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Tear Down Africa’s Walls

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For much of 2017, two of Africa’s biggest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, have struggled. Nigeria is only just stuttering out of a recession, while South Africa’s economy has just returned to stability following several quarters of turbulence. Against this background, there is a need to ponder the implications of such periods of economic turbulence for entrepreneurs in these countries.

I have always said that Africa is the business frontier of the future, the market that holds out the most promise for investors. However, in Nigeria, where the bulk of my business takes place, I have watched entrepreneurs struggle since our economy took a dip. I have seen promising businesses closed down. Some of these could have survived if there were avenues for entrepreneurs from different African states to exchange ideas and collaborate.

As an entrepreneur that operates a real estate business in Nigeria and South Africa, I have never found a more important moment to reflect on my own experience, and to highlight how a transnational collaborative platform can offer entrepreneurs from these two African economic powerhouses an opportunity for substantive engagement.

READ MORE: How Tech Can Close The Gap In Africa

I have come to appreciate the peculiarities of the Nigerian and South African business environments, with each presenting their own challenges and opportunities.

In Nigeria, I have to rely on wealthy individuals to pay the full sum on any of my buildings. Yet, in South Africa, anyone with a good credit rating can acquire a payment plan and get backing from a financial institution.

In Nigeria, the challenge of not having a reliable and standardized database system and inability of banks to offer a payment plan for clients makes it harder to trade a property. It also means that more Nigerians were willing to pay a full once-off sum.

The downside, however, is that when there is slow growth in the economy, fewer people buy properties. With a payment plan, there could be adjustments that allow them to continue the financing, or in the worst-case scenario where they cannot make payments, the bank repossesses. Either way, the entrepreneur’s business is never in serious jeopardy.

I feel that many businesses in Nigeria would’ve survived the country’s economic stutters if opportunities for a payment plan existed. Invictus Real Estate, for example, has like many other Nigerian businesses suffered the pinch of the time. The company had to rely on its energy offering, Invictus Energy, to weather the storm.

READ MORE: Why Nigeria Needs A New National Carrier

Meanwhile, uncertainties about the South African economy have led to a lack of confidence from entrepreneurs to start new ventures. But there is no entrepreneurship if one isn’t prepared to take some risks. What these periods of economic volatility emphasize is the need for a platform for entrepreneurs to cross-pollinate ideas and enrich each other’s perspective.

The transnational entrepreneurship collaboration would set the agenda for a promising Rwandan entrepreneur to learn about the resilience of their Nigerian counterpart; the Nigerian entrepreneur would be able to tap into the experience of their South African colleagues in attracting venture capitalists, and so on. Each would bring their knowledge, experiences and expertise to bear. With this, there is an opportunity for important ideas to be shared and joint ventures to happen. The Forbes Under 30 Summit in Israel in April introduced me to forward thinking young entrepreneurs. One in particular was interested in doing business in Nigeria, and we discussed establishing a joint venture. Unfortunately, we discovered that the Nigerian Central Bank had imposed restrictions on outbound dollar transactions, making it difficult for foreign firms to repatriate their profits.

This could have proven an end to our project until I suggested that there might be a way to establish the venture with my company in South Africa. But, if I had no registered company in South Africa, wouldn’t it have been an opportunity to pitch the venture with a South African who would also take into account my own interest? This would be some of the opportunities a transnational entrepreneurial collaboration would create.

The time to create a transnational collaborative platform for African entrepreneurs, one that provides a guided approach for sustained collaboration, is now.

This transnational collaboration would guarantee a broadening and enriching of the imagination of the African entrepreneur. It would free the African entrepreneur from the shackles of borders, time and space. It would redefine business for the African entrepreneur. – Written by Obinwanne Okeke

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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With “Room2Run,” AfDB Launches Securitisation Market For Multilateral Development Bank Sector

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➢ WITH “ROOM2RUN,” AfDB LAUNCHES SECURITIZATION MARKET FOR MULTILATERAL
DEVELOPMENT BANK SECTOR
➢ TRANSACTION IS IN DIRECT RESPONSE TO G20 ACTION PLAN FOR MDB BALANCE SHEET OPTIMIZATION
➢ AfDB COMMITS TO REINVEST FREED UP CAPITAL INTO NEW AFRICAN INFRASTRUCTURE
LENDING, MAKING ROOM2RUN ONE OF THE LARGEST IMPACT INVESTMENTS EVER
➢ TRANSACTION IS SUPPORTED BY NEW EUROPEAN UNION GUARANTEE TOOL (EUROPEAN FUND FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT)

OTTAWA, Canada, 18 September 2018 — The African Development Bank (AfDB), the European Commission, Mariner Investment Group, LLC (Mariner), Africa50, and Mizuho International plc today announce the pricing of Room2Run, a US $1 billion synthetic securitization corresponding to a portfolio of seasoned pan-African credit risk. Room2Run is the first-ever portfolio synthetic securitization between a Multi-Lateral Development Bank (MDB) and private sector investors, pioneering the use of securitization and credit risk transfer technology to a new and previously unexplored segment of the financial markets.

Structured as a synthetic securitization by Mizuho International, Room2Run transfers the mezzanine credit risk on a portfolio of approximately 50 loans from among the African Development Bank’s nonsovereign lending book, including power, transportation, financial sector, and manufacturing assets. The portfolio spans the African continent, with exposure to borrowers in North Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, and Southern Africa. Mariner, the global alternative asset manager and a majority owned subsidiary of ORIX USA, is the lead investor in the transaction through its International Infrastructure Finance Company II fund (“IIFC II”). Africa50, the pan-African infrastructure investment platform, is investing alongside Mariner in the private sector tranche. Additional credit protection is being provided by the European Commission’s European Fund for Sustainable Development in the form of a senior mezzanine guarantee.

“Room2Run gives us fresh resources to invest in the projects Africans need most,” said Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group. “Africa has the most promise, the greatest natural resources, and the world’s youngest population. But we also have the world’s most persistent infrastructure deficits. The African Development Bank has the strategy to address these infrastructure finance gaps—and Room2Run gives us the capacity to make it happen.”

Structured as an impact investment, Room2Run is designed to enable the African Development Bank to increase lending in support of its mission to spur sustainable economic development and social progress. In connection with Room2Run, AfDB has committed to redeploy the freed-up capital into renewable energy projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, including projects in low income and fragile countries.

“On the Impact scale, Room2Run is off the charts,” said Dr. Andrew Hohns, Lead Portfolio Manager and head of the Mariner Infrastructure Investment Management team. “Room2Run answers the call of the G20 for private sector participants to step in and facilitate development finance, providing a template for attracting significant private sector capital into urgently needed projects in developing economies.”

Raza Hasnani, Head of Infrastructure Investment at Africa50 commented, “Room2Run provides an innovative and commercially viable solution to the African Development Bank’s risk management and lending objectives, while paving the way for commercial investors to support and benefit from the growth of infrastructure on the continent. Africa50 is very pleased to participate in this landmark transaction, which is in line with our mandate to drive increased investment in infrastructure in Africa, and to create pathways for long-term institutional capital to flow into this space.”

Room2Run enjoys the support and participation of the European Commission with an investment from the European Fund for Sustainable Development, in the form of a senior mezzanine guarantee. “Only a few days after announcing our renewed Alliance with Africa for sustainable investments and jobs, I am very happy to announce that we are, together with the African Development Bank, launching Room2Run,” commented Neven Mimica, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development. “This initiative is a perfect example of what we are doing to support investments in African low income and fragile countries through the External Investment Plan. Through Room2Run we provide
an additional protection to investments in the field of renewable energy. Through our Guarantee, investments under Room2Run will translate into extending supply to many people currently without electricity whilst creating much-needed new jobs.”

Room2Run also directly responds to calls by the G20 that MDBs use their existing resources to full capacity, as articulated in the 2015 G20 MDB Action Plan to Optimize Balance Sheets, as well as calls for greater MDB efforts to crowd-in private investment. The G20 has called on MDBs to share risk in their non-sovereign operations with private investors, including through structured finance, mezzanine financing, credit guarantee programs, and hedging structures.

The Government of Canada has been a global leader in advocating for MDBs to use their existing resources more efficiently and to mobilize private capital for global development. The goal of the G20 MDB Action Plan to Optimize Balance Sheets is to catalyze significant new development financing from the MDBs throughout the real economy in key development regions. “Attracting more private capital into global development efforts is critical to building economies that work for more and more people around the world,” said Bill Morneau, Canada’s Minister of Finance, “that’s why Canada and our G20 partners have been calling on multilateral development banks to use their existing resources as efficiently as possible, and to look for new ways to attract more private capital. We are pleased to see the African Development Bank come forward with a transaction that directly responds to both of these objectives. Room2Run is an innovative solution to a long-standing challenge.”

Juan Carlos Martorell, Co-Head of Structured Solutions at Mizuho International, adds, “Compared to other synthetic securitizations, a major achievement of Room2Run has been to ensure that ratings agencies, and in particular S&P, reflect the merits of the risk transfer into their rating assessments for multilateral development banks. AfDB’s leadership through this transaction has now set the stage for broader adoption of the instrument throughout the MDB community.”

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Fashion, Fame and Finances With SA Designer, David Tlale

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How would you say the African fashion market is growing?

We are starting to understand the business of fashion; how to create brands that are custom-made in Africa, which is what we need to be doing and I think more than anything else, we need local customers supporting local designers. Another thing we need to start seeing is retailers supporting proudly ‘made in Africa’ or ‘made in South Africa’ products because that’s the only way for us to become game-changers in the fashion industry. When you look at big brands in the US, Europe or anywhere else in the world, they work very closely with their local designers.

Your most expensive indulgence?

Fabric! When I go to a fabric store, locally and internationally, I am like a kid in a candy store. I would rather buy expensive fabric different to whatever is available locally [South Africa], to make sure I can still sell that to my clients. When it comes to fabric, I go all out.

David Tlale. Photo by Karen Mwendera.

What do you mostly spend your money on?

Shoes and handbags.

How have you maintained your brand over the years?

The only way for us a brand to grow is to continue reinventing ourselves every season. As a designer or as an artist, you are only as good as your previous collection. Also, don’t try and compete with anyone, but do and believe what ‘brand David Tlale’ stands for. It happens that from time to time we keep serving them the same thing, like the white blouse. Our customers also want it, but the question is, how do we reinvent it for the next season or the next collection?

The significance of grooming young African designers…?

It is realizing they are the future…the ones going to take the fashion industry to the next level making sure we still have brands from Africa to the global markets…It is important to expose them to the business of fashion because when I grew up, no one took me by the hand and said ‘David, this is how the business of fashion is’. We were told we have to showcase at fashion week but beyond that or before that, what happens? Now we understand that.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

I was a lecturer at Vaal University for four and a half years, just before I graduated. I was able to buy my mom new furniture and I bought myself some sewing machines. I am proud to say that my investment into that machinery has made us who we are as David Tlale. We now have a studio and a brand that is growing.

How do you diversify your investments?

What we have done as David Tlale, over the years, is to build the brand and invest everything into this brand. We are now starting to look at other investment portfolios so we are able to get different sources of income, not only from clothing; making sure we invest in the brand, as a lifestyle brand, it be accessories, handbags or perfume. We are working on a lot of things because we want to ensure that in the next few years, David Tlale is a holistic fashion brand.

READ MORE: Lessons To Learn From The Rich And Famous

What is your most recent acquisition?

A printing machine. It is a huge investment we have made for our business making sure that we are able to look different in the industry and can print our [own] fabric.

Your worst investment decision?

To believe in someone who did not believe in my brand…I suffered dearly from it but today I am better. We are on the journey to reposition David Tlale, ensuring we become a luxury brand proudly made in South Africa by South Africans [and selling to] the international markets.

 

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