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Hilton Garden Inn expands footprint in Africa

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Award-winning midscale hotel brand sees significant growth on the continent, debuting Hilton’s renowned hospitality in several African countries

DURBAN, South Africa, May 2, 2019 – Hilton Garden Inn (NYSE: HLT) globally recognized midscale hotel brand, is celebrating strong growth in Africa with four open properties and an additional 14 in the pipeline just three years after opening its first hotel on the continent in 2016. Many of these properties represent first-in-country openings for Hilton Garden Inn and for the Hilton enterprise as a whole, including Botswana, Zambia and Uganda.

Speaking from Africa’s Travel Indaba, John Greenleaf, global head, Hilton Garden Inn said, “We have positioned Hilton Garden Inn for success in Africa with a prototype developed specifically for the region. This prototype has been curated to meet the expectations of both travelers and owners throughout Africa, while maintaining the brand’s signature light, bright and airy design as well as the consistent, core guest offerings and amenities that the brand is recognized for around the world.”

Each hotel is built in the Hilton Garden Inn tradition featuring modern guest rooms perfect for work and comfort. Guests may unwind in a relaxing social setting, enjoying handcrafted cocktails, light bites or dinner. The Shop, a 24-hour, grab-and-go retail space, offers an upscale mix of healthy, indulgent and fresh foods, varietal beverages and a self-serve specialty coffee bar.

To date, Hilton Garden Inn has four properties and nearly 800 rooms open in Africa, including:

“Countries such as Botswana and Uganda are some of the fastest growing economies in the world, with impressive visitor offerings. The Hilton Garden Inn brand appeals to the rise of middle-class travelers into and across Africa, providing an opportunity for us to open hotels and meet guest demand in key destinations,” said Jan Van Der Putten, VP Operations, Africa and Indian Ocean, Hilton.

With 14 hotels and nearly 2,400 rooms in the Africa pipeline, Hilton Garden Inn Kampala (http://bit.ly/2GWzmoy) in Uganda and Hilton Garden Inn Mbabane(http://bit.ly/2PGOAk8) in Eswatini are in the pipeline to open this month as first-in-country properties for both Hilton Garden Inn and the Hilton enterprise. The pipeline also projects Hilton Garden Inn Windhoek in Namibia to open later this year, another first-in-country for Hilton Garden Inn. Other African countries in the Hilton Garden Inn pipeline include Malawi, Uganda, Ghana, Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.

As Hilton Garden Inn expands in Africa, the Hilton enterprise as a whole is also expected to double its footprint across Africa from 44 hotels today to almost 100 over the next several years. Hilton, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this month, has a rich legacy of hospitality leadership in the region. As shared in The Hilton Effect (http://bit.ly/2GWzCE2), Hilton was the first international hotel brand in the newly created capital of Abuja more than 30 years ago. Hilton produced infrastructure, created sewage and electric systems, built factories, paved roads and recruited Team Members from around the world to quickly teach locals – many of whom had never set foot in a hotel – to deliver five-star service to nearly 1,000 government officials.

Hilton Garden Inn is part of Hilton Honors®, the award-winning guest-loyalty program for Hilton’s 17 distinct hotel brands. Read more about Hilton Garden Inn atwww.HGI.com and Newsroom.hilton.com/hgi.

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CEO Corner

talabat, MENA leading food and grocery delivery app appoints Hadeer Shalaby as Managing Director

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Hadeer Shalaby, new Managing Director talabat Egypt (Source: talabat)

talabat, the region’s leading food and grocery delivery app, has appointed Hadeer Shalaby as the new Managing Director of talabat Egypt. She will be replacing Sofiène Marzouki, who has been in the role of interim Managing Director since January 2020, who will be returning to talabat’s Dubai headquarters to take on a challenging new role at regional level. 

Shalaby will continue to drive talabat in the Egypt market, placing key emphasis on customer experience, supporting our restaurant partners, q-commerce, as well as working hand-in-hand with the government on many initiatives, including rider safety and the continued digitisation of the food and beverage sector.

Sofiène Marzouki, talabat Egypt’s outgoing MD said, “I’d like to take a moment to appreciate our whole ecosystem; our customers, restaurant partners, riders, our employees, and the Egyptian government. This past year has been challenging for everyone, with the COVID-19 pandemic, and I have been very privileged to steer an organisation which has helped to keep many families safe, who rely on talabat to make a living.” 

Shalaby brings a phenomenal record of leading tech companies in Egypt, founding Taxi El Sa7el, the first ride-hailing startup in Egypt back in 2014. In the same year, she then moved on to join Careem as the Founder & GM of Careem Egypt, when they acquired Taxi El Sa7el. Most recently, she had been leading Careem Bus regionally, leading teams in Egypt, UAE and Pakistan. 

Speaking about her appointment, Shalaby said, “Firstly, I would like to thank Sofiène for successfully steering the organisation through the COVID-19 pandemic, rebranding Otlob to talabat as well as collaborations with the government around digitisation of the F&B sector, and creating employment opportunities for Egyptian youth.

These are exciting times for talabat, and moving forward, I want to continue to focus on growth particularly with grocery and pharmacy essentials, as well as continue to create an overall seamless experience for our ecosystem – for our customers, riders, government, restaurant partners as well as the communities in which we operate.’

Toon Gyssels, talabat’s Chief Operating Officer is looking forward to seeing how the organisation will further evolve under Shalaby’s stewardship, and how she will continue to be a role model to aspiring female tech entrepreneurs.

‘We are very excited to continue to attract local top talent to talabat, and we’re proud to say that now, three out of our eight country heads are female. As part of the up-and-coming generation of amazingly talented female entrepreneurs in the private sector in Egypt, we’re looking forward to seeing Hadeer inspire not only our organisation, but continue to provide a guiding light to aspiring young women right throughout the country, and region.’

‘I would also like to thank Sofiène for his great work in Egypt in a year like no other, where he has worked with the team to develop a strong, stable presence for talabat, and we look forward to Hadeer continuing to grow our position in the market.’

Source: talabat

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Economy

Recession: A great time to invest

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Recession (Image credit: Skynews)

Following the 2008 global economic crisis, countries around the world put in modalities that have seen post recovery global economic growth that has been positive in the past decade. IMF projections had estimated global growth to rise from 2.9 percent in 2019 to 3.3 percent in 2020 and 3.4 percent in 2021 and these projections are justifiable given the economic fundamentals that existed at the time of estimation. However, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic which was unpredicted and hence not factored in estimation as an assumption has negatively impacted growth which is estimated at -4.9 percent in 2020 according to the World Economic Outlook statistics. Other than the health impact that has caused over one million deaths globally, the pandemic has disrupted global supply chains and each continent has seen millions lose employment and livelihoods, business operations have been altered and production reduced.

As a consequence, the Coronavirus has triggered a recession, much deeper than the 2008 financial crisis and worse than the “Great Depression” of the early 1930s. A look at all the happenings of the year acts as a disincentive to would be investors that would view the fragile environment as a ground for breeding losses if they are to invest.

As in any tournament, one’s misfortune is another person’s fortune and as such, the recession period would be a good time for identifying opportunity and exploiting all avenues of profit maximization. But a recession signals the downfalls of many businesses, increased losses and unemployment among other things, why would it be a great time to invest?

Access to cheap labor force

The world has become so competitive such that attracting the most skilled and educated labor force comes at a huge cost. Companies have to incur a huge expense on renumeration in order to retain the best minds or else, competitors would easily snatch them. During a crisis such as a recession, the demand for jobs is higher than the supply because many businesses are closing down and as such, a business may be able to acquire the skilled labor at a cheaper price. Because of the scarcity of jobs, employees would be more than willing to work at a lower wage and therefore, a firm that invests during this time can take advantage of this reduced cost.

Building business resilience

If a business is able to start at a time when the economy is nose diving, it learns techniques and strategies on how to overcome certain challenges and be able to mitigate them in the future. Enduring a fragile environment and navigating through it helps in building resilience that will help overcome future factors. This also helps in building a loyal customer base who are impressed with the fact that the business was able to provide the products and services at a time when many began to close. Because of the trust and belief that customers have in the business, this could lead to an increase in the profitability particularly due to increased referrals and positive world of mouth that’s acts as free advertisement for the firm.

Reduced financing cost

A higher interest cost is often a hindrance to access to finance because it discourages businesses from borrowing. As a response to boost economic activity, many countries around the world have decided to slash the interest costs. Central banks are pursing expansionary fiscal policy despite the rise in inflation but this is all in an attempt to ensure that borrowing costs are reduced and businesses are able to borrow and boost their production. Investing during such a time will and taking advantage of lower financing costs can help a business establish itself quickly and produce to meet the demands of the society. Further, during a recession, governments often give tax incentives to help companies navigate the crisis and so, investing during this period enables the enjoyment of this incentive.

Market penetration opportunity

Most of the product and service markets have been flooded with competition such that it is difficult for new entrants to enter. However, during an economic downturn like a recession both small and large companies struggle to adjust and survive in a crisis and this means that they are vulnerable to new entrants. Further, many new opportunities for new products arise during a crisis that can help a business. For example, the emergency of the COVID-19 created a need for facemasks, sanitizers, remote working and many other needs that have enriched businesses and individuals that took advantage of the opportunities. Identifying opportunity can make a business penetrate the market, outsmart competition and make profits.

During a recession, the country’s currency often depreciates due to lower production not earning foreign among other factors. But this works to the advantage of firms that export because a depreciation entails that their products are relatively cheaper compared to other countries and because the recession is affecting many countries, it provides a chance for increased demand for the products and hence the profitability of the firm increases. This can help companies to penetrate foreign market by taking advantage of deficit products and producing them.

However, it is not all investments and businesses that can be undertaken during a crisis and an error to embark on them can lead to serious consequences. The focus therefore should not be on short-term benefits of having to launch the business in a recession but also balancing this with post crisis planning on how you want the business to succeed. Some gains may be temporal and business may not be sustained over a longer period of time and as such serious scrutiny of the business must be undertaken to plan for the long-term objectives of the business. To the would-be investor, it is important that you are not profit driven by rather seen to provide what people need during and post-recession and this will help establish the company quickly and provide prospects of future growth and resilience. Don’t miss the opportunity, invest now!

Author: Nchimunya Muvwende (Economist)

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Fashion

OPIO, Egypt’s leading women’s clothing and lifestyle brand raises USD 300,000 seed round

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OPIO, Egypt’s leading DTC (Direct to Consumer) everyday women’s wear brand has raised USD 300,000 investment in a seed round from AUC Angels, local and regional angel investors along with follow-on funding from Flat6labs Cairo.

Launched in 2017, Opio started as a digital native vertical, capitalizing on the long-abandoned Egyptian apparel industry and the surge in online shopping demand. OPIO commissions white label and toll manufacturing women’s wear apparel to different manufacturers and offers it to it’s ever growing customer base at affordable, competitive pricing through its digital platform www.opioshop.com

OPIO caters to people’s desire for simplicity. They seek to eliminate the hassle of researching brands and choosing from numerous options, to make the shopping experience more effortless. The company develops strong ties with local manufacturers, markets, and distributes their own products without using middlemen, which enables them to reduce costs, interact directly with consumers, and provide a seamless start-to-finish buyer’s experience.

“What I see in this market is a huge supply-demand imbalance.” said Shady Mokhtar the co-founder and CEO of OPIO, adding “Egypt has thousands of manufacturers with exceptional manufacturing capabilities yet, a total lack of modern day customers requirements, up to date fashion trends and marketing know-how, specifically in digital marketing practices.”

“On the other hand we’ve witnessed some jaw dropping internet penetration in Egypt the past 10 years, a hyper exposed gen Z, with very limited online offerings.”

“We’ve proven that we can develop a value proposition that can easily compete with international brands, Egypt is full of design and creative talent. Backing this up by relentless focus on customer experience we are confident that we can easily add a strong mark on the local and regional online fashion market.”
Added Reem Abdellaftif OPIO’s Co-founder, Creative Director and Designer-in-Chief.

OPIO Founders, Shady Mokhtar and Reem Abdellaftif

Over the past couple of years, OPIO’s focus was in developing strong supply chain capabilities and bring onboard a team with a diverse caliber, from digital marketing specialists, to tech experts, as well as fashion design and creative teams. The company acquired talents from reputable e-commerce companies to gain a deeper insight into scaling.

Yaser El Khereji CEO of Albasateen trading company and one of OPIO’s lead investors, says, “We were impressed with Opio’s unique value proposition, We are planning on providing OPIO with the logistical infrastructure they need to set up a strong foothold in the GCC region. With a special attention to localizing the brand to further appeal to the target demographic.”

Mariam Kamel from AUC Angels said, “OPIO has been very responsive to market trends, both in terms of how it interacts with its clientele, and how it reacts to changes induced by the recent developments in the digitalization of the shopping experience. They’ve revised their business plan when they’ve needed to, and established key partnerships where it was beneficial. Shady and his team move fast, and always have news to share on what’s coming next.”

Opio addresses a unique market opportunity that manifested itself with the outbreak of Covid-19 and the major shift by Egyptians towards on-line transactions, the highest of which being in fashion (as highlighted by a MasterCard survey) and an strong team that share a passion for the fashion industry,
strong belief in the creative talent in Egypt, and the operational knowhow needed to deliver an a-class customer experience.

Flat6Labs is a true believer of the OPIO brand and the team behind it and is a proud partner and investor. “We stand behind the team as they take the business beyond borders and scale into a regional and an international brand”, commented Marie-Therese Fam, Managing Partner of Flat6Labs Cairo.

Issued by AUC Angels

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