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MTN shares on the rise after board changes

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DURBAN – The share price of Africa’s largest mobile operator, MTN, rose 2.78 percent on the JSE after it announced several changes to its board in a bid to strengthen its executive team. The share closed at R105.30 on Friday.

MTN has appointed former deputy minister of finance Mcebisi Jonas as its chairperson-designate to replace Phuthuma Nhleko, who is stepping down in mid-December.

Jonas is no stranger to the MTN board. Last May, he was appointed as an independent non-executive director after being fired by then-president Jacob Zuma in 2017.

Nhleko has delayed his departure by six months to oversee the formation of the international advisory board (IAB), which he would serve as a member.

The five-member IAB will be chaired by former president Thabo Mbeki and will include former President of Ghana John Kufuor; Dr Aisha Abdullahi, former African Union commissioner for political affairs; Dr Mohammed el Baradei, former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency; and Dr Momar Nguer, president of marketing and services Total SA.

MTN said the main purpose of the IAB would be to counsel, guide and support the MTN Group from time to time in fulfilling its vision and objective of being one of the premier African corporations with a global footprint in telecommunications, contributing to increased digital inclusion in Africa and the Middle East, a pivotal aspect of the fourth industrial revolution.

Other key changes include Dr Khotso Mokhele, who will become a lead independent director from December 15, and Lamido Sanusi, a Nigerian national and former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and Vincent Rague, a Kenyan national who worked for the International Finance Corporation, both with effect from July 1.

Alan Harper, Jeff Van Rooyen and Koosum Kaylan will step down from the board on December 15, while Peter Mageza and Dawn Marole would step down next year.

Peter Takaendesa, a portfolio manager at Mergence Investment Managers, said there were two important things that the MTN board had announced: the appointment of new non-executive directors and setting up of a new IAB.

“One of the key challenges MTN has faced in the past five years has been costly fines from African governments, especially in West Africa, and our view is that some of those sanctions were due to weaker relationships with relevant stakeholders. We, therefore, believe that the well-respected new non-executive directors and members of the IAB will go a long way in reducing those risks,” Takaendesa said.

Nhleko led negotiations after the group fell out with Nigeria after local authorities slapped MTN with a $5.2 billion (R74.48bn) fine in 2015 for failing to disconnect unregistered SIM cards on its network.

The fine was later reduced to $1.7bn after a series of negotiations with the Nigerian government, with the fine leading to MTN reporting losses for the first time in its 2016 financial results.

Last September, MTN was ordered by Nigeria’s central bank to refund about $8.13bn that it allegedly had illegally repatriated from the country.

Takaendesa said there was no doubt on the contribution that Nhleko has made on connecting the African continent to telecommunication services and the fruits of his vision decades ago would continue to benefit many stakeholders for decades to come.

“His influence on MTN will be diluted going forward, but his guidance will not be lost, as he will join the IAB. However, a number of investors in MTN have been calling for an independent chairperson to strengthen corporate governance further, and Jonas has been asked to step into that position.

There is no guarantee that problems in Nigeria will become a thing of the past, but Jonas will have very strong support from both the newly appointed non-executive directors, including former Nigeria central bank governor, and IAB with solid African leadership experience,” Takaendesa said. He said MTN was now in a much stronger position compared with where it was 12 to 18 months ago.

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Hospitality & Tourism

Radisson Individuals makes its African debut with hotel signing in Ghana, to open its doors in October 2021

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Image Source: Radisson Hotel Group

Radisson Hotel Group is proud to announce its first Radisson Individuals property in Africa, with the signing of Earl Heights Suites Hotel, a member of Radisson Individuals, Accra, Ghana. Due to open by the end of 2021, this new addition places the Group firmly on track to achieving its objective of reaching 150 hotels in operation and under development by 2025.

Located in Dzorwulu, the property is currently undergoing a full renovation and is on schedule to open within this year. Just 5km from Kotoka International Airport (KIA), the main access point by air for domestic and international visitors, the serviced apartment property is conveniently located near shopping malls, restaurants, as well as the University of Ghana, situated north of the district. Also within reach, is the tranquil Legon Botanical Gardens, with its canopy walk, rope courses, canoeing and rich birdlife.

Due to its strategic geographical location, ease of access, and aviation facilities and connections, Accra has become a conference and aviation hub for West Africa. It is also dominated by local and international business activities, making the city one of the most attractive African cities to do business.

The 58-serviced apartments property will comprise of modern studios as well as spacious and elegant one- and two-bedroom suites. Creating a true destination for its guests, the property will offer culinary options in the restaurant, The Society, which will include outdoor seating as well as in the hotel bar. The property will also feature a spa, gym, pool, convenience store, and business centre, providing the perfect base for both business and leisure.

Radisson Individuals is a conversion brand that offers independent hotels and local, regional chains the opportunity to be part of the global Radisson Hotel Group platform, benefit from the Group’s international awareness and experience, with the freedom to maintain their own uniqueness and identity.  Radisson Hotel Group plans to more than double its serviced apartments portfolio within the next 5 years across EMEA. Today, serviced apartments represent around 10% of the Group’s EMEA portfolio with 45 properties and more than 5,400 units in operation and under development.

Erwan Garnier, Senior Director, Development, Africa, Radisson Hotel Group, said: “We have identified Ghana as a key focus country in our five-year development plan and, Accra as a focus and primary city. The signing of the property, which compliments the Radisson Hotel & Apartments Accra announced last year and scheduled to open in 2023, is also aligned with our current conversion-focused growth strategy, which will remain a priority, especially post-pandemic. We are therefore proud the Radisson Individuals African debut, will be on Ghanaian soil, carving the path for the new brand to continue its expansion across the continent. In proud partnership with Earlbeam Group of Companies, we are thrilled to be contributing to the country’s tourism industry, a key pillar of the national economy.”

Alfred Danso Darkwah, CEO of the hotel’s owning company, Earlbeam Group of Companies, said: “The Earl Heights Suites Hotel partnership is an exciting opportunity – it brings together the union of Radisson Hotel Group and The Earlbeam Group Of Companies, two well-seasoned brands from the hospitality and real estate sector respectively. This will be the first branded apart hotel in Ghana, completely unique, providing each guest a boutique home-away-from home experience. In addition, it delivers partner confidence, guarantee of service standards, and assured safety and security, leaving a positive mark on Ghana’s hospitality sector. We believe this Radisson Individuals hotel will inject much-needed life within the local hospitality industry and pave the way for upcoming projects between Radisson Hotel Group and The Earlbeam Group of Companies.”

Image Source: Radisson Hotel Group

Herewith the link to the renders of the hotel, which is on track to open its doors in October this year Radisson Individuals

Radisson Hotel Group operates to high standards of performance and advocates socially and environmentally sustainable business practices. More than ever, Radisson Hotel Group’s highest priorities remain the health and safety of its guests and employees. The Group partnered with SGS, the world’s leading inspection and certification company, to implement the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol, which ensures the highest hygiene standards and strengthens the Group’s existing rigorous sanitation guidelines. In the run-up to the opening of Earl Heights Suites Hotel, a member of Radisson Individuals the hotel will implement the Radisson Hotel Group brand standards including the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol related to safety and security.

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TuneCore Launches Operations in Africa, Appoints Two Female Regional Executives

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TuneCore Jade Leaf and Chioma Onuchukwu

TuneCore, the leading digital music distribution and publishing administration company for independent artists, has launched operations in Africa. Jade Leaf has been hired as Head of TuneCore for Southern Africa and will share responsibility for key countries in East Africa with Chioma Onuchukwu, who has been hired as Head of TuneCore for West Africa. Both Leaf and Onuchukwu will report to Faryal Khan-Thompson, Vice President, International, TuneCore.

Onuchukwu will be based in Nigeria and oversee countries in West Africa including Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. She will also look after Tanzania and Ethiopia in East Africa.  Leaf’s territory encompasses Southern Africa, including South Africa, where she will be based, as well as Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Lesotho. Leaf will also manage TuneCore operations in East African countries Kenya and Uganda.

Said Onuchukwu, “I am elated to be joining a renowned, independent music distribution powerhouse, especially in an incredible era for music creators in Africa at a time when we are gaining global recognition and increasing momentum. I look forward to collaborating with and supporting local artists.”

Before joining TuneCore, Onuchukwu was Marketing Manager at uduX Music, a music streaming platform in Nigeria. There she worked directly with popular African artists such as Davido, Yemi Alade, Patoranking, Kizz Daniel and more.

Commented Leaf, “I am incredibly excited to join the team in a time where the global conversation is around independence and ownership. TuneCore opens up a world of potential for independent artists at every level of their careers. Africa is home to a diverse range of artists who are seeking a reliable distribution service who understands their local needs and can ultimately give them the opportunity to turn their art into commercial success.”

Previously, Leaf worked at Africa’s largest Pay TV operator, Multichoice as the Marketing Manager for Youth & Music Channels, where she led brand re-imaging and marketing efforts for Music TV giant Channel O. Before that, she worked at Sony Music Entertainment Africa, focusing on African artists and content, as well as numerous marketing campaigns & projects for local and international artists.

There has been a meteoric rise in the uptake of streaming services in Africa, the growth has been attributed to several factors such as an increase in internet penetration via smartphones, the entrance of international and local streaming platforms in key territories and its youth population – More than 60% of African’s are under the age of 25.

In 2020, TuneCore saw an increase in music releases globally, with many African artists opting to use the DIY Distributor – DJ Spinall and Small Doctor in Nigeria, Spoegwolf in South Africa, Mpho Sebina in Botswana and Fena Gitu in Kenya to name a few.

Stated Khan-Thompson, “Africa is an extremely exciting music market with a lot of potential for growth. By hiring Jade and Chioma to lead our efforts, TuneCore is well positioned to maximize opportunities for independent artists across the continent. Both Chioma and Jade bring a wealth of experience and genuine interest in helping artists make their dreams come true. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have two incredible women representing the TuneCore brand in the continent”

TuneCore

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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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