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Living the FATCA life in Africa: New U.S. tax regulations add to burden of compliance on financial institutions across Africa

Posted on 21 May 2013 by Eugene Skrynnyk

Eugene Skrynnyk

Eugene Skrynnyk (CIPM, MILE, BComm) is a senior manager and specialist for the asset management industry in the Africa Sub-Area at Ernst & Young in Cape Town, South Africa.

Eugene Skrynnyk is the Ernst & Young Senior Manager and specialist for the asset management industry in the Africa Sub-Area.

Eugene holds a Certificate in Investment Performance Measurement (CIPM), Master of International Law and Economics (MILE) and Bachelor of Commerce and Finance (B.Comm.).

 

When the U.S. Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) and Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) issued final Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) regulations in January of this year, there was a sigh of relief that the financial services industry in Africa could begin to digest FATCA’s obligations. However, achieving FATCA compliance remains a challenge for banks operating across Africa.

FATCA is already law in the U.S. but negotiations are under way to enshrine it in national law of countries around the world via intergovernmental agreements (“IGAs”) with the U.S. While a variety of African jurisdictions will each face unique obstacles with FATCA compliance, many in the industry share a general unease with FATCA’s scope, as well as scepticism that FATCA’s rewards (an estimated US$1 billion in additional tax revenue annually) justify its expenses. Generally, FATCA attempts to combat U.S. tax evasion by requiring that non-U.S. financial institutions report the identities of U.S. shareholders or customers, or otherwise face a 30% withholding tax on their U.S. source income. Overwhelmingly, FATCA compliance obligations apply even where there is very little risk of U.S. tax evasion and it impacts all payers, including foreign payers of “withholdable payments” made to any foreign entities affecting deposit accounts, custody and investments.

General issues in Africa

Concerns about privacy abound. FATCA requires financial institutions to report to the IRS certain information about U.S. persons. For this reason, IGAs are being put in place so that institutions could instead report information to their local tax authority rather than the IRS. In some jurisdictions, investment funds and insurance companies are permitted to disclose information with client consent. In other jurisdictions, such disclosure is prohibited without further changes to domestic law. The process to make necessary changes locally involves time and effort.

Cultural differences in Africa need to be considered. In certain situations FATCA requires that financial institutions ask a customer who was born in the United States to submit documents explaining why the customer abandoned U.S. citizenship or did not obtain it at birth. African financial institutions never pose such a delicate and private question to their customers. Even apparently straight-forward requirements may pose challenges; for example, FATCA requires that customers make representations about their identities “under penalty of perjury” in certain situations. Few countries have a custom of making legal oaths, so it would not be surprising if African customers will be reluctant to give them.

FATCA contains partial exemptions (i.e., “deemed compliance”) and also exceptions for certain financial institutions and products that are less likely to be used by U.S. tax evaders. It still has to be seen to what extent these exemptions have utility for financial institutions in Africa. For example, the regulations include an exemption for retirement funds and also partially exempt “restricted funds” — funds that prohibit investment by U.S. persons. Although many non-U.S. funds have long restricted investment by U.S. persons because of the U.S. federal securities laws, this exemption could be less useful than it first appears. It should be pointed out that the exemption also requires that funds be sold exclusively to limited categories of FATCA-compliant or exempt institutions and distributors. These categories are themselves difficult for African institutions to qualify for. For example, a restricted fund may sell to certain distributors who agree not to sell to U.S. persons (“restricted distributors”). But restricted distributors must operate solely in the country of their incorporation, a true obstacle in smaller markets where many distributors must operate regionally to attain scale.

Other permitted distribution channels for restricted funds are “local banks,” which are not allowed to have any operations outside of their jurisdiction of incorporation and may not advertise the availability of U.S. dollar denominated investments.

Challenges and lessons learned – the African perspective

Financial institutions will have to consider what steps to take to prepare for FATCA compliance and take into account other FATCA obligations, such as account due diligence and withholding against non-compliant U.S. accountholders and/or financial institutions.

The core of FATCA is the process of reviewing customer records to search for “U.S. indicia” — that is, evidence that a customer might be a U.S. taxpayer. Under certain circumstances, FATCA requires financial institutions to look through their customers and counterparties’ ownership to find “substantial U.S. owners” (generally, certain U.S. persons holding more than 10% of an entity). In many countries the existing anti-money laundering legislation generally requires that financial institutions look through entities only when there is a 20% or 25% owner, leaving a gap between information that may be needed for FATCA compliance and existing procedures. Even how to deal with non-FATCA compliant financial institutions and whether to completely disengage business ties with them, remains open.

The following is an outline of some of the lessons learned in approaching FATCA compliance and the considerations financial institutions should make:

Focus on reducing the problem

Reducing the problem through the analysis and filtering of legal entities, products, customer types, distribution channels and account values, which may be prudently de-scoped, can enable financial institutions to address their distinct challenges and to identify areas of significant impact across their businesses. This quickly scopes the problem areas and focuses the resource and budget effort to where it is most necessary.

Select the most optimal design solution

FATCA legislation is complex and comprehensive as it attempts to counter various potential approaches to evade taxes. Therefore, understanding the complexities of FATCA and distilling its key implications is crucial in formulating a well rounded, easily executable FATCA compliance programme in the limited time left.

Selecting an option for compliance is dependent on the nature of the business and the impact of FATCA on the financial institution. However, due to compliance time constraints and the number of changes required by financial institutions, the solution design may well require tactical solutions with minimal business impact and investment. This will allow financial institutions to achieve compliance by applying low cost ‘work arounds’ and process changes. Strategic and long-term solutions can be better planned and phased-in with less disruption to the financial institution thereafter.

Concentrate on critical activities for 2014

FATCA has phased timelines, which run from 2014 to 2017 and beyond. By focusing on the “must-do” activities, which require compliance as of 1 January 2014 – such as appointing a Responsible Officer, registering with the IRS, and addressing new client on-boarding processes and systems – financial institutions can dedicate the necessary resources more efficiently and effectively to meet immediate deadlines.

Clear ownership – both centrally and within local subsidiaries

FATCA is a strategic issue for the business, requiring significant and widespread change. Typically it starts as a ‘tax issue’ but execution has impacts across IT, AML/KYC, operations, sales, distribution and client relationship management. It is imperative to get the right stakeholders and support onboard to ensure that the operational changes are being coordinated, managed and implemented by the necessary multidisciplinary teams across the organization. These include business operations, IT, marketing, and legal and compliance, to name but a few. Early involvement and clear ownership is key from the start.

Understand your footprint in Africa

Many African financial institutions have operations in various African countries and even overseas, and have strategically chosen to make further investments throughout Africa. The degree to which these African countries have exposure to the FATCA regulations needs to be understood. It is best to quickly engage with appropriate stakeholders, understand how FATCA impacts these African countries and the financial institutions’ foreign subsidiaries, and find solutions that enable pragmatic compliance.

What next for financial institutions in Africa?

Negotiations with the U.S. are under way with over 60 countries to enshrine FATCA in national law of countries around the world via IGAs. Implementation of FATCA is approaching on 1 January 2014 and many local financial institutions have either not started or are just at the early stages of addressing the potential impact of FATCA. In South Africa, only few of the leading banks are completing impact assessments and already optimizing solutions. Other financial services groups and asset management institutions are in the process of tackling the impact assessment. Industry representative in Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe have started engaging relevant government and industry stakeholders, but the awareness is seemingly oblivious to date. In the rest of Africa, FATCA is mainly unheard of.

Financial institutions choosing to comply with FATCA will first need to appoint a responsible officer for FATCA and register with the IRS, ensure proper new client on-boarding procedures are in place, then identify and categorize all customers, and eventually report U.S. persons to the IRS (or local tax authorities in IGA jurisdictions). Institutions will also need to consider implementing a host of other time-consuming operational tasks, including revamping certain electronic systems to capture applicable accountholder information and/or to accommodate the new reporting and withholding requirements, enhancing customer on-boarding processes, and educating both customers and staff on the new regulations. Where possible, institutions should seek to achieve these tasks through enhancing existing initiations so as to minimise the cost and disruption to the business.

Conclusion

Financial institutions in Africa face tight FATCA compliance timelines with limited budgets, resources, time, and expertise available. This is coupled with having to fulfil multiple other regulatory requirements. To add to the burden, FATCA has given stimulus to several countries in the European Union to start discussing a multilateral effort against tax evasion. The support of other countries in the IGA process indicates that some of these countries will follow with their own FATCA-equivalent legislation in an attempt to increase local tax revenues at a time when economies around the world are under unprecedented pressure. The best approach for African financial services industry groups is to engage their local governments in dialogue with the IRS and Treasury, while for African financial institutions to pro-actively assess their FATCA strategic and operational burdens as they inevitably prepare for compliance.

 

About Ernst & Young

Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Worldwide, our 167,000 people are united by our shared values and an unwavering commitment to quality. We make a difference by helping our people, our clients and our wider communities achieve their potential.

The Ernst & Young Africa Sub-Area consists of practices in 28 countries across the African continent. We pride ourselves in our integrated operating model which enables us to serve our clients on a seamless basis across the continent, as well as across the world.

Ernst & Young South Africa has a Level two, AAA B-BBEE rating. As a recognised value adding enterprise, our clients are able to claim B-BBEE recognition of 156.25%.

Ernst & Young refers to the global organisation of member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. All Ernst & Young practices in the Africa Sub Area are members of Ernst & Young Africa Limited (NPC). Ernst & Young Africa Limited (NPC) in turn is a member firm of Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee. Neither Ernst & Young Global Limited nor Ernst & Young Limited (NPC) provides services to clients.

For more information about our organisation, please visit www.ey.com/za

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South Africa’s Professor Jonathan Jansen To Be Honored At Awards Gala In New York City, June 3, 2013

Posted on 18 May 2013 by Africa Business

NEW YORK /PRNewswire/ — Professor Jonathan Jansen , the Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the University of the Free State in South Africa who helped turn the university away from its apartheid legacy into an institution that is truly representative of what South Africa stands for, is set to receive the Education Africa Lifetime Achievement Award for Africa at a gala by the same name on Monday, June 3, 2013, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City.

South Africa's Professor Jonathan Jansen To Be Honored At Awards Gala In New York City, June 3, 2013. (PRNewsFoto/Education Africa)

Jansen is being recognized for the great strides he has taken in ensuring integration at a university that once threatened to implode with racial tension and for his continued work towards the transformation of education in South Africa. In 2010, just two short years after Jansen joined the institution as its Vice-Chancellor, it was awarded the World Universities Forum Award for Best Practice in Higher Education for the racial integration and harmonisation of the student community.

Oprah Winfrey , who was awarded an honorary doctorate by the university in 2011, said at the time: “What has happened here at Free State in terms of racial reconciliation, of peace, of harmony, of one heart understanding and opening itself to another heart is nothing short of a miracle. It is truly what the new South Africa is all about.”

South Africa's Professor Jonathan Jansen To Be Honored At Awards Gala In New York City, June 3, 2013. (PRNewsFoto/Education Africa)

Grammy Award winning Roberta Flack , who is best known for a string of hits like Killing Me Softly With His Song; Set the Night to Music and The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, inter alia, will give a special live performance at the event.

The awards are being hosted by Education Africa and Brand South Africa . Education Africa is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit tax exempt organization which is headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa and has registered offices in the USA, Austria and the UK. Brand South Africa is a publicly funded trust with trustees appointed by South Africa’s president. It works with partners in and out of government to see that South Africa’s value proposition as a place to do business, invest in and visit – and from which to source products, ideas and inspiration – is fully appreciated.

For more information on this event and sponsorship opportunities, please visit:  http://www.educationafrica.org/documents/DIGITAL_INVITE_2013_June.pdf

SOURCE Education Africa

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ACT hosted visionary leadership

Posted on 18 May 2013 by Thandisizwe Mgudlwa

Thandisizwe Mgudlwa

“It is only through collaboration between education, innovation and business that we will be able to take our country forward and make Cape Town a global African city of inspiration and innovation.”

So said Chris Whelan, CEO of business think-tank Accelerate Cape Town, at Friday’s Accelerate Cape Town Member’s Meeting sponsored by Deloitte. Whelan, who heads up the business organisation that counts more than 45 of South Africa’s largest corporates among its members, added that it is critical that innovation is approached as a collaborative effort. “Whether we’re developing a new product or building a future society, the key to unlocking our success as a city and country is innovation and partnership.”

According to the AC, TWhelan was joined by Dr Vincent Maphai, a business leader  and former Chairman of BHP Billiton Southern Africa. Maphai who also acts as the Education Commissioner on the National Planning Commission, detailed the key requirements for growing talent in the country in terms of what inspired the thinking of the NPC.

Maphai said that in democracies, the government is a reflection of its society. “If we are unhappy about our government’s actions, we must remember that we as civil society elected them to their positions of power. For us to succeed as a nation and be able to become the shapers of our future, we need to step up and start taking our role in the country very seriously.”

He added that active citizenry should be combined with strong leadership in order to create a government that is able to take decisions that they can also implement. “Madiba is a perfect example. His views were not based on scoring political points or promoting his own interests, but rather on what is best for the country as a whole.” Challenge of job creation and lack of education.

Maphai said that the NPC is faced with a massive dual challenge of creating jobs while also overcoming the struggling education system. He stated that while he’s in favour of the current Outcome Based Education system, the country is in dire need of well-trained, committed teachers.

“We don’t have enough skilled workers in the country, and the skills that are available come with a hefty price tag. Until we attend to the mess in education, we can forget about dealing with the issues of inequality that the unions keep talking about.”

According to Maphai, there are ways in which to bring positive change to the country. “If you’re a major company like SAB, you are fortunate enough to have a strong supply chain that enables you to train people and empower them to come and work for you. This is one contribution to addressing the disaster we are facing of a shrinking tax base and growing social grants handouts. But we should also look at requiring the individuals who receive social grants to run the gardens and bake bread in schools and then utilise the money allocated to school feeding on more important items.

“In this country, we don’t need more money or resources, of which we have more than enough. Instead, we need greater resourcefulness, especially in the form of political and social innovation.”

Maphai was joined by Dr Julius Akinyemi, head of the MIT Media Laboratory and chief adjudicator of the Innovation Prize for Africa. Akinyemi said that the mission for schools is to educate students and create new capabilities, but added that most schools fail woefully on the latter aspect. “Innovation is the enabler for creating new capabilities, allowing you to make a social impact by improving efficiencies in the environment or the lives of individuals. This focus on innovation creates an entrepreneurial environment that is very nurturing and empowering to people, leading the creation of businesses, jobs and an environment that enables us to move forward.”

He said that, in terms of the state of innovation in Africa, the problem lies not with a lack of innovation but rather in creating a nurturing environment that allows innovators to be productive. “Businesses have an important role to play. Joint innovative development, for example, creates an opportunity for the research and development team to collaborate and work side by side with businesses, incubators and venture funds in a highly productive environment. A perfect example of this model in action is Workshop 17, the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business innovation hub based at the V&A Waterfront.”

Akinyemi added that innovation should not stop after the first positive result has been achieved. “Through constant innovation you are able to find out more about your company – what works and what doesn’t. This re-innovation process creates jobs as well as a nurturing environment and better profitability.”

In conclusionACT and Whelan said that determining the strategy, plan and call to action around fostering a culture of innovation in Cape Town will be a key point on his organisation’s agenda going forward. “We need an active citizenry and a strong government and business sector driven by innovation and partnership to further progress this city and truly achieve our objective of making Cape Town a world class destination for talented people to work and live in.”

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TeleCommunication Systems Technology Experts to Discuss International Trade Issues at the Maryland/DC Celebration of International Trade 2013

Posted on 17 May 2013 by Africa Business

 

About TeleCommunication Systems, Inc.
TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. (TCS) (NASDAQ: TSYS) is a world leader in highly reliable and secure mobile communication technology. TCS infrastructure forms the foundation for market leading solutions in E9-1-1, text messaging, commercial location and deployable wireless communications. TCS is at the forefront of new mobile cloud computing services providing wireless applications for navigation, hyper-local search, asset tracking, social applications and telematics. Millions of consumers around the world use TCS wireless apps as a fundamental part of their daily lives. Government agencies utilize TCS’ cyber security expertise, professional services, and highly secure deployable satellite solutions for mission-critical communications. Headquartered in Annapolis, MD, TCS maintains technical, service and sales offices around the world.

 

ANNAPOLIS, Md., May 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ – TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. (TCS) (NASDAQ: TSYS), a world leader in highly reliable and secure mobile communication technology, today announced that TCS Fellow John Linwood Griffin and TCS Senior Customer Executive Victor Hernandez will be participating in panel discussions as part of the Maryland/DC Celebration of International Trade 2013 on Tuesday, May 21 at the Maritime Institute Conference Center in Linthicum, MD. Attendees will experience in-depth discussions with expert-level export executives, leaders, practitioners and government leaders.

  • “Threat Considerations and Risk Mitigation When Doing Business Internationally,” Tuesday, May 21, 8:30 a.m.10:00 a.m.

 

TCS Fellow Dr. John Linwood Griffin will discuss the risk associated with conducting business internationally from a technical security perspective. Risk itself often represents an opportunity – when you understand and interpret technical risks in the context of your business objectives, you are able to make more efficient and competitive decisions. The panelists will engage in a lively early-morning discussion on how to keep risk from always leading to the answer, “no.”

Dr. John Linwood Griffin leads research and engineering programs on computer and communications security at TCS. He has written and taught academic and industrial courses on computer storage, security and networking and has co-authored refereed conference, journal and workshop papers. Among the honors, grants and awards he has received include an invitation to participate in the U.S./Japan Experts’ Workshop on Critical Information Infrastructure Protection, an Intel Foundation Ph.D. Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

  • “Selling into Emerging Markets – Africa, Middle East and Latin America Explored,” Tuesday, May 21, 10:00 a.m.11:30 a.m.

 

TCS Senior Customer Executive Victor Hernandez will explore the nuances of conducting business in the emerging market of Latin America through the lens of several case studies. In addition, the ability to leverage government resources that are available to ease entrance into new markets from the Departments of Commerce and State will also be addressed by other panelists.

Victor Hernandez is responsible for promoting TCS’ products and services portfolio in the Caribbean and Latin American regions. He has more than 23 years of experience in the Latin American wireless industry and has worked with some of the wireless industry’s biggest names, helping them bridge the business gap between the Caribbean, Latin America and North America.

To learn more about emerging and innovative wireless technologies, visit www.telecomsys.com.

 

SOURCE TeleCommunication Systems, Inc.

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Twelve African Energy, Mining and Industry Ministers confirm attendance at the Africa Energy Forum 2013 in Barcelona

Posted on 16 May 2013 by Africa Business

A recent report from the World Bank indicated that the GDP of a third of African countries grew by at least 6% last year, despite the estimate that power outages cost African economies on average around 2% pa of their GDP.

African Ministers, heads of utilities, regulators and international energy companies will address this and other pressing issues concerning Africa’s power sector at the Africa Energy Forum in Barcelona, 18-20 June. Over 800 delegates are expected to attend this international investment Forum for Africa’s power industry to compete for partnerships and deals.

Bruno Cockburn, AEF’s Programme Development Director, commented; “We are delighted the forum remains an important investment tool for proactive African stakeholders looking to address the power and infrastructure investment gap head on. The international community’s response has been extraordinary this year already.”

The latest government official to confirm his attendance at EnergyNet’s Africa Energy Forum 2013 is Hon. Salvador Namburete, Minister of Energy in Mozambique.

He will join Ministers from Botswana, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Libya, Mauritania, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Sierra Leone and Tunisia in Barcelona.

To view the full list of speakers please visit

http://africa-energy-forum.com/#tab-countryParticipants

Event dates:

Pre-conference workshops: 18th June 2013

Conference & Exhibition: 18-20th June 2013

Website: www.africa-energy-forum.com

For more information:

Marketing Director: Liz Owens

Tel: +44 (0)20 7384 7807

Email: liz.owens@energynet.co.uk

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GSMA Establishes Office In Nairobi To Support Burgeoning African Telecoms Market

Posted on 15 May 2013 by Africa Business

Mobile Connections in Sub-Saharan Africa Increase 20 Per Cent to 500 Million in 2013 and Are Expected to Increase by an Additional 50 Per Cent by 2018

iHub is Nairobi‘s Innovation Hub for the technology community, which is an open space for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area. This space is a tech community facility with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers, designers and researchers. It is part open community workspace (co-working), part vector for investors and VCs and part incubator. More information can be found here: http://www.ihub.co.ke/about

About the GSMA
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. Spanning more than 220 countries, the GSMA unites nearly 800 of the world’s mobile operators with more than 230 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset makers, software companies, equipment providers and Internet companies, as well as organisations in industry sectors such as financial services, healthcare, media, transport and utilities. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as the Mobile World Congress and Mobile Asia Expo.


NAIROBI, Kenya, May 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ – The GSMA today announced that it has opened a permanent office in Nairobi, Kenya. The office will be based in the heart of Nairobi‘s Innovation Hub (iHub) for the technology community and will enable the GSMA to work even more closely with its members and other industry stakeholders to extend the reach and socio-economic benefits of mobile throughout Africa.

“It is an exciting time to launch our new office in Africa, as the region is an increasingly vibrant and critical market for the mobile industry, representing over 10 per cent of the global market,” said Anne Bouverot , Director General, GSMA. “The rapid pace of mobile adoption has delivered an explosion of innovation and huge economic benefits in the region, directly contributing US$ 32 billion to the Sub-Saharan African economy, or 4.4 per cent of GDP. With necessary spectrum allocations and transparent regulation, the mobile industry could also fuel the creation of 14.9 million new jobs in the region between 2015 and 2020.”

According to the latest GSMA’s Wireless Intelligence data, total mobile connections in Sub-Saharan Africa passed the 500 million mark in Q1 2013, increasing by about 20 per cent year-on-year. Connections are expected to grow by a further 50 per cent, or 250 million connections, over the next five years which requires greater regulatory certainty to foster investment and release of additional harmonised spectrum for mobile.

The region currently accounts for about two-thirds of connections in Africa but the amount of spectrum allocated to mobile services in Africa is among the lowest worldwide. Governments in Sub-Saharan Africa risk undermining their broadband and development goals unless more spectrum is made available. In particular, the release of the Digital Dividend spectrum – which has the ideal characteristics for delivering mobile broadband, particularly to rural populations – should be a priority.

The region also has some of the highest levels of mobile internet usage globally. In Zimbabwe and Nigeria, mobile accounts for over half of all web traffic at 58.1 per cent and 57.9 per cent respectively, compared to a 10 per cent global average. 3G penetration levels are forecast to reach a quarter of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2017 (from six per cent in 2012) as the use of mobile-specific services develops.

However, despite the high number of connections, rapid growth and mobile internet usage, mobile penetration among individuals remains relatively low. Fewer than 250 million people had subscribed to a mobile service in the region, putting unique subscriber penetration at 30 per cent, meaning that more than two-thirds of the population have yet to acquire their first mobile phone. Clearly, there is an important opportunity for the mobile industry to bring connectivity, access to information and services to the people in this region.

The mobile industry contributes approximately 3.5 million full-time jobs in the region. This has also spurred a wave of technology and content innovation with more than 50 ‘innovation hubs’ created to develop local skills and content in the field of ICT services, including the Limbe Labs in Cameroon, the iHub in Kenya and Hive Colab in Uganda.

Of particular note is the role of Kenya as the global leader in mobile money transfer services via M-PESA, a service launched by the country’s largest mobile operator Safaricom in 2007. What started as a simple way to extend banking services to the unbanked citizens of Kenya has now evolved into a mobile payment system based on accounts held by the operator, with transactions authorised and recorded in real time using secure SMS. Since its launch, M-PESA has grown to reach 15 million registered users and contributes 18 per cent of Safaricom’s total revenue.

To support this huge increase in innovation, the mobile industry has invested around US$ 16.5 billion over the past five years (US$ 2.8 billion in 2011 alone) across the five key countries in the region, mainly directed towards the expansion of network capacity. At the same time, given the exponential growth, Sub-Saharan Africa faces a looming ‘capacity and coverage crunch’ in terms of available mobile spectrum and the GSMA is working with operators and governments to address this critical issue.

GSMA research has found that by releasing the Digital Dividend and 2.6GHz spectrum by 2015, the governments of Sub-Saharan Africa could increase annual GDP by US$82 billion by 2025 and annual government tax revenues by US$18 billion and add up to 27 million jobs by 2025. In many Sub-Saharan African countries, mobile broadband is the only possible route to deliver the Internet to citizens and the current spectrum allocations across the region generally lag behind those of other countries.

“A positive and supportive regulatory environment and sufficient spectrum allocation is critical to the further growth of mobile in Africa,” continued Ms. Bouverot. “I am confident that now that we have a physical presence in Africa, we will be able to work together with our members to put the conditions in place that will facilitate the expansion of mobile, bringing important connectivity and services to all in the region.”

For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at www.gsma.com or Mobile World Live, the online portal for the mobile communications industry, at www.mobileworldlive.com.

SOURCE GSMA

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Baird Furthers Canada’s Interests and Values in Kenya

Posted on 15 May 2013 by Africa Business

OTTAWA, Canada, May 15, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today signalled Canada’s interest in growing trade and investment with Kenya and our intent to meaningfully engage when it comes to shared values.

Canada looks forward to both countries beginning exploratory discussions regarding a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement to help create a safer, more stable environment for investors and economic opportunities for both countries.

“Our government is focused on creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity,” said Baird. “When it comes to African markets, Kenya is a major player, and increasing trade ties will benefit both countries.”

The potential for increased Canadian investment in Kenya is important and Canada is keen to explore opportunities for freer trade generally with Kenya and the East African Community, especially for Canadian natural resource companies, which are becoming leaders in the Kenyan mining and oil and gas industries.

Baird highlighted that greater commercial engagement and people-to-people ties come with the opportunity and responsibility to engage on protecting and promoting Canadian values.

To that end, Baird held a round-table meeting with defenders of the rights of sexual minorities in East Africa.

“In too many places, people are branded as criminals or made victims of violence because of their sexuality,” said Baird. “Canada is a leading defender of human rights for all, and I applaud the courage and conviction of those advocates working on the ground to improve the lives of sexual minorities.”

Baird also encouraged Kenya’s newly elected government to continue its engagement with the International Criminal Court.

 

SOURCE

Canada – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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IMF Executive Board Concludes 2013 Article IV Consultation with Seychelles

Posted on 15 May 2013 by Africa Business

VICTORIA, Mahé, May 15, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ On May 8, 2013, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation with Seychelles. 1

Background

In the few years since the 2008 debt crisis, Seychelles has made remarkable strides, quickly restoring macroeconomic stability and creating room for private-sector activity. Macroeconomic developments in the tourism-based island economy have been favorable, despite the challenging global environment. Notably, growth held up as the tourism industry successfully attracted arrivals from non-traditional markets as European arrivals slumped, while a surge in foreign direct investment (FDI) supported construction in recent years. For the most part, inflation remained contained, and the external position improved markedly following liberalization of the exchange rate in 2008 and debt restructuring started in 2009.

In 2012, despite robust tourist arrivals, growth moderated to 2.9 percent as large investment projects were completed. Inflation spiked in July 2012 to 8.9 percent fueled by global as well as domestic developments, but has since abated as a result of successful monetary tightening. The external position continued to improve, albeit modestly. In particular, the current account deficit declined slightly, but remained high at around 22 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), but was fully financed by FDI and external borrowing, leading to a modest rise in reserves. Debt restructuring is nearly complete, with only one loan agreement awaiting signature.

Fiscal policy in 2012 continued to support debt sustainability. The primary surplus is projected to have risen to 6.2 percent of GDP, in part due to sizable windfall revenues which were partly saved. Buoyant revenue and grants paved the way for needed capital expenditure. Notwithstanding, public debt increased by over 3 percentage points of GDP due mostly to currency depreciation and the government assuming liabilities of Air Seychelles.

Monetary policy was tightened sharply in 2012 in response to rising inflation and an unhinging of the exchange rate, and has since been relaxed. Starting in late-2011, rising global food and fuel prices coupled with adjustments in administered prices pushed prices higher. This was reinforced by current account pressures resulting from lower exports of transportation services in the wake of the restructuring of Air Seychelles. The looming inflation-depreciation spiral was broken in mid-2012 by two small foreign exchange market interventions by the Central Bank of Seychelles and a tightening of monetary policy. By end-2012, inflation had fallen to 5.8 percent and the exchange rate had strengthened beyond its end-2011 level.

Broad-based structural reform over the past five years has worked to improve financial performance of the public sector and increase private sector participation in economic activity. Statistical capacity continues to be strengthened. Seychelles subscribes to the IMF’s General Data Dissemination Standard (GDDS) and is making progress at compiling higher frequency economic data which will support strengthened macroeconomic oversight and analysis.

Executive Board Assessment

Executive Directors commended the authorities for their strong policy implementation. Macroeconomic stability has been restored and growth has remained resilient. While the outlook is favorable, the economy is vulnerable to an uncertain global environment and domestic risks. Directors called for continued commitment to sound policies and structural reforms to preserve macroeconomic and financial stability, build policy buffers, and foster strong and inclusive growth.

Directors welcomed the steps to improve financial discipline at the central government level and the recent introduction of the VAT. They agreed that strengthening the oversight and financial position of parastatals, including through adequate price mechanisms, and further progress in public financial management will be key to ensuring fiscal sustainability. For the medium term, Directors supported the authorities’ fiscal policy stance which aims at targeting a primary fiscal surplus and reducing public debt to 50 percent of GDP. They welcomed that the debt restructuring is nearly complete and encouraged the authorities to exercise caution when contracting new external debt.

Directors called for continued efforts to improve the monetary framework in order to stabilize inflation expectations and policy interest rates. Absorbing excess liquidity over time will be important to strengthen the monetary anchor and monetary transmission mechanism. Directors considered that a further increase in international reserves, as market conditions permit, would provide a stronger buffer against shocks. Directors noted that the financial system is sound and welcomed the steps being taken to improve the functioning of the credit market.

Directors commended the efforts towards improving the business and investment climate, which is key to avoid a potential middle-income trap and to support broad-based growth. They encouraged the authorities to foster private sector-led growth by addressing infrastructure gaps, engendering lower cost and improved access to credit, correcting data weaknesses, and moving ahead with plans for greater workforce education and capacity building.

 

Seychelles: Selected Economic and Financial Indicators, 2010–14

 

2010    2011    2012    2013    2014

Actual    Actual    Est.    Proj.    Proj.

 

(Percentage change, unless otherwise indicated)

National income and prices

 

Nominal GDP (millions of Seychelles rupees)

11,746    13,119    14,145    15,292    16,461

Real GDP

5.6    5.0    2.9    3.3    3.9

CPI (annual average)

-2.4    2.6    7.1    4.5    3.4

CPI (end-of-period)

0.4    5.5    5.8    4.3    3.1

GDP deflator average

-3.6    6.4    4.8    4.6    3.6

(Percentage change, unless otherwise indicated)

Money and credit

 

Credit to the economy

21.4    6.2    2.5    13.0    …

Broad money

13.5    4.5    -2.3    0.1    …

Reserve money

34.7    -2.7    6.9    12.3    …

Velocity (GDP/broad money)

1.6    1.7    1.9    2.1    …

Money multiplier (broad money/reserve money)

4.2    4.5    4.1    3.6    …

(Percent of GDP)

Savings-Investment balance

 

External savings

23.0    22.7    21.7    23.2    18.4

Gross national savings

13.6    12.4    17.3    15.1    15.5

Of which: government savings

7.8    10.6    14.3    12.1    11.0

Gross investment

36.6    35.1    39.0    38.2    33.8

Of which: government investment

8.6    8.1    12.0    9.2    7.8


Government budget


Total revenue, excluding grants

34.1    35.8    37.6    36.4    35.6

Expenditure and net lending

32.5    35.7    40.2    38.5    36.0

Current expenditure

27.2    27.6    28.8    28.8    27.3

Capital expenditure and net lending

5.3    8.1    11.4    9.8    8.7

Overall balance, including grants

2.5    2.5    2.4    1.8    2.0

Primary balance

8.6    5.4    6.2    5.1    4.4

Total public debt

81.6    74.3    77.3    72.0    65.3

Domestic1

32.5    28.0    27.7    25.7    18.6

External

49.1    46.2    49.6    46.3    46.7

(Percent of GDP, unless otherwise indicated)

External sector

 

Current account balance including official transfers

-23.0    -22.7    -21.7    -23.2    -18.4

Total stock of arrears (millions of U.S. dollars)

30.3    9.0    2.7    …    …

Total public external debt outstanding (millions of U.S. dollars)

478    490    512    558    597

(percent of GDP)

49.1    46.2    49.6    46.3    46.7

Terms of trade (= – deterioration)

-6.7    -6.4    -0.4    0.6    1.2

Real effective exchange rate (average, percent change)

4.4    -7.4    …    …    …

Gross official reserves (end of year, millions of U.S. dollars)

254    277    305    317    326

Months of imports, c.i.f.

2.3    2.5    2.6    2.7    2.7

Exchange rate


Seychelles rupees per US$1 (end-of-period)

12.1    13.7    13.0    …    …

Seychelles rupees per US$1 (period average)

12.1    12.4    13.7    …    …

 

Sources: Central Bank of Seychelles; Ministry of Finance; and IMF staff estimates and projections.

1 Excludes debt issued in 2012 for monetary purposes (5.4 percent of GDP), as proceeds are kept in a blocked account with the Central Bank.

1 Under Article IV of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. A staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country’s economic developments and policies. On return to headquarters, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the Executive Board. At the conclusion of the discussion, the Managing Director, as Chairman of the Board, summarizes the views of Executive Directors, and this summary is transmitted to the country’s authorities. An explanation of any qualifiers used in summings up can be found here: http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/misc/qualifiers.htm

 

SOURCE

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

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China and Russia commit to World Energy Congress

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Africa Business

“Most important energy event in the world this year”

SEOUL – May 14, 2013: The Chinese and Russian governments have committed to sending high-level delegations to the World Energy Congress in South Korea in October, organizers said.

The Organizing Committee for the 2013 World Energy Congress said it had been notified that China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) would send a ministerial-level delegation to the event and that the government body had advised Chinese energy companies of its plan to attend.

The Chinese delegation will be one of the largest to the Congress, which will host up to 5,000 delegates from around the world, organizers said.

The Committee further announced that Alexander Novak, the Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation, would lead a delegation that will include the Russian ministries of Natural Resources and Environment, and of Foreign Affairs, as well as Gazprom, Transneft, Rosneft, RusHydro, the State Atomic Energy Corporation and other major energy companies.

The Russian delegation is planning a “Russia Day” event at the Congress.

The World Energy Congress is the world’s premier energy gathering and will take place on 13–17 October in the city of Daegu.

More than 200 prominent speakers, including energy ministers, industry CEOs and top experts and researchers, will answer the most pressing questions facing the global energy industry today

Under the theme of ‘Securing Tomorrow’s Energy Today’, topics range from the future prospects of the oil & gas, coal, nuclear, and renewables sectors to the tough policy decisions needed to balance the often conflicting priorities of energy security, universal access to affordable energy, and environmental protection. Delegates will also be given insights into how finance and innovation are shaping our energy future.

“We are delighted with the decision by the governmental and industry leaders in China and Russia,” said Dr. Christoph Frei, Secretary General of the London-based World Energy Council, which hosts the triennial event. “Having just been in China and Russia I know that this high level participation in the Congress will provide a fascinating overview of the opportunities and challenges of our energy world in transition. Such engagement by the world’s biggest players is crucial for a meaningful event.”

“Both countries are in the centre of many critical energy developments. We want to understand, within the global energy transformation, whether there is a refocus of ambition within the respective governments,” he said.

“We look forward to hearing more about developments in Russia and the energy challenges and opportunities in China at the World Energy Congress in October,” said Cho Hwan-eik, Chair of the Organising Committee of the 2013 World Energy Congress.

He added: “This will be the first time in the 90-year history of the event that China will have participated in such a significant way. For both the Chinese and Russians now to commit to the Daegu event underscores the fact that the Congress is the most important event on the global energy calendar this year.”

The Organising Committee also confirmed that a number of other governments are currently planning significant activity for the Congress. Mr. Cho added, “The discussions we are having with many governments at this early stage in our planning only serve to highlight the importance of this global event being staged in the heart of Asia at a time of significant transition in the energy sector.”

Media Enquiries:

Organizing Committee, World Energy Congress

Inang Park

Tel: +82 (2) 739 7016

M: 010 3213 7465

Email: inang.park@insightcomms.com

John Burton

Tel: +82 (2) 739 7045

M: +82 (0)10 2437 6265

Email: john.burton@insightcomms.com

World Energy Congress – international

Seán Galvin

Tel: +44 (0)20 7269 7133

M: +44 (0)7788 568 245

Email: sean.galvin@fticonsulting.com

World Energy Council

Monique Tsang

Tel: +44 (0)20 3214 0616

Email: tsang@worldenergy.org

About the World Energy Congress

The World Energy Congress is the world’s premier energy gathering. The triennial World Energy Congress has gained recognition since the first event in 1923 as the premier global forum for leaders and thinkers to debate solutions to energy issues. In addition to the discussions, the event provides an opportunity for executives to display their technologies and explore business opportunities. With the upcoming Congress in Daegu the event will have been held in 20 major cities around the world since its founding.

Further details at www.daegu2013.kr and @WECongress

About the World Energy Council (WEC)

The World Energy Council (WEC) is the principal impartial network of leaders and practitioners promoting an affordable, stable and environmentally sensitive energy system for the greatest benefit of all. Formed in 1923, WEC is the UN-accredited global energy body, representing the entire energy spectrum, with more than 3000 member organisations located in over 90 countries and drawn from governments, private and state corporations, academia, NGOs and energy related stakeholders. WEC informs global, regional and national energy strategies by hosting high-level events, publishing authoritative studies, and working through its extensive member network to facilitate the world’s energy policy dialogue.

Further details at www.worldenergy.org and @WECouncil

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WORLD ENERGY CONGRESS UNVEILS PROGRAM THEMES

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Africa Business

Ministers, CEOs and experts to address full range of energy issues

LONDON &SEOUL– 14th May 2013: The 2013 World Energy Congress Organizing Committee announced today some of the significant program topics that will be discussed by leading figures in the energy sector at the world’s premier energy event, to be held in Daegu, South Korea from October 13 to 17, 2013.

Under the theme of ‘Securing Tomorrow’s Energy Today’, topics range from the future prospects of the oil & gas, coal, nuclear, and renewables sectors to the tough policy decisions needed to balance the often conflicting priorities of energy security, universal access to affordable energy, and environmental protection. Delegates will also be given insights into how finance and innovation are shaping our energy future.

“The Congress will provide a fascinating overview of the opportunities and challenges of our energy world in transition,” said Dr. Christoph Frei, Secretary General of the World Energy Council. “The issues to be highlighted will be addressed from a number of viewpoints, encompassing the perspectives of individual energy sectors and geographical regions, as well as providing a strategic overview of global energy trends.”

More than 200 prominent speakers, including energy ministers, industry CEOs and top experts and researchers, will answer the most pressing questions facing the global energy industry today, such as:

· Oil: Will state oil companies and independents come to dominate the industry?

· Gas: Will shale gas be a game changer in redrawing the global energy map or is it just a bubble?

· Coal: Can demand for coal overcome environmental concerns?

· Renewables: Is the honeymoon over?

· Nuclear: Can effective international governance rules keep alive the nuclear renaissance?

· Hydro: Has its time finally come?

· Biofuels: What are the critical success factors for sustainable projects?

· Utilities: Will new business models succeed in promoting decentralization?

· Energy access: Is it achievable against the competing demands for water and food?

· Energy security: What are the next big energy sources?

· Environment mitigation: Are green growth and rapid economic growth compatible?

· Energy efficiency: Are yesterday’s cities fit for tomorrow’s energy?

· Finance: Is development finance delivering inclusive green growth?

· Energy innovation: Is venture capital more important than government support?

· Asia: Can the region become a showcase for green growth?

· Eurasia: Can it achieve partnerships to unlock its full energy potential?

· Middle East: Will it balance the needs of energy exports, local energy growth and job creation?

· Latin America: Blessed with resources, but overwhelmed by choice?

· Europe: Can it achieve effective energy market integration?

· Africa: Is there an energy infrastructure road map?

“The program at the 22nd World Energy Congress captures the full range and complexity of today’s energy challenges,” said Cho Hwan-eik, chair of the Organizing Committee of the 2013 World Energy Congress. “The Congress offers an impressive and unmatched list of speakers to provide insights on how these challenges can be addressed and overcome.”

Specific sessions and speakers will be announced shortly.

For further information, registration and other details, please log on to www.daegu2013.kr

Media Enquiries:

World Energy Congress – international

Seán Galvin

Tel: +44 (0)20 7269 7133

M: +44 (0)7788 568 245

Email: sean.galvin@fticonsulting.com

World Energy Council

Monique Tsang

Tel: +44 (0)20 3214 0616

Email: tsang@worldenergy.org

About the World Energy Congress

The World Energy Congress is the world’s premier energy gathering. The triennial World Energy Congress has gained recognition since the first event in 1923 as the premier global forum for leaders and thinkers to debate solutions to energy issues. In addition to the discussions, the event provides an opportunity for executives to display their technologies and explore business opportunities. With the upcoming Congress in Daegu the event will have been held in 20 major cities around the world since its founding.

Further details at www.daegu2013.kr and @WECongress

About the World Energy Council (WEC)

The World Energy Council (WEC) is the principal impartial network of leaders and practitioners promoting an affordable, stable and environmentally sensitive energy system for the greatest benefit of all. Formed in 1923, WEC is the UN-accredited global energy body, representing the entire energy spectrum, with more than 3000 member organisations located in over 90 countries and drawn from governments, private and state corporations, academia, NGOs and energy related stakeholders. WEC informs global, regional and national energy strategies by hosting high-level events, publishing authoritative studies, and working through its extensive member network to facilitate the world’s energy policy dialogue.

Further details at www.worldenergy.org and @WECouncil

Bookmark and Share

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