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Uzoma Dozie Launches Sparkle, A Startup Set To Disrupt Nigeria’s Retail Services Industry

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Ten years ago, the act of shopping – retail as a necessity and as a pastime – existed entirely offline in Nigeria. You go to a store, you buy what you want, you shop around – but it was a physical transaction. Often laborious too; moving from one store to another, across town, back again, only to find that what you wanted wasn’t in stock. And when it came to payments? Consumers were prepared to part with their cash with bundles of Naira to preempt the store’s POS machine not working or, in all likelihood, there not being one.

Fast forward to mass-market internet; commerce is changing – it is literally in the palm of our hands. Retail has no fixed abode. It’s on instagram. It’s on Facebook. Soon, it will be on online marketplaces that haven’t even been invented yet – and at scale.

Retail powers our country, stealthily. Ask anyone about Nigeria’s economy and the words “oil” and “gas” roll off their tongues, because we can see the results and can account for much of the revenue. However, the millions of retailers across the country – those making sure every day people get what they need and want, are virtually invisible. It is almost a clandestine economy.

At Diamond Bank, we cultivated the retail sector and built digital mobile products for retailers, because we wanted to include them in the banking community and provide a service for the underbanked. For most, cash was [and still is] king, and there was no real engagement with the banks. Not at scale. Retail was a cash economy outside of the usual economic paradigms of taxation and government involvement. For traditional banks, this was a vacuum. For Diamond Bank, we saw it as an opportunity to engage an entire community; and that is exactly what we did. In less than 10 years, we built out a retail arm of the bank that included over 15 million people. This was their first foray into retail banking. As my father and I look back on Diamond Bank’s legacy, cultivating digital banking, at scale, is one of our lasting impacts.

But that was yesterday.

Let’s look at today. And tomorrow. We are introducing Sparkle. A new iteration of what it means to support retailers, businesses and individuals in Nigeria. Beyond traditional banking. A platform that has gone from concept [securing better access to banking and finance business facilities for businesses and individuals] to an MVP; Sparkle is now being developed to allow people to do more whilst allowing businesses to be more.

At Sparkle, we want to complement the resilience with a wrap around digital service that supports retailers, individuals and SMEs, seamlessly. A silent business partner, so to speak. The businesses of today that we will be collaborating with at Sparkle are on the go. They are extremely fluid. They move with the trends and, where possible, they dictate the trends. As I mentioned – they have no fixed abode. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t building or growing. And importantly, they are digital natives – their first point of interaction with customers is online. Picture, swipe, click, purchase. It’s that easy. So how can we deliver a service that supports a tribe of digital natives who want to focus on making money and building their business, rather than be burdened with financial admin?

Also Read Cycles, Nigeria’s No.1 Bike-Sharing Platform Achieving The United Nations SDG Goal 11 – Damilola Soladoye

We are blessed with a young population [in its tens of millions] of early adopters, who are revelling in [and capitalising on] lower costs of smart phone handsets and lower data costs. Whist this means that the barrier to entry for businesses is now significantly lower, there is more competition. But that’s OK – competition is fine, but let’s all make sure we can compete, build and grow; this can only be done if you have access and support services that enable you to compete on a level playing field. This is a generation of mobile-first retailers who are powering ecommerce via social. Facebook boasts over 21m users. Instagram – 5.6m. And unlike the “developed” world, these figures are growing upwards, and fast. Sharing, telling, selling – this is where commerce lies, this is where Sparkle starts.

So what we did with Sparkle, we decided to support and build a tribe of digital natives. Those who instinctively reach for their mobile phone when they’re engaging in any transaction, be it personal or business. As we build this tribe, we are sticking to and embedding core values and principles in to how we operate; everything, absolutely everything we do is grounded in trust and transparency. We are creating a market within an established market and unpicking the barriers to entry for so many people by ensuring they are part of the growth – part of society. They are financially included. Retailers have, for so long, been excluded from society at so many levels, because they are not paying tax and engaging with state and government; Sparkle is tackling this and bringing more people into an inclusive system.

Interestingly, these are the human principles upon which we built when we started building Diamond Bank in the 1990s. Our principles are 25+ years old [and more] but our approach and execution is totally new. With Sparkle, we will provide a dedicated, personalised experience to each and every one of our users – who we hope will number in their millions in years to come. But they will not be “seen to” by traditional customer relationship managers; that’s for the 1%. Sparkle is here for all. We are building for those who don’t need to look into the whites of a bank personnel’s eyes – we are building and growing for a community of people who want fast, accurate decisions made based on unambiguous and unbiased data habits. Powered by AI and Machine Learning, Sparkle will remove emotion from decision making and put your data in your hands. Whereas other companies accrue data to sell and to profit from, we want our Sparklers to profit from their own data, but allowing them to make well informed decisions regarding their next steps. At Sparkle, currency is data.

Our Sparklers have their heads down as they create and build and test – building an MVP that delivers human principles of commerce and business. We are curating a business and lifestyle-friendly platform that will enhance the human side of doing business, at scale. We have no alternative. This is how retail will scale and businesses will thrive in Nigeria; leveraging technology and mobile to create and support a generation of digitally native businesses that provide an alternative economy for Nigeria.

Why Sparkle? Because we can

Credit: Uzoma Dozie/www.sparkle.ng

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Why African Diasporas Must take Leadership of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Business to Achieve Meaningful Impact

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SSCG Consulting hosted One Africa Network Diversity and Inclusion in Business Forum on Friday 29 November 2019 in Birmingham, UK, held under the theme of “Breaking down barriers to boost resilience and success “. The event was attended by notable speakers, diverse professionals, business leaders, entrepreneurs and academia across the Midlands.

Panel speakers included Eugene Nizeyimana, CEO, SSCG Consulting, Chair, One Africa Network; Fajli Bibi MA, Chair of West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Inclusive Leadership Group; Prof Kiran Trehan, Professor of Leadership and Enterprise Development, Director of the Centre for Women’s Enterprise, Leadership, Economy & Diversity (WE LEAD), University of Birmingham; Jacynth Ivey, Non-executive directors (NED), Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation, Associate NED, Health Education England, NED, West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust and Founder of Inspiring Hope and Jacynth Ivey; Dr. Rochelle A. Haynes, Senior HRM Consultant, Performance Works International, Senior Lecturer, UWE Bristol; and Mayokun – Mac Alonge, Founder and CEO, The Equal Group – A data-driven, equality, diversity and inclusion tech company, who shared their career experiences working in diverse organisations and leadership levels.

The discussions and topical issues addressed include: Demystifying Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), creating inclusive businesses that harnesses inclusive leadership at the front, closing ethnic minority pay gap disparities, bridging the opportunity gaps in recruitment and career growth, harnessing diverse workplace culture that foster and leverage best thinking and ability, challenging stereotypes, un/conscious and implicit bias to shape everyday right decisions, intercultural communication, using Big Data and analytics to make a difference, deliver impactful actions and reporting; and achieving superior performance and profitability through diversity.

The speakers highlighted and emphasised the importance of why Africans in the diaspora and minorities leaders in the UK should be disruptive and take leadership charge to create a future they want to see, the adaption to create inclusive and diverse environment that deliver meaningful impact. Brings new perspectives and encourage broader decisions in every place and help businesses to customise their own approaches in creating value through improving diversity and fostering an inclusive culture.

They must take actions to help businesses and organisations transform how they select and develop people in workplaces, develop inclusive leadership capabilities that understand the new trends of a diverse World (markets, customers, ideas, and talent), empower individuals, effective in cross-cultural interactions as well as create and leverage the thinking of diverse groups.

Several delegates also signed up to the Inclusive Leadership Pledge join West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) movement to make the region’s leadership more inclusive of the diverse communities who live and work in the West Midlands.

Also Read: How this African Diaspora is keeping the tradition of African storytelling alive

The next OAN Diversity and Inclusion in Business Forum 2020 will take place on Thursday 05 November 2020 in Birmingham. Those who wish to attend and participate can find more information at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/oan-diversity-and-inclusion-in-business-forum-tickets-84721948629

SSCG Consulting

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ACP Business Summit: Improve the Business Environment to Drive Industrialisation in African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries – Elumelu

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L – R: Tony O. Elumelu, CON, Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation and Chairman, Heirs Holdings and UBA Group; H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya; at the 9th ACP Business Summit in Kenya on December 8, 2019, as Elumelu Presents the Keynote Speech.

Nairobi, Kenya, December 9, 2019: Tony O. Elumelu, CON, Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation and Chairman, Heirs Holdings and United Bank for Africa Group, urged African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Heads of State to improve the business environment in their countries to drive industrialisation and wealth creation in ACP member states.

He said this while presenting the keynote speech on the theme “Industrialization and Private Sector Engagement for Economic Transformation of ACP States” at the Presidential Dialogue of the 9th ACP Business Summit in Nairobi, Kenya.

Elumelu stated that industrialisation will not be achieved without support for small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) and improved access to electricity. “We cannot hope to industrialise if we do not fix the issue of power, if our entrepreneurs spend so much of their resources to power their businesses, how then are they expected to make the investments necessary to upgrade and industrialise? If we do not tackle these pertinent issues, we will be unable to achieve industrialisation, wealth creation and poverty reduction,” he said.

He highlighted infrastructure development as another critical area needed to achieve sustainable development, highlighting the key role the United Bank for Africa Group plays in achieving this. “UBA is a force for development in Africa through infrastructure investment and leading the way in cross border payments and services, with the objective of encouraging trade across the continent,” he said.

While citing the impact of the flagship Entrepreneurship Programme of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Elumelu highlighted the critical role partnership between the private and public sectors, as well as developmental organisations, play in achieving industrialisation. The Tony Elumelu Foundation, a private-sector-led philanthropy,  is on a mission to catalyse the economic transformation of the continent by empowering young African entrepreneurs – over 7,500 beneficiaries across 54 African countries thus far – through its Entrepreneurship Programme. Elumelu shared stories of beneficiaries in Kenya including Dr. Peter Gichuhi Mwethera, who has developed a contraceptive gel, Uniprin, which aims to prevent HIV infection, and Maureen Amakabane whose company, ‘Usafi Sanitation’, is bridging the sanitation gap in schools by providing waterless toilets.

Also Read: How this African Diaspora is keeping the tradition of African storytelling alive

He said: “To date, we have 497 beneficiaries in Kenya, 596 in Uganda, 187 in Tanzania and 194 in Rwanda. This brings the total number of TEF Entrepreneurs in East Africa so far to 1,474, so far. Organisations such as the UNDP, African Development Bank, the ICRC, and GIZ have helped increase the number of young entrepreneurs we can support “.

The President of Kenya, H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta shared the same approach to development, while highlighting his country’s private-sector-focused plan which has propelled the country’s ease of doing business rank from 129th position out of 190 economies in 2013 to the 56th position in 2019. 

President Kenyatta said: “Our young people are tech-savvy and indeed with a huge entrepreneurial spirit. They are ready to embrace the digital revolution. We are experiencing a flourishing digital innovation ecosystem which can stimulate the rate of growth of ICT and technology innovations, and nurture vibrant tech startups and incubator hubs as Tony [Elumelu] has mentioned, of those young men and women he has supported through his family and Foundation”.

In closing, Elumelu stressed the importance of including women in the development agenda of the ACP region, commending the European Investment Bank (EIB), for its initiative “She Invest”, which is focused on mobilising 1 billion Euros for women across Africa. “We at the Tony Elumelu Foundation strive to reach the same goals of uplifting women out of poverty and empowering them with knowledge and resources. This is an invitation to join forces as we have done with the UNDP to lift 100,000 young African boys and girls out of poverty, thereby stemming migration challenges,” he said. 

Tony Elumelu Foundation

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Cars45 Expands to Ghana and Kenya

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Pan-African automotive platform launches consumer-to-consumer marketplace to match sellers and buyers

Lagos, Nigeria – 10 December 2019 – Cars45, Nigeria’s leading automotive trading platform, has launched into Ghana (www.cars45.com.gh)  and Kenya (www.cars45.co.ke). Cars45 is aiming to become the primary platform for all car transactions in the $45 billion African used car market and expansion into these strategic markets marks an important step on that journey.

In an African market where 9 million used cars are traded annually, trust is often a rare commodity as buyers and sellers navigate opaque pricing and quality assurance structures. Using its technology-enabled platform, consumers in Ghana and Kenya can now sell their cars directly through Cars45 and get paid in 45 minutes. Sellers have access to standardised pricing and a transparent marketplace, with 100 percent visibility into price offers, and buyers get access to the largest selection of verified cars. Cars45 will also provide vehicle financing, background checks, vehicle history, insurance, after-sales support, servicing and other ancillary services that consumers will need in their automotive lifecycle.

With retail locations already opened in Nairobi and Accra, Cars45 plans to increase its footprint in Ghana and Kenya even further by opening more centres in Mombasa, Takoradi and other cities. Cars45 also aims to expand into additional African markets in 2020.

In addition to its launch into these markets, Cars45 is also launching a consumer-to-consumer marketplace that directly matches sellers and buyers across all markets it operates in. In an African automotive market where trust is not traditionally high, consumers will be able to connect in a seamless and secure way, using Cars45 as a marker of professionalism and excellence.

All cars listed in the Cars45 marketplace have been through a thorough vetting process (200 point inspection, due diligence and background check) and will carry the trusted Cars45 inspection report. Cars45 will also conduct multi-level screening to ensure that only serious buyers are brought forward. Buyers will have full confidence in the purchase they are making and sellers will be protected by an escrow model.

Also Read: How this African Diaspora is keeping the tradition of African storytelling alive

According to Etop Ikpe, CEO and co-founder of Cars45, “We want to connect buyers and sellers across the continent in the most seamless way, taking the stress out of the trading experience. After successfully establishing ourselves in Nigeria, expanding into Ghana and Kenya made perfect sense as the ideal next step as we build a transparent and fair structure for trading cars on the continent.

Ikpe added that “the process of buying and selling cars today can be complicated, time-consuming and needlessly expensive. We want to put an end to that by providing an easy and convenient way for consumers across Africa to make what is often the most significant financial transaction of their lives.”

Cars45

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