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?
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
SSC Capital Tanzania teams up with World’s first Halal angel network to tap the fast growing African Market
SSC Capital Founder & CEO, Salum Awadh (Source: Halal Angels Network)
Halal Angels Network is among the first to penetrate the $5 trillion Halal consumer market has teamed up SSC Capital of Tanzania to tap the fast growing African market.
According to Brookings Institute “More than 80 percent of Africa’s population growth over the next few decades will occur in cities, making it the fastest-urbanizing region in the world. In total, we expect annual spending by African consumers and businesses to reach $6.66 trillion by 2030, up from $4 trillion in 2015.
Halal Angels Network was launched to promote innovation, entrepreneurship and start-ups, and inspire investors across the world to tap into a sector that will be worth $9.71 trillion by 2025 (Reuters, 2019).
The angel network is adopting new, innovative technology to digitise the way they present, distribute and manage Halal-based deals. In doing so, angel investors will benefit from greater access to deal flow which can be profiled based on their interests, risk appetite and current portfolio.
Salum Awadh, Founder & CEO, SSC Capital said that “Opportunities for investing in game-changing start-ups are ever increasing, we currently see many solutions by entrepreneurs coming to the market with disruptive and high-growth potential business models. But all this will be massive if these entrepreneurs get the right investment, with the right mentorship, at the right time. The Halal Angels Network and SSC Capital are forming this great potential partnership, sharing decades of industry experience and exposure, and we are hopeful that it will also change the landscape of halal angel investing globally.”
Dr Tausif Malik, Founder of Halal Angels Network, said: “With over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, the Halal industry offers tremendous opportunities across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Based on the available data & research we focused on signing up our first partnership in Africa with SSC Capital.”
He further added that we felt that SSC Capital was the right partner to tap the East African Startup and Halal market.
Both Halal Angels Network and SSC Capital work together to co-host events in Africa, help connect investors with businesses, entrepreneurs, startups and offer consulting services.
Halal Angels Network is now calling for angel investors countries to join them and discover over 1,000 investment opportunities within the flourishing market – from pharmaceuticals and modest fashion through to food and tourism. Recently Halal Angels Network had tied up Fintech major Delio to use their digital platform showcase Halal-based deals to a much more international audience, connecting angel investors across the world not just with deals, but also with each other.
African Infrastructure Investment Managers appoints Vuyo Ntoi and Sola Lawson as new co-CEOs
African Infrastructure Investment Managers new co-CEOs, Vuyo Ntoi and Sola Lawson (Source: AIIM Africa)
London and Cape Town, 3 August 2020: African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM), a member of Old Mutual Alternative Investments and Africa’s most experienced infrastructure manager, has appointed two joint-managing directors to be based in Cape Town and Lagos, following the retirement of the company’s previous CEO.
Vuyo Ntoi and Sola Lawson, have been appointed from within the business, and will continue to sit in their South Africa and Nigeria offices respectively, as two of AIIM’s key markets in sub-Saharan Africa. As AIIM’s new joint-MD’s, they take over from Jurie Swart, who has been CEO of AIIM since 2014 and recently elected to take early retirement to focus on a new challenge outside the AIIM business.
Commenting on the new roles, Paul Boynton, non-executive chairman of the Board at AIIM said: “Vuyo and Sola have both been integral members of the AIIM team for many years and bring with them extensive and varied investment experience and leadership skills. On behalf of the entire Board, I am looking forward to working even closer with them in their new joint-MD roles as the business continues to expand and move forward.”
Vuyo Ntoi said, “I am very excited to step into this new joint role, continuing to work with Sola and the Exco team to drive the strategy that we have had in place, which has and continues to deliver excellent outcomes for our investors and stakeholders.”
Sola Lawson added, “I am honoured to take on the role of joint-MD of AIIM and look forward to working closely with Vuyo and the wider team to continue to build on the strong foundations developed throughout Jurie’s time as CEO and to help progress AIIM’s strategic journey.”
Vuyo Ntoi has been a member of the senior management team at AIIM for over a decade and is the co-portfolio manager of AIIM’s IDEAS Managed Fund, one of South Africa’s largest domestic infrastructure equity funds. He was also involved in the initial roll out of the business across the continent and has led and participated in high profile and pioneering projects in South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria and Mali.
Sola Lawson joined AIIM in 2011, founding the Nigeria office, AIIM’s first permanent establishment in Africa outside of South Africa. He has been a member of the senior management team at AIIM since joining and is a member of the IDEAS investment committee. Sola has played a leading role in originating, executing and managing c. USD500 million of AIIM-managed fund investments across Africa, serving on the board of directors of several AIIM portfolio companies within the digital infrastructure, power or renewables and midstream sectors. Prior to joining AIIM, Sola was a member of the infrastructure funds team at Macquarie Group, and prior to that worked at PwC London.
Issued by: AIIM Africa
Lindelwe Lesley Ndlovu, African Risk Capacity (ARC) CEO Shares Goals, Disaster Risk Solutions, COVID-19 and Future
Lindelwe Lesley Ndlovu is an executive with extensive international experience in insurance and investment management. He is currently the CEO of the African Risk Capacity “ARC” Ltd. ARC Ltd is a specialist insurance company that provides parametric insurance coverage to African countries against extreme weather events and natural disasters. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Lesley shares his goals, disaster risk solutions, COVID-19 and the future. Excerpt.
Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about ARC Ltd and the gap its filling in Africa?
Lesley: ARC is a specialist insurance company that was established by the African Union to help African governments improve their capacities to better plan, prepare, and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters, and adapt to climate change. ARC works through collaboration and innovative finance, to enable countries to strengthen their disaster risk management systems and access rapid and predictable financing when disaster strikes to protect the food security and livelihoods of their vulnerable populations.
From 2014 to 2019, ARC cumulatively provided drought insurance coverage worth US$590 million to insure 59 million vulnerable people in Member States and paid out US$61 million in insurance claims.
Alaba: As its new Chief Executive, what are your set milestone in terms of growth and impact?
Lesley: Our target is to achieve US$100 million in gross written premiums in the next 5 years, providing gross insurance coverage of US$1 billion. This level of scale will allow us to reach 150 million people in Africa and more effectively use insurance to protect people against food insecurity brought about by natural disasters such as droughts and floods, the frequency and severity of natural disasters is increasing as a result of climate change.
Alaba: Establishing a risk pooling insurer is clearly a difficult task. What can other Regions learn from the ARC concept?
Lesley: The idea of sovereign risk pooling is catching on globally, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility was the first pool set up in 2007 after the devastating hurricanes suffered by the Caribbean countries. ARC Ltd was set up in 2014, subsequently other risk pools have been set up for the Pacific Island nations, the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative and SEADRIF in South East Asia.
The success of the risk pools depends a great deal on political support by the member countries and a clearly demonstrable value for all the pool members.
Alaba: What are the benefits of your products for vulnerable member sovereign?
Lesley: The main benefit of working with ARC Ltd, is that we are owned by the African countries and therefore exist to cater to their unique needs. We are able to build customized insurance solutions for each country. Our parametric insurance product pays claims very quickly, typically within 10 days of the insured event, giving governments timely funding to start the relief and recovery efforts. Furthermore, ARC Ltd has an Agency arm which provides capacity building for countries to help them understand the risks that they face and development mitigation strategies.
Alaba: Could you discuss more on The Extreme Climate Facility (XCF) initiative?
Lesley: The XCF is an exciting and very innovative concept. The main objective of the Extreme Climate Facility (XCF) is to reduce vulnerability to extreme events by providing enabling conditions for increased adaptation investment and improved risk transfer. The XCF structure combines a green bond and a catastrophe bond, issued centrally on behalf of member states can address critical barriers to adaptation investment and increase post-disaster funding.
Alaba: How is the current global pandemic affecting ARC? Are you Post COVID-19 prepared?
Lesley: Financially, the COVID induced volatility in the financial markets reduced the market value of our investment portfolio. However, our investment portfolio is made up of high quality, investment grade bonds which we fully expect will pay at par, the default risk remains extremely low.
From a business perspective, our sovereign clients had to respond to COVID 19 and this put a tremendous strain on their finances and in some instances, negatively impacted their ability to pay insurance premiums. Furthermore, due to the lockdown restrictions it was challenging to sustain ongoing interactions with the governments. However, the ability to work remotely has improved over time and the lockdown restrictions are slowly being eased.
All the teams within ARC Ltd have been able to adapt to working remotely and there has been minimal disruption to our activities.
ARC will be launching an insurance product covering Outbreaks and Epidemics, the insurance payouts will provide the funding required for an early and effective government response.
Alaba: How does the use of technology provide opportunities in the fact of natural disaster?
Lesley: Insurance is a data driven industry, data enables us to understand and calibrate risks, to develop appropriate mitigation measures. In parametric insurance we rely on satellites for rainfall data and we use technology to model and predict losses that arise from weather events. This data can be used to anticipate disasters and take timely action to prevent them or reduce their severity.
Alaba: What is the future for ARC in terms of its size, products and impact?
Lesley: ARC Ltd is currently diversifying its product range to include coverage against floods, tropical cyclones and outbreaks & epidemics. We already have a very successful drought insurance product which has been the mainstay of the company. The new products are essential to more holistically meet the needs of our clients and to ensure diversification on our balance sheet. These additional products will allow us to reach our ambition of US$100 million in gross revenues while ensuring that we are more relevant and credible in meeting the needs of our clients.
Alaba: As an industry leader, how can Africa better develop and position its insurance market?
Lesley: Insurance penetration, which is the ratio of insurance premiums to GDP remains rather low in Africa at 1 to 3% compared to over 10% in most developed markets. This low penetration is linked to limited knowledge of insurance as a risk management tool, lack of trust of insurance companies and products that are too complex and do not fully meet the needs and expectations of customers. The insurance industry plays an importance role in the economy by making households more resilient to shocks and giving entrepreneurs’ confidence to launch new ventures, in addition insurance companies are long term investors in the financial markets.
To grow the insurance industry, governments need to create an enabling regime through risk based supervision of insurance companies and the insurance industry needs to develop appropriate and relevant products and build distribution systems that make it easier and more cost effective to reach customers.
Alaba: How do you relax outside work? Tell us one of your favourite destinations in Africa? Why?
Lesley: I am an avid long distance runner, I run about 80 to 100km every week. Running clears my mind and makes me sharper and more focused. My favorite destination is Diani Beach in Kenya; it has dreamy unspoilt white sand beaches that stretch out as far as the eye can see.
B I O G R A P H Y
Lindelwe Lesley Ndlovu is an executive with extensive international experience in insurance and investment management. He is currently the CEO of the African Risk Capacity “ARC” Ltd. ARC Ltd is a specialist insurance company that provides parametric insurance coverage to African countries against extreme weather events and natural disasters.
Lesley spent close to a decade in various senior management roles in insurance and asset management with the AXA Group in London, Paris and Singapore, including as CEO of a Lloyd’s of London insurance syndicate, Head of Corporate Development for AXA Global Asset Management and Chief Investment Officer for AXA Singapore.
Prior to joining the AXA Group, he was Vice President, Investments at AXIS Capital in Bermuda, as part of an institutional investment team managing US$15 billion in a global multi-asset investment portfolio. He began his professional career with Deloitte, where he had various assignments in corporate finance, audit, tax advisory. He currently serves as a Non-Executive Director for various financial services companies around the world.
Lindelwe Lesley Ndlovu is a graduate of Christ Church, University of Oxford in England and at the Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires (INSEAD) in France. He is a CFA charter holder, a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England & Wales and a member of the Institute of Directors.
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