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Forbes Africa — The Journey

This first edition of FORBES AFRICA is a milestone in business journalism in Africa. It is also a story of entrepreneurship and investment in the challenging world of media.



FORBES AFRICA’s publisher, Rakesh Wahi, is also the co-founder and vice chairman of Africa Business News (ABN), which also owns CNBC Africa.

Deal of a lifetime: Rakesh Wahi signs the FORBES AFRICA franchise agreement with Gary Alfonso, editor-in-chief; Roberta Naidoo, general manager; and Sid Wahi, project manager in attendance.

As an entrepreneur in the media space in Africa, why did you choose FORBES AFRICA as your next venture?

Our vision for ABN from the beginning was to create a business media conglomerate that would have a point of presence in all African countries. The intent is to have a mechanism to aggregate real-time information from across the continent and roll it out in different media, namely television, print and online. Both aggregation and exhibition have to be carried out in tandem to make the business model viable.

The television business was set up in June 2007 with CNBC as our partner. CNBC is a global leader in business television. For the print business we evaluated several options, but the FORBES brand is the one that my partner, Zafar Siddiqi, and I pursued as it is, to our minds, the most inspirational business magazine in the world.

How did it come about?

My interaction started with the management of FORBES in June 2008. They had tried to enter the African market earlier but were not able to find the right partnership model, and hence were also waiting for the right opportunity.

As in any business relationship, there was a lot of due diligence requirements and submissions of business plans, etcetera. Our vision and our presence in the business media genre were clearly key factors, which went in our favor.

What did the process entail? Was it complicated or simple?

The process, by our own requirements, needed us to carry out an in-depth analysis of the print industry in Africa and the gaps that we wanted to fill in a market that was cluttered with a lot of other good quality products. We had to first convince ourselves that there was a demand and secondly, we were well placed to meet that demand. I allocated sufficient resources to making this initial determination.

Our initial findings were positive, with several cautions. We had to work through these red flags to make sure that we had the right answers—firstly, from the perspective of the market, and more importantly, viable commercially, keeping in mind the expectations of FORBES.

I think that in any venture, it’s important to spend a lot of time on getting the fundamentals right. The process, therefore, is not complicated or simple, but is mainly focused on being very thorough. The legal agreements were cumbersome and I had a good team, led by Gary Alfonso and Roberta Naidoo, working with me on the transaction.

While the recession delayed our plans, the real challenges started once we took a decision to launch. My son Sidharth stepped up as the project manager for the business and has worked tirelessly with the team to set the ball in motion. We now have a full team on board, with Chris Bishop leading the charge as managing editor.

Why did you see FORBES AFRICA particularly as an opportunity? Isn’t print journalism a dying breed in the world of publishing?

I would not have ventured into this business without having the synergies with our existing business. We have operating synergies in the business news genre and this was the primary consideration. Zafar and I spent a lot of time with our shareholders and management team to analyze issues and came up with a plan that we thought would work.

Co-founder and Chairman Zafar Siddiqi with publisher and co-founder Rakesh Wahi

Keeping in mind media consumption habits of the future and recognizing that the future lies in hand-held devices, we have a strategy on building the subscription model via the internet. The shape of the final product will be revealed in the not-so-distant future and is being worked on together with our partners in New York.

What’s your vision for a media group that now owns the Africa distribution rights of two of the most powerful business news brands in the world?

Our vision remains unchanged on our ambition to be Africa’s most powerful business media conglomerate. We are expanding our geographic network and will have a physical presence in 10 African countries by 2012 and 18 countries by 2014.

We see ourselves looking at distribution as a means to achieve our goals for viewership and will be seeking partnerships on terrestrial networks across Africa, and where possible, acquire networks.

On the print side, we are interested in adding to our stable and will seek other titles that we can bolt into our business to achieve efficiencies and additional economies of scale.

On the internet side, we are building great momentum on ABN Digital ( and via YouTube, where more than one million views of our content have been downloaded. Evolution of the telecoms sector will bring about a lot of changes in the delivery of content and we are making all the necessary arrangements to be there when that happens.

What’s your view on Africa as a marketplace? And the future of the media industry on the African continent?

Zafar and I are both great believers in the African story. We have been here for seven years now and think that this has been the most incredible learning experience of our lives.

If you analyze Africa without South Africa, you will see the opportunity in every area of economic development. Media is very immature on the continent, from both a reporting and consumption perspective. The revenue drivers are tough; skills are lacking and costs are high. Consequently, there has been limited interest for media companies to push ahead on a pan-African model.


Our shareholders, like the IDC, share our vision to build the African marketplace. It is my belief that the industry needs to rally behind some common objectives of sharing and building capacity on the continent. Governments have to be active participants in the process of deregulation and being active catalysts to growth, and not become impediments to the free flow of information. Transparency is an inevitable part of economic growth and media will play an important role in shaping the opinion of constituents.

I do believe that we are already adding value to this process and hope that we can achieve all our near-term goals on the continent.



Leaving Airplane Middle Seats Empty Could Cut Coronavirus Risk Almost In Half, A Study Says




A new research paper from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that blocking out the middle seat on airplanes could cause the likelihood of passengers being infected with coronavirus to drop by nearly half, just as some airlines are starting to book flights to capacity again.


  • According to the MIT paper (which has not been peer reviewed) the chances of catching coronavirus from a nearby passenger on a full airplane when all coach seats are filled is about 1 in 4,300.
  • However, those odds drop to 1 in 7,700 when all the middle seats on board are left empty, the paper states.
  • Taking into account a 1% mortality rate according to the statistical model, the likelihood of dying from a coronavirus case contracted on a plane is far more likely than dying in a plane crash, which has odds of about 1 in 34 million, the paper stated. 
  • In “Covid-19 Risk Among Airline Passengers: Should the Middle Seat Stay Empty?” the author of the study, Arnold Barnett, wrote that his analysis aims to be “a rough approximation” of the risks involved in flying during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • “The airlines are setting their own policies but the airlines and the public should know about the risk implications of their choices,” Barnett told ZDNet this week.
  • The paper comes just as more flight carriers, like American Airlines, begin booking flights to full capacity despite surges of the virus across the country. 


The coronavirus pandemic has been disastrous for the travel industry, and has especially hurt airlines. Major American carriers including American, Delta and United have asked employees to take buyouts and early retirement, Forbes reported, in a bid to cut costs as the pandemic causes them to bleed cash. United Airlines warned this week that it could be forced to furlough 36,000 jobs, or nearly half of its American workers, starting in October if travel doesn’t pick up. In April, the airline estimated that in the first quarter it lost $2.1 billion pre-tax, Forbes reported, and was losing $100 million a day in the last half of March. Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said in May he expects a major airline to go out of business in 2020 as a result of pandemic pressure.


American Airlines announced two weeks ago it would begin booking middle seats again starting in July, although the carrier will allow passengers to switch from a full flight without any extra cost, Forbes reported. United is also selling tickets for middle seats. American Airlines took flak earlier this month when Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) tweeted a picture of his crowded flight


If airlines continue to extend their policy of keeping middle seats blocked off or if they’ll be forced to book to capacity to turn a profit. Southwest and Delta have both committed to keeping their middle seats blocked off until at least the end of September, while JetBlue will do the same through July, according to the Washington Post.

Carlie Porterfield, Forbes Staff, Business

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From The Arab World To Africa



Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi; image supplied

In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.

She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.

In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.

As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.

The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.

In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.

She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes. 

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Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty




In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.

The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing. 

“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”

The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”

Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.

Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.

“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”

Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff, Hollywood & Entertainment

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