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FOCUS ON CAMEROON: The Heart Of Africa Unleashing Its Potential From Within

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“As a source of creativity and vitality, our diversity blends harmoniously with our desire to live together, to lay the groundwork for our constant quest for the consolidation of our country’s unity.” – President Paul Biya

Many consider Cameroon to be a source of life for Africa due to its size, connectivity, advantageous position and accessible coastline. It serves as an entryway for other landlocked countries and its ports position Cameroon’s economy in a rising trend, registering 4.2% annual growth, with estimations that it will reach 5% in 2020. Much of Cameroon’s economic growth is due to its diversity, and under the guidance of President Paul Biya and PM Joseph Dion Ngute, Cameroon is dedicated to solidifying its role as a major economic player by improving its infrastructure, finance, energy, and ICT sectors, among others. These positive changes are set to create new opportunities for investment and improve the country’s rating in the ease of doing business index. 

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In the infrastructure sector, Cameroon is working towards improving its foundations on which they can build the future. The port sector is building new and modernising its ports to enhance trade, exports and transportation. For example, the Kribi port is a new port that is designed to ease the flow of traffic from the current ports that experience high volume. As the younger port in Cameroon, the port is also well located in the centre of Africa, making it a prime location for new investment opportunities. “It is one of the deepest [ports] in the area of the Gulf of Guinea, and our infrastructure and equipment are very modern,” says Patrice Melom, General Manager of the Port Authority of Kribi.

Additionally, the infrastructure and tourism sectors are combining forces with the establishment of new routes for Cameroon’s airline, Camair-Co. As the airline expands from domestic to inter-regional and intercontinental flights, the economy of Cameroon will enjoy a large influx of Forex to boost the economy. Not to mention, Cameroon’s new Japoma Sports Complex project, will aid Cameroon greatly as they host the 2021 African Cup of Nations, an event that is destined to show visitors from all over the world just what Cameroon has to offer. Additionally, this stadium will continue to help the country prosper, boosting other sectors.Tufan Sercan, Regional Director of Yenigün Construction Company, says, “Japoma will re- ally be a nice complex, it should certainly attract real estate.”

As the country advances in infrastructure and tourism, the energy sector is ready to handle the influx of persons visiting. To begin, Cameroon is investing in clean energy as a means to eliminate reliance on imported fuels. Universal access to energy is at the top of the Cameroonian government’s agenda. Not only is the sector working towards enhancing its electricity sector, they are also exploring natural gas options that will make the country more self-sufficient. Not to mention, the country has a wealth of renewable sources of energy, such as hydro, solar, geothermal, biomass and wind energy. The successful implementation of Lom Pangar dam has allowed Cameroon to decrease its dependence on thermal power plants. The plant guarantees less cost and pollution, not to mention an additional 700 GWh of hydroelectric generation, almost twice that of a thermal power station that runs on heavy fuel oil. Dr Theodore Nsangou states, “These efforts are why the World Bank cites the Lom Pangar Project as a successful model of hydropower development.”

In today’s world, finance and ICT are closely related. As the coverage of internet access throughout the country has exploded from 4.3% in 2013 to 43.6% in 2018, more Cameroonians are connected now than ever. Taking that into consideration, the financial sector is digitising its services to make sure that financial inclusion is a thing of the past. Ecobank, for example, recognises that digitalisation is one of the biggest changes the Cameroonian financial sector is experiencing today, and they see it as an opportunity to strengthen its role as the digital leader of the market. “With our services, clients can send money to anybody anywhere there is an Ecobank,” says Gwendoline Nzo-Nguty Abunaw, Managing Director of Ecobank.

There is an old proverb that states, “There lies a lion in every heart.” As Cameroon is one of the hearts of Africa, we can see that this proverb holds true for the potential of the country and its unique place in Africa. Through preparations of infrastructure, which lead directly into aiding the tourism sector and motivate other sectors such as energy, ICT and finance, it is clear that Cameroon is preparing for a prosperous future that will allow the lion’s roar to be heard from all over the world.

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FOCUS ON Seychelles: Pioneers In Protecting The Beating Blue Heart Of The Planet

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“Our ocean is our most precious resource. We recognise not just its vast potential, but also the fragility of its ecosystems and the need to preserve it for future generations. The ocean is the beating blue heart of our planet.”

President Danny Faure

            The Republic of Seychelles is endowed with extremely rich biodiversity both on land and in its oceans. After tourism, the fisheries sector employs 17% of the Seychelles population, making it the country’s most important industry. As a result, the country has become a pioneer in Blue Economy by recognising the immense importance of protecting earth’s greatest asset.

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This year, President Danny Faure of Seychelles gave an opening speech at the Blue Economy conference in Mozambique. As a guest of honour, President Faure focused on the benefits and importance of the world’s nations coming together to achieve a collective and sustainable plan to conserve the ocean and protect the future of the earth. President Faure said, “Our ocean is our most precious resource. We recognise not just its vast potential, but also the fragility of its ecosystems and the need to preserve it for future generations. The ocean is the beating blue heart of our planet.” Currently, the Blue Economy is backed by 36 countries and growing.

            Blue Economy is an economic initiative that focuses on best practices for business while ensuring that sectors promote safe and sustainable utilisation of ocean and marine resources. The result is economic growth, job creation and improved living conditions while simultaneously protecting the health of the ocean and all relative marine ecosystems. Blue Economy permeates every sector in Seychelles, creating an entire economy that is dedicated toward protecting the ocean. This isn’t just a relevant problem for an island country like Seychelles, this initiative has inspired countries all over the world to implement better practices that have positive effects for the environment. Amb. Barry J.J. Faure, Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs and of the Blue Economy, states, “Blue Economy is the key: not only for island states and coastal states but for states that have waterways.”

In their goal to conserve the environment, Seychelles has introduced a new financial tool to raise capital from impact investors to finance marine and ocean-based projects that have positive environmental, economic and climate benefits: the blue bond. Vice President of Seychelles, Vincent Meriton, says, “The blue bond is one of the world’s most innovative financial instruments in recent years. The bond, which raised USD$15 million from international investors, demonstrates the potential for countries to harness capital markets for financing the Blue Economy.” The blue bond has helped the Seychelles’ government save over USD$8 million in interest charges over the next ten years. Meriton continues, “Mobilising private finance is a major achievement, one that could be replicated in other African nations, allowing them to protect their environment while restructuring and transforming their economy.”
            Blue Economy has an impact on almost every sector: fisheries, agriculture, renewable and tidal energy, pharmaceutical, petroleum and gas. In the tourism sector, maintenance of Seychelles’ oceans and beautiful beaches helps the Seychelles Tourism Board promote the country as a welcoming and exotic getaway for travellers. Construction and infrastructure sectors are adhering to Blue Economy, as well, where they implement eco-friendly practices in their projects. The financial sector has a large hand in Blue Economy with the blue bond, but also in the implementation of the Agriculture Development Fund, the Fisheries Development Fund and the Green Climate Development Fund, which work further to conserve these industries and ensure that they thrive. The message that these sectors are sending is that even the smallest sustainable efforts have impacted the country in a great way. As Johan Van Schalkwyk, Managing Director of Absa has stated, “If we start creating opportunities for us to add more value from what we reap in the ocean, it is an incredible thing for local ventures.” For example, a local business that cleans seaweed from the beaches not only keeps the shores pleasant for tourists but converts the collected seaweed into fertiliser for the agriculture industry, impacting multiple sectors at once. This is just one example of how dedication to Blue Economy can impact the economy in a positive way.

In addition, Seychelles has become an ideal place for research, not only in the sense of exploring the ocean and its riches but as an experimental market. Telecom company Airtel is one such example, arriving in Seychelles for its first geographic expansion, implementing the country’s submarine cable project. The Seychelles East Africa Submarine (SEAS) cable project consisted in the establishment of the first submarine fibre optic cable for international connections from Seychelles to the African continent. After much success in this project, Airtel is now present in several African countries.

In a small country such as Seychelles, movements toward ocean conservation and sustainable development of sectors can have quick and positive results for the economy of the country. Seychelles continues to be an island getaway for tourists from all over the world, and it is obvious that Seychelles is leading by example with Blue Economy. They have positioned themselves as pioneers of Blue Economy, demonstrating to the world that sustainable development is not just a dream–it can be a reality.

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Sanlam & NASASA Launch NASASA Financial Services For Stokvels

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Sanlam and the National Stokvel Association of South Africa (NASASA) have launched NASASA Financial Services (Pty) Ltd; a brokerage catering to the financial services needs of the South African stokvel market. NASASA is a self-regulatory organisation with a database of 125 000 stokvel groups, reaching about 2.5 million individuals. The new entity will foster greater financial inclusion for all members.


Jacqui Rickson, Chief Executive: Group Benefits at Sanlam Developing Markets Limited and Board member of NASASA Financial Services says, “For South African stokvels this is an opportunity to formalise their existence without having to forego their traditions. The peace-of-mind that each member of a stokvel will be protected in their time of need is invaluable.”

“Stokvels are powerful financial services providers in their own right,” says NASASA Financial Services CEO, Mizi Mtshali “and have the potential to help grow South Africa’s economy once they enter the more formalised sector through appropriate product offerings”. Currently, there are over 800 000 stokvels in the country, aggregating an estimated R50-billion pa. They are, however, quite exposed, especially to liquidity issues that may render them unable to discharge benefits to their members, as well as scams that promise to resolve such issues. This results from a lack of accessible, relevant products that meet the needs of a more informal savings sector. 

As a result, some burial stokvels may not pay enough to cover funeral expenses in their entirety. By offering broad-based financial services to members, NASASA Financial Services will empower stokvels through greater socio-economic inclusion and security.

Jacqui Rickson says, “This venture supports our client-centric focus by allowing financial inclusion to be extended to South Africans who are on the edge of the formalised insurance structures.  Through this, we can help families recover financially following difficult, unexpected events.”

NASASA Financial Services is currently licensed as a Juristic Representative of Sanlam Developing Markets, with a long-term plan to become a Financial Services Provider (FSP).  NASASA Financial Services will distribute tailor-made products nationally via its distribution force. Sanlam as underwriter, through NASASA Financial Services, will initially offer group-based funeral benefits, tailored to each individual type of stokvel.

Products are competitively priced and start at R15 per person. Once the stokvel has selected its option, the stokvel will pay one premium for the whole group. For burial stokvels, Sanlam has designed a full product, covering up to nine family members and all products have been created in partnership with NASASA.

Currently, the product offering includes:

  • A Principal Member Only Funeral Benefit
  • An Immediate Family Funeral Benefit
  • A Principal Member Plus Up To 9 Dependents Funeral Benefit
  • Grocery and Airtime Cash Benefits

NASASA is about educating their members about wealth and more appropriately, financial health, which includes saving on the expense of premiums through aggregation and paying group rates rather than more expensive individualised rates. We’ve designed products as an extension of this; as a tangible, affordable, non-intrusive offering that seamlessly blends the required formal structures with community-based traditional structures.

Mizi Mtshali, NASASA CEO, adds, “The research conducted during the build-up of our product launch saw the solution being entirely built by participating stovels. As a result, we deliver unmatched value by buiding a solution briefed in by our constituency. Amongst the majority of South Africans, funeral insurance fulfils an unmistakable need. While many are excluded from the formal financial system, those who do interface with the sector largely feel inadequately serviced. Burial Societies are formed as providers of such services and have developed systems around the real needs of their members. There are roughly 200 000 active Burial Societies in South Africa, with the majority being self-underwritten.

Because such groups rely on their collective savings to discharge their benefit to members, they often face liquidity problems that may lead to their disbandment. This brings about the need for an underwriter who will take on the risk on behalf of the group, as well as offer a set of products and services built around the group’s needs. NASASA is tasked by its members to solve this problem, and we have identified Sanlam as the most suitable partner in this regard.”

Mtshali says this venture will also facilitate job creation, which is key to socioeconomic inclusion, “For South Africans, this opportunity provides meaningful employment particularly in the township economy. Not only is this a step towards financial inclusion, but a giant leap towards societal transformation”

Down the line, NASASA Financial Services is aiming to extend its offering to include life cover as well as short-term products like household insurance and is investigating the potential of integrating other banking products.

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SPONSORED: RISING WOMAN – A Celebration Of Women

Advertorial BY STRATEGY BUSINESS GROUP

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A celebration of women, thought leaders, innovators, thinkers, problem solvers, and drivers of growth and development who are contributing to the Rising Africa Story.


ABENA BRIGIDI

CEO Nimed Capital, Ghana

Nimed Capital’s Managing Director and CEO demonstrated a flair for finance early in her professional career. She quickly rose through the ranks at Zenith Bank from a customer service advisor to a relationship manager and head of customer service. Her expertise in corporate finance, funds and investment management, as well as investment research, has effectively paired with her entrepreneurial drive to create one of Ghana’s leading investment banks. Today, the investment analyst, author, and speaker is a passionate advocate for empowering women through recognition and promotion of the efforts and successes of women in various industries.

Brigidi herself was recognized as one of the Woman Rising’s 100 Most Outstanding Women Entrepreneurs in Ghana in 2017 and adjudged the Emerging Woman Entrepreneur of the Year.


YOADAN TILAHUN

CEO Flawless Events, Ethiopia

Running seamless, perfect – flawless – events was a vision of Ethiopian-born Yoadan Tilahun.

Initially launched in Washington, DC and transplanted to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Flawless Events has worked tirelessly to earn its well-deserved reputation for innovation and creativity. As a result, it has achieved substantial growth in its 15 years of operation.

Tilahun is known for instituting exceptionally high work standards and always doing business with integrity and honesty.

Tilahun is also an enthusiastic advocate for professionalizing the MICE industry in East Africa and is an active member of the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA). In 2018, she was named Seasoned Entrepreneur of the Year by Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW).


MICHELLE TAKON

Founder Narnia Events, Nigeria

What advice would you give young women entrepreneurs?

Firstly, young women entrepreneurs need to understand the business they’d like to go into; the business environment, target market, and then ensure that their business ideas will solve a problem before they embark on their entrepreneurial journey.

I would also tell them to make sure that whatever they choose to do, should be borne out of passion and not based on what other people are doing or how much money others are making.


DR. IBILOLA AMAO

STEM Specialist & CEO Lonadek, Nigeria

Dr. Amao established Lonadek with a greater purpose than just providing technical consultancy to ensure that local and indigenous companies utilized established systems, processes and procedures to deliver quality goods and services. She envisioned a company that could continually develop the capacity of young Africans in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Dr. Amao also mentors young professionals and engages with Junior Engineers, Technicians, and Scientists (JETS) clubs. Over the last 25 years, Lonadek has successfully trained over 5,000 certified engineers, designers, and cost consultants in the utilization of engineering software and information technology.


QUEEN OHAMARA

Founder, Qmara Vie Planners, Nigeria

Qmara Vie Planners is a boutique events management company based in Abuja, Nigeria and founded by Queen Ohamara. The company emphasizes adding luxury and sophistication to their client’s event while maintaining a sense of modernity.

Qmara Vie Planner is comprised of a young, vibrant team that is constantly innovating and pushing themselves to creatively turning dreams into reality. The company prides itself on curating unique once in a lifetime experiences. That is why her company bears all the stress of planning an event so clients can enjoy their special day.


ADAMA AMANDA NDIAYE

Adama Paris, Senegal

Adama Amanda Ndiay is a Senegalese fashion designer born in Kinshasa, Zaire. She epitomizes the multicultural fashion designer of the new millennium.

Adama is also the founder and producer of many fashion events such as Dakar Fashion Week, the Afrika Fashion Awards, also known as the Trophies of African Fashion (TMA), and the Black Fashion Week in Prague, Paris, Bahia, and Montreal since 2010. Adama and her team also launched the first Fashion Africa Channel in 2014. She is a passionate advocate for the promotion of women entrepreneurship throughout Africa.


TANG SAU MUOI

CEO of ILCI Business School & IESIG Management School, France

As I ran from war and emigrated to France, I never had the chance to finish my education. I was certain that the only way to succeed was to be well-educated. The benefit of a good education was exemplified by my children; all five attained Master’s degrees and have good jobs.

I wanted to give the same chance to children from abroad, to benefit from a good education. I established the IESIG School and ILCI Business School with the main focus of offering programs that align with future employment needs.

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