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A round-up of recent careers, business and other news from the UK, Africa and around the world.

A round-up of recent news from the UK, Africa and around the world

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UK Government Launches Equality Review and Urges Publication of Ethnicity Pay Gap

Employers should publish breakdowns of their workforces by race and pay band, to address structural and historical biases that black and minority ethnic (BAME) employees face, the UK government said, following the launch of a new review into how employers have tackled barriers to ethnic minority progression at work. The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) newly-commissioned report will scrutinise actions taken by employers, one year after the 2017 McGregor-Smith Review into race in the workplace. That report, led by Ruby McGregor-Smith, former CEO of Mitie Group, found that the economy could benefit from a £24bn-a-year boost if BAME employees were given the same opportunities as their white counterparts. Recommendations included encouraging employers to publicly disclose their actions on improving racial equality in the workplace, and that the government provide free online unconscious bias training for employers. The review, to be carried out by charity Business In the Community (BITC), will reveal whether companies are reporting on their ethnicity pay gap – a key recommendation of the McGregor Smith Review – which called on companies with more than 50 employees to publish a breakdown of their workforce by race and pay band. BITC will also scrutinise what actions employers are taking to tackle cultures of bullying and harassment towards BAME people in the workplace. Findings will outline the progress employers have made and establish whether any further action is needed to ensure workplaces are inclusive.

Lack of Training Prompts Two-Thirds of UK Workers to Quit

According to a recent study by jobs website Totaljobs – two in three UK workers have changed jobs because of a lack of learning and development. The study of more than 2,600 UK jobseekers and nearly 100 employers revealed that nine in 10 workers wanted their employer to offer more training courses, and two-thirds of them felt that training was more critical now than it was two years ago. Employers are also advocates of providing the right sort of L&D opportunities: 80 per cent agreed that companies should offer staff professional development opportunities, and more than 90 per cent said training for an individual had a noticeable impact on the wider team. The research also found that 41 per cent of workers secured a new job as a direct result of training.

UK HR Professionals Support Skills-Led Immigration post-Brexit

Around four in 10 HR professionals support a UK immigration system based on Britain’s labour and skills shortages, in the likely event of migration restrictions once Britain leaves the European Union, according to a new report. Experts say the government’s current immigration policy on dealing with skills shortages fails to “tally up with what employers or the economy needs”. When Britain leaves the EU on 29 March 2019, organisations may struggle to fill vacancies as EU nationals’ ability to work in the UK will be severely affected, according to the CIPD and Adecco Group’s latest quarterly Labour Market Outlook for Winter 2018, published today (19 February). It indicated that just 13 per cent of HR professionals would prefer a sector-based immigration skills policy, and only 5 per cent would back a regional policy.

Currently, the government immigration system means that under a Tier 2 visa, employers will have to pay a £1,000 skills charge for some EU workers they hire after Brexit – known as the immigration skills levy – as well as an increase in the minimum salary threshold for experienced workers from £25,000 to £30,000. However, some 18 per cent of the 2,066 HR professionals surveyed online and through fieldwork between 7 December 2017 and 8 January 2018 said their organisation had difficulties attracting UK-born applicants to fill unskilled or semi-skilled vacancies. A similar proportion said EU migrants have better work ethics and are more motivated than British-born candidates. Further, 38 per cent of respondents said HR professionals did not even consider nationality during recruitment. As to how employers may respond to future migration restrictions on EU workers, the most common response, cited by 27 per cent, was to continue recruiting EU nationals where possible. The findings revealed organisations that employ EU migrants were typically doing so as part of wider efforts to invest in skills and talent, and to find the labour they require, rather than to cut costs. Companies that employ EU nationals were also more likely to invest in employee training than those that did not employ EU nationals – with 84 per cent stating as much compared to 45 per cent.

Businesses and public ‘strongly support’ keeping EU workers’ Rights after Brexit

Brits are strongly in favour of retaining EU employment laws and regulations after the UK leaves the European Union, according to a new poll. The survey, conducted on behalf of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), highlighted the current preference for retaining and even strengthening EU-derived working standards, including the Working Time Regulations and agency workers’ rights. The IPPR published the poll as part of a series of briefings exploring the public’s perspective on whether the UK should continue to align with EU rules and regulations, including EU-derived employment and financial standards – or if it should seek to diverge from established legislation and distance itself from Europe’s economic and social model. The polling revealed that 73 per cent of the public supported retaining or strengthening the Working Time Directive, while just 12 per cent favoured loosening or removing completely regulations providing equality in temporary agency worker rights. When it came to pay, an overwhelming 79 per cent of respondents said they favoured maintaining – or even lowering – the current threshold on the cap on bankers’ bonuses. Across a range of consumer, financial, employment and environmental legislation, a “considerable majority” sought to keep the current standards in place or go further than the minimum requirements specified by EU legislation, the poll showed. In some areas, such as financial regulation, the public supported stronger standards. According to the findings, among both ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ voters there was strong support for EU-derived standards to be maintained, and in some cases strengthened. Only 17 per cent of leavers supported loosening or removing the Working Time Directive, with only 5 per cent of remainers and 5 per cent of leavers supporting the loosening or removal of consumer cancellation rights.

Half of UK Employees Have Witnessed Racism at Work, Say Survey

More than half of UK employees have witnessed racism in the workplace, but the majority have failed to act on or report it, according to a recent report. A shocking 52 per cent of more than 1,400 workers surveyed by business psychologists Pearn Kandola said they had witnessed an act of racism at work. A third of them said they had not reported it to their employer. Less than a fifth reported the issue to HR and only 18 per cent spoke to the victim, the survey found. Of the respondents who took no action, four in 10 said they did so out of fear of the consequences. A quarter said they did not consider the incident serious enough to report it, and a further 23 per cent claimed that they were unsure of who to report it to. The study found that black people, at 69 per cent, were the most likely demographic to have witnessed racism at work, followed by Asian people (53 per cent) and white people (45 per cent). White people were found to be the most likely to respond to an act of racism by confronting the perpetrator, with more than a third claiming this would be their first course of action, according to the survey. Only a quarter of respondents with a black or Asian background, however – at 27 per cent and 25 per cent respectively – said they would follow suit. Pearn Kandola conducted the research between 20 November 2017 and 19 January 2018. A separate report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research, published in February, found that the economic cost of workplace discrimination to the UK economy was £12bn. The study of 500 workplaces, commissioned by advisory group INvolve, estimated that discrimination against ethnic minorities cost £2.6bn a year.

UK Government Launches £1.5 Fund for Return to Work Projects

The government has announced a £1.5m fund to help private sector companies assist individuals who want to return to work following a career break of at least a year – but has warned organisations that they must also invest in long-term sustainable programmes to tackle the gender pay gap. The Returners Fund, spearheaded by the minister for women and equalities, will be available in grant form to approximately 15-18 projects seeking to help returning workers update their skills. The government defines a worker in this case as someone who left paid employment for at least a year to take on a caring responsibility. The fund, aimed at assisting returns to paid work at a level aligned with individuals’ skills and experience, is accompanied by a best practice guide for employers seeking to deliver return to work programmes. This outlines the business case for returnships and offers case studies from both ‘returner’ and employers’ experience. However, the government’s guidance for employers, as well as the toolkit and fund, all come from the same £5m Theresa May promised in the 2017 spring budget to help people back into work after a career break. Priority will be given to projects that focus on SMEs and employers outside London, as well as employment sectors that have a poor track record with returners. These include retail, law and telecoms, STEM industries and the creative sectors. The Government Equalities Office said it was also particularly interested in applications from projects that focus on supporting people with protected characteristics, including those with BAME backgrounds, and disabled and older workers. The move forms part of the government’s wider strategy to find solutions for the gender pay gap. It said that analysis from an Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Labour Force Survey showed that 89 per cent of those who take time out of paid work to care for family were women. ONS figures published in November 2017 also revealed that an estimated 1.9 million women were economically inactive for caring reasons – a large number of whom had professional or managerial experience.

Submissions Called for Film Africa 2018

Submissions for Film Africa, the annual London film festival, are now open! Visit the FilmFreeway page for more details on eligibility, fees and how to submit: http://bit.ly/FA2018SUBMIT Film Africa 2018 will run from 2-11 November at venues across the city, showcasing another exciting programme of the best African and African diaspora cinema. Film Africa is the Royal African Society’s annual London festival, celebrating the best African and African diaspora cinema from across the continent. Now in its eighth year, the festival has become a key platform for African film in London and the UK.

UK Employers Needs to Reduce Unconscious Bias at Recruitment

UK employers needs to consider how to reduce unconscious bias at each stage of recruitment to reframe the issue of inequality – from job adverts and choice of vocabulary to selection processes – industry experts in diversity have advised. While there were more women in the workforce than ever before, only 4 per cent of FTSE 350 companies have female CEOs. According to the Chartered Institute of Management, the UK needs 1.9m new managers by 2024. To achieve equal representation of men and women in management, 1.5m of them would need to be women. The UK gender pay gap is currently around 18 per cent, but the spotlight must be on companies to make progress as they now have to report annually, Wingfield said, adding that businesses perform better with a more diverse workforce. Only 6.2 per cent of quality job vacancies are advertised with the option to work flexibly, but according to the Joseph Rowntree organisation, at least 42 per cent of the workforce wants to work flexibly. Compressed hours, working from home, job shares and ‘returnships’ could all be made more widely available. Hidden bias affects how job descriptions are written and the sort of applications they encourage. This is problematic when it comes to more senior roles – for which statistically more applications are received from men than women. To reduce bias, diverse panels at interviews and standardised questions are needed, she said, citing recent research by LinkedIn which found that interview questions for women were tougher, lengthier and more in-depth than they were for men. Sifting applications without knowing applicants’ age, title, name, email address, postal address, phone number, nationality and immigration details were important ways of tackling such bias. Advertising in different places and being explicit about gender diversity goals, as well as varying the hiring process and highlighting case studies of successful women, will also help. HR professionals are the ‘gatekeepers’ and must look at everything through the diversity ‘lens’. This meant conducting diversity audits, conducting employee forums to listen to staff better, and tailoring policies and procedures to their specific organisational needs.

Financial Technology in Africa to Grow to USD3 Billion by 2020, says Ecobank

Overall fintech (financial technology) in Africa will grow from around 200 million U.S. dollars currently to 3 billion dollars by 2020, says pan-African banking group Ecobank. The number of digital transactions in Rwanda increased by 11 percent in the first half of 2017 from 1.37 million the previous year to 1.53 million, said Nshuti Lucy Mbabazi, assistant vice-president of the push payments division of Ecobank Group, at the recent Africa Tech Summit in the Rwandan capital Kigali. Speaking at a penal discussion looking at delivering a cashless society in Africa, Mbabazi explained the importance of fintech and moving toward a cashless society. "Digital technology is central. Technology offers great opportunities to open up new markets, increase choice and speed delivery of services," she said. Africa is now at the forefront of fintech, with 57.6 percent of the world’s 174 million active registered mobile money accounts (100.1 million) in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Ecobank Group statistics.

Construction starts on Cameroon’s First Destination Retail Mall

Actis, a leading growth markets investor has started construction on “Douala Grand Mall & Business Park”, Cameroon’s first destination retail and leisure mall. Developed by Actis and local partner Craft Development, Douala Grand Mall will comprise of 18,000 square metres of retail and leisure space, close to Bonapriso in Cameroon’s largest city. The mall will include multiple restaurants, a children’s play zone, a five-screen cinema, a supermarket and retail shops. The Mall is Phase 1 of the development which also includes a business park hosting a hotel and corporate offices spaces. CFAO the international group specialised in distribution in Africa, has signed an agreement to set up and operate a Carrefour Market in the shopping mall and Hospitality and Entertainment conglomerate Genesis Group is the cinema anchor. The South African contractor, Raubex has been appointed as the general contractor and is now mobilised on site. A formal ground-breaking will take place mid-2018. The project is expected to create over 4,500 jobs using local material and labour and has been granted tax incentives following a convention signed with the Government of the Republic of Cameroon. Actis is also invested in the electricity sector in Cameroon. In partnership with the government Actis holds a majority interest in the country’s electricity utility, Eneo. Actis is in advanced discussions with the Government to facilitate further significant investment into the energy sector to continue to expand the electricity grid and improve the quality of supply. Actis has also established Honoris United Universities, a pan-African higher education business which brings together the most prestigious universities, Actis also has a strong presence across the wider Francophone Africa region including energy, education and healthcare businesses.

Banks Pledge Funds for STI Research and Training

Africa is to benefit from a multi-million-dollar boost for research and training in science, technology and innovation (STI), including the establishment of a pan-African university with funds from the African Development Bank, and a US$500 million fund from the Islamic Development Bank to finance projects in healthcare, education, water and agriculture. Funds have also been earmarked by the African Development Bank for the establishment of the Nelson Mandela Institute, aimed at strengthening higher-level training and research in engineering, science, technology and innovation on the continent. These were some of the key pledges at the third edition of the Africa Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation (Africa STI Forum), during which several initiatives aimed at enhancing science, technology and innovation on the continent were unveiled. Egypt will also increase the number and cash value of prizes offered to young African researchers by its state-run Academy of Scientific Research and Technology and African higher education ministers, researchers and academics attended the event co-organised by the African Development Bank and the Egyptian government. South Korea and Japan supported the forum. African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina said his institution has allocated US$42 million to establish a pan-African university to boost the continent’s STI drive and establish a world-class regional university to lead Africa in science and technology. The bank has also invested US$13 million to support the establishment of the Nelson Mandela Institute, aimed at strengthening higher-level training and research in engineering, science, technology and innovation. He said Africa has about 14 million students in higher education, or 6.4% of global higher education enrolments. But less than one third are enrolled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Africa needs to do more not to be left behind, with the continent projected to have over 840 million youth by 2050, Africa will have the youngest population on earth. Bandar Hajjar, the head of the Islamic Development Bank, has also announced the creation of a US$500 million STI fund to finance projects in healthcare, education, water and agriculture. The Islamic Development Bank is a financing institution based in Saudi Arabia. Hajjar said his bank plans to launch an online platform for innovators around the world to provide innovative solutions to the developing countries to support sustainable development and link innovators to financiers in both the public and private sectors. Yongsoo Hwang, a senior research fellow emeritus at the Science and Technology Policy Institute in South Korea, said his country is willing to support Africa’s transformation initiatives for industrialisation and to improve people’s lives, based on South Korea’s experiences in socio-economic transformation. Participants at the Cairo forum pledged to set up an African development education fund to attract “sustainable financing” in partnership with the African Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank and to adopt policies promoting gender equality in education and higher education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A third pledge was made to assist small and medium-sized enterprises in innovative fields, such as electronics, computer science, automation and telecommunications. This aim will be pursued by encouraging the private sector to develop platforms and incubators for start-ups.

Uganda Targets Vocational Training for Oil and Gas Sector

As the Ugandan oil and gas industry nears take-off, experts say skilling workers for gainful employment in this sector should be concentrated in the country’s vocational institutions rather than its universities. An assessment by the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU), which is required to establish, maintain and operate a national human capacity register, indicates that out of the 1,600 new jobs that will be generated in the oil and gas industry, 60% will require technically skilled artisans trained at vocational institutions rather than graduates from universities. The World Bank has already partnered with the country’s vocational colleges which have been selected to become centres of excellence geared towards training Ugandans. The bank has also made vocational bursaries available for over 600 trainees from the Albertine region which is undergoing rapid growth and transformation due to the oil finds, to meet urgent skills needs. More than US$10 billion is expected to be invested in the first phase of Uganda’s oil and gas industry, which will eventually total about US$20 billion. As the industry gears up to offer employment, Dr Elly Karuhanga, chairman of the Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum has said the oil industry has many opportunities, but it requires high standards and therefore training should be at international level. To ensure tthere is equal opportunity, the government has established a national oil and gas talent register, an online management information system which will capture demand and supply of Ugandan manpower in the oil and gas sector.

Call for Female STEM Faculty Mentorship Applications

Female faculty members in any field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from 17 African countries can participate in the 2018 Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) programme, a mentorship initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development and administered by America’s National Academy of Sciences.

The latest call is targeted at post-doctoral fellows in Sub-Saharan Africa and select Arab world countries, the priority being African countries where, according to the US academy, the least number of women participate in peer calls for funding. It blames the low applications from Africa on a lack of experience in applying for international research awards, insufficient time due to other responsibilities, lack of confidence, absence of role models and few mentors. Under the peer scheme, a senior scientist mentors a group of not more than four junior faculty members, helping them to develop confidence and a range of skills, including work-life balance, networking, research proposal writing, and publishing research papers, among others. The programme makes grants of between US$1,000-US$2,000 to mentors and mentees for periods of up to one year mentorship duration, and up to US$10,000 grants to conduct research at the end of the mentorship period. After successful mentoring, mentees are eligible to apply for grants to enable them to conduct a pilot research project. Female academics from Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia are eligible to apply before the 16 March closing date.

Scholarships Call for Postgraduate Studies in Biostatistics

The Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa has published two calls for doctoral and masters scholarships in biostatistics offered under the auspices of the Sub-Saharan Africa Consortium for Advanced Biostatistics, a consortium of 20 institutions in Africa and the United Kingdom. With funding secured from the Wellcome Trust through the Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science programme, South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand, the lead partner, will train a minimum of four doctoral students, plus an unspecified number of MSc fellows, in 2018. Both the PhD and MSc programmes focus on quantitative research in health-related fields, the aim being to develop a career in biostatistics, an emerging field in developing countries. Studies for both programmes can be undertaken in at least eight partnering universities affiliated to the consortium in East and Southern Africa. Scholarships for all students will cover tuition fees, insurance cover for basic medical needs and accidents, monthly living stipends covering accommodation and support for research projects. Additionally, for PhD students 'bench fees' will be given to the research institution hosting the PhD student, plus travel costs to and from the academic training institution and the host research institution. Interested candidates are required to check admission requirements for a consortium member university and submit applications before 31 March for the PhD programme and 31 July for MSc studies.

Record Foreign Students at Dutch Technology Universities

The number of foreign students doing engineering and technical degrees in the Netherlands has never been higher, with one in three masters students at four institutions coming from abroad, writes Senay Boztas for DutchNews.nl. According to the Financieele Dagblad, figures released from international education body Nuffic show that in the 2017-18 academic year, one in three Master’s degree students at the universities of Delft, Wageningen, Eindhoven and Enschede comes from abroad. The total number of degree students has risen from 3,751 in 2006 to more than 12,000 in the current academic year, with particularly high numbers from Germany, China and India. While foreign students are commonly charged higher fees at English and American universities, this has not necessarily been the case in the Netherlands. She said the number of students at technical universities in general, both Dutch and international, has risen after campaigns to fill jobs in these areas – but that the amount of money from government still comes from the same pot.

Mobile-Based Lenders in EAC Attract US$202 Million in 2017

The East African region recorded more than $202.1 million last year in investments in financial technology (FinTech) businesses with mobile-based lenders M-Kopa, Tala and Angaza rated among lead fundraisers. However, this was a 33 per cent drop from the previous year after and having recorded a 65 per cent rise in the five years to 2016. This drop is being viewed in the light of uncertainty occasioned by regulatory challenges and a slowdown of debt financing from local banks. According to the "Investment opportunities in FinTech in East Africa" report by the East Africa Venture Capital Association (EAVCA), Intellecap, Financial Sector Deepening-Africa and FMO, the Dutch development finance institution, investors continue to perceive the region’s FinTech space with interest, even as global investments in the sector are showing a downward trend. Across the four financial segments surveyed -- lending, savings and payments, technology and financial management -- Kenyan FinTechs led the region in terms of number of transacted deals and total value invested. Tanzania recorded a significant jump last year in terms of deal value for financial management while Ethiopia offered promising opportunities owing to approximately 40 per cent of its population being within the millennial bracket. Lending FinTech, the segment involved in peer-to-peer (P2P) or business to consumer (B2C) debt facilitation, drew the largest funding at $440 million from investors in the past seven years, and represented 70 per cent of the region’s total FinTech sector fundraising. In addition, savings and payments FinTech companies represented the fastest growing segment in FinTech over the past seven years, with investment values recorded up 140 per cent. Others with high investor interest include technology enablers and financial enterprises. Seed funding was the most preferred form of fundraising for FinTech businesses which are often in the early stage investing phase.

Mobile Users in Sub-Saharan Africa to Top 500 Million

With some 420m mobile subscribers in the region, a number that’s expected to grow to more than half a billion in three years’ time, mobile is leading the way for financial services, says the GSM Association (GSMA). Already there are more mobile money accounts in sub-Saharan Africa than there are traditional bank accounts, says the global trade body for mobile providers. Of the 277 mobile money services available earlier this year, when the report was published, around 140 of them are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the GSMA, and countries in West Africa are powering their use. More than 40% of adults in seven African countries are using mobile money regularly, says the report: Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. While the move towards mobile money started with simple airtime top-ups and direct person-to-person payments, the sector has become a vibrant one offering a number of other financial services, from bill payments to remittances, says the report. That in turn has driven financial inclusion in the region, adds the report, which notes that “the gender gap in respect to mobile money usage in sub-Saharan Africa is less pronounced: at 19.5%, this is almost half the average for all low- and middle-income countries”. The improvement in financial inclusion across sub-Saharan Africa has reduced inequality, particularly in line with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including those focused on alleviating poverty, decent work and economic growth and reducing inequality within countries. The growth of mobile money has also meant a rise in work for local agents, whose numbers have risen tenfold between 2011 and 2016. The number has increased from around 100,000 in the region in 2011 to around 1m in 2016. In just nine months – the period between September 2015 and June 2016 – mobile money revenue in the region grew by 27%, while the leading mobile money operators paid out nearly half of their revenues (47%) as commission. Over the whole of 2016, that amounted to more than $400m, says the report.

Ghana on Track to be One of World’s Fastest Growing Economies

Now, as oil prices rise again and the country’s oil production rapidly expands, Ghana is on track to make a remarkable claim for a country mired in poverty not long ago: It is likely to have one of the world’s fastest-growing economies this year, according to the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Brookings Institution, says a report in The New York Times. Ghana’s projected growth in 2018, between 8.3 and 8.9 percent, might outpace even India, with its booming tech sector, and Ethiopia, which over the last decade has been one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies thanks to expanding agricultural production and coffee exports. According to the I.M.F.’s projections, only Bhutan, with a minuscule economy, and Libya, whose war-ravaged economy plunged in recent years, may have a higher rate of growth this year. In January, Ghana’s benchmark stock index achieved the world’s highest rate of growth, 19 percent, according to Bloomberg. Cocoa sales are helping lift Ghana’s agriculture sector, which at the end of last year posted its best quarter of growth since 2010, driven by a bumper cocoa crop. Cocoa prices, along with prices for another of Ghana’s exports — gold — are rising again. Growth in industries like finance and health care has also lagged, in part because government investment has been restricted over the last few years, in order to correct for years of overspending. After an initial oil boom in 2011, an overextended public payroll and increasing debt interest payments drove the country into a deep budget deficit when oil prices fell. Ghana seems to be getting back on stable budgetary footing and while the long-term goal is to diversify the economy, the main reason behind all the current optimism in Ghana is still oil. In the last 18 months, two major oil fields off Ghana’s coast have started production. In 2017, production jumped to nearly 60 million barrels, resulting in oil export revenues 124 percent above the previous year, according to central bank statistics. While Ghana may have a shot at claiming the title of fastest-growing nation this year, it will still have to prove it can parlay its oil boom into high-quality jobs and sustainable growth. However, the unemployment rate, although below the average of 7.4 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, increased from 4 percent in 2011 to 5.8 percent last year, according to the World Bank. Among youth, the rate is as high as 11.5 percent.

Applications Open for 8th Orange Social Venture Prize in Africa and the Middle East

The call for applications for the 8th Orange Social Venture Prize in Africa and the Middle East opens today and will run through 31 May 2018, under the “Orange Social Venture Prize” section on the http://EntrepreneurClub.orange.com/en. This prize, awarded by Orange, rewards innovative projects based on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) which improve the living conditions of people in Africa and the Middle East in fields such as education, healthcare, farming, mobile payments or sustainable development. The competition will start with a national phase, during which each of the 17 participating Orange subsidiaries will assess the projects submitted in its country and select 3 winners. This will be followed by an international phase, during which all 51 national winners will compete for an international jury which will present the Orange Social Venture Prize grand prize to the three final winners at the AfricaCom Awards event, to be held in Cape Town, South Africa in November. In addition to their national prizes, the three winners will receive €25,000, €15,000 and €10,000 respectively, as well as six months of personalised support from start-up creation and financing professionals. The Orange Social Venture Prize is open to all students, employees and entrepreneurs over age 21 whose initiative is under three years old and serves Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Tunisia, Jordan, Liberia or Burkina-Faso.

AfDB approves $10 Million for the African Local Currency Bond Fund

The African Development Bank (AfDB) Board of Directors has approved $10 million for the African Local Currency Bond Fund (ALCB Fund), to further enhance the Fund’s portfolio and promote the development of domestic capital markets across the continent. The senior loan, which has a seven-year tenor including a two-year grace period, will support opportunities for local African corporate issuers to access and diversify their long-term funding sources in local currency and crowd in local institutional investors. The ALCB Fund was incorporated in December 2012 by the German Development Bank (KfW) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development. It is licensed as an open-ended Fund, domiciled in Mauritius with initial paid-in capital of $47 million. The Fund is designed to promote local currency bond issuers in high-impact sectors by providing technical assistance to facilitate corporate bond issuances and champion best practice across various domestic debt markets. Geographically, the Fund is expected to invest in all African countries where local currency bonds are possible. So far the Fund has invested in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Lesotho, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi, Gabon and Togo. According to the AfDB, as of 31 December 2017, the Fund had made 27 investments across 19 companies and in 10 currencies. The products and services offered by the ALCB Fund are designed to improve access for non-sovereign issuers for long-term funding in local currency, reduce currency and maturity mismatches and increase local financial intermediation.

European Investment Bank Backs Two Solar Projects in Kenya

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is finalising a Sh7.5 billion ($78 million) loan for construction of two solar power plants in Kenya. According to the bank, the funds will go to Radiant Energy and Eldosol Energy – co-owned by the same shareholders – Frontier Investment Management, Selenkei Investment Limited, Cedate Limited, Interpro International LLC and Paramount Bank. The solar plants, which have a capacity of 40MW each, will be connected to the national power grid and the electricity will cost Sh12.36 per unit ($0.12) under Kenya’s feed-in-tariff for solar power, the Business Daily reported. The bank has estimated a total project cost of Sh17.6 billion ($177 million). Therefore, the bank loan will be used towards the overall cost and the developers will raise the remaining Sh10.1 billion ($98 million). This announcement comes shortly after Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, said the private sector should be encouraged to participate in generation and transmission projects.

China to Construct $62 million Transport University in Tanzania

A US$ 62m transport university is set to be constructed in Tanzania by the Chinese government; the mega institution will help cater for all the transport needs in the country. A statement that was released after President John Magufuli met with the new Chinese ambassador to Tanzania- Ms Wang Ke revealed that the grant was part of China’s assistance to Tanzania as the two countries fostered their bilateral ties. A transport university will greatly help Tanzania to increase the number of professionals in different sectors like aviation, especially at this time when the government is purchasing planes as parts of efforts to revive Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL). Data produced by the Tanzania Air Operators Association (Taoa) shows that as of November 2012 there were 183 local pilots in the country against a demand of 456. Tanzania is among the beneficiaries of the 5 mega transport universities to be financed and constructed by China in Africa that will help enhance their partnership with several African countries.

UK Department of International Trade to invest billions in African infrastructure

The United Kingdom’s Department for International Trade (DIT) has pledged billions of Pounds Sterling in lending and guarantees to African countries to help them address a chronic infrastructure backlog. Africa’s infrastructure challenges not only inhibit its ability to trade with the rest of the world but are also a significant obstacle to intra-African trade, both of which are critical to the continent’s economic growth agenda. DIT in Africa has a presence in 21 countries across the continent, can enable the provision of these facilities through UK Export Finance (UKEF), the United Kingdom’s export credit agency, a part of DIT. Loans can be extended in the local currencies of 9 African countries for projects ranging from transportation, mining and general construction, though they must include at least 20% UK content and meet all other lending criteria. For example, UKEF has the ability to support infrastructure projects in South Africa (up to £4bn), Kenya (up to £1bn) and Nigeria (up to £750m). Although Africa is the second-fastest urbanizing region in the world behind Asia, the continent still struggles from a chronic lack of basic infrastructure. Data compiled by the Washington D.C.-based Brookings Institution show that 319 million people across Sub-Saharan Africa have no access to reliable drinking water; 620 million have no access to electricity; while only 34% of the continent’s people have adequate road access. DIT in Africa has been instrumental in establishing the Africa Infrastructure Board, which brings together UKEF, the Department for International Development (DfID) as well as UK infrastructure and mining companies that are already active in Africa. Its ambition is for UK government and industry to work together to identify major infrastructure projects across Africa that can benefit from the UK’s extensive expertise in the fields of finance, engineering and governance, as well as health and safety. DIT in Africa is currently tracking numerous active infrastructure projects across the continent which it believes could benefit from UKEF funding.

Students Begin Africa’s first-ever Junior Management Agribusiness Training Programme

AGCO, a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment, and its partners celebrated the launch of the new AGCO Agribusiness Qualification (AAQ) at Strathmore University in Kenya in March 2018. Twenty students have been enrolled on this brand-new program which is focused on developing the skills, leadership and strategic expertise to drive African agricultural prosperity. The AAQ is a joint effort between AGCO, Strathmore Business School (SBS) in Nairobi, Harper Adams University in the UK and Kenya-based The Bridge Africa which runs programs to prepare graduates for employment. The qualification delivers an accredited two-year agribusiness program for students aged 20-30 who already hold a degree. On completion of the course, successful candidates may have the opportunity to join AGCO and its partners. The AAQ course syllabus has wide scope covering areas such as agricultural mechanization, leadership skills, business management, agricultural science, marketing and farm management. To provide essential on-the-ground, practical experience for students, the program includes workplace modules with AGCO and its business partners.

Ghana’s Central Bank and FSD Africa Sign MOU for Credit Market Development Programme

The Bank of Ghana ("BOG") and FSD Africa (“FSDA”) announces the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of a Credit Market Development Programme in Ghana, signalling a promising partnership between both organisations around credit markets. The Programme aims to identify and help address constraints to credit market growth in the country, to enable credit providers to expand appropriate credit provision to priority areas of the economy, including to both individuals and businesses. Through the Programme, BOG and FSDA hope to facilitate greater financial inclusion for all segments of society, as well as support business growth and contribute to poverty reduction. At the MOU signing ceremony in Accra, BOG’s Deputy Governor, Mrs. Elsie Addo Awadzi stated that the implementation of the Programme is intended to support stable and sustainable credit expansion in Ghana and will be of benefit to individuals and businesses alike. The Programme joins a number of similar projects that FSDA is supporting in other countries across the continent, including Zambia and Tanzania. This will be the first such programme in West Africa and FSDA looks forward to the expansion of its support to credit market development in other countries in the West African region. FSD Africa is a non-profit company which aims to increase prosperity, create jobs and reduce poverty by bringing about a transformation in financial markets in SSA and in the economies, they serve. It provides know-how and capital to champions of change whose ideas, influence and actions will make finance more useful to African businesses and households. It is funded by the UK aid from the UK Government.

African Capital markets Indicate Recovery in 2017 with Overall Increase in Value and Volume

Overall, African equity capital market transaction volume and value improved in 2017 over 2016. In terms of value, 2017 saw the largest initial public offerings (IPOs) over the trailing five-year period, and an increase in the total value of equity capital market (ECM) transactions of 49% between 2016 and 2017 in US dollar terms. PwC has released its 2017 African Capital Markets Watch (https://goo.gl/vogf7a) publication today, which analyses equity, and debt capital market transactions that took place between 2013 and 2017 on exchanges throughout Africa, as well as transactions by African companies on international exchanges. This report lists all new primary market equity initial public offerings (IPOs) and further offers (FOs) by listed companies, in which capital was raised on Africa’s principal stock markets and market segments. The report also includes IPO and FO activity of African companies on international exchanges or non-African companies on African exchanges, on an annual basis. Since 2013, there have been 519 African ECM transactions raising a total of $52.7 billion, up 17% in terms of capital raised over the previous five-year period. Overall, ECM activity in 2017 was the second highest since 2013 in terms of volume with 121 issuances, up 25% over the prior year, and the highest since 2013 in terms of value, driven mainly by a few significant IPOs and FOs during the year. African ECM activity in 2017 was largely driven by the financial services sector for FOs, and the consumer services sector for IPOs, though both of these statistics were impacted by a few very sizable transactions during the year. Businesses in sectors such as telecommunications, consumer goods and services, financials, and healthcare continued to form a significant component of African ECM activity. Although levels of market capitalisation for many of Africa’s exchanges remain low in a global context, a number of initiatives have taken place to deepen liquidity and provide investment opportunities for foreign and domestic investors alike. Regulators in some African countries have made efforts in recent years to encourage companies in specific sectors to list shares on their domestic stock exchanges. Additionally, enhanced regulatory capital requirements have driven financial services companies to access both the debt and equity capital markets over the past year. 2017 also saw a greater focus by exchanges on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with the introduction of junior or alternative boards. In South Africa, the entry of four new exchanges altered the South African listing environment. Although there have been a number of listings on these new boards, with more activity in 2018, the listings to date have been technical in nature, with no new equity proceeds raised. 2017 saw the second-largest volume in IPO activity (28) over the past five years and is the largest in value, with $2.9bn raised in IPO proceeds, exceeding 2015 (the year with the next-largest value raised over the past five years) by 42%. Over the past five years, there have been 134 IPOs by African companies on both African and international exchanges, raising $9.1bn, a 37% increase in capital raised over the preceding five year period, 2012-2016. While a stronger year for some exchanges in sub-Saharan Africa, IPO activity on the North African stock exchanges – Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria – decreased by 61% in terms of the value of IPO proceeds. There was also no IPO activity in Ghana compared to 2016, which saw $102.0 million raised on the Ghana Stock Exchange. In contrast, elsewhere on the continent, 2017 saw some significant increases in IPO value on exchanges in Namibia, Rwanda and Tanzania compared to the prior year. The top 10 African IPOs by value took place in South Africa, Egypt, Tanzania and the Francophone West African region, represented by the BRVM. On a sector basis, for the first time in five years the consumer services sector dominated the African IPO market with 44% of total value, followed by the financial services sector with 26%. In terms of volume, financial services accounted for the greatest volume of IPOs with 50%, followed by consumer goods with 14%.

Brand South Africa Launches the CEOs Know Campaign

Inspired by the need to build a positive reputation for South Africa, Brand South Africa – the official marketing agency of the country, has launched a digital campaign called CEO’s Know. The campaign is in collaboration with Business Leadership South Africa and will run for six weeks, with an objective of positioning South Africa as in ideal investment destination. The CEOs Know Campaign will feature various CEO’s from multinational corporations based in South Africa, who will share insights behind their continued investment into South Africa. The campaign features amongst others, South African Tourism CEO, Mr Sisa Ntshona; the Johannesburg Stock Exchange CEO, Ms Nicky Newton-King; MD and Partner of Goldman Sachs South Africa, Mr Colin Coleman; Executive Head of Anglo American South Africa, Mr Andile Sangqu; CEO of Shell Companies South Africa, Mr Hloniphizwe Mtolo, as well as Toyota South Africa Motors CEO and President, Mr Andrew Kirby. The campaign will probe into the overarching question ‘why invest in South Africa’ – and will showcase inspiring stories as told by the respective CEOs, who uncover facts that are not commonly known about investing in South Africa, thereby highlighting South Africa’s competitive strengths as an attractive foreign investment destination.

Currency Floatation to boost Morocco’s Real Estate Market, says JLL

The Moroccan Central Bank (Bank Al-Maghrib) introduced the gradual floatation of the Moroccan Dirham, providing more flexibility to real estate investors and paving the way for a more buoyant real estate market in the year ahead. According to JLL’s Morocco 2018 report, the bank widened the official band within which the dirham may fluctuate to 5 percent, with a maximum daily move of 2.5 percent above or below the official rate. As part of a broader monetary reform, this move is intended to bolster the competitiveness of Morocco’s economy and will potentially position the country as a regional economic hub, and the gateway to Africa. The Moroccan economy is expected to record real growth of 4% in 2018, primarily driven by increased domestic consumption and public investment, highlights the report. The economy has attracted increased levels of FDI yearly since 2005 (with the exception of 2015) with real estate attracting around half of the total FDI.

Egypt Launches Digital Forensic Lab to Improve Intellectual Property Rights' (IPR) Protection and Enforcement

The Government of Egypt has announced today that it is setting up a specialized digital forensic lab for Intellectual Property as part of its enforcement schemes of combating software piracy. The new lab, the first of its kind in the MENA region, is mainly designed to resolve business software and internet-based piracy cases. It authentically recovers data from digital devices and unearths new fraud techniques. The latest measures applied aim to enhance the investigative capabilities and ease the digital forensic evidence acquisition, analysis, and reporting. The cutting-edge techniques and latest technologies employed in the lab devise a roadmap for judges, prosecutors, and lawyers. The practiced procedures enable them to distinguish the counterfeit products from the genuine and manage the intellectual property and digital piracy issues at hand. The Information Technology Industry Development Agency) developing the IT industry in Egypt, hosts the lab at its premises. The agency is the executive IT arm of the Egyptian ICT ministry to enforce IPR related to software products and databases. Aiming at developing the necessary skills, the fully dedicated IPR office has delivered extensive training and capacity-building programs in legal, technical and practical aspects during 2017 to more than 900 police officers, 97 journalists from the National Broadcasting Authority, 125 employees from different software companies, in addition to 473 judges and prosecutors in the economic courts. According to the latest BSA-IDC Global Software Piracy Study in 2016, the Egyptian piracy rate reached 61%, a ratio lower than most of competing countries and leading global outsourcing locations including Morocco (65 percent), the Philippines (67 percent) and Vietnam (78 percent). The Cabinet is preparing a data protection and privacy law draft. It has already agreed on cyber-crime law and awaits the Parliament’s approval to be enacted, according to Egypt’s state media. Egypt is currently undergoing an unprecedented phase of development in all fields, which is largely attributed to sound policies, monetary reforms, and global partnerships.

Port Louis Ranked Best City in Africa for Expats, says Mercer’s 20th Quality of Living Survey

Mercer, a global consulting leader in advancing health, wealth and careers, ranks Port Louis the best city in Africa, according to their 2018 Quality of Living Survey. Port Louis is in 83rd place in the global rankings and number one in Africa. The Mauritian city is followed by Durban (89), Cape Town (94) and Johannesburg (95). Quality of living is amongst the important factors that companies weigh when they prepare a long-term strategy around where they should expand and locate global staff. A city’s place in the rankings is dependent on local living conditions, which are analysed according to a wide variety of factors which reflect their importance to expatriates. Appropriate infrastructure, health facilities, safety and security are some of the important aspects that make a city attractive to both talent and businesses. The Mercer Quality of Living survey, which was first published in 1994, is conducted annually to enable multinational companies and other organisations to compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments.

Kenya is Africa’s Most Lucrative Market for Fintech Employment

Kenya is the most attractive market in Africa for workers in the fintech industry with new data showing that companies pay the highest salaries in comparison to their peers on the continent. This followed by Nigeria, Tanzania and South Africa. The survey was carried out among 400 respondents in 69 companies in 10 African countries. This data reflects the vibrancy of the local fintech scene where start-ups are marrying technology and financial services to address problems that range from credit access for farmers to health insurance. High levels of compensation are also underpinned by stiff competition for fintech talent in Kenya and beyond. 64% of respondents told the DFI that competition for talent had the highest impact on the ability to hire and retain employees. The study also shows that companies in Fintech have to do more than just offer attractive salaries if they want to keep employees. Many of the respondents said that non-traditional pay and benefits were important.

Partnership Between Côte d’Ivoire and Switzerland to Raise Quality of Professional Training

Côte d’Ivoire and Switzerland have entered into an agreement covering vocational and professionally oriented education, to raise the quality of training in Côte d’Ivoire and improve employment prospects for the country’s students. The partnership was signed between the Ivorian state secretariat for technical education and professional training, and IFFP, the Swiss Institut Fédéral des Hautes Études en Formation Professionnelle, reported Fratmat of Abidjan. The agreement covers four areas, including the transfer of Swiss knowledge and skills in technical education and professional training through work experience and apprenticeships, and establishment of a network to facilitate cooperation between Swiss and Ivorian institutions. The partnership will develop teachers’ skills and courses, focusing on the sectors of agriculture, banking, building and public works, the car industry, tourism, the hotel and restaurant trades, food processing, mechanics and electronics, and mining and information technologies. Mamadou Touré, secretary of state for technical education and professional training, said the Côte d’Ivoire’s strategic plan and reform of professional education was inspired by the countries in the world with the greatest professional experience. The government’s reform, under his department, would be carried out with the involvement of the private sector.

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