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How carefully managed urbanization can help African nations prosper

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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.

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A Nation Ready For Equitable and Sustainable Take-Off

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 “Commitment to the national constructive dialogue has enabled meaningful progress towards the settlement of differences and building an effective, lasting and sustainable peace which provides the necessary environment for the strengthening of national unity, reconciliation and resumption of the country’s economic growth.” President Filipe Nyusi

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Mozambique’s economy is on the rebound; within the first half of 2018, it grew at the rate of 3.2%, inducing declines in interest rates and the stabilisation of its currency. “The  medium-and long-term prospects for the Mozambican economy are excellent,” states Dr Rogério Zandamela, Governor of the Bank of Mozambique. “We have already calibrated our instruments to ensure macroeconomic and financial system stability to provide greater predictability to economic agents in their decisions to save and invest.” The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also stated that in 2019, the Mozambican economy could grow between 4% and 4.7% (higher than the 3.5% forecast for 2018). The main reasons for this are the government’s focus on peace, as well as its relaxation of monetary policy and fiscal consolidation resulting in improved ease of doing business.

Hydrocarbon research and production underway in the north of Mozambique are also key to the nation’s transformation and growth. The recent discovery of enormous reserves of hydrocarbons is set to position Mozambique as one of the world’s leading liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporters. The Mozambique LNG Project is Mozambique’s first ever onshore LNG development and, according to Omar Mithá, Chairman and CEO of ENH, “is an integrated project: upstream and mainstream, two trains, with a 5.6 million capacity each to produce 12 million tonnes per annum.” The Project will also initially supply volumes of approximately 100 million cubic feet per day of natural gas for domestic use in Mozambique, and is expected to have a future expansion of up to 50 million tonnes per annum. “Our major goal is then to construct both the offshore developments and the two onshore LNG processing trains and associated facilities safely, on time and on budget,” explains Steve Wilson, Anadarko’s Vice President & Country Manager. The South Coral Project and the Rovuma LNG Project is the first project in the development of the (approximately) 450 billion cubic metres of gas in Rovuma Basin’s Area 4. The Plan of Development foresees the drilling and completion of six subsea wells and the construction of the FLNG.  It is also the first Project Finance ever arranged in the world for a liquefaction floater. Alessandro Nanotti, General Manager Upstream of Mozambique Rovuma Venture S.p.A., explains; “The insurance on the project is the largest ever done on the whole value of the vessel, in which partners will invest seven billion dollars. The project-financing is the largest ever ensured in Africa and we believe that we will contribute to the economic recovery of the country.”

Abundant natural resource wealth and the nation’s fertile, arable land, has placed Mozambique on the foreign direct investment (FDI) map. “Mozambique has vast unexploited mineral resources, large areas of arable land with ample ground water, 2400 kilometres of coastline with underexploited marine resources and pristine beaches as potential leisure destinations,” explains Jose Parayanken, President of Mozambique Holdings Limited. Mozambique’s Economic and Social Plan (PES) 2019, reveals that the nation’s commitment to diversification and inclusive growth will ensure strong performances in mining, fisheries and agricultural sectors. Its potential in energy generation though renewables and EDM’s introduction of new technologies aims to electrify the whole nation by 2025, while improved exchange control, local content law and Nacala Logistics Corridor are encouraging domestic production, generating jobs and enhancing income potential. MD Ramesh, President and Head of Olam in south and east Africa, states: “We are trying to ensure that farming communities do well and create wealth for themselves so that they can decide how they can use that wealth.”

With a favourable trading environment and current investment in infrastructure, Mozambique is ready to live up to its full potential at last. “Mozambique has competitive advantages in terms of position, resources and our people are very determined and work hard,” declares Samuel Samo Gudo, President of Escopil. “We are now building strong government institutions which is making Mozambique more sustainable in the long-run.”

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Thought Leaders in Ghana

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Q&A with Julian Kingsley Opuni, Deputy MD, Fidelity Bank


You are known for  excellence in creating  international partnerships, joint ventures and synergies within the international business community, how has this process evolved over the years?

Our vision is to create a world-class bank in Africa. In 10 years, we have become the largest Ghanaian, private sector bank in Ghana. This journey has not been achieved on our own. We are built on partnerships. When we needed technology as our operations expanded, we partnered with IBM, a global leader in technology, to stabilize our technology platform. We also bought Pro Credit in 2014 in our quest to expand our branch network and to strengthen our SME business.

Our core mission is how we impact the people and communities around us, and so we have partnered with several developmental organisations such as USAID, Financial Sector Deepening Africa, GIZ, Solidaridad and SNV to impact many lives in remote rural locations with financial services. As we advance into the digital era, we will continue to lead that charge through partnerships with various fintech and telcos. Products such our Yello Save,which is a partnership with MTN, will help us provide financial services quicker and faster to more people.

Looking back on the first decade or so with your firm, what have been the most significant developments in your bank?

Fidelity Bank’s strength in an arguably challenged banking environment is grounded firmly in the quality of our balance sheet and the adequacy of our capital. We were ranked 2nd among the top 10 banks (by balance sheet size) in terms of capital adequacy ratio in 2018. 

Over 75% of our balance sheet was in liquid and near liquid investments. We understand the trade-off between liquidity, risk and return,and our tactical strategy has been to make the necessary re-balancing adjustments to remain profitable and strong.

Fidelity Bank has embraced the digital landscape, offering a myriad of products and services for both Corporate and Personal Banking customers. Our most popular digital solutions for individual customers, is the Fidelity Mobile App which was built with the customer’s most important needs in mind. It is super easy to use, fast and very secure. You can generate eStatements, perform FX sale, make card limit requests, QR code to merchants,make internal transfer or transfer money to any mobile money wallet. 


 Julian Kingsley Opuni, Deputy MD, Fidelity Bank. Picture: Supplied

In our quest to make the society and the world at large a more sustainable place to live, we were awarded the Best CSR Bank for the second time at the 2015 Ghana Banking Awards. In 2016, we also won the best CSR Bank in the Sixth Ghana CSR Excellence Awards (GHACEA).

Ghana has one of the poorest sanitation records in Africa. To provide supply side solutions to sanitation, Fidelity Bank partnered with the Embassy for the Kingdom of Netherlands (EKN) and SNV Netherlands Development Organization to improve Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). With the support of USAID, the SMART Agri finance project was actively implemented with our field partners, SNV. 

This was primarily to raise the awareness of a savings culture through the use of digitized payment systems among small holder farmers(especially women). We provided over 2,600 farmers financial education, about 65% of them were women.

How do you impart knowledge to the younger generation?

We believe that the best way in which we can support the younger generation is through financial empowerment. 

We do that by developing innovative financial products that allow younger people to access easily finance.  

Our Smart Account and Agency banking proposition has enabled many young people to receive their first bank accounts. These accounts go with financial education materials that allow them to understand how to use their accounts. 

Cocoa is the mainstay of our economy, yet the average age of a cocoa farmer is over 55 yrs. We are working with Solidaridad with support from the MasterCard Foundation to deliver financial education to many young people to encourage them to take up cocoa farming.

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Q&A with Uche Okafor, Country Manager, Taxify Nigeria

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What is your vision for  Taxify in Nigeria?  

By improving the user experience and creating social value, Taxify has been able to build an open, efficient and sustainable transportation ecosystem. 

With hundreds of thousands of riders using the platform and the best arrival times in the cities within which we operate, we’re fast becoming the most efficient ride-hailing platform in the country and the preferred way to move around the city. 

We want to build the future of transportation in Nigeria and lead the vision to transform the country into a mega-nation. This doesn’t happen overnight, but we believe in the power of technology to transform the way that we think about moving. 

Uche Okafor, Country Manager, Taxify Nigeria. Picture: Supplied

Taxify is very focused on meeting the demands of its customers.  To that end, what strategies has Taxify put in place to attract customers and ensure their satisfaction?

A key selling point for Taxify is our availability. Nigerians have a go-getter spirit and are always on the move. 

This means that time and convenience are key factors in becoming a preferred brand.It is important to provide efficient support and service recovery for both our riders and driver-partners. 

Additionally, we are always working to build value-added partnerships that ensure that everyone that chooses Taxify gets the best out of our platform. 

Taxify also offers high quality, safe and comfortable rides. All of these things add value and ensure our riders enjoy superior experiences on every trip.

How does Taxify Nigeria’s dynamic team contribute to its success?  

We all come from different backgrounds and cultures and are as a result, able to bring different perspectives to the table. 

We all believe in a bigger vision and that our task is not just to build the future of transportation but to change the way that people move in cities across Nigeria and Africa.  

A huge part of our jobs is to create an environment where flexibility and diversity are not only encouraged but celebrated.  That has contributed to our innovative and forward-thinking approach that has led to our success.

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