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22 June 2009
Brash, ambitious, and optimistic, Herman Chinery-Hesse has already accomplished what many considered impossible -- building a thriving tech business in his native Ghana. His new goal: to spark an entrepreneurial revolution in Africa by bringing e-commerce to the most remote corners of the continent.
It's just past midnight, and Herman Chinery-Hesse can't sleep. The 43-year-old entrepreneur is lying on his back, eyes closed, mind cranking.
He's working through the details of a pitch to American and European investors -- many of whom have never backed a company like the one he's proposing. The pitch is absurdly ambitious: a tech company that aims to reshape the business climate for small entrepreneurs in Africa while grabbing a share of the $28 billion that Africans living abroad send home every year. His start-up is a long shot, will cost millions of dollars to execute, and could take five years to get off the ground. In other words, it's not the kind of thing you would expect from a company based in West Africa, a place known for many things -- malaria, civil wars, famine -- but definitely not disruptive technology companies.
But Chinery-Hesse thrives on just this sort of contradiction. He's a technology entrepreneur on a technologically barren continent, an atheist in a deeply religious country, and a capitalist raised amid the excesses of socialism. He also loves an uphill battle -- and this particular battle is just too intriguing to pass up.
I know this because I'm lying in bed next to him. I had come to Accra, the capital of Ghana, to understand what African entrepreneurship looks like, and I had sought out Chinery-Hesse in particular to answer this question: Who in his right mind would sell software in Africa? I had been following him around for a week, a frenetic experience that typically began each day in the late morning and lasted until midnight. I observed Chinery-Hesse make hundreds of phone calls, send thousands of text messages, and smoke a carton of Benson & Hedges cigarettes. And now, I was cowering close to the edge of a king-size bed around midnight, reluctantly conducting an interview.
This is not as weird as it sounds. Business in Africa is much more informal than in the United States. Meetings are not typically pegged to a specific time, and lateness -- even several hours' worth of lateness -- is not considered worthy of reproach. And then there are the sleeping arrangements. In Africa, it is not uncommon for two people of the same sex, when pressed for space, to platonically bunk up. This point had been mentioned to me several days earlier, but it acquired a terrifying immediacy when the tiny hotel where we had intended to stay was booked, and a friend of Chinery-Hesse's offered to let us stay at his place.
Chinery-Hesse is an imposing man. He stands 6 feet tall, has a Tony Soprano -- size gut, and possesses a salesman's mannerisms, including a blistering laugh and a fondness for crass language that belies his upper-crust background. Most of the time, his clap-you-on-the-shoulder pose is endearing. But his size and tendency toward overfamiliarity make him a less than ideal companion in situations -- a bed, say -- in which personal space is scarce.
Still, it's a big bed, and I figure I can simply turn on my side, avoid eye contact, and fall asleep quickly. Chinery-Hesse will have none of it. "We can still chat," he says matter of factly from the other side. "You can still ask me questions."
When you come to Africa, take everything you know about Europe or America and turn it upside down." This advice, given to me by a Ghanaian entrepreneur named Kingsley Awuah-Darko, was meant not as preparation for unfamiliar mores but as a key to understanding business on the African continent. Judge a company in Accra by the standards you would apply to one in Akron, and you're likely to form mistaken impressions and miss opportunities.
16 June 2009
Followers of the charity are being encouraged to use Twitter to publicise the drive for 10,000 PCs to be donated in the next four weeks with an initial aim of 1,000 PCs in the first four hours of the online campaign.
Computer Aid professionally refurbishes PCs and laptops in its London workshop and ships them for re-use in schools, hospitals and community organisations in developing countries.
The charity is the most experienced non-profit provider of IT for development, having provided almost 150,000 PCs and laptops to support e-learning, e-health, e-inclusion and e-agriculture projects in more than 100 countries such as Rwanda, Ecuador and Zambia.
We are experiencing an incredible increase in orders of PCs from schools, hospitals, universities and community organisations. We estimate there are thousands of PCs currently collecting dust today in back rooms and store cupboards across the country and we are urging people to take action and get involved in the Computer Aid Twitterthon to help raise awareness of this need and meet the demand, said Computer Aid founder Tony Roberts.
Reusing old PCs is much better for the environment than recycling them down to their component parts and it also provides an invaluable opportunity for disadvantaged schoolchildren who would otherwise have no access to IT in education. We can put a PC on a school desk in Africa within six weeks of receiving the donation and we estimate that one donated PC will deliver at least a further three years use."
To support the Twitterthon campaign, follow Computer Aid at http://www.computeraid.org/twitterthon.htm or visit http://www.computeraid.org/tweet4c harity for more information.
Computing is a long-term partner of Computer Aid and helps to raise funds as well as promote the charitys activities to IT professionals in the UK. A separate campaign currently underway is seeking sponsors for a vital telemedicine project in rural Africa click here for more details
The chinese offensive in the african continent is on a continuos rising and with the actual state of the world economic tumoil and the prolonged post colonial enslavement to the western world;African countries are more than opening up to this "profitable?"uprising.This picture shows a railway bridge in Nigeria built by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.
Africa has now become well-established as the single most important overseas market for the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), China's largest infrastructure development business. In 2008, almost half of the company's $9.6 billion overseas revenue came from projects in Africa.
As of May this year, CCCC had secured 28 projects with a number of African nations, each worth more than $100 million apiece. With two of the deals - one in Angola and one in Libya - worth an estimated $1 billion each, it is small wonder that this is the third year that Africa has topped the list of CCCC's overseas markets.
Speaking of the company's success in Africa, Wang Xiaoguang, general manager of CCCC's overseas business department, says: "CCCC's business in Africa has grown by around 33 percent per annum in recent years. Fortunately, the plans already in place for infrastructure development in many African countries have remained unaffected by the current global financial downturn with much of the funding already in place through Chinese governmental loans."
As part of its commitment to developing its African business base, CCCC is currently drawing up plans to train 30,000 local staff into skilled workers to work on a number of construction projects, primarily in Angola and Libya.
At the beginning of the year, CCCC won a contract from the Libyan government to deliver 5,000 apartment homes. The total value of the project, including foundation construction, is said to be in the region of $1.05 billion.
It would be one of the world's biggest private renewable energy projects: Some 20 German companies are planning to join forces to build CSP plants in northern Africa and transport the electricity to Europe via new, direct current power grids.
The consortium, to be formed by mid-July, includes, among others, economic powerhouse Siemens, finance institution Deutsche Bank and energy giant RWE, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reports. The ambitious green project, dubbed "Desertec," could produce power as early as 2019 and eventually satisfy 15 percent of Europe's electricity demand, Torsten Jeworrek, a Munich Re board member, told the newspaper.
The companies, backed by German government officials and the Club of Rome, plan to invest some $555 billion in the deserts of northern Africa. The money would not only be used for building the CSP plants, but also the gird infrastructure needed to bring the electricity to Europe.
"This is no longer a distant vision but technologically fascinating and also achievable," Jeworrek said in a statement Tuesday. "Desertec is clearly banking on the right incentives in the long term, namely climate protection and a low-carbon energy sector."
5 June 2009
1.5 million investment in SMEs does not seem much, but when you consider, it creates over 1000 meaningful jobs in sustainable businesses and supports a multiple of family and community members, it certainly makes a difference
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We believe that investing in high growth SMEs in developing countries is economically viable if done right. The higher risk of investing overseas is set off by higher possible returns that investments in new emerging markets bring with them. Managing these investments is complex, but there are innovative ways to do that more efficiently.
Economic reasoning would be enough to consider the above mentioned investments. But besides that these investments have a significant impact on the economic and social development in these countries. 1.5 million investment in SMEs does not seem much, but when you consider, it creates over 1000 meaningful jobs in sustainable businesses and supports a multiple of family and community members, it certainly makes a difference.
Therefore “economic investments” in high growth SMEs can also be seen as “social investments” that might bring a financial return. The Dutch Internal Revenue Service (Belastingdienst) considers these investments as “philanthropy” and they are, therefore, tax deductable when structured right. This means you have about 50% more capital to invest.