The dust has settled on the US elections. As expected, Joe Biden prevailed over Donald Trump, albeit by a slimmer margin than the polls suggested.
With the Senate likely to remain in Republican hands, the President-elect will likely have a stronger hand when it comes to foreign policy
Of particular interest will be Biden’s approach to Africa. After all, his predecessor paid the continent scant attention (apart from some highly controversial remarks about the nature of its countries). Investors with interests on the continent will be looking at his approach to trade deals and whether his government will consider extending the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) beyond 2024. But they’ll also keep an eye on whether he can end Donald Trump’s trade war with China, where Africa has become a proxy battleground.
While all those variables matter, and are worth unpacking, it’s also important to consider the opportunities and risks for investors that will remain in place regardless of who the leader of the so-called free world is.
A global agenda
One thing that’s relatively certain is that Biden will take a more global view than Trump’s “America First” approach. It has alienated many of America’s allies, including some on the African continent.
While some critics believe that there won’t be any substantive changes, he could achieve two relatively quick wins by backing an AGOA extension and supporting the African Continental Free Trade Area. With a number of countries on the continent bearing the brunt of climate change, rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement would also win some favour, as would backing Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the first African Director-General of the World Trade Organization, a move blocked by the Trump administration.
While some of these measures may largely be symbolic, they would illustrate that the President-elect respects Africa far more than his predecessor did.
That attitude will filter down, encouraging investors to explore opportunities on the continent. The Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act of 2018 (BUILD Act), which doubled – to US$60 billion – the ceiling of private sector infrastructure projects the US government could guarantee in developing countries, provides a ready-made vehicle for expanded investment.
Beyond respect, however, the Biden administration will have to work closely with organisations on the ground to promote available opportunities that bring real, lasting returns.
One potential pitfall that investors may face reared its head in the immediate aftermath of the networks calling the election for Biden. In those moments, the US Dollar fell, making foreign investments slightly more expensive.
Over time, however, that will likely stabilise. That said, investors looking to get maximum bang for their buck will be keeping an eye on exchange rates across the continent throughout the Biden Presidency.
Finding the right guide
Even if a Biden Presidency opens up investment in Africa, as it well might, investors cannot go in cocksure and hope for the best. Those in the likes of the private equity space, in particular, need to understand the risks and opportunities present on the continent.
When it comes to ESG, for example, companies in some African countries actually outperform their developed-world counterparts. Already an emergent force in the investment world, ESG will only become more important if Biden is able to bring America back into the Paris Climate Agreement. That’s to say nothing of the complexities of local politics that investors need to understand before they make firm commitments on the continent.
It makes sense, therefore, to take guidance from players who have tried and tested experience across Africa, either using them as an investment lead or partnering with them.
While America’s outsized influence is unlikely to change anytime soon, there is no doubt that the coming months will bring a degree of flux to the country’s relationship with Africa. For smart investors, there will always be opportunities there. No matter who the president is, the most important part is identifying those opportunities and capitalising on them.
Bryan Turner is a partner at SPEAR Capital, which provides growth capital to SMEs focused on FMCG and local production in Southern Africa.
This article was written by Bryan Turner, Managing Partner, SPEAR Capital
Featured image: NeONBRAND via Unsplash
Local emotional intelligence app users significantly grow
It’sOk, an innovative tech startup that aims to promote emotional intelligence among students has experienced exponential growth.
Based in Johannesburg, It’sOk, an innovative tech startup that aims to promote emotional intelligence among students has experienced exponential growth in the number of the users of its unique and cutting-edge platform.
ItsOk experiences massive growth in users in SA
With its hard launch only taking place a mere few months ago in March with users from a single school, King David Victory Park, the app has grown tremendously since then.
In an interview with Ventureburn Cody Gordon, co-founder, and CEO of It’sOk explains;
“It’sOk had its hard launch this March with 50 students in King David Victory Park. Since then, we have experienced a huge amount of growth both on our product side and our school client base. In 2022 we will have 10 000+ users on our app. These users are a combination of parents, teachers and students.”
According to reports from the tech startup, it will be present in the follow institutions in 2022; the Crawford International group, St Peter’s Boys and Girls, Centennial Schools, King David Victory Park, Uplands College and a few Curro schools.
Not only is the app being utilised by in-person teaching but also through online schools.
“We’ve also seen our app making a huge positive impact in schools of all backgrounds for example, The Tomorrow Trust students, which comprises of orphaned and vulnerable children all have access to It’sOk,” adds Gordon.
With innovation and emotional intelligence growth for students at the forefront of the startup focuses, Gordon explains that the app has been upgraded to meet the needs of the schools and their students.
“An example of this is that we have now developed and automatic flagging system for schools to identify at risk students. Strategic people in the schools arat-riskied of these students and this allows the school to help these students and develop specific interventions instantly,”
ItsOk is a tech startup that has created an innovative emotional intelligence app that is designed specifically for a school environment.
The tech startup has combined the power of technology with a holistic approach to promoting emotional awareness and intelligence among young students in South Africa.
With many institutions reaping the benefits of employing ItsOk’s platform with their students, Justin Attlee, St Peter’s Boys – Head of Pastoral Care highlights the impact that it has had on their learners.
“The huge value our schools are seeing in our technology is that the students now have a dedicated time each day to develop their emotional intelligence through our app, students now have a safe place to express how they are feeling and receive assistance when they need it. The schools are now also able to be proactive in their mental wellness strategies in the school based on the It’sOk data. This allows the school to be proactive instead of reactive in dealing with student emotions, “Thanks so much for the weekly feedback. This is giving us great insight in how the boys are feeling and allowing us to be proactive in implementing interventions.”
Featured image: (Left to right) Cody Gordon, CEO and Michale Dukes CTO of It’sOk (Supplied)
In an interview with Ventureburn Cody Gordon, co-founder, and CEO of It’sOk explains;
SA fintech partners with rising global fintech to foster financial inclusion in SA –
Ukheshe Technologies has partnered with Chipper to help in the global fintech’s rollout of digital payment services and products.
Innovative and ground-breaking local fintech Ukheshe Technologies has partnered with new-kid-on-the-block Chipper to help in the global fintech’s rollout and implementation of digital payment services and products.
Ukheshe has partnered with Chipper
The products which Chipper cahs aims to roll out include free and unlimited peer-to-peer payments across South Africa along with added benefits such as purchasing airtime, data and also the ability to legally purchase and sell cryptocurrency. Chipper’s service and digital payments aim to be a game-changer among the local community.
Not only will the partnership yield new fintech services for locals but it also will enable effective and safe financial transactions across the continent. The partnership aims to work in harmony allowing existing customers of Chipper to use this function as it will incorporate Ukheshe’s Eclipse API framework.
Clayton Hayward, CEO of Ukheshe comments on the partnership with Chipper.
“Ukheshe’s Eclipse API provides access to payment technology, products and services – all from one convenient platform. The rapid shift towards innovative digital-first solutions is undeniable and we are thrilled to partner with Chipper, a company that shares our vision and enthusiasm for credible, seamless payment solutions that drive the payments revolution in Africa.”
Founded a mere three years ago, the ‘rising start’ tech startup has been labelled as the continents ‘biggest and fastest-growing payment app.
With Chipper users are able to easily conduct instant no-fee local and cross border money transfers and discounted airtime purchases.
Since its official launch, Chipper claims to have over four million users in eight countries in Africa and the UK.
With financial inclusion at the forefront of the aims of both of these startups, the partnership will build on fostering financial inclusion by creating accessible financial digital solutions for individuals in Africa
“The relationship between Ukheshe and Chipper aims to spearhead digital-first fintech solutions made in Africa to broaden access and financial inclusion for those who need it most. Our digital payment solution supports wallet functionality and will offer much-needed simplified payment solutions that allow users to send and receive cross-border payments safely, quickly, and efficiently, ” concludes Hayward.
Featured image: Clayton Hayward, CEO of Ukheshe (Supplied)
Clayton Hayward, CEO of Ukheshe comments on the partnership with Chipper.
Startup partners with Telkom to launch translation platform for SA languages
Telkom has partnered with SA startup Enlabeler to launch an AI platform that translates speech into text and provides transcription services for local languages.
Telkom has partnered with South African startup Enlabeler to launch an AI platform that translates speech into text and provides transcription services for local languages.
The platform, called izwe.ai, was unveiled at the AI Expo Africa 2021. It is described as “a multi-lingual technology platform that transforms your audio and video data to text, captions or subtitles in your local languages”.
Telkom and Enlabeler collaborated to create the platform, with the aim of providing a way to bridge the language gap in a variety of industries.
“With Enlabeler, we have built a solution that can offer a seamless transcription experience with highly localised and reliable outputs, which help us deliver as a strategic partner for our clients,” Telkom Executive of Data Science Stefan Steffen said in a statement.
“Working with an agile startup like Enlabeler has helped us accelerate our long-term plans to unlock this market segment. ”
Enlabeler is a data labelling and annotation solutions provider.
Founded in 2019, the company describes itself as Africa’s first remote data labelling community. It employs people around the country to augment and train the AI solutions and services provided by the company.
The company provides video and image annotation services, computer vision and object detection models, entity extraction from text datasets, as well as translation and transcription services.
The izwe.ai translation platform
According to Telkom, the izwe.ai platform has a unique ability to interpret South African accents. It also uses machine learning to constantly improve its translations.
The aim of the platform is to provide transcription and translation across a range of industries. These include education, academia, legal services, and media production.
“This technology can be a game-changer in business, as well as education, government, and healthcare delivery,” Telkom head of Innovation Dr Mmaki Jantjies said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Telkom Foundation CEO Sarah Mthintso highlighted the education benefits of the service.
“STEM subjects are the foundation for the careers of the future, but to truly drive digital transformation in South Africa, we need learners to be able to learn in their home language,” Mthintso said in a statement.
“That’s where AI-driven speech services are so important.”
Translation and transcription service launch
The service will be launched in a phased approach. The first phase includes the launch of izwe.ai and the collection of information from potential clients via survey.
The service is offering five hours of free machine transcription in exchange for the completion of the survey.
The second phase will include the release of the machine transcription model.
“In release 2 you will have access to a market-leading machine transcription model to transcribe your files with a click of a button,” the service says on its website.
The third phase will include the implementation of human input into automatic transcription outputs. Finally, phase four will include the launch of additional services.
You can find out more about the platform on the izwe.ai website.
Feature image: Ventureburn
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