand their dreams for the future so as to align funding with their plans for exiting.

Predictions: And finally, taking a forward look at the sector five years into the future, George Odo, Managing Director of AfricInvest Capital Partners observed that there would be more capital raised from African economies, more policy changes required to mobilise pension funds, much more experienced fund managers, and also more EA players paying attention to Ethiopia.

Glossary
AVCA – Africa Venture Capital Association
EA – East Africa
PE – Private Equity
LP – Limited Partners
DFI – Development Finance Institution
IFC – International Finance Corporation
PROPARCO – A Development Financial Institution partly owned by the French Development Agency
SME – Small Medium Enterprise
MSME – Micro Small & Medium Enterprises
VC – Venture Capital