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Gem halts Botswana mine amid low prices

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Gem Diamonds’ poor run of form with mines outside Lesotho continued after it said it had suspended its Ghaghoo mine in Botswana with immediate effect because of low prices for the diamonds coming from the operation.
Ghaghoo, the first underground diamond mine in Botswana, has been a difficult mine to build. A shaft was sunk through an 80m-thick layer of Kalahari desert sand in a remote location in the north of the country. The mining project started in October 2011 and has yet to reach commercial production of 150,000 carats a year.
Gem has spent about $85m on developing the first phase of the mine, which delivered 91,500 carats in 2015 and nearly 41,000 carats in 2016.

“The material fall in the prices of its diamonds from $210 per carat in early 2015 to $142 per carat at its most recent sale in December 2016 emphasises the weak state of the diamond market for this category of diamonds,”Gem said on Thursday, pointing out the mine was on the cusp of reaching commercial production and would cost $3m a year to maintain.

Gem would monitor market conditions to decide when to restart the mine profitably.

John Meyer at SP Angel called Gem’s decision “pragmatic”, while another analyst warned Gem could run into difficulties with a $25m Nedbank loan to the project.

The analyst, who did not want to be named, said Gem itself could cover the repayment of the loan.

Gem’s attempts to extend operations beyond its Letseng mine in Lesotho have been unsuccessful – the Ellendale mine in Australia was sold for 15m in 2012 and the Cempaka alluvial mine in Indonesia was closed in 2008.

Exploration efforts in Angola and elsewhere in Africa came to naught.

The successful Letseng mine is known for large diamonds, which average more than 2,000 per carat.

Source: I-Net Bridge
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Agriculture

Goodwell Investments Backs Chicoa Fish Farm With $1.5 Million Funding To Support Food Security In Africa

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Chicoa Fish Farm Production Breeding Cage, Mozambique (Source: Chicoa Fish Farm)

Series A funding enables Chicoa to contribute to a stable market for affordable protein and improve outcomes for smallholder farmers and food vendors in Southern Africa.

Chicoa Fish Farm, a Mozambican-based company addressing the critical challenge of a lack of affordable protein in Southern Africa, announced today that it closed its Series A equity funding round totalling $1.5 million from Goodwell Investments.  

Building A Sustainable Aquaculture Industry

Chicoa Fish Farm was founded by Gerard McCollum and Damien Legros in 2015 with the vision to provide a blueprint for a sustainable aquaculture industry across Africa. Since its inception, Chicoa has focused on securing its supply chain through primary production of tilapia, establishing a breeding program, and developing sales and distribution channels in Mozambique, Malawi, South Africa, and Zambia.   

The $1.5 million Series A funding boosts the transition to its next stage of growth — the processing and distribution of frozen tilapia products. To facilitate this growth, plans include extending production facilities, the installation of a processing plant and including local small-scale farmers in its model. At scale, Chicoa will produce over 5,000 tons of tilapia per annum, putting more than $10M of direct income into the local economy each year.  

“We are delighted that Goodwell has joined us on this really exciting journey to develop fish farming as an industry in Mozambique,” commented Gerry McCollum, CEO of Chicoa Fish Farm. “Being a first-mover is really challenging, but also hugely impactful. Not only do Goodwell bring a wealth of experience to the table, but their philosophy of supporting for transformative businesses in areas of most need makes them a perfect partner for us.”

Supporting Food Security

Food security is one of the biggest challenges facing Africa and Mozambique is amongst the worst affected, with nearly 80% of the population unable to afford an adequate diet. While the continent has the resources to feed its population, most countries are net exporters of food. Mozambique, for example, imports nearly double the value of fish products it exports. Further, regional aquaculture businesses currently satisfy just 6% of the total demand for fish across the Southern Africa region.

“The opportunity to develop the aquaculture industry to meet the local and regional demand is clear,” notes Dhanyal Davidson, Senior Investment Associate at Goodwell Investments. “The sector can play a key role in the economic development Mozambique by providing affordable, high-quality protein, creating jobs and generating income for local farmers, and promoting broader regional development.”

Affordable, High-Quality Protein

In the face of overfishing and climate change, aquaculture, in particular, provides a means of providing a stable fish supply without increasing the harvesting of wild fisheries beyond the maximum sustainable yields. Chicoa is the largest commercial provider of fish in Mozambique and works to increase yields to provide a sustainable protein source and facilitate import substitution, boosting the sector with an affordable, high-quality fish.   

“Chicoa’s significant traction achieved to date coupled with our visit to the farm in Tete solidified our confidence in the company and its potential. The company is driven by an experienced team with deep roots in aquaculture and Southern Africa, and we look forward to supporting Chicoa to fulfil its potential. Aquaculture is a new area to Goodwell Investments, and we are especially pleased to be joining the table with like-minded investors who bring along a wealth of knowledge in the aquaculture space,” added Davidson.   

Goodwell joins long-term Chicoa Fish Farm investor and leader in sustainable aquaculture investments, Aqua-SparkAmy Novogratz, Founder and Managing Partner at Aqua-Spark commented, “We are excited about Goodwell Investments joining the investor base of Chicoa. Finding a high-quality partner like Goodwell, committed to joining us for the long-term development of regional food security, keeps Chicoa’s vision on track.”  

By developing a vertically-integrated solution to kick-start the freshwater aquaculture industry in Mozambique, Chicoa helps to improve the lives and incomes of local fish farmers and increase the sustainability and stability of food supply across Southern Africa.

Source: Goodwell Investments

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Education

Webster University Ghana Director Christa Sanders Bobtoya on Advancing Global Learning Experience

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Christa Sanders Bobtoya has been involved in the field of international education for the last two decades. She’s currently the Head/Director of Webster University’s Ghana Campus, the only American university in the sub-region offering US-accredited graduate and undergraduate degrees. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Christa talks about the Webster University Ghana, it’s impact and achievements, life-long learning, leadership and much more. Excerpts.

Alaba: Kindly tell us about Webster University, the gap it’s filling and why it stands out?

Christa: Webster University Ghana is the only international campus of Webster University on the African continent to offer US-accredited graduate and undergraduate degrees. The thriving liberal arts institution is accredited by the National Accreditation Board of Ghana (NAB) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) in the United States (US). All of Webster University students receive a degree issued from the US and, regardless of specific degree area, follow the same curriculum worldwide.

Webster University Ghana offers a practical, hands-on approach to learning. The University also offers students the unique opportunity to study abroad during their course of study for either an 8/9 nine-week term, semester, or an entire academic year at any of Webster University’s international campuses that include Switzerland, Austria, China, Thailand, The Netherlands, etc.

Alaba: Since your appointment as the Director of its Ghana campus in 2014, what are the set milestones, achievements and challenges?

Christa: Since we first started receiving students and I received the appointment as Director of the Webster Ghana campus, one of the greatest milestones during this period has been hitting an enrollment of roughly 200 students. While we’re still relatively small, we started with eight students. We’ve gone from having three undergraduate programs to 6 and also the addition of graduate programs as well as a minor in African studies.

In terms of challenges, entering the higher education landscape in our part of the world has its inherent challenges. We were not very well known as an institution in the country and so it did take a few years for us to be able to establish some sort of brand awareness.

Alaba: As an international institution of repute, how do you measure impacts?

Christa: We measure impact based on what we see on the ground happening, with roughly 11 thousand students worldwide, many of our Alumni are well known in the area of communications, business and computer science through The Walker School of Business and Technology. Webster University has many notable alumni, these include:  Indonesia’s 6th president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono;  American actress,  Jennifer Lewis and Colonel Eileen Collins, Astronaut and Commander of the Space Shuttle.

Christa Sanders Bobtoya and Mohammed  Adjei Sowah, Mayor of Accra (Source: Webster University Ghana)

Beyond this we are highly ranked in annual US News and World Report. In this last edition, Webster University has moved up in terms of its national rankings at least in the US based institution by at least six places and we are now number 15 for the Midwest region.

Alaba: What are currently the biggest challenges facing Africa’s education sector?

Christa: I believe one of the biggest challenges facing Africa’s education sector is the lack of access to basic education for most people. Girls are also often left behind due to issues of gender inequality and financial barriers prevent most people from accessing textbooks, basic school supplies and the general technological resources needed to be successful in today’s complex and ever-changing world.

Classroom infrastructure and teacher training programs must furthermore be enhanced. A radical transformation of school systems from traditional rote learning to a more modern approach that encourages debate, critical thinking, ethical reasoning, etc. is also needed now more than ever before.

Alaba: Kindly share your thoughts on the importance of life-long learning?

Christa: The process of learning is a life-long journey. We should always strive to be inquisitive and improve upon our general knowledge by grasping new ideas and adopting new perspectives. I believe we are never too old to learn something new.

It is imperative to broaden one’s worldview and take on new experiences in the process. I enjoy learning languages and meeting people from different cultures, so I continue to remain open to acquiring new knowledge (in this case language skills) and further developing myself both personally and professionally.

Alaba: What’s the future for Webster University, especially post COVID-19?

Christa: In terms of the future for Webster University post Covid-19. I believe that as long as we have the approval from the National Accreditation Board (NAB) of the Ministry of Education, we will continue to offer a hybrid model of education.

In addition to this, through Webnet technology, students throughout the Webster worldwide network have the opportunity to join classrooms around the world in “real time.” Although this technology is mostly offered in campuses in the US and Europe to date, in the future students around the world will also be able to join classes in Ghana and vice versa.

Alaba: How would you describe your leadership style?

Christa: I would describe my leadership style as inclusive and empowering, if not transformational. I believe in motivating others as well as being supportive. I enjoy leading teams and also value the input and ideas of individual team members.

Christa Sanders Bobtoya, Dr. Beth J. Stroble, Chancellor of Webster University and Dr. Julian Schuster, President, Webster University during a visit to the Webster Ghana Campus (Source: Webster University Ghana)

Also, I always want to be a positive role model and show empathy and understanding where needed but also encourage others to strive to be the best that they can be.

Alaba: What is your advice for women in leadership and aspiring women?

Christa: I believe there have always been challenges facing women in the workplace and certainly in positions of leadership. It is therefore important to always remain determined, focused and prepared for possible obstacles along the trajectory towards success.

Today, I am especially inspired by the example of the newly appointed VP, Kamala Harris, as she exemplifies a powerful leader, who has remained determined and has kept her “eyes on the prize” from early on to arrive at this monumental moment in history. I think it is important for every woman to have a role model who inspires her and a mentor to engage with continuously.

Alaba: What inspires you and how do you relax out of work?

Christa: I would say that working in the field of education inspires me and having the opportunity to interact with young people every day. I enjoy working in the field of higher education by providing the resources, inspiration and encouragement to young people to pursue their dreams.

In terms of relaxing, my favorite thing to do is to travel. I love to be near water so I like going to the beach on weekends. I love connecting with nature and any opportunity to travel to a new place to learn a new culture, language and try a new type of food.

Visit Webster University Ghana

B I O G R A P H Y

Christa Sanders Bobtoya have been involved in the field of international education for the last two decades. She has lived in Accra, Ghana since 2004 and currently the Director of Webster University’s Ghana Campus, the only American university in the sub-region offering US-accredited graduate and undergraduate degrees. Christa spent the first decade in Ghana as the Associate Director of New York University’s (NYU) 6th global site and the university’s first study abroad program on the African continent.

Her previous professional experiences include a role as a Program Officer for the Institute of International Education (IIE) in New York where she managed a range of scholarship programs for both Latin American and African students through the Institute’s Scholarship and Training Programs (STP) division. And as the Chief Counselor of Students for Syracuse University in Madrid, Spain where she also co-founded a support organization, Voices of Change, to help students of color cope with discrimination outside of the United States.

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Press Release

AI Media Group launches The Deal Room – Africa’s first AI-focused, free investment matchmaking service

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The AI Media Group has launched The Deal Room, Africa’s first artificial intelligence (AI) focused, free investment matchmaking service which aims to connect African AI focused startups to interested investors and venture capitalists (VCs).

AI Media Group is the publisher of AI and Data Science quarterly magazine Synapse, the AI TV YouTube channel, as well as the curator and organiser of AI Expo Africa — Africa’s largest B2B / B2G trade-focused AI, Robotic Process Automation and Data Science conference — which has been a great success over the last three years.

The annual expo has seen AI Media Group amass a database of over 1000 companies, most of which are Africa-based tech startups, scale-ups or small and medium sized businesses. The company has regularly been asked by some of these firms to make introductions to investors and also observed the challenges faced by startups, such as access, transparency, intermediaries and fees.

Although AI Media Group has been able to connect some of these companies with investors in the past, the number of requests have been on the rise and the firm now wants to improve on this service in terms of scale, process formalisation and automation through the launch of The Deal Room.

The Deal Room will be hosted on the AI Expo Africa domain — www.aiexpoafrica.com —  which is a popular platform for Africa’s Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) community with over 3 million hits a year allied to a vibrant LinkedIn Group with more than 4 000 members. The Deal Room’s primary aim will be to direct 4IR, AI and smart tech companies seeking funding to investors, VCs and organisations who are interested in backing firms in this rapidly growing sector.  

The Deal Room has attracted six launch investment partners, namely; Cirrus AICape AI VenturesKnife CapitalE4E AfricaBritegaze & Intelligent Impact, with more set to join in the coming months.

Nick Bradshaw, CEO AI Media Group and co-founder of AI Expo Africa explained, “The main idea behind The Deal Room platform is to facilitate rapid matchmaking between an investor and 4IR / AI focused startups and scale-ups that align with the firm’s stage of growth. It’s often a minefield to find the right investor so we curated a group of like minded investors that are interested in this space or who have a track record of similar investments to date. This is a long awaited value add service for our community with no strings attached, no “middleman” and total transparency.”

The Deal Room’s launch investors cover a broad spectrum of the investment lifecycle and include; Cirrus AI CEO Gregg Barrett; Cape AI Ventures co-founder Pieter Boon; Knife Capital co-managing partner Andrea Bohmert; E4E Africa Ventures principal Bakang Komanyane; Britegaze CEO Reshaad Sha, and Intelligent Impact founder Aunnie Patton Power.

Sha stated, “BriteGaze Fund One’s primary purpose is to assist AI businesses to accelerate their growth in South Africa and across the African continent through the provision of growth funding and advisory services to expand into new verticals as well as new geographies.”

Boon stated, “We expect that the Deal Room could be a catalyst for startups in Africa!”

Power stated, “There is such a need for greater transparency for startups that are raising capital. We are excited to have this tool available to the market!”

Bohmert stated, “Investing in companies who solve real world problems applying deep AI capabilities is what we are looking for. We are very excited about The Deal Room and its ability to match startups with investors, embracing a partnership journey that is equally more about substance and less about the hype”. 

Komanyane stated, “The Deal Room will help us identify new 4IR-focused companies that align with our investment goals in this sector, its a great innovation for the Africa tech scene and one we are proud to be associated with”

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Barrett stated, “The Deal Room by AI Media Group will assist in the development of Africa’s AI ecosystem and is therefore an initiative that we are enthused to support and participate in.”

Bradshaw concluded, “The Deal Room’s biggest selling point is there is no complicated paperwork, costs or loss of equity for companies looking to use the platform. They simply answer a set of confidential questions on the nature of their investment needs, details about their company, products or services and the AI Media Group then passes them on to the most appropriate investor(s). Just like internet dating, our goal is to make a perfect match and speed up the process of investment capital flowing into the African 4IR tech sector. We can’t wait to see the results!”

Startups and scale-ups looking to submit their requests for funding can do so via The Deal Room online submission process HERE

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