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Investment Guide

Expect Better Things

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There is a Swahili saying that goes; ‘a good day is known in the morning’. Is 2015 a good year for the Kenyan investment environment? All indications suggest it is.

The World Bank has reviewed its prediction about Kenya, predicting GDP growth at 6%. While I am happy that the New York-based economists think so highly of the country, I highly doubt if this will be the case.

The World Bank has missed its growth predictions for Kenya for three consecutive years, being forced to adjust mid-year from 2012. Beyond that, the country’s economy is still not out of the woods and growth will remain slow.

For this year, I would trust their adjusted statement given in June 2014, stating that the economy would grow at around 4.7% both in 2014 and 2015. I would place the figure at between 4.9% and 5.2%, two to four percentage points above Mckinsey’s growth figures for Africa.

To make accurate predictions, you need to look at the past.

The Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) performed averagely in 2014. The NSE 20 Share Index delivered price gains of 4.9% compared to 19.2% the previous year. On the flipside, the NSE All Share Index (NSEASI) delivered a price gain value of 19.9% compared to 44.1% in the previous year.

It’s worth noting that the NSEASI is driven by speculative trading on the smaller counters, mostly in the agricultural sector. The large caps in the NSE 20 are mostly attractive to large investors who prefer long term to short term benefits, hence minimal price gains.

While the price gains were average, most of the companies registered the anticipated major profits. Safaricom reported a net profit of $256 million, a 31% increase, while Equity Bank reported a profit of $211 million for the year ended December 31, 2013. Better news arrived when the bank announced its third quarter results in October to stand at 124 million, a 26% rise from the previous year.

It was not all rosy though. Kenya Airways reported a loss of $87.9 million, which coincided with the rising insecurity in the country, the Ebola pandemic in West Africa and poor tourism numbers driven by travel advisories in the west. The other companies that reported losses were Mumias Sugar, suffering the after effects of dishonest management, and Transcentury which posted a half year loss of $17.8 million.

The country’s economy grew 2.7% in the first quarter, 5.8% in the second and 5.5% in the third. While better performance is expected for the fourth, I believe Kenya’s growth figure for 2014 is still within the region of 4.7%.

With this information, one can authoritatively talk of a better performance in 2015.

I expect continued activity from the traditional movers like Safaricom, Equity Bank, KCB, EABL and Kenol Kobil. I also expect Mumias Sugar to make a comeback after shedding off 33% last year. There will also be significant activity from the growth counters; Centum Investment, Britam, and Car and General.

In essence, the sectors to watch will be agriculture, insurance, banking and oil which will benefit from the lower crude prices. We may even see a breach of the 6,000 mark for the NSE 20 Share Index, with the risks being poor implementation of the capital gains tax and insecurity.

The decision by the ICC to drop charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta is good news for the country, but terror attacks are derailing progress in Kenya, having eroded the robust tourist industry last year. While there is confidence in the government efforts to curtail the attacks, the risk still lingers in 2015 and might affect business significantly.

I expect government economists to take a conservative approach in setting both the fiscal and monetary policy. The Vision 2030 flagship projects will offer liquidity to the economy and spur growth, thus there will be no need to induce additional government spending in the next budget. In addition, the spending will send interest rates downward and the Monetary Policy Committee is likely to lower the Central Bank Rate when the economy has responded positively to the aggressive fiscal spending.

With this in mind, I can say it’s a good year to invest.

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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.

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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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