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Fitch revises ARC Limited’s Outlook to Positive; affirms IFS Rating at ‘BBB+’

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Fitch Ratings has revised African Risk Capacity (ARC) Limited’s Outlook to Positive from Stable and has also affirmed its Insurer Financial Strength (IFS) rating at ‘BBB+’ and Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘BBB’.

Announcing the news, the credit rating agency commented that this Outlook revision reflects ARC Limited’s “strong progress in meeting its development objectives, which if sustained, could support a stronger company profile assessment within the next two years”.

It added: “In Fitch’s view, the improvement in ARC’s premium base, risk pool and claim pay-outs enhances the company’s geographic diversification, franchise and operating scale. In addition, the improved reach of the company’s development activities is likely to further increase its importance to sponsors.”

Says Lesley Ndlovu, ARC Limited CEO: “We are delighted with this revision of our Outlook to Positive which reflects the work we have done to raise our company profile and improve portfolio diversification.

“We are confident that the support from our sponsors will only grow as we expand ARC Limited’s impact on the African continent in terms of our development activities and the number of parametric insurance pay-outs we have been making in 2022 to respond to cyclones and droughts.”

In addition to its strong growth in gross written premiums (GWP) in 2021, ARC Limited’s support from and oversight by the German development bank KfW through the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) were cited as reasons for the revision.  

ARC Limited’s key strength, adds Fitch, is its capital position. “We regard the returnable capital provided by KfW/BMZ and the FCDO of USD70 million at end-2021 as fully loss-absorbing, and consequently treat it as equity capital when assessing capitalisation and leverage. On this basis, ARC scored ‘Extremely Strong’ on Fitch’s Prism Factor-Based Capital Model based on end-2021 figures, unchanged from 2020. Fitch expects that further capital support could be made available as ARC continues to achieve its development goals.

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ARC’s regulatory capitalisation is strong, with a Bermuda enhanced capital requirement ratio of 796% at end-2021 (2020: 1,628%),” it said.

“While our product portfolio is concentrated, dominated mainly by drought insurance, we are actively diversifying this. To that end, we introduced tropical cyclone cover in 2020 and are also expanding our offering to cover outbreak and epidemic, and flooding risks. In addition, we are expanding our insurance offering to non-sovereign entities and working to increase the number of African countries covered in our risk pool. Which we believe will help to elevate our standing in future Fitch ratings,” Ndlovu concludes.

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Press Release

BII and African Guarantee Fund sign $75 million to fund African SMEs

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British International Investment (BII), the UK’s development finance institution and impact investor, and African Guarantee Fund (AGF), a leading Pan African guarantee provider, have today announced their partnership of a $75 million re-guarantee agreement for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across Africa.

Through this facility, AGF and BII will provide credit guarantees to partner financial institutions for up to 75 per cent of the risk on SME loans, thereby increasing access to credit and reducing collateral requirements for these SMEs. As a result, the eight-year partnership is expected to facilitate up to $150 million in loans to 17,300 SMEs through partner financial institutions. This partnership will also encourage lending to SMEs that are women-owned or led as well as SMEs that are climate-focused.

SMEs in Africa continue to face significant challenges in accessing credit. Financial institutions are often constrained by regulatory requirements, limited appetite for a segment that is perceived to be higher risk, a lack of adequate collateral available from SMEs, knowledge gaps by the lenders and skill gaps demonstrated by SME borrowers.

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Risk-sharing facilities are a key tool to support knowledge gaps by the lenders and in broadening their SME lending while mitigating risk and allowing them to build capabilities and track record in serving this market segment. As such, at least half of the overall facility will specifically target SMEs in the most fragile African economies to support promising businesses that can contribute to productive economic development over the long term.

UK Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly said: “British International Investment is already a force for good in Kenya, supporting jobs and livelihoods in Africa. This investment shows that when we go together, we can go far.”

Constant N’zi, Deputy Group Chief Executive Officer and Group Chief Risk Officer, African Guarantee Fund said, “Our partnership with British International Investment marks our first engagement with a UK Development Finance Institution and is the beginning of a journey that will positively impact African SMEs. Through this re-guarantee, our capacity to support lending institutions has been increased and we are certain of increased economic growth across the forty African countries wherein our guarantee products are utilized.”

Jo Fry, Investment Director & Head of Intermediated Credit, British International Investment (BII) added: “We are delighted to partner with African Guarantee Fund, a deeply impact-focused African institution, on this critical mission. This investment will increase access to finance for SMEs across the African continent, with a focus on those in the most challenging contexts. The partnership, which will also target funding at climate-focused businesses as well as SMEs owned and led by women, will contribute toward increasing inclusive and sustainable development for Africa. The programme represents BII’s commitment to working with best-in-class local institutions who are deeply embedded in the countries and communities that they serve.”

The joint facility contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8 on promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth. The investment also qualifies under the 2X Challenge, an initiative by the development finance institutions (DFIs) of the G7 to mobilise capital to support increased economic empowerment for women in emerging economies.

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Shelter Afrique target East African bourses, pension funds in USD500M housing bond

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Shelter Afrique’s Ag. Managing Director Kingsley Muwowo (Image: Supplied)

Buoyed by the successful local currency bond debut in Nigeria early this year, pan- African housing development financier Shelter Afrique is planning to tap into the East Africa capital markets and pension funds to finance affordable housing projects in the region.

Speaking in Nairobi, Shelter Afrique’s Ag. Managing Director Kingsley Muwowo disclosed that the Company was considering issuing local currency Medium Term Notes in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda.

“Already, we have opened negotiations with Kenya’s Capital Market Authority on the possibility of Shelter Afrique issuing another housing bond to support local housing projects and we plan to do the same with capital market authorities in Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. We want to approach it as an East Africa issue- meaning we’ll issue Kenya Shilling bond, Uganda and Tanzania shillings bonds, and Rwandese Franc bond, subject to availability of bankable projects in each of the markets,” Mr. Muwowo explained.

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Mr. Muwowo noted that such a strategy would make it easier for pension funds such as Kenya’s National Social Security Fund, Uganda National Social Security Fund, Rwanda Social Security Board, and Public Service Pensions Fund of Tanzania, to invest in housing projects in the region and earn decent returns.

“Our experience with the Nigerian bond debut is that pension funds present a viable option to tap funds for affordable housing projects. We equally believe they have the capacity to provide long term funding for such projects,” Mr. Muwowo said.

Shelter Afrique has had ten successful local currency bond issues in Kenya dating back to 2000s, which Mr. Muwowo says, have been successfully retired – demonstrating the Company’s strong investment rating in terms of local currency issues.

Beyond cities

Mr. Muwowo said the Company was keen on extending housing projects financing beyond major cities and into rural areas, adding that every part of the countries should be able to benefit from housing projects funding.

“At the moment, we have housing projects in cities like Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa – in the case of Kenya, or Lagos and Abuja in the case of Nigeria. Our aim is to roll out housing projects all over the countries in member States. In Kenya, for instance, we are already in talks with the National Housing Corporation to implement this,” Mr. Muwowo said.

The Company has several projects in Kenya including Everest Park Apartments, Richland Point Apartment, Karibu Homes, Pine City and Sigona Valley in Nairobi; Lake Breeze Apartments and Translakes Apartments in Kisumu; and Eden Beach Apartments and KMA Housing Apartments in Mombasa.

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Press Release

Lipa Later Group Acquires Sky.Garden, One Of East Africa’s Leading E-Commerce Platforms

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Lipa Later Group, has acquired Sky.Garden in a move that re-energizes our commitment to bridging the gap between the merchant and a customer with more empowerment between both parties, merchant and customer, stellar service, stellar tech, and revamped strategies that promise to disrupt the industry.

This acquisition of Sky.Garden by Lipa Later marks an important milestone in the group’s goal to offer innovative solutions that meet the needs of businesses and consumers. This move will enable Lipa Later to expand our customer base and solidify our presence in the market.

The e-commerce industry has exploded in recent years, providing businesses with the opportunity to reach customers quickly, cheaply, and more often. This is the driving force behind the decision to invest in Sky.Garden.

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Speaking during the onboarding ceremony, Lipa Later CEO Eric Muli reiterated that the acquisition is timely as fintech continues to build an end-to-end avenue that connects merchants to customers and vice versa.

“Guided by our objective to empower African businesses and consumers to do more by enabling e-commerce, financial inclusion and shopping all on one centralized and fully integrated platform, our plan has always been to venture into e-commerce with unique value propositions for our consumers. Sky.Garden has done an incredible job and checks all those boxes. Lipa Later is no stranger to the e-commerce industry, having already established a strong presence in the online payment and finance sectors. This acquisition has greatly accelerated our plans of redefining the shopping experience for consumers,” said Lipa Later CEO Eric Muli.

Sky.Garden, which has raised north of $6,000,000 prior to this acquisition, will now be fully owned by Lipa Later Group and will continue to operate using its name.

With the acquisition of Sky.Garden, Lipa Later is now in a position to provide a comprehensive e-commerce solution to consumers, and with Sky.Garden’s established infrastructure and market presence, consumers will be able to purchase items from Sky Garden using any preferred payment method including Lipa Later’s buy now, pay later model which provides for a payment plan that is flexible and affordable through monthly instalments.

Last month, we saw no other option than to file for insolvency,” Martin Majlund, founder of Sky.Garden, reiterated. “Today, I’m happy to see that Sky Garden will live on with new owners and new management. We built a great product over time, and I believe Lipa Later has the potential to take Sky Garden to the next level. Through this acquisition, the vision of Sky Garden will continue to live on while retaining jobs and businesses on our platform.”

This acquisition is a key step forward in our goal of becoming a leader in the e-commerce space. The acquisition of Sky.Garden by Lipa Later presents a great opportunity for both companies to benefit from each other’s strengths and further the growth of the e-commerce industry. With the combination of our expertise in financial services and Sky.Garden’s innovative e-commerce platform, the potential for growth is tremendous, and the impact this could have on the industry could be immense. Expansion plans are in place to see Sky.Garden integrated across other Lipa Later countries of operation which include Rwanda, Uganda and Nigeria.

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