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DHL Express acquires a stake in Link Commerce, a commitment to growing African e-commerce

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Hennie Heymans, CEO of DHL Express sub-Saharan Africa (Source: Deutsche Post DHL)

DHL acquires a stake in their strategic partner company, Link Commerce, in support of growing e-commerce in Sub-Saharan Africa and other global emerging e-commerce markets; Africa’s online retail market predicted to reach an 11-digit dollar value in 2020.

DHL Express today announced its minority stake acquisition in Link Commerce, the UK-based e-commerce firm that helped the logistics company develop its hugely successful DHL Africa eShop platform.

Hennie Heymans, CEO of DHL Express sub-Saharan Africa, says that the acquisition demonstrates the company’s commitment to growing e-commerce on the continent. “Acquiring a stake in Link Commerce – the company behind the MallforAfrica.com platform – shows our tremendous support of e-commerce in Africa. It also positions us to realize our ambitions of growing the eShop offering globally, and work on the scalability of the platform when the opportunity arises.”

”DHL’s investment in Link Commerce is a perfect fit. With the DHL investment we are now able to grow faster by leveraging the amazing shipping network DHL has built globally. This will help us expand our white-label turnkey B2B eCommerce platform and provide online shoppers with the ability to shop more and get more at great shipping rates fast.” said Chris Folayan Founder and CEO of Link Commerce and Mall for Africa.

Just over one year on from its initial launch, the DHL Africa eShop continues to see massive growth in sub-Saharan Africa. Heymans notes that the DHL Africa eShop has consistently outperformed expectations since its launch. “The platform was developed in partnership with Link Commerce and initially launched in 11 African countries in April 2019. It was an immediate success, gaining around 5,000 subscribers within the first six weeks. Today, DHL Africa eShop is live in 34 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa with tens of thousands of users across the continent.”

Also Read: Interview With Amadou Diallo, CEO of DHL Global Forwarding Middle East & Africa

The DHL Africa eShop offers African consumers unprecedented access to international retailers via an easy-to-use platform, with great convenience, speed and reliability. “DHL Africa eShop enables African customers to shop directly from over 200 US- and UK-based online retailers, with purchases delivered directly to their door, by DHL Express.”

Heymans adds, “Online buying behaviours and product mixes have evolved quite significantly since the onset of COVID-19. Some of the most popular items on the platform now include productivity and communications devices to support remote working, home and kitchen appliances, entertainment gadgets and health related products, in addition to the historic orders of fashion and beauty products. Consumer interests have shifted towards goods that are harder to source locally. With brick-and-mortar retailers in many regions operating at reduced capacity, consumers have turned to online shopping to acquire the goods they need. It’s been great to see eShop providing vital online shopping access during this time, with impressive growth coming from countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Angola, Uganda and Kenya during the various stages of lockdowns, and with South Africa back on board to access e-commerce, we are thrilled for our users to be able to use service offering once more.

Just over one year on from its initial launch, the DHL Africa eShop continues to see massive growth in sub-Saharan Africa

Assurance for delivery has become a top priority for consumers,” says Heymans. “ Basket sizes have also increased, as shoppers seek to get all of what they need immediately, rather than to space out their orders. Online shopping supports the ultimate level of social distancing – connecting consumers to everything they need at a click of a button.

Heymans explains that while the e-commerce market in Sub-Saharan Africa has been largely overlooked by international retailers in the past, it currently offers some of the biggest opportunities for rapid growth in the world.

E-commerce is proving to be one of the most important and fastest-growing market sectors in Africa. A report published by Rapid B2C forecasts that Africa’s online retail market will reach an 11-digit dollar value in 2020, while another report by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that this value could potentially reach $75 billion by 2025.

“These growth predictions, coupled with the incredible demand and quick uptake of the DHL Africa eShop offering, confirm that this acquisition is the right move to ensure DHL Express is geared for continued growth,” adds Heymans.

As part of the acquisition, Heymans has been made a board member of London-based Link Commerce Ltd. “We have no doubt that deepening our partnership with Link Commerce in this way will take both companies, as well as e-commerce on the continent and new markets across the globe, to new heights. I am honoured to take on this new role as part of DHL’s growth strategy.”

“ At Link Commerce our strategy is to help businesses grow and provide shoppers globally with access to US and UK online retailers like never before. DHL’s investment in the company gives us that edge we need to expand rapidly globally and access to products like never before,” said Chris Folayan, Founder and CEO of Link Commerce Ltd.  

With operations across 51 markets in Sub-Saharan Africa, servicing customers, efficient delivery is an important factor for DHL Express. “Our strategic investments in innovative technology and connectivity across the region, are all aimed at promoting global trade and ensuring that businesses and individuals across the continent can leverage global opportunities,” Heymans concludes.

Source: Deutsche Post DHL 

Hospitality & Tourism

African Hotel pipeline resilient despite unprecedented challenges

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HTI Consulting CEO Wayne Troughtong

Acknowledged as one of the African continent’s leading hospitality investment experts, Wayne Troughton of HTI Consulting shared unique insights in the firm’s first ‘Virtual Hotel Club’ held in early July, a dynamic and informal Pan-African digital platform that saw 295 registrations across 15 countries.

Data was gathered from a survey that covered 14 regional and international operators active in the African hotel space (41 hotel brands and 219 projects currently under development). These included the likes of Hilton Worldwide, Marriot International, Radisson Hotel Group and Accor Hotels, amongst others.

Development sentiment largely positive

According to Troughton, whilst the African hospitality industry is facing unprecedented challenges and obstacles in light of the global pandemic, he noted that development sentiment remains optimistic amongst the majority(57%) of hotel owners as reported by operators on the continent.

“Despite closures and significant performance declines, long-term investment fundamentals for the Sub-Saharan region remain positive despite significant short to mid-term challenges currently impacting the sector,” he said.

“Of a total 219 hotel projects currently In Sub Saharan African pipeline a large proportion (68%) of these projects are proceeding as planned, with only 18% currently on hold for a limited period,and 13% on hold indefinitely.” he stated.

“Concerns amongst hotel owners are, of course, still apparent and, for several, a ‘wait and see’ approach relates to factors such as uncertainty around travel ban lifts in various markets, how to restore guest confidence, and the impact of Covid-19 on hotel valuations. However, the optimism displayed by many owners generally relates to understanding of the sector and adoption of a longer-term outlook,”he explained.

Outlook geared to opening doors

Despite the current environment, construction related businesses in several countries resumed activity as early as possible after lockdowns eased,commented Troughton.

“Encouragingly, this has resulted in 21 projects (representing 2946 hotel rooms in 15 African countries) still expected to open in 2020, with 52% of projects expecting short-term delays of 3 -6 months,” he said. “Longer term delays (9-12 mths or 12 mth+) are typically being seen on those projects that were in earlier (or planning) phases of development,” he stated.

“These delays can generally be attributed to uncertainty around how long travel lockdowns will continue. However, around 30% of projects under construction don’t expect COVID-19 to cause any delays to their ongoing development,” he said.

Hotel owners are clearly taking a long-term investment outlook and are expecting COVID-19 to be largely neutralised prior to their hotels opening. This relates particularly to those in the early stages of planning.

Angola – Luanda (Image by: Kirsten Hill)

Development pipeline remains healthy

Of the overall Sub Saharan Africa Development pipeline there are 219 branded hotels (representing 33 698 hotel rooms) across 38 markets.

“East Africa remains the region with the strongest hotel pipeline, followed by West and then Southern Africa. East Africa has 88 branded hotels currently in the pipeline, West Africa sees 84 branded hotels in its pipeline with Southern Africa sitting on 47 hotels,” stated Troughton.

Of the 21 hotels total projects expected to open doors in 2020, East Africa (40% of total supply), will see 1,134 rooms come on board, with the top cities being Antananarivo (22%), Dar es Salaam (20%) and Addis Ababa (20%).

West Africa (47% of total supply) sees 719 rooms planned to enter in 2020 across major cities including Accra (28%), Bamako (28%) and Cape Verde (24%).

Southern Africa (23% of total development pipeline) sees 963 rooms planned to enter in 2020, with South Africa – Johannesburg (71%) and Durban (21%) – seeing the predominance of activity, followed by Zambia.

Over the past three months HTI Consulting has engaged in numerous discussions with hotel owners who, Troughton states, have navigated different cycles during COVID-19 from survival (as hotels closed) to cost containment, defining hygiene safety protocols, staffing plans and ultimately, reopening strategies.

As several economies slowly start to open, so too have many hospitality businesses who are remaining positive and committed to the industry and demonstrating the determination necessary to over coming current adversities.         

Doing the deals

“Despite pressured economic environments and tough decisions, many hotel operators have, been able to successfully conclude and sign deals with owners during the lockdown period. A total of 15 new hotel deals were concluded by 7 operators in 8 countries, from the period March – June,” stated Troughton of HTI Consulting.

Feedback indicates these deals were close to fruition prior to the COVID crisis, with owners showing strong sentiment to continue with the projects. Further feedback from operators indicates these deals were also typically signed in primary African cities such as Abidjan, Accra, Lagos and Durban that boasted strong and diverse hospitality markets prior to the crisis. These locations are also likely to recover at a quicker rate than secondary nodes, believes Troughton. 

“Select operators who indicated that no deals were signed during this period pointed out that opportunities remain rife and that new enquiries are continuing to come through,” he said,

“It is anticipated that a lag will occur, with new owners typically being more cautious and awaiting to see how recovery unfolds,” he said. “Concerns have also been raised by owners around access to finance going forward as well as the willingness of the banks and financial institutions to fund hospitality projects at this point in time,” he continued.

“Whilst we haven’t seen any distressed sales at this point, with banks largely keeping hotels afloat, this may well change depending on the time frames we’re looking at to a return to ‘new normal’ as well as the potential resurgence of the virus in certain areas. The next 2 – 3 months will prove to be crucial, as many hospitality businesses do not have plans in place to ensure sustainability post this period.”

Opportunity sees operators doing it differently

“In several instances, feedback from large operators indicates a distinct shift towards conversions over greenfield development going forward, with a more flexible approach to the renovations and PIP costs.”

“Some operators are viewing this time as an opportunity to finalise forward planning during lockdown,” said Troughton “In several instances they have been able to take advantage of government support during this period in order to ensure they are able to streamline and accelerate internal approval processes, create more flexibility around brand stance, enhance their ability to pitch their products correctly to the local market and offer greater value and affordable experiences along with analysing fee structures over a select period.”

Also Read: Africa Rising: Why Project Managers Are Critical to Africa’s Future

“Whilst lockdowns have placed many hospitality businesses and investors in a stalemate position over the past few months, we’ve noticed a positive change over the past few weeks as more as more hospitality businesses resume activities and we see a significant uptick in the commissioning of hospitality advisory assignments,” noted Troughton.

Future Outlook

“It is reasonable to assume that a more cautious approach will be taken by hotel owners and investors in evaluating their investment strategy,” he said.

“Independent hotel owners mayindeed find it more difficult than the larger international brands to weather this current scenario. This too because branded hotels, and their new highly publicised hygiene protocols, may make for a more secure market and therefore allow them to see a more effective bounce-back and recovery.”

Hilton Addis Ababa (Image by: Kirsten Hill)

“Additionally those markets that are strongest in the area of domestic business travel (and then domestic leisure) should be amongst the first to recover.Indeed, focusing on the local market is what helped Asia recover from the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s.”

“For those owners and operators taking the the time to understand the changing markets we are facing, and willing to adapt to drive new demand, the medium to long-term outlook remains good,” stressed Troughton. “At HTI Consulting we continue to believe in the tourism potential in the region and strongly encourage further support from governments and brand managers to allow owners to minimise further losses and support recovery,”

“Despite current challenges and the overall uncertainty that trouble us all, there will be better times ahead and the travel market will eventually emerge stronger and more resilient. As governments slowly roll back travel restrictions and prepare to reopen society, the future winners are those that build a future based on a strong risk mitigation approach and display flexibility and innovation,” he concluded.

Released by: Kirsten Hill for HTI Consulting

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Carbon, Nigeria’s Leading Fintech Releases Its 2019 Financial Report

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Carbon co-founder and CEO, Chijioke Dozie

Carbon, Nigeria’s leading digital financial services company has released it’s 2019 financial statements audited by KPMG, detailing its product growth and $17.5mm in revenue

Also Read: HUAWEI CLOUD, A Leading Tech Giant Partners AI Expo Africa 2020

It began operations in 2012 and within the space of six years, it grew revenue steadily, reaching an all-time high of $17.5mm in full-year 2019. In the same year, and expanded its product offerings to the Kenyan market and it’s disbursement volumes have grown from N13bn (2018) to N23bn.

Formerly called Paylater, Carbon pioneered instant lending in Nigeria and was the first mobile app to provide access to credit digitally and without requesting individuals to present the documents and collateral traditionally associated with accessing loans. Earlier this year, Carbon introduced its iOS app and USSD (*1303#) service. It also announced its Disrupt Fund, a $100,000 Pan-African fund to address the lack of capital for African tech startups.

“The company will continue to share it’s audited financials annually, thus upholding a culture of transparency and accountability,” says Ngozi Dozie, Founder.

So far this year, Carbon has introduced multiple new features for its customer base including Carbon Express: a keyboard allowing users to make payments from any social app, periodic investments, free bank transfers, monthly wallet interest, and more.

It also plans to introduce debit cards, a reward program for loyal customers and SME accounts for entrepreneurs, in the months to come.

The full annual report is here.

Carbon

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Press Release

L’Oréal Appoints Hlengiwe Mathenjwa As Director

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Loreal Midrand Manufacturing Plant Director, Hlengiwe Mathenjwa

L’Oréal South Africa announced today the appointment of Hlengiwe Mathenjwa as the new Director of its Midrand manufacturing plant in Johannesburg, effective 1July 2020.  A South African talent, Mathenjwa takes the helm of L’Oréal’s first and largest manufacturing facility in the Africa & Middle East region, which includes two other world-class plants in Nairobi, Kenya and Cairo, Egypt respectively.

Hlengiwe’s vast experience in the chemical industry led her to L’Oréal South Africa in 2013 as a Lab Manager before growing to take the lead of the Quality Department. Sharing highlights of her journey, she says: “My time at L’Oréal has been so empowering. Having the opportunity to spend one year at our Caudry Plant in France, specialising in skin care, on a Performance Improvement assignment transformed my career. It was hard being away from my family and adjusting to a new culture.” Upon returning to South Africa Hlengiwe took up the role of Production Manager overseeing the manufacturing of products made locally.

L’Oréal’s South African plant, located in Midrand, Johannesburg, specialises in hair care, skin care and personal hygiene products. It produces a large array of the company’s international portfolio of African Beauty Brands – such as Dark & Lovely and Restore Plus – developed by L’Oréal’s unique team of dedicated scientists and biologists based in South African Research and Innovation Center. Working closely with African hair stylists and dermatologists over the past years, the Center has developed extensive knowledge on the beauty needs of Sub-Saharan Africa consumers, and established L’Oréal as an expert of consumers of African descent on a worldwide scale.

Also Read: Sustainable Tourism Development In Africa: Interview With Thomas Müller, CEO, rainmaker

Stretching over around 35,000 square meters, L’Oréal’s Midrand plant employs today more than 150 staff members across different functions, with over 56% female employees, and exports its production throughout Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

“I am very grateful and humbled to be given this opportunity to lead our Midrand Plant. I appreciate the recognition and trust that the company has put in me. I am looking forward to working with everyone to lead L’Oréal Manufacturing Midrand through this unprecedented time and beyond”, concludes Hlengiwe. 

L’Oréal 

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