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U.S. Mercy Corps set to launch Islamic microfinance in Ethiopia



U.S.-based aid agency Mercy Corps has appointed consultancy IFAAS to help launch an Islamic microfinance business in Ethiopia, aiming to offer interest-free products to local communities, the firms said in a joint statement.

Mercy Corps, one of the largest humanitarian organizations delivering aid to conflict zones including Syria, hopes Islamic finance can support financial inclusion efforts in the country.

The appointment follows a study conducted by IFAAS to assess the financial landscape in Ethiopia, a country where around a third of the population of 100 million is Muslim.

“The study carried out by IFAAS into interest-free finance in Ethiopia is instrumental to our financial inclusion work in the country,” said Josh Ling, Director of Financial Inclusion at Mercy Corps.

Mercy Corps work in the project is partly-funded by Britain’s Department for International Development.

IFAAS would assist a local microfinance firm to establish a separate unit known as an Islamic window, which would follow religious guidelines such as a ban on gambling and outright speculation.

Islamic banking has been steadily growing in several parts of the world, particularly the Gulf and Southeast Asia.

But sharia-compliant versions of microcredit, the provision of very small loans to low-income borrowers who lack collateral and a credit history, have been slow to develop. (NAN)

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Mauritius leads Africa in global online shopping rankings, Netherlands first




The Netherlands has placed top of UNCTAD’s Business-to-Consumer (B2C) E-commerce Index for 2018 as the most prepared country in the world for global online shopping. Mauritius leads Africa, ranked 55th.

The new index, released today in Nairobi, Kenya shows that eight of the top ten countries for online shopping are in Europe, with index values extremely close and a range of just four points between first and tenth rank.

The highest-scoring African country on the new B2C E-commerce Index is Mauritius, with a global ranking of 55.

The Netherlands, which ranked third in 2017, ousted Luxembourg, which dropped out of the top ten as a result of a sharp fall in its postal reliability score.

“The Netherlands has high values for most indicators, particularly in secure servers – a proxy for e-commerce shops – where it is top-ranked among all 151 countries included in the index,” Shamika N. Sirimanne, director of UNCTAD’s division on technology and logistics, said.

“The country also has the second highest proportion of online shoppers in the world – 76% of the population aged 15 and older.”

Singapore and Switzerland are in second and third place. Singapore has surged 16 positions since 2017, with increased values across all indicators. It now ranks among the top countries in accounts, secure-server penetration and postal reliability. Switzerland also rates favourably on all indicators.

The United Kingdom climbed to fourth position, boasting the highest B2C spending per shopper in Europe and the world’s highest proportion of B2C revenues to GDP. Norway and Sweden, fifth and eighth respectively, have among the world’s highest values for all indicators, except secure-server penetration.

Iceland, ranked sixth, has near ubiquitous Internet access with 98% of the population online, the highest in the world (with Bahrain and Norway). Its score is brought down by a relatively low level of postal reliability, possibly a reflection of challenging terrain and weather conditions in the nation. One alternative is drone delivery, which has already been launched by Iceland’s biggest B2C e-commerce company.

New Zealand ranked ninth and Denmark completes the top ten.

Asian nations lead among top 10 developing countries

All but one of the top ten developing countries in the B2C E-commerce Index 2018 are from East Asia or the Middle East, and all are upper-middle-income or high-income economies.

Unlike the global top ten, the range of index values between developing countries is wide with a 26-point difference between first and tenth. Compared to the 2017 index, Singapore has swapped ranks with the Republic of Korea as the top-ranked country in the list.

Mauritius and Trinidad and Tobago have dropped out while Chile (the only non-Asian country on the list) and Turkey have entered. Hong Kong (China) ranks second among developing economies and 15th in the world. Like Singapore, it is a small economy with relatively high values on all indicators.

The United Arab Emirates, ranked fourth, does well in Internet usage and accounts, with room to improve for secure servers and postal reliability to emerge as a top-ranked nation in B2C e-commerce readiness.

Malaysia, ranked fifth, is balanced across all dimensions of the index. Just over a third of the population made an online purchase in 2017 and the country has one of the highest proportions of B2C sales to GDP in the world. Sixth-ranked Thailand does well in postal reliability and Internet penetration has reached over half of the population aged six and above.

Turkey is a new entrant into the top ten developing countries. Now ranked seventh, it had one of the most significant increases in Internet access in the world in 2017, up six percentage points. The growth in Internet users drove a four-percentage-point rise in online shopping to 21% of the population.

The Islamic Republic of Iran ranks eighth among developing countries. The country’s main strength is a high level of account ownership. Despite recurring sanctions, the nation has the second largest online shopping market among the top ten developing economies.

Chile does well on all indicators although postal reliability drags its score down. The country boasts the highest sales value per online shopper in Latin America and some 15% of enterprises in the country already sell online.

The 2018 B2C E-commerce Index was launched today at the first Africa eCommerce Week in Nairobi, Kenya. The event runs from 10-14 December.

Co-organized by UNCTAD, the African Union and the European Union, Africa eCommerce Week is hosted by the Government of Kenya and held in collaboration with partners of the eTrade for all initiative.

Under the theme Empowering African Economies in the Digital Era, Africa eCommerce Week will examine ways to enhance the ability of African countries to engage in and benefit from e-commerce and the evolving digital economy.


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EIB signs 3 agreements worth $227.8M to support businesses in Egypt




Photo for EIB – Courtesy of Facebook official page


CAIRO – 10December 2018: The European Investment Bank (EIB) announced signing three agreements worth $227.797 million to support business in Egypt.

EIB clarified that it signed two financing agreements for a total amount of €229 million ($260.497 million) to support sanitation and community infrastructure in Egypt.

It added that these investments will contribute to the development of a sustainable modern economy – a key element of the EU-Egypt Partnership Priorities.

“The first agreement signed was the €214 million loan to Kitchener Drain depollution project. This is the first phase of a larger investment program that was identified by an EU financed pre-feasibility study under the supervision of the Mediterranean HotSpots Investment Program II,” EIB stated.

It added that the project will reduce pollution in the 69 km long Kitchener Drain, which extends across the Governorates of Gharbia, Kafr El-Sheikh and Dakahlia in the Nile Delta region.

According to EIB, Approximately 6 million people are expected to benefit from improved and new sanitation and solid waste services as a result of the foreseen investments. By contributing to the depollution of the Mediterranean Sea, the project also supports the objectives of the Clean Ocean Initiative that was recently announced at the World Bank / IMF annual meetings in Bali and contributes to the environmental objectives highlighted in the EU Egypt Partnership Priorities.

Also, the bank signed a Grant Agreement with the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Medium, Small, and Micro Enterprises Development Agency (MSMEDA) for €15 million to support the Community Development Program.

“This grant is funded by the EU under the Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF) and will finance investments in community infrastructure to improve living standards for disadvantaged and vulnerable persons living in and around urban centers in several governorates in Egypt,” it said.

The EIB added that projects to be funded bythe grant are expected to include the provision or enhancement of community facilities, including schools, health clinics, and community centres. “They may also comprise access infrastructure such as potable water, waste water, solid waste and minor roads for businesses or residential units. The sub-projects will be implemented by MSMEDA in cooperation with corresponding governorates.”

“The EU bank continues to support a sustainable, modern economy in Egypt and reinforce its economic resilience,” commented the EIB’s President Werner Hoyer after the signatures.

He added: “We are proud to announce that with today’s signatures total EIB financing signed in Egypt since 2012 reaches €5 billion. The projects we finance in Egypt make a substantial difference to people’s lives. The Kitchener Drain depollution project is a good example, it will improve the availability of sanitation services as well as drain infrastructure in the Delta region. In addition, the€15 million grant will finance investments to improve living standards of disadvantaged and vulnerable persons living in and around urban centres in Egypt.”

Meanwhile, EIB has signed an agreement to invest $ 11.3 million in Sawari Ventures Fund, a regional venture capital fund investing in growth and seed stage innovative businesses in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.

The bank said that this investment will contribute to the modernization of the economy by encouraging entrepreneurship, in line with the EU-Egyptian Partnership Priorities. Moreover, it is the first EIB operation under the Risk Capital Facility of the Economic Resilience Initiative.

The bank added: “The EIB investment is the first commitment to a venture capital fund focused on Egypt.”

As per this fund, the bank will provide access to needed risk capital to support early and growth stage innovative start-ups and SMEs in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco that have the potential to scale rapidly and grow regionally boosting the local tech ecosystem.

It will also contribute to knowledge transfer, and will enhance competitiveness of innovative sectors by investing in seed stage companies through a local accelerator.

“The support provided to local SMEs and dynamic start-ups is expected to contribute to economic growth, increase economic resilience and create opportunities, especially for youth,” it noted.

The fund included investors of CDC (UK), Proparco (France) and DGGF (Netherlands), besides theEIB that contributes to the fund by $35 million out of $50 million.

“We are proud to invest in Sawari Ventures Fund, which will provide smart finance to innovative start-ups and high growth companies. We are confident that Egyptian technology start-ups can play an important role in creating jobs and modernizing the Egyptian economy thanks to their great ideas and innovation potential,” Hoyer said.

“We are convinced that equity investment in knowledge economy companies is a huge untapped opportunity in North Africa and we are excited that top tier DFIs like EIB, CDC, DGGF and Proparco share that vision with us,” Wael Amin, partner at Sawari Ventures,said.

According to the statement, Sawari is a leading venture capital firm based in Cairo and is among the pioneers of developing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Egypt. It established the Greek Campus (tech hub), Flat6Labs (seed stage investment vehicle) and Sawari Ventures, one of the first venture capital firms in Egypt.

The statement noted that the EIB investment is funded under the bank’s Economic Resilience Initiative Risk Capital Facility (ERI RCF). The facility seeks to foster private sector development and job creation through investments in venture capital and private equity funds.


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Banking / Insurance

Standard Chartered deepens investments in digital solutions




Standard Chartered recently reiterated its commitment to improving the overall banking experience of its clients’ through digitisation and technology.

With a renewed focus on strengthening its digital banking platforms to provide clients with multiple and convenient alternate banking channels, the Bank will be optimising its digital banking solutions and its branch network to cater to the evolving needs of its client.

The Head of Retail Banking, Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Limited, Ebehijie Momoh, noted that the bank seeks to provide convenient and accessible banking for its clients everywhere and at anytime without time restrictions, physical limitations and dependence on branches.

She added that this plan also aligns with the financial inclusion and cash-less policy strategy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). “We have observed a significant increase in the use of our digital platforms by our clients compared to the use of our physical branches. This is in sync with observable behaviours in the digital age with customers embracing technology and digital channels to conduct transactions.

“Therefore to ensure we are optimizing all existing service platforms for the benefit of our clients, we continue to invest in upgrading our digital banking solutions and branch network.

“Our clients want flexibility, accessibility and efficiency in the solutions and services we provide and with our ongoing optimisation drive, they will be able enjoy these benefits from the comfort of their homes, offices or on the go.”

Earlier this year, the bank launched its first and fully digital retail bank in West Africa as an important milestone in its path towards innovation in its customer service value proposition and plans to roll this out in Nigeria shortly, following Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

The bank said it will also strategically merge some of its branches across the country- 14 branches will be merged, while maintaining a network of 21 large branches strategically located for the convenience of clients.These mergers enables the Bank to further reassign resources to other functions and locations that require more support with client interfacing.

– GuardianNG

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