Africa should set its sights on feeding the world – Sola David-Borha, CEO Standard Bank Group (Africa)

Sola David-Borha is the Chief Executive of Africa Regions at Standard Bank. In this article, she shares her insights on opportunities in the Agriculture industry.

Motherland Moguls, you don’t want to miss out on this one.


Africa needs to make more food

With the world population expected to swell by 2 billion people over the next three decades, Africa has an opportunity to step up and become a major global food production hub.

For the time being, Africa remains a net importer of food, despite its vast tracts of underutilized land and other enviable natural resources. Its reliance on food imports weighs on the continent’s current account and spells a missed economic opportunity.

Source: Unctad, Rabobank

With the right policies, technologies, and infrastructure in place, Africa has the potential to first meet its own food requirements, and then exceed them – Sola David-Borha, CEO Standard Bank Group (Africa) Click To Tweet

The agricultural sector is possibly the continent’s biggest growth lever, with a sizeable potential for much-needed job creation. This is especially poignant considering that Africa is estimated to hold about 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land. Of the land that is cultivated, yields remain extremely low and irrigation techniques dated.

Agribusiness is the next big hustle

The adoption of modern and innovative farming practices could spur a step-change in the output of existing and new farmlands. The Netherlands, a country that is roughly 3.4% the size of South Africa by land area, provides a good example – being the world’s second-largest exporter of food by value, despite its size, thanks to high yields.

Meanwhile, Brazil shows that it is possible for an emerging market to shift from a net importer of food to a net exporter. The South American country did so through trade liberalization and investments in agricultural research, among other initiatives.

Africa is still only scratching the surface of its potential in the agribusiness game – Sola David-Borha, CEO Standard Bank Group (Africa) Click To Tweet

To shift the industry onto a new trajectory, a combined effort between policymakers, financial services firms and the industry itself will be needed.

What you should be thinking about

Financial services should consider how they can facilitate the sector’s growth by providing sustainable finance solutions across the agriculture value chain.

Investments in areas such as logistics, renewable energy, warehousing, and other storage facilities, agro-processing plants, and irrigation technologies will be crucial, as will public investments in road and rail infrastructure as well as ports.

Access to markets is also an important focus area, and measures to tackle this issue will boost the entire agricultural value chain.

Policymakers can play their part by creating an enabling investment environment, as countries such as Kenya have done.

To align policies across the continent, governments should consider existing frameworks. Regulations should be aimed at striking a balance between economic growth and safeguarding Africa’s natural environment.

Encouragingly, the imminent implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will lower tariffs and promote intra-African trade in agriculture, making the continent less reliant on food imports from other regions. And through cross-border initiatives, Africa could strengthen its food export prospects.

Standard Bank is funding African Agribusinesses

African states and farming groups would also do well to adopt ‘smart farming’ concepts. Standard Bank, for instance, in partnership with technology companies, has piloted projects that use drones to monitor the health of crops, and digital technologies to monitor and regulate soil moisture in order to save water by avoiding unnecessary irrigation.

Standard Bank is also working with development finance institutions and export agencies to develop sustainable finance solutions specifically for the sector. We are funding projects that allow small-scale farmers to transform themselves into contractors that supply commercial farmers.

An opportunity for African Women

Climate change poses a serious risk to Africa’s food security – and the world’s. The effects are already being felt – Tropical Cyclone Idai caused unprecedented damage in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi less than a year ago, while catastrophic droughts and flooding have affected South Africa and East Africa, among other regions. Currently, the devastating locust invasion in East Africa – Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia specifically – is threatening food security in the region.

Considering that agriculture already accounts for a large portion of Africa’s GDP, the impact of climate change on the economy can be severe.

Another risk is that the expansion of Africa’s agricultural sector will place more strain on the continent’s water resources, which need to be carefully managed. The adoption of advanced irrigation techniques is a good start.

Standard Bank recently partnered with the United Nations (UN) Women on a project aimed at developing climate-smart farming techniques amongst rural women. The initiative is being rolled out in Uganda, South Africa, Malawi, and Nigeria.

While the sector’s future is not without its risks, it may well be Africa’s biggest opportunity in the coming decades. Being a major contributor to GDP and employment, the agribusiness sector is the continent’s most effective lever for achieving inclusive growth.


About
Standard Bank Group

Standard
Bank Group is the largest African bank by assets with a unique footprint across
20 African countries. Headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, we are
listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, with share code SBK, and the
Namibian Stock Exchange, share code SNB.  

Standard
Bank has a 156-year history in South Africa and started building a franchise
outside southern Africa in the early 1990s. 

Our
strategic position, which enables us to connect Africa to other select emerging
markets as well as pools of capital in developed markets, and our balanced
portfolio of businesses, provide significant opportunities for growth.  

The group
has over 53 000 employees, approximately 1 200 branches and over 9 000 ATMs on
the African continent, which
enable it to deliver a complete range of services across personal and business
banking, corporate and investment banking and wealth management.  

Headline
earnings for 2018 were R27.9 billion (about USD2.1 billion) and total assets
were R2.1 trillion (about USD148 billion). Standard Bank’s market capitalisation at
31 December 2018 was R289 billion (USD20 billion). 

The
group’s largest shareholder is the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China
(ICBC), the world’s largest bank, with a 20,1% shareholding. In addition,
Standard Bank Group and ICBC share a strategic partnership that facilitates
trade and deal flow between Africa, China and select emerging markets. 

For further information, go to http://www.standardbank.com  


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The United Nations is using it’s Women’s Global HeforShe initiative to drive gender equality

Gender equality is a fundamental human right but remains a distant dream for many women worldwide.  The United Nations’ HeforShe is a solidarity campaign for the advancement of gender equality.  Its goal is to achieve equality by encouraging both genders to partake as agents of change and take action against negative stereotypes and behaviors, faced by people with feminine personalities/genders. Grounded in the idea that gender inequality is an issue that affects all people—socially, economically and politically. It seeks to actively involve men and boys in a movement that was originally conceived as “a struggle for women by women”. The HeForShe movement is gathering momentum globally as a cohort of select leaders from both the public and private sectors join the drive and stand out as visionaries on gender equality. On behalf of Standard Bank Group, Chief Executive Sim Tshabalala, has become one of the global “Thematic Champions” in the HeForShe movement. These leaders have committed to implementing game-changing policies and concrete actions towards gender parity. “Achieving gender equity is a moral duty, a business imperative, and just plain common sense. Women embody half the world’s talent, skill and energy – and more than half of its purchasing power. So every sensible business leader must be committed to achieving gender equity in their company and to contributing to gender equity in the societies in which we operate,” says Tshabalala.
Sim Tshabalala
@StandardBankZA will improve the representation of women in executive positions from the current 35% to 40% by 2021. #HeforShe Click To Tweet In the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap report, it is estimated that it will take more than 217 years to achieve workplace equality after gender parity took a step backward in the past year. Concrete commitments made by Standard Bank Group in order to bring about tangible change include:
  • Reaching parity in executive positions and to improve the representation of women in executive positions from its current 32% to 40% by 2023.
  • Lift the representation of women on the Board from 22% to 33% by 2021.
Standard Bank is also committed to increasing the representation of women Chief Executives in its Africa Regions network from 10% to 20% by 2021, while Standard Bank South Africa will improve the representation of women in executive positions from the current 35% to 40% by 2021. While progress has been made in certain countries in Africa to close gender gaps, others remain behind the curve. Namibia and South Africa both score in the Top 20 in the WEF global report on gender equality – after closing 78% to 76% of their gender gaps – but Sub-Saharan Africa still displays a wider range of gender gap outcomes than practically any other region. Launched by Emma Watson and the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2014, HeForShe represented the first global effort to actively include men and boys as change agents for gender equality at a time when most gender programs were only targeting women. The U.N. recently reported that nearly 20 percent of women surveyed said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the previous year. #HeforShe Click To Tweet It was the beginning of a trend that only seems more relevant as stories emerge of sexual abuse and harassment suffered by women in the workplace. The Sustainable Development Goals call for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, but campaigns such as the most recent International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women highlight that there is much work to be done. The U.N. recently reported that nearly 20 percent of women surveyed said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the previous year. Originally conceived as a one-year media campaign to raise awareness about the role of men and boys in gender equality, the HeForShe website garnered more than 100,000 male supporters in its first three days. These males affirmed their commitment to the cause by declaring themselves “HeForShe” and saying that gender equality is not just a women’s issue. Early adopters included a clutch of celebrities and politicians, including former U.S. President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and actor Matt Damon. Since then, 1.6 million men have signed up online, including at least one man in every country of the world, and its “Impact Champions” include the presidents of Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, and Indonesia, among several other heads of state.  The issue has also been the subject of 2 billion conversations on social media. But HeForShe is not without its critics. Many in the gender equality community say they would like to see the movement make more concrete demands of its male champions, and have called for civil society to play a greater role in developing and monitoring the movement. “Now is a good moment for reflection and discussion about HeForShe, which has achieved high visibility, clear successes, and also drawbacks,” said Gary Barker, co-founder of Promundo, an NGO working to engage men and boys for gender equality, which has advised the HeForShe campaign since its launch three years ago. “Having that amount of reach and star power on board means there’s huge potential, but we need to harness it before the movement loses momentum … [and] we need to push UN Women to go further and ask more of men,” he added. Johannesburg : 9th October 2018.
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Gugu Sithole-Tyali Shows Us How to Take Over the World of PR

As you know, we’re always so incredibly proud when we see amazing women who are not only succeeding in their respective careers but uplift other young women for success too!

With over 10 years’ experience, Gugu Sithole-Tyali took her once small side hustle and turned it into one of the most respected PR companies in the creative industry.

Sprout Creative PR is not only completely black-owned, but they also have an all-woman team, and together, they eliminate the misconceptions society has of women working together for a bigger and greater purpose.

Below, Gugu shares a bit about her challenges, successes and how she is using her talents to empower other women on the come up.


 Tell us more about Sprout PR?

We’re a budding, black-owned, creative boutique, specializing in brand communications. Our talents lie in strategic public relations, digital marketing, brand development, creative content creation, and event curation.

Turning a side hustle into a business has been interesting, to say the least - @ZuluGirl1 Click To Tweet

What do you think is the most challenging part of being in the industry?                                             

From the perspective of being a startup in the industry, the challenges are endless. I’ll stick to three that have been particularly pertinent to Sprout over the last couple of years.

Carving a niche for ourselves:

In the beginning, there was a temptation to do a lot of things, often more than what our business could handle. As soon as we stopped trying to be everything to everyone, and played to our strengths as a team, we were able to carve a space for ourselves.

Currently, that’s working with brands in Fintech, Agritech, AI, etc. We also have a love for and wide-ranging experience in the lifestyle sector, so we’re excited to see that portfolio grow.

Staying competitive:

As a young and small agency, competing with the well-established agencies can be pretty tough. They’ve got long track records and name recognition going for them.

We’ve found however that being small has its positives, so we’re working hard to take advantage of those. We’re adaptable, have a niche specialization, and I think we’re way more invested in our clients and their brands.

We’ve also been lucky to get extensive exposure to design thinking and Lean Startup methodologies. Adopting and implementing those practices has allowed us to collaborate with clients in a way that harnesses our shared strengths, and has resulted in them viewing us as partners, rather than vendors.

Assembling the right team:

This one’s a biggie. Striking a balance between hiring experienced professionals and being a training ground for up-and-comers – something close to my heart – is tricky.

We’re fortunate to work with clients who are passionate about entrepreneurship/startups, and so as long we’re working our butts off, staying accountable, and are passionate about their brands, they’re giving us the room to figure this part out.

We’re working hard at it though.

As soon as we stopped trying to be everything to everyone, and played to our strengths as a team, we were able to carve a space for ourselves - @ZuluGirl1 Click To Tweet

We have heard about your difficult journey, tell us a little more?

Turning a side hustle into a business has been interesting, to say the least.

Nothing could have prepared me for the hardships of this journey. But, it’s also been an incredibly fulfilling, and the best part is that it’s helped me find my tribe – smart, creative, hardworking, tenacious women (and men), who are overcoming similar challenges every day.

They’ve helped me find the good in these hardships. I’m most grateful for them.

We are so inspired by your All Woman staff, how has the dynamic been, and have you had any criticism?

I’m proud of the fact that with each day we’re dispelling this myth around women not being able to work together. We live by one, simple rule: Collaboration over competition.

It’s formed the foundation for how we deliver for clients, deal with conflict, and show support to not only the members of our own team but women in our broader network. It’s also a value that’s been extremely helpful in the hiring process.

Have you had any challenges in the industry as a black-owned company?

I think a lack of belief in our value is probably one of the biggest challenges faced by black-owned businesses in general, it’s not industry-specific.

As a black business owner, I think I’ve often let this self-doubt negatively influence my decision-making. I’ve charged less for services, bent over backward for clients who didn’t necessarily deserve it, etc.

I realize though that this made me part of the problem because it does us a disservice by diminishing our worth. I feel like I’m currently in a season of truly backing not only myself but my team and our ability to deliver.

How is the future looking for Sprout PR?

If the caliber of the brands in our portfolio (the likes of Standard Bank, DHL Supply Chain Africa, Switch Innovation, and the African Fintech Unconference) is anything to go by, the future is looking bright. We have a long way to go and lots of learning to do, but we’re up to the challenge.

What advice do you have for anyone trying to break into the industry?

I have a few pointers…

  • Work on those writing skills, they’re key to your arsenal.
  • Stay at it. Persistence is essential to getting over the rejection of your ideas and stories.
  • Learn to network. You never know when a contact will help you land a dream job or client.
  • Take good care of your online reputation. How else is a brand going to trust you to take care of theirs?
  • Break into the industry with an agency that’s breaking into the market. Startups are a great training ground.

 Interested in contributing for She Leads Africa? Click here.

Investment Opportunities in Nigeria: The Top 4 sectors

The past year has been one of economic progress for Nigeria, with Africa’s largest economy managing to crawl back into growth territory in the second quarter of 2017.

The Nigerian government has realized that they need to make the country as attractive and lucrative as possible for offshore investors to bring their capital, skills and business trade into the country.

The need to develop the Nigerian economy offers lucrative potential returns Click To Tweet

One way is to provide tax holidays to “pioneer companies,” who are engaged in the production of export goods, establishing new industries, or expanding production in vital sectors of the economy.

Pioneer companies that are eligible under the Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Act can enjoy an income “tax holiday” for a period of up to five years. In addition, pioneer companies enjoy other benefits such as the exemption from withholding tax on dividends paid out of pioneer profits.

Here’s a look at investment opportunities to consider:

 

MANUFACTURING

Nigeria’s population is an estimated 186 million people. This population suggests a massive potential workforce as well as a consumer base. For a manufacturer this is an ideal scenario, not only do you have potential customers, but you also have potential employees.

The Nigerian government is eager to expand the manufacturing capability in the country, and to that end, they are offering incentives for manufacturers that are able to locally source their raw materials, for example, agro-allied manufacturers processing foodstuffs such as fruit juices and vegetable oils.

Any manufacturing industry that provides multiplier effect solutions for the economy is also looked upon favorably. An example of this would be machine tools, flat sheet metal, and spare parts manufacturing.

Finally, any investment in research institutes, especially those that focus on adaptive research and commercialization of local inventions, is looked upon favorably by the Nigerian government.

An organization that has seen the potential in Nigeria is US-based software trainer @Andela Click To Tweet

 

INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY SERVICES

Nigeria is one of the fastest growing internet users in the world. According to Statista, a global statistics company, there are approximately 76.2 million Nigerian internet users as of 2017. This is an increase of nearly 50 percent from the 2013 figure of 51.8 million.

There are millions of Nigerians who are interested in involving themselves in Information Communications and Technology Services (ICTS).

This new economy does not require someone to be in a specific location to provide the service needed, rather they can be located anywhere in the world.

 

An organization that has seen the potential in Nigeria is US-based software trainer – Andela. The company offers learning programmes for young adults who are wanting to become computer programmers.

Nigeria is one of the fastest growing internet users in the world Click To Tweet

The learning programme is a 2-year practical course where the learner interacts with companies around the world and assists them in building programmes, websites, and mobile applications.

After the conclusion of the programme, the learner is able to provide remote programming support to companies that they have built a relationship with.

By tapping into the underdeveloped skills of the Nigerian youth, there are countless opportunities for new economy companies to develop technology leaders of the future in Nigeria and in the rest of Africa.

The Nigerian government has set up incentives to help modernize and mechanize their agricultural industry Click To Tweet

 

AGRICULTURE

Nearly one-third of all employed Nigerians find themselves working in the agricultural sector, which is one of the country’s main foreign exchange earners.

The Nigerian government has set up incentives to help modernize and mechanize their agricultural industry. Not only will locally grown foodstuffs be promoted on behalf of the investor, business and enabling companies may receive the pioneer company status and qualify for tax incentives.

Subsidies on fertilizer and zero import duties on raw materials needed to manufacture livestock feed are some of the other incentives to attract investors to this sector.

Another is the release of grants from the Raw Materials Research and Development Council for research and development that leads to the greater domestic use of Nigeria’s raw materials.

 

PRIVATE EDUCATION

The need for skilled tradespersons, computer programmers, and agricultural workers will only increase in demand as Nigeria transforms its economy and becomes an international economic power.

At present, there is an opportunity for private education to offer specific programmes that are in demand in the country. Nigeria is a country with vast underemployment and by offering distance learning or night schools, there is potential for strong investment returns in for-profit education.

As an example, one can look at the success of Curro in South Africa, which began as a private for-profit primary and secondary schools but now even has a post-secondary offering. If a Nigerian model were created that focused on skills development, the potential returns could be very lucrative.

Nigeria is in the fortunate position to offer investment opportunities to both local and international persons and companies. The need to develop the Nigerian economy offers lucrative potential returns for those looking to invest in the above sectors, including manufacturing and private education.

These areas are in some ways interconnected, and by increasing the investment and development in one area, there is tremendous potential for spillover into the other, sectors.

 

 

Food security: How Cassava is Positively Impacting Smallholder Farmers in Mozambique

Judging by its brown bottle packaging, Mozambique’s Impala beer looks just like any other beer on the market. Not until you have smelt it, will you realize it has an unmistakably mysterious taste to it.

Although it is brewed like a typical beer, Impala is made from cassava, a root vegetable that grows in tropical areas.

DADTCO has partnered with one of the world’s largest breweries, to create cassava beer Click To Tweet

There’s a quiet cassava revolution in Africa. Organizations and government are realizing the plant’s impact on empowering smallholder farmers in Mozambique and developing rural communities.

Mozambique is among the key players at the forefront of the growing buzz around cassava, having found a way to farm and process the plant on a large scale.

At the heart of this development is the Dutch Agriculture Development and Trading Company (DADTCO). The company has developed a mobile processing factory that is able to process the crop into cake and starch flour.

DADTCO’s invention has changed the perception around cassava and the way the crop is grown and processed.  It has also helped empower smallholder farmers in Mozambique, whom the company buys cassava from.

This breakthrough technology, they say, “bridges the gap between smallholder farmers and large food companies.”

The market for cassava is on the rise, as more uses for the crop are being discovered Click To Tweet

With the company sourcing the starchy root from more than 7,000 smallholder farmers, DADTCO’s innovation is enhancing food security in Mozambique, while also creating far-reaching job opportunities for rural farmers.

Better revenue streams are created and tens of thousands of dollars per month are injected into the local economy.

At the beginning of the initiative, farmers in Mozambique used to sell an average of 1.5 tonnes of cassava roots per year, but now the number has more than tripled.

This indicates the benefits of a steady market for those who grow the tropical plant. Before the initiative, cassava was nothing more than a subsistence crop for many smallholder farmers.

But now, with rising profits, it has turned into a cash crop.

With rising profits, cassava has turned into a cash crop. Click To Tweet

With cassava being the second-most consumed source of carbohydrates after maize in sub-Saharan Africa, it was the time the crop was commercialized.

Due to it being a highly perishable product, commercializing it has always been tricky – until now.

The root vegetable has a high water content and needs to be processed within 48 hours after harvesting.

To solve this problem, DADTCO’s mobile factories process fresh cassava on the farm or nearby in the village, eliminating the costly need to transport it over long distances.

Now, farmers only have to harvest their cassava when the Autonomous Mobile Processing Unit arrives. Once fully processed, the cassava starchy meal can last up to six months.

The market for cassava is on the rise as more uses for the crop are being discovered. In Mozambique and Ghana, DADTCO has partnered with one of the world’s largest breweries, to create cassava beer.

This has replaced the popular ingredient, malted barley with cassava cake. The plant can also be processed into ethanol biofuel, syrup as well as flour for bread.

“Substituting expensive imports with local cassava products like wheat flour has the potential to create a stable income for millions of farmers in SSA,” says DADTCO.

 

 

Why Sustainability Makes Good Business Sense

You’ve likely heard of business “going green.” From installing solar panels on rooftops, utilising recycling bins, and switching off lights after hours, there are a number of ways both employers and employees can adjust their behaviour to operate in an environmentally responsible way.

But that’s just one part of building a sustainable business. Along with environmental well-being, it’s also about social impact and economic viability. This could include skills training for employees, and improving the quality of life in the communities in which you operate in.

 

Sustainability at What Cost?

There’s often a misconception that sustainability initiatives are expensive and will erode profits. On the contrary, it has shown to be beneficial for business owners from the bottom-line up.

Using the example of Egyptian agri-business SEKEM, that used biodynamic agricultural methods to start Egypt’s first organic farm in the middle of the desert forty years ago, a Harvard Business Review article titled ‘Making Sustainability Profitable’ offers three approaches for companies  to ensure their environmental efforts pay off financially:

  • Many, like Sekem, took a long-term view, investing in initially more-expensive methods of sustainable operation that eventually led to dramatically lower costs and higher yields.

 

  • Others have taken a ‘bootstrap’ approach to conservation: they started with small changes to their processes that generated substantial cost savings, which they then used to fund advanced technologies that made production even more efficient.

 

  • Some have spread their sustainability efforts to the operations of their customers and suppliers, in the process devising new business models that competitors find hard to emulate.

You don’t need to incur high costs upfront, but rather adopt a model that works with your available resources, and adapt it to your sector.

That’s exactly what AccorHotels set out to do when they launched their internal sustainability management system, dubbed Charter 21, which recommends over 60 actions hotels can take to reduce their environmental footprint.

The French hotel chain group, that operates in over a dozen African countries, commissioned two independent studies to assess the financial return on a number of their sustainability initiatives. The first study focused on the corporate social responsibility expectations of the hotels’ B-to-B customers, while the second provided a statistical analysis of the influence of several sustainable development indicators on profitability and guest satisfaction. Both revealed that the more a hotel invests in initiatives that reduce their environmental footprint, the more positive its paybacks are, both in terms of (1) reducing costs of water and energy for example, and (2) increasing revenues partly due to enhanced reputation and guest satisfaction.

 

Other key takeaways:

  • Sustainability should not be viewed as a cost to the business.

 

  • Highly visible sustainability initiatives can be a very effective way to differentiate a company in the minds of customers and strengthen customer relationships.

 

  • Formal programmes that include specific, measurable objectives and a framework for managing progress towards achieving them are critical to making sustainability a core part of doing business.

Another core part is getting the buy-in from staff members. One of the key actions of AccorHotels’ Charter 21 is training employees in environmentally friendly practices.

 

Fostering a Culture of Sustainability

By encouraging employees to follow sustainable practices, it could soon become a norm that has a lasting impact in the workplace and in their private homes. Think about something as simple as using energy-saving bulbs at office desk lamps, or utilising reusable glass instead of plastic cups at the water cooler. Consider the possible knock-on effect if this results in a conscious behavioural change where the employee now turns the household water geyser off when not in use, or ploughs biodegradable kitchen scraps back into the garden instead of disposing as waste.

It’s this way of sustainable thinking that lead a turtle conservationist at Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium to start an eco-rooftop garden. Initially meant to feed the facilities’ green sea turtles, it soon evolved into a lush garden of waterwise indigenous plants and herbs that is shared among employees. Not a drop of water is wasted here, with the vegetation being nurtured by the condensation from nearby air conditioners. The sustainable rooftop garden now also functions as an oasis for employees during break time complete with recycled artwork, and a worm farm that feeds off lunch scraps which in turn becomes fertilizer that can be ploughed back into the garden.

Nurturing Community-Based (Business) Partnerships

Sustainability relates to the future of your company and the broader community. Consider the impact of procuring goods and services from local businesses, or spreading your sustainability efforts to the behaviour of your suppliers and customers.

Kenya-based ICOSEED (Integrated Community Organisation for Sustainable Empowerment and Education for Development) have successfully nurtured a mutually-beneficial relationship with local farmers. Winner of the 2017 SWITCH Africa Green-SEED Awards, they buy banana stems from farmers, process it into balls of fibre, and then use them to produce (biodegradable) products such as bags and table mats. They even take it a step further by giving the by-product (slurry) back to the farmers to use for biogas or compost. ICOSEED factors in all three key tenets of sustainability in that they’ve accounted for environmental well-being by producing environmentally friendly products and promoting the use of slurry for compost and biogas digesters; social impact by providing job opportunities for stem transporters and extractors along with an alternative source of income for hundreds of farmers; and economic value.

The company now plans to Increase the number of farmers supplying banana stems from 400 to 9,000 by 2018, scale up the production capacity of banana fibre by buying new machinery, diversify the product range, and establish two new production sites in key banana growing areas.

ICOSEED has adopted a sustainability model that works with their available resources. They’re now able to reap the rewards by funding the advanced technologies that will increase their production efficiency, while also spreading their sustainability efforts to the operations of their suppliers. They encapsulate the ideal of a sustainable business, where environmental well-being, social impact and economic viability are obtained, demonstrating that sustainability indeed does make good business sense.

 


Photo Credits:

AQUARIUM: Two Oceans Aquarium – www.aquarium.co.za

SEKEM: www.sekem.com

ICOSEED: https://www.facebook.com/www.icoseedkenya.org/

 

 

 

7 investments that may make it easier for you to trade across Africa

Africa could be the largest free trade area in the world but there are significant barriers to be removed Click To Tweet

Africa could soon be the largest free-trade area in the world. This is if the African Union’s Continental Free Trade Area (CTFA) stays on track to be operational by the end of this year. Once up and running, the continent-wide free trade zone could lead to a 52 percent ($35 billion) increase in intra-African trade within the next 5 years, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

The UNECA’s Stephen Karingi, who heads their Regional Integration and Trade Division, says “boosting intra-African trade is the most effective way to speed up Africa’s economic transformation.” Speaking at the recent Africa Session of the Aid for Trade Global Review 2017, Karingi added that “trade contributes towards industrialization and structural transformation.”

Increasing intra-African trade – which reportedly stands at 13 percent – will require the removal of certain barriers in order to improve connectivity, including improvement of custom procedures, reduction of transit and other trade costs, and, importantly, development of reliable transport infrastructure.

Here’s a look at some of the inroads that have already been made in the expansion of Africa’s rail, road, and port networks to connect the fragmented African market:

The Ethiopia-Djibouti Rail Link

This year saw the launch of the first fully electric cross-border railway in Africa. Linking Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa with Djibouti City – a stretch of more than 750 kilometres – the new line will incredibly cut travel time between the two countries. Running at 120km per hour, the rail journey, which lasts about three to four days by road, now only takes 12 hours. Each freight train reportedly transports the same cargo as 200 trucks, with the cost reduced by a third.

The line, which cost $4.2 billion, is a significant step towards elevating the poor levels of trade between African countries. Ethiopia plans to construct another 5,000 km-long network of rail by 2020, linking to Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan.

The Trans-African Highway

Envisaged more than 40 years ago by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the Trans-African Highway is an ongoing network of highways intended to connect all corners of Africa from north to south, east and west. The ambitious plan, first proposed in 1971, is aimed at boosting internal trade on the continent by building nine roads linking major cities across Africa. Those networks would collectively measure nearly 60,000km.

While progress has been slow, the completion of this project will mark a new day for intra-African trade. One of the nine planned roads is already complete – the 4,400km Trans-Sahelian Highway which runs through seven countries, connecting Dakar, Senegal to Ndjamena, Chad. While more than half of the network has been paved, maintenance remains an issue. Conflicts in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Angola have led to both the destruction of some highways and hampering of construction.

Doraleh Multipurpose Port

Djibouti recently opened its new 690-hectare Doraleh Multipurpose Port after two years of construction. The $590 million project, one of the most advanced ports on the continent in terms of facilities, can handle almost nine million tonnes of cargo per year.

Despite its small size, Djibouti is one of the important trading hubs on the continent, thanks to its convenient geographic location of connecting Africa to Asia and Europe by sea. Ports in the tiny East African country of less than a million people receive the bulk of cargo from Asia, followed by Europe, and then Africa.

West Africa Regional Rail Integration

A group of West African countries and mines have poured significant investment into an ongoing extensive rail project which will boost trade in the region. When completed, the track will be 3,000 km long and connect Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo. The network will add newly built tracks to existing ones which will be upgraded. This project will greatly benefit landlocked countries like Niger, which face constant transport problems. The country largely relies on its neighbors’ seaports and road infrastructure to carry its imports and exports.

The West African Regional Rail Integration project is a response to the need for better infrastructure and reliable transport to move minerals from one West African country to another, and from the mines to major ports.

Bagamoyo Port

With its Port of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania is among the major trading hubs in Africa. Now the East African country is aiming to take things up a notch with the development of Bagamoyo Port, which is set to cost $11 billion.

While the new Tanzanian government has paused construction to focus on revamping other ports, Bagamoyo is set to be the biggest port in East Africa when completed. It will handle 20 million containers a year, more than double the capacity of the Port of Dar es Salaam. If everything goes as planned, Bagamoyo will boost Tanzania’s reputation as a trading centre for its landlocked neighbors such as Zambia, Rwanda, Malawi, Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The East African Rail Masterplan

Billed as Kenya’s largest infrastructure project since independence, the first section of the $13.8 billion railway officially opened in June 2017, connecting the capital Nairobi with the port city of Mombasa. The train will shorten travel time between the two cities from 12 hours to four, with freight trains set to carry 25 million tonnes a year.

The East African Masterplan will eventually extend to Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Ethiopia – a move that will further strengthen trade relations between the East African neighbors.


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