Sourcing people skills, capital equipment and money - SWOT analyses - Prepare due-diligence data rooms and pre-feasibility and bankable feasibility reports for Funding Acquisitions. Execute within budget and ontime with highly skilled best of breed cross border project management teams. Future Forecasting for strategic planning

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Kenya's Mobile Banking Revolution

MIT researcher Nathan Eagle regaled the audience at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference yesterday with tales of technical innovation from East Africa. “Kenya has some mobile phone services that are years ahead of what we have right now,” he said. Eagle was at ETech to present his new startup, Txteagle, which aims to be a kind of mobile Mechanical Turk, using countless mobile phone users in Kenya and beyond to solve easy tasks and earn small amounts of money in return. (There’s a good writeup in Wired News today)

It’s definitely an interesting idea. But to me, the real story is how mobile phones have transformed a country like Kenya in recent years, making not only services like Txteagle possible, but also shaking up the region’s entire economic system.
Eagle spent the last few years going back and forth between Kenya and the U.S., and he witnessed this transformation firsthand. I caught up with him after his talk to learn more. According to Eagle, local incumbent Safaricom had started a minute-sharing service for its prepaid cell phone plans a few years back. The idea was to enable users to send minutes to family members in rural areas, who weren’t otherwise able to buy prepaid phone cards. However, Kenyans quickly came up with other uses. “Lots and lots of people were using it as a surrogate for currency,” Eagle said. “[You] could literally pay for taxi cab rides using cell phone credit.”
Safaricom realized a huge opportunity and started a mobile payment service called M-PESA. To call M-PESA a success would be an understatement, according to Eagle. “Within about a year, (Safaricom) became the biggest bank in East Africa.” Today you can use your phone to pay for cab rides and electricity, to get money out of ATMs without owning an ATM card or even having a traditional bank account.
Eagle shared another striking example of the transformative power of mobile payments during his ETech talk. Rural communities used to have to pay a lot of money upfront in order to get a modern well capable of providing clean drinking water. Now, there are companies that install these wells for free, complete with an integrated cell phone payment system. Want some water? Just pay as you go with your M-PESA account.
“It has transformed the country,” says Eagle

Industry Says Africa Fastest Growing Mobile Market

Africa is the world's fastest growing mobile phone market, an industry group report said Wednesday, citing the continent's innovative uses for cell phones.
Gertrude Kitongo uses hers as a radio, library, mini cinema, instant messenger and bank teller. She even makes calls on it.
"I use my phone for everything," exclaimed the 24-year-old Kenyan-Ugandan who exemplifies Africa's cosmopolitan, on-the-move cell phone user.
Mobile penetration in Africa has reached 649 million connections, second only to Asia, a report released Wednesday shows. The report by the industry group GSMA, or Groupe Speciale Mobile Association, said Africa is the fastest growing mobile market. For each of the past five years, the number of subscribers across Africa has grown by almost 20 percent and is expected to reach 738 million by the end of next year.
Researchers have used cell phone technology to track animals for wildlife studies. Africans use cell phones to make payments across borders.
Kitongo, who was in South Africa to study marketing, said she cherishes her cell phone as a link to family and friends, from her grandmother in a Ugandan village to former schoolmates in Zimbabwe. When she has a spare moment, Kitongo downloads and watches movies or catches up on her Oprah magazine subscription. She makes payments and checks her bank balance using her smart phone, and her bank sends her a text message when she receives a payment.
Gertrude Kitongo
In this photo taken Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011,... View Full Caption
Peter Lyons, a GSMA policy expert, said in an interview Wednesday that lack of access for many Africans to formal banking and financial services has spurred innovation.
In Kenya, a mobile phone banking service is all the rage. It allows people without a bank account to instantly transfer money between phones. The system uses the phone's SIM card like a bank card. Users can load money onto their phones at a small brokers or from bank accounts and send it to pay bills. The recipients can swap the credit on their phones for cash. More than 50 countries have such services, including Afghanistan.
Lyons predicts there will be more "mobile savvy citizens" like Kitongo in Africa who will demand better coverage and affordable service.
He said more roads and better electricity services will help mobile companies reach more rural customers.
When they do, he said, the improvement in communications will boost economic activity. Citing studies by the World Bank and others, GSMA says that in developing countries there is a 0.81 percent increase in GDP for every 10 percent increase in mobile penetration.
Lyons estimated that at least 5.5 million Africans are directly or indirectly employed by the mobile industry.
GSMA called on governments to allocate more mobile broadband spectrum and to cut taxes on operators to further spur expansion.
For all the convenience and opportunity, Kitongo questions some of the changes mobile technology has brought to social interaction. When friends get together for a coffee, she finds they're often paying more attention to their phones than to the people across the table.
When she was in high school, she said, boys used to write letters to ask her on dates. Now, she said, no one takes time to do more than dash off a text message, known as an SMS.
"Now, people break up by SMS," she said.
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Thursday, 27 October 2011

World Bank approves $250 mln for S.Africa's Eskom

WASHINGTON Oct 27 (Reuters) - The World Bank on Thursday approved $250 million in funding for South African power utility Eskom to develop a wind and solar plant as part of a push to boost sources of clean energy.
The World Bank said the funding through its Clean Technology Fund will finance a 100-megawatt solar power plant in Upington in the Northern Cape province and a 100-megawatt wind power project at Sere, north of Cape Town.
"The loan will help Eskom to implement two of the largest renewable energy projects ever attempted on the African continent," the bank said in a statement.
Eskom, a major supplier of energy to South Africa and neighboring countries, is keen to reduce its carbon footprint.
The state-owned utility is spending billions of dollars to build and upgrade existing coal-fired power plants to meet immediate energy needs, and wants to diversify the energy mix toward cleaner sources of energy.
Last month, Eskom signed two loan agreements worth $365 million with the African Development Bank to develop the Sere and Upington projects. For more see [ID:nL5E7KQ08R].
Eskom said it hoped to begin construction of the Sere wind project early next year.
The World Bank came under fire last year for approving a $3.75 billion loan for the development of a coal-fired plant in South Africa, but Eskom said the project was necessary to ease the country's chronic power shortages.
South Africa hosts global climate talks in the port city of Durban between Nov. 28 and Dec. 9 on a new globally binding climate pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol from 2013. Part of the discussions are on designing a fund to help developing countries tackle climate change. (Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by James Dalgleish)

EIB invest in wind energy links

LUXEMBOURG, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- The European Investment Bank announced it was providing $83 million in funding to support a transmission link to a wind farm in the Irish Sea.
The EIB announced Blue Transmission Walney 1 Ltd. was granted a license to own and operate a transmission link from a 51-turbine wind farm in the Irish Sea for the next 20 years.
EIB support from the project follows a decision by Blue Transmission to purchase the link from its Scottish counterparts for $168.8 million.
The EIB said the funding was its highest to date that supports the offshore wind energy sector.
"Support for renewable energy across Europe, including grid links and wind farms, is essential for ensuring infrastructure investment that promotes climate action," Simon Brooks, EIB vice president for the United Kingdom, said in a statement.
The EIB added that it was expected to provide as much as $480.4 million for six more links to offshore wind farms.
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said last week that London aims to increase the amount of wind and tidal power from 4 megawatts to 300 megawatts by 2020.

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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Weaker Africans to Benefit From Free Trade

Weaker countries that fear being overwhelmed in a huge African free trade area will benefit from it in the long term, a development expert said Sunday as leaders of 26 governments launched negotiations to create the zone encompassing nearly 600 million people and a combined GDP of more than $800 billion.
In the short term, "you have to acknowledge the fact that within an FTA there are winners and losers," Kennedy Mbekeani, an African Development Bank official, said in an interview. But he said as the zone helps boost the region's economies, smaller members will benefit and find and develop sectors where they have competitive advantage.
"They should not be defensive, they should go in with an open mind," said Mbekeani, recently appointed by his bank to help find ways to support the zone that stretches from Egypt down to South Africa and from Angola across to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. The bank would like to see a continentwide free trade zone, and sees the south and east bloc — which accounts for half the continent's population and GDP — as an important step in that direction.
In the early days, Mbekeani said, some countries will want to establish tariff and other barriers. He said barriers should be temporary, and while they are in place, countries should be strengthening their economies.
In a speech to the summit Sunday, the leader of Swaziland, King Mswati III, expressed some of the misgivings of countries like his, with among the smallest populations and weakest economies in the zone. Mswati called for negotiations to proceed cautiously.
"We should not compete, but complement one another so that we can all share in its success," the king said.
Host South Africa is the continent's economic powerhouse, but has high levels of unemployment and poverty. President Jacob Zuma, in his address to the summit, said the zone will help neighbors work together to alleviate poverty and build industrial capacity.
"There is no single country that can prosper on its own," Zuma said.
The zone brings together members of the Southern African Development Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the East African Community. Officials envision members lobbying together for aid and investment, presenting coherent and integrated plans. Plans for the zone include joint projects to improve roads and rail networks and power supply.
Zuma said a first phase of negotiations on allowing the free movement of goods were expected to take three years under the framework he and other leaders signed Sunday. Future negotiations will tackle trade in services and other issues. He also commended planners for recognizing the need to build manufacturing capacity and infrastructure.
"Regional and continental infrastructure development is of fundamental importance," Zuma said.
Rob Davies, South Africa's trade minister, said the three trade blocs behind the free trade agreement have a combined population of 533 million, or 57 percent of the combined population of African Union member states, and a combined GDP of $833 billion, or 58 percent of the continent's GDP.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Funds log-jammed with Pakistan findings on Bin Laden

World Bank team due in Pakistan on Friday

The World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank had postponed their visits, all citing security risks caused by Bin Laden’s killings. – File Photo 

WASHINGTON: The World Bank is sending a delegation to 
Islamabad on Friday, ending a temporary travel ban on Pakistan 
imposed after Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s killing in a 
US raid last week.

International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank also are expected to send their delegations soon, diplomatic sources told Dawn.
An IMF delegation was scheduled to arrive in Pakistan in the first week of May to review economic and policy developments, and discuss the budget for the fiscal 2011-12.
The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank also had postponed similar visits; all citing security risks caused by Bin Laden’s killings.
But the UNDP, which determines security risks for international organisations, has since reduced its security alert level for Pakistan, enabling the World Bank, IMF and ADB to reschedule their visits.
Last year, the IMF withheld $3.5 billion from an $11.3 billion loan package for Pakistan in a bid to persuade Pakistani authorities to cut their budget deficit.
Pakistan hoped that the talks would lead to a possible deal on the disbursement of the much needed loan. The World Bank, however, has assured Pakistan that the delay would not affect loan disbursements for development and social projects. Funding for rebuilding of areas devastated by massive flooding last year would also continue, the bank said.
The IMF – a major donor to Pakistan – worries that unless the Pakistani government boosts tax revenue, its economy may unravel through escalating inflation. Now, the government finances much of its budget by borrowing from the central bank – essentially printing money.
Bin Laden’s discovery in a compound in Abbottabad has further increased Pakistan’s economic concerns. US lawmakers have urged the Obama administration to reconsider billions of dollars of US military and economic assistance to Pakistan over Osama bin Laden’s presence in a garrison town close to Islamabad.
But Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh told reporters in Islamabad on Saturday that the United States would not suspend its assistance to Pakistan over the dispute.
“There is no threat to the assistance because economic relations with the US are at government to government level,” he said.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Natural gas boosted due to crisis in Japan

It's too soon to know the outcome of the crisis at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant. But watching the events in Japan has already had a profound impact on public perceptions world-wide in at least two ways.
Most obviously, it has deepened popular concerns about the safety of nuclear power. But it has also underlined how dependent modern life in even the richest countries in the world is on a continuous, reliable supply of electricity.
Across Europe, governments and publics were beginning to forget the trauma of another traumatic nuclear event that happened 25 years ago next month. The Chernobyl disaster triggered a prejudice against nuclear energy in most European countries, save France, that has only recently begun to dissipate. Across the Continent, government had reversed decisions to phase out nuclear power.
"The half-life of the Chernobyl in its impact on policy and public opinion seemed to have been passed," say Daniel Yergin, Washington-based energy specialist and chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Association.
"Europe was moving back to nuclear power, particularly for reasons of diversification, and very strongly driven by the low carbon agenda," he says.
That appears to have changed abruptly. The government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel temporarily shut down seven old nuclear reactors, and said it hadn't decided whether to restart them in three months' time. Across Europe, life extensions of older plants and decisions to build new plants have been called into question.
The nuclear industry has fought back. Keith Parker, chief executive of the U.K. Nuclear Industry Association, noted that "the largest-ever recorded earthquake in Northern Europe is many thousand times smaller than the earthquake in Japan," adding that British plants didn't use the same technology as that which failed in Japan.
But, despite such efforts, analysts argue that, by a greater or lesser margin, nuclear energy appears destined in the medium to long term to take a smaller role in Europe's electricity generation mix than appeared likely a few weeks ago. In 2010, nuclear-power generation accounted for just over a quarter of Europe's power, a slightly higher proportion than both gas and coal. Oil and renewables, including hydro, accounted for just over a fifth.
The immediate impact of the German shutdown will be to bring old mothballed coal-fired power stations on stream, increasing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, analysts say. Perhaps Germany can pull in some electricity from its neighbors, like France, and its nuclear-power plants that produce more than three-quarters of its electricity.
But longer term, what? Despite a push to increase power generated from renewable sources such as solar and wind power, the wind doesn't blow all the time even in Northern Europe, and the sun is notoriously elusive. Renewables aren't cheap either, in part because they need other methods of power generation to back them up because they generate intermittently.
Despite improved technologies, coal is still a relatively dirty fuel, while switching to oil in a $100-a-barrel world doesn't seem appealing either. But there is a fuel that's plentiful, and becoming more so, emits significantly less carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour generated than coal, and where power stations can be built and online in a relatively short time: natural gas.
"Natural gas may end up having a much bigger role in power generation in Europe than people were expecting a couple of years ago," says Mr. Yergin.
That's partly because there is a lot of it about. The development of technology to extract so-called unconventional or shale gas out of sedimentary rock has resulted in a sharp increase in U.S. production of natural gas.
This has displaced liquefied natural gas from other parts of the world, including the Middle East, that would have gone to the U.S. but now has to find buyers in other parts of the world. World spot prices have, partly as a result, fallen sharply in recent years.
Europe is also looking to increase pipelined supplies of natural gas from the east, to diversify away from its current dependence on Russia.
And there's a joker in the pack: Europe's own, as yet untapped, supplies of unconventional gas. One industry insider says companies that have found such gas are not advertising it, but Mr. Yergin says his organization has done a study of 55 potential unconventional gas plays "that shows Europe has almost as much unconventional gas as North America."
Whether all of this would be exploitable on a more crowded land mass is another question. Nonetheless, all these developments should mean that European Union is likely to foresee a larger role for natural gas in its electricity generation plans than it has until now.
There is still a virtue in diversification, however. With nuclear-power stations in Japan closing down, at least some permanently, LNG supplies have been diverted to Japan for power generation there.
World prices are likely to move higher. That illustrates the risks of putting all Europe's power-generation eggs in one basket. It suggests that, even on a Continent now more averse to nuclear power, it will remain part of the energy mix for many years to come.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

African Development Bank to support infrastructures projects in South Sudan


March 1, 2011 (JUBA) - The African Development Bank (ADB) is ready to provide support to the emerging independent state of South Sudan in the development of its various infrastructures, says the bank’s Country & Policies Vice President, Aloysius Ordu.
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Aloysius Uche Ordu, Country & Policies Vice President , African Development Bank (ADB)
ADB would give more financial and technical support in the area of capacity building, good governance and poverty reduction.
This came in a meeting on Tuesday in Juba between the visiting Ordu and the Vice President of South Sudan, Riek Machar Teny.
As part of the ADB’s traditional support to fragile states in Africa, Machar also appealed for support to initiatives of peace building and reconciliations among the populations in the region, which he said were traumatised by the 21 years of war, cattle rustling and tribal conflicts.
He also stressed on the importance of prioritising support to agriculture and livestock sectors in the region.
The region’s Vice President said his government has been under pressure, trying to manage what he said were the “very high expectations” of the people of the new state.
“Our people need compensation for the losses in war,” he said, adding that the compensations should be in form of service delivery in health, education, food security, clean water and electrical coverage sectors, among others. The region will not “turn into Dubai overnight”, he acknowledged, but gave assurance that his government would do its best to gradually meet the expectations of the people.
With a mandate to promote economic and social development in Africa, Ordu, also assured that South Sudan can also qualify to become member of the African Development Bank as the 54th country in Africa after its official independence in July 2011.
The Bank’s delegation will further discuss the details of their support with the minister of Finance and Economic Planning, David Deng Athorbei.
ADB is a financial institution of 53 African and 24 non-African countries which promotes economic and social progress in Africa through loans, equity investments and technical assistance. Structurally, the ADB Group includes the African Development Bank, the African Development Fund and the Nigeria Trust Fund.
Established in 1964 and headquartered Tunisia, ADB has provided a cumulative US$55 billion in loans and grants in Africa.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Soros joins private equity heavy in clean energy fund

February 24, 2011 12:39 PM PST

There have been hundreds of green technology start-ups funded by venture capitalists but a new fund with an impressive pedigree is looking to scale up clean energy technologies.
Private equity company Silver Lake today said that it has joined with George Soros' Soros Fund Management to create Lake Kraftwerk, a fund designed for late-stage investments in energy technology companies.
Former Foundation Capital venture capitalist Adam Grosser will head the fund. Cathy Zoi, which recently resigned as acting under secretary of Energy at the Department of Energy and assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, is part of the investment team.
Silver Lake Kraftwerk will focus on companies involved in energy efficiency, waste and emissions reduction, renewable energy, and better use of natural resources.
The point is to provide "growth capital" for companies that already have developed technology and a proven business model, Grosser said in an interview today. It will stay away from traditional project finance, the type of investments used to finance building new factories.
Specific areas that Silver Lake Kraftwerk expects to invest in are in the grid, such as sensors or software for more efficient operation, Grosser said. Efficient LED lighting, low-carbon content building materials, and alternative solar technologies are also of interest as well as remediation methods for the coal and oil industries, he said.
There have been billions of dollars of venture capital invested in the clean tech category in the past decade but there have only been a handful of companies which have successfully gone public and remain profitable, in part because energy businesses are typically require lots of capital to get to large scale.
Investors often say there's a funding gap between the money that's needed to develop products and get first customers and capital to expand. Grosser said that Silver Lake Kratwerk aims to be the "last money" in before a company is self sustaining.

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