#Africa ‘Egypt is our most profitable region,’ says Ahmed El Sewedy

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Elsewedy makes around 80% of its total revenues from wires and cables, along with engineering and contracting, and is active in Europe, the Gulf States and Africa.

Favourable conditions

The economic reforms, especially the devaluation of the pound, have impacted positively on Elsewedy Electric, leading to a 95.7% year-on-year revenue increase for the six-month period ending 30 June, says Ahmed El Sewedy.

“The devaluation was the best thing implemented in the last five years. Before the devaluation and before the revolution, industry was dead and everyone was investing in property. At that time the exchange rate of the Egyptian pound meant we were not able to compete with China, India or Turkey,” he expands.

After devaluation, exports became more competitive, and Egypt is now one of the cheapest countries worldwide, he adds, which in turn has led to industry leaders re-investing in Egyptian infrastructure and manufacturing. Indeed, the company has recently invested heavily in Egyptian industry.

The company has partnered with EDF France to build two 100MW solar plants, under the feed-in-tariff (FiT) scheme, with $150m funding from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Launched in 2015, the FiT hopes to produce 4,300MW from wind and solar farms by procuring an eventual $7bn in investment.

According to El Sewedy, the renewable energy feed-in-tariff programme has been very successful in attracting investors, and at the time of writing 25 companies were close to financially closing solar energy projects in the second phase of the programme.

By undertaking solar projects, Elsewedy demonstrates its ability to capitalise on market opportunities by aligning strategy to government vision, for which renewable energy takes increasing precedence: by 2022, 20% of energy should come from renewable sources.

Similarly, Elsewedy is involved with the government’s Mega Projects and has signed a contract with El Mostakbal for Urban Development to supply electricity and communication infrastructure networks for the first phase of Mostakbal City, New Cairo.

Furthermore, as the government aims to overcome a large budget deficit by reducing energy subsidies, Elsewedy can offer its energy saving solutions to companies battling increased operational costs.

Increasing electricity capacity via reducing consumption and pumping up production is of central importance to the Egyptian government, which dealt with an electricity deficit and power outages for quite some time. In 2013, Egypt produced 24,000MW of electricity, but 29,000MW were needed to meet domestic and industrial needs.

This creates enormous opportunity for a company like El Sewedy, and through a range of public-private partnerships and initiatives, the Ministry of Electricity has recently reported a surplus for more than 11 months of around 5,000MW – which can now be exported for profit. “It’s a very special time,” says El Sewedy.

Using Egypt as a base

El Sewedy describes how the company’s global network – working in almost 45 countries and exporting to more than 80 – is well grounded in Egypt. Egypt’s exports benefit not only from the devaluation of the pound, but also numerous free trade deals, he explains. “I am free to export to a lot of places without customs. With COMESA, we are free to export to Africa and the same thing with Europe.”

As it stands El Sewedy has become one of the largest sup- pliers of electricity generation and distribution equipment in Africa, and is active in Togo, Zambia, Nigeria, Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania and Kenya amongst other countries. Most recently, the company signed a MOU with Zimbabwe to build $15m of pre-paid smart water meters in Harare, expanding on the 20m water meters it has supplied to 46 other countries.

The company also signed a contract to supply 300,000 prepaid meters in Togo, with a contract value of EUR44m.

“Africa’s electrification is less than 10%, so there’s a lot of space in the continent, either in the energy sector or the transmission sector. I really believe Africa is one of our main interests, for us as a company in Egypt,” says El Sewedy.

Looking to the future, the company has its sights set on Latin America, reporting a decrease in demand for wires and cables in the Gulf States.

As for Egypt’s energy sector in general, El Sewedy finishes by saying: “I think before the economic reforms there was no future for investments in Egypt. On the back of the economic reforms a lot of investments have been made in infrastructure, in water and in energy, and so the sector has found a workable solution.”

The post ‘Egypt is our most profitable region,’ says Ahmed El Sewedy appeared first on African Business Magazine.

from African Business Magazine http://ift.tt/2FKF2iL

#Africa ‘Digital should be a given for everyone, no matter where,’ says Andrus Ansip, VP of EC digital single market

//

The vice-president of the European commissioner for the digital single market Andrus Ansip discusses how the EU can help Africa develop its digital economy.

Can digitisation really help development?

Yes, digital technology can achieve a lot: it can improve efficiency and integrate renewables into energy supply; it can improve public services like transport and waste disposal and help create smart cities or it can allow a faster and better data processing in order to raise industrial productivity.

I hope that Europe and Africa can do more together to highlight the benefits of digitisation. That is true for both public and private sectors. Government and business should better work together to develop digital skills and promote science, technology and innovation. The EU and African countries could create a common vision to build a bridge between national digital economies and Europe’s digital single market (DSM) in the spirit of digital cooperation.

What are the main opportunities for digital cooperation between Europe and Africa?

Agriculture is a good example of cross opportunities that need to be taken. Its importance to the African economy is well known. If one includes post-harvest activities, agriculture-related industry accounts for nearly half of all economic activity in sub-Saharan Africa. While Africa has huge amounts of fertile and unused land, it spends many billions of dollars every year to import food and uses only a fraction of its renewable water resources.

Digital agriculture, or e-agriculture, could improve the situation significantly in Africa. High-performance computing can model weather patterns and predict disasters like flooding. It can indicate the best place for planting crops at a specific time and location. It has the potential to eliminate intermediaries, create a healthy agriculture market based on local conditions – and boost the farming sector of an entire country.

Is digitisation sufficient without the presence of strong local industries?

Startups and other young companies are creating enormous opportunities for employment. Actually, they provide around 50% of all jobs created. Digital entrepreneurs and innovators have the capacity to turn weaker sectors with growth potential into stronger ones. Therefore, the best investment that Europe and Africa can make is in their digital entrepreneurs.

At the EU-Africa Business Forum held recently in Abidjan, we invited 100 European and African startups to showcase their technologies and services. They have created a network and are sharing ideas about how best to work together. And their message was very clear: the internet does not recognise borders. Therefore, African startups have an EU market to sell their products to while EU startups have a growing digital market in Africa.

Is the success of companies such as M-Pesa feeding the emergence of dynamic digital economies in Africa?

M-Pesa is by now the most successful mobile-phone-based financial service in the developing world. It was launched in Kenya in 2007 and is now available in 10 countries – mostly in Africa but also in Albania and Romania. It is a great example of how digital technology can help people. M-Pesa provided a service that people needed. It was useful and innovative. It solved problems. It lifted 2% of Kenyans out of extreme poverty and it brought financial inclusion to the whole country.

Europe can learn a lot from the African experience. In fact, when it comes to digitisation, our two continents face many of the same challenges and barriers. We both have a need for widespread access to connectivity, to get more people online, teach more digital skills and to support tech startups as they seek investment to scale up. In Europe, we recognise the impact of digital technologies and services in all countries, societies and economies. That is why we made digital an integral part of the EU’s development policy – to help create employment and stimulate growth.

But the technological gap is still so big in Africa…

I am a firm believer in using technology to promote sustainable development, reduce socio-economic inequalities, give everyone access to digital opportunities. Supporting entrepreneurs and digital innovation will help to solve local problems, generate growth and jobs and build digital economies. This is how Europe’s DSM can assist – by creating cooperation opportunities between entrepreneurs from Africa and the EU.

Futhermore, the use of digital technologies and services across sectors can be a further push towards sustainable development. It increases accountability, transparency, governance and helps empower women. It assists management of vital resources like water, food and energy.

In other words, one can turn digital into the “norm” across all areas. It is about integrating digital technologies and services everywhere – all based on the premise that people should be able to go online via a quality, affordable and reliable connection. Digital should be a given for everyone. In Africa, in Europe, no matter where…

One of Africa’s biggest needs is access to affordable and secure broadband…

It is true, but in recent years, international connections have become cheaper in most African countries thanks to new submarine cables and internet exchange points. However, landlocked countries are still lagging behind, disadvantaged due to a lack of basic cross-border infrastructure – and the European Commission is now looking at projects to help remedy this situation.

Africa’s regulatory and fiscal instability affects broadband prices as well as investments in connectivity. Telecoms operators are regarded as a constant source of revenue for the public budget. While this can solve some short-term issues, it also has a significant long-term impact on investments in networks. This is why governments should provide a long-term political commitment to create an appropriate environment to facilitate the hefty investments required. At the same time, operators should commit to investing and guaranteeing the quality of connections.

Another important need is to promote regulatory environments geared towards competition and protection of end-users’ rights. How can the EU help?

We are constantly engaging with the African Union Commission to support Africa in creating such an “enabling environment” for the digital economy. While previous projects used to focus on enacting telecom regulations, we are now negotiating a new project whose main aim will be to support more efficient spectrum management that will have a direct impact on the mobile internet. Reducing broadband prices in Africa will depend a great deal on the commitment of political leaders to improve the business climate and apply regulations that give confidence to investors.

What European good practices could Africa adapt to promote digital skills?   

In many African countries, more than half the population is aged under 20. And the world’s youngest population is growing fast: the IMF says that by 2035, sub-Saharan Africa will have more working-age people than the rest of the world’s regions combined. This young growing population is maybe Africa’s greatest asset. Investing in youth is essential anywhere, in Europe as well as in Africa. In the 21st century, digital skills should be enshrined in national educational systems. But governments cannot always cope with doing this on their own; they need to join forces with the business community. Africa is already home to several successful projects that are based on a public-private partnership model.

Digital skills are at the heart of the EU’s Digital4Development initiative. And, for several years now, we have promoted the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition: this is where the European Commission works with a large number of associations, companies and organisations to bridge the digital knowledge divide and better prepare the EU workforce with the right digital skills in order to get jobs. The same model can be applied to Africa. In Abidjan, during the EU-Africa Business Forum, I saw for myself the willingness of business leaders to engage on this issue.

How is the EU’s external investment plan supporting digital entrepreneurship in Africa?

In Africa, digital entrepreneurship is on the rise. The tech startup landscape is increasingly active, with some 310 active tech hubs across the continent. The range of startups funded in recent years and the size of deals reflect its accelerating development and potential. Young digital entrepreneurs are not only creating jobs, they are innovating to tackle long-standing socio-economic problems and develop answers that help people in their daily lives. Take the huge degree of financial inclusion that mobile payment systems have created in Africa.

The European Union has launched an external investment plan that addresses many issues relevant to Africa. Under the “digital investment window“ it aims to reduce investor risk in areas such as broadband connectivity, e-services and digital mobile payments; it will also increase money available for venture capital and angel investors. This is not only scale-up money, but also seed money for early starters with difficulties securing financing. We create business opportunities by creating a platform of cooperation. I strongly believe that cooperation will lead to services with a strong social impact across all sectors of the economy and society. That can only be a good thing. 

The post ‘Digital should be a given for everyone, no matter where,’ says Andrus Ansip, VP of EC digital single market appeared first on African Business Magazine.

from African Business Magazine http://ift.tt/2D2DKxP

#Africa ‘Digital should be a given for everyone, no matter where,’ says Andrus Ansip, VP of EC digital single market

//

The vice-president of the European commissioner for the digital single market Andrus Ansip discusses how the EU can help Africa develop its digital economy.

Can digitisation really help development?

Yes, digital technology can achieve a lot: it can improve efficiency and integrate renewables into energy supply; it can improve public services like transport and waste disposal and help create smart cities or it can allow a faster and better data processing in order to raise industrial productivity.

I hope that Europe and Africa can do more together to highlight the benefits of digitisation. That is true for both public and private sectors. Government and business should better work together to develop digital skills and promote science, technology and innovation. The EU and African countries could create a common vision to build a bridge between national digital economies and Europe’s digital single market (DSM) in the spirit of digital cooperation.

What are the main opportunities for digital cooperation between Europe and Africa?

Agriculture is a good example of cross opportunities that need to be taken. Its importance to the African economy is well known. If one includes post-harvest activities, agriculture-related industry accounts for nearly half of all economic activity in sub-Saharan Africa. While Africa has huge amounts of fertile and unused land, it spends many billions of dollars every year to import food and uses only a fraction of its renewable water resources.

Digital agriculture, or e-agriculture, could improve the situation significantly in Africa. High-performance computing can model weather patterns and predict disasters like flooding. It can indicate the best place for planting crops at a specific time and location. It has the potential to eliminate intermediaries, create a healthy agriculture market based on local conditions – and boost the farming sector of an entire country.

Is digitisation sufficient without the presence of strong local industries?

Startups and other young companies are creating enormous opportunities for employment. Actually, they provide around 50% of all jobs created. Digital entrepreneurs and innovators have the capacity to turn weaker sectors with growth potential into stronger ones. Therefore, the best investment that Europe and Africa can make is in their digital entrepreneurs.

At the EU-Africa Business Forum held recently in Abidjan, we invited 100 European and African startups to showcase their technologies and services. They have created a network and are sharing ideas about how best to work together. And their message was very clear: the internet does not recognise borders. Therefore, African startups have an EU market to sell their products to while EU startups have a growing digital market in Africa.

Is the success of companies such as M-Pesa feeding the emergence of dynamic digital economies in Africa?

M-Pesa is by now the most successful mobile-phone-based financial service in the developing world. It was launched in Kenya in 2007 and is now available in 10 countries – mostly in Africa but also in Albania and Romania. It is a great example of how digital technology can help people. M-Pesa provided a service that people needed. It was useful and innovative. It solved problems. It lifted 2% of Kenyans out of extreme poverty and it brought financial inclusion to the whole country.

Europe can learn a lot from the African experience. In fact, when it comes to digitisation, our two continents face many of the same challenges and barriers. We both have a need for widespread access to connectivity, to get more people online, teach more digital skills and to support tech startups as they seek investment to scale up. In Europe, we recognise the impact of digital technologies and services in all countries, societies and economies. That is why we made digital an integral part of the EU’s development policy – to help create employment and stimulate growth.

But the technological gap is still so big in Africa…

I am a firm believer in using technology to promote sustainable development, reduce socio-economic inequalities, give everyone access to digital opportunities. Supporting entrepreneurs and digital innovation will help to solve local problems, generate growth and jobs and build digital economies. This is how Europe’s DSM can assist – by creating cooperation opportunities between entrepreneurs from Africa and the EU.

Futhermore, the use of digital technologies and services across sectors can be a further push towards sustainable development. It increases accountability, transparency, governance and helps empower women. It assists management of vital resources like water, food and energy.

In other words, one can turn digital into the “norm” across all areas. It is about integrating digital technologies and services everywhere – all based on the premise that people should be able to go online via a quality, affordable and reliable connection. Digital should be a given for everyone. In Africa, in Europe, no matter where…

One of Africa’s biggest needs is access to affordable and secure broadband…

It is true, but in recent years, international connections have become cheaper in most African countries thanks to new submarine cables and internet exchange points. However, landlocked countries are still lagging behind, disadvantaged due to a lack of basic cross-border infrastructure – and the European Commission is now looking at projects to help remedy this situation.

Africa’s regulatory and fiscal instability affects broadband prices as well as investments in connectivity. Telecoms operators are regarded as a constant source of revenue for the public budget. While this can solve some short-term issues, it also has a significant long-term impact on investments in networks. This is why governments should provide a long-term political commitment to create an appropriate environment to facilitate the hefty investments required. At the same time, operators should commit to investing and guaranteeing the quality of connections.

Another important need is to promote regulatory environments geared towards competition and protection of end-users’ rights. How can the EU help?

We are constantly engaging with the African Union Commission to support Africa in creating such an “enabling environment” for the digital economy. While previous projects used to focus on enacting telecom regulations, we are now negotiating a new project whose main aim will be to support more efficient spectrum management that will have a direct impact on the mobile internet. Reducing broadband prices in Africa will depend a great deal on the commitment of political leaders to improve the business climate and apply regulations that give confidence to investors.

What European good practices could Africa adapt to promote digital skills?   

In many African countries, more than half the population is aged under 20. And the world’s youngest population is growing fast: the IMF says that by 2035, sub-Saharan Africa will have more working-age people than the rest of the world’s regions combined. This young growing population is maybe Africa’s greatest asset. Investing in youth is essential anywhere, in Europe as well as in Africa. In the 21st century, digital skills should be enshrined in national educational systems. But governments cannot always cope with doing this on their own; they need to join forces with the business community. Africa is already home to several successful projects that are based on a public-private partnership model.

Digital skills are at the heart of the EU’s Digital4Development initiative. And, for several years now, we have promoted the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition: this is where the European Commission works with a large number of associations, companies and organisations to bridge the digital knowledge divide and better prepare the EU workforce with the right digital skills in order to get jobs. The same model can be applied to Africa. In Abidjan, during the EU-Africa Business Forum, I saw for myself the willingness of business leaders to engage on this issue.

How is the EU’s external investment plan supporting digital entrepreneurship in Africa?

In Africa, digital entrepreneurship is on the rise. The tech startup landscape is increasingly active, with some 310 active tech hubs across the continent. The range of startups funded in recent years and the size of deals reflect its accelerating development and potential. Young digital entrepreneurs are not only creating jobs, they are innovating to tackle long-standing socio-economic problems and develop answers that help people in their daily lives. Take the huge degree of financial inclusion that mobile payment systems have created in Africa.

The European Union has launched an external investment plan that addresses many issues relevant to Africa. Under the “digital investment window“ it aims to reduce investor risk in areas such as broadband connectivity, e-services and digital mobile payments; it will also increase money available for venture capital and angel investors. This is not only scale-up money, but also seed money for early starters with difficulties securing financing. We create business opportunities by creating a platform of cooperation. I strongly believe that cooperation will lead to services with a strong social impact across all sectors of the economy and society. That can only be a good thing. 

The post ‘Digital should be a given for everyone, no matter where,’ says Andrus Ansip, VP of EC digital single market appeared first on African Business Magazine.

from African Business Magazine http://ift.tt/2D2DKxP

#Africa ‘Digital should be a given for everyone, no matter where,’ says Andrus Ansip, VP of EC digital single market

//

The vice-president of the European commissioner for the digital single market Andrus Ansip discusses how the EU can help Africa develop its digital economy.

Can digitisation really help development?

Yes, digital technology can achieve a lot: it can improve efficiency and integrate renewables into energy supply; it can improve public services like transport and waste disposal and help create smart cities or it can allow a faster and better data processing in order to raise industrial productivity.

I hope that Europe and Africa can do more together to highlight the benefits of digitisation. That is true for both public and private sectors. Government and business should better work together to develop digital skills and promote science, technology and innovation. The EU and African countries could create a common vision to build a bridge between national digital economies and Europe’s digital single market (DSM) in the spirit of digital cooperation.

What are the main opportunities for digital cooperation between Europe and Africa?

Agriculture is a good example of cross opportunities that need to be taken. Its importance to the African economy is well known. If one includes post-harvest activities, agriculture-related industry accounts for nearly half of all economic activity in sub-Saharan Africa. While Africa has huge amounts of fertile and unused land, it spends many billions of dollars every year to import food and uses only a fraction of its renewable water resources.

Digital agriculture, or e-agriculture, could improve the situation significantly in Africa. High-performance computing can model weather patterns and predict disasters like flooding. It can indicate the best place for planting crops at a specific time and location. It has the potential to eliminate intermediaries, create a healthy agriculture market based on local conditions – and boost the farming sector of an entire country.

Is digitisation sufficient without the presence of strong local industries?

Startups and other young companies are creating enormous opportunities for employment. Actually, they provide around 50% of all jobs created. Digital entrepreneurs and innovators have the capacity to turn weaker sectors with growth potential into stronger ones. Therefore, the best investment that Europe and Africa can make is in their digital entrepreneurs.

At the EU-Africa Business Forum held recently in Abidjan, we invited 100 European and African startups to showcase their technologies and services. They have created a network and are sharing ideas about how best to work together. And their message was very clear: the internet does not recognise borders. Therefore, African startups have an EU market to sell their products to while EU startups have a growing digital market in Africa.

Is the success of companies such as M-Pesa feeding the emergence of dynamic digital economies in Africa?

M-Pesa is by now the most successful mobile-phone-based financial service in the developing world. It was launched in Kenya in 2007 and is now available in 10 countries – mostly in Africa but also in Albania and Romania. It is a great example of how digital technology can help people. M-Pesa provided a service that people needed. It was useful and innovative. It solved problems. It lifted 2% of Kenyans out of extreme poverty and it brought financial inclusion to the whole country.

Europe can learn a lot from the African experience. In fact, when it comes to digitisation, our two continents face many of the same challenges and barriers. We both have a need for widespread access to connectivity, to get more people online, teach more digital skills and to support tech startups as they seek investment to scale up. In Europe, we recognise the impact of digital technologies and services in all countries, societies and economies. That is why we made digital an integral part of the EU’s development policy – to help create employment and stimulate growth.

But the technological gap is still so big in Africa…

I am a firm believer in using technology to promote sustainable development, reduce socio-economic inequalities, give everyone access to digital opportunities. Supporting entrepreneurs and digital innovation will help to solve local problems, generate growth and jobs and build digital economies. This is how Europe’s DSM can assist – by creating cooperation opportunities between entrepreneurs from Africa and the EU.

Futhermore, the use of digital technologies and services across sectors can be a further push towards sustainable development. It increases accountability, transparency, governance and helps empower women. It assists management of vital resources like water, food and energy.

In other words, one can turn digital into the “norm” across all areas. It is about integrating digital technologies and services everywhere – all based on the premise that people should be able to go online via a quality, affordable and reliable connection. Digital should be a given for everyone. In Africa, in Europe, no matter where…

One of Africa’s biggest needs is access to affordable and secure broadband…

It is true, but in recent years, international connections have become cheaper in most African countries thanks to new submarine cables and internet exchange points. However, landlocked countries are still lagging behind, disadvantaged due to a lack of basic cross-border infrastructure – and the European Commission is now looking at projects to help remedy this situation.

Africa’s regulatory and fiscal instability affects broadband prices as well as investments in connectivity. Telecoms operators are regarded as a constant source of revenue for the public budget. While this can solve some short-term issues, it also has a significant long-term impact on investments in networks. This is why governments should provide a long-term political commitment to create an appropriate environment to facilitate the hefty investments required. At the same time, operators should commit to investing and guaranteeing the quality of connections.

Another important need is to promote regulatory environments geared towards competition and protection of end-users’ rights. How can the EU help?

We are constantly engaging with the African Union Commission to support Africa in creating such an “enabling environment” for the digital economy. While previous projects used to focus on enacting telecom regulations, we are now negotiating a new project whose main aim will be to support more efficient spectrum management that will have a direct impact on the mobile internet. Reducing broadband prices in Africa will depend a great deal on the commitment of political leaders to improve the business climate and apply regulations that give confidence to investors.

What European good practices could Africa adapt to promote digital skills?   

In many African countries, more than half the population is aged under 20. And the world’s youngest population is growing fast: the IMF says that by 2035, sub-Saharan Africa will have more working-age people than the rest of the world’s regions combined. This young growing population is maybe Africa’s greatest asset. Investing in youth is essential anywhere, in Europe as well as in Africa. In the 21st century, digital skills should be enshrined in national educational systems. But governments cannot always cope with doing this on their own; they need to join forces with the business community. Africa is already home to several successful projects that are based on a public-private partnership model.

Digital skills are at the heart of the EU’s Digital4Development initiative. And, for several years now, we have promoted the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition: this is where the European Commission works with a large number of associations, companies and organisations to bridge the digital knowledge divide and better prepare the EU workforce with the right digital skills in order to get jobs. The same model can be applied to Africa. In Abidjan, during the EU-Africa Business Forum, I saw for myself the willingness of business leaders to engage on this issue.

How is the EU’s external investment plan supporting digital entrepreneurship in Africa?

In Africa, digital entrepreneurship is on the rise. The tech startup landscape is increasingly active, with some 310 active tech hubs across the continent. The range of startups funded in recent years and the size of deals reflect its accelerating development and potential. Young digital entrepreneurs are not only creating jobs, they are innovating to tackle long-standing socio-economic problems and develop answers that help people in their daily lives. Take the huge degree of financial inclusion that mobile payment systems have created in Africa.

The European Union has launched an external investment plan that addresses many issues relevant to Africa. Under the “digital investment window“ it aims to reduce investor risk in areas such as broadband connectivity, e-services and digital mobile payments; it will also increase money available for venture capital and angel investors. This is not only scale-up money, but also seed money for early starters with difficulties securing financing. We create business opportunities by creating a platform of cooperation. I strongly believe that cooperation will lead to services with a strong social impact across all sectors of the economy and society. That can only be a good thing. 

The post ‘Digital should be a given for everyone, no matter where,’ says Andrus Ansip, VP of EC digital single market appeared first on African Business Magazine.

from African Business Magazine http://ift.tt/2D2DKxP

#Africa ‘Digital should be a given for everyone, no matter where,’ says Andrus Ansip, VP of EC digital single market

//

The vice-president of the European commissioner for the digital single market Andrus Ansip discusses how the EU can help Africa develop its digital economy.

Can digitisation really help development?

Yes, digital technology can achieve a lot: it can improve efficiency and integrate renewables into energy supply; it can improve public services like transport and waste disposal and help create smart cities or it can allow a faster and better data processing in order to raise industrial productivity.

I hope that Europe and Africa can do more together to highlight the benefits of digitisation. That is true for both public and private sectors. Government and business should better work together to develop digital skills and promote science, technology and innovation. The EU and African countries could create a common vision to build a bridge between national digital economies and Europe’s digital single market (DSM) in the spirit of digital cooperation.

What are the main opportunities for digital cooperation between Europe and Africa?

Agriculture is a good example of cross opportunities that need to be taken. Its importance to the African economy is well known. If one includes post-harvest activities, agriculture-related industry accounts for nearly half of all economic activity in sub-Saharan Africa. While Africa has huge amounts of fertile and unused land, it spends many billions of dollars every year to import food and uses only a fraction of its renewable water resources.

Digital agriculture, or e-agriculture, could improve the situation significantly in Africa. High-performance computing can model weather patterns and predict disasters like flooding. It can indicate the best place for planting crops at a specific time and location. It has the potential to eliminate intermediaries, create a healthy agriculture market based on local conditions – and boost the farming sector of an entire country.

Is digitisation sufficient without the presence of strong local industries?

Startups and other young companies are creating enormous opportunities for employment. Actually, they provide around 50% of all jobs created. Digital entrepreneurs and innovators have the capacity to turn weaker sectors with growth potential into stronger ones. Therefore, the best investment that Europe and Africa can make is in their digital entrepreneurs.

At the EU-Africa Business Forum held recently in Abidjan, we invited 100 European and African startups to showcase their technologies and services. They have created a network and are sharing ideas about how best to work together. And their message was very clear: the internet does not recognise borders. Therefore, African startups have an EU market to sell their products to while EU startups have a growing digital market in Africa.

Is the success of companies such as M-Pesa feeding the emergence of dynamic digital economies in Africa?

M-Pesa is by now the most successful mobile-phone-based financial service in the developing world. It was launched in Kenya in 2007 and is now available in 10 countries – mostly in Africa but also in Albania and Romania. It is a great example of how digital technology can help people. M-Pesa provided a service that people needed. It was useful and innovative. It solved problems. It lifted 2% of Kenyans out of extreme poverty and it brought financial inclusion to the whole country.

Europe can learn a lot from the African experience. In fact, when it comes to digitisation, our two continents face many of the same challenges and barriers. We both have a need for widespread access to connectivity, to get more people online, teach more digital skills and to support tech startups as they seek investment to scale up. In Europe, we recognise the impact of digital technologies and services in all countries, societies and economies. That is why we made digital an integral part of the EU’s development policy – to help create employment and stimulate growth.

But the technological gap is still so big in Africa…

I am a firm believer in using technology to promote sustainable development, reduce socio-economic inequalities, give everyone access to digital opportunities. Supporting entrepreneurs and digital innovation will help to solve local problems, generate growth and jobs and build digital economies. This is how Europe’s DSM can assist – by creating cooperation opportunities between entrepreneurs from Africa and the EU.

Futhermore, the use of digital technologies and services across sectors can be a further push towards sustainable development. It increases accountability, transparency, governance and helps empower women. It assists management of vital resources like water, food and energy.

In other words, one can turn digital into the “norm” across all areas. It is about integrating digital technologies and services everywhere – all based on the premise that people should be able to go online via a quality, affordable and reliable connection. Digital should be a given for everyone. In Africa, in Europe, no matter where…

One of Africa’s biggest needs is access to affordable and secure broadband…

It is true, but in recent years, international connections have become cheaper in most African countries thanks to new submarine cables and internet exchange points. However, landlocked countries are still lagging behind, disadvantaged due to a lack of basic cross-border infrastructure – and the European Commission is now looking at projects to help remedy this situation.

Africa’s regulatory and fiscal instability affects broadband prices as well as investments in connectivity. Telecoms operators are regarded as a constant source of revenue for the public budget. While this can solve some short-term issues, it also has a significant long-term impact on investments in networks. This is why governments should provide a long-term political commitment to create an appropriate environment to facilitate the hefty investments required. At the same time, operators should commit to investing and guaranteeing the quality of connections.

Another important need is to promote regulatory environments geared towards competition and protection of end-users’ rights. How can the EU help?

We are constantly engaging with the African Union Commission to support Africa in creating such an “enabling environment” for the digital economy. While previous projects used to focus on enacting telecom regulations, we are now negotiating a new project whose main aim will be to support more efficient spectrum management that will have a direct impact on the mobile internet. Reducing broadband prices in Africa will depend a great deal on the commitment of political leaders to improve the business climate and apply regulations that give confidence to investors.

What European good practices could Africa adapt to promote digital skills?   

In many African countries, more than half the population is aged under 20. And the world’s youngest population is growing fast: the IMF says that by 2035, sub-Saharan Africa will have more working-age people than the rest of the world’s regions combined. This young growing population is maybe Africa’s greatest asset. Investing in youth is essential anywhere, in Europe as well as in Africa. In the 21st century, digital skills should be enshrined in national educational systems. But governments cannot always cope with doing this on their own; they need to join forces with the business community. Africa is already home to several successful projects that are based on a public-private partnership model.

Digital skills are at the heart of the EU’s Digital4Development initiative. And, for several years now, we have promoted the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition: this is where the European Commission works with a large number of associations, companies and organisations to bridge the digital knowledge divide and better prepare the EU workforce with the right digital skills in order to get jobs. The same model can be applied to Africa. In Abidjan, during the EU-Africa Business Forum, I saw for myself the willingness of business leaders to engage on this issue.

How is the EU’s external investment plan supporting digital entrepreneurship in Africa?

In Africa, digital entrepreneurship is on the rise. The tech startup landscape is increasingly active, with some 310 active tech hubs across the continent. The range of startups funded in recent years and the size of deals reflect its accelerating development and potential. Young digital entrepreneurs are not only creating jobs, they are innovating to tackle long-standing socio-economic problems and develop answers that help people in their daily lives. Take the huge degree of financial inclusion that mobile payment systems have created in Africa.

The European Union has launched an external investment plan that addresses many issues relevant to Africa. Under the “digital investment window“ it aims to reduce investor risk in areas such as broadband connectivity, e-services and digital mobile payments; it will also increase money available for venture capital and angel investors. This is not only scale-up money, but also seed money for early starters with difficulties securing financing. We create business opportunities by creating a platform of cooperation. I strongly believe that cooperation will lead to services with a strong social impact across all sectors of the economy and society. That can only be a good thing. 

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#Africa ‘Digital should be a given for everyone, no matter where,’ says Andrus Ansip, VP of EC digital single market

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The vice-president of the European commissioner for the digital single market Andrus Ansip discusses how the EU can help Africa develop its digital economy.

Can digitisation really help development?

Yes, digital technology can achieve a lot: it can improve efficiency and integrate renewables into energy supply; it can improve public services like transport and waste disposal and help create smart cities or it can allow a faster and better data processing in order to raise industrial productivity.

I hope that Europe and Africa can do more together to highlight the benefits of digitisation. That is true for both public and private sectors. Government and business should better work together to develop digital skills and promote science, technology and innovation. The EU and African countries could create a common vision to build a bridge between national digital economies and Europe’s digital single market (DSM) in the spirit of digital cooperation.

What are the main opportunities for digital cooperation between Europe and Africa?

Agriculture is a good example of cross opportunities that need to be taken. Its importance to the African economy is well known. If one includes post-harvest activities, agriculture-related industry accounts for nearly half of all economic activity in sub-Saharan Africa. While Africa has huge amounts of fertile and unused land, it spends many billions of dollars every year to import food and uses only a fraction of its renewable water resources.

Digital agriculture, or e-agriculture, could improve the situation significantly in Africa. High-performance computing can model weather patterns and predict disasters like flooding. It can indicate the best place for planting crops at a specific time and location. It has the potential to eliminate intermediaries, create a healthy agriculture market based on local conditions – and boost the farming sector of an entire country.

Is digitisation sufficient without the presence of strong local industries?

Startups and other young companies are creating enormous opportunities for employment. Actually, they provide around 50% of all jobs created. Digital entrepreneurs and innovators have the capacity to turn weaker sectors with growth potential into stronger ones. Therefore, the best investment that Europe and Africa can make is in their digital entrepreneurs.

At the EU-Africa Business Forum held recently in Abidjan, we invited 100 European and African startups to showcase their technologies and services. They have created a network and are sharing ideas about how best to work together. And their message was very clear: the internet does not recognise borders. Therefore, African startups have an EU market to sell their products to while EU startups have a growing digital market in Africa.

Is the success of companies such as M-Pesa feeding the emergence of dynamic digital economies in Africa?

M-Pesa is by now the most successful mobile-phone-based financial service in the developing world. It was launched in Kenya in 2007 and is now available in 10 countries – mostly in Africa but also in Albania and Romania. It is a great example of how digital technology can help people. M-Pesa provided a service that people needed. It was useful and innovative. It solved problems. It lifted 2% of Kenyans out of extreme poverty and it brought financial inclusion to the whole country.

Europe can learn a lot from the African experience. In fact, when it comes to digitisation, our two continents face many of the same challenges and barriers. We both have a need for widespread access to connectivity, to get more people online, teach more digital skills and to support tech startups as they seek investment to scale up. In Europe, we recognise the impact of digital technologies and services in all countries, societies and economies. That is why we made digital an integral part of the EU’s development policy – to help create employment and stimulate growth.

But the technological gap is still so big in Africa…

I am a firm believer in using technology to promote sustainable development, reduce socio-economic inequalities, give everyone access to digital opportunities. Supporting entrepreneurs and digital innovation will help to solve local problems, generate growth and jobs and build digital economies. This is how Europe’s DSM can assist – by creating cooperation opportunities between entrepreneurs from Africa and the EU.

Futhermore, the use of digital technologies and services across sectors can be a further push towards sustainable development. It increases accountability, transparency, governance and helps empower women. It assists management of vital resources like water, food and energy.

In other words, one can turn digital into the “norm” across all areas. It is about integrating digital technologies and services everywhere – all based on the premise that people should be able to go online via a quality, affordable and reliable connection. Digital should be a given for everyone. In Africa, in Europe, no matter where…

One of Africa’s biggest needs is access to affordable and secure broadband…

It is true, but in recent years, international connections have become cheaper in most African countries thanks to new submarine cables and internet exchange points. However, landlocked countries are still lagging behind, disadvantaged due to a lack of basic cross-border infrastructure – and the European Commission is now looking at projects to help remedy this situation.

Africa’s regulatory and fiscal instability affects broadband prices as well as investments in connectivity. Telecoms operators are regarded as a constant source of revenue for the public budget. While this can solve some short-term issues, it also has a significant long-term impact on investments in networks. This is why governments should provide a long-term political commitment to create an appropriate environment to facilitate the hefty investments required. At the same time, operators should commit to investing and guaranteeing the quality of connections.

Another important need is to promote regulatory environments geared towards competition and protection of end-users’ rights. How can the EU help?

We are constantly engaging with the African Union Commission to support Africa in creating such an “enabling environment” for the digital economy. While previous projects used to focus on enacting telecom regulations, we are now negotiating a new project whose main aim will be to support more efficient spectrum management that will have a direct impact on the mobile internet. Reducing broadband prices in Africa will depend a great deal on the commitment of political leaders to improve the business climate and apply regulations that give confidence to investors.

What European good practices could Africa adapt to promote digital skills?   

In many African countries, more than half the population is aged under 20. And the world’s youngest population is growing fast: the IMF says that by 2035, sub-Saharan Africa will have more working-age people than the rest of the world’s regions combined. This young growing population is maybe Africa’s greatest asset. Investing in youth is essential anywhere, in Europe as well as in Africa. In the 21st century, digital skills should be enshrined in national educational systems. But governments cannot always cope with doing this on their own; they need to join forces with the business community. Africa is already home to several successful projects that are based on a public-private partnership model.

Digital skills are at the heart of the EU’s Digital4Development initiative. And, for several years now, we have promoted the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition: this is where the European Commission works with a large number of associations, companies and organisations to bridge the digital knowledge divide and better prepare the EU workforce with the right digital skills in order to get jobs. The same model can be applied to Africa. In Abidjan, during the EU-Africa Business Forum, I saw for myself the willingness of business leaders to engage on this issue.

How is the EU’s external investment plan supporting digital entrepreneurship in Africa?

In Africa, digital entrepreneurship is on the rise. The tech startup landscape is increasingly active, with some 310 active tech hubs across the continent. The range of startups funded in recent years and the size of deals reflect its accelerating development and potential. Young digital entrepreneurs are not only creating jobs, they are innovating to tackle long-standing socio-economic problems and develop answers that help people in their daily lives. Take the huge degree of financial inclusion that mobile payment systems have created in Africa.

The European Union has launched an external investment plan that addresses many issues relevant to Africa. Under the “digital investment window“ it aims to reduce investor risk in areas such as broadband connectivity, e-services and digital mobile payments; it will also increase money available for venture capital and angel investors. This is not only scale-up money, but also seed money for early starters with difficulties securing financing. We create business opportunities by creating a platform of cooperation. I strongly believe that cooperation will lead to services with a strong social impact across all sectors of the economy and society. That can only be a good thing. 

The post ‘Digital should be a given for everyone, no matter where,’ says Andrus Ansip, VP of EC digital single market appeared first on African Business Magazine.

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#Africa South African fintech in 2018 – what can we expect?

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Fintech continues to surprise, with little to touch the rise of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in 2017, writes Dominique Collett, senior investment executive at Rand Merchant Investments and the head of Johannesburg-based fintech entrepreneurs club AlphaCode.

This will continue in 2018, and here I make some predictions based on what we see happening globally and what we see taking place with our members at AlphaCode.

Bitcoin

At the end of 2016 I predicted that 2017 was going to be the year that the world would embrace bitcoin. I thought it would go mainstream but I had no idea how mainstream it would become. We have seen the bitcoin price increase from US$1,000 at the beginning of 2017 to US$14,000. It’s now covered extensively in mainstream media and most people have now heard of this cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin has been highly volatile over the last month and there are many naysayers calling it a bubble, but bitcoin has always been volatile and has been called a bubble since the price was $1,000 dollars. There are highly rated analysts who believe it could reach US$50,000 this year. There is no doubt that speculation is driving the price up – it is a highly risky asset class, yet it can no longer be ignored. It’s considered a store of value and I believe that the price still has a way to run. Bitcoin now has a market cap of US$230 billion, this is larger than Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley combined.

It is starting to be taken seriously by Wall Street and Silicon Valley. We are also starting to see the large asset managers saying that they believe their clients should be exposed to bitcoin and are looking to structure bitcoin funds. Serious institutional money is starting to consider bitcoin, and it can’t be ignored.

For bitcoin to be used as a payment mechanism or remittance, people first need to be aware of it. That is what 2017 accomplished. So we will see more experimentation and trials from businesses like Pick ‘n Pay, which piloted whether they could accept bitcoin. This year, we expect to see more pilots and experiments opening onto the bitcoin rails to see whether customers are open to using bitcoin as a day to day payment mechanism. I believe that while the volatility will continue, in 2018 bitcoin could begin to emerge as a payment system.

Insurtech

Insurers are finally waking up to the digital world and we will see the emergence of some exciting new models that will transform a staid industry. We saw that insurtech was the buzzword in 2017 globally at conferences and in fintech research reports. The South African market lags a bit but we are starting to see new insurtech businesses come into AlphaCode such as Click2Sure, Cascade and Fo-Sho. We will start to see the rise of micro and on-demand insurance locally. We will also start to see more alternative models like Fo-Sho (a peer-to-peer insurance player) or Cascade (an alternative risk management model in insurance).

Our existing insurance industry will not stay static; insurers are also jumping on the digitisation bandwagon. For example OUTsurance has rebranded, launched an app and they are creating a far more digitally friendly interface which allows customers to log a windscreen claim or insure their laptop or cellphone on the app.

Partnerships

When AlphaCode started out, the thinking in the industry was that fintech would destroy the banks. This hasn’t happened. In fact, we are seeing a rise in partnerships between fintechs and financial institutions. Two aspects have driven this. Globally, we saw a pull back of VC investment into fintech and there’s been a dramatic increase in banks’ investment and partnerships into fintech. There is recognition that fintech businesses require a lot of money to scale and it takes time to build a brand that customers trust.

In South Africa, we are seeing a lot more interest from banks and insurers to work with fintechs. A few years ago, the incumbents were more interested in building solutions themselves, but now they are opening their platforms to see how they can work together with fintechs. Banks are realising that they need to do more to keep customers happy – something that fintechs are good at. In addition, fintechs are maturing and figuring out how to work with corporates.

Chatbots

Chatbots have been very high profile overseas in the last year. A number of banks and insurers have tried to build their own chatbots but are now looking to partner with businesses like FinChatBot as this allows them to radically cut costs without impacting customer experience. In addition, chatbot intelligence is advancing quickly, which increases the appeal.

Digital FICA

South Africa’s FICA bill was a long time coming and it was eventually passed last year. It means that we have moved from a rules-based to a risk-based FICA approach. Banks have been nervous of adopting any digital FICA processes until the bill was promulgated but now they need to embrace a risk based approach.

Two digital banks – CBA Tyme and Discovery – will put other banks under pressure by using digital FICA processes. Banks need to radically reduce their costs and migrate to digital channels if they hope to compete. Precedents are being set and the SA Reserve Bank is signing off on these processes so there is no reason not to adopt digital FICA. Mama Money, for instance, allows you to FICA by taking a selfie. This focus on digital FICA augurs well for players like ThisIsMe and DocFox.

Convenience

Fintechs that enhance convenience will gain traction. Players like Walletdoc, Karri, Zapper and SnapScan will continue to gain traction because they solve a very specific pain point for customers. The banks will try to enhance their apps but if you get used to paying bills with Walletdoc you will continue to do so and if you don’t like sending your children to school with money, you will continue using the Karri app.

Robo advisors

In 2017 we saw the launch of a mainstream robo advisor, OUTvest which offers a great customer experience. We will start to see more robo advisors coming on stream. The younger market wants slick and convenient processes to capture savings and investments. I also expect there will be an increased interest in passive fund managers like Coreshares as there is kickback against high fees. We see a drive towards efficiency, simplicity and low cost – people love the Easy Equities platform and experience.

Hot fintech startups to watch in 2018

Click2Sure allows a customer to purchase a high-value consumer item via an online e-commerce provider and during the checkout process, the customer is offered a policy of insurance on the item they have just purchased.

Luno allows you to buy, sell, send, receive and securely store Bitcoin or Ethereum in just three steps with a minimum of ZAR10.

Karri is a mobile payment app that allows you to make quick payments for school events. Instead of sending children to school with envelopes of cash for civvies days and class outings, you’re able to make fast payments of exact amounts straight to your school.

FinChatBot offers intelligent chatbots for the financial services industry, reducing time and costs.

Isazi Consulting is a data science company that applies rigorous, best practice scientific methods to extract meaning from data.

Electrum is a payments technology provider that offers a cloud platform that is used by banks and retailers to accept payments, process Value Added Services transactions and enable omni-channel integrations.

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#Africa Logistics marketplace Bwala Africa launches in Kenya

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Logistics marketplace Bwala Africa has launched in Kenya, allowing users to hire cars, trucks and delivery vans and source for repairs, service and maintenance from trusted dealers and mechanics.

With a database of pick-ups, minibuses, trucks, tours and delivery vans, Bwala aims to take the pain of fleet management from corporate firms, SMEs and individuals so that they can focus on their core business.

For truck owners, it aims to be the go-to platform for more business, especially on return trips when most of them are empty. The platform also helps mechanics grow their client portfolio.

“I’m a car enthusiast and at times my family was trying to get a good mechanic but we found them engaged. There are many other good mechanics too, but the problem is accessing them. We will list those we vet and let the users rate them,” said Kennedy Nyabwala, the startup’s founder and chief executive officer (CEO).

Bwala’s key focus areas include vehicle leasing, light and heavy duty cargo haulage, FMCG distribution and fleet management, as well as vehicle repairs and maintenance. The firm will also deal with insurance cover and claims, and also has a segment for genuine auto parts dealers.

Now available in Nairobi, Bwala has been under pilot for the last year but will be expanding rapidly to major counties and urban centres in the country this year. It also plans to launch across East Africa, followed by expansion into Asia.

“We wanted to prove our concept and get customer validation before we go public,” Nyabwala said. “Our key focus will be in the African market, though we are also looking at the Asian market, starting with India and Philippines, because they have a lot of similarities with Africa, such as the growing middle class and the increasing rate of car ownership. These are the markets we want to play in.”

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#Africa SA startup job figures stagnate

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South Africa is seeing no growth in terms of jobs advertised at startups in the country, while the average salary is falling.

Each year, jobs platform Adzuna analyses startup job activity in South Africa, with job numbers increasing in 2016 but decreasing at the beginning of the year. The bulk of skills demand has moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

In late 2017, little had changed in the startup world regarding skills. Adzuna analysed the more than 140,000 unique job listings on its website, finding the amount of startup jobs has remained steady at around 750.

Gauteng again leads the pack with 45 per cent of the positions listed, with the Western Cape accounting for around 35 per cent.

Salaries have, on average, decreased to ZAR334,000 (US$27,100) per year, lower than the ZAR355,000 (US$28,800) recorded in February 2017.

IT-related positions, mostly programmers and developers, top the mix of skills that startups look for. Most of the rest are sales and marketing type roles, with a smattering of administrative, financial and consultative skills sought.

“The data certainly points to a stagnation in startup activity during 2017, which is not necessarily either a positive or negative sign. Part of the reason could relate to the incredible difficulty in finding IT skills in South Africa nowadays and that many startup founders find skills in their network as opposed to hiring them for salaried roles,” said Adzuna South Africa country manager Jesse Green.

“It could also point to startups having moved into more solid company formats, or hiring through newer recruitment models such as OfferZen. Successful startup companies could also have matured and no longer see themselves as startups any longer.”

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#Africa Investment into African tech startups hit record high in 2017

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Investment into African tech startups hit the highest levels since records began in 2017, with 159 startups raising in excess of US$195 million.

The DISRUPT AFRICA TECH STARTUPS FUNDING REPORT 2017, released today, reveals a record amount of funding was secured over the course of 2017, by the highest number of startups to date.

Total funding of African tech ventures grew by 51 per cent as compared to 2016, while the number of funded startups also increased by 8.9 per cent.

South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya remained the top three investment destinations for the third year running. For the first time since tracking began, the amount of funding secured by Nigerian startups overtook South Africa in 2017, although significantly more South African ventures raised.

There are signs of increasing investor interest across less developed markets also, with the total percentage of funding received by these top three ecosystems declining to 74.7 per cent from 81.7 per cent in 2015. Ghana, Egypt and Uganda are unequivocally emerging as hotspots.

Fintech proved by far the most attractive sector for investors, with 45 fintech startups raising almost one-third of the total funding going to African tech ventures in 2017. Interest in e-commerce rebounded – spiking 350 per cent on the previous year to see startups raise over US$16.7 million. Meanwhile agri-tech raced to the front of the stage, with funding of the sector growing 203 per cent on 2016.

“We’re very excited to present this data on what has been a record-breaking year for African tech startups. More startups were given more funding than ever before, and the number of multi-million dollar rounds also shot up. There can be no clearer validation of the quality of innovation and businesses being built from within Africa. We’re extremely proud to document the story of our incredible ecosystem,” said Gabriella Mulligan, co-founder of Disrupt Africa.

“Through this annual report, which has established itself as the benchmark study of funding for African tech startups, we have been able to closely monitor the growth of the continent’s tech scene,” said Disrupt Africa co-founder Tom Jackson. “It is tremendously exciting to be able to report record investment figures, and see funding for African tech startups close on US$200 million. With investment also spreading to every corner of the continent, the future looks bright.”

For more information, or to order the report, please visit http://ift.tt/1mYeIri, or email Gabriella on gabriella@disrupt-africa.com, or Tom on tom@disrupt-africa.com.

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