Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, Wins Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize was, last week, awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, one of Africa’s youngest leaders, for his efforts in human rights reforms in the country, and for signing a peace deal with Eritrea following protracted hostility between the east African nations. The award will be bestowed in December this year.

Responding to the announcement, Amnesty International’s secretary-general Kumi Naidoo said: “This award recognizes the critical work Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has done to initiate human rights reforms in Ethiopia after decades of widespread repression.

“Since assuming office in April 2018, it has reformed the security forces, replaced the severely restricting charities and society law, and agreed a peace deal with neighboring Eritrea to end two decades of hostile relations. He also helped broker an agreement between Sudan’s military leaders and the civilian opposition, bringing an end to months of protests.

“However, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s work is far from done. This award should push and motivate him to tackle the outstanding human rights challenges that threaten to reverse the gains made so far. He must urgently ensure that his government addresses the ongoing ethnic tensions that threaten instability and further human rights abuses. He should also ensure that his government revises the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation which continues to be used as a tool of repression, and holds suspected perpetrators of past human rights violations to account.

“Now more than ever Prime Minister Abiy must fully espouse the principles and values of the Nobel Peace Prize to leave a lasting human rights legacy for his country, the wider region, and the world.”

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

 

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Egyptian e-Commerce Startup MaxAB Secures $6.2m Seed Funding

Egyptian B2B e-commerce marketplace MaxAB has secured seed funding of $6.2 million, one of the largest ever seed rounds raised by a MENA startup. The round was co-led by Beco Capital, 4DX Ventures and Endure Capital, with participation from 500 Startups, Outlierz Ventures and other local investors.

MaxAB connects informal food and grocery retailers with suppliers in Egypt’s under-served areas via an easy-to-use app. With this new injection of capital, the company expects to reach 50% of Egypt’s population within the next two years before expanding across different markets.

Led by Egyptian and Libyan entrepreneurs Belal El-Megharbel (previously at Careem) and Mohamed Ben Halim (Previously at Aramex), the 270-strong MaxAB team has built a stock list of over 600 products, including groceries, beverages, dairy, confectionery and non-food products.

Simplifying Egypt’s FMCG market

Using technology to close the gap between traditional retailers – over 400,000 in Egypt – and FMCGs, the Cairo based startup leverages technology to connect brands to retailers via its Android app. It is working to automate and simplify Egypt’s $45bn FMCG food retail market and has recorded 50% month-on-month growth, with 9,000 activated retailers on the platform already.

Brands using MaxAB have access to real-time demand monitoring and business intelligence tools, which improve end-to-end supply chain control, and better forecasting. Retailers in remote and under-served areas will have access to a wide variety of products, the convenience of ordering stock online in addition to second-day deliveries not to mention the added benefit of access to credit facilities.

Belal El-Megharbel, co-founder and CEO at MaxAB, says: “Nobody has addressed the underserved retailers before; retailers are faced with a limited assortment of products, the hassle of dealing with multiple wholesalers and restricted access to credit facilities. At the other end of the supply chain, the FMCGs have limited visibility on market trends, demand patterns and retailers’ business needs – leading to losing potential revenue opportunities.

“We are using data and analytics to understand purchasing and retail behaviours, as well as make the end-to-end process of brands seamless and convenient. This will enable FMCGs to make informed decisions about their purchasing, which will ultimately have a positive effect on their bottom line and catalyse one of the biggest markets in Egypt. This investment round will allow us to accelerate our growth plans and develop new products and services throughout North Africa using the first of its kind B2B e-commerce platform.”

Redefining the grocery supply chain

Yousef Hammad, managing partner at Beco Capital, says: “‘This is Sparta’ was the first impression I got when I met this team of warriors, battling one of the biggest inefficiencies on the country’s balance sheets. By leveraging technology, MaxAB is redefining the grocery supply chain in Egypt to fit the requirements of the micro retailers who make up 90% of the grocery market. The metrics they have recorded in such a short period are impressive, and we expect to continue to see double-digit growth as they scale.”

Peter Orth, co-founder and managing partner at 4DX Ventures, says: “We’ve been consistently impressed with how Belal and the rest of the team have executed, and achieved significant traction in a very short period of time. We believe that their B2B e-commerce model is the right way to serve this significant market, and we’re really excited to partner with the team to drive the next phase of growth.”

To learn more about MaxAB, and what they’re doing in the Egyptian FMCG industry, click here.

 

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New African Wealth Report Reveals The Richest Cities on the Continent

New World Wealth and AfrAsia Bank have published the latest African Wealth Report, showing the levels of wealth of various African nations at the end of 2018.

According to the report, South Africa is still the richest country in Africa, with the high net worth (HNWI) population of 39,200 people holding the most wealth at $649 billion.

This is double that of the second wealthiest African nation, Egypt, where the HNWI population of 16,700 people holds $303 billion.

Egypt is followed by Nigeria ($225 billion), Morocco ($114 billion) and Kenya ($93 billion).

Total wealth held on the continent amounts to US$2.2 trillion. Around US$920 billion (42%) of this is held by HNWIs, New World Wealth said.

While South Africa ranks at the top of the list, on a per capita basis ($11,450), it is only the second wealthiest nation – following behind Mauritius, where wealth per capita sits at $31,000.

Africa’s richest cities

South African cities ranks as the top richest cities on the continent, with Johannesburg and Cape Town holding the most HNWI wealth among the major cities covered, taking the first and second spots, respectively.

Total wealth held in Johannesburg amounts to US$248 billion, while total wealth held by Cape Town amounting to US$133 billion.

Most of Johannesburg’s wealth is concentrated in Sandton, New World Wealth said, which is home to the JSE (the largest stock market in Africa) and to the head offices of most of Africa’s largest banks and corporates.

Cape Town, meanwhile, is home to Africa’s most exclusive and expensive suburbs such as Clifton, Bishopscourt, Camps Bay and Bantry Bay. It is also a hotspot for wealthy second home owners from around the world. Major sectors there include: real estate, financial services (fund management), retail and tourism.

Also in the top five from South Africa is Durban and Umhlanga (combined), which holds total HNWI wealth of US$54 billion.

This figure includes wealth held in Durban, Umhlanga, La Lucia and Ballito. Notably, Umhlanga and Ballito are two of the fastest growing areas in SA, in terms of wealth growth over the past 10 years, the group said.

Among other African countries, Cairo (Egypt), Lagos (Nigeria) and Nairobi (Kenya) stand out as wealthy cities, sitting on par with South Africa’s popular HNWI areas.

Total wealth held in Cairo amounts to US$129 billion – and the city is home to more billionaires than any other African city (four billionaires live there, compared to just two in Johannesburg).

In Lagos, total wealth held in the city amounts to US$96 billion. This is the largest city in Africa, in terms of population and GDP (but not in terms of wealth).

The richest cities in Africa.

The richest areas in South Africa.

 

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WEF’s 2019 Global Competitiveness Report: Singapore Overtakes USA for Number 1 Spot. Where Does SA Stand?

Ten years on from the global financial crisis, the world economy remains locked in a cycle of low or flat productivity growth despite the injection of more than $10 trillion by central banks. The latest Global Competitiveness Report paints a gloomy picture, yet it also shows that those countries with a holistic approach to socio-economic challenges, look set to get ahead in the race to the frontier.

The World Economic Forum‘s (WEF) latest Global Competitiveness Report 2019 showed that Singapore has overtaken the United States to become the most competitive nation in the world. The US is losing ground in measures such as “healthy life expectancy” and preparedness for the future skills needed in the 21st century, the report says.

Some of this year’s better performers appear to be benefiting from the trade feud between China and the US, including Singapore and Vietnam. Led by Singapore, the East Asia and the Pacific
region is the most competitive in the world.

Covering 141 economies, the index measures national competitiveness—defined as the set of institutions, policies and factors that determine the level of productivity and long-term economic growth.

The report measures the strength of 103 key indicators, such as inflation, digital skills and trade tariffs, arranged into 12 pillars. Each indicator, or ‘pillar’ uses a scale from 0 to 100, to show how close an economy is to the ideal state or ‘frontier’ of competitiveness in that area. With a score of 84.8, Singapore is the world’s most competitive economy in 2019, overtaking the US, which falls to second place. Hong Kong SAR, Netherlands and Switzerland round up the top five.

Top 10 performers on the 2019 WEF Global Competitiveness Report.

“The world is at a social, environmental and economic tipping point. Subdued growth, rising inequalities and accelerating climate change provide the context for a backlash against capitalism, globalization, technology, and elites,” the WEF warned.

“There is gridlock in the international governance system and escalating trade and geopolitical tensions are fueling uncertainty. “This holds back investment and increases the risk of supply shocks: disruptions to global supply chains, sudden price spikes or interruptions in the availability of key resources,” it said.

Singapore

Singapore has long been a thriving global financial center, and has built itself up despite limited land. After early years of turbulence and despite lacking natural resources and a hinterland, the nation developed rapidly as an Asian Tiger economy, based on external trade and its workforce.

The city-state is classified as an Alpha+ global city, indicating its influence on the global economy. Singapore is the only country in Asia with an AAA sovereign rating from all major rating agencies, and one of 11 worldwide. Singapore is a highly developed country and is ranked 9th on the UN Human Development Index, the highest in Asia for a sovereign state, with the 3rd highest GDP per capita in the world. It was ranked the most expensive city to live in from 2013 to 2019 by the Economist, and is identified as a tax haven.

Along with benefits from the ongoing US-China trade war, Singapore’s financial system and macroeconomic stability raised its rating.

Singapore ranked 2nd overall in the 2018 report. This year, the country ranks first in terms of infrastructure, health, labor market functioning, and financial system.

While Hong Kong was penalized in points for their lacking worker protection (scoring only 10 points, and ranking 116th in the category), Singapore ranked well, scoring 89 points, and ranking 18th for worker protection.

Singapore improves from an already high base on 10 of the 12 pillars, and its score on every pillar is between 4 and 19 points higher than the OECD average. The country ranks first on the Infrastructure pillar (95.4), where it also ranks first for road quality infrastructure, efficiency of seaport and airport services, and sea transport connectivity. It also tops the Health (100), Labor market (81.2) and Financial system pillars (+2.0 points, 91.3), and achieves a nearly perfect score for Macroeconomic stability (+7.1, 99.7, 38th).

Performance in terms of market efficiency (81.2, 2nd behind Hong Kong SAR) is driven by the fact that Singapore is the most open economy in the world. Singapore ranks 2nd (80.4) for the quality of public institutions, behind Finland, but its performance is undermined by limited checks and balances (65.9, 23rd)—Singapore notably ranks 124th on the Freedom of the Press Index—and lack of commitment to sustainability (63.5, 66th). Going forward, in order to become a global innovation hub, Singapore will need to promote entrepreneurship and further improve its skills base, albeit from a relatively high base (78.8, 19th).

Southern Africa

Led by Mauritius (52nd), sub-Saharan Africa is overall the least competitive region, with 25 of the 34 economies assessed this year scoring below 50.

South Africa, the second most competitive in the region, improves to the 60th position, while Namibia (94th), Rwanda (100th), Uganda (115th) and Guinea (122nd) all improve significantly, the WEF showed. Among the other large economies in the region, Kenya (95th) and Nigeria (116th) also improve their performances, but lose some positions, overcome by faster climbers, the report said.

South Africa

South Africa’s competitiveness has regained momentum after the recent political landscape shift and climbed seven places in 2019. The country is a regional financial hub (83.2, 19th), with well-developed equity, insurance and credit markets, all achieving a score of 100, the report said.

South Africa’s WEF Global Competitiveness Report 2019 scores.

It has also developed one of the most advanced transport infrastructures in the region (45th) and is among the top countries in Africa for market size (35th). Beyond these established strengths, health conditions—though starting from a low base (118th)—are better, adding 3.3 years to the average healthy life expectancy since the last assessment. Institutional quality has also improved (55th) but unevenly, the report said.

Some aspects of this category have achieved ‘remarkable progress’, including restored balance of powers across different state’s entities (16th), enhanced administrative efficiency of the public sector (39th) and corporate governance (26th).

Other aspects however, continue to perform poorly: security (135th) remains one of the main restraints to South Africa’s competitiveness, while transparency (62nd) and government adaptability to change (100th) are also below par, the report said.

“Further, South Africa’s competitiveness is being held back by relatively low business dynamism (60th), which is inhibited by insolvency regulation and administrative burdens to start a business, and a persistently insufficient labor market flexibility (111th),” the WEF said.

The report showed that flexibility of wage determination is limited (134th) and hiring foreign labor is difficult (123rd). “South Africa’s sensitivity to exports of mineral resources is likely to hit the country’s economic outlook and will make reducing unemployment (projected above 27%) challenging. “Against this backdrop, structural reforms are needed tore-ignite the economy and offer better opportunities to a larger share of South African citizens.”

How to get to number 1

The index examines the relationship between competitiveness and the two other dimensions of sustainable development – social cohesiveness and environmental sustainability. It shows that there are no inherent trade-offs between competitiveness and sustainability, and between competitiveness and social cohesiveness. This suggests a “win-win” policy space, where a productive, low-carbon, inclusive economy is possible, and it is the only viable option going forward.

  1. Be an all-rounder: The report is a reminder to apply a holistic approach and to better balance short-term considerations against factors whose impact is felt beyond quarterly results and election cycles. For example, the results of the index show that labor and education policies have not been keeping up with the pace of innovation in most countries, including in some of the largest and most innovative economies.
  2. Integrate tech: Governments must better anticipate the unintended consequences of technological integration and implement complementary social policies that support populations through the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The report shows that several economies with strong innovation capability like South Korea, Japan and France, or increasing capability, like China, India and Brazil, must improve their talent base and the functioning of their labor markets.
  3. Education: Talent adaptability is critical. It pays to enable the workforce to contribute to the technology revolution and to be able to cope with its disruptions. Talent adaptability also requires a well-functioning labor market that protects workers, not jobs. Advanced economies such as South Korea, Italy, France and, to some extent, Japan need to develop their skills base and tackle rigidities in their labor markets.

To read the full report, click here.

 

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Visa Changes Coming to South Africa

The Department of Home Affairs is working on a number of changes to South Africa’s visa regime, in an effort to make the country more accessible for visitors, investors and people with skills that are critical to building the economy.

Presenting at the monthly Presidential Working Committee on Monday (7 October), Home Affairs minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said that his department has lowered turnaround times for critical work skills visas, which are now issued within four weeks in 88.5% of applications.

By comparison, business and general work visas are issued within eight weeks in 98% of applications.

“In November, the Department of Home Affairs will embark on a pilot scheme for the issuing of e-visas, which applicants will be able to access online, eliminating the need for applicants to visit South African missions abroad.

“The department has also located visa services within the offices of various investment facilitation agencies around the country.

“In addition, visa requirements have been simplified for countries such as China and India, which are key markets for tourism to South Africa,” he said.

New countries can now visit South Africa visa-free

Motsoaledi added that the government also recently waived visas for travelers from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, New Zealand, Cuba, Ghana and Sao Tome and Principe.

In July, a spokesperson told BusinessTech that the Department of Home Affairs will also enter into talks with their counterparts in a number of countries to allow visa-free access for South African travelers.

While countries such as Qatar and Ghana already have visa-free or visa on arrival agreements with South Africa, it would be considered a serious boon if South Africans could travel visa-free to countries such as the UAE and New Zealand.

Department spokesperson Siya Qoza said that Home Affairs was currently in talks with these countries on two main issues.

“We have entered negotiations with these countries with the first priority being an implementation date for visa-free access to South Africa.

“Once this has been confirmed, our second priority is reciprocity.”

Qoza said that initial conversations held with these countries have been positive, with talks expected to be concluded by September.

He added that Home Affairs may expand these negotiations to other countries.

“We are consistently looking at which countries would be of a trade and tourism benefit to South Africa,” he said.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

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