United Arab Emirates – Morocco deal to hold Annual Investment Meeting (AIM), Africa Chapter, in Marrakesh

United Arab Emirates – Morocco deal to hold Annual Investment Meeting (AIM), Africa Chapter, in Marrakesh from 29-31 October 2017
AIM seeks to penetrate Africa to boost FDI in the Dark Continent
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, January 30, 2017/ — Dawood Al Shezawi, CEO of Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) (www.AIMCongress.com) Organizing Committee, signed today a strategic MoU with HE Ahmed Akhchichine, President of Marrakech-Safi region, Kingdom of Morocco to organise Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) – Africa Chapter, in Marrakesh on 29-31 October 2017 under the theme “The Future Investment Landscape of Africa: Sustainable Investment through Innovation and Partnership”.

The MoU was signed along number of officials from the Annual Investment Meeting and Marrakech Safi. By the virtue of this agreement, Marrakech will be the first to host Annual Investment Meeting outside the UAE, so that AIM can drive direct international investments to the continent and other promising markets in Africa. AIM reflects the UAE-Moroccan economic cooperation in particular and UAE-Africa cooperation in general.

Prior to its being held in Morocco, the 7th Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) is set to run from April 2-4, 2017, at the Dubai World Trade Center, under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, with the theme “International Investment, Path to Competitiveness and Development”.

“We are delighted with our new partnership and the signing of the agreement with Marrakech Safi to host the Annual Investment Meeting for the first time outside the UAE. This reflects the prospering UAE–Morocco relations, especially at the economic level and direct investments. The agreement also demonstrates the great importance attached by international and UAE investors for the African market and their quest to expand investment there, which was evident over the past few years through numerous visits by delegations of the investment companies to a number of African countries,” said Dawood Al Shezawi.

Akhchichine commented: “As the host destination for the Annual Investment Meeting, Marrakech-Safi believes this is a great opportunity for the Kingdom of Morocco to boost its presence on the map of international investment and diversify the aspects of direct investment into the country and other African countries. This will provide new avenues for the diversification of industries, which is already pursued by the major global investment companies, led by leading UAE companies.”

“AIM – Africa Chapter 2017 will include a number of events, workshops and meetings between investors and government delegations as exhibitors will showcase the latest projects in the African continent, which represents enhance investment opportunities and present them to potential international investors. In addition, AIM will include organizing special trips to many locations within the city of Marrakech to promote tourism to strategic partners,” added Akhchichine.

Al Shezawi added: “Organising the debut of AIM in the Kingdom of Morocco in Marrakech-Safi is an important step as it will be hosted by Africa’s most dynamic markets. AIM will provide an attractive environment for reviewing promising African investment opportunities in many of the countries that have begun to achieve significant economic growth rates and become eager to attract more direct investments into diverse sectors.”

“AIM – Africa Chapter 2017 will provide an integral platform for the meeting of the world’s top investors and government officials from African countries to participate, enabling exchange of information on procedures, investment laws and convergence of views in order to provide a favorable environment for strengthening of relations that would stimulate more investment and address many of the issues and activities related to direct investment,” he added.

Al Shezawi stressed the important role of the UAE and its effective presence in the African market. The strong economic relations between the UAE and Morocco was evident over the last few years with the signing of 8 bilateral agreements, 11 agreements and four cooperation protocols covering many areas, including, for example, the establishment of a free trade zone between the two countries, an agreement on economic and trade cooperation in the field of telecommunications and information technology. In addition, UAE was the first investor in the Casablanca Stock Exchange in 2014, with an investment of 55 billion Moroccan dirhams.

He referred to many economic and investment areas between the UAE and Morocco, especially in renewable energy and green economy, and sustainable development.

The UAE – Africa relations have taken a new approach in the area of direct investments, which certainly will be supported by the Annual Investment Meeting in Marrakech. According to latest indicators, UAE is the fourth largest source of FDI projects in Africa in 2014, while United States still accounts for the largest share of the total direct investment projects in the continent. The retail trade is the biggest area for investments for UAE companies in Africa, especially in Egypt, where UAE investments reached $ 2.3 billion.

Africa is growing rapidly, with immense natural resources and favorable demographics, technology acceleration and intention to join the global financial system, attracting significant international interest.

Becoming the Champion: Speech by IMF Chief Christine Lagarde

Kampala, Uganda
January 27, 2017

Good afternoon.

Nsanyuse okubalaba. I am pleased to be with you.

Thank you to the Government of Uganda for hosting this event and to Minister Kasaija for his kind introduction.

This gathering provides an opportunity to congratulate Uganda for its impressive economic achievements and to speak about the possibilities of the future.

I do not normally begin my speeches with statistics, but today will be an exception. That is because the numbers tell us a great deal: Uganda has experienced a threefold increase in per capita GDP over the past generation. And you have reduced extreme poverty to one-third of the population.

This made Uganda one of the countries that has more than achieved the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015.

This is an African success story.

Yet as I listen to people here in Kampala, I hear a note of concern. I hear that progress is no longer coming fast enough, and that millions of Ugandans still live in poverty. Growth has lagged—partly because of global circumstances beyond Uganda’s control.

But this is not just a matter of global demand. Uganda is grappling with challenges familiar to many developing countries.

This contrast of success and uncertainty speaks to me of last year’s movie “Queen of Katwe,” a story about Uganda that so captivated international audiences. You will recall that in the film, the young chess master, Phiona, poses two questions:

First she asks: “Can you do big things from such a small place?”
I believe that Uganda already has answered that with a resounding “Yes!”
Phiona’s second question looks to the future: “How can I become the champion?”
This is the challenge you face. The policies that Uganda chooses today will determine whether you are on a road to overcome poverty and provide opportunities to all Ugandans.

So in the time I have with you, I would like to address how Uganda can rise to the challenge of development, and become a champion. To this end, I will address the global and regional economic landscape, within which Uganda can build and sustain development momentum with the support of the IMF its longstanding partner.

1. The Global and Regional Economic Setting

Let us begin with the big picture. Sub-Saharan Africa is increasingly integrated into the global economy. The region weathered the 2008 global financial crisis in large measure because it had pursued sensible policies that reduced debt and built up ample reserves. It also helped that demand for natural resources from China and other emerging market countries quickly rebounded.

In the past few years, however, the wind has turned. Emerging market demand has slowed significantly, and many advanced economies continue to struggle. Commodity prices have fallen sharply. Access to market financing has tightened.

While there are recent signs that global growth may be picking up, there are still serious risks. These include rising protectionist sentiment. Restrictions on trade are never helpful, but they would be even more damaging now, given that global trade has slowed since 2012.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s growth in 2016 was the lowest in 20 years at about 1.5 percent, and is projected to reach only 2.7 percent in 2017. Commodity exporters have experienced a particularly rapid deceleration.

The policy response in many African countries has been delayed and incomplete. So the end result has been uncertainty. Private investment is falling, stifling new sources of growth.

But so far, it has been a tale of two Africa’s. Notably, East Africa has been one of the region’s brighter spots. This is partly because policy frameworks have been more effective, and also because its more diversified economies are less reliant on volatile commodities. The end result has been stronger growth. But, here too, challenges remain.

Uganda fits right in the middle of this group of East African countries: growth has hovered at about 5 percent a year—better than many, but not enough to spur the swift development that is so needed. With increased infrastructure investment and the oil sector moving forward, growth could accelerate to 6 or 6½ percent in the coming years. The question is how can Uganda seize opportunities to sustain strong growth?

2. How Uganda Can Build and Sustain Development Momentum

I would like to highlight several key areas where economic policies can make a difference.

a. Investment in Infrastructure
First is investment in infrastructure.

You are, of course, all too familiar with Uganda’s infrastructure bottlenecks, especially in electricity and transportation. I could see the challenge myself just traveling from the airport in Entebbe to Kampala.

Under-developed infrastructure is a permanent brake on growth. It prevents businesses from connecting to local, regional, and global markets, and limits their willingness to invest. Ultimately, infrastructure bottlenecks will slow the structural transformation and industrialization that Uganda aspires to.

The government’s strategy to scale up infrastructure investment is well conceived. It is intended to lift growth while maintaining debt at a sustainable level.

But to achieve these goals means that investment must be efficient. That calls for strong institutions to keep mismanagement in check and ensure maximum value for money. There is work to be done. The World Bank has estimated that, if Uganda’s investments were better managed, annual growth could be 2.5 percentage points higher.
The good news is that the government is taking steps in this direction. Reforms aimed at strengthening investment management are being put in place. There is a new emphasis on efficiency.

Increasing resources for investment is another issue. Relying on borrowing alone to finance infrastructure would be unworkable because debt would become too high. More revenue from taxes needs to be mobilized.

Here again, there has been some progress, with tax revenue increasing in the past few years. Even so, Uganda is still only halfway to the East African Community’s goal of raising tax revenue equal to 25 percent of GDP.

What more might be done? One concrete measure might be to strengthen VAT administration and remove some exemptions on the VAT and corporate income tax. The IMF estimates that this could raise revenue by 3 percent of GDP or more.

b. Governance and Institutions
These issues of investment and taxation point to a common theme: the quality of Uganda’s governance and institutions. As we all know, good governance and strong institutions are cornerstones of economic growth.

Improvements in this area have been at the heart of Africa’s economic success over the past 20 years. Uganda’s track record also has been strong. But there is no room for complacency, especially as your country’s oil sector develops.

If oil is to contribute positively to Uganda’s future, then it is essential to avoid the “curse” that has plagued many other oil exporters. A strong transparency and accountability framework will go a long way toward ensuring that the new oilfields serve the national good and benefit all Ugandans.

You already have well-designed plans to channel all oil revenue to the Petroleum Fund, and from there to budget support and the Petroleum Investment Reserve. The IMF is ready to continue assisting you in this area, in preparation for the day oil begins to flow.

c. Regional Economic Integration
Regional economic integration is another policy area that can make a big difference for Uganda’s economy. Opportunities for trade and investment abound within the East African Community and its market of more than 150 million consumers.

Last November, the IMF co-hosted a conference in Arusha to take stock of the EAC’s progress and discuss what needs to be done to realize the full potential of a united bloc.

The Single Customs Territory has been established, and the Common Market is advancing. But infrastructure continues to constrain progress, and more work remains to be done on customs, taxes, and investment. If these issues can be addressed, the East African Community can emerge as a true source of economic dynamism.

In addition, there is another “community” emerging in Africa: the community of cross-border banks. Some are Pan-African Banks. Others are regional institutions, as in East Africa.

These African banks have moved into the space vacated by other international banks that withdrew from the region after the global financial crisis. This offers new opportunities for countries such as Uganda. But it also presents new challenges for bank regulation and supervision that require unprecedented cooperation.

So far, I have focused on infrastructure, institutions and regional integration. What does that leave?

d. Inclusive Growth
Perhaps the most important policy challenge of all: inclusive growth. I started by pointing to Uganda’s achievements in poverty reduction. If this trend can be continued, there will be clear benefits.

It will not be easy. I recognize that there will always be competing demands. Governments constantly need to balance priorities. For Uganda, even as investment is ramped up, it is essential to make resources available for social spending.

IMF research shows that more inclusive societies tend to grow faster and more sustainably. If inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa could be reduced to the levels of Southeast Asia, growth could be consistently higher. New research that we are releasing today focuses on the relationship between inequality and reforms in key areas such as fiscal policy, the financial sector policy and agriculture.

Reducing inequality requires several things: good jobs for young people, a strong emphasis on education and health care, and assistance to the poor, including a social safety net.

Queen of Katwe showed how this works by illustrating the importance of mentoring in a girl’s life. So we need to ask: How many young people are there in Uganda who might shine, given the chance? How many young women would excel on a level playing field? Indeed, I would argue that equality is as much about gender as it is about income!

Financial inclusion is also key to overcoming inequality. Uganda has made considerable progress in this area, including through the spread of mobile banking. But it still lags behind other East African countries when looking at how many adults have bank accounts. And Ugandan women have much less access to banking than men.

There is so much more that can be done to achieve inclusive growth.

3. How the IMF Can Work with Uganda

In all of these key policy areas, the IMF is ready to help. We have a very strong working relationship with Uganda—and I would like our partnership to become even stronger in the future.

At present, the core of our cooperation comes under our Policy Support Instrument, which provides a framework for many of the issues that I have been discussing.

Another crucial area of IMF support is technical assistance and training—capacity development. In Uganda, we are supporting your government’s effort to improve tax administration, public financial management, and financial sector stability, among other areas. We are trying to help as much as possible. We are at your service.

4. Conclusion

In conclusion, it is clear that the challenges Uganda faces are substantial: infrastructure investment, stronger governance, regional integration, and a focus on social programs that can reduce inequality.

If you tackle these challenges, you can spur stronger growth that creates good jobs for your young people. You can lay the foundation for continued success.

During my visit I have been impressed by Uganda’s energy and entrepreneurial spirit. I sense that Kampala is a hotbed of start-ups and innovators. Given the right environment, including good infrastructure and a skilled work force, these businesses can strike a spark that could spread throughout the Ugandan economy.

This is where hope comes from.

We look forward to continuing our partnership with you so that Uganda can sustain hope and emerge as a Champion!

Mwebale nyo! Asante sana! Thank you!

AfDB signs loan agreements to finance Busega-Mpigi express highway project linking Uganda and Rwanda

Uganda’s Minister of Finance Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija, and Gabriel Negatu, East Africa Regional Development and Business Delivery Office Director General, signed African Development Bank and African Development Fund loan agreements of US $151 million for the Multinational Uganda-Rwanda Busega-Mpigi express highway project on December 29, 2016.

The loans will help finance the construction of a 23.7-kilometre four-lane express highway on a new alignment with four grade-separated interchanges. The ceremony was held at the Ministry of Finance and attended by Monica Azuba Ntege, Minister of Works and Transport, officials from the Ministries of Finance and Works and the Uganda National Roads Authority.

Matia Kasaija thanked Negatu for expediting the loans signature. He expressed appreciation for the Bank’s support and pointed out the strategic importance of the road in improving the transport services in central Uganda and its contribution to regional integration. He urged the executing agency to ensure timely implementation and pledged Government’s commitment to meet the counterpart obligations as well as ensuring compliance with safeguard requirements.

Negatu thanked the Minister and commended the Government of Uganda’s commitment to the development of infrastructure in the country. He pointed out that the Busega-Mpigi express highway project will cost US $192 million, with Bank financing of US $151 million. In addition to the civil works, the project has components for capacity building for Ministry of Works and Transport, training and capacity building for cross-border women traders at Mirama Hills and vendors (mainly women and youth in Busega Market). He further stated that, given the high traffic volume on the project road, the project will have an Operations and Maintenance Concession in order to address the project future maintenance requirements.

On the ongoing project, the AfDB Director General called up on for more efforts in order to ensure that the observed delays are avoided in future. With respect to this project, the Director General emphasized the importance of fulfilling the loan conditions for disbursement effectiveness as soon as possible, as this affects the processing of Kapchorwa-Suam.

The Minister of Works also thanked the Bank for its support in improving transport in the country.

African Development Bank Group approves €200 million loan to support Gabon’s reform program

Oil price decline puts economic prospects at risk

Reforms aim at consolidation of public finances and structural transformation

Loan, first tranche of €500 million package

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved a € 200 million loan to Gabon, to support the country’s economic and financial reforms programme (EFRSP). The loan aims to revive economic growth by strengthening the sustainability of public finances, as well as the structural transformation of the economy in a context marked by the recent oil price decline, which has seriously hit the economy.

This loan is the first of two programme-based General Budget Support (GBS) operations covering the 2016-17 period for an indicative total financing of €500 million supporting the implementation of reforms aimed at unlocking Gabon’s significant growth potential.

“We look at this operations within discussions we had with the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States (CEMAC), and think, this is our response to the fall in oil price that has had a significant impact on Gabon’s economy. This is a great support we are providing the country, in collaboration with other development partners,” Bank Group President, Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina highlighted, also underscoring that: “What we need most is to look at things comprehensively and help our countries to implement the H5s.”

Gabon has experienced strong economic growth during the first implementation phase of the emerging Gabon Strategic Plan (EGSP), with the economy growing at an average of 6% (2010-2014). Growth was driven by an increase in the public investment rate estimated at 22 % of the budget, particularly in the infrastructure, as well as construction and services sectors. However, emergence of fiscal and external imbalances, compounded by the lack of economic diversification, has put Gabon’s prospects at risks. Falling oil revenues have resulted in a growth slowdown, with real GDP growth down to 4% in 2015 against 5% in 2014.

Declining oil prices have also weakened macroeconomic stability of Gabon, through the negative impact on public finances, external balances and public debt. These have also highlighted the vulnerabilities of a hydrocarbon-dependent growth model and public spending. The shock, in terms of trade, also affected the external position which moved from a surplus of 7.8% of GDP in 2014 to a deficit of 0.2% in 2015. As regards public finance, the fall in oil prices has significantly reduced the headroom to support growth and helped to compound the risks to fiscal sustainability. Gabon relies heavily on oil. In 2014, the hydrocarbons sector still accounted for about 40% of GDP, 45% of government revenues and almost 85% of exports.

The government’s economic reform program seeks to shift from a hydrocarbon-based growth model with limited impact on poverty reduction, to a more diversified, inclusive, job-creating and private-sector-led growth model. In this context, the EFRSP aims to (i) strengthen fiscal consolidation through increased revenue mobilisation and expenditure rationalization with a particular emphasis on enhancing payroll and public debt control, as well as public investment effectiveness; (ii) support economic diversification through improving the investment climate, access to finance and agricultural sector competitiveness.

Beyond the macroeconomic imbalances, Gabon’s economy faces major challenges, including weak diversification of its productive base due to the unattractive investment climate and the deficit of basic infrastructure (roads and rural tracks, market infrastructure, energy, water, ICT …) essential to stimulate production. In addition, the low level of access to finance, especially to SMEs, as well as the lack of competitiveness of the agricultural sector which could serve as an alternative to falling oil prices – to support growth and employment – are major impediments to the country’s economic growth.

The proposed operation meets Gabon’s need to build the foundation of a diversified economic, sustainable and inclusive growth. It is part of the country’s national development policy, the Emerging Gabon Strategic Plan “EGSP” and contributes to the implementation of the Bank’s Ten-Year Strategy and three of its High 5s, in particular “Feed Africa” and “Industrialise Africa” and “Improve the living conditions of the people of Africa”. The EFRSP is also consistent with the Bank’s strategy on governance and private sector development as well as the Bank’s Agricultural Transformation Strategy for Africa, and the Jobs for Youth in Africa strategy.

Source: Africa Development Bank

First Batch of SGR Freight Locomotives Docks in Mombasa

The first batch of the freight locomotives for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) arrived in the country this week ready for the line testing process later on in this 1st quarter, ahead of the planned launch date of June 1st 2017.

Six locomotives docked at the port, four of which are freight locomotives of the model DF8B diesel locomotive. This is the main traction locomotive model of the Chinese railway system, with locomotive power of 3100KW and a maximum speed of 100 km/h.

Once the SGR is operational, this locomotive will be the main force serving freight transportation needs on the entire railway. Also expected are 2 DF7G shunting locomotives with 1550KW power, which together with the freight locomotives, will be used for marshalling and dispatching locomotives and rolling stock within stations.

There will be a total of 56 locomotives manufactured by CRRC Corporation in operation on the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR route.

The entire fleet is expected to be in the country by mid-year and will arrive in four batches. The fleet, when complete, will consist of three models: passenger, freight and shunting locomotives. There will be five DF11 passenger locomotives, 43 DF8B freight locomotives and eight DF7G locomotives.

The DF8B heavy-duty diesel locomotive, which just arrived at Mombasa Port is the classic model with an AC-DC transmission Diesel-Electric, high-power engine. It is widely used for both passenger and freight, and boasts a domestic market share of 60 per cent in China. The DF11 passenger locomotive represents the realization of high-speed passenger transportation in China. It is the highest scientific and technological achievement by the Chinese diesel locomotive industry, and will arrive at Mombasa Port by the end of January, together with the second batch of locomotives and rolling stock equipment.

The DF11, DF8B and DF7G diesel locomotive models represent the highest levels of Chinese diesel locomotive technology. They have played a key role in the sixth nationwide train speed-up campaign in China.

According to the CRBC, the three locomotive models have been customized for Kenya’s tropical savannah climate, operational environment and future maintenance requirements, based on the results of field investigations carried out by Kenya Railways, CRBC and the locomotive manufacturer CRRC Corporation along the SGR line.

The next critical segment of the project involves the construction of high-quality stations, signalling, communication and electricity works, to ensure the operation of the SGR line in time to contribute to Kenya’s socio-economic development and prosperity.

Under construction by CRBC, the Nairobi-Mombasa SGR line, which runs from Mombasa Port, East Africa’s biggest, is the first green-field railway line in Kenya in the last century. Significant progress has been made since commencement. The construction of sub-grade, bridge, culverts and main line track-laying is nearly complete. The installation of signalling, communication and electricity systems, and station building has come to an end. The preparation for full railway operation is currently underway. It is expected that the railway will start operations from June this year.


January 10, 2017, Nairobi

Struggling carrier Kenya Airways has announced that it is sending home 38 people in its continuing “operation pride’ strategy which among other measures proposed a right sizing aimed at reducing over heads.

Phase one of the staff rationalisation which happened in July 2016 affected about 80 staff members . The Airline issued a notice to right size through staff redundancies and redeployment.

The next Phase of the exercise impacts 38 staff members and will commence today, 10th January 2017.

‘Operation pride’ focuses on closing the profitability gap, refocusing the business model as well as optimizing the capital structure of the company.

“After implementation of Phase 1 of the restructuring process, we continued looking for opportunities for productivity and efficiency gains as well as upskilling within the business. After a lot of consultation the next phase of the process is now ready to be rolled out. There is never a perfect timing for such actions, and we will ensure that the process is handled within the values of our Airline,” said Group Managing Director & CEO Mbuvi Ngunze.

1000 disabled Africans to receive free treatment in India through the #OperationRehab initiative

According to a Statistics South Africa report based on the last census, over 2.8 million people suffer from some form of disability in South Africa alone and around 600,000 are listed as severely disabled
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, January 10, 2017/ —

Over 2.8 million people suffer from some form of disability in South Africa alone and around 600,000 are listed as severely disabled, according to a report based on the last census
The first beneficiary of #OperationRehab has returned to South Africa with a new prosthetic leg
#OperationRehab aims to revolutionise the delivery of healthcare and education to disabled people in Africa by offering free or heavily subsidised medical treatment, rehabilitation, education and skills development to thousands of disabled Africans over the next few years, starting in South Africa.

The initiative will empower the beneficiaries, reduce the financial burden on their families and contribute to Africa’s economic growth.

#OperationRehab is modelled on the stellar work of the Disable Welfare Trust of India located in Gujarat State. The Disable Welfare Trust is a highly successful initiative offering free medical treatment, rehabilitation and vocational training to hundreds of underprivileged children in India. To date, the Trust has treated and educated more than 4,000 children. The Trust’s founder, Shree Kanubhai Tailor, is a noted philanthropist and disabled people’s champion.

Shree Kanubhai Tailor will lend his expertise to the #OperationRehab project and oversee the replication of the Trust’s model in South Africa in partnership with local government officials, disabled people’s groups and corporate funders. The initiative is led by South African marketing and advertising agency Media Revolution as a part of its corporate social responsibility programme. Media Revolution has teamed up with Shree Kanubhai Tailor to allow thousands of beneficiaries to fly to India for treatment. The pair will also work to create treatment and rehabilitation centres in South Africa.

Dharmesh Nagar, Strategy Director at Media Revolution, notes that the project aims to restore dignity and empower those who are disabled. “At #Operation Rehab, we help the poorest of the poor and help restore their dignity. Through the donation of medical treatment and assistive devices, we empower disabled people to take their place in the workforce and relieve them and their families of a significant financial burden. With the support of donors, beneficiaries are given hope and a new future.

In India, the Disable Welfare Trust is able to treat thousands of disabled people at no charge, thanks to the generous support of its sponsors. We hope to see South African and African companies stepping forward with a similar level of support.”

The first beneficiary of #OperationRehab, 55-year-old Sharad Narsai of Lenasia, returned to South Africa just before Christmas with the ultimate Christmas gift: a new, life-changing prosthetic leg. Speaking of his experience, Narsai said “I had never before experienced care on the level received at the Disable Welfare Trust centre.”

“It is mind-blowing and completely exceeded my expectations,” he added. “I have never been treated with such care and respect at a healthcare facility. And it is truly heart-warming to see how well the centre cares for the disabled children who are resident there. Many of them were abandoned by their parents because of their disabilities, but at the Disable Welfare Trust they are happy, loved and well-educated. The full-time art teacher at the centre’s school has no arms so he paints using his mouth. One young woman who spent her entire childhood there is now a qualified doctor and still goes back to work with the children. These success stories would not have been possible without the Disable Welfare Trust’s good work. South Africa desperately needs a facility like this,” declared Narsai.

According to a Statistics South Africa (http://APO.af/gqdOpi) report based on the last census, over 2.8 million people suffer from some form of disability in South Africa alone and around 600,000 are listed as severely disabled. This highlights the urgent need to empower disabled people and bring them into the mainstream of education and work so that they can continue to contribute to society, in line with the goals of President Jacob Zuma’s Presidential Working Group on Disability (http://APO.af/wFC4Yi).

The #OperationRehab initiative calls all like-minded organisations, companies and individuals to join forces and advance the goal of creating a highly efficient treatment, rehabilitation and vocational centre for disabled people in Africa.

All new partners and sponsors will benefit from the expertise of South African marketing and advertising agency Media Revolution to publicise and promote their role in restoring livelihoods and improving the lives of disabled people in Afri

Africa is still a difficult region for paying taxes – PwC

Economies around the world continue to make progress in simplifying and reducing the burden of tax compliance on business, according to the latest edition of Paying Taxes 2017, a report by the World Bank Group and PwC.

The Paying Taxes 2017 report examines the ease of paying taxes in 190 economies.

In an expanded analysis this year, the report finds that for some economies, post-filing processes for value-added tax (VAT) and corporate income tax (CIT) returns could be among the most challenging and lengthy processes for businesses to comply with. In some cases, the length of the processes can create cash flow and administrative delays for companies of more than a year.

The reduction in the global average for time to comply of 8 hours is higher than in recent years reflecting ongoing improvements in electronic tax systems, and in particular as a result of reforms implemented in Brazil. Similarly, the fall in the payments sub-indicator is largely due to the introduction and use of electronic filing and payment systems, which was the most common feature of tax reform in the past year. The small decrease in the Total Tax Rate results from 44 economies increasing taxes while 38 recorded a reduction. It also represents a combination of a decrease in other taxes offset by small increases in both profit and labour taxes.

Globally, the most common feature of tax reforms in the past year was the introduction or enhancement of electronic systems for filing and paying taxes. Twenty-six economies implemented such changes. Jamaica was the top reformer, reducing the number of payments by 26 to 11.

The new additional research included in the Paying Taxes 2017 study finds the interactions which a company has with tax authorities after a tax return has been filed can be some of the most challenging. The processes vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another.

Overall, this year South Africa’s Paying Taxes ranking declined from position 20 to 51. For the first time, this year’s study has been extended to look at the processes that take place after a tax return has been filed. The new post-filing index measures two processes that might take place after filing: claiming a VAT refund, and correcting an error on a corporate income tax (CIT) return including going through an audit when applicable. This is the primary reason why South Africa’s ranking has declined substantially, explains Kyle Mandy, Tax Policy Leader for PwC South Africa. In South Africa it takes 26 weeks for a company to obtain a VAT refund. “However, much of this poor performance in the context of a scenario such as the one in the case study is due to delays from the point of view of the taxpayer. In a scenario such as this were taxpayers to comply timeously it would significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to obtain a refund. Unfortunately, it is a South African habit, for varying reasons, to take all the time available to respond to information requests from the tax authorities,” adds Mandy.

In South Africa it takes 25.1 weeks for the tax authorities to complete a CIT audit. The country performs relatively well in this regard and is below the world and Africa averages.

The report finds that 162 economies have a VAT system, with a VAT refund available to the case study company in 93 economies. A fast and efficient process can be critical to ensure that a company does not face cash flow difficulties. For economies with a VAT refund system, on average it takes just over 14 hours to make the VAT refund claim, but it then has to wait over 5 months (almost 22 weeks) to receive the refund.

The analysis shows it typically takes less time to comply with a VAT refund in high income economies (almost 8 hours) than in low income economies (almost 27 hours). A VAT refund triggers an audit in 70% of economies, of which over half (58%) will go through a comprehensive audit.

In the Africa region, it takes the case study company 18.5 hours on average to correct the error in the corporate income tax return and comply with any resulting audit. In South Africa, on average it takes a business 14 hours to correct an error in a CIT return. At 2 hours, the most efficient processes are in Seychelles and Tunisia where an audit is unlikely to be triggered and the least efficient is the Central Africa Republic where an audit is likely to take place, the time to comply with the process is 66 hours.

Africa is still a difficult region for paying taxes. It has the highest average number of payments (36.7), and the second highest Total Tax Rate (47.1%) and time to comply (307 hours). The Total Tax Rate continued to increase (due to implementing minimum tax rates and increasing social security contributions). The Total Tax Rates in 28 out of the 53 economies in the region are above the world average.

“South Africa’s Total Tax rate of 28.8% compares favourably with global and regional economies,” says Mandy. “However, it ranks behind some of its regional neighbours such as Botswana (25.1%), Mauritius (21.8%), Namibia (20.7%) and Zambia (18.6%).

South Africa has a relatively high rate of profit taxes of 21.7% which is well above the global and Africa averages of 16.3% and 18.2% respectively. There is the added risk that the total tax rate will increase in future as pressure mounts to introduce new taxes on business to fund increasing spending pressures such as social security reform, NHI and education.

The largest increase in the Total Tax Rate was in Equatorial Guinea (by 32.3 percentage points to 79.4) where the minimum corporate income tax increased from 1% to 3% of turnover. This was the largest increase in the Total Tax Rate of any economy in the world.

The average time to comply in the African region is 307 hours, a reduction of 7 hours compared to 2014. This can be attributed to the increased use and improvement of electronic systems as well as other administrative changes such as upgrading the accounting software, simplifying returns and introducing unique returns in the region. The average for the region remains well above the world average of 251 hours and is exceeded only by South America with 564 hours.

South Africa performs reasonably well (ranked 90) on time to comply, below global and Africa averages. SARS filing and payment systems are generally regarded as user friendly and not overly time consuming. The primary area where improvement could be made is on corporate income tax where South Africa’s time to comply is above the world and Africa averages as a result of significant preparation time required before filing a return, comments Mandy.

Overall, the number of payments in the Africa region remained unchanged. The largest decrease in the payments sub-indicator among the African economies was in Mauritania by 4, but this was offset by increases in the number of payments arising in Rwanda and Tanzania, both by 4. South Africa is still a leader when it comes to the number of tax payments (7) due to the widespread use of electronic payments.

“Taxes are important to the proper functioning of an economy. There is still much room for reform in a number of economies around the world. It is hoped that the introduction of the post-filing index will provide tax authorities and policy makers with a benchmark to assess and measure their processes against other economies and incentivise further reform aimed at reducing the compliance burden,” concludes Mandy.

Namibia comes out top of all African countries featured in Global Entrepreneurship Index Rwanda, Botswana and South Africa fall closely behind

The Ashish J Thakkar Global Entrepreneurship Index of 85 countries ranks Singapore as the best environment for entrepreneurs

Of the African nations, Namibia scores highest and comes 42nd overall – ahead of other prominent African markets, such as Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

The research, conducted by Mara Foundation and Opinium Research, examines the state of entrepreneurship around the world. Inaugural index features special ‘Focus on Africa’ section, with a deeper look at ‘women in the workplace’ and ‘youth unemployment’

Singapore has topped an in-depth study of the world’s nations as offering the best environment for entrepreneurs, according to an Index developed by Mara Foundation (www.Mara-Foundation.org) and Opinium Research.

Download the full report: http://APO.af/cV2YTt

The inaugural Ashish J Thakkar Global Entrepreneurship Index measures entrepreneurial environments around the world and assesses each of its 85 countries against a set of criteria that spans policy, infrastructure, education, entrepreneurial environment and finance.

Top scoring African nations by pillar: http://APO.af/8GSxCV

Of the African nations, Namibia ranks 42nd overall, Rwanda ranks 43rd, Botswana ranks 44th and South Africa ranks 46th – all of which perform well on the ‘Policy’ pillar but have some way to go to improve on their infrastructure and education in particular.

Of the top three African countries in the Index, Namibia and Botswana are stronger on the education pillar because of comparatively higher levels of literacy and quality in education. Both countries have made education central to their development.

Rwanda scores highly on the Policy and Finance Pillars driven by government initiatives to increase the ease of doing business. Credit is easily available and business transparency is high.
Zambia scores particularly well on the Finance Pillar (72). Primarily because of the availability of credit and a low total tax rate.

Zambia, South Africa and Rwanda, the top 3 countries in Africa on the Finance pillar, stand head and shoulders above their peers, with scores of 72, 66 and 65 respectively. This places Zambia in the top 10 of all countries globally on the Finance Pillar, just behind the USA (78).

Significant challenges exist in terms of Africa’s political stability, underdeveloped infrastructure, poor education and under-diversified economies. Comparatively lower scores for infrastructure are primarily driven by a lack of electrical access and the technology that comes with reliable access to energy, such as telecommunications and internet access.

Lower scores for education are due to the overall quality of education and lower literacy rates. Boosting opportunities for a quality education is imperative for increasing the region’s quality of entrepreneurs and start-ups and providing a suitable workforce.

While much of Western Europe does well overall in the Index, Greece and Spain rank relatively low (34th and 50th respectively). Both nations are continuing to reel from the after-effects of the financial crisis, which have been exacerbated by poor levels of entrepreneurial opportunities.

Rona Kotecha, Executive Director, Mara Foundation said: The Ashish J. Thakkar Global Entrepreneurship Index offers a powerful insight into various elements that impact entrepreneurship globally. Whilst Mara Mentor enables and empowers entrepreneurs, the Index and its 20 policy recommendations are designed to provide a starting point for changes that can be implemented to create more effective entrepreneurial environments. This, in turn, will lead to job creation and a positive impact on economies around the world.”

The Ashish J Thakkar Global Entrepreneurship Index 2016 is the brainchild of serial entrepreneur, Ashish J Thakkar, who started his first business at the age of 15. The Index is a Mara Foundation initiative that has been developed with support from independent research consultancy, Opinium, to create a wide-ranging and thorough analysis of the state of entrepreneurship globally.

Ashish J Thakkar, Founder, Mara Group & Mara Foundation said: “Through the work of Mara Group over the past 20 years, I have come to recognise the immense contribution that entrepreneurs make to economies and societies around the world – particularly in relation to job creation. In recent years, however, it has become more and more apparent that governments and the private sector are simply not doing enough to support entrepreneurs in their endeavours. With the creation of this Index, we hope to provide some solid policy recommendations that will help guide discussions and improve entrepreneurial environments globally.”

President Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank said: “I commend Ashish J. Thakkar and the Mara Foundation for creating this timely index. It provides useful insights on how Africa can unlock the potential of its youth and boost entrepreneurship. As populations are aging rapidly in much of the rest of the world, Africa can reap the economic dividends of its growing labor force. Africa is poised to become the next center for entrepreneurship, but we must provide Africa’s youth with the required skills and create an environment that will enable them to become the business leaders of tomorrow.”

Mo Ibrahim, Founding Chairman of Satya Capital Limited, Founder and Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation said: “Entrepreneurs are a great engine for development. In Africa, you need to encourage and create the right environment for their success. I really wish to congratulate The Mara Foundation for developing its important index which is a useful tool for all of us.”

Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder said: “The Mara Foundation has done some great work supporting entrepreneurs all over the world. I’m delighted to see their new entrepreneurship index that will help identify opportunities for business, not-for-profits and Government to work together to create the right environment for entrepreneurs to thrive and to create jobs.”

Customer Satisfaction is More Important Than Ever During the Festive Season

The end of year festive season is almost upon us and for many businesses, especially those in the retail sector, this means the start of the peak activity period. In order to realize revenue targets, as well as offer a shopping experience that attracts a loyal following, it is imperative that retailers, both traditional and online, are properly geared for the expected upsurge in sales that is synonymous with the ‘silly season’.

This is according to Hennie Heymans, CEO of DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa (www.dpDHL.com), who points to the findings in a 2016 study by McKinsey & Company, which indicates that shoppers in the African market are developing and demanding more creative, engaging and integrated shopping experiences from brands. “Multi-channel access points and reliable digital platforms are increasing in importance as consumers continue to look for products that are value for money. Companies must give consumers solid reasons to choose their product or store over alternatives,” he says.

Shoppers based in Africa shop across a number of channels and respondents claimed to have shifted a considerable amount of their spending toward modern retailers and away from the small independent retailers.

During the festive season, a company’s top priority is to make sure that its platforms are effectively managed and prepared to deal with an increased influx of customers. This period is also a highly competitive time for retailers and Heymans comments that supply chain management strategies are critical.

“Retailers need to ensure their supply chain is agile enough to handle the volume spike. To maximize profitability, retailers need quick, smart and cost-effective methods to fulfill orders timeously and accurately across multiple sales channels. Additionally, effective reverse logistics processes are also essential for managing returns to ensure a smooth, hassle-free customer experience. As e-tailers often extend or introduce free shipping offers over the festive season – it’s important for businesses to understand their shipping costs and processes to mitigate any potential shortfalls. Repeat deliveries stemming from incorrect products or address changes can result in additional shipping costs. Customers should also be reminded of potential duties, taxes and additional costs when importing from a site overseas. Ultimately, it’s all about managing expectations and satisfying the customers’ needs.”

Heymans adds that when problems do arise, it is important for businesses to be ready to resolve them effectively. “Customers with queries or complaints should be able to access various escalation channels easily. Access to senior managers should be clearly defined so that customers do not have the added frustration of trying to track down someone who can’t assist them. At DHL Express, we introduced a best-in-class feature on our website which allows customers access to the whole Senior Management team, through our ‘Straight To The Top (STTT)’ initiative. All STTT queries are logged and reported at a country and regional level; these are effective in helping highlight broader issues and we use root-cause analysis to identify solutions,” Heymans says.

Customer experience is what makes or breaks a business. “We’ve been in Africa for over 38 years, and our team of experienced employees, also known as Certified International Specialists, works hard to keep the customer at the center of everything we do. We have a saying at DHL in Africa, where we ‘take it personally’. The only way you can delight a customer is if you take the time to personally understand what they need, and do everything in your power to deliver it,” concludes Heymans.