Posts in "Innovation"

The grocery store we’ve all been waiting for

I am just back from my first visit to Nude Foods, the grocery store we have all been waiting for! I do mean all of us. Cape Town’s new plastic-free grocer is heaven for hipsters, for sure, with its hemp seeds, healthy hair products and earth-friendly body and home products, and a veritable lezzer nirvana with all those non-GMO pulses and legumes and natural fibre face clothes.

But even if you are a totally unreformed meat-eating, booze-guzzling, SUV-driving capitalist you will probably like the raw understated style of the green-green grocer with its exposed brickwork and sexy container-ing of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic and friends.

Plus there are many other little tricks and treats such as  an all-natural stain remover stick that removes even that environmentally friendly extra virgin olive oil should it be splashed on your favourite blouse, I am reliably informed.

The target-obsessed, outcomes-focused busy bees will love the convenience of it all.

Just a few minutes away from worshipping at the altar of your own busy-busy-busy-ness and you will have achieved low cost, high impact efficiency (and probably a few super cool selfies) as you filled your hessian sack with delicious and affordable wholefoods. That’s a nice little update for LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram … that should get you some Likes!

After being offered a glass straw at the Alexander Bar last week I was delighted to see bamboo straws at Nude.

The glass straw is a nice idea and a very luxurious experience, but somehow it doesn’t feel realistic to hope that it will take off on a meaningful scale, kinda like washing your hair in Evian (Kim Bassinger and I really tried to make that take off but it just didn’t catch on).

Plastic straws seem to be widely hated at the moment; they are the gateway drug du jour and I am happy to have turned my back on them forever.

Seriously, whether you are a hipster or a total hick you will love Nude Foods at 5 Constitution Street, East City Precinct, Cape Town.

It is unforgivable not to even attempt to do your bit. See you in the water queues…  

PS I was happy to see that there is one kind of plastic that is welcome here and that they are using Yoco. I do love a little disruption!

Yoco, poster child of SA as global fintech hub

Think out of the box, put the farm into one

Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja with fellow breakthrough female tech entrepreneurs: FinFind’s Darlene Menzies, left, and Aisha Pandor of SweepSouth, right

In this age of Eat Local campaigns, one might be a little alarmed to encounter vegetables called rucola, petite-this and mange-that, on a plate in the Nigerian capital, but fear not, Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja told a briefing at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Africa 2017 meetings in Durban, these micro greens are not just grown near Abuja, they are grown within the teeming metropolis.

This young Nigerian, a winner of the World Economic Forum’s Top Women Innovators Award, has turned adversity and a modern city’s hunger for imported vegetables into a thriving business.

She grows micro greens in shipping containers in town, allowing her to add “hyper local” to the tag.

The founder and chief executive of Fresh Direct Produce and Agro-Allied Services in Nigeria said her business started with a regular farm, but making a success of that proved so challenging that she was forced to innovate.

The business started with 10 greenhouses on a leased 300 hectare farm. The green houses took up only a small part of the land, with the rest covered by trees. Beside the cost of clearing, which would have been exorbitant, Angel said, she had a problem with the idea of displacing forest.

An additional problem was that the farm was three hours from market.

As any farmer will confirm, this business is not for the faint-hearted. Angel told the briefing on the last day of the WEF Africa meetings in Durban that small farmers like herself could expect to lose up to 50 percent of their crop before harvest. Lack of funds compounds problems around a shortage of information and lack of inputs and tools.

Access to finance would be a game changer for farmers, but bank loans are usually available only to landowners in Nigeria.

“First I need to be rich before I can get a loan,” Angel said.

Transporting often-delicate, perishable goods along bad roads and a lack of storage facilities added to problems which meant that, she added, another 25 percent of produce could be lost from farm to market.

Not just for rabbits: hipsters like them too

Another challenge that forced a rethink of the business was when the fuel price increased from 87 Naira a litre to above 200 Naira in a short period of time.

It was these and other challenges that forced Fresh Direct to innovate and “pivot”, as she described it, and develop their genius plan to grow vegetables in town. The business now grows micro greens in containers stacked five high at two sites in Abuja.

Each 20-foot shipping container would fit a car – instead they take 4,000 plants per cycle, with a cycle lasting from seven days to a month.

The vegetables are produced using a hydroponic method where plants are grown in nutrient-filled water, rather than soil. The business is moving into aquaponics too, where fish are added to the system to enhance the cycle.

This is a long way away from fast food, but the vegetables can be delivered to customers 15 minutes after they are harvested and washed.

Fresh Direct’s customers are restaurants, hotels and grocery stores. “The nice thing with corporate customers is that they are consistent,” Angel said.

An outlet in Lagos will soon be added to the two already operating in Abuja. In Lagos, Angel said she expects to tap into an ever bigger demand for micro greens, niche foods that are a favourite of modern chefs, foodies and other hipster types.

Fresh Direct currently employs 10 people full-time and another 59 part-time, many of whom would find it hard to secure good jobs elsewhere. Angel told the WEF briefing that not one of her staff had gone to secondary school and just one had previous agricultural experience.

She said her staff called themselves “tech farmers” in a country where farming is sometimes looked down on as a less-than-dignified career.

Angel clearly doesn’t look down on traditional farming. In fact, she seemed pleased and relieved to say that doing the fancy vegetables, rather than staple foods, meant she was not competing with traditional rural farmers, rather they were providing vegetables that were otherwise imported.

Yoco, poster child of SA as global fintech hub

Local startup Yoco’s successfully concluded foreign funding round, announced on Wednesday, has been described as a vote of confidence in South Africa’s growing fintech ecosystem.

The South African startup told a media briefing in Cape Town that it had secured funding commitments for an undisclosed sum from U.S.-based Quona Capital and Velocity Capital of the Netherlands.

In addition to being a milestone and validation for Yoco, the company’s chief executive officer and co-founder, Katlego Maphai, pictured, said that being able to attract top-tier foreign VC investors was a “vote of confidence in South Africa’s growing fintech and startup ecosystem”.

Adding that Cape Town was “fast becoming a global fintech capital”, Maphai said it was not a coincidence that the fintech ecosystem was developing in the Cape.

He said the Western Cape government’s public endorsement of Yoco had been supplemented by constant, quiet support from the sidelines. Maphai noted that special thanks were due to Alan Winde, the province’s MEC for economic opportunities.

Both Quona Capital co-founder and partner, Monica Brand Engel, and Velocity Capital director, Allard Luchsinger, mentioned the enabling ecosystem of the Western Cape and its position as a potential launchpad into the rest of Africa as additional reasons to invest in Yoco’s “world-class platform and team”.

“There is a massive opportunity to expand access to, and the quality of, financial services through the digitisation of SME payments and payments data in Africa, where cash still predominates in many economies,” said Engel, pictured, of Quona Capital, which manages the $141 million Accion Frontier Inclusion Fund, the first global fintech fund for the under-served.

“Yoco is a market-maker … growing the size of the card payment acceptance market,” added Luchsinger.

Maphai noted the importance of “raising smart capital from seasoned fintech investors”, saying it would enable Yoco “to continue our self-directed journey to grow the SME payments markets through world-class execution, delivered with radical simplicity”.

Yoco has previously raised capital from angel investors and seed funds, including the likes of CRE Venture Capital, specialist fintech angel investor Robby Hilkowitz and Greg Kidd (a first-round investor and advisor at Square and Twitter), but this was the first funding round solely including institutional investors. The company said it is also bigger than previous raises.

Yoco co-founder, Carl Wazen, pictured, said the funding had been earmarked to expand the footprint and services offered by the fast-growing fintech company that currently processes more than R1 billion in transactions per year.

He added that Yoco planned to use the funds raised to expand their current base of 6,500 customers, 70 percent of whom had not accepted cards at all before. The company also planned to add additional services to their offering and to prepare for expansion into other markets, with possibilities in both East and West Africa under discussion.

Yoco’s integrated card payment and point-of-sale system enables small businesses and entrepreneurs to securely accept card payments wherever they are. Pay-per-use pricing with no monthly fees make it an obvious choice for small business owners.

In line with its focus on empowering SME growth, the company also offers merchants a business intelligence portal that gives real-time insights into transactions and products sold. The size of the market is estimated to be around a million businesses in South Africa, where even social grants are disbursed via preloaded debit cards but many merchants cannot accept any form of plastic.

As for the rest of the continent, the press briefing was reminded that small and medium sized businesses, both formal and informal, are estimated to be responsible for up to 50 percent of Africa’s GDP and 90 percent of employment on the continent.

Although, Velocity’s Luchsinger, pictured, said “we know that Sub-Saharan Africa is different from the rest of the continent”.

But, he added, they had been very impressed with the depth of thinking that went into every single part of Yoco’s business.

“We believe this team will approach other regions with the same depth of thinking and analysis. We think this is a team that could become the main SME provider for Africa.”

There seems to be little doubt about its potential. Winde, who said he had squeezed the meeting in after being told he wouldn’t be able to make it, described Yoco as as “the next generation of great ideas in finance”.

Thanking the investors for choosing an African company and one based in Cape Town, he added that he thought they had made the right choice.

“The leapfrog into delivering services into Africa is going to happen out of this region,” he said.

Winde added that the big names, “whether they be from Europe, Israel or Silicon Valley”, were migrating towards the Cape. “This is just another little building block in that ecosystem.”

Hilkowitz, the angel investor who has amassed a sizeable portfolio in fintech across developed and developing markets, agreed: “Africa doesn’t have a fintech hub … This is an opportunity for Cape Town to be the fintech hub of Africa.”

And, he added, “Yoco can be the poster child for that”.

– African News Agency (ANA)

Young Africa Works: Making farming sexy

A beautiful, noisy thunder shower greeted delegates arriving in Kigali, Rwanda, for the Mastercard Foundation’s second annual Young Africa Works Summit in late February 2017, shattering expectations of cracked skin and dry taps after a terrible year of drought in many parts of Africa .

The trip from the airport to the Marriott Hotel, where the summit took place, gave an indication that many more expectations would be shattered.

One hoped the 300 delegates at the summit would still take serious note of the various warnings about being water wise but, as for other old expectations, they might as well have been flushed away. New stereotypes are being  minted by the day in Africa, with its burgeoning population of young people and blossoming cultures of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Looking for a ‘killer app’ to link agriculture and youth unemployment

Opening the conference Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT Jean Philbert Nsengimana, pictured, put his faith in the agricultural sector to solve the mounting problem of youth unemployment … even as he used hi-tech lingo to describe the problems facing Africa.

He said finding a solution that combined Africa’s demographic dividend with its agricultural promise would be like creating a “killer app”.

This is a man with an MBA in IT management and a master’s degree in software engineering, yet he said he had no doubt that the agricultural sector was best placed to solve the problem of how to put a burgeoning young population to work in a sustainable and meaningful way.

He said when he thought of agriculture on the continent he was struck by the appalling paradox of problems and opportunities existing side by side.

The summit will hear much about this paradox, of Africa’s bountiful potential, an abundance of fertile land, long growing seasons and large young labour force, among other things, in such conflict with the reality of starvation and poverty.

“This is the time for change,” the minister said. “This is the time we say no to this unending paradox of problems living side by side with solutions.”

Kenyan women on top

Africans rising: from left, Brian Bosire, Laetitia Mukungu, Rita Kimani, Jean Bosco Nzeyimana and Pilirani Khoza

(As one has become accustomed …) Kenya stood proud at the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works Summit with two of the East African country’s leading young entrepreneurs, both of them women, hosting the youth keynote address.

Rita Kimani, founder of FarmDrive, and Laetitia Mukungu, founder of the Africa Rabbit Centre, co-hosted a panel of three young people doing great things in the agricultural sector on the continent.

Making farming sexy and feeding a continent

The conference really did live up to its promise of putting young people centre stage.

The potential of a “Green Revolution”, which has been talked about since the Seventies, shows fresh promise with a growing and increasingly innovative new generation of young farmers, most of whom consider themselves professionals despite the sector’s reputation as a depository for people who have not made it elsewhere.

That there is shame associated with any part of food production in Africa is a scandal in itself.

It is widely agreed that the real shame is that Africa, with most of the world’s arable land and a large and growing workforce, spends $35 billion a year importing food. That is the real crisis that the next generation of agriculturalists is under pressure to solve. It is good news for the young people themselves, they say, that they are also chiseling away at the sector’s bad reputation.

Farming already has the weight of critical importance on its side. It is widely seen as the sector with the most potential to defuse Africa’s ticking timebomb of a booming population and a growing unemployment crisis.

Africa has a young workforce in an ageing world, with an estimated 226 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. More than 70 percent of those youngsters are believed to live on less than $2 a day, most of them relying on vulnerable or unpaid employment for their survival.

According to information from the Mastercard Foundation, the agriculture sector is set to create an additional 8 million stable jobs by 2020, a figure that could be significantly increased through increased investment in education, infrastructure, technology and various other support services.

An important shot in the arm is being delivered as scores of young entrepreneurs begin to make headlines as they build healthy and exciting businesses by applying cutting edge innovations and new technologies in a sector known until recently as the most old-fashioned and anti-tech, even some might say ancient.

And here is a little about just two of them:

Jean Bosco Nzeyimana and his organically fuelled revolution

Recycling municipal waste might not seem glamorous at all but it was thanks to turning waste into a clean burning fuel that Rwandan Jean Bosco Nzeyimana, pictured, was flown to America to appear on stage alongside Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg, among other things.

Nzeyimana was one of the young African farmers firing things up at the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works summit in Kigali in late February 2017, with stories about using innovative ways to earn a good living off the land.

As a member of a panel during the keynote session the 23-year-old talked about more idyllic times when his parents’ small piece of land would provide such a bountiful harvest that they would recruit all the young people of the valley to help at harvest time.

One thing he remembers not liking about this time, however, was that the farming tools were so important to his parents that they were kept in their bedroom. In the eyes of the young Jean Bosco, the last of seven children, they got to “sleep” in Mum and Dad’s bedroom, something he would have liked.

That was nothing, though, compared with the pain and difficulty caused to Nzeyimana and his family as the harvests got smaller each year as climate change and poor farming methods took their toll.

He said he doesn’t blame his parents but he didn’t like the way the older generation was practising farming. He said it was clear they were not able to adjust to the changing climate.

While this was happening he was doing well at school but coming to realise that his parents would not be able to fund any further education.

As he was watching his family’s lifestyle becoming harder to maintain, Nzeyimana said, he “became very competitive at school” in the hope of winning government support to attend university. This he did and he now holds a bachelors degree in business administration from the University of Rwanda.

Then, he said, he was determined to show his parents that what he had learned at university could be put to good use.

“I wanted to see if what I had learned at school could make the family more stable,” he said.

This was the motivation behind starting Habona, a company that processes waste into affordable and environmentally friendly fuels such as biogas and biomass briquettes.

The briquette, made of compressed organic matter, is a clean burning fuel with high energy efficiency. The company processes waste for a large community, including a refugee camp, and produces a sustainable replacement to wood charcoal, which is easy to light and can burn longer than charcoal.

Nzeyimana has been named Rwanda’s top young entrepreneur and an India-Africa Young Visionary as well as being awarded the African Innovation Prize. He was selected as the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow through the flagship programme of the U.S. president for Young African Leaders.

As a fellow, this young Rwandan, the first in his family to study at university, did intensive training in leadership, business and entrepreneurship at Northwestern University in Chicago as well as environmental and green energy studies at the University of Wisconsin. And now, he told African News Agency, he has dreams of doing an MBA at one of the “big schools”, by which he said he meant Stanford, Oxford, Harvard, Yale and the like.

The glamour of awards and international training aside, Nzeyimana’s business has created 30 permanent jobs and provides another 40 temporary jobs every month.

It provides cost-effective, renewable energy sources to households, businesses, schools, farmers and government, extremely beneficial in the face of Rwanda’s severe energy crisis. The company also produces bio-fertilizer for farmers and consultancy and maintenance services regarding integrated waste management and energy solutions.

“It is two and a half years since we started and we are very proud of the impact we have made,” said the soft-spoken young man, who is also fueling the revolution that some of his peers describe as “making farming sexy”.

Laetitia Mukungu, making healthy, affordable food fashionable

While feeding a nation might not be dripping in the cool factor, being ahead of the curve of food trends in hip restaurants definitely has a big helping of it. Laetitia Mukungu, founder of Kenya’s Africa Rabbit Centre, now has this claim to fame.

Mukungu – who was co-host of the youth keynote address at the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works summit, which wrapped up on Friday – reported the good news at the summit that Nairobi’s famous Carnivore Restaurant, a popular haunt of tourists and locals, would soon be stocking her products.

Mukungu gave a very convincing presentation about the Africa Rabbit Centre at the Mastercard Foundation’s first Young Africa Works summit, in Cape Town in October 2015, but the world didn’t seem quite ready for her then. A year and a bit on, the business she started as a way to help struggling rural youth and women is growing in leaps and bounds.

However, the young Kenyan told the second Young Africa Works summit in Kigali last week that farming’s bad reputation remained a concern. She said one of the biggest obstacles to young people becoming farmers was that the education system undervalued agriculture as a potential career.

Mukungu, who is currently studying Agricultural Engineering at Earth University in Costa Rica, remembered that schoolteachers would tell poor performers that they would end up as farmers when they grew up if they didn’t improve.

She has been recognised by the Anzisha Prize and Spark Kenya Changemaker and is named by many other young farmers as the reason they are looking at starting to breed rabbits.

Rabbit meat is very high in protein and low in fat, but it also ticks another important box: there is little waste. The meat is eaten, the pelts are used for clothing, the faeces are used as fertilizer and even the urine is used as pest control.

Minimising waste is another key consideration for this next generation of farmers, who are experiencing the effects of climate change in a way the generation that went before could hardly imagine.

And an almost coup …

One of Ghana’s most accomplished statesmen almost pulled off a coup on “Young Africa” at the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works summit in Kigali … but not quite.

There were no obvious signs that it was part of a carefully planned exercise but Sulley Gariba, right, senior policy adviser to the government of Ghana and the country’s High Commissioner to Canada, certainly had the element of surprise on his side (as with any well-planned coup).

Before he sprung a question (from the audience) about succession planning on one of the bright young things on stage anyone over 35 had borne the brunt of any generational finger-pointing. Until that point friendly tension between old and young at the summit had left the older folks looking a little ragged.

Later that same session, which was about how policies can better support young people to become engines of agricultural transformation, the moderator, Dr William Baah-Boateng, perhaps emboldened by Gariba’s surprise move, had pointed out to the same young gun, Ugandan Francis Arinaitwe, that he had been like him 25 years ago.

Sensing a small victory perhaps, he added: “In 25 years’ time will you be like me. What are you going to do?”

Baah-Boateng, currently a senior research fellow at the African Centre for Economic Transformation, is on a sabbatical from his position as senior lecturer in economics at the University of Ghana. As a university lecturer he had perhaps felt more keenly than others the slight turning of tables at the summit, which seems to very successfully have encouraged young people take a bigger role in setting the agenda.

To be sure, the young man in question, panelist Francis Arinaitwe, left, the parish youth chairperson for Mayuge District in Uganda, had stuck his neck out, even perhaps put his head on the block for his generation.

He had started by calling on policymakers to “leave your office … come and conduct focus groups with us on the ground”.

“It is your initiative and your responsibility to consult us on the ground!” he said firmly, adding that not all young people were educated enough to feel able to approach the offices of leadership.

It was Baah-Boateng who had come in strongly in support of the young farmer here, saying that leaders must be careful to not become armchair policymakers. In fact, except for the small challenge about succession planning, which he handled with aplomb, Arinaitwe had received nothing but encouragement from Baah-Boateng and Gariba.

The young farmer who is also spokesman for many had very specific demands and requests for policymakers. His eloquence and clarity left none in doubt that he was ready for the raised profile he was seeking for his generation.

Policies around financial access should be amended to make them simpler, affordable and friendly were his description of what was required.

He also called for action around policies about land ownership, particularly regarding equality for men and women.

There were a number of other specific suggestions but there was also a general request that seemed to speak to the more general handing over of the baton.

“It is high time you stopped thinking about us as beneficiaries,” he said.
“It is time to make us participants.

“I know you were once a youth, but that was then,” Arinaitwe said, adding that it was time that his generation gave input into the policies that affected them.

Things heat up for polar expedition from Cape

Local scene: Eliana Burki and her speedily assembled Cape Town band on-stage outside the #HouseofSwitzerland

Things were heating up at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town this weekend as 50 scientists from around the globe prepared for the groundbreaking three-month polar expedition – the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE) – due to set off from the Mother City on Tuesday.

Young and old gathered to listen to 49 singing scientists and a celebrated “funky” Swiss horn player at the House of Switzerland exhibition on Saturday evening.

One could almost see the steam coming off the 49 young scientists as they sang a song about their time on board the Russian scientific research vessel Akademik Treshnikov.

Singing scientists: the 49 students who were selected to attend a month long maritime university in advance of the Antarctic expedition

The students from around the world had been selected to take part in the ACE Maritime University on board the vessel on its journey from Bremerhaven in Germany. Their intense course, conducted under the auspices of the Russian Geographic Society, ended when the vessel arrived in Cape Town on Thursday.

The youngsters seemed to glow as they sang to a small crowd on a luminescent evening at the V&A Waterfront. If the maritime university was an an ice-breaker of sorts for the groundbreaking Antarctic expedition, the singing scientists seemed to warm up the crowd for a performance by the celebrated Alpine Horn player Eliana Burki, who had flown in from snowy Switzerland.

Capetonian drummer Sean Drummond and Eliana Burki

Playing her own special brand of “funky” Alphorn, Burki and her speedily assembled local band delighted young and old with a combination of traditional and modern music on a stage outside the House of Switzerland.

Visitors to the House of Switzerland exhibition got a preview of how this soon-to-depart expedition will expand knowledge about the region that plays a crucial role in regulating the world’s climate.

(And of course there was chocolate, thank you Lindt, thank you Switzerland!)

ACE is made up of 22 projects to be conducted by research teams from six continents during the three-month circumnavigation of Antarctica. The 22 projects focus on different areas of study, all of which are fundamental for a better understanding of the largely unknown continent’s ecosystems.

The projects, which were chosen from more than 100 submissions, include mapping threatened species such as Southern Ocean whales, albatrosses and penguins, trying to understand the “calving” of a giant iceberg, and a bid to uncover the mystery of the ocean’s “false bottom”.

the Russian scientific research vessel Akademik Treshnikov

ACE is the first project of the Swiss Polar Institute, a newly created public-private partnership that aims to enhance international relations and collaboration between countries on Antarctica. It also hopes to spark the interest of a new generation of young scientists and explorers in polar research.

The expedition was initiated and sponsored by leading industrialist and philanthropist Dr Frederik Paulsen, who has a well-established track record in polar exploration.

The House of Switzerland exhibition, free to members of the public and running until Tuesday, also showcases the Swiss spirit of innovation and Switzerland’s contribution to polar research. It is set up in containers next to the Swing Bridge at the V&A Waterfront.
– African News Agency (ANA)

Spier shares cash from carbon credits with workers

The Spier team celebrates the good news

Workers at the Spier estate in Stellenbosch in South Africa’s winelands will have a little extra to spend this Christmas after the farm decided to divide a portion of cash earned via carbon credits.

Spier announced on Tuesday that it would give 27 workers a share of half of the R204,000 earned for practising regenerative farming on part of the organically certified wine farm through a climate change mitigation initiative.

“The farm has acquired the credits for sequestering 6,493 tons of carbon dioxide in its soil, which is cultivated in as natural way as possible by using regenerative farming practices like high density grazing,” says Spier Wine Farm’s livestock farm manager, Angus McIntosh.

“This is a technique that involves frequent stock rotations aimed at using livestock to mimic nature by restoring carbon and nitrogen contained in livestock and poultry urine into the soil profile.”

The conversion of grasslands and forests to crop and grazing lands across the globe has resulted in losses of soil carbon, which accumulates through photosynthesis as plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When land loses its cover of natural vegetation and becomes degraded through practices such as intensive agriculture and the use of chemicals, carbon escapes into the atmosphere.

Spier’s credits were bought by a South African bank, brokered by Credible Carbon, a business that facilitates carbon trading through credits earned for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. Spier said the office of the premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille, was among institutions that had bought credits.

Livestock farming on Spier is done using high-density rotational grazing practices alongside the vineyards. A total of 74 hectares of pastureland supports about 300 cattle, 4,500 laying hens, 1,200 broiler chickens, pigs and sheep.

“The presence of a great many animals in a confined space for a short period of time deposits enormous amounts of manure and urine on the land, leading to healthy, vigorous pasture growth without the need of fertilizer,” said McIntosh.

“No inorganic fertilisers nor grains are used as animal feed, thereby disassociating the farming practice with industrial agriculture.”

Soil samples from the livestock farm were tested over an 18-month period by a leading U.S. laboratory. “They confirm a significant and rapid enhancement of soil organic carbon over this period,” according to Credible Carbon.

Spier Sustainability Director, Heidi Newton-King, said this initiative added to the farm’s sustainability and underlined the fact that regenerative farming was not only good for the environment but made good business sense.

“We now have a sixth revenue stream from carbon credits in addition to our other five, from sales of beef, chicken, eggs, pork and lamb,” Newton-King said.

– African News Agency (ANA)

Local is lekker: Hyperli steps into space left by Groupon

Bargain hunters will be pleased to hear that Hyperli, a hyperlocal hypermarket of a deal website, on Wednesday promised to fill the space left when the international discounting business Groupon exited South Africa last month.

Groupon withdrew from a number of markets – from South Africa to Switzerland, Panama to Portugal

Groupon groupees were left feeling short-changed by what seemed to be a sudden exit in early November. At the time, Groupon was reported as saying it was withdrawing from a number of markets – from South Africa to Switzerland and Panama to Portugal – “to focus our energy and dollars on fewer countries”.

Not much longer than a month later, and just in time for Christmas, online discount hunters are hoping that the newly formed Hyperli will honour its pledge to “take the online deal marketplace by storm”.

South African consumers were increasingly likely to shop online with the availability of great deals cited as a reason for the migration, alongside saving time, as well as access to reviews and price comparisons.

Online deal-of-the-day services have been credited with introducing customers to new brands, and driving brand awareness and sales. Research from Groupon showed that around 80 percent of merchants who have used deal sites to attract new customers indicated that they would use them again.

“Times are tough for South African consumers and business alike so being able to deliver well-priced, immediate deals makes great business sense,” said Hyperli chief executive and founder, Wayne Gosling.

“Hyperli connects businesses to consumers. It provides an effective marketing tool for brands and service providers looking to expand their customer base and to profitably grow their businesses.”
Funded by Team Africa Ventures, the early stage investment fund run by entrepreneurs, and backed by the team that brought Groupon to South Africa, the Hyperli platform incorporates various standout features, the company said in a statement.

The merchant offering includes enriched data analytics and seamless redemption through the Hyperli merchant app.

“Recognising that cashflow is king to small business, a transparent pricing structure has been incorporated so that business owners can select the right deal redemption criteria to meet their business needs,” the statement said.

Hyperli added that it had formed strategic partnerships with popular South African brands, including Ster Kinekor, Unilever and Jimmy’s Killer Prawns, to deliver exciting deals in the run up to the festive season.

The company said it valued its relationships with local merchants and had prioritised cost-effective business solutions that drove growth as a core objective in the coming months.
“Hyperli aims to be the business platform that assists SMEs with systems that can manage marketing, reservations and payment so that they can concentrate on what they do best, offering their customers amazing experiences,” it said.

Hyperli has its sights set on becoming South Africa’s foremost online commerce player. Over the coming months, the company said it would expand its reach to cover all major cities across categories such as food and drink, beauty and spas, things to do, goods and getaways.

– African News Agency (ANA)

Crowd-funding: almost as old as the hills in Africa

patrickschofieldThe idea behind crowd-funding, raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people via the internet to finance a project, might not be quite as old as the hills, but in Africa it certainly has very old and deep roots.

As Patrick Schofield, pictured left, the founder of Thundafund, Africa’s most successful crowd-funding platform, reminded the audience at a session at AfricaCom, most South Africans know about stokvels, the popular, often informal community savings funds based on the very same principles.

He told the session titled “Crowd-funding: Africa’s answer to economic growth: You choose” the practice, like a village pooling resources to send a child to school, was simply a case of a community that needed or wanted something deciding to make it happen as a group.

“In Africa this is not unusual,” he said.

He went on to say that Facebook was a great example of a “sharing economy” organisation – many people collectively making something worthwhile and adding value to it.

In its many forms, crowd-funding was often the easiest way for people to get access to finance to fund a new venture.

So why the excitement now, you might wonder.

Schofield said that until about five years ago the internet just wasn’t pervasive enough for crowd-funding to be that successful. He added that the biggest factor that predicted whether or not a crowd-funding project would work was penetration of Facebook.

Also, Schofield said, it was only in the last year or so that the financial and regulatory authorities had started to consider that crowd-funding could be a significant force for development in Africa.

He told the session at AfricaCom, the telecoms, tech and ICT conference and exhibition in Cape Town, that Thundafund was the most successful fund in South Africa, having raised R8 million. He was quick to add, however, that Kickstarter, the US-based global crowdfunding platform, probably raised that in a day.

backabuddy

www.BackaBuddy.co.za

Crowd-funding comes in what he described as three “flavours” – donations (seewww.backabuddy.co.za), rewards and investment.

Donations, largely made for the benefit of charities or causes, and investments, made in return for a pre-agreed return such as share of profits, are pretty self-explanatory. Rewards, the bit in the middle, is where it gets more interesting. Here, a funder will give some money in exchange for goods, such as one of the finished products the venture promises to create.

Schofield gave a few examples here, the sweetest one being a group of people who wanted to start a cafe dedicated to chocolate. They raised money via Thundafund by offering a tiered reward system ranging from an entry level investment that secured bars of chocolate to more generous investments that meant a group of friends got locked into the cafe for a few hours to feast on chocolate.

honestchocModern systems, ancient desires, you see.

In Schofield’s words, successful crowd-funding projects could “range from the sublime to the ridiculous”. Whether or not the chocolate project strikes you as sublime or ridiculous depends on how dedicated you are to chocolate. For more information on the campaign and the business see www.thundafund.com/honestchocolate.

Other slightly more serious sides of crowd-funding are reducing waste and de-risking investments.

Schofield told the AfricaCom session that getting buy-in and investment from potential customers tested the market. Once it was known that a market existed, evidenced by financial commitment, it was far less likely that products would be made and never be sold. It is fairly obvious that this de-risks further investment too.

In an environment where traditional financing criteria, such as a banking track record and property ownership, are often irrelevant, crowd-funding allows the ideas of young, often unbankable innovators to get to market.

There is a social impact too, Schofield said, because this was redistributing opportunity. But, unlike the Robin Hood system of taking from the rich to give to the poor, crowd-funding made it possible for different people to get involved in the means of production. Now there’s an old idea worth reviving.

– African News Agency (ANA)

Building a house Africa-style: one step at a time

breestrbuilding   Innovation is required in the financial services sector in Africa to provide funding products for households who build their own homes bit by bit. Either way, it will continue to happen, says the head of the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa.

Kecia Rust told a panel at the African Real Estate and Infrastructure Summit in Cape Town that this style of construction was evident in cities across Africa.

Travel around the continent, she said, and you would see building projects at various stages of completion. In many cases, some sections would already be in use, while parts were still under construction and others appeared to have been put on hold.

ctbuildingRust, who is director and founder of the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa, said incremental building was so popular because, for many people, it was the only option.

Addressing a panel discussion entitled Making African Cities of Tomorrow Inclusive she said there were lots of models of incremental building across the continent, but few financial products designed to serve this market.

She said this type of mortgage product often didn’t exist because this sector was just not recognised despite its significant size.

Across Africa, she said, “most housing is being built by households themselves”.

It is clearly not efficient for each household to build their own house, but efficiency isn’t the highest ideal when options are so severely limited.

underconstructionTo serve this market, innovation was required in the finance sector, Rust said. “The opportunities for profit are huge and worth engaging with.”

An exception she mentioned was Zambian Home Loans (ZHL), which offers a building loan that is converted to a mortgage once construction of the house has been completed. ZHL, a collaboration between Investrust Bank, African Life Financial Services and Sofala Capital, specialises in building loans that are paid out in tranches according to the various building stages.

But this is a rare case. Rust added that a regulatory system that enabled this incremental process was also required.

“We need to be realistic about affordability,” she said. “We must be bold but we must also pay attention to the market.”

Massive opportunity in low-cost housing ‘being missed’

Banks and property developers in Africa were missing out on an economic opportunity by not catering to the “missing middle” of people who earn too much to qualify for state help with housing but too little to qualify for traditional financing products.

This view was put forward by various parties representing a spectrum of roleplayers at the summit.

Another message that came out of the panel discussion, Making African Cities of Tomorrow Inclusive, was that a lack of trust between the various roleplayers was a severe impediment to efforts to solve the housing crisis in many African cities.

In summary, Tim Harris, Wesgro chief executive officer, who chaired the session, described one of the problems as government and the private sector “not playing nicely”.

Albert Smuts, director of Fieldworks Design Group, which is active in regeneration projects in the Johannesburg CBD, was emphatic when he said that a “massive” opportunity was being missed in the development of low cost housing.

His fellow panelist, Mokena Makeka, the founder and principal at Makeka Design Lab, added: “We live in an age of a crisis of confidence, a crisis of imagination and a crisis of leadership.”

Good governance was critical for the private sector to have the faith required to invest, he said. But “the social compact between citizen and state is frayed”.

His experience was that the private sector didn’t want to participate in projects where government was involved, and representatives of government felt the private sector couldn’t be trusted. Makeka argued that a better social compact was needed to create more functional cities.

The inaugural African Real Estate and Infrastructure Summit, held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, saw leading African cities showcase their urban development plans and discuss the challenges and opportunities created by rapid urbanisation on the continent.

Being run in partnership with United Cities and Local Governments Association Africa and Wesgro, the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for the Western Cape, the summit sought to provide “solution-driven content and insights into the world’s fastest urbanisation, as well as to address the challenges of regulatory frameworks on the African continent”.

Another week, another event, and on the eve of Africa.com, one has to wonder how many bright young things attending the conference at the CTICC from November 15-17 will be applying their minds to creating financing  solutions that fit Africa …

FNB combines new tech and old-fashioned values

jacquescelliers

Jacques Celliers

As First National Bank launched its new super hi-tech mobile banking app on Wednesday the bank’s chief executive, Jacques Celliers, made the point that the bank’s pursuit of ever-sexier hi-tech solutions was driven by old-fashioned values such as helpfulness and customer service.

The latest version of the FNB mobile banking app, 5.0, includes a range of digital firsts for Africa. But Celliers made it clear at the launch at FNB’s offices in the Portside building in Cape Town that the bank was not in the tech race just for the sake of it, or to prove that they could “do tech”, but rather to better serve customers.

foodview

[I am going to go on a little detour here to mention the surroundings at this launch. It is hard to not enjoy yourself with this view and first-class nibbles provided by FNB’s very own team.]

fnbfood2 fnbfood3Despite the abundance of delicious ingredients and an oversupply of food snobs many awful caterers continue to torture us in this city.

I am always surprised and delighted when the food served at a corporate event is anything but ghastly.

FNB did an excellent job here, providing journos with delicious nibbles … there was even wine at lunchtime though it is so old-fashioned to drink at lunchtime that few people tried the Rupert and Rothschild (really).

 

But back to business … A distinctive feature of FNB App 5.0 is FNB Pay, a globally accepted contactless payment solution, which allows customers to purchase goods by tapping their smartphone on an enabled point-of-sale terminal. And, a first in Africa, FNB Pay enables customers to quickly and conveniently purchase goods below R200 without entering their card PIN.

Celliers described the app as “a gateway into the future of banking” and said many of its features were a clear demonstration of how the bank was prioritising customer needs.

“This platform also puts us in a much better position to continue capitalising on the seamless convergence of banking and telecoms, to produce integrated solutions,” he said.

Raj Makanjee, FNB Premium chief executive, added: “The timing is perfect for contactless technology in South Africa as local merchants are gradually increasing contactless infrastructure.

“Not only does the functionality make it effortless for customers to pay for goods and services, it helps merchants to process transactions far quicker, thus assisting in reducing queues,” Makanjee added.

gangsterbadge[Timing being everything … now might be the right time to change banks. After all I have been with my bank for hundreds of years …]

With fraud being a global concern for clients, particularly those using digital platforms, the new app brings industry-leading security features to enable customers to detect and report fraud, FNB said.

Smart inContact replaces SMS One Time Passwords as a way to approve or reject transactions, or report fraud.

FNB said the inContact solution had evolved to introduce Smart InContact, which notified customers of transactions as low as one cent, with full control to report fraud with one touch of the Smart inContact notification.

Communication between the bank and its customers is being brought in-house via the app, another feature that is likely to build trust, another of those old-fashioned values that Celliers frequently referred to.

Another service available through the app that mixes old and new ideas is Secure Chat, where premier and private banking clients can enquire about services or send instructions to their private banking support team.

This interactive messaging in a secure environment is a bit like having a modern line to an old-fashioned service (ie real people).

The app is set to cut out the hassle of using coupons and vouchers and might just bring them back into fashion. Collecting coupons and vouchers, an idea that seems totally out of step with the modern, paperless world will be given new life by the combination of geo-positioning and partnerships with retailers.

If you are in a Shoprite Checkers or any one of the other 16 retailers FNB has already signed up you can download all relevant offers on the spot and redeem them at the till via your phone app.

The app seems to be all about adding on services while simplifying the experience. Reducing irritation is high up on many people’s banking wish-list and what better way than to allow authentication through fingerprint ID, as 5.0 does.

lostwallet

Where the hell is my wallet?

gangstaThen there is an option on the app where you can put a temporary block on a card that is mislaid (temporarily, rather than having found its way into the hands of the local mafia) to give yourself time to find it.

[Maybe it is time to move banks …]

Another way of reducing the number of things that can go wrong is the option on the app that allows cardless withdrawals. A customer logs on and requests the withdrawal and then has 30 minutes to collect the order at an ATM using a password.

FNB used the same event on Wednesday to release information about its watch app, which extends key features of the banking app to an Android or Apple smartwatch.

It is less easy to connect this innovation to good old-fashioned values … unless you are one for a good, old-fashioned bargain. To celebrate this launch, FNB is offering a discount of up to 40 percent to customers purchasing a smartwatch via the eBucks Online shop.