Africa CEO Voices December 2022

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IN THIS ISSUE: HASS PETROLEUM | DIMENSION DATA| AFRICA DATA CENTER | GROUPE FILATEX | EBEE KENYA | AYO | EVERSEND

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FILATEX CEO SHARES ITS SOLAR INVESTMENTS IN AFRICA

TECH TRANSFORMATION RICHARD HECHLE:

DIMENSION DATA CEO ON ITS JOURNEY TO DIGITISING BUSINESSES IN AFRICA

ROOFING AFRICA MANISH MEHRA: MRM’S CEO ON 60 YEARS OF ROOFING EXCELLENCE

PATRICIA ITHAU

WPP SCANGROUP CEO REVEALS HER PLANS & CHANGES IN MEDIA LANDSCAPE IN AFRICA WWW.CEOBUSINESSAFRICA.COM

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Editorial

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elcome to the December issue of CEO Business Africa magazine. In this issue, as we always do, we have essential insights and up-to-date coverage on Africa’s most critical sectors and industries from energy, technology, fintech, logistics and mobility, renewable energy, sustainability, tourism, and travel. We also delve into the changing dynamics of energy with coverage of Hass Petroleum, a pan-African oil and gas company. The rise of renewables, however, cannot be ignored, and to explore one resource in greater detail, we feature Groupe Filatex, a renewable energy company bridging the energy gap in Madagascar. Similarly, we are featuring eBee Kenya, an electric bicycle out to revolutionize urban mobility in Nairobi, Kenya. Patricia Ithau, Chief Executive Officer of WPP, the largest marketing and communication group operating in subSaharan Africa talks about her journey in the corporate world and ‘not letting anyone down.’ We also spoke to Kenneth Micah, Regional Manager at Bolt on the ride-hailing firm’s mission of reducing traffic and restoring our cities through ride-hailing and sharing. On the fintech and finance side, we look at aYo Zambia and Eversend on the aspect of micro-insurance and payment solutions in Zambia and Uganda, respectively. In this era of information technology and cloud computing, we talk to Mr. Dan Kwach, the Managing Director of Africa Data Centres, East Africa Region, Africa’s largest network of interconnected, carrier- and cloud-neutral data center facilities on how they are empowering businesses across the WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM

continent. As CEO Business Africa magazine, we strongly believe in women’s empowerment and there is no better way to celebrate than tell the journey of Donna Rege, Safaricom’s Senior Manager for IT and Governance. Our issues are not complete without travel and tourism. We go to Rwanda to see the endangered mountain gorillas. CEO Business Africa magazine is your trusted source of the latest business information on all business happenings in Africa, we are committed to your success. For rolling 24/7 news on our website, be sure to log in and also sign up for our twice-weekly e-new to find more leads, stories, and exclusives. Enjoy your read.

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NOT LETTING ANYONE DOWN Patricia Ithau, CEO WPP-Scangroup Plc The future is not tomorrow, it is here. As a business WPP-Scangroup is putting in place the building blocks that will allow it to be future ready today.

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Cover Image: Patricia Ithau

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GAME ON Safaricom PLC IT Governance Lead Donna Rege on succeeding in a male-dominated field

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BOLT Delivering value proposition to customers and drivers

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MABATI ROLLING MILLS Celebrating 60 years of roofing excellence

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HASS PETROLEUM Servicing new frontiers

DIGITAL TECH AFRICA 42

DIMENSION DATA Enabling business digital transformation

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AFRICA DATA CENTER Enabling Africa's Digital Economy

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SUSTAINABILITY AFRICA 52

GROUPE FILATEX Lighting Madagascar with clean energy

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EBEE Going green with two wheelers

FINTECH AFRICA 64

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AYO Leveraging mobile technology to bring insurance products to all Zambians EVERSEND Supporting smooth and efficient crossborder payments in Africa

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TRAVEL 72

RWANDA The mountain gorillas of Rwanda and so much more

COUNTRY FOCUS 76

SENEGAL Structural reforms turn Senegal into a competitive investment destination in West Africa

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Your business has a unique story. Work with us to showcase your organisation to our readers in Africa and across the World. Africa CEO Voices magazine is read by some of the most important business owners, C-suite managers and other key decision makers from the private sector, Government, NGOs, embassies, consulates, development organisations and other sectors across the breadth of Africa and the World. Full of inspirational and impactful interviews with CEOs and other leaders, the magazine, available in print and digital formats, is the voice of business in Africa. We tell African business stories better than any other publication.

Africa CEO Voices magazine tracks, reports and celebrates the huge strides that are made by organisations in the Continent - from well established multinationals, to young enterprises that are inching their way to greatness in the future - thereby catalysing the next wave of enterpreneurs and investors in the world’s remaining growth engine. Having your organisation featured in this magazine provides your organisation and brands with the best opportunity to stand out in the crowded marketplace and for your story and impact to reach key decision makers across the Continent and beyond. In case you would like to have your story told here, please contact our Editorial team on +254 725 34 39 32 or info@fwafrica.net to discuss how we can work together to deliver an impactful story for your organisation.


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ROZY RANA Managing Director, Dormans Coffee

CAESAR ASIYO Chief Development Officer, Victory Farms

JOACHIM WESTERWELD Executive Chairman, Bio Food Products

BRETT THOMPSON Co-Founder & CEO, Mzansi Meat

GAURAV VJ CEO, 260 Brands

SAINT-FRANCIS TOHLANG Corporate Affairs Director, Nestle East & Southern Africa

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ANYONE DOWN: PATRICIA ITHAU, CEO, WPP-SCANGROUP PLC: THE FUTURE IS NOT TOMORROW, IT IS HERE. AS A BUSINESS WPP-SCANGROUP IS PUTTING IN PLACE THE BUILDING BLOCKS THAT WILL ALLOW IT TO BE FUTURE READY, TODAY.

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BY DIANA MICHIEKA

hen WPP-Scangroup, Sub Sahara Africa's leading marketing and communication group, was looking for a successor to founder and long-serving CEO Bharat Thakrar, no other candidate suited the job as perfectly as Patricia Ithau.A seasoned business and marketing executive, Patricia boasted of over 30 years of experience in senior leadership roles overseeing the expansion of leading consumer brands in Eastern Africa, at companies including Unilever, Diageo/East African Breweries Ltd, and L'Oréal, and then supporting scaling of small and medium enterprises across Africa at Stanford Seed. An additional icing to what is already an impressive CV was the fact that she previously served on the board of WPP-Scangroup as a non-executive director from 2017 to 2020. As such,WPP-Scangroup was not a company new to her, as somebody who had an opportunity in her non-executive role to get a grasp of the inner workings of the Nairobi, Kenya-based firm. In all senses of the word, she was the right (wo)man for the job. The role of CEO has a lot of figuring out to do. "I've started to really reshape what I do because the official title is CEO.What is a Chief Executive Officer? What is that? What is the game changing role of this officer? What is a chief? So, in unpacking what it means, one of the things that I am starting to like the sound of, is that I'm actually a catalyst or conductor. If you have ever watched an orchestra, you see incredibly disparate instruments being played by very talented musicians. So you wonder why is there a need for a conductor? Yet without a great conductor, the beauty of the coming together of the music played by each of those instruments, each of those musicians will never come out. ” Says Patricia, who has been CEO since March 2022. Although new to the role, Patricia is enjoying every bit of it. "Here I am doing what I really enjoy, and that is understanding consumer insights and communication, driving great visionary ideas in terms of how we drive a message, how to support messaging to consumers and customers, how we package our services in a more compelling fashion, and doing all that in a commercial organization

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COMPANY FEATURE: WPP-SCANGROUP PLC

WE CALL IT AUDIENCE ORIGINS, WHICH ACTUALLY ALLOWS US TO UNDERSTAND WHERE THE CONSUMERS ARE AND WHAT THEY'RE DOING. with an accountability to external stakeholders. “

NEVER LETTING ANYONE DOWN WPP-Scangroup maintains its leadership position in the market by offering clients a full range of marketing and media and communication services with outstanding creativity, deep insights, and creative technology. Its various subsidiaries, including Ogilvy Africa, Scanad & Squad, GroupM and H+K Strategies, offer clients tailored solutions to ensure their needs, be it brand stewardship, media and communications, customer engagement and PR and influence are met to their utmost satisfaction. These capabilities make Patricia proud of the company that she now leads. "Being a leading creative, marketing, media, communication, digital, PR and Influence company, WPP Scangroup is the only business that is able to offer any individual person, or company or a full suite of all those service across sub-Sahara Africa," she claims. With her in charge of the business, clients can rest assured that WPP will stick to its mission of building better futures for them. She reveals to CEO Business Africa Magazine that the worst thing anybody can say to her is ‘you let me down’ or ‘you are unreliable’. “I must make sure I keep my word. I must make sure that I'm somebody people trust.” If challenges arise, which they often do, Patricia’s only strategy is to figure out how to get round them or indeed make them an opportunity. “Whatever challenges I face, I say: I can get over this. I try think around the corner to see if there is something there than can be to my advantage. In particular, tenacity becomes very important especially today, because business is tough right now. We are in living in a very tough environment with headwinds we have to face head on." HELPING BRANDS SUCCEED IN A DIGITALCENTRIC REALITY Patricia takes charge of WPP-Scangroup when the 14 AFRICA CEO VOICES

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world of marketing and communication is transitioning to the digital space. A recent Research done by one of the Media agencies of WPP revealed big trends namely the Female Takeover, the best time to tell African Stories is now, there is a gaming explosion, and Ad Blockers are everywhere. “For example, data is telling us that Podcasting is on the rise with 71% of urban women listening to podcasts especially in the 18- to 25 year age group. Imagine the power of a podcast and the influence and the thought leadership you could drive with that particular space?” Influencers are also the other biggest thing in the marketing world today, according to Patricia. "They are big because what people are increasingly looking for is content to keep them entertained, for information or even to simply pass time.” YouTube is today a huge platform and source of content. As a result it has become an attractive place to reach potential customers. The ads can at times be annoying and most of us just wait for WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM


the 4 seconds to be done so that we can hit the skip button.” To succeed on YouTube as an advertiser, “you have to create content with which you deliver your key message in those 4 seconds – a complete shift in the way creative work is done as opposed to the past where you had the luxury of 20 or 30 seconds at least. What is more you must keep changing that content as it very quickly becomes boring or wallpaper” Against this backdrop in understanding, reaching, and speaking to consumers Patricia reveals to us that the group has a new headline mission to be the agency where technology meets creativity for that true transformation to happen. With this in mind, the business is taking big bets in investing in tools and platforms which are more data and technology driven to support the agenda of delivering maximum return on investment for its client’s base. Investments in products such as Optimus, a marketing automation tool that drives customer acquisition and supports growth in customer lifetime value at scale, being one of the exciting products that WPP has developed in recent times. This platform uses data to contextually target online advertising to drive high volume and quality leads.

TRADITIONAL MEDIA IS STILL A DOMINANT FORCE Digital is increasingly becoming a dominant force in media and communication. Low internet penetration rates, however, limit its reach, particularly in rural Africa. "Urban areas have no problem with the internet," says Patricia. “But the bulk of the population is still in less than urban areas. They are still consumers, and we need to speak to them because they'll always be clients and customers who want to speak to potential users who are not living in an urban area.” How does WPP-Scangroup help clients reach these consumers? By leveraging the power and reach of traditional media such as radio, billboards, and Tv. "The beauty of radio is its omnipresence. Everywhere you go people are listening to Radio in the background and that again is because many stations do use social media or other similar platforms to broadcast." She, however, notes that as other digital channels such as YouTube with its diverse content become mainstream, the impact of radio in the format we know it, will become less and less. “You have to become even more targeted, even more precise with what you do with radio with some of these areas being harnessing the influence of leading presenters to support the driving of messages as opposed to traditional spot radio ads.” The power of TV also demonstrated itself during the just concluded election period in Kenya. "You saw during the election period, before 7pm and 9pm news, all those ads. I was like, oh my goodness, we're still doing this? So, there's still space for that." Almost every billboard in the country was also donned with campaign material, once again demonstrating the power of billboards to reach the masses. Just like in Radio, targeting becomes very important.

ALMOST EVERY BILLBOARD IN THE COUNTRY WAS ALSO DONNED WITH CAMPAIGN MATERIAL, ONCE AGAIN DEMONSTRATING THE POWER OF BILLBOARDS TO REACH THE MASSES. WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM

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COMPANY FEATURE: WPP-SCANGROUP PLC

"If it's a billboard, it becomes a lot more specific in terms of where you target." This necessitates the use of data and strategy, capabilities whose supply is in plenty at WPPScangroup.

BAGGING THE GOODS THAT AFCFTA HAS TO OFFER The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) whose implementation started in January 2021 promises to break trade barriers between counties and give companies operating in the continent access to a single market for goods and services of almost 1.3 billion people and a combined gross domestic product of around US$3.4 trillion. The World Bank estimates that by 2035, real income gains from the full implementation of the agreement could be 7%, or nearly US$450 billion. In the free trade area, companies will have immense opportunities to grow.They will, however, need a reliable marketing partner to introduce their brands in areas where they have never been before. That is where WPPScangroup comes in. With an established presence in 23 countries across the continent, the company’s reach is unparalleled. “When we have big regional players, or business people trying to create a regional footprint, we have a structure that understands this is the way Africa is set up and we have resources to make sure that we can harness and take advantage of that.” Although momentum has picked up albeit at a slow pace, Patricia can't wait to have the free trade agreement fully implemented. "It's very interesting because I sit in

a number of organizations where people talk about the African free trade agreement. In all the conversations, the one thing that stays at the back of my mind is, it is a huge opportunity for us as Africans to harness the power of being one, yet when and how can we accelerate the opportunities it portends? Just think of Open skies alone and opportunity to create bigger regional carriers? “

BRINGING EVERYTHING UNDER ONE ROOF A few months into the job, Patricia has a pet project of bringing all the group's subsidiaries under one roof. The CEO reveals to us that the WPP-Scangroup has about 560 members of staff scattered across the different agencies on the continent. Kenya, with over 300, has by far the largest number of employees in the group. Patricia sees an opportunity in all these brilliant people operating from one campus. "The benefit of one campus is to drive the economies of scale on things like technology but more importantly creating a vibrant work environment that stimulates creativity and brings out the best in everyone.” The pandemic made working from home -a never before thought possibility- a reality and Patricia is keen to see that employees are supported to continue working in some form of hybrid settings. “We are working with what we have right now. My vision is to create a space where people are a lot more comfortable, a lot more at home. Indeed, an ergonomic office space that is more fun and conducive to both physical and virtual working.”

WPPSCANGROUP HAS ABOUT 560 MEMBERS OF STAFF SCATTERED ACROSS THE DIFFERENT AGENCIES ON THE CONTINENT.

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and in the process, revolutionizing the way products and services are marketed. Patricia wants her company to be ready for the next disruption that might influence their work in the future. “I will be looking at how we are prepped and ready to have the right resources to create the technology for advertising the future." To be futureready, the company has worked on FEED 2.0 a real-time social commerce engine that enables marketers to put data at the heart of digital. This engine helps marketers

I WOULD LIKE TO SPEND A BIT MORE TIME IN GHANA BECAUSE IT IS ONE OF THE AREAS IN WEST AFRICA WITH MUCH BETTER EASE OF DOING BUSINESS.

MARKETING SUSTAINABLY In a world where climate change is no longer an abstract subject but a reality faced each day, consumers are starting to demand businesses do more to address the problem. It goes further than just demands. Some consumers are choosing to only buy from businesses that operate sustainably. Having sustainability goals and communicating them clearly to the public has therefore become a key market survival strategy. Existing solely to build dynamic, new, and lasting relationships between clients and their audiences, WPPScangroup is building capabilities to help clients better pass across their sustainability messages. “When you look at our PR and influence businesses, one of the things I'm looking at is how to enhance resourcing around that agenda which is no longer a nice to have but a must have in all businesses with a strong governance framework.” GETTING READY FOR THE FUTURE OF ADVERTISING Technology has a way of disrupting how we communicate,

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harness data and machine learning to develop a data aided customer journey, create data informed content, and customize content at scale using atomization. The Groups media arm GroupM is also now deploying Audience Origin, a unique combination of panel based data, digital data, and client data for deep audience understanding and activation. “This supports more effective media buying and placement for our clients.” PR and influence are other aspects of marketing that Patricia predicts are going to be “a very big thing in the near future.” Looking at where other future opportunities lie, Ms. Patricia notes sustainability with the importance of ESG being placed at the heart of organizations presents lots of prospects for support for the business. In terms of markets, Ghana seems to present an irresistible opportunity for Patricia because of its performance despite the economy experiencing a downturn. "I would like to spend a bit more time there actually because it is one of the areas in West Africa with much better ease of doing business." Tanzania is also a market that looks promising to Patricia. It is a new world with a new dispensation, according to the WPP-Scangroup CEO. “If there is a market I'm very convinced we have to figure out how we get a stronger foothold in, it is Tanzania,” she says. "It is a lot more welcoming and open to business from external markets. Uganda is also another one following on that, and finally, Zambia, which is slower for us at the moment but we will figure out how we will engage to drive a bigger presence.” DECEMBER 2022

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GAME ON SAFARICOM PLC IT GOVERNANCE LEAD DONNA REGE ON SUCCEEDING IN A MALE-DOMINATED FIELD BY ELLY AKOKO

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he COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new emphasis on the importance of digital connectivity in our daily lives and has highlighted a newfound sense of urgency in the digital transformation agenda. Safaricom, a trailblazer in Kenya's digital transformation, was at the forefront of the accelerated transition to digital during the pandemic, assisting many consumers to transact business online through its various innovative solutions such as Lipa na Mpesa and Pochi la Biashara. Never heard before solutions such as paying bus fares with mobile money became possible overnight thanks to the robust digital infrastructure that the telco has set up. One of the people behind the digital agenda at Safaricom is Donna Rege.The IT Governance Lead at Safaricom PLC had a chat with the CEO Business Africa team on the sidelines of Connected Kenya Summit 2022 on the ups and downs of working in a male-dominated field. “I am leading the IT Governance space which involves defining standards and frameworks which Safaricom IT processes can then be able to adhere and comply to make sure we give effective service to our consumers and partners,” says Donna Rege. “My other role is that of Chair, Women in Technology at Safaricom which is a group of about 40 very passionate women who take time to volunteer, inspire and motivate young girls within the tech space to take STEM roles, and careers and then pursue them to leadership,” says Donna.

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COMPANY FEATURE: SAFARICOM PLC

"I THRIVE IN A SPACE WHERE I CAN JUMP HURDLES AND OVERCOME NEW CHALLENGES, AND THIS HAS PROPELLED ME TO SUCCEED AND EVEN SCALE TO GREATER HEIGHTS WITHIN THE TECH SPACE." DONNA’S IT JOURNEY Donna initially wanted to be a doctor, but then her encounter with a close family relative changed her mind. "I had an uncle, a telecoms engineer, who would come home with what he called a "digital sack” that had different kinds of phones and during that time, mobile phones were a very new concept and very exciting. He was able to use these very great gadgets, and that intrigued me, and I thought: well, I can be able to do this. So, I went to school hoping that I would become an engineer,” says Donna. Electrical engineering is what she always thought she would pursue, but telecommunication engineering is what she ended up pursuing at the Univesity. “I really don't regret that decision because, for me, I loved working with wires.” Engineering being a male-dominated field meant that Donna had a lot to do to excel in her course. “I had to be friends with the men because of the challenges that you face. It is only when you are with these men that you see how best to adapt and sustain yourself through the course. And this helped me quite a bit,” adds Donna. This unfortunate reality of male dominance later manifested itself at work.“Even when I got to work, there was very, very minimal representation, but my employer has been gracious enough to put in place measures that help sustain women within the technology space.” THE UPS AND DOWNS IN A MALEDOMINATED TECH SPACE Being in a male-dominated sector is not easy for a young, vibrant lady like Donna Rege. "The greatest down has been that every time I have had to deliver, already people have a pre-formed notion that I can't. I've had to intentionally give 150% just to validate and get my seat at the table.” 22 AFRICA CEO VOICES

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"We have been able to go to Silicon Valley for the final; four years in a row since we joined the program."

On the flip side, Donna says that the fact that it is male-dominated has made it very satisfactory for her, as she is now intentionally present and ambitious enough to pursue her dream. For her, every milestone counts, and she has to fight to achieve it because of that notion. “I thrive in a space where I can jump hurdles and overcome new challenges, and this has propelled me to succeed and even scale to greater heights within the tech space.”

EMPOWERING WOMEN IN TECH As Chairperson of Women in Technology in Kenya, Donna provides leadership for one of Kenya's first Women in Technology (WIT) platforms created over 8 years ago by defining, documenting, and executing the Women in technology 2020–2023 strategy. “We're trying to create a pipeline from young kids because we believe a young kid still has a tender mind and can be molded. So, when we start triggering, initiating, and inspiring them to adopt and appreciate tech from that young age, we see them embracing it throughout, thus creating a pipeline,” explains Donna. “We have a program called Kids Go Tech, which we do during school breaks; parents pay a small fee and we WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM


place kids within our institutions in Nairobi and the child can get an opportunity to build very simple experiments with very simple materials like hydraulics, robotics, and start learning and inspiring themselves about what technology can do in life and what they can build with their hands," she adds. The initiative also has a program for girls in high school that involves a 'see and believe model” where girls from various regions in Kenya also go to the institutions. “We also have the Technovation challenge, which is a global event. We take part in it and are the regional ambassadors." She adds that with these initiatives, "we have seen brilliant ideas come through and we compete regionally. We have been able to go to Silicon Valley for the final; four years in a row since we joined the program.” Lastly, the Initiative has campus outreach, which includes boys as part of the funnel, where students in the technology field are prepared to start thinking about their potential employers and how to prepare for interviews. Students also get a chance to be enrolled in a three-month paid internship program, she reveals. Donna adds that other than just teaching students the WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM

technical know-how, students also receive social skills on how to build their personality and communication skills and are eventually on taken through ways to gel well in the technology space “We also have a networking forum with likeminded women, where we come together, have honest conversations, build each other and rise together through cocktails, workshops, and so on. So that's basically how we build the pipeline, right, from a tender age of six all the way to the working woman,” she tells us proudly.

DARE TO DREAM With careers in STEM evolving, Donna believes that it can only become more interesting for women in tech. “We have new age careers like data science which are even more inclined to the woman because they are things they would like," she shares. Finally, having thrived in a technology world where few women exist, Donna believes nothing is impossible if only you believe in your dreams. “Dare to dream, then work hard and be persistent. It is not going to be easy, but you need to be able to hang in there, and it will pay off.”

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Moving

forward DELIVERING VALUE PROPOSITION TO CUSTOMERS AND DRIVERS: MICAH KENNETH, REGIONAL MANAGER, BOLT EAST AFRICA BY ELLY AKOKO

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second entrant to the Kenyan ondemand ride hailing market, Estonian mobility company Bolt is no stranger to stiff competition having successfully taken on first to market brand Uber in countless cities across Europe. Micah Kenneth, the Regional Manager Bolt at East Africa reveals to CEO Business Africa that the secret behind their success is focus on the two people that matter: their customers and driver partners. “We have focused our value proposition to customers and drivers and that’s the secret behind our significant market share and getting to become the leading ride hailing in platform in Kenya, both by geographical distance and extent of our service.” Bolt knows that without the drivers, its quest to succeed in Kenya would have proved futile. It’s the sole reason why their needs have been at the center of any decision that the company has made since 2017 when it first set up shop in the country’s capital Nairobi. “We took time when we launched in the market to engage with drivers.” Bolt has never moved away from that policy even after recording success in the East African nation. “We have a continuous feedback loop; every trip WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM


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COMPANY FEATURE: BOLT

"WE ARE CREATING A PLATFORM WHERE IT IS EASY TO FIND A CAR OR MOTORBIKE WITH VERY SHORT ARRIVAL TIMES AND AFFORDABLE PRICES." has a rating and drivers’ ability to reach us through our customer support lines. Using all these feedbacks from customer roundtables, from the ratings, we get to know the key things and propositions they care for.” Just like many other entrepreneurs, the top concern among many drivers is how much revenue they generate from their daily operations. Bolt works to ensure each driver gets adequately compensated for the amount of work put in.“We focus a lot on the earnings per hour and we reiterate on bringing in more demand, shorten the inconveniences or the costs they incur to offer services in our platform and focusing on the earnings they take home, locking them in and valuing the gig opportunity therein,” Micah explains. This strategy has proved immensely successful, particularly in attracting and retaining new driver partners. Presently, Bolt has over 50,000 active partners including couriers and drivers on their platform across major cities in Kenya.

CONVENIENT, SUSTAINABLE MOVING In a city like Nairobi where finding car parking can be a nightmare, Bolt exists to ensure customers can conveniently get to their workplace without having to worry where to park their car. That convenience extends to city dwellers keen on avoiding the large overhead cost of car ownership and associated maintenance charges. All these people can be assured of getting a car at the click of a button. “We are creating a platform where it is easy to find a car or motorbike with very short arrival times and affordable prices.” Apart enhancing convenience, Micah notes that Bolt also helps build sustainable cities in East Africa by providing a sustainable, affordable and safe urban mobility solutions for every use case that a private car would provide. “We want to replace the use of private cars in urban centers and that in itself has a massive impact on the environment because you end up with fewer cars on the road, less parking spaces.” With the need of parking reduced, Micah says the large areas of concrete and 26 AFRICA CEO VOICES

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tarmac that have been the dedicated for parking can be converted into recreational areas with trees and lots of greenery. Still on the greenery subject, Bolt has partnered with Seed Balls for 11 million indigenous tree seedlings for distribution and propagation in degraded areas - former forest areas or grassland areas that cannot naturally be expected to regenerate. It goes further than that. The company also has a green category on its ride hailing that caters to customers who wish to have a net zero transport footprint. “We also launched our Bolt Green category which has 100% electric and hybrid cars forming slightly under 5% of the trips done in our cities.” Micah is glad that it’s an option customer are choosing though waiting times are slightly longer as the vehicles are few and the charging infrastructure is still limited.

CUSTOMER SAFETY COMES FIRST According to Micah, safety is one of the top pillars the platform is built on and they have dedicated significant resources to make it a safe platform to use in a sustainable way in urban areas. “Safety is what we build our platform around, we have several partnerships to guarantee safety during a trip. It begins with our onboarding of drivers; we do background check on them. Similarly, we have continuous platform rating for every trip and get live feedback post trip from passengers about their experience with a particular driver or even a driver giving us an experience with a particular passenger,” he explains. One of the revolutionary things Bolt has done is to have an API integration - live on trip integration with on demand services like ambulances and security response WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM


company. “At the press of a button and within a very short time, you have an immediate response from either an ambulance team if it is a medical case or a fast response security team if its an emergency situation.”

NAVIGATING COVID-19 PANDEMIC Ride hailing was one of the most affected businesses during the covid-19 pandemic as movement was highly restricted with most offices closing down and requiring employees to work remotely. Even schools were either closed or learning happened virtually. Bolt certainly took a revenue beating but managed to come out of the pandemic stronger than it was before. To survive in what was now referred to a new normal, Micah tells us that the company innovated to meet what the customers really looking for in a new normal.“During lockdowns, curfews, we had medical teams across the country moving during odd hours so we did innovate and create a solution for them in collaboration with government.”The innovation revolved around delivering fast and reliable ride hailing services to essential and emergency service provides who needed mobility but do not have private cars during those curfew hours where movement was greatly restricted. Opportunity also arose around food delivery. “We launched Bolt Food in Kenya because we realized a lot of people were staying at home and couldn’t go out to their favorite restaurants.” Micah believes no other time was better to enter this market than during Covid as the revenues collected from this new venture “more than made up for the reduced mobility.” The pandemic also taught Micah and his team one great lesson, Frugality. “Biggest learning is that frugality will take you out of any economic crisis much stronger so building a resilient business where you keep your costs affordable and low makes the business very resilient and adaptable,” he says. WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM

DRIVER CENTRIC RIDE HAILING PLATFORM Drivers have been a key pillar of Bolt’s success story and mobility firms actively looks out for opportunities to improve their welfare. With the global rally of fuel prices, Bolt has been actively seeking ways to cushion its drivers from adverse impacts of higher pump prices. “Fuel forms about 20 to 23% of drivers monthly costs so an increase in taxes have a direct impact on their take home earning so every price adjustment on fuel, Bolt reviews their pricing as well,” Micah reveals. “We have several components in our prices - there's a per minute rate, per kilometer rate and minimum charge. We make optimizations on each of those, especially on the price per kilometer rate to adjust for the increase in cost of providing that service,” says Micah. To cushion the drivers further, Bolt East Africa has signed a partnership with Rubis Energy where the oil marketing company offers Kshs 4 discount per liter for drivers on Uber platform whenever they fuel at any Rubis outlet within Kenya using their Ruby's card. The discount, according to Micah, is a significant amount of money in terms of savings when you look at it from the perspective of how much liters an active driver consumes on the platform. “We are also active in vehicle financing engagements on how we can scale and ramp up electric cars because as the cost of fuel per liter is increasing, the cost of electricity per kilowatt hour is not increasing as rapidly; there's quite a material difference in terms of cost per kilometer on an electric car and internal combustion engine car.” CREATING A FORMIDABLE REGULATORY FRAMEWORK Regulation can either be a bulwark for success or an impediment to growth of any sector depending on how its crafted and implemented. Ride hailing having largely DECEMBER 2022

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COMPANY FEATURE: BOLT

"BOLT HAS ALWAYS TAKEN A PRO REGULATION APPROACH IN THE MORE THAN 400 CITIES THEY OPERATE SERVING OVER 100 MILLION CUSTOMERS IN A MONTH."

preceded regulation, sector players have always been wary of regulation. The same is not true for the Estonian based company. “Bolt has always taken a pro regulation approach in the more than 400 cities they operate serving over 100 million customers in a month.” With a huge experience and wealth of knowledge in the industry, Kenneth says that they are willing to share that with every legislative body in the 45 countries where they have a presence. “I call them collaboration opportunities with governments to create a formidable regulatory framework; what was once new is now becoming a norm because of the convenience it brought and can now be regulated in a way takes care of the interests of the entire marketplace,” he adds. Kenneth says that governments have taken an interest in terms of the rate of commission that is being charged by platforms and they are happy to see the government being inclusive in getting their views and including them within the body of regulatory framework.

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RIDING TO A PROMISING FUTURE Despite the significant investment in Kenya and East Africa region, Bolt’s footprint is still a scratch on the surface compared to the number of cities across the region that are still underserved. Greater opportunities to expand into new towns continues to exist particularly in Kenya where devolution has really skyrocketed the growth of towns like Lodwar and Turkana towns which are hundreds of kilometers away from the capital Nairobi. Bolt has been positioning itself to grab these new opportunities that continue to unfold in the East African market. In July 2022, the ride-hailing company announced that it was opening a regional hub in Kenya that will serve as a host for top managers running operations in Africa. “Kenya has been favored because it is a great investment destination to house the teams that take care of different verticals within the business. It also complements other governments where we have focus Southern Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania and this creates a lot of collaborations,” Micah reveals. As streets get crowded and sound from ringing climate change bells continue to become louder, Kenneth urges users to make Bolt their preferred mode of transport. “With every use of Bolt, you are reducing the use of private cars in our cities which creates less traffic, less parking space pressures and hopefully some of the large parking lots we have because of private cars could be converted back into recreational centers for a greener, cleaner Nairobi.” WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM


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Revolutionizing Kenya's Roofing Industry MABATI ROLLING MILLS CEO, MANISH MEHRA ON THE COMPANY'S 60 YEARS OF ROOFING EXCELLENCE

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BY ELLY AKOKO

istory of Kenya’s roofing industry cannot be complete without the mention of Mabati Rolling Mills. Starting two years of before Kenya gained self-rule, the company has pretty much dominated the industry for the 6 years that it has been in operation. From its humble beginnings in Mariakani, near Mombasa, Kenya, the company has arguably churned more roofing sheets over the years and roofed more homes than any other roofing company in the country. With many companies in Africa hardly living to celebrate their 10th anniversary, CEO Business Africa Magazine was curious about the secret behind the company’s success over the past 60 years. Chief Executive Officer, Manish Mehra had only two things to say: innovation and consumer trust.

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REVOLUTIONIZING KENYA’S ROOFING INDUSTRY To help us understand how the company became the giant that it is today, Mehra takes us down the company memory lane, right to when it started. “The founders of MRM and people who have worked here in the past have consistently built relationships with the customers and always sought to enhance the trust which the consumer has in the brand by delivering on the quality,” Mehra says. Delivering on quality requires investment in the right kind of technology and this is one area that MRM has always been a step ahead. “MRM was the first company to bring the ‘aluzinc’ technology more than 20 years ago, and before that, all the sheets were galvanized,” he reveals.

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COMPANY FEATURE: MABATI ROLLING MILLS

"MRM USHERED IN 21ST CENTURY WITH A STYLE, BECOMING THE FIRST IN AFRICA TO PRODUCE THE WORLD’S LEADING PATENTED ALUMINUM-ZINC COATED STEEL.BRANDED AS DUMUZAS, ON PAINTED ROOFING." Before this, MRM had launched other technologies in the Kenyan market that were revolutionary at the time. In the sixties, for example, MRM was the first to introduce and use sheet-to-sheet technology in roofing production material. Later in 1982, the company commissioned the Hitachi 4 Hi- Cold Rolling Mill in Mariakani. According to the company, this Cold Rolling Milling was the first of its kind in the region. 7 years later, MRM added aesthetics to roofing with the introduction of color coating technology. A little bit of character was added to homes now, with homeowners given the choice to pick the color that best reflects their personality, feelings, or likings. Apart from the beauty, these coated roofing sheets came with an additional fade-free warranty of up to 15 years. MRM ushered in the 21st century with a style, becoming the first in Africa to produce the world’s leading patented aluminum-Zinc coated steel, branded as Dumuzas, on painted roofing. According to the company, Dumuzas which offered cooler interiors for homes due to its better heat reflectivity quickly become a market success in Kenya’s coastal region where elevated temperatures are the order of the day. The company has gone ahead to launch other new products in the market including Versatile, a premium, lightweight tile-like roofing sheet that serves as an alternative to the bulky brick tiles that can be a burden to install and maintain. The love for colors also saw MRM commission a new color coating line in 2016, enabling it to produce a variety of colored roofing sheets at world-class standards.

values and ethics, which one has to demonstrate to the team members so that they know they can look up to that. The other aspect, according to Manish, is to provide clarity to the team about the goals of the organization and ensuring that everyone understands that they play a part in achieving those goals. “It's an issue of ownership and accountability. In whatever actions they undertake, they are accountable and own them.” Manish says individual ownership does not mean one does not have back up from his or her superiors. “People

TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK Part of the force behind MRM’s success is the unflinching drive of its people. Today the company boasts of a workforce of over 700. Leading a such a huge team is no mean task. Manish says that a leader is as good as his or her team and one has to lead by example, guided by personal 32 AFRICA CEO VOICES

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make mistakes but they also need to take risks because in an environment like this, we need innovative solutions to problems and the environment has to be such that people have to feel comfortable,“ he explains. That COVID-19 pandemic disrupted businesses is

not news anymore and the CEO tells that not a single person lost his or her job during COVID-19 at MRM and the pandemic enabled people to work differently and learnt new ways of working. “We did not have a bad period; it was a good period for business. A lot of people went back to their farms or the villages and started constructing houses,” Manish reveals. With heightened demand, MRM needed all hands on deck, a tall order as Covid-19 management guidelines required some level of social distance between employees. “The management was very clear that safety of the people comes first and everything else comes second and the employees stood with us and helped us ride that period and that is why we are here looking forward to the future.”

ALWAYS OPEN TO FAIR COMPETITION The roofing industry has become more competitive as the years go by, at times eating into MRM’s share. A confident Manish however says that the company which he has been leading for more than a year now is not afraid of competition. In fact, he tells CEO Business Africa Magazine that MRM is always open to fair competition because it makes companies become better in terms of servicing their customers and improving their quality. What is not correct, according to Mehra, are the counterfeits. Counterfeits, according to the CEO can be of two kinds; one that includes brands passing off as MRM products and the other involving cheap products from overseas which do not give the same quality that the consumer thinks he or she is buying. “There is a basic element of fraud which comes into

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COMPANY FEATURE: MABATI ROLLING MILLS

"WE ARE EMBARKING ON AN AMBITIOUS PLAN OF CUSTOMER CENTRICITY, REALIGNING OUR PROCESSES TO MAKE SURE CONSUMERS INTERESTS ARE SERVED FIRST." play where the consumer thinks he or she is buying a product that will last for five years or ten years but after two or three years, the product starts failing,” Manish explains. To mitigate against unfair business practices, Manish says that they are working closely with government agencies such as Kenya Revenue Authority and Kenya Bureau Standards to ensure that standards are implemented in the marketplace. Counterfeiting does not however seem to go away. “It's like a pipe with leaks, you plug one leak hidden somewhere and a leak starts somewhere else, but I think it's a continuous process.” Manish is however optimistic that a recent move by the government of Kenya to enhance duty on imported coated steel coils from 25% to 35% will 34 AFRICA CEO VOICES

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have an impact on unfair competition from substandard foreign products. MRM is also launching a campaign that will bring back the debate on quality and it is continuously engaging with different stakeholders to educate the consumers about the right quality. The company has successfully done this campaign in the past with its popular ad back in 2013 reminding consumers that mabati si mabati and that cheap can at times be expensive. Apart from unfair competition, Mehra points out that high energy prices also need to be addressed as energy contributes a significant chunk of their operational costs. As passing costs to consumers is becoming increasingly difficult due to inflation, MRM is at times forced to absorb the costs which end up eating into its profits. In such a scenario, Manish says it is very important that they look at costs in manufacturing and other elements like transportation costs and they use their logistics more efficiently. “This is one area where more brainstorming is required with the government and other agencies because we need to explore more ideas on how to make manufacturing more competitive because we cannot just keep passing the prices to the consumer as that will affect the performance of not just our organization but all industries,” Manish adds. Other areas that could be looked at, according to Mehra, are County fees and advertisement fees to the governments which, individually look insignificant but in the end pile up into one huge cost that makes business uncompetitive. As government intervention can take some time

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before realization, MRM under Manish is looking inwards for solutions to enhance manufacturing efficiency and cut production costs. One intervention is solar to address the high power costs. Manish says that they are exploring a solar powered solution for their Mariakani Plant and are in the final stages of negotiations with the service providers. If successful, future plans exist to extend solar to other locations including at the Athi River plant. “The other initiative is how to use waste. We have an efficient waste management systems and waste generated is either disposed of or sold to make bricks.” In an environment where many companies are struggling waste management, MRM is also lucky that its main raw material is steel which is the most recycling recyclable material on the planet. Mehra tells us that 98% of it main input can be recycled. “We are fine in terms of carbon footprints.”

MOVING THE NEEDLE MRM has built its success on innovation and the company is not about to change. Over the years, it has always anticipated and appropriately aligned itself to meet the ever-changing consumer tastes and preferences on roofing materials. What’s trending in the market according to Manish is a technology that allows for different combinations of metals to produce superiorquality roofing sheets with an even longer life period. This technology is already in use in some developed countries like Japan, Mehra reveals adding that plans are underway to bring in those products when the local market becomes ready. “The other areas which we are focusing is looking at tie ups with certain companies to bring new technologies, whether in the area of regional buildings, cold rooms,” he adds. “The other part which we are looking at is institutional segment like infrastructure development. Large projects like steel building.We always want to be at the leading edge as far as technology is concerned.” To take advantage of the expanded market in East Africa community, Manish says that MRM is in the process of making a separate business unit to handle export market. “We are putting a senior manager in charge of that beginning in 2022 in terms of putting a separate focus and structure. We will be looking at the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda and the southern part of the continent; Zambia, Malawi to an extent and even Somalia.” Mehra believes that as these countries recover from their civil wars and other issues, opportunities will open up, and the company will be able to double its export numbers in the next five years.

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A CUSTOMER CENTRIC COMPANY For 60 years, MRM has dutifully roofed homes in Kenya with its ever-expanding range of quality roofing solutions. Overtime it has built a reputation of quality and gained the trust of its customers. As the company charts a new path into the future, Mr. Manish tells us that the primary focus will be on growing this trust even further while of course expanding its share of the increasingly competitive roofing market. “That is going to be the primary objective,” he stresses. Manish has a plan on how to make this a reality. “We have to do this through innovative ways of reaching out to the consumer and putting consumer right at the center of what we are doing,” he says. “So we are embarking on an ambitious plan of customer centricity, realigning our processes to make sure consumers interests are served first.”

Manish believes that more engagement with customers will enable them better understand their needs in terms of roofing sheets. The CEO also sees a future where MRM participates in more areas of the building and construction sector. “What are some of the other solutions that the consumer is looking at? We will explore not only the products and services in these related areas, but also going to some other areas in the building materials sector.” Manish reveals that the company is already some projects beyond roofing and will make suitable investments at the right time. We can only wish MRM the best as it enters its next phase of growth where it seeks to be a much larger organization known for more than just quality roofing material

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Servicing New Frontiers HASS PETROLEUM GROUP CEO, MOHAMUD SALAT ON THE ENERGY FIRM'S QUEST TO SERVE NEW MARKETS

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BY DIANA MICHIEKA

ounded in 1997 by two brothers, the late Abdirizak Ali Hassan and Abdinasir Ali Hassan, Hass Petroleum Group has grown from an export reseller with a fleet of two trucks to an international oil marketing company with operations in 9 African countries. Group CEO Mohamud Salat has been part of this journey, serving as head of internal audit and head of finance before the big promotion came in 2019. As the company celebrates 25 years in the oil marketing industry, Mohamud is proud to share with CEO Business Africa what it takes to build an indigenous oil marketing company from the ground up.

then known as AA Hassan, explored other markets in the Eastern Africa region and managed to set up operations in Tanzania, Uganda, DRC, and South Sudan markets. In 2002, there was a new government in Kenya, which proved to be a game changer for the oil business. Instead of Kenya dealing with crude oil and refining, it started importing refined products. The company now rebranded to Hass Petroleum Group seized the new opportunity and shifted focus back to its birthplace, Kenya, where it registered as an oil marketing company, giving it access to the product via the Kenya Pipeline Company.

STARTING FROM GROUND ZERO When the Ali Hassan brothers came together in 1997, the oil market was dominated by multinational companies with little to no participation from local players. The oil market was anything but liberalized. The Kenya Petroleum Refinery Limited (KPRL) in Mombasa, whose pipeline ran from Mombasa to Kisumu, had a chokehold on the market with any new player made to pay a portion of a line field and also buy products from the refinery. "The cost of becoming an oil marketing company was so prohibitive, exorbitant, and was probably the only way to keep away competition," says Mohamud Export reselling became a lucrative alternative at the time, as the Tanzanian market had just been liberalized. A strategic partnership with the then Caltex helped start the company off, as it provided both required resale products and additional trucking business for northern Tanzania. With the Kenyan market shut, the company

SUCCEEDING IN A CHALLENGING MARKET The oil market business is not for the fainthearted. Hass Petroleum came in a period when the oil market was dominated by multinationals who controlled 90% of the market. Unlike their deeppocketed competitors, they had to figure out how to survive in a market characterized by security issues, unavailability of dollars, and currency devaluation. "The biggest challenge in Africa is the whole element of the fluctuation of the local currencies against the dollar. I hope one-day Pan-African countries will rise to a level whereby Africa has one currency that is very strong and very stable,” a hopeful Mahmud says. The success of the company, however, came from the fact that it is a locally grown brand. “We are Africans. We know how we think. We know how we want to be served and the kind of products we want to be given.” This knowledge has influenced the kind of

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COMPANY FEATURE: HASS PETROLEUM

product that Hass Petroleum brings to the market. "If you look at our cylinders, they are unique cylinders. We call them composite cylinders. These are the only cylinders that are non-explosive and do not burst, which is one of the biggest fears [customers have]. They are very light and translucent; you can see the level of the gas." The company also provides solutions and products that other companies may have not including transportation, storage, distribution, and marketing of diesel fuel, automotive gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), and lubricants for industrial and automotive systems in all the nine countries where it is present. In all these markets, another key to success has been the provision of high-quality services regardless of the market in which the company operates. Drawing inspiration from its motto, "Servicing new frontiers", the company gives a lot of priority to new frontiers and provides the same services, whether in Nairobi, Mandera, Marsabit, or Wajir. "In DRC, we are quite known for giving efficient service to the mining companies," Salat says. In South Sudan, Hass Petroleum is known to be the biggest oil marketer, having majorly expanded during South Sudan's celebration of independence in 2011. The CEO is confident that this mode of operations can deliver success to any business regardless of size. "Even if a business owner owns a single petrol station, 38 AFRICA CEO VOICES

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"EVEN IF A BUSINESS OWNER OWNS A SINGLE PETROL STATION, DO WHAT YOU DO BEST AND YOU WILL EVEN EXCEED TO A LEVEL OF COMPETING EFFECTIVELY WITH MULTINATIONALS." do what you do best and you will even exceed to a level of competing effectively with multinationals.”

TAKING CHARGE DURING A PANDEMIC Being appointed as the CEO shortly before Covid-19 was declared a pandemic was one of the toughest challenges Salat has ever faced in his career. A few months into the position, he was expected to come up with new strategic leadership for the whole group. This was a particularly difficult task, as a cessation of all travels in and out of the country meant reduced business for Hass Petroleum. “When there's no movement between the borders of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, the company’s product, which is fuel, is not moving, this brought a huge impact on the company’s business,” Salat says. “But when we are faced with these kinds of challenges, it’s all about how you react to it, how you respond to it.” While some companies in his sector downsized and others sent their employees away with salary cuts, Hass Petroleum chose to adapt to the new working environment. His employees became a

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priority, with most cuts being in the softer expenses such as marketing. “We made sure that employees are comfortable, safe, and sound and working from home,” Salat shares. Quoting British billionaire business magnate Richard Branson, Salat tells us that for him, “clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” With employees adequately looked after, Hass Petroleum managed to keep its oil service station open to continue serving customers. He commends the shareholder as they stood with the company and the people to make sure that there were no significant changes as far as the company was concerned. Just as the effects of the pandemic were starting to wane in early 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, causing Europe's largest refugee crisis since World War II, with around 6.9 million Ukrainians fleeing the country and a third of the population displaced. The war brought a new food and energy crisis to the world. Oil became a scarce commodity in the international market, forcing suppliers like Hass to review their pump prices upwards, further squeezing consumer budgets that were already hurt by decades-high inflation. Salat worries that consumers burdened by high commodity prices may scale back on petroleum consumption. “When a product price reaches a certain level, there will be a downward shift in the demand curve of a commodity such as energy products, induced by a prolonged period of high prices or constrained supply.” “As a business leader in this sector, I feel like

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the prices are almost nearing this level of demand destruction whereby either the customers will reduce the total level of product they consume or the volume, or it will reach a time where they don’t even consume that product and resort to alternative means,” says Salat. Not waiting to be caught flatfooted, Hass focused more on alternative products such as lubricants, and LPG gas for home users and taxi operators who have gas-powered and electric vehicles. The company has its auto-gas petrol station in Nairobi that fills gas instead of fuel and a charging port.

DOTTING AFRICA WITH THE HASS BRAND With a presence in 9 African countries, Hass is no longer a small energy player. It's a force to reckon with within the African continent. In markets like the DRC, it’s the dominant player snatching away that opportunity from well-oiled multinational companies. Africa has 54 countries, and to be a truly African brand, the company has its eyes on each of those markets. To make this dream a reality, the company in 2017 partnered with Oman Oil, now known as OQT, a government-owned company that produces and refines fuel and lubricant products. The two companies had complementary needs that would be perfectly met by their collaboration. In Hass, OQT finds a downstream company to sell its product to new markets, while for Hass a reliable supplier of oilrelated products was found in OQT. “We are not just thinking of the nine countries where we are in, our

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“WHENEVER SOMEONE WALKS INTO A PETROL STATION, LET US NOT GIVE THEM SERVICE. LET US GIVE THEM AN EXPERIENCE THAT THEY WILL REMEMBER FOREVER AND EVER AND COME BACK AGAIN AND AGAIN.” conversation with my shareholders and Oman is how do we make sure we have dotted Hass Petrol Station all over Africa?" The partnership, which gives Hass a 40% stake in Hass, was timely as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement came into operation in early 2021, removing the red tape that previously hindered trade between the 54 countries. An optimistic Salat explains to us that AfCFTA means that a product that is produced in Kenya has the capacity and ability to be consumed across Africa, creating a bigger base that would in the long run reduce the cost of doing business while improving the margins and profits that a business makes. “If we actualize it and realize it, that will be a game changer in Africa.” As Hass prepares to embark on its pan-African journey, it has made investments to secure its current bases. In Tanzania, Hass invested in a 25 million depot capacity. In Kenya, Tanzania, and DRC, the company has also invested in trucks locally to make sure that its products are delivered to customers on time.

AN UNFORGETTABLE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE Looking at consumer behavior, Mr. Salat says that the company has seen a lot of transformation over the

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years. “A few years ago, when people went to buy groceries, they used to buy them at the shops right next to their homes, but now people are going to malls to buy groceries and even meet with their friends and relatives.” To leverage this trend, Hass has partnered with major outlets, the likes of Papa John's and Chicken Cottage, to give their customers a one-stop shop customer experience. As they come to wash and fuel their cars, Hass is expanding offers to ensure that they can also meet with their friends and relatives, do some little shopping from the convenience store and also enjoy a meal together from the best food outlets in the world. “Whenever someone walks into a petrol station, let us not give them service. Let us give them an experience that they will remember forever and ever and come back again and again.” For the close to 10 years that Salat has worked at Hass Group, he couldn't have been more proud of the company it has grown to become and the role he plays in this transformative journey. “I’m proud to lead a company that is majority owned by indigenous African and Kenyan. I look forward to challenging the multi-nationals while also mentoring the upcoming ones to be at their level or better.”

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DIGITAL TECH

AFRICA

P.40

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Richard Hechle

Dan Kwach

CEO, Dimension Data East & West Africa

Managing Director, East

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Africa Data Center

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TRANSFORMING

BUSINESSES

THROUGH TECH RICHARD HECHLE, CEO, DIMENSION DATA EAST & WEST AFRICA REVEALS HIS PLANS TO DIGITISE BUSINESS IN THE REGION BY JACKIE MUINDE

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eading an African systems integrator whose portfolio of technology services ranging from tech infrastructure to cloud solutions and business applications is not a walk in the park, more so when you are not a techie yourself. Richard Hechle, the CEO of Dimension Data for East and West Africa, is among the few “outsiders” that dare to try their luck in this field, and having been in the business for 7 years now can only mean one thing: he is doing everything right and he is certainly succeeding. “Dimension Data is a fabulous one-stop-shop business from a technology point of view,” Hechle describes the company he is leading during an interview with CEO Business Africa magazine. Founded in 1983 in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dimension Data is owned by Japanese telecommunications company The Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT).The company provides information technology products and services, such as those for data centers, security, network integration, converged communications or Microsoft support. Its primary areas of focus are digital infrastructure, hybrid cloud, workspaces for tomorrow, and cybersecurity. In addition to offering the sale of physical data centers, it provides operation, management, transformation, and

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relocation of such data centers. Dimension Data also manages and operates servers and storage and provides backup services in case of damage or disaster Born and bred in Kenya, Richard has been the CEO of Dimension Data for the seventh year now. He took over the position when it was Internet Solutions (IS) Kenya, shortly after the company had acquired Access Kenya Group a Kenyan company specializing on internet service provision. He oversaw the business integration process and later the renaming of the business to Dimension Data which happened in April 2020. Richard doesn’t describe himself as a ‘Techie’ but clarifies that he has love for technology and a love for people and growing businesses. Before Dimension, he served as the Managing Director of Finlays Kenya, a local subsidiary of the UK multinational B2B supplier of tea, coffee and botanical solutions. After over twenty years in the agriculture sector, Richard was ready for something new, and when the opportunity to join Dimenson Data presented itself, he was more than ready to jump in. “My motivation when joining Dimension was to reinvent myself into something new. And I'm still doing that every day. Seven years is not a long time in the technology industry with so much change and dynamics that go on, especially here in East Africa.”

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DIGITAL TECH AFRICA: DIMENSION DATA

STRETCHING ACROSS AFRICA Starting in South Africa, Dimension Data is currently present in twelve African countries namely Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, Angola, Nigeria, and Ghana. It also

"TECHNOLOGY IS AN ENABLER TO EFFICIENCY. IT TAKES COST OUT OF A BUSINESS, ENSURING THAT DATA IS SECURE AND GIVES THE RIGHT INFORMATION TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE AT THE RIGHT TIME." has a foot print in two Middle East countries: Saudi Arabia and The United Arabs Emirates. The expansion in Africa did have its own kind of regulatory challenges. “Some countries are easier than others in terms of regulation and how to comply,” Richard said. He describes Tanzania as relatively difficult “but if you understand the landscape and the regulation and you comply, there's big business there,” he clarifies adding that in each country that they operate they use the country’s workforce. “In Kenya, the business is run by Kenyans, the same in Uganda and in each of the territories we operate in. This is because those individuals understand the culture and the landscape and the technology and the and the regulation best.”

LOOKING AFTER CLIENT’S I.T ENVIRONMENT After combining its business with Access Kenya, the company currently offers internet services and internet connectivity, co-location, and data centre space to clients. They are also systems integrators in the fintech and insurance space. “We do an end-to-end from a simple connectivity connection through to building out data centres and looking after people's I.T. environments for them,” Richard added. “Key for us is client-centricity and focusing on what our clients are looking for. As a technology provider, what they're looking for is a trusted advisor to come and help them understand the digital transformations that so many people are now going through.” He said that the company makes sure that they have the right skill set and people to deliver a technology roadmap to their clients so that they understand how technology can improve their businesses. 44 AFRICA CEO VOICES

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Their clients also determine the kind of partnerships they have. Key for them is to be able to provide them with what they're looking for. “As a business, we are vendor agnostic. We go to our clients and understand their needs and then offer them the best solution that we see available in the market,” Richard said. He said that nowadays clients have a much better understanding of technology, what they want, what they need, and when they need it. Any partnership that they make should therefore be able to assist their clients to have more efficient and cost-effective technology. “Everybody wants to be number one in their area. If we can be a technology provider that they are recommending to other people, then we're doing our job.” He appreciates that technology has been an enabler in making their clients more efficient. “Technology is an enabler to efficiency. It takes cost out of a business, it makes sure that data is secure and gives the right information to the right people at the right time. That provides agility in people's businesses,” he added. He pointed out that the company was conscious of the need to remain relevant by delivering products and services that enable clients to meet the increasing demand for personalization and customization. “Leveraging technology is critical for businesses and our products and services play a vital role in empowering them to build their future,” he said. Richard says that in the last three years their focus has been to provide growth in all facets related to the provision of ICT by layering value-added services on WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM


connectivity allowing them to tap into non-connectivity revenue and partnerships with a regional presence. “We have made a lot of investment in network upgrades to ensure that we have the right infrastructure to deliver these solutions while exploring partnerships that meet the demand for ICT services by other client segments,” Richard retaliated.

A BLESSING IN DISGUISE Covid-19 required people to reinvent how they conducted their business. Working from home became a norm and with it a surge in demand for reliable, fast, and secure internet connectivity. While many were suffering from lost business, this change in business operations became a blessing in disguise for information technology service providers like Dimension data. “We found an increase in demand for data, which was good for our business,” Richard said. The challenge, according to the Richard was meeting this spike in demand. This required them to ensure that they had the required equipment at the right place, at the right time and with people with the required level of expertise.“But we've seen growth through that COVID period, and we count ourselves very lucky as one of the industries that grew and didn't shrink.” With business happening online more than ever before cybersecurity became a massive issue more than it already was. Dimension Data’s key focus was designing everything securely to make sure that people could access all of their data from wherever they were. With Covid-19 behind us, Richard points out the need for business owners and managers in various sectors to be aware and ready for the threat of cybersecurity as it is an ever present threat. He says that the issue is not to be addressed by the IT Manager but by the CEO

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whether the company is small or big. “What we see is, people only react after they have had a problem.What we advise our clients is that you have to have your systems and your applications and your people secure through the design of your whole IT landscape. And that's where professionals like us come in.” However, he acknowledges that there has been an uptake in terms of cybersecurity roadmaps with clients taking a proactive approach to cyber security rather than coming in after it's too late. “But it's for us to employ the right expertise and then to consult for our clients and help them with how that journey might look like.” Of course, COVID came with its own challenges, it was when the company was amalgamating the Internet solutions and the Dimension Data businesses. “But we did and we have now, a very cohesive team and some very clear strategic plans.” One of those strategic plans is building more data centers with NTT. Richard reveals that the company is currently looking at locations to build the centers alongside Hyperscalers such as Google and Microsoft. The company is also prioritizing network expansion and digital transformation for its clients across East Africa and into the interior parts of the region where internet access is not present. “We tend to have built out our network and facilities in the major towns, but we have lots of opportunity to and that in the deeper region.” Richard believed that with the business integration that was completed during Covid-19, the company is in a better to achieve its goals. “We're clear on our growth, we're clear on our metrics, and we're clear on our targets. And my job is to communicate what NTT is looking for, what our shareholders are looking for, and to make sure that we are a long-term sustainable growth business that gives everybody here, including myself, a future.”

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DIGITAL TECH AFRICA: AFRICA DATA CENTER

DAN KWACH, MANAGING DIRECTOR, EAST AFRICA DATA CENTER BY ELLY AKOKO

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Enabling Africa's Digital Economy:

ocated along Mombasa Road at Sameer Industrial Park in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa Data Centre (EADC), creates a unique environment for multiple customers to leverage the power of technology to realize the full potential of their business. The company offers access to carrier networks across Kenya and long-distance fiber routes to Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, and Somalia, as well as diverse fiber routes to cable landing stations in Mombasa. “We make it easy for organizations to use our secure environment to run their services," says Dan Kwach, EADC Managing Director. As more companies, particularly in the manufacturing, financial services, and healthcare sectors, move their operations to the digital realm, the need for a complex network, computing, and storage infrastructure arises. Developing and maintaining this infrastructure is, however, not a cheap affair and is mostly prohibitive for a single organization. This is where EADC comes in to

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DIGITAL TECH AFRICA: AFRICA DATA CENTER

"WHAT THIS DATA CENTER DOES IS TO HAVE ALL THESE KINDS OF INFRASTRUCTURE COMPONENTS IN ONE ENVIRONMENT, MAKING IT EASIER FOR BUSINESSES TO ACCESS THEM COSTEFFECTIVELY." such as Microsoft and Google set base in the East African region. “We have global organizations setting up base in our facilities, which gives them the last mile access or connectivity.” As the shift towards hosting data closer to where it is ultimately consumed heats up globally, Kwach points out that the question of where the cloud is can be finally settled. “We are making it known where the cloud is by having a facility in Kenya that can then host these cloud services.”

help businesses run their online functions without much of a hassle. "What this data center does is to have all these kinds of infrastructure components in one environment, making it easier for businesses to access them costeffectively," Kwacha explains. Currently, East Africa Data Centers Facility hosts infrastructure for over 50 network service providers and over 50% of financial institutions in Kenya at its premises. “You talk of cloud service providers; anyone consuming cloud-based services or cloud-based content for that matter will most likely be consuming it through Africa Data Center facilities.” The facility has become even more important as global technology companies 48 AFRICA CEO VOICES

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STAYING AHEAD OF THE COMPETITION A pioneer in the East African data center market, ADC is having to contend with increased competition from new market entrants. “Other operators are not getting into this space for the sake of it. It's because of the very big demand that we have for data center services,” Kwach reveals. Although the cake to be shared is getting bigger as demand rises, the EADC MD is quick to note that the company is doing all it can to keep its share of the spoils. “We like the fact that we have that leadership position in Eastern Africa and we are doing everything possible not to lose that position anytime soon,” he says. For Kwach, staying ahead of the competition usually means providing customers with the finest user experience and quality of service at an affordable rate. “That’s what keeps me awake, and it's for the right reason, because if there's anything I'm bringing to the customers; it’s the total cost of ownership in terms of them cost-effectively making use of data centers.” Providing services affordably can, however, be challenging, especially now that the cost of energy is rising due to rallying oil prices. "Our biggest operational cost is on energy,” Kwach reveals, adding that his company does all it can to ensure consumption is kept at a minimum. “We want to give our customers a better reason WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM


to come to Africa Data Centre,” Kwacha adds. “That's why we came up with this purpose-built data center that is aligned to international standards in the form of design, building, and operation. We've aligned ourselves to Uptime Institute, the Standard bearer for Digital Infrastructure performance, which has been a very good partner that has helped us grow in the data center space.” As part of the strategy to keep its customers happy, Mr. Kwach points out that his company is keen on attracting, growing, and retaining top talent, particularly in the area of Computer Science and Information Technology. "One of the things you need to do as an organization is to futureproof yourself in terms of skills by bringing in these young and restless youth who have these unique skills and competencies that some older generation or the existing staff might not have." The company also conducts continuous staff training to ensure alignment with the company's organizational culture, which is essentially “to put our customers at the heart of everything we do." Feedback also plays an important role in ensuring the company does not lose touch with its customers. "We will continuously be asking ourselves, what is it that our customers would want us to do better? Getting feedback, whether positive or negative, is most welcome,” Kwacha shares. “We get feedback not only from our customers but also from our staff as well on what we directly need to do so that we can align to our common purpose," he points out. As big technology players from Microsoft to Google and Twitter set base on the continent, competition for talent in the IT sector has certainly heated up. Kwach,

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however, expresses confidence in the ability of EADC to attract top-quality talent in such a competitive market. "For me, it means an opportunity for growth for all of us. Let the big techs come over. We will surely thrive. There is growth for myself and everyone else in the telecom space courtesy of these big players coming into Africa.” Data centers are seen as power-hungry facilities the world over so, there is a considerable push by customers for them to go green.“We have a very strong requirement by some of our customers to demonstrate that we are not just consuming renewable and green energy, but also being efficient in how we consume energy,” Kwach reveals. He however notes that replacing electricity from the national grid with solar is not feasible, at least in the short term. “We still rely on utility supply as our primary source, but we heavily complement that with solar energy.”

SUPPORTING AFRICA’S DIGITAL GROWTH Kwach is confident that the enterprise market is going to still consume a lot of data center services. The likes of Amazon (AWS) are setting up a local zone in Kenya.

"WE'VE ALIGNED OURSELVES TO UPTIME INSTITUTE, THE STANDARD BEARER FOR DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURE PERFORMANCE, WHICH HAS BEEN A VERY GOOD PARTNER THAT HAS HELPED US GROW IN THE DATA CENTER SPACE."

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DIGITAL TECH AFRICA: AFRICA DATA CENTER

"EAST AFRICA DATA CENTERS FACILITY HOSTS INFRASTRUCTURE FOR OVER 50 NETWORK SERVICE PROVIDERS AND OVER 50% OF FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS IN KENYA AT ITS PREMISES." Google is setting up a tech hub in Kenya and Microsoft has just operationalized its Africa Development Center in Nairobi as well. “Without a data center service player like EADC around, they will not have a way to have that infrastructure coming home and they'll be forced to consume these services from Europe like we are currently doing or consume them from South Africa, which could be too far for some of the latent sensitive services.” Latency can significantly slow down access to online content and this affects user experience. EADC wants to ensure the necessary infrastructure is available for robust digital growth on the continent. "We want to make sure that we build data centers capacity for these players to come and make use of,” he says. EADC also plays a role in supporting companies to comply with data protection laws which are active in Kenya and several other African countries. With its operations aligned to global best practices, Kwach says companies can rely on ADC to help them comply with laws requiring them to demonstrate to the data protection office that public or private and confidential data is being stored, processed, and transmitted per the laid-out legislation framework. The company also actively negotiates with power providers to ensure that they have a reliable power supply to maintain their infrastructure, which is a critical driver of many digital businesses. By finding solutions around key issues of power, data protection laws, and high initial investment costs, EADC presents itself as the best digital partner for businesses. “It is us circumnavigating around 50 AFRICA CEO VOICES

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these issues that give us leverage to convince customers to not struggle to build a data center in their space but to come to ADC and leverage on our experienced hands.”

BUILDING AFRICA’S LARGEST DATA CENTER NETWORK Africa Data Center has spread its wings beyond the East African market and is today a truly African brand. “Today, East Africa just forms one of the geographical bases where we have our data center assets for which I take leadership,” he shares. “We have a West African base that has its facilities in Lagos, Nigeria, and our South African base, which has data facilities in Johannesburg and Cape Town.” In Nairobi, the company wants to cement its position as the leading provider of IT infrastructure to corporate clients.“We are talking about bringing that cloud back home in Eastern Africa and we want to build a 10 to 20-megawatt data center that will be five times bigger than what you are currently seeing here in Nairobi and that is just in appreciation of these big tech companies wanting to set up their infrastructure within Nairobi or within Kenya.” The company is also assessing North Africa and Central Africa markets as part of its goal to ensure it has a pan-African presence. “Our purpose is to ensure that digital inclusion leaves no one or region behind, and let it happen in a way that is cost-effective and affordable to our market.”

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Sustainability

Africa

P.50

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Hasnaine Yavarhoussen

Olivia Lamenya

CEO, Groupe Filatex

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CEO, eBee Kenya

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INVESTING IN

SOLAR LIGHTING MADAGASCAR & OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRIES WITH CLEAN ENERGY: HASNAINE YAVARHOUSSEN, CEO, GROUPE FILATEX BY ALPHONCE OKOTH

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hen the sun sets in Madagascar,Africa’s largest Island country, everything goes dark. A privately owned company, Groupe Filatex, is daring to change this reality by harnessing the potential of renewable energy. In an interview with CEO Business Africa Magazine, Hasnaine Yavarhoussen, the Group's chief executive officer, explains the company's steps to bridge the energy gap in the country. "We have installed around 170 megawatts in the country,” Yavarhoussen reveals. With an average of nearly 2,800 hours of sunlight per year, Madagascar can produce an estimated 2,000 kWh/ m² of solar power annually. However, “only 15% of the population has access to energy,” states Yavarhoussen. To bridge this gap, the company is investing heavily in new solar power projects across the country. However, Groupe Filatex is not only in the energy business but also has operations in other sectors. As Hasnaine explains. “We are a major player in different WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM

sectors in Madagascar. First is energy. We also have real estate, free zones, and other ventures.” The company’s approach is to harness Madagascar’s rich natural resources and talent to support innovation and sustainable development.

MADAGASCAR’S LARGEST PRIVATE ENERGY PRODUCER Groupe Filatex is the largest private energy producer in Madagascar, specializing in solar energy. "We have around 40% of the country's market," Yavarhoussen affirms. The company is planning additional solar panels at the end of 2022 to increase access to energy. “We aim to have an additional output of 190 megawatts by the end of 2022.” A substantial portion of electricity in Madagascar is generated through diesel power plants. "The country is dependent and I would say 90% on fossil energy," Hasnaine tells CEO Business Africa Magazine.To change this, the company is exploring a hybridization power production model. “It means during the day, we put DECEMBER 2022

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SUSTAINABILITY AFRICA: GROUPE FILATEX

"THE MOTIVATION WE'RE GIVING TO THOSE PEOPLE, SHOWING THEM WHY WE'RE DOING IT AND WHAT THE IMPACT IN THE COUNTRY IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR THE SUCCESS OF ALL COMPANY'S PROJECTS." some solar so that at least we can have the peak hours on the renewable energy. This is bringing down the cost of energy by around 35%." Groupe Filatex is looking at off-grid mini-sites in a bid to improve energy access. To facilitate the offgrid solar initiative, the company, in collaboration with France’s Akuo, has been offering Solar GEM units since November 2020. These power units can be up and running in 30 minutes and can be taken down in 45 minutes should the weather turn inclement. "It's some mobile solar, it comes in a container all prepared and ready,” says Hasnaine. “You just have to install it. It's plugand-play. I think this is the best solution today for Africa, as the need today is quite urgent." By 2022, Filatex expects that its partner, Enelec, will have completed projects that would provide an additional 170 MW in Madagascar and 110 MW in Africa and Europe.

HARNESSING THE POWER OF WIND To supplement solar, Groupe Filatex has also trained its eyes on Wind which is in harvestable supply in the country’s northern region. “We've put the first wind farm in Madagascar in the north,” Hasnaine asserts. “We will also be putting in place some floating solar farms in the capital.” Harvesting wind is not an easy affair as the island faces harsh weather, from hurricanes and tropical storms. The company is working on a pilot site with a few wind turbines with blades that can handle the tough weather. These turbines use collapsible blades, which can fold up and wait for the storm to pass. The wind farm, launched early this year, is expected to generate 14GWh of electricity per year. In addition, Hasnaine explains that the firm has plans to launch a floating solar farm. “We have some lakes inside the capital where we will be putting those floating solar farms,” said the CEO. Once operational, the floating farms will generate 10MW.

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COVID-19 SLOWS GROWTH CAMPAIGN Despite having a well-laid-out expansion plan, the company's activities were distracted by the Covid-19 pandemic. "Covid-19 had an impact on us because the borders were closed, so the projects were delayed," says Yavarhoussen. The company's expansion plans in Ghana and Guinea were the most affected. The pandemic not only restricted movement but also had an impact on prices. Hasnaine tells us that "with Covid the prices, the investments, and Capex were going high." Despite the tough situation created by the pandemic, Groupe Filatex did not cancel its projects. Succeeding during the unprecedented times, however, depended much on the quality and the will of the staff the company employs. “Choosing the right people at the right place is very important,” he points out. The company which reportedly employs about 15,000 people and has a client base of over 1 million, had to rely on strong leaders to make key decisions as well as motivate the employees during the tough times. Hasnaine says, “the motivation we're giving to those people, showing them why we're doing it and what the impact in the country is very important for the success of all company's projects." WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM


energy storage across Madagascar and Mauritius.” The venture with Energiestro forms part of Groupe Filatex's efforts to provide innovative renewable energy solutions for Madagascar and Africa as a whole, to reduce the barriers to accessing electricity and protecting the environment. "The technology exists to revolutionize our energy grids and help save the planet.”

SUPPORTING GOVERNMENT POWER INITIATIVES Like any other country on the continent, the government's input in supporting local and private sectors in energy production is key. "The government is pushing us to do the harmonization in order not to be dependent on the heavy fuel market," Hasnaine tells CEO Business Africa Magazine.The Madagascar government has set a target of providing energy access to 70% of Malagasy households by 2030. It also plans to produce 7,900 GWh by 2030, as opposed to the 1,500 GWh currently produced. In response to the government's target, Groupe Filatex has embarked on the hybridization of its existing plants. "We started the hybridization of the existing power plants, which are heavy fuel power plants," explains Hasnaine. In addition, the group is also investing heavily in new solar power projects across the country, with 231 MW in development. Partnerships also play a key role in the company's success. "We are looking for a partnership with other private investment," says Hasnaine. In 2020, the firm NEW INVESTMENTS TO ENHANCE CAPACITY Groupe Filatex, like any other company, depends on funding and investment to run smoothly. Financing is becoming increasingly scarce for fossil fuel projects, but "being the biggest private energy producer, I would say it's easier to attract some investment," Hasnaine confirms. The company is working on four hybrid sites with a combined capacity of 20MW. Once complete, they will raise the group's total energy production capacity to 49MW. Groupe Filatex has also invested approximately US$11.4 million (41% stake) in the storage technology deployed by Energiestro, a French technology company that develops flywheel energy storage. Flywheel storage technology is an alternative to battery storage. It works by accelerating the rotor, or flywheel, and then maintaining the energy as rotational energy. If energy is added to the system, the rotor goes faster and slows when some are removed. “This is the first time that we have an ecologic way of storage. Instead of putting batteries to store the renewable energy,” reiterates the CEO. “Together, we are laying the foundations of an ambitious plan to deploy flywheel WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM

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SUSTAINABILITY AFRICA: GROUPE FILATEX

"WE KNOW HOW TO DO IT IN MADAGASCAR. THERE IS NO REASON WHY WE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO DO IT IN OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRIES." partnered with Dera Energy to install 170 MW of solar capacity in Madagascar.Together, the two partners planned to build hybrid power plants, fixed solar power plants, and mobile power plants. These solar power projects are planned to be set up in the localities of Tamatave, Tulear, Diego, Majenga, Nosy Be, and Antananarivo. In August 2020, the company also partnered with Bboxx to extend the clean-energy platform's services to Madagascar.

EXPANDING BEYOND MADAGASCAR Yavarhoussen believes that his company has the ability to replicate its success in Madagascar in other African countries where electricity demand still exceeds supply. "We know how to do it in Madagascar. There is no reason why we would not be able to do it in other African countries," Hasnaine affirms. The company has 56 AFRICA CEO VOICES

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already announced multiple projects that will expand its services to other African countries, including Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, and Ghana. The Côte d'Ivoire project began in 2021 and generates 66MW of solar energy. This project contributes to the national plan to install 424 MW of solar power by 2030. Meanwhile, in Ghana, expansion plans have been delayed as onsite technical studies were not possible. Out of the continent, Filatex has also diversified its risks by investing in a hydro-power project in Albania. Planning ahead, Yavarhoussen tells us that the focus now is on completing the projects in progress. "In 2023, I will be continuing the projects we started last year,” he says. The company will also be looking to install new solar panels as they are “the key to development.” To grow the economy of Madagascar and other African countries, Hasnaine says that clean and affordable energy source is key as almost all sectors of the economy rely on energy. “Without access to cheap electricity, we can't do anything. We can't make some new factories. We can't do any project," he points out. With the many challenges from finance to infrastructure to poor economies of many African countries, Hasnaine is undeterred in his goal to affordably power Madagascar and the rest of Africa. "We need to keep going on and we have to be very motivated and patient and continue our war in order to get those projects done."

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A SPECIAL PAVILLION AT:

Afmass FOOD EXPO The Future of Food in Africa

MARCH 30 - APRIL 1, 2023

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SARIT EXPO CENTRE, NAIROBI, KENYA

Discover the latest technologies for Africa's grains industry at the Milling & Baking Africa Expo. Meet all the international manufacturers and distributors from the World at one Show Grain Handling & Storage Solutions • Milling Equipment & Solutions • Baking Equipment, Technology & Services • Supply Chain, Automation & Control Solutions • Quality & Food Safety Solutions for Grains & Baking Industry

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SUSTAINABILITY AFRICA: EBEE KENYA

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GOING GREEN WITH TWOWHEELERS: OLIVIA LAMENYA, CEO, EBEE KENYA

BY ELLY AKOKO

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ycling is something we in Africa consider a poor man's mode of transport.To our defense, we are mostly used to 20th-century bicycle models that are unpleasant to the eye and require one to break a sweat when moving uphill. eBee, an upstart company in Kenya, is seeking to make cycling as fashionable as it is in Europe by introducing something sleek, something that is beautiful, something that dignifies us, and above all, something that cares for the environment. Olivia Lamenya, the Managing Director, is proud of her company and what it represents. “eBee because the world is moving into a space of sustainability, moving away from things that bring down the earth and looking at things that make the earth become better.” Apart from making cycling fun, Olivia reveals that a bicycle was chosen as it was one of the most affordable means of emission-free mobility available in Kenya.“Many people in Kenya want to make money. Many people on the African continent would like to earn something and have a decent life, so why not give them an asset that allows them to start without too many complications? So electrical bicycles were a very sane thought for us at that particular moment,” says Olivia.

LEASE TO EARN MODEL eBee mobility solution is centered around providing people with sustainable means of earning employment. With e-commerce on the rise, companies like Jumia and Glovo have a high demand for last-mile delivery personnel. With an e-bike, people could work as delivery partners and earn incomes without having an impact on the environment.The upfront cost of owning an e-bicycle, WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM

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"AS THE RIDER MAKES MONEY ON THE PLATFORMS, IMALIPAY IS ABLE TO DEDUCT THE COST OF THE RENT OF THE BICYCLE FROM THE RIDER'S DAILY INTAKE."

although cheaper than electric cars, is still considerably high for a majority of people in the country who live on less than US$2 a day. With upfront ownership out of the picture, leasing became a wonderful compromise. “It's a lease model because we don't want anyone going into debt,” explains Olivia. Olivia clarifies that the company has partnered with Quatrix to make the lease model work. Quatrix gets them the right personnel and together, they're able to approach companies like Glovo, Jumia, and Bolt and provide a delivery service. In February 2022, eBee Africa signed a partnership agreement with ImaliPay to allow workers in the gig industry to have access to electric bicycles on favorable terms, removing the need for a lump sum for outright purchase. “ImaliPay is a very interesting concept for us because they look at how can we get guys who typically wouldn't be given a loan by the bank. How do you allow them the opportunity to cycle and pay you back on a day-to-day basis? And that's where ImaliPay came in.” ImaliPay helps with the lease model by accessing the ability of buyers to pay back and then creates a very customer-friendly way of collecting back the money. “As

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the rider makes money on the platforms, ImaliPay is able to deduct the cost of the rent of the bicycle from the rider's daily intake. And that way, the rider doesn't feel too much of a loan or too much of a cost is implied on them. So, if they don't ride, they don't pay. If they ride and make money, then they pay.” Olivia sees this as a winwin situation for both the company and the riders.

BUILDING INFRASTRUCTURE FROM THE GROUND UP One of the biggest challenges eBee Africa is facing is getting the right personnel to do repair and maintenance of the bikes because it is a completely new asset in the market. “One would automatically think that because somebody has repaired a motorbike, then they can repair this. It doesn't necessarily work that way.” The Netherlands, a global leader in e-bike technology, has become strategic in helping eBee develop the necessary capacity to support the adoption of e-bikes in Kenya. “We have somebody from the Netherlands who has come in to help us transfer those skills and make sure that it is a fully Kenya-owned company,” she clarifies. Despite the challenges encountered in setting up WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM


"THE STAFF ARE VERY SUPPORTIVE, VERY DILIGENT, AND INDUSTRIOUS GROUP OF KENYANS WHO ARE VERY OPEN TO NEW EXPERIENCES." infrastructure for electric cycling, Olivia is one happy manager. Her pride mostly comes from her team, which took a novel project and stopped at nothing to make it work. "They are a very supportive, very diligent, and industrious group of Kenyans, who are very open to new experiences. Obviously, none of them had ever seen an electrical bike, and none of them had ever worked on an electrical bike before. So, the ability to come in and take on the task of this bike, strip it down, figure it out, build it back together, ensure that the quality remains the same, understand what are some of the challenges that these riders would experience on the road, take the bike, ride it during the day, ride it during the night, understand what safety concerns could come is amazing." To ensure a sustainable business and skills transfer locally, eBee is establishing the eBee Academy. "We're still building it and one of the things we would like to do is to attach ourselves to a polytechnic or some university or

institute and see how we can bring these two together, encourage the youth to take on something totally different from what they would accept as a conventional form of engineering.” With the help of the Dutch, the company hopes it can make the technology work without much reliance on foreign help in the future. “We will bring in our specialists from the Netherlands to help us understand the bikes, but in the future, my expectation is that our shop floor managers will be the ones training the next group of engineers on how to manage this," adds Olivia. The e-bikes rely on charging, as battery swapping is not yet widely available. "Right now, one of our batteries allows the rider about 70 kilometers before they need to charge, and it takes about 4 hours to charge the battery to full again," she explains. Riders can take the batteries home and charge them, but the company is planning to have charging infrastructure set up. "We are getting to a space where we know charging points will be necessary and we are looking through partnerships to see who can we set up with to create those charging stations.”

IT'S AN E-BICYCLE, NOT A MOTORCYCLE Classification of electric bicycles as motorcycles has been one of the greatest impediments to lowering the cost of these bikes. According to her, taxation on these bikes is significantly high. She reveals that they are currently having conversations with the Kenya Revenue Authority, National Treasury, and Ministry of Transport on how to WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM

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"I WISH WE COULD HAVE SOMETHING LIKE A BICYCLE DAY IN KENYA, WHERE EVERYBODY RIDES TO WORK OR TAKES A DIFFERENT FORM OF TRANSPORTATION OTHER THAN A FUEL CONSUMPTION FORM OF TRANSPORTATION"

lower the taxes levied on these bikes. “We all wish we could snap our fingers and Kenya Bureau of Standards understand that this is a bicycle and not a motorbike, that Kenya Revenue Authority can immediately understand that it's a bicycle with a motor and reduce taxes. It is an educational process not only for them but also for us to understand and appreciate how do we create that balance that allows everybody to come.” As with the government, Olivia believes that consumers too are confused as to what electric bikes are and haven't yet appreciated their benefits to both users and the environment. “We grew up knowing that bicycles are for the poor and changing that concept means changing the way we've thought for very many years." She, however, believes more efforts directed at behavioral change can yield the desired results. “I wish we could have something like a bicycle day in Kenya, where everybody rides to work or takes a different form of transportation other than a fuel consumption form of 62 AFRICA CEO VOICES

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transportation.We are a working nation, have a day where we just walk or cycle to work just to change that. It could be once a year just the way we run the marathons and those kinds of activities,” says Olivia. "Maybe that would help people change the way we view some of these things and also appreciate what it means to not be a driver but to be a cyclist on the road. Maybe we would have more mutual respect when we see bicycles and motorbikes on the road," she ponders. “The government can make pathways, cycle lanes, and maybe change rules around who uses what and make it more dedicated so that everybody understands which lane they are in. Have in driving school’s syllabus around respect for cyclists and other motorists on the road. We do understand that the vehicle has a license, but we can share these spaces. So, changing that concept is not just for the government, but it's also for the people of Kenya,” she adds.

ONE MILLION BIKES BY 2030 Regardless of the struggles that the company faces each day, Olivia goes home fulfilled that she is spearheading a good course. She goes on to say that the biggest joy is knowing that employees can take care of their loved ones and it's through a very small step that they took, providing them with an electrical bike. “Those are the things that keep me excited, joyful, and happy. Receiving the feedback. Seeing female engineers work just as hard and just as tenacious as men is fantastic. Hopefully, we'll get to do that at a greater scale because they are the next generation.” The greater scale for Olivia is an ambitious target of having 1 million bikes on the road by 2030. “Our goal has always been 1 million bikes on the road by 2030, not just for Kenya, but for sub-Saharan Africa. I believe that is something that is very achievable. Five years from now, we should be at least 80% of our journey there.” WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM


FINTECH AFRICA

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Andrew Nkolola

Stone Atwine

CEO, Ayo Zambia

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The will to

SUCCEED LEVERAGING MOBILE TECHNOLOGY TO BRING INSURANCE PRODUCTS TO ALL ZAMBIANS: ANDREW NKOLOLA, CEO, AYO ZAMBIA BY JACKIE MUINDE

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nsurance penetration in Zambia, just like the rest of the African continent, remains below the global average due to a number of factors, chief among them being a lack of awareness and a lack of trust by consumers in traditional insurance companies. aYo is, however, not your traditional insurer. It is a modern insurance company that leverages the power of technology, analytics, and mobile and digital channels to make life and hospital insurance accessible to millions of people across the African continent. It helps that it has the backing of Africa’s telecommunications giant MTN, which has an estimated 280 million subscribers across the continent. In a market like Zambia, where the Insurance market is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 17% during the period

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2020 and 2025, aYo was certainly going to be successful given the relevance of its products to average Zambian consumers. "We offer primarily life and hospital cash insurance, and by life, we mean a small ticket insurance that is affordable and linked to an individual's general usage of their mobile phone subscription in terms of either airtime or mobile money services if you like,” Andrew Nkolola, CEO aYo Zambia tells CEO Business Africa. Today, aYo enjoys a subscriber base that is a little over 3 million customers. That is a remarkable feat for a company that is barely 2 years old.The company's success can be linked to the affordability of its products. "What we have tried to do is to link a level of affordability and accessibility and simplicity to our offering. That, by and large, gives benefits relating to the unfortunate death of a policyholder and or hospitalization over a specified period," Andrew elaborates. "So, we believe our offering is quite valuable and fills the need and void, especially for people with irregular income and that are exposed to quite a few risks around that daily living." A relatively easy way of onboarding into the insurance program has also attracted customers in their millions. With aYo, customers only need to be active subscribers of MTN from where they can register for the insurance through a short USSD code. By enabling payment through MTN Mobile Money or recharge cards, aYo has also made it easier for customers to easily manage their insurance premiums, further encouraging uptake among many Zambians. Andrew, a Zambian-born and bred insurance professional, knows firsthand the need to make insurance simple to onboard and affordable to maintain. “At a personal level, I have had relations, friends, and relatives

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FINTECH AFRICA: AYO

who, at one point or another, may have been economically disadvantaged and as a result could not have accessed what they need to help them when they're in calamitous situations. And I think I took it upon myself from there on to make this my crusade,” Andrew reveals.

A CUSTOMER-CENTRIC INSURANCE COMPANY Andrew says that they are in a market where people have generally not had direct interaction or exposure to formal insurance. He further notes that even those that have, unfortunately, the experience may have not been very pleasant, particularly when it comes to claims settlement. Having been in the Zambian insurance scene for about 12 years, Andrew wants aYo to stand out from its peers. “We tried to tailor our products around the actual needs and expectations of our customers," he says. "One of the reasons why we also looked at life and hospital cash is basically from that feedback and interaction with our customers.We said we are not going to come with a product off the shelf but rather meet the real risks that are experienced daily by our customers." A lot about providing customer-tailored products also has to do with consumer education. In many African communities, discussing with someone on anything about their death is unheard of. Even though this is ridiculous, many of us genuinely think we may even be “tempting fate” if we decide to take life insurance. Andrew believes this cultural belief is one of the biggest barriers to insurance penetration. The problem is further compounded by a low level of knowledge and understanding when it comes to insurance. aYo works to demystify such beliefs through an extensive customer education program. "We don't just sell policies or benefits to our customers. We try as much as possible to educate them through the journey as to what it is they're buying into, how to claim and when to claim, and what to expect when they do make their claim," says Andrew. Andrew believes the actual services that they are offering from insurance, both life and where hospitalization is concerned, contributes to filling that gap and void where people face calamities because of some of the environmental changes we're experiencing globally and more so in Africa. "There are droughts, there are floods and other climate issues that impact individuals at a go, and as a result, they do need some kind of support or safety net. So, our contribution from an offering perspective speaks to that," he says. With climate change fast catching up with us, Andrew confides in us that the company is also exploring sustainability-related product offerings that speak directly to customers. That product could be agriculture

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insurance or index insurance to protect farmers when they lose their crops as a result of drought, or anything related to climate change issues. Just like aYo's existing products, these too will be rolled out in the space of innovation and technology to make it easier for the customer to access them at an affordable price.The focus, according to Andrew, will be on ensuring the products impart real value to customers whenever they experience any climate-linked calamity.

TECHNOLOGY PROVIDES A BULWARK FOR GROWTH What has helped aYo achieve unprecedented success is the fact that it is majorly a digital service company. Leveraging already existing technology, the company has been able to roll out its products with a relatively higher success rate in Zambia. High mobile penetration rates in the country have ensured aYo has an expanded customer reach and with much of the digital population still untapped, opportunities for further growth still exist. “With a mobile phone penetration rate of above 80% in the country, we believe this offers Zambians from all walks of life the ability to access affordable, easy-to-use insurance that is relevant to their needs that they have control over,” Andrew says. Robust investments from the company's primary shareholder, MTN Group have been key in the company's growth journey both in Zambia and in the rest of the WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM


"BY ENABLING PAYMENT THROUGH MTN MOBILE MONEY OR RECHARGE CARDS, AYO HAS ALSO MADE IT EASIER FOR CUSTOMERS TO EASILY MANAGE THEIR INSURANCE PREMIUMS, FURTHER ENCOURAGING UPTAKE AMONG MANY ZAMBIANS."

continent where it already has a footprint. The company is however confident that it can easily tap into the venture funding market should it need external sources of funding. “Though we may not be involved in that space currently, depending on the situation and the time and the market itself, even those options, I believe, are viable because we always look at the new markets that we enter and the business starting this new market as a start-up in itself.” The CEO is, however, satisfied that the resources it currently gets are enough to help it achieve its goals. “For the foreseeable future, we will continue to leverage off of the good support we are getting from MTN as a group and any other partners that will collaborate with them at that level and share the same vision we are trying to bring to fruition." WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM

BUILDING AN AFRICAN FOOTPRINT For Ayo and other microinsurers, the pandemic meant more business. Andrew says that his company greatly benefitted from the high level of appreciation for insurance services that arose during the pandemic period. "From a knowledge, ability perspective, I think COVID also brought to the fore a closer conscious around what risks are apparent to people and how best they can take care of them when these issues arise,” Andrew points out. After the pandemic, Andrew says that the company is now looking at expanding its product offering to cater to broader healthcare risks that people are experiencing. Continentally, aYo has very robust expansion plans leveraging MTN's pan-African presence. The strategy, according to Andrew, is to have a presence “wherever we have the telco capability as well as other digital facilities.” The insurtech, which began in Uganda and is currently in three other African countries, including Zambia, Ghana, and Cote d'Ivoire, has plans to launch in several more in the near future. Nigeria, Cameroon, and Benin are some of the already confirmed markets that aYo is serious about venturing into. A soon to be announced East African country is also in the mix. “We are hopeful that we will be able to provide or will be able to have aYo as a partner providing insurance in those countries.” DECEMBER 2022

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FINTECH AFRICA: EVERSEND

SUPPORTING

SMOOTH AND EFFICIENT CROSSBORDER PAYMENTS IN AFRICA: STONE ATWINE, CEO, EVERSEND BY JACKIE MUINDE

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versend was born out of the need for a simple, convenient, and affordable way to send money to Uganda from abroad. Stone Atwine, one of the FinTech start-up cofounders, had experienced firsthand the cumbersome and expensive nature of sending money to her grandmother while working in multiple African countries. Western Union, the only means available to him then, took 15– 20% as commission, and then grandma needed to take a one-hour bus ride to collect the money which she could then have to hog back home on a crowded bus. With Eversend, Stone Atwine and his co-founder Ronald Kasendwa hoped the nightmare of sending money back home by African expatriates would become a thing of the past. The company which launched in 2019 has since grown beyond its basic cross-border money transfers and today functions as a one-stop shop for financial services offering a diverse range of services, from virtual cards to bill payments and stock trading among other financial services. "The idea behind Eversend is that we've become more valuable to our customers because they do a lot more things in the app, as a result, giving us more revenue per user.”

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"WE ARE POSITIONING OURSELVES AS A LEADING PLAYER IN THAT SPACE OF USING STABLECOINS FOR CROSS-BORDER BUSINESS PAYMENTS".

"I BELIEVE THAT WHEN ONE COMPANY INTRODUCES THE SERVICES THEY HAVE, IT HELPS ALL THE OTHER COMPANIES IN TERMS OF ADOPTION DOWN THE ROAD". WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM

THRIVING IN A RAPIDLY EXPANDING MARKET Launching in 2019, Eversend was entering an already competitive marketplace dominated by giants like Flutterwave, Ukheshe, and M-Pesa. The much larger peers, however, didn't intimidate Steve even a bit as he believed his company was offering unique services that were more complementary than competitive to the ones offered by existing companies like Flutterwave and M-Pesa. His company is already engaged in partnerships to drive financial inclusion in Uganda and other African countries where it has operations. Stone reveals to us that his company relies on the payment rails, on the agents of mobile money companies like MTN, Airtel, and M-Pesa to deliver money to some of their customers for withdrawal, but also onboard cash into the Eversend application. “I believe that when one company introduces the services they have, it helps all the other companies in terms of adoption down the road. It's a fight of us fighting against cash as opposed to us fighting against each other necessarily,” he adds. As the value of transactions in FinTech grows to around US$5 billion by 2025, according to an FSD Africa report, Stone believes that Eversend is well positioned to grab a pie of that market. “We are positioning ourselves as a leading player in that space of using STABLECOINS for cross-border business payments. But for now, we are playing the normal traditional fiat currency game and we see a huge opportunity in that cross-border payments space, both for retail and also for business,” he says. DECEMBER 2022

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FINTECH AFRICA: EVERSEND

STANDING OUT FROM THE REST Eversend differentiates itself from its peers by enabling exchange in exotic currencies, which are essentially currencies normally not traded against each other. “And this is where we have excelled,” stone reveals. The effect to customers is a simplified and more affordable way of repatriating money home from wherever they may be on the continent. "As an example, if you're banking through traditional means and you want to send money, let's say from Ghana to Kenya, usually what will happen is that money has to be exchanged for US dollars at very bad rates and sent to New York. Then the dollars have to be exchanged into another local African currency. That's the only way we can move money across Africa, which is kind of a shame,” he says. Without involving the US dollar, the whole process becomes a lot simpler and significantly cheaper. “That's one thing that we have done well, and right now we are one of the leading foreign exchange platforms on the continent.” EXPANDING BEYOND THE HORIZON Starting with an annual transaction volume of US$800,000, Eversend has recorded rapid growth in under 2 years, managing to post a transaction volume of US$230 million in 2021. Much of the company’s growth came from aggressive expansion into Ghana and Nigerian markets. Having set a very solid base, Stone can only hope for more growth in the coming years. “Our hope is we keep growing at the same pace in the future. And if that happens, we will build a very strong and successful company." Apart from hope, Stone is also putting in the work

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"THE IDEA IS TO SERVE AS MANY AFRICANS AS WE CAN AND MAKE IT SEAMLESS FOR THEM TO DO ANY OF THE FINANCIAL SERVICES THEY WOULD LIKE TO DO".

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by laying the ground for expansion into new markets both within and without the continent. He reveals that the company is already going to start operations in the United States and has received the green light to operate in Canada. Plans are also underway for a possible launch in the UK and other European countries, according to the CEO. “The idea is to serve as many Africans as we can and make it seamless for them to do any of the financial services they would like to do. That's why the quick geographical expansion,” he elaborates. He adds that in the coming years, they will be looking into Francophone Africa, countries like Mali, Cote d'Ivoire, and Senegal. Expansion in Africa, however, comes with its challenges, which require Eversend to be innovative in its approach. “You have to hire local teams and get to understand the markets well as each financial regulator has their own rules and regulations and complying is difficult,” he says. Where approval is given, Eversend starts operations by partnering with existing regulated entities to ease the market entry process. “It's a big challenge but Somebody has to do it if you want the cross-border payments.”

MANAGING GROWTH SUSTAINABLY Steve highlights that Eversend doesn't play the "old Silicon Valley game of FinTech companies or technology companies,” which is to raise as much money as possible and grow as fast as you can, and then you can figure out revenue later. His company is rather focused on actually making money from the very beginning. As a FinTech, external capital injections have also come in handy, particularly in driving expansion into new markets. "In our lifetime, we've raised only US$1 million, and we've done this through various ways; venture capital, and angel investors. Also crowdfunding from some of our customers to be shareholders of the business," he adds. As plans for launch into new markets get underway, Eversend certainly has an appetite for more capital injections. "At some point this year, we will be raising more money, especially through venture capital, so we can grow more rapidly." More aggressive startups usually go the mergers and acquisitions way in search of growth. Stone, however, thinks that Eversend is still a small business for mergers and acquisitions. “Things are going well. So, we are not in a hurry for acquisitions. Maybe if we see a great company at a great value, we might consider it. Us being bought I think it's very early days. We still have a lot of value to build for our shareholders and that's what we will do," he concludes. DECEMBER 2022

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THE MOUNTAIN

GORILLAS OF RWANDA AND SO MUCH MORE BY JACKIE MUINDE

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eferred to as the land with a thousand hills, Rwanda is characterized by an enormous stretch of mountains to the northwest that plays host to some of the world's last remaining mountain gorillas in and among the bamboo forests. The land of a thousand hills is blessed with extraordinary biodiversity, with incredible wildlife living throughout its volcanoes, montane rainforest, and sweeping plains. From Gorilla tracking to cycling along the scenic countryside, Rwanda has so much to offer, which also explains why tourism in Rwanda is one of Rwanda's top foreign exchange earners. Efforts to clean the streets have gathered momentum in recent years, elevating the tiny East African country back to its rightful place as a revered natural beauty destination.

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list. They offer a unique opportunity to see gorillas in their natural habitat. Those who have visited them term the experience as unforgettable. Some even describe it as life-changing. Encounters with gorillas as they go about their daily lives are carefully managed, with expert trackers and guides leading small groups of tourists up bamboo-covered slopes to spend a precious and awe-inspiring hour just a few feet away from the gentle creatures. The largest living primates are spread across much of the equatorial African rainforest. Broadly speaking, the species is split into lowland gorillas and mountain gorillas. The endangered mountain gorilla is, however, only found in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.These are the animals you meet when you embark on one of the many annually organized tours.

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TRAVEL: RWANDA

Tours to view wild mountain gorilla groups have been organized since 1955, with the first attempts at habituation for this purpose occurring as early as 1966. These early tourism programs displayed an almost complete lack of structure and control.The gorilla tourism program, launched in 1979 and later evolved into what is now known as the International Gorilla Conservation Program, ensures that the tracking of gorillas in Rwanda is safe and relatively accessible. At the latest count, there are approximately 1,000 mountain gorillas in the wild, with 604 in the Virunga Massif.The distribution of the Virunga Mountain gorillas is limited to an approximate area of 447 square kilometers, which encompasses the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, the Virunga National Park in Rwanda, and the Mikeno sector of the Parc National des Virunga of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The population is slowly increasing, thanks to concerted efforts between our governments, communities, and NGOs. While on the trail, you may be lucky to meet with one of the twelve gorilla families currently living in the Volcanoes National Park. The families include Susa, Igisha, Karisimbi, Sabyinyo, Amahoro,Agashya, Kwitonda, Umubano, Hirwa, Bwenge, Ugyenda, and Muhoza. The groups or troops consist of at least one silverback, along with several females and youngsters.

INTIMATE ENCOUNTERS Eight tracking permits are issued per troop per day, meaning the encounter is as intimate and as unobtrusive as possible. Visitors gather at the Volcanoes National Park headquarters in Kinigi at 7 am and are allocated a family group on the day according to fitness levels. Briefing on protocols and rules for visiting the gorillas is also carried out at this time. Hikes up to their various locations can last anything from 30 minutes to four or more hours, reaching an altitude of between 2,500m and 4,000m. Porters are available to carry backpacks and cameras, as well as to offer a helping hand along the route. With only 96 permits available each day in Rwanda, it is highly recommended to book in advance, either online or via a reputable tour operator. You may want to avoid the peak season, which is usually in the period between June and September if you are the kind of person that prefers smaller crowds. When you visit the gorillas, you not only get an unforgettable tourist experience but also get to contribute to the development of the surrounding areas as 10% of the revenue from the permits is channeled towards local

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communities, to build schools and health centers, as well as roads. There is also a compensation fund for local farmers should any gorillas damage their crops, which helps to ensure peaceful co-existence.

KWITA IZINA GORILLA-NAMING CEREMONY A special time to visit the Volcanoes National Park is during the annual Kwita Izina gorilla-naming ceremony. The naming ceremony involves assigning each gorilla born in the previous 12 months a carefully chosen name according to the baby's behavior and unique character traits. Rwandans believe naming the gorillas will encourage good fortune and play a prominent role in shaping their future. The festivities during this time attract thousands of visitors each year. Since the naming was launched in 2005, about 350 mountain gorillas have been named. If you get an opportunity to name these wonderful creatures, you will be joining a long list of notable personalities which include Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and UK monarch King Charles III. Rwanda hosts this annual, week-long program of activities each September to raise awareness and funds for the ongoing protection of the country’s mountain

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"LAKE KIVU, ON THE BORDER BETWEEN DRC AND RWANDA, IS DOTTED WITH ISLANDS AND INLETS ALONG ITS SHORELINE, WITH CHARMING BEACH RESORTS, SPECTACULAR VISTAS, AND PLENTY OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR HIKING AND CYCLING".

gorillas and the expansion of their habitat. The ceremony is now accompanied by several other events, including a cross-country cycling tour and a conservation conference. At the naming ceremony itself, there’s music, dancing, and discussion about Rwanda’s great strides in gorilla conservation, and the great challenges that remain. Thanks partly to the awareness of the need to protect the gorillas brought about by the gorilla naming ceremony and gorilla tourism, in general, poaching has significantly reduced and the number of gorillas has increased steadily.

A FULL PACKAGE FOR TOURISTS There is so much more to Rwanda than its beautiful gorillas.While in the country, you can spare time and visit Rwanda's fourth National Park, Gishwati Mukura which is home to chimpanzees, golden, blue, and L'Hoest's monkeys as well as a host of birds and smaller animals. Nyungwe, one of the oldest rainforests in Africa, is also another destination ripe for exploration with its rich biodiversity and spectacular views. A small population of chimpanzees resides here as well as 12 other primate species, including the L’Hoest’s monkey, which is endemic to the Albertine Rift. For lovers of Museums and everything historical, the Ethnographic Museum of Rwanda houses one of Africa's finest ethnographic collections. Seven galleries display historical, ethnographic, artistic, and archaeological artifacts accompanied by visual aids, giving visitors a rich insight into the Rwandan culture. Lake Kivu, on the border between DRC and Rwanda, is dotted with islands and inlets along its shoreline, with charming beach resorts, spectacular vistas, and plenty of opportunities for hiking and cycling. A waterfront town on the shores of Lake Kivu, Rubavu, offers red sandy beaches, warm clean water, and an easygoing tropical WWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM

character. Karongi is also a popular beach retreat on the shores of Lake Kivu, with majestic vistas and a tranquil atmosphere. City explorers can get to experience the Kigali Memorial Centre Genocide Memorial, which is the site of one of the largest massacres in African history. The exhibition here is both shocking and thought-provoking and attempts to piece together the causes and events of the three-month genocide which destroyed Rwanda in 1994. Thousands of first-hand accounts are documented, and personal film footage and photography are showcased, illustrating the collection of events simply and strikingly.

GETTING THERE Arriving in Rwanda is relatively easy as the capital is home to the Kigali International Airport, which is connected to major African cities and a few European capital cities. RwandAir, the nation's carrier, is worth a try as it offers some of the most affordable yet quality services in the 26 destinations across Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe that it serves. Once in Rwanda, tour operators can arrange for a vehicle with a driver, or you can opt for shared minibusses, which are the most popular form of public transport in the country. If you wish to explore the vast sceneries across the country from the skies, Akagera Aviation provides helicopter transfers and tours. Need to refresh and feel at home, no worries, Rwanda has a variety of hotels that you can check into. Situated in Kigali, Hotel Chez Lando has a style that happily marries history and memory. Located five kilometers from Kigali city center, Radisson Blu Hotel and Convention Centre offers a contemporary option across 291 rooms. One last thing to do before you jet back home is cycling. The land of a thousand hills is an excellent destination for off-the-beaten-track cycling, with almost endless trails and roads crisscrossing the territory. Exploring Rwanda's countryside on a bike will offer you one of the most authentic and rewarding ways to interact with the rural population and the huge dose of the natural beauty that comes with the countryside. If nothing else excites you, we most surely bet that this one will certainly be worth your while. DECEMBER 2022

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Structural Reforms TURN SENEGAL INTO A COMPETITIVE INVESTMENT DESTINATION IN WEST AFRICA LONG OVERSHADOWED BY IVORY COAST AND CAMEROON, SENEGAL IS IMPLEMENTING STRUCTURAL AND POLICY REFORMS UNDER PES WITH THE HOPES OF EMERGING AS A PROSPEROUS AND ATTRACTIVE ECONOMIC HUB IN FRENCH WEST AFRICA BY JACKIE MUINDE

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P

erched on the westernmost point of the African continent is Senegal, Africa's 34th largest country by area and 19th largest economy by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Unlike many of its neighbors, Senegal prides itself to be among the few countries that have never experienced a coup since it gained independence in 1960. Its fragile democracy has seen the country experience some form of economic prosperity compared to unstable neighbors such as Mali and Guinea Bissau, which have recorded multiple coup d'état since they attained selfrule. Still, Senegal, with a GDP of US$28 billion, lags behind its Francophone peers such as the Ivory Coast and Cameroon, which have GDPs of US$73 billion and US$46 billion, respectively. The ascension of Macky Sall to the country's presidency in 2012 ushered in a new era of optimism. Senegal embarked on a new journey to economic development under the Plan for an Emerging Senegal (PES) which "aims at getting Senegal onto the road to development by 2035." The main objectives are to obtain a GDP growth rate of 7-8%, create 600 000 formal jobs and reach a GDP per capita of US$1 500 by 2035. The first phase of the plan, starting in 2012 and ending in 2019, reignited economic growth in the country. A series of projects and reforms implemented during this period saw the country's economy grow by more than 6% per year between 2014 and 2018, according to a report by the World Bank. The Covid-19 pandemic put breaks on the country's upward trajectory resulting in real GDP growth of 0.87% in 2020, down from 4.4% in 2019, and 6.2% in 2018. As the world dusts itself from the impact of its worst pandemic in living memory, so is Senegal. Now in the

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second phase of PES, the country's economy is back with 2021 growth reaching a commendable height of 6.1%. World Bank however notes that although the country is on the right growth trajectory, external shocks from the war in Ukraine and an ECOWAS trade blockade on its neighbor and one of the largest trade partners Mali present new challenges that would hinder desired growth. Still, the country is projected to post a medium singledigit growth of 5% in 2022 with a boost from recently discovered oil and gas expected to push the country into double-digit growth rates from as early as 2023. Given Senegal's relatively stable growth, the country presents new investment opportunities. This article reviews structural reforms driving the country's economy forward and opportunities that may exist as the implementation of the second phase of the country's economic and social blueprint gets into high gear.

STRUCTURAL REFORMS ATTRACT FOREIGN INVESTMENT Over the past decade, Senegal has prioritized efforts to improve the business climate to attract foreign investment. Incentives implemented so far include basic guarantees for protection against nationalization, a stable currency, free repatriation of profits and funds, and equal treatment between local and foreign entities with access to raw materials, customs, and tax incentives. There are today no barriers to 100% ownership of businesses by foreign investors except in sectors where government and state-owned enterprises are active, such as physical infrastructure, including water, electricity distribution, and port services. The country has further liberalized its tax regime to make it more favorable for both local and foreign investors. Investors can be assured of various attractive tax incentives, including a three-year exemption on customs duty for capital goods imports and a VAT exemption on production and purchase of local products and services. These major moves have set up the country to become a regional business hub for logistics, services, and industry. According to the 2016 World Bank Doing Business report, the country is one of the world's top business reformers and among the top ten business environment improvers for two consecutive years. Investors have also warmed up to the country, increasing their appetite to invest in the various industries where the most potential exists. According to UNCTAD data, Senegal's stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) increased from US$3.4 billion in 2015 to US$6.4 billion in 2019. In case of disputes, structures exist for amicable settlements. The investment arbitration center, which is administered by the Dakar Chamber of Commerce, is

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SENEGAL ALSO JOINED THE LEAGUE OF A FEW AFRICAN NATIONS WITH HIGH-SPEED RAIL WHEN IT LAUNCHED THE REGIONAL EXPRESS TRAIN, A 160KM/HR RAIL THAT CONNECTS THE COUNTRY’S CAPITAL DAKAR TO THE NEW AIRPORT VIA 14 STATIONS. one avenue to settle disputes. One can also pursue redress in several international investment-related organizations where Senegal is a member. These include the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI), the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

FOCUS ON INFRASTRUCTURE TO ENABLE BUSINESS GROWTH One of the biggest impediments to investment is the lack of adequate infrastructure to support the movement of goods and services. Cognizant of this fact, Senegal has made infrastructure development the cornerstone stone of its 2035 vision to become an emerging economy. According to a report by Deloitte, Senegal currently spends around US$910m per year on infrastructure. The impact on the country has been phenomenal. As of 2016, the country had built 1 520km and rehabilitated 4 015km of roads in just under four years. Senegal also joined the league of a few African nations with highWWW.AFRICACEOVOICES.COM

speed rail when it launched the Regional Express Train, a 160Km/hr rail that connects the country’s capital Dakar to the new airport via 14 stations. About 115,000 citizens use the train every day. To further promote lowcost transport, President Sall’s government also recently redeveloped the Dakar-Kidira railway line, which is over 644 km long. To solve systemic power shortage problems, Senegal has significantly invested in energy generation. Between 2014 and 2018, the country managed to bring into the national grid a whooping 770MW of new electricity, mainly through partnerships with independent power producers. Senegal's power production has leaning been towards diversification away from fossil fuels and a significant number of its newly generated power comes from either wind or solar plants.With most of the energy projects in Phase 1 of PES complete, Senegal is embarking on new electricity projects which, when completed, will bring an additional 1214MW to the national grid. More energy, especially from renewable sources, is expected to bring Senegal's cost of producing power, which is

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currently among the highest on the continent, further reducing the cost of electricity to both large- and smallscale users. Another major win for the government’s Emerging Senegal Plan is the Diamniadio Industrial Park, Forty kilometers from Dakar. The park, which was opened in 2018, cost the Senegalese government about US$44 million and has already attracted interest from both local and foreign investors and created jobs for about 4,500 citizens. According to UNIDO, when the second phase of the project is complete in the next few years more companies carrying out highly labor-intensive activities will set up operations in the park, generating at least 23,000 jobs.

MINING OFFERS IMMENSE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES Senegal has traditionally been known for phosphate mining, which is currently well developed, offering little room for new entrants. Opportunities exist in other minerals such as gold, iron, platinum, zircon, titanium, and silver, which are largely under-exploited. To encourage greater participation in the sector, the Government in consultation and close collaboration with the various stakeholders in the sector, has developed a mining policy aimed at improving the yield of extractive activities, attracting national and foreign investors, and, above all, guaranteeing national production capable of generating wealth and creating sustainable employment. The government has also heavily invested in infrastructure, most notably the large-scale construction of new roads and port infrastructure that connect to the mineral port of Bargny from where many of Senegal's minerals are sent to global markets for export. This adds to the construction of a 36 MW power plant and the rehabilitation of a 110Km railway tract from Mekhé to Tivaouane, Thiès, and Dakar to help support the mining of zircon along the shores of Senegal's the Atlantic Ocean. The updated mining code of 2016, significant investments particularly in infrastructure, and businessfriendly economic reforms have cumulatively rejuvenated the mining sector. According to a world bank report, mineral exploration has diversified further away from Phosphates resulting in a rise in non-phosphate exports. Gold has seen the fastest rise in exports, from 1.1 percent of total exports in 2007 to 14.8 percent in 2017, the World Bank report reveals adding that titanium and zircon represent 3.1 and 2.4 percent of total exports, respectively. The contribution of the mining sector to total revenues has increased from 3.2 percent in 2013 to 5.66 percent in 2020, according to a report by ecofinance. With more exports coming from newly exploited

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minerals, the World Bank notes that the proportion of mineral exports in total exports has grown significantly since 2007, reaching over 37 percent in 2020. Investors still have an opportunity to tap into the lucrative extractive sector. Zirconium, which is relatively abundant in Senegal, is highly sought after in the global market driven by demand from the Chinese ceramics and foundry industry. According to research and markets, the Global market for Zirconia was estimated at 190.8 Thousand Metric Tons in 2020 and is projected to reach 224.1 Thousand Metric Tons by 2026, reflecting a compounded annual growth rate of 2.7% over the analysis period. Senegalese Iron and Titanium are other minerals that investors could look to tap to meet their rising demand globally. Markets and Markets project the titanium market to grow from US$24.7 billion in 2021 to US$33.5 billion by 2026 while the Iron ore market is projected to grow from US$358.9 billion in 2022 to US$423. 57 billion in 2028 with a CAGR of 2.8% during the forecast period 2022-2028.

THE DISCOVERY OF OIL & GAS PRESENTS NEW ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES An air of optimism swept across Senegal in 2014 when the first world-class oil and gas discovery was made by Scottish operator, Cairn, about 100km off the coast of Dakar. The area, now known as the SNE Oil Field, is estimated to hold 2.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil reserves. More discoveries were made between 2014 and 2017, including the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) LNG gas, which has been shown to hold natural gas reserves of 566 billion cubic meters of gas, out of which 283 billion cubic meters are allocated for Senegal. These new gas and oil discoveries could turn into the new energy hotspot of the continent once production gets underway in 2023. Gas which is estimated to be in the north of 40 trillion cubic feet has the potential to transform Senegal's economy over the next decade by achieving energy independence and having a readily available domestic supply of natural gas for a wide range of uses in industry, and power generation. Accordingly, the country may unshackle itself from the curse of being the country with the highest energy costs in West Africa. With cheaper power, Senegal might just achieve its set objective of 100% electricity coverage and connection of at least 90% of rural households by 2025. The economy is also expected to benefit greatly from the operationalization of the gas and oil fields. According to the World Bank, nominal GDP is expected to increase by 13.8 percent in 2022 as oil and gas start flowing from SNE and GTA fields, while real growth would jump from 7.1 percent to 11.6 percent.To capitalize on its natural gas

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potential, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy has put in place the Pilot Committee to Support Negotiations of Gas Projects and Institutional Capacity Building (PANPGRCI). The committee which received US$29 million in funding from the World Bank will support all parties involved in the gas project in various areas, including legal aspects, and the commercialization and monetization of gas.

AGRICULTURE: SENEGAL’S MOST DYNAMIC ENGINE OF GROWTH Of all the sectors mentioned so far, none is as impactful on a wide pool of citizens as agriculture. The sector not only serves the nation’s strategic food security and economic interests but also employs by far the largest portion of the working population, particularly in rural Senegal. 2020 statistics from the World Bank show that agriculture employed around 30% of the population and accounted for 15% of Senegal’s GDP in 2020. Cognizant of this, the current administration put agriculture among the 4 key sectors that are key to unlocking inclusive growth. Billions worth of investment and several policy reforms from the national government have since been channeled to the sector to bring about desired growth. In the first phase of the PES program, about 42.2 billion CFA francs were invested by the government in several areas, including the acquisition of harnessed farming equipment, certified seeds for priority crops, and fertilizer subsidy programs. The result has been phenomenal. Peanut, the country’s top cash crop, posted a yield of 997,593 tonnes in 2019, an increase of 38% compared

ZIRCONIUM, WHICH IS RELATIVELY ABUNDANT IN SENEGAL, IS HIGHLY SOUGHT AFTER IN THE GLOBAL MARKET DRIVEN BY DEMAND FROM THE CHINESE CERAMICS AND FOUNDRY INDUSTRY.

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ACCORDINGLY, THE COUNTRY MAY UNSHACKLE ITSELF FROM THE CURSE OF BEING THE COUNTRY WITH THE HIGHEST ENERGY COSTS IN WEST AFRICA. to the average of the last five years. Cereal production estimated at 2,247,094 tonnes was 54% higher compared to the average of the last five years, while rice production of 950,779 tonnes was 71% higher compared to the average of the last five years. The government noted that the phenomenal rise in production was made possible by effective implementation of the policy of subsiding inputs and factors of production through better targeting of beneficiaries (big producers) and products (seed selection, agricultural equipment). Fishing is also a major agricultural activity and contributes heavily to the nation's food security. The Senegalese eat up to 35 kilograms (77 pounds) of fish each year, accounting for up to 75 percent of the nation’s animal protein intake. The sector is, however, more than just a source of food for the Senegalese. It's a foreign exchange earner and a way of life for the many fishing communities scattered across the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and the vast network of waterways and tributaries. It may only contribute 3.2 percent of the nation’s GDP,

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but it accounts for about 10 percent of all exports and 17 percent of the country’s labor force. All has not been well in the past decade as fish stockpiles, particularly in the Atlantic, have dwindled due to several factors, most notably overfishing and pollution. Various investments have gone into the sector to restore its lost glory. To ease navigation, Senegal has, for instance, carried out dredging works on the Saloum and Casamance rivers. It has also developed areas for the treatment and processing of fishery products at Bargny, Fass Boye, and Gooxu Mbathe, and completed the construction of the Fatick central fish market. The country is also shifting focus to aquaculture, which offers the best potential for sustainably managing the country's dwindling fish stocks. Already the country has rolled out an investment plan for small and medium aquaculture enterprises and has also released a Code of Aquaculture with incentives to facilitate the acquisition of land, remission of facilities, and extendable business tax exemption for the first three years. As Senegal's

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population swells from 17.7 million to about 22.5 million in 2030, demand for fish will continue soaring, creating new opportunities for ventures in the aquaculture sector.

A ROBUST FINANCIAL SECTOR SERVES AS A BULWARK FOR ECONOMIC PROSPERITY Senegal's robust financial sector comprising 26 registered commercial banks and the Central Bank of West African States (Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, BCEAO serve as the bulwark for the country’s budding economy. Largely dominated by French banks, the sector has received some vibrancy with the entry of regional players like Ecobank, UBA, and Attijariwafa Bank. Although banks have in general driven growth in financial inclusion, the greatest growth has been brought about by FinTech. According to Global Findex, digital payments were the biggest drivers of financial inclusion in the country, resulting in the proportion of adults with access to formal financial services shooting up from 15% in 2014 to 56% in 2021. Despite this progress, 44% of adults in Senegal still do not have the financial services they need to get ahead and protect themselves during hard times. To further enhance access, Senegal adopted the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) in early 2022. The strategy aims to raise financial inclusion rates to 65% among adults and 90% for MSMEs by 2026. The FinTech sector, supported by an established telecoms infrastructure that ranks first in West Africa in terms of penetration and quality service, has the greatest potential to bridge the gap in financial inclusion. A stream of FinTech startups seeking to capitalize on this opportunity has already entered the scene and scored big. Wave, a Senegal-based mobile money provider founded in 2018, is one such example. After just four years, the company has achieved a valuation of US$1.7 billion, making Wave Africa’s first Francophone unicorn. Other players with notable success include Wari, MaTontine, PayDunya, InTouch, and SudPay. John Ashbourne, a global economist at Fitch Solutions, believes that banks in the country could also take part in the FinTech revolution. “Most of francophone west Africa has yet to experience the full effects of the mobile payments revolution that has taken off in other emerging markets and frontier markets. This is a major opportunity for banks,” he observes. As FinTech makes its foray into the finance sector, an opportunity exists for banks, particularly in the funding of micro, small, and medium enterprises, which are in dire need of credit. Possibly to take advantage of this opportunity, Moroccan Attijariwafa Bank strengthened its position by merging with CBAO and Banque SenegaloTunisienne to form the largest financial institution in the country. American-based Citibank has also expanded its

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operations, specializing in corporate finance where most returns are likely.

A PROMISING INVESTMENT DESTINATION Senegal offers a competitive destination for investments in Africa on account of its political stability, strategic geographical position, access to sub-regional markets, and improving infrastructure. The structural reforms implemented under PES have made investing and doing business in the country easier, further encouraging local and external investors. Opportunities continue to exist, particularly in Mining where most minerals are largely under-exploited. As the population rises, the country's demand for food is expected to rise, creating new investment opportunities, particularly in irrigation farming and aquaculture. With many citizens still unable to access financial services, FinTech remains a sector with great untapped potential. Early entrants in this market are already recording success with some like Wave achieving unicorn status just a few years after launch. Investors should, however, be aware of several risks that they may encounter while in Senegal. The political environment, although stable, is fragile with large protests often characterizing every major election. Agriculture which presents great investment opportunities is still constrained by a lack of access to land, insufficient highquality inputs (especially fertilizer and seeds), and poorly structured value chains. Existing infrastructure gaps represent bottlenecks to the development of agribusiness, value chains, and the overall competitiveness of Senegalese products. The country also has a lot to do to improve its global competitiveness as it is currently ranked as the 114 most competitive nation in the world out of 140 countries reviewed by the World Economic Forum.

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