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IFC Invest in Liquid Telecom Bond to Support Broadband Connectivity in Africa

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IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, invested in Thursday’s bond issued by a subsidiary of Liquid Telecommunications Holdings Ltd., which will allow the telecoms and technology solutions company to expand access to broadband Internet and digital and cloud services across Africa, further facilitating the growth of the continent’s digital economy.

Proceeds from the bond issued by Liquid Telecommunications Financing PLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Liquid Telecommunications Holdings Ltd, will enable the company to refinance existing debt and free up funds to expand its digital infrastructure network across Africa, including in markets with low broadband penetration.

By developing digital infrastructure, Liquid Telecommunications, Africa’s largest independent fiber, data center and cloud technology provider, aims to increase digital connectivity and inclusion in Africa and support the region’s growing digital ecosystem.

IFC played an anchor role and subscribed to 16 percent of the bond, equivalent to $100 million, which was listed on Euronext Dublin, Ireland’s main stock exchange, on February 25, 2021. The issuance raised $620 million.

Internet access in Africa relies largely on mobile networks, many of which are enabled by wholesale connectivity providers such as Liquid Telecommunications. Broadband penetration is low across the continent, with a mobile broadband penetration rate of 34 percent and fixed broadband penetration of less than five percent in most countries across sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa.

“We are delighted that IFC has taken a significant anchor position in our new bond. In the countries in which we operate there are great opportunities to address under developed telecommunications and Internet access, as well as to accelerate the adoption of digital and Cloud-based services. Our refinance enables us to continue to invest in the African digital eco-system including driving penetration of digital and Cloud-based services to businesses who may not previously have had the resources to benefit from them, helping to bridge the connectivity divide, which is more crucial than ever in our current circumstances,” said Nic Rudnick, Liquid Telecom Group Chief Executive Officer.

“Our best chance at ensuring much-needed internet access for everyone in Africa, from large corporates and small businesses to individuals, is to invest in digital infrastructure. Our investment in the Liquid Telecom bond will help the company free up capital to further expand broadband access across Africa, laying a solid foundation for a faster, more resilient recovery,” said Stephanie von Friedeburg, Interim Managing Director and Executive Vice President, and Chief Operating Officer of IFC.

To support Africa’s digital economy, which could be worth $180 billion by 2025, IFC provides financing to mobile network operators, independent tower operators, data centers and broadband connectivity providers. IFC also provides capital to help entrepreneurs and innovative businesses grow and works with financial institutions and telecommunications companies to speed the adoption of digital payments and lending to expand financial inclusion.

Source IFC

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aYo Uganda delivers value through pandemic

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Microinsurer aYo Uganda has underlined its commitment to the economic wellbeing of its customers in the country by paying out more than UGX 760 Million Shillings in 2020, through the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The company offers Hospitalisation and Life Insurance Cover through its two insurance products, ‘Send with Care’ and ‘Recharge with Care’. Commenting on the company’s performance, the CEO of aYo Uganda, Allan Lwanga, said consumer anxieties around Covid and its related economic challenges had heightened awareness of the need for protection and help in the event of either loss of life or hospitalisation.

“Despite the challenges brought about by the containment measures and an uncertain pathway of the pandemic including over three months of lockdown, the company was able to onboard up to 1 million new customers for the Recharge with Care product, and over 200 000 new customers for Send with Care products,” said Mr Lwanga.

Microinsurance is seen as a powerful enabler of financial inclusion in African markets, providing a much-needed social safety net that helps vulnerable people and particularly people with low incomes to stay afloat when the unexpected happens. This is particularly important in a developing country such as Uganda, where lower income households and informal traders have been hard-hit by the pandemic, as it has reduced their ability to generate an income.

aYo Uganda’s ‘Send with Care’ and ‘Recharge with Care’ products cater for all MTN subscribers. aYo Recharge with Care offers life and hospital insurance cover every time customers recharge their MTN airtime. Subscribers can sign up by dialling *296# on their mobile phones, and use the same process for filing claims. Valid claims are paid directly to the claimant’s mobile money wallet without any hassle. With Send with Care, aYo provides up to triple the amounts that customers have sent via MTN Mobile Money over the previous four months. Life cover pays out to their family in the event of their passing, and hospital cover pays straight into their MTN Mobile Money account if they spend one night or more in hospital due to an accident or illness. When customers send money, they simply select aYo Send with Care when prompted*, or dial *165*1*4#.

 

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CEO Corner

African Bank Appoints Kennedy Bungane, CEO

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African Bank New CEO, Kennedy Bungane (Press Release & Image: African Bank)

African Bank (“Board”) announces the appointment of Mr. Kennedy Bungane as the Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) and as an executive director of the Bank and its holding company, African Bank Holdings Limited (“ABH”) effective 14 April 2021. The Bank confirms that the appointment of Kennedy was done in accordance with African Bank’s policy on the selection and nomination of executive directors, and in order to fill a vacancy as well as add to the skillset on the Board.

Kennedy brings over 20 years of banking experience with him, having started his career at Standard Bank in 1991, holding a number of senior positions, including Head of Global Markets Sales, Head of Institutional and Corporate Banking, CEO Corporate and Investment Banking for Standard Bank South Africa, and a member of the Standard Bank Group Executive Committee. After joining Barclays Africa in 2012 as Chief Executive of Barclays Africa Limited and Head of Absa Group strategy, Kennedy led the sale of Barclays Africa Limited to the ABSA Group. More recently, Kennedy headed up the Phembani Group as its CEO. He also brings investment and strategic experience gained as the founder and chairman of Nokeng Telecoms and chairman of Idwala Capital.

Kennedy holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree, a Master of Business Administration, and completed the advanced management program at the Harvard Business School (USA).

Commenting on Kennedy’s appointment, the Chairman of the Board, Thabo Dloti, stated, “We welcome the appointment of Kennedy as the new permanent CEO. Kennedy has a keen sense for managing complex stakeholder issues. He has a proven track record in identifying and nurturing leadership, which promotes strong teams to deliver successful results. His passion for the role that banking can play in transforming society resonated strongly with the Board.

As an experienced banker, he also critically has a good grasp of the strategic challenges facing the Bank, within a muted South African economy and competitive landscape, as well as the required regulatory and governance framework.

 

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Platform Capital invests in USA-based innovative peer-to-peer financing platform SoLo Funds

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Platform Capital Chairman, Dr. Akintoye Akindele and Rodney Williams, Co-Founder of SoLo Funds Inc. (Image & Press Release: Platform Capital)

Platform Capital (“Platform”), a leading growth markets investor, is pleased to announce its investment in and partnership with SoLo Funds Inc. (“SoLo”), an innovative and proprietary peer-to-peer financing platform based in USA that has revolutionised the access to and supply of short-term funds for individuals, entrepreneurs, and businesses.

Twenty-five percent of Americans are unbanked or underbanked, whilst 80% of American workers live paycheck to paycheck, and don’t have adequate savings to cover unforeseen expenses. In addition, implicit and explicit biases mean that women and people of colour are three times more likely to see their credit applications rejected. As a result, they are left with no other options, and fall prey to payday lenders, where a small loan can accrue over 400% APR, trapping them in a cycle of debt.

SoLo replaces payday lenders with a community-based, market-driven model for access to short-term funds for individuals. Through its community, individuals are able to access funds ranging from $50 to $1,000 for up to 2 weeks, that are delivered within hours through a simple and non-approval sign-up process powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. The platform connects users directly and determines a SoLo score based on ability to repay, spending habits, payment frequency, behavioural data, and location-based data. There are no fees or compounding interest paid to SoLo or the member of the community providing the funds, avoiding the debt trap that is common in traditional short-term lending.

Since launch in 2018, the SoLo community has grown to over 300,000 users. The company has seen significant adoption of its model in states with large populations and high cost of living. Over the past 12 months, SoLo’s community has experienced more than 2,000% growth, introduced a new product feature “lender protection service” that safeguards the financed amount in case of a default, and has partnered with Kiva to enable access to funds for entrepreneurs and business owners ranging from $1,000 to $15,000.

SoLo Funds mission is to replace payday lenders with a community-based, market-driven model for individuals, entrepreneurs, and businesses to access financing. The company has raised $10 million lead by international investors including ACME Capital, Impact America Fund, Techstars, Endeavor Catalyst, and CEAS Investments to further develop its technology, scale its team, and expand across the USA.

Dr. Akintoye Akindele, Chairman of Platform Capital, joins the Board as an observer & adviser.

Rodney Williams, Co-Founder of SoLo Funds Inc., said “We’re excited about our partnership with Platform Capital, we look forward to expanding our services into Africa. This partnership enables us to achieve our vision of being the number one access to funds provider for people and businesses in need. We believe that our platform will certainly impact and change conversation in Africa around how businesses and individuals can access funds.”

Dr. Akintoye Akindele, Chairman of Platform Capital, said: “We are proud to partner with SoLo Funds. Access to funds is a problem that affects millions of people globally. We believe that SoLo’s alternative approach to laccessing funds will impact millions of lives and position them as an innovative disruptor in the funding space. We look forward to working with SoLo Funds to scale their innovative solutions to positively impact people’s lives.”

 

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