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Rwandan Bankers Predict Economy May Recover After 5 Years

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Local bankers in Rwanda predict that the economy might continue to suffer for the next three to five years because of negative effects of the #COVID-19 pandemic.

Taarifa talked to the industry captains Hannington Namara, the Managing Director of Equity Bank Rwanda and Robin Bairstow, CEO of I&M Bank Rwanda.

“The lockdown put a complete stand still to Rwanda’s largest contributor to its GDP which is services specifically tourism and travel”, Namara says.

According to Namara the dire economic situation will hang on with us for more than three years. And that paints a depressing picture that the local business community and the general citizenry should get used to, the so called new normal.

“While looking at events surrounding the #COVID-19 pandemic, we do not know how long the pandemic is going to be with us,” says Namara, whose Bank made about Rwf2billion of profit in the first quarter of 2020, but says the second quarter, even shareholders might have reinvest because there is no money expected.

Rwanda has been deeply reliant on tourism and travel for its large contribution to the country’s GDP. But disruptions of the travel industry supply chain that feeds into Rwanda’s hotel and tourism sector means that arrivals of visitors into the country is expected to drop below expectations.

“Leisure product is something that will take more than 5 years for the major source markets of Western Europe to think about as virtually the entire world has been hit badly by the pandemic”, he explained.

To create a sense of trust that their livelihoods will be safe in far flung markets such as Rwanda, Namara says that this is something that will take a bit of time.

“This means that investments in these sectors will remain largely dormant with negative spillover effects to be felt in several others including banking,” Namara explains.

“This paints a scary image but what investors ought to do is to reinvest in their businesses with a view to hold on to hope for a brighter future.”

Meanwhile, a major player in the tourism sector told Taarifa that they have some relief from the local tourism sector.

“Unless a miracle happens, the international segment is dead, let’s not debate that, but we believe the local tourism segment can be revived and made profitable,” he says, and hesitant for his name to be mentioned.

He insists that Rwanda Development Board needs to create local tourism products defined in the confines of the pandemic.

“Who will sleep in that small hotel at Musanze or Kibuye in the next six months so that they can make a bit of money too?” he asks, adding that In brief, “there is no clear plan for the tourism sector, the plan announced recently targets international unlikely to respond positively until a later stage.”

To be a little specific, “how many Rwandans will spend $1000 a night ($250/per family member). We need a robust plan for products tailored made for Rwandans and regional tourists, if don’t do it that way, the sector will suffer miserably.”

Away from a depressed tourism sector, Namara painted a picture of looming innovation likely to cut across all sectors of the economy.

“There is an opportunity for innovation. Question is; what else can people do to make money in the post lockdown economy?”

“That thinking now needs to become more eminent”.

So, where are the pointers to the new normal taking shape in Rwanda’s banking sector within post lockdown era?

“Agricultural sector is one key area. Food is a basic need and areas such as value addition of basic production remain an area worth deploying our capital into,” says Namara.

An interesting prospect is referred to- that the pandemic is likely to unleash within Rwanda’s banking sector. This is with respect to warming up by local bankers to get more into making investment into agricultural sector.

There is an opportunity for everybody to fit into agricultural value chain.

“#COVID-19 has changed the “how” of doing things. Bankers need to figure out how to remain relevant to the business community. It will take time but it needs to happen”.

The brick and mortar practice of traditional banking, as we know it, will increasingly becoming more diminishing.

Robin Bairstow talks about the ongoing construction boom that will offer a real buffer to Rwanda’s economy in the next coming years thereby shielding it from the severe effects.

“Rwanda’s continuous focus on huge infrastructure projects will generate demand and positive stimulus into other sectors while we are adversely taking a strain from tourism and travel sectors,” says Bairstow.

He says; “Demand for cement in Rwanda is growing which is a key indicator of demonstrating that the construction boom is not reducing.”

Mid June, government launched a national wide project for construction of school blocks across the country, thus employing thousands and increasing volumes of production of contrition materials including cement.

Also, Bairstow says, one of the best shots for Rwanda in the post lockdown era is boosting consumption expenditure, and strongly advocates for international trade (at least cross-border).

Rwanda’s economy is slowly raving back despite at a reduced pace going by key areas such as agriculture, community trading and importation of goods.

Infrastructure Minister, Amb. Clever Gatete told journalists on Friday that trade volumes are healthy, with almost 600 cargo trucks entering Rwanda in 24 hours, despite economic activities closed on borders.

“Demand for foreign exchange which is key for sustenance of the business community for instance has reduced slightly by less than 25 percent across our counters,” he says.

This points to a fact that wheels of the economy are in motion albeit at a slower pace.

Bairstow’s view on the government’s recently launched recovery plan meant to cushion affected sectors, is that, “The recovery plan is meant to reduce cost of operations by those affected by #COVID-19 by over 20% which is significant only worry being that it is not generating revenue.”

If the demand has been affected, it makes no business sense for the supply side to produce or burn more money.

Bairstow, like Namara says agriculture is one key area that is very promising.

RDB CEO, Clare Kamanzi told us a few weeks ago that indeed “agriculture is top of our post #COVID-19.”

For the very first time in a very long time, Rwanda is facing a real prospect of reduced growth.

From double digits figures registered in last decade, official statistics are indicating a slowdown to single digit growth of 3.6%.

How the country emerges a victor out of this excruciating pandemic remains a mystery on one hand and mastery in policy orientation on the other.

And the burden to win seems like it hasn’t fully been discussed by all stakeholders.

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I&M Bank Acquires 90% Stake In Uganda’s Orient Bank

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I&M Holdings, a Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed firm has stormed into the Ugandan financial market in style by acquiring a 90% stake in Orient Bank Limited, Taarifa reliably reports.

“This acquisition is expected to give the group greater capacity to grow profitably, through extending our network to our regional customers,” I&M’s executive director Sarit Raja Shah said in a statement.

Since 2014, I&M had been eyeing the Ugandan market in pursuit of growth and regional diversification strategy that is also seen among rivals like KCB Group, Equity Group and DTB Group.

The Kenyan banking multinational bought shares from Orient Bank’s shareholders Hemlata Karia, Jay Karia, Morka Holdings Limited, Zhong Shuang Quan, Cornerstone M8 Limited and the bank’s founder Ketan Morjaria.

This deal adds to I&M’s regional banking operations comprising Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Mauritius.

Morjaria, who held a 7.91% stake before the transaction, sold part of his shares and retains a 5.5% equity in the subsidiary.

Alemayehu Fisseha did not sell his holdings and also retains a 4.5% interest in the bank. “This acquisition marks a great milestone in the history of Orient Bank,” Dr. Morjaria said in a statement.

“We are proud to be integrating into a regional group like I&M Holdings Plc and this synergy will allow our customers to benefit from more seamless and superior banking products whilst continuing our tradition of trust.”

I&M had said that the U$33.5million purchase price would be subject to further adjustments on account of several factors including exchange rate fluctuations and the amounts raised from the sale of the Ugandan bank’s property in Kampala (Orient Plaza).

I&M said of the Orient Bank buyout in a circular to shareholders, “The combined group will be better able to serve the needs of regional and global customers, and in turn promote regional trade flows.”

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Mining Delivers US$385M To Ivorian, Ghanaian Economy In 2020

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Perseus Mining Limited (TSX & ASX: PRU) (www.PerseusMining.com) has released its CY20 Sustainable Development Report. The report details the company’s progress over the past 12 months in delivering on its commitment to responsible mining operations in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, including an overall economic benefit to host countries totalling about USD$385M.

As part of its longstanding commitment to the communities in which it operates, Perseus reported increasing community investment by 71% to around US$1.9M in CY20, funding critical health and education infrastructure projects for local communities. Additionally, Perseus announced it had increased its proportion of local procurement from 66% in CY19 to 78% in CY20, totalling US$287M, and further expanded its employment of local populations, with 96% of its current workforce local to Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

Jeff Quartermaine, Managing Director & CEO of Perseus said:

“Sustainability is deeply rooted in Perseus’s culture and operations and has had a large part to play in our resilience during this challenging year. We believe that responsible gold mining can play a key role in sustainable development, and that investing in our employees and our communities to create enduring social value will remain a guiding force in our growth path and future business operations. I am proud of my team’s effective response to the pandemic which successfully safeguarded our operations as well as our people, enabling us to deliver our Yaouré mine in Côte d’Ivoire this year ahead of schedule. Our approach to sustainability has continued to mature as our business has grown, and in the coming years we look forward to expanding our ESG offering and delivering greater impact across Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.”

Jessica Volich, Group Sustainability Manager at Perseus said:

“Despite the challenges the past year has brought, Perseus’s sustainability agenda has continued to strengthen and evolve alongside its expanding operations. Our wide-ranging efforts and engagement with our local communities and host governments has enabled us to create shared sustainable value for all our stakeholders. We are committed to strengthening these relationships in the coming years as we endeavour to generate socio-economic value for our people, communities and host countries.”

In CY20, Perseus has enhanced its disclosure on sustainability-related risks and opportunities by aligning with the key reporting frameworks used by our stakeholders. These include the World Gold Council Responsible Gold Mining Principles, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

Highlights of the report include:

Economic and Social Contribution

  • Total economic contribution of US$385M in CY20 to Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire
  • Increased community investment by 71% (from CY19) to around US$1.9M in CY20, funding critical health and education infrastructure projects for local communities and providing COVID-19 support
  • Creation of new health clinics near Sissingué to improve health outcomes for the ~27,000 residents of the local communities
  • Increased in-country employment, with over 96% of total employees from host countries
  • Local procurement spend of $287M, an increase from 66% in CY19 to 78% in CY20
  • Held 587 consultations with local communities
  • Paid >US$69M in taxes, royalties, and duties to Government

Health & Safety performance:

  • Maintained record of zero workplace fatalities and reduced injuries
  • Implementation of comprehensive measures and protocols to prevent introduction and spread of COVID-19 and maintain business continuity

Environmental stewardship:

  • Re-use of 12,495,163 KL of water
  • Water intensity of 7.46M3/oz gold produced, benchmarked ahead of peers
  • Enhanced tailings disclosures in line with the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative, and completed independent audits of all our Tailings Storage Facilities (TSFs)

Governance

  • Worked with independent sustainability risk experts, KPMG, to refresh sustainability materiality analysis and conduct deeper analysis of sustainability risks and opportunities, and start development of a 3-year sustainability roadmap
  • Announced appointment of a new Director by the end of FY21 to enhance sustainability skills of the Board
  • Release of the first Modern Slavery Statement to address potential human rights risks in Perseus’ global supply chain

Future ambitions

  • Establish a 3-year sustainability roadmap, and enhance social value and sustainability risk management through updates to the Risk Management Framework and policy standards
  • Establish the Yaouré Community Development Fund in FY21
  • During FY21 and FY22, Perseus will complete and commence implementation of our biodiversity plan at Yaouré in Côte d’Ivoire mine site in and establish our site nursery, to be staffed by local community members
  • Explore strategic opportunities for community partnerships in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana
  • Achieve full alignment with the World Gold Council Responsible Gold Mining Principles by FY23
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How A Career In Public Relations Helped Shape An African Royal

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To some, it might seem like an unusual career trajectory, but for Ewetse Khama, working in the Public Relations industry in Africa has been the perfect preparation for the next step in his unique journey.

From today, Ewetse is stepping down from his role at APO Group, the leading pan-African communications consultancy and press release distribution service, to serve his country and his people.

This year, Ewetse’s father, Sekgoma Tshekedi Khama, retired from active duty in the Bamangwato tribe. This made way for the eldest son, Ewetse to assume his father’s role as a Kgosi – a Batswana term meaning ‘Chief’, ‘King’ or ‘Elder’ – in the Khama Family, one of Botswana’s most prominent royal families.

The Khamas have a long and illustrious history in Botswana. Ewetse’s paternal uncle, Sir Seretse Khama, served as the country’s first President after independence in 1966, and was the subject of a Hollywood blockbuster – A United Kingdom – about his marriage to English woman Ruth Williams. Sir Seretse’s eldest son, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama was Botswana’s 4th President from 2008-2018.

Botswana is one of the most peaceful countries in Africa, which Ewetse attributes partly to the role that traditional leaders play as a conduit between government and the people, especially in promoting harmony and understanding. 

That might be one of the reasons the PR industry has been such a good fit for Ewetse, helping prepare him for the big challenges that lie ahead.

“I felt that I needed to do things for myself and forge my own career, instead of relying on my name or status,” Ewetse says. “As a Khama, I had so much choice in life because many doors were always open to us, I could do or be anything I wanted. But I have always felt strongly about communications and working with people, so PR seemed like the perfect choice.”

Working within the PR Agency division of APO Group has given Ewetse a grounding, and a sense of normality. It has also broadened his horizons internationally, and given him new perspectives on Africa after being educated in Europe. Ewetse believes his PR career – and his time at APO Group – will help make him a better leader.

“I’m a good listener, which is essential in PR. You listen to what somebody has to say, then you help them develop their ideas, and connect with their audiences. The key appeal to me is that Public Relations is really about creating opportunities for people.” 

Ewetse’s work with APO Group has certainly helped him do that. He has offered a guiding hand to many multinational organizations looking to navigate the diverse African media landscape. His experience and local knowledge has enabled those companies to succeed in markets that are often difficult to crack. Like all his APO Group colleagues, Ewetse is passionate about Africa, and provided customers with ‘on-the-ground’ networking and support.     

As APO Group Founder and Chairman, Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard explains: “Not everyone in our team is from African royalty! But they are all deeply attuned to the people, country and region in which they live and operate. Ewetse’s extraordinary story epitomises our commitment to local expertise, and is also a testament to APO’s talent pool across Africa.”

APO Group holds a unique position in the Public Relations industry in Africa. Formerly known as the African Press Organization, it has been providing content to media in all 54 African countries since 2007. Journalists in Africa know and trust APO Group, making them the perfect partner for companies looking to develop their presence on the continent.

Ewetse is now looking to bring the communications skills he honed in the PR industry into his new role as a Kgosi – a Batswana term meaning ‘Chief’, ‘King’ or ‘Elder’ – where his responsibilities include fostering local consensus and governance while also promoting social welfare and the economic empowerment of disadvantaged groups.

“My time at APO Group has been an important part of my career, and I am proud of the work we have done to help our multinational clients and drive business into African economies. I have great memories of the people and the experiences I’ve enjoyed along the way. They will stand me in good stead as I take this next exciting step!” 

Even though Ewetse has now moved on to serve his community and country, he will be remembered fondly by his former colleagues.

“Ewetse will always be a valued part of the APO Group team – a colleague and a friend,” Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard says. “We will miss him, of course, but APO Group’s loss is Botswana’s gain. His nation is lucky to have him. I am grateful for the fact that, thanks to our fantastic team, our clients across Africa will continue to receive a royal standard of quality service!

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