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How Helios Towers Africa continues to raise the bar in operational excellence

How Helios Towers Africa continues to raise the bar in operational excellence

Supply chain management, vendor upskilling and Lean Six Sigma thinking

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Helios wins two 2017 Private Equity Africa awards

Helios wins two 2017 Private Equity Africa awards

Helios Investment Partners was recognized at the Private Equity Africa Awards 2017 with the Venture Philanthropy Award, and the Large Cap Deal of the Year for Oando Gas and Power.

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eBay opens US platform to Africa with MallforAfrica.com partnership

eBay opens US platform to Africa with MallforAfrica.com partnership

Americans can now buy African goods on eBay through MallforAfrica.com. The new online channel expands an existing relationship between the two e-commerce companies. In 2016, they launched the eBay Powered by MallforAfrica platform allowing US vendors to sell in Africa. For more details, see: https://techcrunch.com/2017/08/22/ebay-opens-u-s-platform-to-africa-with-mallforafrica-com-partnership/

Off Grid Electric: Bringing solar energy to rural Africa

Off Grid Electric: Bringing solar energy to rural Africa

The $7 a month plan bringing solar energy to rural Africa

By Jacopo Prisco, CNN

Off Grid Electric provides solar energy to homes in Tanzania and Rwanda
Plans are financed through microtransactions starting at about $7/month


(CNN) — In sub-Saharan Africa, over 600 million people do not have access to electricity -- that's 68 percent of the population, according to the International Energy Agency.

That's because the power distribution infrastructure -- plants and the grid -- is severely underdeveloped, requires large investments to improve and ultimately can't keep up with the growth in demand.

One solution to the problem is to go "off the grid," mimicking the rapid distribution of mobile phones: over 90 percent of Africans have access to cell phone service -- more than have access to clean water -- but only a fraction of them owns a landline. In the energy sector, the cellphone equivalent is the solar panel, which is easily installed and can provide power to a household or small business.

Off Grid Electric, an African startup, is applying this formula to rural areas of Tanzania and Rwanda yielding both commercial success and life-transforming results for the recipients.

 

The company is backed by Elon Musk's SolarCity, one of the largest solar energy providers in the US, and Helios, Africa's largest private equity firm.

In November, at the UN's climate change conference in Marrakech, it won the 2016 Momentum for Change Award, which focused on projects that are addressing climate change in innovative ways.

It already powers 125,000 households and employs around 1,000 people -- about a third as salesmen who offer the energy packages door to door.

"Most of these families were burning kerosene to make light, with a negative impact on their health and wellbeing," Bill Lenihan, Off Grid Electric's President, told CNN.

Kerosene produces smoke and can't power anything but a lantern: "Now they have access to clean energy that can also power radios and TVs."

The system includes a solar panel, installed on a roof, and lithium-ion battery which provides electricity around the clock: "Kids can study at night, entrepreneurs can increase their income because their phones work all day and farmers can better protect their cattle -- it's like night and day," said Kim Schreiber, the company's chief of staff.

There are three different sizes of photovoltaic panels, the smallest of which can power four lights and charge one mobile phone.

"We also provide all the energy efficient accessories that go with these, from lights to chargers, to radios and TVs," said Lenihan.

Customers pay 10 percent of their package upfront, the rest is financed through monthly installments.

The costs are competitive, according to Off Grid Electric: "Just connecting to the grid can cost $300 to $400, whereas our system is $7 a month and after three years you own it and never have to pay again," said Schreiber.

Larger packages cost more: for eight lights, a radio and a 24-inch TV, the monthly fee is about $20. In comparison, a month's supply of kerosene typically costs $4 to $5.

The payments are collected via mobile phone transactions, a popular method in the continent, and a five-year service plan is included if something breaks. The battery can last seven years, and the panel itself up to 20.

In case a customer can't keep up with the plan, Off Grid Electric says it offers "room for flexibility," and ultimately the system will be removed after several months of missed installments. But most customers stay on board, according to Lenihan: "The uptake has been very strong, people continue to pay, and the growth has been really good."

Providing electricity to people in sub-Saharan Africa is "a cottage industry and a trillion dollar challenge," said Lenihan.

"We can solve a problem and do it in a way that delivers a return to shareholders, which is the biggest challenge in an industry that, as a whole, has addressed less than 1 percent of this market," he said.

For small businesses, the company offers a package called Zola, which contains everything needed to run a business on solar power, including appliances and entertainment systems.

Off Grid Electric has recently signed a partnership with EDF, the world's largest utility, to expand the program to the Ivory Coast, with a goal of providing clean energy to 2 million people by 2020.

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/15/africa/off-the-grid-tanzania-rwanda/ 

 

SAVCA: Realising growth

SAVCA: Realising growth

Exits by private equity managers in SSA point to firm investor sentiment. Full report available from SAVCA: www.savca.co.za

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Spotlight on OPIC Impact Award winners: Helios Investment Partners

Spotlight on OPIC Impact Award winners: Helios Investment Partners

In addition to the direct financing OPIC provides to many projects in emerging markets, the Agency also supports development by providing financing to privately-owned and managed equity funds investing in emerging markets.

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A growth engine: Trends and outcomes of private equity in Africa

A growth engine: Trends and outcomes of private equity in Africa

This report from The Economist Corporate Network is informed by interactions with leading private equity advocates and actors who support the asset class in Africa.

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The 2007 African investor investment Oscars winners announced

The 2007 African investor investment Oscars winners announced

African finance is leading the way in raising funds and structuring ambitious deals across the continent, the Africa investor Awards found last night.

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IFC Fetes Equity Bank in Global Ranking Awards

IFC Fetes Equity Bank in Global Ranking Awards

Nairobi, June 8, 2009… Equity Bank has been named by the Financial Times and the International Finance Corporation – a member of the World Bank Group- as the emerging markets most sustainable bank of the year in Africa and the Middle East.

Boom in plastic money as Nigeria spends, spends, spends

Boom in plastic money as Nigeria spends, spends, spends

By Xan Rice in Lagos

In 2002, when Mitchell Elegbe was starting his technology business, there were few proper bank cards in Nigeria, ATMs were rare and there...

The full article can be found at:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/425911c0-04e5-11e3-9e71-00144feab7de.html

Helios receives OPIC Impact Award for private equity

Helios receives OPIC Impact Award for private equity

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Overseas Private Investment Corporation presented awards for excellence in development finance in a ceremony held today at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. These “Impact Awards” were an inaugural event for OPIC, the U.S. Government’s Development Finance Institution.

Mall for Africa - Fashion-conscious Lagosians switch to online shopping

Mall for Africa - Fashion-conscious Lagosians switch to online shopping

When brothers Chris and Tope Folayan founded MallforAfrica in 2013, Nigeria’s consumer market looked a lot healthier and more promising than it does today.
Three years ago, MallforAfrica joined the raft of Nigerian tech start-ups attracting private equity and venture capital backing. It offered online retailers in the US and the UK that were wary of shipping directly to Nigeria a conduit to the country of more than 180m people. The ease of transacting for Nigerians — and for the companies selling them electronics, clothes, jewellery and appliances — brought customers to Mallfor¬Africa as high oil prices drove growth and enabled heavy consumer spending.
Rival online retailers such as Jumia and Konga did not have the same partnerships with western brands that MallforAfrica had managed to forge.
Now, even amid the worst economic crisis. Nigeria has faced in decades, the Folayan brothers say they are still drawing — and retaining — new subscribers to their mobile platform. MallforAfrica has proved to be enduringly popular among fashion-conscious Nigerians.
Spending power across income levels has been hit by the downturn. However, the ecommerce company is expanding, as Nigerians turn to the digital service to buy foreign brands in local currency without travelling abroad.
A wide range of shoppers, from taxi drivers to bankers to chief executives, like the convenience of buying their favourite foreign products “on demand” from the comfort of their own homes in Nigeria, says Tope Folayan.
Before the oil price crash, many middle and upper class Nigerians flew to Dubai, London and New York for shopping sprees — and brought home suitcases stuffed with clothes and other products for themselves, their family members and friends.
This option has become much more expensive, particularly for the middle class who mostly earn their income in naira. A shortage of hard currency — set off by the oil slump that began in 2014 and worsened by government policies — has pushed up the prices of foreign airline tickets. A recent estimate by First Bank of Nigeria forecasts that by December, an economy class ticket for a six-hour trip — about the length of a flight from Lagos to London — could cost as much as 800,000 naira ($2,500). Such tickets could be bought for as little as $700 in 2014.
As a result, the ability to shop by app while in traffic, at work, or at home — for anything from Gucci slippers to an Armani blouse sourced from around 180 US and British retail websites — is becoming more appealing to Nigerians.
The average delivery time for an item purchased via the app is two weeks, says Mr Folayan, though custom orders — such as a wedding dress — can be delivered in a matter of days. Items can be delivered to the shopper’s home or picked up at 30 locations around the country.
Africa’s retail market is huge, deep and capable of absorbing more negativity
The rising costs of travel help to explain the falling numbers of Nigerian shoppers in the UK last year, according to Global Blue, the tourism shopping tax refund company, which recorded a 20 per cent decline in such travellers.
MallforAfrica has 100,000 subscribers to its mobile platform, and roughly 70 per cent of them are regular customers who spend the equivalent of $100 per order, according to Tope Folayan, who oversees the business from the Nigeria side. “No one is doing what we are doing,” he says. Mr Folayan did not provide details of the company’s turnover or profitability.
MallforAfrica works with courier and logistics companies including DHL and Nigerian mobile payments services such as Verve and Paga.
It airfreights several tonnes of clothes and other products to Nigeria each month, purchased from the most popular American and British shopping sites, including Amazon, Ebay, Macy’s and Debenhams.
The Folayan brothers have signed up retailers with the promise of “de-risking the ecommerce space for emerging markets” — and they are delivering.
MallforAfrica benefited from early investment by Helios, a London-based, Africa-focused private equity firm, which provided funding to build the business in July 2013.
The online retailer has since closed a second round of funding in July with Helios, says Mr Folayan. This month the brothers expanded into Ghana and Kenya, where there no similar online shopping platforms.
Despite sluggish or negative growth across the continent due to the drop in commodity prices, Mr Folayan says his experience of growing MallforAfrica has made him “extremely bullish” about the market for online retail in Africa. He describes the market for online retail in Africa as “huge, deep and capable of absorbing a lot more negativity”.

 

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