Connect with us

Brand Voice

How carefully managed urbanization can help African nations prosper




Dr. Cheick Modibo Diarra, former Prime Minister of Mali and Chairman of ALN. The ALN Africa Investment Conference takes place in Dubai on 7-8 November 2018. More details can be found here.

Sub-Saharan Africa is in the midst of a huge wave of urban growth. The African Development Bank suggests that 760 million people will be living in African cities by 2030, a figure that will rise to 1.2 billion by 2050. In the face of such dramatic pressures on our continent’s cities, the requirement for fast, comprehensive management of growing urban centers is needed now more than ever before.

For many, urbanization presents challenges. As the number of people living in urban centers increases, so too does the demand for adequate housing, access to utilities (electricity, water and sewerage), education and jobs. If this demand cannot be met, or managed effectively, the result can be catastrophic. Nowhere is the rise of inequality clearer than in urban areas, where more affluent communities coexist alongside, yet separate from, informal settlements.

Africa is no stranger to unplanned development in urban areas. In Mali, for example, our capital Bamako has one of the fastest growing urban populations on the continent, and accounts for 34 per cent of Mali’s overall GDP. Yet, such rapid growth has led to the development of pockets of crowded informal settlements in the city. And whilst these settlements are positioned in our bustling capital, a lack of connectivity isolates these areas. In reality, this means that for the many Malians residing there, they are unable to access quality education, health services, and ultimately, realize  their true potential. Yet, despite these challenges, settlements like these should not be perceived with pity or frustration, but as untapped potential.

If managed correctly, urbanization can provide citizens with access to these basic opportunities.  According to the World Bank, 80 per cent of global GDP is derived from urban centers. And it’s easy to see how cities play a key role in fostering economic growth and self-development. Commuting to work becomes cheaper and faster. There are greater job opportunities and easier access to schools. Cities are home to a high concentration of consumers whose demand for goods and services promotes business growth. Over the next 15 years, consumer spending in African cities is estimated to reach a staggering US$2.2tn.

Sustainable cities – that is those designed with consideration for social, economic and environmental impacts for current and future populations – are the cornerstone of prosperous and strong nations. For example, African cities are, on the whole, inadequately equipped for the needs of the older population and governments must make provisions in areas including geriatric healthcare and access to services such as public transport and libraries.  As such, it is imperative that governments create long-term plans for the development of urban and industrial areas. The key is that these plans are unique to their respective cities, and urban planners are fully integrated in the planning process.  Effective spatial planning facilitates sectoral coordination, as businesses in close proximity to each other are able to develop practical synergies, allowing for specialization, growth and increased profits.

Informal economies that exist in locations such as Nairobi’s Kibera settlement have the capacity to breed entrepreneurship and innovation. Businesses, in turn, gravitate towards a growing pool of highly-motivated and skilled labor. Local governments officials must therefore work hand-in-hand with central governments to harness the potential that lies in these areas. They must channel human capital away from informal trade, towards official platforms by providing connectivity, resources and opportunities. Such localized economic prosperity is contagious: higher incomes lead to higher spending, kickstarting a process of growth that ripples throughout the city, the nation and the wider region.

That said, effective spatial planning is difficult to implement retrospectively. Yet, many African countries are positioned relatively early in the urbanization process. Approximately 70 per cent of Mali’s population, for example, is rural. Another significant advantage held by ‘less-urbanized’ countries is their ability to bypass the many inefficient systems that more mature cities have evolved through, leapfrogging to implementing environmentally, economically and socially sustainable solutions. From developing infrastructure grids conducive to renewable energy sources, to using mobile phone networks to measure migration patterns, young cities have the potential to learn from the mistakes of others and leverage the benefits of modern technology to guide their expansion.

It is vital that those driving and managing urban growth today, recognize that they are not pushing a city towards a defined end point but engaging in an ongoing process. And this is the very theme which will be discussed at the ALN Africa Investment Conference in Dubai later this year. Short sighted projects that stretch resources to their limit must be rejected. Stakeholders must remain aware that one day they will have to pass on the baton of development to future generations. When considering the future of Mali, it hinges on equal opportunity for all and preserving an environment for the happiness of generations to come. And with this in mind, cities must plan for tomorrow as they build for today, only then will sustainable development be achieved and maintained, rewarding Africa, and its citizens, with the prosperity it deserves.

Continue Reading

Brand Voice

Driven By African Stories




What’s in a name? For the team at Africa Communications Media Group, ACG, quite a lot, actually. An African Corporate Communications and Media Agency based in South Africa with presence in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Rwanda, ACG also services the rest of Africa.

Having worked on numerous campaigns on the continent over the years, ACG takes pride in their reach spanning across all 54 African countries.

The journey began just under four years ago when co-founders Mimi Kalinda and Addis Alemayehou, who are both very passionate about Africa and driving her narrative, teamed up to begin what is now the first African-owned and run Pan-African Communications Agency.

ACG Group CEO and Co-Founder Mimi Kalinda. Picture: Supplied

The two were driven by the very pertinent need for African stories to be told by Africans in a way that is understanding of nuance and sensitive to the ways of the region.

“Doing business in Africa, while very rewarding, does not come without its challenges. It requires one to fully grasp the cultures, values and needs of the local consumer. My team and I know Africa, and sometimes that means accepting the fact that while we may not be the most conversant with the ways of a certain region, there are other people who are.

Therefore, we maintain great working relationships with our affiliate PR firms across Africa. They serve as our eyes and ears on the ground to ensure that any work we put out is relevant, culturally-attuned and timely,” says  Mimi Kalinda,  ACG Group Chief Executive and co-founder, on the commemoration of the company’s third anniversary.

ACG Managing Director Nonye Mpho Omotola Picture: Supplied

Public relations is fast changing from practitioners being the gatekeepers and liaisons between client and media; to playing an active role in the industry and, as such, the ACG team sees innovation as the backbone behind everything they do.

”Innovation is the backbone of everything we do at ACG. This is evidenced by the services we offer such as perception audits to better understand clients’ positioning in the market and stakeholder mapping to ensure that clients are speaking to the right audiences.

We also have a deep understanding of the media landscape in the countries our clients want to reach, giving them the on-air presence to help tangible results with visible returns on investment.  We play an active role in tying communication outcomes to the overall business objectives of our clients” says Nonye Mpho Omotola, ACG Managing Director

Tuba Mutwale Special Projects Coordinator and Nonye Mpho Omotola Managing Director of ACG. Picture: Supplied

A wonderfully diverse team, the ACG staff compliment comprises of people from Nigeria, DRC, Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Mozambique. The agency lives up to its name by being fully immersed in Africa and having a keen interest in the affairs and happenings of the continent.

When the team at FORBES WOMAN AFRICA approached ACG to participate as activation partners in the Leading Women Summit held at the Durban ICC, it was a natural alignment of goals for both parties as the management and entire team at ACG are passionate about the development of women, particularly in Africa. 

Continue Reading

Brand Voice

Rising Africa Series




A celebration of thought leaders, innovators, thinkers, problem solvers, and drivers of growth and development

Rising Ethiopia 2019

Dr. Mohammed Nuri Osman, Board Chair & CEO, Medtech, Ethiopia

Medtech is an Ethiopian pharmaceutical company that was created due to the shortage of pharmaceutical supplies in the country. Dr Mohammed Nuri, Chairman and CEO of Medtech Ethiopia began his long successful career as a clinic based medical doctor, and through an unstoppable passion for a more substantial quality of life in Africa, rose to become the CEO of Medtech.

He states that it is persistence which has brought Medtech great success and
will increase the company’s stability even further. Medtech is known for supplying long term solutions to create an affordable and accessible pharmaceutical market.

Dr. Mohammed Nuri Osman, Board Chair & CEO, Medtech Ethiopia. Picture: Supplied

With this in mind, Nuri has set goals in motion to become one of the top three African pharmaceutical companies by 2020. Through his endeavors, Medtech has advanced from trading limited drugs to manufacturing a variety of advanced medicines.

Nuri states that Medtech follows an invaluable level of respect and reputation for all included parties, striving toward the motto ‘we care to cure’.

To Nuri there is nothing more important than quality at the core of everything Medtech does, bringing affordable drugs to Ethiopians throughout the country and beyond.

Benyam Bisrat, Managing Director Jupiter International Hotel, Ethiopia

“We are certainly endowed with numerous attractions, extensive historical sites, and a great climate mix, however, our competitive edge remains elusive because we are yet to properly develop and brand our product globally.

Benyam Bisrat, Managing Director Jupiter International Hotel Ethiopia. Picture: Supplied

Despite this, in recent years, Ethiopia’s tourism and hospitality industry has
emerged as one of the key sectors driving the country’s economy. The tourist sector continues to flourish, owing it to a surge in both business
and leisure travel, with international and regional visitor numbers climbing.

This said, there are plenty opportunities for investors, not only in mid-scale hotels, but also in timeshare business, conference centers, water parks, golf courses, and recreation centers throughout the country.”

Continue Reading

Brand Voice

Banking On The Financial Freedom Of African Women




4G Capital’s Chief of Staff, Genevieve Hennessy-Barrett discusses how inclusion, female mentorship and shared knowledge can cross borders and heal Africa’s displaced and most vulnerable women.

Access to financial services and the freedom to open a bank account remains unattainable for many women around the world, and even more so in frontier markets. 

Some progress has been made; the number of bank accounts owned by women now equals men in South Africa.  But, elsewhere on our continent, the situation is not so encouraging.  According to a 2017 Global Findex report, the gender gap remains, on average, just over 9% across Sub-Saharan Africa, unchanged since 2011.  

We are all too familiar with the numerous reasons why women all over the world find it difficult to gain financial independence.  In ‘emerging’ markets there exists an even greater lack of opportunity in terms of education and work, and in some cases a cultural expectation that can prevent women from investing in their own future. 

But no matter the challenge, women have always adapted and overcome through the creation of their own opportunities, and have worked together to protect and support their families and communities.

Female entrepreneurs make significant contributions to local and national economies. The SME Finance Forum’s research indicates that almost one third of the world’s small businesses are owned by women and account for 32% of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME)  finance gap, estimated to be worth be $5.2 trillion.

4G Capital’s Chief of Staff, Genevieve Hennessy-Barrett. Picture: Supplied

Lack of collateral, official identification and correct paperwork, are the primary reasons for financial exclusion.  Access to credit is often extremely difficult for MSMEs, and even more so for small businesses owned by women who are often given less favourable terms than their male peers. 

As a fintech credit company working with MSMEs who are typically excluded from traditional financial institutions, 4G Capital has sought to bridge not only the finance gap, but also address the gap in financial literacy.  By combining these offerings we can alleviate poverty sustainably and unlock vital human potential.  We are on target to positively impact more than 1 million people by 2020. 

We believe it is our blend of finance and education delivered via ‘touch-tech’ that is responsible for our appeal to many female business owners. Although we did not focus our marketing strategy on gender, 81% of our customers are female. 

We are able to support their development through a bespoke programme of business training to help them use our micro-loans to achieve much higher take-home earnings.  

According to recent research by one of our partners, Technoserve, this combination of training combined with working capital credit resulted in an 82% increase in revenue year-on-year.

But imagine the challenges faced by women who have had to flee their own countries, seeking refuge and safety for themselves and often for their children. Determined to build a sustainable future, their plight has gained the attention of RefuSHE, a charity set to provide support to refugee women in Kenya.

4G Capital has initiated a program to deliver business training and mentorship to RefuSHE’s Girls’ Empowerment Project (GEP), designed to give access to education and livelihood opportunities, while learning about human rights and cultivating leadership skills.

We kick started this partnership by welcoming the girls at one of our 4G Capital branches.  They were given training on basic business principles such as book keeping and responsible management of business credit.

Based on what they learnt, RefuSHE’s girls have now taken part in our Business Plan Competition.  

Successful participants have been taken forward to internships and matched with successful female entrepreneurs who are customers of 4G Capital.  

They will be supported, mentored and trained. The hope is that with this initiative, these girls who were once so vulnerable will now gain the necessary skills to run a successful business, be part of a community and build a new life.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we’d like to honour all the women of Africa striving to build a future for themselves and their communities by saluting their determination, knowledge, wisdom, humour and humanity in the face of the challenges which affect us all.

Continue Reading