Over just 24 years, Olam has grown into one of the world’s largest agricultural trading and processing companies. It has operations in 65 countries around the world but Africa, the original base of the company, remains central to its activities. The company’s remarkable growth can be attributed to a unique strategy devised and implemented by the group managing director and CEO, Sunny Verghese (below, right). In 1986, India’s 150-year-old Kewalram Chanrai conglomerate hired Verghese, then 26 years old, to establish a local raw material supply for their Nigerian cotton factory. He established sub-Saharan Africa’s largest cotton plantation as a nucleus and sourced additional production from the continent’s largest outgrower programme, involving 10,000 small farmers.
The growth of microfinance institutions in Africa has been nothing short of spectacular. However, while some institutions such as Kenya’s Equity Bank have been hugely beneficial to the usually unbanked, others have fallen short of the mark and some have ruthlessly exploited the very people they claim to serve. What are microfinance institutions and how should they be governed? Moin Siddiqi provides the answers.
As it navigates a political and economic minefield, the Tunisian government had something to shout about in November with what is widely considered in Tunisian business circles as a historic deal. This was the privatisation of a prized asset that had been confiscated from cronies of the Ben Ali regime.
Kenya continues to be the dominant banking force in East Africa both in terms of domestic as well as foreign expansion. Some local banks are outperforming multinationals. Ethiopia, it now seems certain, is also set to open up its hitherto closed banking sector. Wanjohi Kabukuru reports.
Ethiopia lags far behind its East African neighbours in the development of its telecommunications sector and the services, such as mobile money banking, that the system now routinely provides elsewhere. This is about to change with the rollout of the country’s first mobile money transfer system this January. Report by Dominque Magada.
Africa’s bankers are generating wealth as never before in the continent’s history. As the industry booms, so do the incomes of African bankers and, like their counterparts elsewhere, African bankers and the rapidly increasing wealthy class are enthusiastically looking for expensive gadgets, gizmos and accessories that seem to go with the territory. Luxury manufacturers have read the signs and Africa is now high on their agendas as the market to be in. Richard Seymour takes a look at the current ‘must haves’ doing the rounds around the continent.
In Kenya the capital markets are no longer a mystery understood by a select few. This demystification has seen the country’s bonds and equities market developing faster than among its neighbours.