As a boy growing up in Africa, I always assumed that every country had its own airline. To me, a national airline was just another way a country defined itself, along with its flag, national anthem, and currency. Ghana Airways, which my family often flew (we lived in Kumasi), was a perfect example, with the red, gold and green colors of its national flag painted on every plane. They looked proud and elegant, a perfect symbol of statehood.
OK, not exactly an App, but investors in Kenya will soon be able to buy T-bills and bonds offered by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), as agents of the Treasury, through their mobile phones (with or without a bank account)!
This innovative project, led by CBK, with the support of the World Bank, is known as Treasury Mobile Direct. It will aim to extend the use of mobile technology beyond money transfers and broaden the choice of savings products for retail investors. Potential investors will only need a mobile phone line and a subscription to a mobile money service, which will enable telecoms operators open an electronic account with the Central Securities Depository (CDSC) or CBK on their behalf. These accounts are a requirement if you wish to invest in Government debt. The service will include purchase, interest payment and redemption of securities (short-term paper and bonds) through the mobile platform.
Forget about flying cars and wristwatch phones—innovators today are more likely to be tackling solar lamps, cleaner cookstoves, energy-efficient housing and water filters. Such products promise the tantalizing combination of steady jobs, better lifestyles, and a cleaner planet…but for whom, exactly?
The big challenge is making sure that those opportunities reach the more than a billion people living in poverty. Recently infoDev teamed up with the Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship global practice, the World Bank Country Office in Pretoria, and the Gauteng government’s The Innovation Hub to run four workshops on low-income communities’ needs, attitudes and perceptions about climate technology products.
One could feel the ‘buzz’ at the Open Innovation Africa Summit² in Nairobi. Enthusiasm was teeming, lots of energy displayed in animated discussions and business cards eagerly switched hands at the event, organized by the World Bank’s infoDev and Nokia, which brought together more than 150 inspirational people from across the continent. Sleepy summits come and go, but these three days of sharing, debating and mapping out action plans across four discussion streams all dealing with entrepreneurship gave everyone something tangible to go home with; tools and networks that can create and grow better companies, foster better business environments, and link entrepreneurs to capital.
The most striking thing about mobile money in Kenya is how visible it is: the proliferation of store signage with M-PESA (and, increasingly, other mobile money and banking logos) leaves no one with any doubt that something big is happening in the Kenyan payment space.
It is estimated that four out of five adult Kenyans have access to a mobile money account. This means that most people that any business touches –whether they are consumers, employees, business partners or retail staff— are connected to a real-time electronic payment network. That’s unprecedented in the developing world.
And yet few formal businesses have a dedicated mobile money account to conduct their financial transactions electronically, and among those who have one most do not appear to promote its use by their customers and suppliers particularly aggressively. Cheques remain the preferred payment mode for suppliers, or cash for smaller payments. M-PESA payments might be taken from customers if they insist and M-PESA might be used to pay field staff in exceptional or emergency situations, but then staff’s personal mobile phones are most likely to be used. Few enterprises have any vision about how they can use mobile money to re-engineer how they do operate, taking cash out of their business. The tidal wave of M-PESA is but a mere ripple for most businesses.
Imagine things are looking up for you. You are running your own business transporting and selling charcoal to retailers in the area, your husband has a steady job, and together you own real estate which you rent out. Then, your husband dies – your in-laws and your husband’s kinsmen take all of the assets and are entitled to do so under law. You are left with nothing to rebuild your life and provide for your child. This is what happened to Anna in Kenya. Her story is not uncommon. Women’s rights groups in Kenya have been pushing for change and finally, with the institution of a new Constitution in August of 2010, their rights will be protected. This Constitution, the main purpose of which was to limit the powers of the executive, has risen from the ashes of ethnic violence following elections in 2007 in which over 1,100 people are believed to have been killed.
In terms of broad legal principles relating to women’s rights, Kenya’s new Constitution has two reforms. The first, is that customary law, still recognized in Kenya alongside codified law and common law, is no longer exempt from constitutional provisions prohibiting discrimination based on gender. As a result, discriminatory inheritance practices such as those that disinherited Anna will come under increased legal scrutiny. The second, is that in addition to gender being a prohibited ground for discrimination, protections were strengthened with a clause mandating equality based on gender, and a clause providing that parties to a marriage are entitled to equal rights at the time of marriage, during marriage and at the dissolution of marriage. In addition, Kenya has instituted specific provisions, so that Kenyan women can now pass citizenship to their spouses and children on equal footing with Kenyan men. The latter, a huge achievement as it empowers the other half of the population with the same right, is something many countries still continue to prohibit wives and mothers to do.
Mission to Côte d'Ivoire scheduled to take place between February 13 and 17. Time to prepare for my first trip with the Bank: call for tickets and hotel, visit the travel clinic, request UNLP and visa, read security recommendations, exchange money etc. Ah, of course, prepare all the background documents and coordinate the elaboration of our meeting schedule. Simple activities that tend to become uninteresting for those who have done it several times before are rather exciting for a beginner.
I landed in Cote d’Ivoire just in time for the big final of the Africa’s Nations Cup: Cote d’Ivoire, the favorites to win, facing the surprising Zambia. Everyone’s eyes were on the game and the scenario was set for a week of celebrations. Football (soccer), however, is tricky and Cote d’Ivoire ended as the runner up. That did not change the plans in the country: Monday the 13th had been declared a national holiday for the people to welcome the players and so it was. A slight unexpected issue for us, as most of our meetings scheduled for that day were cancelled. An anti-climax for a beginning.
Minneapolis has the largest Somali population in the US. Sending remittances to Somalia was put at risk late December when the Sunrise Community Bank in Minneapolis announced that it was going to close the accounts of all Somali remittance companies on December 30th 2011.To our knowledge, the Sunrise Community Bank was the last bank that was serving Somali remittance companies in Minneapolis. Closure of accounts meant no operation for remittance companies. This in turn meant no money for remittance-dependent Somalis, who had no other options since remittance service providers such as Western Union and MoneyGram didn’t operate in Somalia. Aid groups lobbied to challenge the closure, and their petition reached all the way up to President Obama.
Sierra Leone has become one of the most improved economies in the Doing Business 2012 report—an amazing step toward sustainable economic growth for a country that has overcome a devastating civil war less than ten years ago. The country is now ranked 141st on the ease of doing business—an improvement of 9 places from the previous year. This achievement was made possible to a large extent by the IFC-World Bank Removing Administrative Barriers to Investment (RABI) program.
1. Only 15 percent of Nigerian entrepreneurs are women --- one of the lowest shares in all Sub-Saharan Africa
2. Almost 70 percent of firms in Akwa Ibom train their employees while just one percent of firms in Zamfara do so. And workers that receive training earn up to a quarter more than non-trained workers.
3. Female entrepreneurs need credit more than men, but they are less likely to apply for and less likely to obtain a loan.