IIA NEWS IN Ghana

Do we have a skewed view of what sustainability means in Africa? A one dimensional approach hinders development and economic prospects. Here is Episode 4 of Gaia Says No – Africa, hosted by future Net Zero, to answer those questions.

Joining IIA's Director, William Pollen are Kondjeni Ntinda from the Namibia Energy and Invest in Africa's own Charlotte Asiedu, with future Net Zero’s founder, Sumit Bose directing the conversation.

Listen here and please feel free to share among your networks to keep the conversation going!

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Picking apart Africa’s energy transition, the progress needed to be made, numerous decisions to consider and the need for supportive policy to accelerate efforts – here is Episode 3 of Gaia Says No – Africa, hosted by future Net Zero.

Joining IIA's Director, William Pollen are Dr Amy Jadesimi, Managing Director of LADOL Free Zone in Lagos, Stanley Nyoni, Sustainability and Leadership Advisor, with future Net Zero’s founder, Sumit Bose directing the conversation.

Listen here and please feel free to share among your networks to keep the conversation going!

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Delving further into Africa's journey to achieving sustainable business practices and Net Zero, the podcast assesses the range of challenges the continent faces and how innovative business solutions and robust policy can overcome them.

Joining IIA's Director, William Pollen are Reshma Shah, CEO of Intestrat and Partner at Kina Advisory Ltd and Stanley Nyoni, Sustainability and Leadership Advisor, with future Net Zero’s founder, Sumit Bose directing the conversation.

Listen here and please feel free to share among your networks to keep the conversation going!

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AfCFTA gives glimpse of new African destiny

An increasingly insular post-Covid world economy has created the opportunity for Africa to lead the global trade agenda. Economies on the continent must seize it with both hands, writes director of Invest In Africa, William Pollen.

Africa’s debt-laden economies bore the brunt of the global economic fallout from the pandemic, while the continent grappled with its first recession in twenty-five years. Sub-Saharan Africa’s pleas for debt relief were met with scepticism by richer nations, as 30m people on the continent slid into extreme poverty last year.

Yet as richer economies retreat into isolationism, they have failed to coordinate a collective response to the pandemic that considers the needs of poorer nations with less advanced healthcare systems.

Public debt in sub-Saharan Africa has ballooned to 66% of gross domestic product, while debt service payments average 32% of annual revenue, IMF data from 2020 indicates.

But there are reasons to be more optimistic in 2021 and beyond.

Firstly, the birth of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was a timely reminder of where the continent’s priorities lie. Secondly, the drive for greater sustainability – turbocharged by the pandemic – gives Africa a chance to redefine sustainability in an African context and turn it into a competitive advantage.

The AfCFTA- A New Dawn?

Against a backdrop of a record GDP per capita contraction, the continent is feeling the pinch of dwindling export revenues and declining foreign direct investment (FDI). Uncertainty and economic tremors are heightening investor anxiety, who faced with the fight or flight option, have fled with $700bn from developing countries.

Multinationals have reduced, delayed or in some cases cancelled investment into Africa altogether, instead preferring to invest into safer ‘home’ markets.

Africa’s risk profile is in part shaped by the terms dictated by the global north. Though the AfCFTA may not achieve complete emancipation, it gives Africa more influence over its economic ambitions.

Only Africa can realise the substantial opportunities the AfCFTA offers, such as creating homegrown investment, domestic economic expansion, and jobs for its young, ambitious and entrepreneurial populations.

As other countries turn inward, trade over the next decade and a half will boost Africa’s income by $450bn and contribute $76bn to the world economy, underlining its importance to the global trade agenda.

At a bare minimum, better cohesion among Africa’s 55 countries is imperative to driving sustained growth, while leveraging the full potential of a region with a combined GDP of $3.4trn can be a powerful accelerator.

At present, only around 16.6% of goods traded by African countries remain on the continent’s shores.

The AfCFTA will stimulate progress towards a continental customs union, eliminating 90% of trade barriers, facilitating free movement, easing access to markets and trimming red tape, to boost intra-African trade by 50%.  

Effective execution of the agreement will lift an estimated 30 million on the continent out of extreme poverty, as well as develop more supportive, sustainable social systems.

As Covid-19 exposes the fragilities of women’s economic positions across the continent, the AfCFTA will bolster their financial independence. Beyond that, the continent’s burgeoning aspirational youth, increasingly disenfranchised by earning a livelihood in the rural, primary sector will be afforded more opportunities as production and trade benefit from a more efficient value chain.

One of the largest impacts the AfCFTA can imprint on the continent is realising greater value from its wealth of natural resources. Despite having 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land, Africa is a net food importer, just as the world’s tenth largest oil producer, Nigeria, relies on other countries for its fuel.

Raw materials account for the majority of exports with around 70% of value addition happening off African shores. Technological development, demographic shifts and changing lifestyle trends all support this movement.

As the continent works towards successful implementation of the AfCFTA, it should build an inclusive continental economy on existing foundations, that lifts up small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

SMEs account for an estimated 80% of all businesses and even more job opportunities across the continent, making them vital to empowering marginalised members of the community.

The importance of SME success has been highlighted by initiatives led by the likes of the AfDB and Afrexim Bank, to strengthen the implementation framework in their favour. Their efforts will be supported by the first woman and African at the helm of the World Trade Organisation, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Sustainability – an opportunity within AfCFTA?

Sustainability brings with it commercial advantage, allowing SMEs to be more competitive at home and abroad. However, sustainability in the African business context is largely misunderstood, both domestically and overseas, and often imposed ‘top down‘ as a cost of doing business with big corporates or multinationals.

However, Covid has accelerated the relevance of sustainability to all businesses, big and small, foreign, and domestic.

The importance of governance, environmental impact and relationships with consumers, staff and local communities have all been highlighted by the pandemic.

Paralysed global supply chains further highlighted the value of onshoring, or having local suppliers. When combined with the opportunities the AfCFTA brings, now is a unique moment for African SMEs to redefine what sustainability means to them and then go after it, increasing their competitiveness and market share.

This is not about protectionism or barriers, but the opposite. At a time when global institutions are looking increasingly insular and regional trading blocs are failing to function, the AfCFTA is an opportunity for Africa to lead the global trade agenda.

African countries must not allow it to be dictated by multinationals whose shareholders usually reside outside the continent. It must be their own success story: an African solution to the global challenge of sustainability.

William Pollen is the director of Invest in Africa, a non-profit with the vision to create prospering African economies.

Originally published on African Business, 12 March 2021

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Accra and London, 15th March 2021: Activa International Insurance Company Ghana Limited (AIIG) and Invest in Africa (IIA) Ghana have signed a cooperation agreement to widen access to protection schemes for multiple SMEs. With direct access to IIA Ghana’s membership network with over 2,000 cross sector businesses, AIIG aims to provide an innovative and effective model to enhance knowledge of risk management and commercial protection solutions. This is in line with IIA’s objective of ensuring the survival and continued development of Africa’s SMEs, maintaining its status as a key driver of economic growth and job creation.

At 2.8%, sub-Saharan Africa’s insurance penetration sits considerably below the world average of 6.8% highlighting the continent’s need to catch up. While motor insurance is the largest contributor to non-life insurance – driven by compulsory regulatory requirements – accident insurance, health insurance, and property insurance have all shown impressive growth in recent years.

The partnership represents an innovative strategic approach to accelerating insurance penetration, as well as promoting insurance growth in Africa through targeting unique customer segments.  AIIG’s Activ’Lady Program, launched in October 2019 in partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, specifically targets female entrepreneurs with customised business protection packages, as well as offering other value-add opportunities such as networking, access to client bases and skills acquisition through training.

The advancement of female-led business is a priority in the scope of IIA’s work; further strengthened by its COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience programme being delivered with funding from the Mastercard Foundation. The programme will support Activ’Lady customers with access to online masterclasses, peer-to-peer sessions, a repository of practical guides and interventions enhancing their access to finance.   

QUOTES:

Benjamin Yamoah, Managing Director of AIIG said: “Available data shows most SMEs in Africa are owned or led by women, it is therefore important that women in business are supported to grow and expand their businesses for both economic and social development and this partnership will help create a platform that will make female entrepreneurs more resilient to personal and business shocks.

Carol Annang, Country Director IIA Ghana added, “SMEs are key drivers of African economies, accounting for more than 90% of businesses and employing about 60% of workers. We are committed to building a commercial ecosystem which supports their sustained survival and success, leveraging the power of effective partnerships to build on synergies and expand on reach.”

ENDS

 

About Activa Ghana

AIIG is the 8th largest general insurance company by premium income and also the founder of the Globus Network: a grouping of over 48 well-positioned and dynamic insurance companies in over 54 African countries which allow multinational, global and local clients to enjoy expert and world-class insurance services. A member of the Ghana Club 100, Activa International Insurance Company Limited is rated in the A category by Messrs Global Credit Rating (GCR). The Company was adjudged Insurance Company of the year 2018 by the Ghana Business Awards and also by the Ghana Accountancy and Finance Awards after thorough reviews of it’s Financials and other activities within the years 2017 and 2018. AIIG was also adjudged insurance company of the year 2017 and 2018 consecutively, by the Chartered Institute of Marketing Ghana (CIMG) at its 2018 awards ceremony in Accra among other prestigious awards.

http://www.activa-ghana.com/  

About Invest in Africa (IIA)

Invest in Africa (IIA) is a private sector-led initiative focused on growing local businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa to deliver positive economic impacts and create jobs, benefitting all stakeholders including governments and multi-national corporations who want to use their local buying power as a force for good. Launched in Ghana in 2012, IIA now operates in five African countries, with local offices in Ghana, Senegal, Kenya and Mauritania. IIA operates the African Partner Pool (APP), a network of SMEs to which it delivers a programme of business support designed to deliver economic growth and job creation. To date, IIA Ghana has enabled access to $2.1m of finance, provided 1200+ SMEs with business, technical and entrepreneurship training; and supported with the creation of 39,000 jobs.

https://investinafrica.com/

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This International Women's Day, we're celebrating female-led businesses in Ghana, while also exploring how to address the key challenges facing them, which include limited to access to finance, inadequate skills and training targeted at building the capacities of female entrepreneurs.  

IIA's Recovery and Resilience programme, run in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation supports businesses and young entrepreneurs to build immediate and long-term resilience through online learning resources, providing guidance on accessing markets and finance, and fostering greater inclusion of young people, particularly young women.

 

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Invest in Africa (IIA), a private sector-led initiative focused on growing local businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa to deliver positive economic impacts and create jobs, has appointed Carol Annang as its Country Director in Ghana. Based in Accra, Carol will be working closely with strategic partners and the local IIA team to continue the company’s focus on supporting local businesses, strengthening brand equity, and attracting other strategic partners in priority sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing, extractives and ICT. She will also focus on delivering more youth and female led business interventions and building expertise in renewable energies and agriculture-based projects,

“Having first launched IIA in Ghana in 2012, the country remains one of our most important markets,” said William Pollen, Invest in Africa’s Director. “IIA Ghana is focused on job creation and improving the business environment for both investors and local SMEs. Our priority is to increase the linkages between large international and domestic companies and smaller local business and enhance access to skills, markets and finance.

“Carol’s appointment reinforces the strength of IIA’s Ghana knowledge and expertise, demonstrated by the success of IIA’s Business Advisory and Support Programme in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, and second consecutive year win of the CIMG Not-for-Profit of the Year Award. Her impressive background coupled with her deep understanding of the local business landscape makes her a fantastic addition to IIA as we seek to continue making a positive impact on local African economies. We are delighted to welcome her to the team.”

Carol’s experience involves leading numerous financial and impact-focused businesses across Ghana. She sits on several boards including fintech startup Kudigo, the Ghana branch of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and the Executive Leadership Academy (ExLA), a youth leadership training organisation working to shape the next generation of African leaders, with a focus on empowering young African women to take leadership and governance roles. In her previous role, she held the position of Managing Director of Secure Pensions Trust Limited, a pension trustee company.

Commenting on her appointment, Carol Annang said, “I was drawn to Invest in Africa because of the company’s clear dedication to improving the growth prospects of African businesses by leveraging its strong network. I’m looking forward to working with the Ghana team in particular as it builds on its strengths of the last few years and continues to make a significant impact on the local economy.”

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The third and final webinar in our AfCFTA series in partnership with the UK Department for International Trade, explored the challenges and opportunities presented by the Continental Free Trade Agreement was a resounding success. Our impressive panel, made up of Commissioner for Trade & Industry, African Union Commission, Albert Muchanga; HM Trade Commissioner for Africa, Emma Wade-Smith OBE; Head of Research, Africa & Middle East at Standard Chartered Bank, Razia Khan; Founder of AB & David Law, David Ofosu-Dorte; and Head of Grains & Oil Seed Trade at Export Trading Group, Giles Lewis, brought all their experience and expertise to the table making for a fruitful discussion. 

Watch the footage here.

AfCFTA is a $450bn opportunity: The World Bank estimates that the successful implementation of the AfCFTA has the potential to add 450bn USD to Africa’s GDP over the next 10 years. As other nations look increasingly inwards, this is an opportunity for Africa to lead the global trade agenda.

1. Post-crisis recovery: The AfCFTA will play an important role in accelerating economic growth in the longer term and offsetting some of the economic headwinds resulting from the Covid-19 crisis, preventing permanent scarring such as widespread business closures and job losses. Governments and businesses should seize the opportunity to recover in a greener, more sustainable way.

2. Significant progress already made on standardisation and rules of origin: intent to have a ‘Made in Africa’ initiative recognised across the continent in short term future.

3. Infrastructure is key to successful trade: The African infrastructure gap (estimated at between $130 and $170bn per year) is a significant impediment to intra-African trade. Investment in infrastructure and transport linkages is much needed to support the trade framework.

4. Opportunities: Construction (to bridge the infrastructure gap), food / agribusiness, textiles and healthcare opportunities made real by AfCFTA

5. Challenges: SMEs preparedness: More work needs to be done to prepare and encourage SMEs. Surveys show that only 45% of African SMEs are ready to take advantage of the AfCFTA. In order for business of all sizes to reap the benefits of the free trade agreement, clarity, consistency and transparency are essential, as well as collaboration between both public and private sectors. The work of organisations like Invest in Africa will be vital here.

6. AfCFTA creates Economies of Scale that makes Africa a more attractive investment destination: Historically, investor appetite into Africa has been low, due in large part to market size as well as tariff and non-tariff barriers. The free trade area represents an incentive for the private sector to get involved in Africa by creating economies of scale and inspiring private capital flow. AfCFTA can turn the scale ‘on paper’ into a reality and make the opportunity worthwhile for larger investors.

7. Be patient, be persistent, be positive: The last year has shown that when we pull together we can achieve remarkable things (vaccines that used to take 10 years, ready in one year)- AfCFTA won’t be perfect from 2021 but the foundations have already been created, the political will is there, now it is up to the private and public sector to collaborate and support one another to ensure the single greatest global trade opportunity succeeds.

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Sustainability is now an imperative, but what does it actually mean and how will it impact business and policy in Africa post COVID?

Three seismic shifts have occurred over the last year bringing the ‘social contract’ between society, governments and businesses into light: the climate emergency, Covid-19, and Black Lives Matter. These three elements have come together to push sustainability to the top of the agenda for governments, individuals, and businesses alike.

Simultaneously, investors in Africa are increasingly looking for businesses with long-term strategies that have a direct, positive impact on communities and the environment. In short, the discussion around sustainability has dramatically broadened in recent months so that it is now an entry level requirement when it comes to doing business.

Leading the ESG conversation

Sustainability and ESG go hand-in-hand, and many of Africa’s investment community are laser-focused on it. Alongside the ‘E’ of environment, are the social and governance practices of African companies. These three pillars cannot be considered separately. When measured and reported, ESG builds a picture of a company’s ethics, values, leadership and behaviours for the benefit of its trading partners and other stakeholders. The investor community looks at ESG as part of its due diligence and through the historical demands of development finance, African companies have traditionally led, not lagged in this regard.

Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, much has been made of ESG as an indicator that ethical business is more desirable and ultimately more competitive. The pandemic has highlighted all aspects of ESG as critical, for example, businesses with more localised supply chains, lower carbon footprints and high levels of social responsibility and governance (including diversity, leadership, succession and strong business continuity plans), are much more likely to survive the pandemic and emerge resilient.

Sustainability leapfrogging

Africa has earned a reputation as the leapfrog continent when it comes to tech innovation. Could the same level of leapfrogging be possible when it comes to sustainability?

There are certainly those who think so. Reading a case study on ‘green’ cement research, I was struck by the words of Dr. Wolfram Schmidt of BAM international the leader of an initiative to investigate innovative concrete and new construction methods in Africa.

He notes “In Europe, there are numerous standards and regulations. These have many advantages, but also prevent innovations coming quickly to the market. Things are different in Africa, as the concrete industry is still relatively young. There I can sense a great enthusiasm for innovation: businesses try to bring new insights straight to construction areas. Their creativity is unbelievable. ……….. our colleagues in Africa could in future be using better and longer-lasting concretes than we are in Europe.”

Is this a clue to what Build Back Better will look like for Africa? By the end of the century, Africa will host 13 of the world’s top 20 megacities, including the top three. The role of construction in this future cannot be overplayed.

Africa’s NetZero Commitments

The climate emergency has magnified importance around the ‘E’ in ESG, both amongst the public and private sectors. Twelve African cities pledged to limit warming to 1.5 degrees at COP25, including Nairobi, Accra and Dakar. At the country level, representation was thinner, with only Ethiopia as part of the ‘Under 2’ Coalition.

Quietly momentum is building to realise the continent’s NetZero ambitions. While there remain too many African economies reliant on high carbon extractives, they are increasingly absorbing renewables into their energy mix. Encouraging signs of policy implementation has whet the appetite of financiers and encouraged a shift in funding priorities to renewable energy.

However, the investor community can only move the dial so far. For environmental progress to occur at the speed needed, more work is to be done on government policy changes and incentives. In short, until it becomes cheaper to use renewables than higher carbon emitting sources of energy, we will not see the ‘leapfrog’ progress needed. The first step is a coordinated approach between government policy, investor incentives, local needs and capabilities.

Equality at the heart of social and governance

While the Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted systemic inequalities, it has also laid bare the distinct lack of black captains of industry. That rings true across the continent, where it’s difficult to point to a totem of African entrepreneurship beyond Aliko Dangote. The majority of large corporates are multi-national corporations (MNCs) or divisions of MNCs, meaning that profits are repatriated and more importantly, there is a lack of examples of genuine African success stories to inspire the next generation (by comparison, think of South Korea’s home grown MNCs, Kia, Samsung and LG).

Large, homegrown businesses create opportunities that cascade wealth, driving growth and development across generations. While these remain scarce, the racial wealth gap persists, failing to drive out external influence of foreign-owned entities and limiting capital directed to homegrown entrepreneurs, constraining their ability to scale up. This gap will continue to widen unless decisive action around access to growth finance and the cost of capital is taken.

To witness lasting progress across the continent, the young, well-qualified and aspirational workforce must be central to any development agenda. Home to the world’s youngest population, the future business landscape needs to be cast in their mould. One which suggests that younger people are more likely to work for businesses that put purpose before profit and have sustainability at the centre, rather than the periphery of its business model. Good leaders will recognise this opportunity and design their businesses accordingly, in turn demonstrating why leadership is so central to governance.

With Covid-19 turbocharging these trends and fundamental shifts in the ‘social contract’, Africa has the opportunity to leapfrog towards more sustainable business models attracting its share of the growing amount of impact investment capital available for businesses that are run with sustainability at their heart. What’s more, the sustainable development goals (SGDs) create a workable framework for the business community to sign up to and for government to prioritise in national development plans.  

In order for Africa to truly Build Back Better, we need a dramatically more coordinated approach across international investors, local businesses, DFIs, and policy makers that recognises the interrelated nature of ESG, sustainability actions and outcomes. I believe our role at Invest in Africa is vital in helping African businesses leapfrog progress towards the sustainable development goals. Collectively we have an important role to play in highlighting and coordinating the necessary changes, whilst also adding a sense of urgency, particularly to government policy and existing businesses operations.

No one organisation should be expected to achieve this alone, so I encourage others who feel they have something to contribute to share your solutions with us.

I look forward to hearing from you!

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Accra, 17 November 2020 - Invest In Africa (IIA), an enterprise that accelerates the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa, has been awarded Best Non-Profit Organisation by the Chartered Institute of Marketing Ghana (CIMG), for the second year running. Now in its 31st installment, the CIMG Annual Marketing Performance Awards set the benchmark for high marketing standards in corporate Ghana.

 

The award recognises IIA’s efforts – which focus on improving access to skills, finance and markets to improve business sustainability, competitiveness and efficiency – over the course of 2019. Most notably, this involved growing the access to finance pillar, of which Absa Ghana and the GCB Bank were major contributors; with IIA facilitating a total of USD2.1 million in debt financing to SMEs since 2017.

 

Another defining feature of IIA’s 2019 efforts involved help provided to build resilience of hundreds of SMEs, including 100 SMEs within AngloGold Ashanti’s Obuasi Mine’s business enclave. By leveraging its extensive network, IIA develops business linkages between SMEs and larger companies, like local and multinational corporations, enhancing opportunities, improving access to finance and creating greater revenue certainty by providing security of fixed contracts.

 

In supporting these businesses, IIA ensures a level of compatibility between suppliers and operational standards expected by multinational companies. These Ghanaian SMEs continue to leverage these insights and knowledge to expand their client base, reducing reliance on a single corporation, and its cyclical nature.

 

IIA’s work in fostering business resilience has been crucial to SMEs damaged by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. As part of a two-year partnership with the Mastercard Foundation launched in July 2020, IIA is currently delivering online coaching, masterclasses and peer-to-peer sessions, while offering a repository of practical guides, which has so far helped 1,250 businesses navigate this difficult period by building immediate and long-term resilience.

 

The programme with Mastercard Foundation will also provide Ghanaian SMEs with one-on-one consultancy support and better business linkages for 100 Ghanaian SMEs operating in the manufacturing, agriculture, extractives and ICT sectors, to bridge supply shortfalls. These SMEs will also be supported in establishing relationships with lenders and investors.

 

IIA won the same award in 2018, for widening commercial opportunities for multiple SMEs – enhanced by the African Development Bank (AfDB) funded training and in-company mentoring Business Linkage Programme (BLP).

 

Clarence Nartey, Invest In Africa’s Country Director for Ghana, commented on the award win, “To have our efforts acknowledged for a second consecutive year is testament to the commitment of our team to transform SMEs into sustainable ventures. SMEs are often reliant on a single industry and as business disruptions have displayed this year, that can be disastrous. This is why we continue to develop their business independence and it is humbling to be recognised for this work.”

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