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Thursday, 15 March 2018

Seychelles submits written statement to the International Court of Justice

In June 2017, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution, initiated by Mauritius, to refer the issue of sovereignty of the Chagos Archipelago to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, for an Advisory Opinion. The Resolution was adopted by a vote of 94 to 15, with 65 abstentions. Seychelles was one of the countries which supported this Resolution in respect of valuing the guidance that may emanate from this prestigious institution on this complex issue.
Following this Resolution, all UN Member States were invited to submit written statements to the ICJ in a view to assisting the Court with its deliberations. On 28th February 2018, following Cabinet approval, the Government of Seychelles through the Department of Foreign Affairs submitted its written contributions to the ICJ.
As noted by Ambassador Barry Faure, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, “Seychelles’ submission requests that the voices and unique perspectives of the Chagossian community in Seychelles be taken into account by the ICJ during its proceedings. As a people who have genuine connections and interests towards the Chagos Archipelago, and who have faced a myriad of indignities and difficulties in a dispute that has spanned over decades, their plight must be taken into account within any international deliberation on this matter.”
The ICJ will be delivering its opinion in mid-2018. Although without binding effect, Advisory Opinions of the Court carries great legal weight and moral authority. They are often an instrument of preventive diplomacy and have peace-keeping virtues. Advisory opinions also, in their own way, contribute to the clarification and development of international law and thereby to the strengthening of peaceful relations between States.
Source: APO

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Mastercard uses Fb Messenger to help small businesses go digital

At Mobile World Congress, Mastercard announced that it will use Facebook Messenger to provide technology to small businesses in Africa and Asia to drive affordable acceptance of electronic and mobile payments. Access to digital payments will help these businesses expand to new markets, and unlock financial services and products that enables them to grow their livelihoods.
This Messenger experience will launch in Nigeria, where Mastercard will pilot a new Masterpass QR bot to help business owners’ move beyond cash transactions to accepting QR payments. Ecobank and Zenith Bank will support this inaugural program. The pilot in Nigeria is the beginning of a larger plan by the two companies to include more businesses into the digital economy.
According to research done by The Fletcher School and Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, of the $301 billion of funds flow from consumers to businesses in Nigeria, 98 percent is still based on cash.
“Every business owner is looking for ways to increase sales and draw new customers into their stores. By offering QR-based digital payments, smaller retailers can achieve these goals and create greater customer stickiness with little to no investment beyond the phone they already have,” said Jorn Lambert, Executive Vice President, Digital Channels and Regions, Mastercard. “Masterpass QR opens up new commerce channels for these merchants and enables them to create auditable transaction records. These advances open doors to other financial tools and products such as loans to drive added business growth.”
To get started, businesses can send a request to the bot to enable QR payments, receive approval from the bank, set up an account and start accepting digital payments in a fast, simple and secure manner. Once the account set up process is complete, business owners can print and display the QR code in their stores or save the code on their phones. Customers can pay by either scanning the code from their smartphone or by entering the merchant ID associated with the QR code into their feature phone.
“Brands and developers around the world are turning to messaging to connect with the 1.3 billion people who use Messenger each month,” said Kahina Van Dyke, Director of Payments and Financial Services Partnerships at Facebook. “We are pleased that Mastercard is developing a service on the Messenger Platform to help small merchants use messaging to manage their business and connect with their customers.”
Launched in 2016, Masterpass QR provides people with any type of mobile phone the ability to safely accept and make in-person purchases without cash or a plastic card. It provides greater choice in payments and complements Mastercard’s investment in contactless payments to provide merchants of all sizes – from international chains to individual shop owners and street vendors – a fast, secure and inexpensive way to accept payments.
Quotes from partner banks in Nigeria:
“In line with our goal to serve 100 million Africans by the end of 2020, Ecobank is delighted to collaborate with Facebook and Mastercard to enable underserved and unbanked micro-merchants with the opportunity to open an Ecobank account almost immediately and begin to receive instant payments using Ecobank Masterpass QR on the Facebook Messenger platform. Micro merchants in Nigeria are already benefiting from Masterpass QR and will soon be in 32 markets across Africa, enabling them to move away from cash. That is true economic empowerment,” said Patrick Akinwuntan, Group Executive, Consumer Bank, Ecobank Group.
“Our Bank is partnering with Facebook and Mastercard to introduce Masterpass QR as a means of driving financial inclusion and creating a new payment ecosystem for MSMEs and consumers,” said Mr. Peter Amangbo, MD/CEO of Zenith Bank Plc. “This initiative will help us encourage financial inclusion within the country in line with the strategic thrust of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Buyers and sellers now meet and conclude transactions in-store, online and on social media, so we are ensuring payments can also be made on these platforms via QR codes, without having to log onto other solutions or even take a break from what you are doing on Facebook.”
Source: APO

Monday, 12 March 2018

Ecobank’s African markets website goes live, profiling Francophone West Africa as the leader in intra-regional trade

Francophone West Africa leads in intra-regional trade with trade hotspots around Dakar, Abidjan, Cotonou and Lomé, according to analysis by Ecobank’s research team in its new website, AfricaFICC.
The team has updated Ecobank’s flagship Africa Fixed Income, Currency and Commodities Guidebook (FICC) and made it available as an online resource: https://Ecobank.com/AfricaFICC. The website provides key facts for businesses and investors on the economies of Sub-Saharan Africa and the key sectors of activity.
The first regional section of the website to go live is Francophone West Africa, one of the most diverse regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Stretching from Senegal and Cape Verde in the West to Niger 2,000 miles away in the East, Francophone West Africa covers nine countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire (https://goo.gl/wq4F8f), Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. Together they make up the Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest-Africaine (UEMOA). The website gives a country-by-country analysis of each country, with an economic outlook, details on the FX, FI and banking sectors, and overview of the mineral, energy and soft commodity sectors, as well as key trade flows.
Data for Francophone West Africa show that, despite geographical differences, the region is one of the best integrated economic and monetary zones in Africa, bolstered by the shared currency (the CFA franc), the common legal system (OHADA) and the French language which has fostered economic integration and intra-regional trade.
Key factors to consider include:
  • The region’s economy is driven by agriculture, mining, hydrocarbons, trade and financial services, and is home to the world’s largest producer of cocoa (Côte d’Ivoire) and Africa’s largest regional producers of cotton and palm oil.
  • Abidjan, Dakar, Cotonou and Lomé are key trade hubs for trade, acting as conduits for the import and export of goods and services, both to the international market and to sub-regional markets.
  • Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal account for more than half the block’s GDP and trade flows, acting as vital lifelines for their landlocked neighbours, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Benin and Togo are also major re-export hubs for capital & consumer goods and food, with large informal volumes not being captured by official data.
  • Côte d’Ivoire has the largest banking sector in UEMOA, followed by Senegal. Both countries are emerging as the key Fintech innovation hubs in Francophone Africa.
“Many businesses and investors struggle to find good and reliable economic data about Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dr. Edward George, Ecobank’s Head of Group Research.
“Our new Africa FICC website offers a one-stop shop, with all the key economic, currency, banking, commodity and trade data that those working or investing in Sub-Saharan Africa need at their fingertips,” he said.
“Ecobank understands regional and local business customs, regulations and country-specific risks better than any other bank in Africa because we operate on the ground in 33 markets. This data will help us and our clients in making investment and other financial decisions as part of our seamless service,” said Charles Daboiko, Group Head for Francophone West Africa.
  • Benin is one of smallest countries in West Africa.
  • It is West Africa’s third-largest cotton producer, with estimated output of 150,000 tonnes of cotton lint in 2016/17 – Benin’s most valuable export, worth US$187mn in 2016, with most exports going to India, Malaysia, Bangladesh and China for spinning and textiles.
  • Benin is a major re-export hub, serving as a key informal conduit for capital and consumer goods going into and out of its eastern neighbour, Nigeria.
Burkina Faso
  • Burkina Faso has recently emerged as West Africa’s third largest producer of gold (after Ghana and Mali), with estimated output of 45 tonnes in 2017 and is now its most valuable export, worth US$1.6bn in 2016. Thanks to major investment production of gold is expanding, along with other minerals such as zinc (169,000 tonnes produced in 2016) and lead (2,000 tonnes).
  • Burkina Faso is West Africa’s leading cotton producer, with estimated output of 283,000 tonnes of cotton lint in 2016/17 which totalled US$423mn in 2016. It is also a significant producer of sesame (95,000 tonnes in 2017) and cashew nuts (86,000 tonnes), all exported raw to world markets.
Côte d’Ivoire
  • One of Sub-Saharan Africa’s leading soft commodity exporters, accounting for 14.2% of the total in 2016. Cocoa and cocoa products were the largest export, totalling US$5.7 bn.
  • The world’s leading producer of cocoa, with record output of 2.01mn tonnes in 2016/17 (October-September), 42.8% of world output.
  • Africa’s largest producer of natural rubber, with estimated output of 326,101 tonnes in 2015, most of which was exported to world markets.
Cape Verde
  • An archipelago with the region’s smallest population of just over half a million people.
  • With limited land and water resources, Cape Verde does not produce agricultural commodities for export and the country remains heavily dependent on food imports to meet domestic needs.
  • Guinea Bissau is Africa’s third largest producer of cashew nuts, with estimated output of 200,000 tonnes of raw cashews (RCN) in 2017, around 8% of world production.
  • Mali is the third largest producer of gold in Sub-Saharan Africa, Gold, with an estimated output of 63 tonnes in 2016 and production set to rise, is Mali’s most valuable commodity export worth US$2bn in 2016, and and makes up a quarter of government revenues. The government hopes to raise total production to over 100 tonnes in the near term.
  • Mali is West Africa’s second largest cotton producer after Burkina Faso. Run by a state monopoly, Mali’s cotton production has risen steadily since 2013/14, reaching a record 266,000 tonnes of cotton lint in 2016/17, worth US$266mn in exports. Output forecast to grow further to 300,000 tonnes in 2017/18, thereby making Mali Africa’s largest cotton grower; Malian cotton fibre trades at a slight premium to Burkinabè fibre, owing to its longer staple length and reliable deliveries.
  • In 2016 Mali exported US$228mn worth of live animals to neighbouring countries (mostly cows, sheep and goats)
  • Niger is Africa’s largest producer of uranium, with estimated output of 2,904 tonnes in 2016, worth US$299mn, 93% of which is exported to France as fuel and the balance to the USA;
  • Niger became an oil producer in 2011 when production started at the Agadem block: output has averaged 20,000 bpd; but production is set to rise following the award of a second oil licence in November 2013;
  • Niger is a major re-exporter of food to neighbouring countries; in 2016 it exported US$134mn of rice, US$132mn of palm oil and US$31mn of pasta.
  • Senegal has the second largest banking sector in the UEMOA, after Côte d’Ivoire.
  • Senegal’s banking sector is loan-driven, with loans and advances accounting for more than half of total assets and the wholesale lending activities – primarily to SMEs and local and multinational corporates – the main growth driver.
  • Senegal’s mining sector is focused on gold, phosphates and cement production, with an estimated 10 tonnes of gold produced in 2016, all for export. New investment aims to increase annual production to more than 30 tonnes by 2022.
  • Estimated output of cement was 2.9 million tonnes in 2016, both for domestic consumption and for export to the sub-region, and output of phosphate rock was 473,000 tonnes in 2016; Senegal is a hub for processing this into phosphoric acid, the key ingredient in fertiliser.
  • Senegal has a dynamic horticultural goods sector which is seeking to challenge the dominance of Kenya and Ethiopia for market share of the EU’s organic fruit and vegetable market.
  • Togo is a major trade hub for the West African region.
  • Phosphate is Togo’s most valuable mineral export, representing up to 11% of foreign exchange earnings; a total of 846,091 tonnes was exported in 2016, most of which went to India and Canada
  • Togo is a major exporter of cement (US$137mn in 2016), cotton (US$53mn) and phosphate rock (US$81mn), most of which is produced in Togo; it is also a re-exporter of imported goods including plastics (worth US$95mn), vehicles and machinery (US$76mn), cosmetics (US$49mn), with the majority going to neighbouring Ghana and Nigeria.
Source: APO

Sunday, 11 March 2018

FINCA trailblazes digital financial inclusion drive in Tanzania

Efforts to bolster digital financial inclusion in Tanzania and indeed other countries in Africa have received a shot-in-the-arm following a productive conference organized by FINCA Micro-Finance Bank Tanzania in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation.
Bringing in experts, institutions and other players in the financial sector, the conference, held in Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, culminated in a pledge by the participants to work more closely in collaboration with governments, telecoms and other financial sector players to come up with innovative and effective means of providing financial services to the base of the pyramid at scale and low cost.
To achieve its objectives, the conference underscored the instrumental role played by collaborative efforts by all sectors through leveraging rapid development in the MNO space, especially mobile money.
Riding on its wide-ranging theme, ‘Driving Financial Inclusion Through Digital Solutions; Implications for Sector Players’- the event, drawing more than 100 participants, provided a most ideal platform to share key lessons and insights learned over the past 5 years through the FINCA – Mastercard Foundation partnership to scale financial services to the unbanked communities in Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi.
“Digital technology models are catalysts to financial inclusion and the development of the digital ecosystem is key to increasing access to finance”, said FINCA’s Chief Executive Officer, Issa Ngwegwe, in his opening remarks.
Ngwegwe extolled FINCA’s rigorous efforts in driving financial inclusion through various products and services over the years, including partnerships with mobile network operators in bringing financial services and products to communities particularly in peripheral areas that would otherwise miss out from banking products and opportunities they bring in developing businesses and raising standards of living.
He further continued to explain: “Digital platforms, such as mobile and agency banking are key in reducing the cost of reaching the millions of Tanzanians who are still unbanked. Partnerships with mobile network operators show great potential in scaling financial services more efficiently”.
Speaking on the partnership between FINCA and the Mastercard Foundation, FINCA Canada’s Executive Director, Stephanie Emond said that this partnership had helped FINCA lay a firm foundation for growth through leveraging financial and learning technologies to improve services and build FINCA’s capacity, while also improving its ability to better understand the needs of its clients and the impact that its financial inclusion efforts had on them.
“We hope that through this conference, we can share some of the lessons from our recent journey and foster more collaboration amongst the space to better address market constraints and help create an enabling environment for accessible and responsible financial services”, Stephanie said.
Available statistics show that collaboration by various financial services and telecommunications sector has had positive and impactful result as evidenced by the increase in the usage of financial services throughout Tanzania from 58 per cent in 2013 to 65 per cent in 2017. However, despite these impressive statistics, a lot more needs to be done in order to ensure a more productive inclusion.
Key takeaways from the conference included:
  • A call to the government to create an enabling environment for financial access by having supportive laws and regulations.
  • Having a collaborative approach among the government, the private sector and civil society organizations.
  • Embracing technology that lowers costs and extends services into areas where bank branches may not exist.
  • Active efforts to assist the newly included people to take advantage of the services placed at their disposal.
  • A call for more collaboration among stakeholders from various sectors and in particular the telecommunication sector to address challenges of access to financial services and share best practices and encourage policies that enable more people to take advantage of the opportunities to improve their lives.
The chief guest at the event was Dr. Ashatu Kijaji, Tanzania’s Deputy Minister for Finance and Planning who underscored the government’s commitment to supporting financial inclusion to the poorest and most excluded while also ensuring proper rules and regulations to protect consumers.
Speaking at the event, the Deputy Governor of Bank of Tanzania (BoT), Yamungu Kayandabila said that the Bank had put in place robust regulatory framework and policies aimed at supporting financial inclusion efforts in Tanzania.
Source: APO

Friday, 9 March 2018

GuarantCo, AGF partnership of USD 74mn to benefit African SMEs

SMEs in Africa’s infrastructure sector to benefit from African Guarantee Fund’s increased capacity through GuarantCo’s re-guarantee facility
The African Guarantee Fund for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (AGF) recently entered into a re- guarantee transaction of an amount of up to USD 74 million with GuarantCo, to increase its guarantee capacity for SME financing. SME’s have a large and growing impact on GDP in emerging markets and are a key source of job creation. Strengthening Africa’s infrastructure is critical for development as it is through this that African countries become more competitive at a global level. With this increased capacity, AGF will be able to support larger local currency transactions for SMEs involved in infrastructure.
Over the past 6 years, AGF has led the guarantee market in Africa by issuing financial guarantees to a tune of USD 690 million. This has enabled its partner financial institutions to issue loans estimated at USD 729 million to about 7600 African SMEs. GuarantCo is part of the Private Infrastructure Development Group, (PIDG), and is a global guarantee fund that has issued over USD 900 million of guarantees since inception in 2005 with a mandate to enable local currency finance for infrastructure.
While commenting on the GuarantCo AGF partnership, Felix BIKPO, AGF’s Chief Executive Officer stated, “AGF is glad to be joined by GuarantCo in bridging the infrastructure financing gap. This partnership aims to put in place an even stronger collaboration that will work on the entire value chain of infrastructure projects in Africa. We are looking forward to supporting other SMEs that work with key players in the infrastructure sector.”
Lasitha PERERA, GuarantCo’s Chief Executive Officer said “We are delighted to be able to partner with the African Guarantee Fund and increase support to SMEs active in the infrastructure sector in Africa. This collaboration between two local currency focussed guarantors offers the potential for us to engage local financial institutions and investors in financing the entire value chain in an African infrastructure project.”
The transaction will enable AGF and GuarantCo to explore further partnership opportunities of working together in contributing towards economic growth in Africa.
Source: APO