Dana Sanchez, 5:07 pm
Bitcoin surged today above $1,400. Its most recent rise is attributed to strong demand in Japan, where the digital currency is designated legal tender. Most African banks charge 10-to-19% on remittances. Bitcoin has started taking a bite out of the $4B trade from international transfers to Africa, but it’s still moving slowly. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is credited with helping boost the value of bitcoin. The Winklevoss brothers — disputed founders of Facebook — applied to list a proposed bitcoin-tracking exchange-traded fund, and were initially rejected. The SEC is reconsidering.
Dana Sanchez, 9:40 pm
Mastercard hopes to roll out fingerprint payment cards globally by the end of 2017. South Africans’ willingness to try new technology and their familiarity with using biometrics for identification made the country an ideal market to test the payment cards. They’ll work with any card terminal around the world that accepts embedded chip technology. In the U.S., embedded chips are increasingly popular. Regulations make merchants and financial institutions liable for breaches resulting from a lack of support for chip-and-pin cards. Some merchants won’t have to get new equipment to accept fingerprint-enabled cards.
Dana Sanchez, 4:53 pm
An IPO today on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange introduced a new option for investors who want to add African exposure to their portfolios. The AMI Big 50 ex-SA ETF offers 50 African blue-chip companies outside South Africa. The IPO is a world first – an ETF offering exposure to a pan-African index that excludes South Africa. “A lot of people do worry about the liquidity risk, but being an ETF means that there is a secondary market on the JSE which allows investors in smaller quantities to trade exposure in and out of Africa,” a stakeholder said. The ETF is managed by Cloud Atlas, which plans to launch two more Africa-focused ETFs by July.
Dana Sanchez, 7:41 pm
By 2020, there will be thousands of small satellites in orbit, mostly for telecommunications. “Low cost” are the magic words in this new space movement. “Until now, space missions were the preserve of the big state agencies,” a stakeholder said. “But today, every university is in a position to produce its own satellites, as are the smaller companies.” Space flight is in a state of upheaval with something along the lines of a democratisation happening – at least as far as the lower orbits are concerned. In the coming years, a commercial breakthrough is expected.
Dana Sanchez, 9:34 am
There are just 37 black-owned wine brands in South Africa, the world’s seventh-largest wine producing country. The industry employs 290,000 people at 550-plus wineries. Empowerment and transformation has been slow to increase black ownership and leadership. Ntsiki Biyela, South Africa’s first black female winemaker, is a role model and symbol of change. She recently launched her own brand, Aslina wines, named after her grandmother in a rural KwaZulu-Natal village of 1,000 people. The wines are set for export to the U.S. later this year.
Dana Sanchez, 10:10 pm
Luanda is still the world’s second most expensive city for expats after Hong Kong, but rent for office space fell almost 50 percent in the past two years. Demand has virtually ground to a halt in the region’s top oil-producing country. Rent has has also fallen for office space and luxury homes in Nairobi, where there’s an oversupply. Kenya became a hotspot for oil and gas exploration in 2012. With the price of crude down more than 50 percent since mid-2014, Nigeria, the region’s second-largest oil producer, is in recession. One bright spot: industrial space rent is rising in Kenya.
Dana Sanchez, 10:34 am
S&P is the first agency to downgrade South Africa’s sovereign debt to non-investment grade. SA’s banks have proved that they can weather storms. “We have 50 percent more capital than in the global financial crisis and all South African banks came through that event fine,” a stakeholder said. March was a record month for trading volume in SA bonds. S&P’s decision doesn’t impact SA’s eligibility in global bond indices yet. But more ratings downgrades and increased trading volumes could. “The real issue is the impact on economic growth, industrial performance and employment,” a wealth manager said. “There is a negative relationship between economic growth and bank assets.”
Dana Sanchez, 5:17 pm
Each security is equivalent to 100th of an ounce of gold and is backed by physical gold. The Nairobi all-share index hit a 47-month low March 8, driven down by bank stocks and a Safaricom selloff. Having local currency exposure to the spot price of gold is attractive to local pension funds and others restricted in overseas investment. “It makes sense to be adding complexity to the stock exchange… Barclays is ‘pushing at an open door by launching a gold-based ETF,” an investment advisor said. “There’s clearly demand for gold here because people see it as a store of value.”
Dana Sanchez, 4:58 pm AFKI Original
African exploration took a hit the last two years. Eni’s success shows it’s not over. Eni is Africa’s leading gas producer. With an oil sector less than 10 years old, Ghanaian companies have limited experience providing tech services to offshore operators. GE says it plans to provide training and support for the local oil and gas supply chain, and SMEs. GE’s new Ghana facility is already supporting Eni. Eni’s exploration success rate is the envy of its peers. Most of Eni’s oil finds were discovered in the last decade, mainly in Nigeria, the Congo, Ghana and Angola.
Dana Sanchez, 11:34 pm
Angola has pushed Egypt out of second place in Africa for number of hotel rooms under construction. Angolan tourism is thriving internally, but the former Portuguese colony isn’t attracting many international tourists. Education is one way African professionals can add value to hospitality and tourism, and carve out a niche that reflects national character, tradition, and culture. Angola’s College of Hospitality Management train locals as game reserve and safari lodge managers. This is how Africa’s hospitality sector should mature. Private equity investors should take notice.