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Investment Guide

Africa Is A Safe Bet

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Positive news is flowing out of Africa these days. The global consultancy Ernst & Young, now EY, ranks Africa as the world’s second-most attractive market after North America.

If anyone had asked me, I would have pointed at China as the world’s second-most attractive market after the United States (US).

Okay, forgive me. China is the world’s biggest factory yard. Can Africa be a base for a global factory and one day rival China’s manufacturing might? Yes it can.

Let’s start with the obvious. African governments certainly need to invest more in healthcare, education and innovation. They need to promote more public and private capital into infrastructure – roads, modern railways, power plants etc. These steps should – all things being equal – further facilitate intra-Africa trade which also needs to grow. Presently, African nations conduct only about 10% of their trade with each other, according to the World Bank, which also reports that the continent’s share of global trade in value terms currently stands at less than 5%.

A substantial share of the world’s timber, diamonds, gold, cobalt, copper and platinum come out of Africa. Transforming Africa’s raw materials into finished goods before exporting them to the rest of the world would also help.

South Africa already exports German technology (BMW sedans) to the US. Ethiopia has excellent leather and coffee. Kenya produces world-class tea and horticulture. Beyond its crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to international markets, Nigeria’s movie and music industry has practically displaced European and American pop culture across the continent, helping to rekindle African pride, local talent industries and worldwide appetite for indigenous African content.

Foreign firms are all over Africa, scrambling for opportunities. In China’s case, its direct investment in sub-Saharan Africa has jumped from virtually nothing in 2002 to $18.2 billion in 2012. The EYs and McKinseys of this world are only stating the obvious: Africa is a very safe bet for Western and Asian companies, European private equity firms and fund managers from Silicon Valley looking for superior return of investment (ROI). The counterpoint to this fact is to ask how well Africa will harvest its ROI delivery capabilities.

Will Africa take advantage of its unique spot in global trade to improve its society and environment?

Africa’s business and political leaders attending the US-Africa Summit in Washington last August came away with more than $14 billion in investment pledges by American firms.

According to the Brookings Institution, cumulative foreign investment in sub-Saharan Africa grew from $33.5 billion in 2000 to $246.4 billion in 2012. Former New York City mayor, Mike Bloomberg, says it is now factually incorrect to refer to Africa as an emerging region.

“Africa has finally emerged,” he says.

We all, however, need to look beyond the continent’s sweet and sour stories to see this emerging reality. The harsh reality of life in Africa for so long has been one of stagnated growth and arrested development fueled by endemic graft, penury and scarcity in the midst of affluence, painful and unprogressive politics, career militants, religious and ethnic strife, wars, cross-border epidemics, currency constipations, illicit trade, human trafficking and the sheer reluctance of Africa’s elite class to confront the bogey of nepotism.

Thankfully, these harsh realities are being attenuated – at national and sub-national levels – by positive exemplars of economic and social progression and by a new wave of afro-centric thinking which seeks to locate and redefine Africa’s role and position in the evolving global polity.

Practically every corner of the African continent today is adding value to Africa’s new growth story. A McKinsey report released in August 2014 states that the continent is home to eight of the world’s top 15 fastest-growing economies between 2000 and last year, with growth topped only by East Asia, which includes China.

Several sectors – the entertainment, financial services, telecommunications, information technology and agriculture sectors – have helped to galvanize this growth spurt.

Responsible for most of the foreign investment streaming into Africa, their cumulative contributions to social and economic transformation will continue to spur growth and new jobs. They have been the most receptive to the disruptive influence of innovation. They have helped to define the new picture of Africa rising out of the development woods.

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Economy

Cryptocurrency for Africans

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George Gordon is on a quest to revolutionize the financial system. The director of Africa Master Blockchain Company talks digital currencies, blind risks and board games.


What is this new African cryptocurrency you are offering?

Where the majority of current digital currencies are based on speculative models, AfriUnion Coin (AUC) and the AfriNational Tokens (ANT)are designed for a transactional purpose allowing international payments, remittances, foreign direct investment as well as day-to-day transactions at local retail stores and other outlets. While the option for speculative trade is available with AUC, the focus is not around that.

Each African country will have a specially-designed ANT which will allow users to pay for goods and services and bills easily through completely digital means without requiring any bank account. AUC and ANT will be fully interchangeable to one another and there will be no fees for the user.

It’s the natural next step for digital finance from mobile banking which most Africans are accustomed to. The ability to freely have the power to send and receive money locally and internationally will allow the freedom of choice and spending power many Africans don’t have currently.

What is your own investment philosophy?

I am a gambler! I believe in taking risks and putting things on the line. That being said, blind risk or whimsical guesses don’t get you very far. Always acquire enough information to understand to a reasonable level what the thing you are planning on investing is or how it works and then trust your instinct and gut feel.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs wanting to invest in blockchain?

First, do some research in terms of what the blockchain technology is being applied for or created in terms of its application to an industry or project. Thereafter, check the white paper for the design of the platform as well as its functionality and applicability to what it is trying to achieve. If it aligns with your personal investment rules, then go for it,however, remember that blockchain is continuously evolving and thus you need to explore outside the usual and standard.

First cash-less, now card-less. What is the future of online banking?

If we are looking into what is currently science fiction, I would say the future is digital contact lenses that will be able to connect you to all your social media accounts, internet, news as well as make payments by just looking at QR codes or specialized barcodes to approve and accept payments.

Now, realistically we are not far off from such innovation and technology, but for the time being, I think the next step is scanning of QR codes at retailers and having the transaction automated from your wallet to the retailers digitally.

What is your most prized investment and why?

My mind. I believe that the work I have put into developing my mind, and continue to do so every day, is the number one investment that I have ever done. It allows me to look at things in a unique perspective as well as provides me with the tools to push boundaries and create new opportunities.

Money, success, fame? Which is most important to you?

I would have to say success… because it is most likely going to bring the other two as well, right? But success in the form of starting something and letting it grow and succeed and knowing that something new exists because of your efforts.

What do you spend your money on mostly?

Board games. I love board games and believe it’s a fantastic way to expand your mind as well as have fun with friends.

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Investment Guide

King Price CEO On Why He Invested On Insurance

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King Price Insurance’s CEO Gideon Galloway, who built an insurance company in South Africa worth over $226 million in six years, talks investments, industry trends and how self-driving cars will change the entire car insurance landscape.

(more…)

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Economy

Offering The American Dream

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Gar Lippincott and Daniel Ryan of Atlantic American Partners were in South Africa recently looking for high-net-worth individuals wanting to invest in the US.

It’s a warm spring day in September, and Gar Lippincott and Daniel Ryan have just arrived in South Africa. It is Lippincott’s first time in the country, and he is jet-lagged.

A little over two months ago, he was booked to fly here from the United States (US) but was turned back at immigration.

“At Atlanta airport, the lady looked at Daniel’s visa and let him through and she looked at my visa and she said ‘I am afraid you can’t get on the plane because you have to have a blank page on your passport’. I said ‘I have three blank pages’ and she said ‘no, it’s supposed to be the one that says visa on it’. She said it’s the rules in South Africa so I had to sadly go back home… now when I was coming, I was told that’s not an issue anymore so I am happy they have made traveling into the country easier,” says Lippincott.

With a brand-new passport, he’s here with Ryan looking for people who want to invest in the US in exchange for a green card.

Lippincott, the Managing Partner of Atlantic American Partners, says he has always been keen on South Africa for its growth opportunities and prospects.

“From what I understand, the things that are causing short-term decline in the economy in South Africa are set up to provide long-term growth and hopefully people will understand this,” he says. Ryan, the company’s Managing Director of Emerging Markets – Africa, agrees: “I lived in Malawi for 12 years and South Africa is still considered the shining one throughout the continent. Even with all the problems, everyone still wants to come here because of the opportunities.”

According to an AfrAsia Bank report, South Africa comes second to Mauritius in boasting the highest number of high-net-worth individuals.

These are the kind of people Ryan and Lippincott target through their work at Atlantic American Partners. The company has real estate investors and professional private equity fund managers that manage money for banks, insurance companies, and pension funds. In addition, they help people get US green cards and ultimately US citizenship through the US government’s EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program.

“Basically we look for people who want to move to the United States and we help them do so legally by investing and the nice thing is, with our program, they are also able to get a nice return on investment,” he says.

According to Lippincott, for a $500,000 investment that creates 10 jobs for American workers, you could get a green card in about two years and be a US citizen in about six or seven years. “Twenty seven countries have an investor visa program but with most of them, it’s essentially a fee you pay, or you need to be actively engaged in the day-to-day operation of a business. For example, you invest $1.5 million in Australia, but you need to hire employees and generate a certain amount of revenue. One of the biggest advantages with our program is you actually invest the $500,000 into a fund. We act as a trustee of that money and within five to seven years, they get that money back with a bit of return on investment and you are a permanent citizen in the US.”

Atlantic American Partners invests the money in real estate developments like hotels, apartments and student accommodation.

“What’s nice about the program is it doesn’t only cover the investor; it covers the spouse and children under 21. Our biggest family was a Hungarian family with seven children so they got nine green cards for $500,000,” says Lippincott.

The company says it has had positive response in South Africa. “Two months ago, we were here and we had scheduled six presentations for 100 people and we ended up speaking to 450 people. Most were business people, people worried about the economy, people worried about the political future of South Africa and people concerned about the education future of their children,” says Ryan.

According to Lippincott, despite the news of the clampdown on immigration, the US economy is booming and will perish without immigration. In the era of Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant views, that’s heartening news indeed.

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