Barclays Africa Group Ltd. said talks to buy its parent company’s operations in Egypt and Zimbabwe have been accelerated following management changes at Barclays Plc.
“Our ambition is to do the acquisition of both, and the management changes have confirmed that that ambition will be realized,” Maria Ramos, chief executive officer of the Johannesburg-based lender, said Wednesday on a conference call. Barclays Executive Chairman John McFarlane “came to South Africa very shortly after his appointment and there’s very firm support for the Africa business,” she said.
McFarlane fired Barclays CEO Antony Jenkins this month and took control, saying he will boost revenue and double the share price over the next three to four years. Planned job cuts haven’t targeted the African operations, where the bank is seeking to expand in economies offering faster growth than more developed countries.
Barclays Africa is awaiting license approvals in Nigeria where it so far has a representative office for its corporate and investment bank. Expansion in Africa’s largest economy will be “organic,” Ramos said.
First-half profit climbed 9.8 percent to 6.77 billion rand ($539 million) in the six months through June after retail and business banking earnings rose, bad debts declined and it expanded African operations, the bank said in a statement on Wednesday. Earnings from the rest of the continent climbed by 22 percent, more than twice the pace of the 8 percent gain in South Africa.
Diluted earnings per share excluding one-time items increased 11 percent to 7.97 rand and the bank declared an interim dividend of 4.50 rand per share, a 13 percent increase from the year before. The stock dropped 0.5 percent to 185.84 rand by 9:24 a.m. in Johannesburg. The local benchmark banking index was 0.3 percent lower.
Barclays Africa was named in May as among banks being investigated by South Africa’s Competition Commission for manipulating trading in the rand.
“We’ve had nothing from the Commission on this matter,” Ramos said, declining to comment further.
Barclays Africa is part of a group of banks working together to support loss-making South African clothing retailer Edcon Holdings Ltd., Ramos said. The lender has financial ties to Edcon through its private equity portfolio, through loans to the retailer and because of its ownership of Edcon’s 8 billion rand store-card business.
If Edcon were to fail, the card debt would become a collections book, Ramos said. Losses realized because of Edcon in the first six months weren’t “material,” she said.
In the next six months, Barclays Africa expects its net interest margin to widen “slightly” from 2014, it said in the statement. The bank foresees mid-single digit loan growth, with lending in corporate and investment banking increasing faster than retail and business banking.
A beloved lion who usually roamed within the confines of an African conservation park is dead. An American hunter has been named by Zimbabwean officials as the killer of the animal. Many people are outraged.
The death of Cecil the lion also has some asking questions about the sizable role U.S. citizens play in the controversial sport of slaying wildlife for trophies.
“Americans are among the most bloodthirsty among citizens of the world when it comes to trophy hunting, in particular lions and elephants,“ said Jeff Flocken, North American regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “It’s a small group of privileged Americans. Eighty percent or more of Americans want to see endangered species protected.”
A $55,000 hunt
Cecil, a well-known lion with a distinctive black mane, was reportedly killed July 1 by crossbow just outside Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.
According to news reports citing Zimbabwean authorities, Walter James Palmer, a dentist from Bloomington, Minn., paid about $55,000 for the hunt. Palmer has denied any wrongdoing, saying in a written statement that to his knowledge everything about his trip “was legal and properly handled and conducted.”
In March, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe acknowledged that U.S. citizens make up “a disproportionately large share of foreign hunters who book trophy hunts in Africa.” Ashe noted that this activity provides the host countries with a way to manage their wildlife populations and support conservation efforts.
Laury Parramore, a spokeswoman with the Fish and Wildlife Service, told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that, though the agency does not keep track of the number of Americans who book trophy hunting trips in Africa, it does count those who apply for permits to import their trophies. That figure, however, was not readily available, Parramore said.
An undesirable trend
Wildlife conservationists see what they describe as an undesirable trend.According to data from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the U.S. is the world’s largest importer of African lion parts for trophies and for commercial purposes. Between 1999 and 2008, U.S. citizens claimed 64% of the international market for lion parts. The data show that number has been increasing.
Flocken said the slaying of Cecil was particularly troubling because of the sharp decline in African lion populations, which have dropped nearly 60% in the last three decades. In addition, the killing of a dominant male in a pride, like Cecil, could result in the deaths of others in the group, Flocken said. Males from other prides who might be interested in the open leadership position created by Cecil’s death could attack other males, cubs and protective females.
Charges in the case
Theo Bronkhorst, the professional hunter with Bushman Safaris, which guided Palmer’s safari, and Honest Trymore Ndlovu, owner of Antoinette Farm, where Cecil was shot, are both facing criminal poaching charges. Cecil’s killing was illegal because neither Bronkhorst or Ndlovu had permission to kill a lion, authorities said.
As part of conservation efforts, hunting licenses often restrict the type and quantity of animals that may be killed.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Bronkhorst and Ndlovu were expected to appear in court Wednesday and that authorities were searching for Palmer, who also faces poaching charges.
Parramore said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was “looking into the facts” of the lion’s killing and was “working with the Zimbabwean government as requested.”
Palmer has since expressed “deep regret” that his actions led to the death of Cecil, who had been found skinned and beheaded, according to AP.
In Africa, where many leaders cling to power, Obama’s joke about a third term had an edge “I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt,” he said in the statement. “I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.”
This has not quieted his critics, who took to social media with attacks, including condemnation of his dental practice on Twitter, Facebook and Yelp.
An online petition asking the American Dental Assn. to suspend Palmer had more than 1,400 signatures by Tuesday afternoon, and a petition demanding justice for Cecil had more than 166,000 signatures by late Tuesday.
Palmer’s hunting practices have come under scrutiny in the past. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to one count of making material false statements in relation to a poaching case in Wisconsin. He was sentenced to one year probation, a $2,938 fine and was forced to forfeit the black bear remains to the government.
The 1000 entrepreneurs were all part of the inaugural class of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP), a multi-year program of training, funding, and mentoring, designed to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs traveled from across Africa – from Lusaka to Lomé and Cape Town to Casablanca for the event which was one of the largest gatherings of African entrepreneurs in recent times.
For the two days, the 1000 entrepreneurs who were accepted into TEEP enjoyed interactive sessions with successful entrepreneurs, business and political leaders who gave a series of speeches on business development, financial management, corporate governance and other facets of a successful enterprise. The programme culminated in an open mic session with Tony Elumelu, the Nigerian banker and philanthropist who is funding TEEP.
In 2014, Nigerian philanthropist Tony Elumelu pledged $100 million to create the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP). The programme plans to identify and help grow 10,000 exceptional start-ups and young businesses from across Africa over the next 10 years. These businesses are expected to create 1,000,000 new jobs and contribute $10 billion to Africa’s economy. The selected start-ups are selected from a pool of applicants across Africa and are mandated to participate in a grueling 12-week online business skills training course, mentoring, and entrepreneurship ‘boot camp.’ The Tony Elumelu Foundation provides each entrepreneur with $10,000 to support their businesses.
The 1000 Tony Elumelu entrepreneurs represented 51 African countries and territories, encompassing all regions and all major language blocs, as well as every state in Nigeria. The entrepreneurs represent a wide range of sectors, from fashion and ICT to agriculture and education to energy, fashion and ICT.
In his remarks, Elumelu told the entrepreneurs that he was investing in their success, while reiterating his belief that entrepreneurship was the way to drive Africa’s economic prosperity.
“I want to go to Zambia, when I am 80 years old and meet someone who shows me their manufacturing business or financial institution and tells me that it was built starting with $10,000 from Tony Elumelu. That is what this is about, and that is what you owe me,” he said. “The return I want from this $100 million investment is your success, because your success is Africa’s success,” he said.
Tony Elumelu, one of Nigeria’s wealthiest businessmen with a fortune in the region of $1 billion, is the chairman of Heirs Holdings, a proprietary African Investment Company.
Ambassador Berhane Gebre-Christos, State Minister for foreign affairs, held on Monday (July 13) talks with Martin Tlapa, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic on the sidelines of the Third International Conference on Finance for Development in Addis Ababa. Ambassador Berhane, who noted that Ethiopia and the Czech Republic enjoy historic and excellent bilateral relations, upgrading these excellent ties will put both countries on the right path to score new achievements in mutually beneficial cooperation.
He also calls for a constant growth of bilateral cooperation in the fields of trade and investment. Martin Tlapa on his part said that his country has long-standing relations with Ethiopia, adding that Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn of Ethiopia is invited to visit the Czech Republic.
The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs emphasized the importance of maintaining frequent high-level exchanges in order to plan for future growth of the bilateral relations of the two friendly countries. He also promised that the Government of the Czech Republic will help business persons to invest in Ethiopia with a view to expedite economic and trade cooperation. He also emphasized that the Czech Republic remains committed to work with Ethiopia in addressing the global problems such as terrorism and migration. Ambassador Berhane Gebre-Christos, who agreed that exchange of high-level visits is important to reinforce the relations of the two countries in all-rounded way, reiterated that Ethiopia is ready to cooperate with the Czech Republic so as to address issues like terrorism and migration. Ambassador Berhane pointing out that Africa is moving forward said Ethiopia is at the heart of this growth narrative. Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan II aimed at making Ethiopia a Middle Income country by 2025, the Ambassador said and improving business ties and sharing experiences with the Czech Republic will add a new vigor to the success of the goal of making Ethiopia a Middle Income country by 2025.
For all the talk there has been little action, and trade between Africa’s 54 nations has remained stubbornly low. The continent still predominantly relies on the export of raw materials and the import of finished products, primarily from China. Often African nations struggle to find a common voice as politics and regional and national interests stymie co-operation.
But African officials say the dynamics are shifting as heads of state at an African Union summit in Johannesburg today formally launch negotiations for a continental free-trade area. They have set the target of 2017 for the agreement to be implemented.
It is a highly ambitious goal in a hugely diverse continent. But Fatima Haram Acyl, AU commissioner for trade and industry, insists that the initiative is not mere rhetoric. African leaders, she says, realise that improving trade is critical to tackling the continent’s problems of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment. She adds that Africa risks “missing the boat” as other regions push ahead with their own trade agreements.
“It is happening now because there’s a huge realisation that even when you talk about the peace and security of this continent, some of these root causes [of instability] are really underdevelopment,” Ms Acyl told the Financial Times. “The more and more we talk about it, we find out our real strength lies in our unity.”
A free-trade agreement would focus on breaking down trade barriers to improve the intracontinental flow of services and goods, while easing the movement of people by simplifying visa processes, she says.
The ultimate aim is to open a market that has a youthful, fast-growing population of about 1bn and a combined gross domestic product of $3tn, according to the AU.
As Ms Acyl points out, this month three regional trade blocs — the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the East African Community and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) — signed a tripartite trade agreement that covers 26 states. The AU hailed the move as a stepping stone to even wider integration.
Africa has eight regional economic groups, such as Sadc and the EAC, but their success has been limited. Even though the continent has boasted many of the world’s fastest-growing economies in recent years, intra-Africa trade is a meagre 12 per cent of the total trade taking place there.
By contrast intra¬regional exports accounted for about 50 per cent of the total between 2007 and 2011 in developing Asia, 21 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 70 per cent in Europe, according to a 2013 report by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad).
The EAC, which counts Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda among its members, has been the most successful bloc, with Africa’s share in its total trade amounting to 23 per cent from 2007 to 2011, says Unctad. For the Economic Community of West African States, the figure was 14.2 per cent. The numbers would be higher if informal trade were included, the agency adds.
Analysts caution that there are myriad hurdles to increasing African trade, not least the huge logistical, infrastructure and cost challenges of moving goods between countries.
“It’s so costly to take goods from point A to point B in the region, and it’s much cheaper because of the logistics to bring it all across from China,” says Razia Khan at Standard Chartered. “Infrastructure is still a massive drawback. How much can you proceed with this intent to liberalise trade if the infrastructure is not there?”
China is Africa’s biggest trade partner with trade volumes reaching $222bn last year, according to Standard Bank, which is based in Johannesburg. In comparison, South African trade with the rest of the continent was $41bn. South Africa is by far the continent’s most advanced economy with a sophisticated corporate sector. Most other African nations have tiny manufacturing bases.
Simon Freemantle, Africa analyst at Standard Bank, says there needs to be a structural change to economies to achieve a genuine boost in trade. “Maybe it’s the chicken and egg, and if you ease trade between borders that acts as a spur to invest in manufacturing,” he says.
“But you still need power, you still need skills, you still need the capacity to compete with China, and we are way off that.”
Ms Acyl remains bullish, arguing that the creation of a free-trade area would attract greater investment, which in turn would accelerate industrialisation and development.
“Right now our markets are too small, our economies are too fragmented to justify the big amount of investment we require for infrastructure,” she says. “When we have a free-trade agreement any company in the world will come and place themselves in Africa.”