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Austrian lender Erste Group said on Tuesday it would set aside up to 230 million euros (£205 million) for a lost legal case in Romania.

The provision comes as a result of a Romanian High Court decision concerning the business activities of local building society BCR BpL, a subsidiary of Erste Group’s subsidiary BCR, the bank said.

The court ruled that BCR BpL did not comply with legal requirements for paying state subsidies to build society clients, overturning a lower court ruling, an Erste Group spokesman said.

“This ruling was a big surprise for us,” he said, adding that BCR BpL will wait for the court to disclose its justification before deciding how to further defend its rights.

Erste Group said that despite this negative one-off effect it is still aiming for a return on tangible equity of above 11% in the 2019 financial year due to strong operating and risk performance so far this year.

Erste Group’s shares traded 1.94% lower at 31.87 euros at 0830 GMT, while the European sector index was down 1.03%.


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SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket on Tuesday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying 24 experimental satellites in what Elon Musk’s rocket company called one of the most difficult launches it has attempted.

The craft blasted off to cheers from onlookers at 2:30 a.m. (0630 GMT) after a three-hour delay from the original launch time late Monday.

The boosters separated safely as the craft began its six-hour mission to deploy the satellites.

The two-side booster rockets returned safely to Earth, landing on adjacent Air Force landing pads, but the rocket’s center booster missed its mark, crashing in the Atlantic ocean.

Musk, who predicted trouble with landing the center booster on SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic, said on Twitter early Tuesday, “It was a long shot.”

The mission, dubbed Space Test Program 2 (STP-2), is the third for the Falcon Heavy rocket, which SpaceX describes as the most powerful launch system in the world.

It was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense, the key contractor for commercial space companies such as SpaceX.

The company is putting satellites into orbit for agencies including NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), defense department laboratories, universities and a non-profit organization, SpaceX said.

The mission is one of the most challenging in SpaceX history, with four separate upper-stage engine burns and three separate orbits to deploy satellites, the company said on its website.

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Tom Huddleston Jr.: Tesla’s planned electric pickup truck “will be a better truck than an F-150 in terms of truck-like functionality, and be a better sports car than a standard [Porsche] 911. That’s the aspiration.” This according to Tesla CEO, Elon Musk on the most recent episode of the podcast “Ride the Lightning. ”

Musk also promised to sell the Tesla pickup, which does not currently have a release date despite Musk’s previous claims it might be unveiled this summer, for less than a $50,000 starting price.

“It just can’t be unaffordable,” Musk says on the podcast.

So Musk is essentially saying the Tesla pickup will be a cross between the country’s top-rated truck (Ford’s F-150 truck models have been the best-selling pickups in the US for decades and won Motor Trend’s 2018 “Truck of the Year” award) and a high-performance sports car. And all that at a starting price that’s nearly half that of the cheapest 911 and around mid-range for F-150 models, which range in starting price from roughly $28,000 to over $67,000. At Musk’s price, the Tesla pickup would also be significantly cheaper than the $69,000 base price for the pickup truck set to be released by rival electric automaker Rivian in 2020.

Not surprisingly, there has already been some pushback to Musk’s claims from skeptics who believe his vision is  “extremely improbable.” 

That doesn’t mean Musk’s pickup aspirations are impossible to achieve, though Brett Smith, the director of propulsion technologies and energy infrastructure at the Center for Automotive Research, admits to CNBC Make It that Musk’s goal “will be very challenging.”

While “you’re never going to get a vehicle that can do everything well,” says Smith, “I have no doubt that they can build a pickup truck that has much better handling than the current F-150.”

But it will likely prove too difficult to build the typical features of a pickup truck, including the ability to haul heavy cargo and handle off-road driving, into “a light-weight, high-performance sports car” that could match the Porsche 911, he says.

“The physics don’t work there,” says Smith, who adds that the electric battery alone needed for a Tesla pickup could end up weighing as much as an entire Porsche 911. An electric battery large enough to offer a truck sufficient towing power over long distances, along with Musk’s other ambitious goals for the pickup, would also cost more money for both Tesla and consumers — making it more difficult to keep the truck’s starting price under $50,000.

“But can it be a really great-performing, road-driving vehicle? Sure,” says Smith.

Tesla has “proven time and time again that they can do some really great things with products, and they’ve proven again that it can be hard to deliver on some things. So, I think what he said was a good benchmark to shoot for, [but] the reality is probably going to be much different,” says Smith. 

In January, Musk took to Twitter to tease some of the planned features for Tesla’s pickup truck — including dual-motor, all-wheel drive with “crazy torque” and a driving range of 400 to 500 miles — and, he also responded to some of his followers’ suggestions, including promising one follower that the truck will have an adjustable suspension height.

Meanwhile, Tesla is also sure to face some competition in the market for electric pickup trucks. That competition will not only include Rivian — which has received a $500 million investment from Ford, following a $700 million funding round led by Amazon earlier this year — but, Ford also said in January that the giant automaker plans to develop its own electric version of the F-150.
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Officially opening the continent’s digital economy summit in the Rwandan capital, President Paul Kagame called the task to advance Africa’s digital economy agenda “a pan-African responsibility.”

Africans need to realize “the depth and breadth of our responsibility in realizing the digital agenda which supports the broader development agenda,” Kagame told the packed auditorium on Day 2 of the Transform Africa Summit taking place at the Kigali Conference Center earlier this month.

The African Development Bank said in a statement that two African heads of state, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta of Mali, backed Kagame’s call to support Africa’s digital agenda with an enabling environment – resources, policies, partnership, and action.

“We need to seize the opportunities of the new market,” President Keita said. 

Far from lagging behind, Africa has led in innovation in the digital space, Kenyatta said, citing Mpesa’s immensely successful mobile money platform as an example. With Mpesa Kenya has seen almost 97% of its population gain access to financial services, Kenyatta said.

In 2018, the Bank extended a loan of $30 million to the Government of Rwanda for the creation of the Rwanda Innovation Fund. The fund will invest in growth technology-enabled ventures across Africa, and the government of Rwanda will invest a further $8 million in a technical assistance pool to develop new businesses.

Digital startups in finance, agriculture and business are changing the face of Africa’s digital economy. From mobile money to e-commerce, Africa is beginning to get into the game. But for that to translate into greater benefits, enhancing connectivity will have to be a priority.

Bank Vice President Private Sector, Infrastructure, and Industrialization Pierre Guislain on Wednesday co-chaired a meeting of the EU-AU Digital Economy Task Force (DETF) with Ghanaian Communications and ICT Minister Ursulla G. Owusu-Ekuful, the other co-chair.  

The task force, composed of 20 African and EU decision makers, private sector, international institutions, and civil society representatives, is working on “taking the EU-Africa cooperation to the digital age” by finding ways Europe and Africa can partner to draw mutual benefits from the digital transformation of economy and society.  The Taskforce meeting was opened by AU Commissioner Amani Abou-Zeid and EC acting director Lorena Boix Alonso.

“Our objective is to identify major opportunities to accelerate digital development on the Continent and set the stage for deeper partnerships in the digital economy area under the Africa-Europe Investment and Jobs Alliance framework," Guislain said.

“The DETF work offers yet another opportunity to strengthen our partnership with the European Commission and its member states in order to jointly develop programs and projects to accelerate digitization on the Continent,” Guislain said.


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MTN Nigeria shares rose another 10% to 108.90 naira in pre-market bids on Friday after its debut $6.5 billion stock market listing on the Lagos bourse.

Nigeria’s biggest telecoms firm, owned by South Africa’s MTN Group, listed in Lagos on Thursday in a flotation that made it the second-largest company on the exchange by market value after Dangote Cement.

A total of 150,000 bid orders had been placed for the stock by 0847 GMT. The shares, which listed at 90 naira, closed 10% higher at 99 naira on Thursday.

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(Reuters) French energy major Total said its net profit for the first three months of the year fell 4 percent to $2.8 billion compared with a year ago due to volatile oil prices and debt costs, despite record oil and gas output.

The firm kept its investments, and cost savings target for the year unchanged, and said production growth should exceed 9 percent during the year, thanks to the ramp-up of projects started in 2018, and the start-ups of others in Angola, Brazil, Britain, and Norway.

It said it would take advantage of the low-cost environment to launch further projects in Brazil, Uganda, and Russia.

Total shares were a touch down 0.4 in early session trading, with the stock up nearly 10 percent so far in 2019.

“A decent start to the year,” wrote analysts at RBC Capital Markets on Total’s results, as they kept an “outperform” rating on the stock.

Total’s adjusted net profit, which was down for the first time since the fourth quarter of 2016, was hit by lower oil prices, with the Brent price averaging $63 per barrel in the January to March period, down 6 percent year-on-year.

The adjusted net profit was nevertheless slightly above average analysts’ forecast of $2.7 billion, while Total also raised its dividend.

Natural gas prices slumped in Europe by 11 percent, and in Asia by 30 percent, Total said.

The company said an increase in the net cost of its net debt compared with last year, mainly due to the rise in U.S. dollar interest rates, had also weighed on its profits.

Its refining margin was also volatile during the quarter, the company said.

“Total’s balance sheet is strong, with gearing below 20 percent, in line with the objective,” said Total’s chairman and chief executive Patrick Pouyanne.

Total’s cash flow after organic investments rose 18 percent year-on-year to $3.2 billion thanks to strong operational performance and spending discipline. Its so-called organic pre-dividend cash breakeven was less than $25 per barrel.

Oil and gas output reached a record level in the quarter at 2.95 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (Mboe/d), up 9 percent year-on-year.

Total increased its first interim dividend for 2019 by 3.1 percent to 0.66 euros ($0.7350) per share, and it also bought back shares during the quarter.

The French group said it would maintain discipline on spending in 2019 and it kept its net investment target at $15 to $16 billion, and cost savings at $4.7 billion.

Read full report here

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(Reuters) Jumia, the African e-commerce company of German start-up investor Rocket Internet, has filed for a New York initial public offering, which could value the firm at $1.6 billion or more.

Jumia, founded in 2012 offers online shopping, logistics and payment services, but is losing money. The company says its business is expanding, and the continent’s development will make it a better market, with a growing young population, more infrastructure investments, urbanization, and rapid economic growth.

The New York filing did not say how many shares Jumia would sell, nor at what price. Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Berenberg and RBC Capital Markets are leading the IPO.

In December, Jumia was valued at 1.4 billion euros ($1.6 billion) with shares at 14.74 euros, according to the filing.

Jumia, which now counts Nigeria as its largest market, makes money both selling its own products and taking a cut from third-party sales. In 2018, revenues were 130.6 million euros, up from 94 million euros the previous year.

However, losses also rose, from 165.4 million euros in 2017 to 170.4 million euros in 2018. By the end of December, accumulated losses were 862 million euros, the firm said.

In the IPO prospectus, Jumia said that the value of goods sold on its platforms is increasing at a more rapid pace than losses - from 507.1 million euros in 2017 to 828.2 million euros in 2018.

Jumia’s active users, people who buy something at least once in the past year, increased to 4 million at the end of last December form 2.7 million a year earlier.

Apart from Rocket Internet, which owned 21.74 percent of Jumia as of the end of December, MTN Group held 31.28 percent. Other, smaller shareholders include Millicom International, AXA Africa Holding, and Goldman Sachs.

($1 = 0.8857 euros)

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According to Tayo Oviosu, CEO of Nigerian mobile payments company Paga, his company spent two months “talking to the largest bank in Africa and Nigeria (to be) to get a car loan for six vehicles”. After being denied the loan, Paga had to pay in cash to get the vehicles.

Tayo made this known in a series of tweets where he compared Nigerian banks to their American counterparts who grant loans seamlessly to their customers.


Revisiting the need for a centralized credit system

When Nigerian banks are compared to those in other parts of the world, it becomes clear that Nigerians are only getting basic banking services with no real value.

One way banks are expected to provide value to their customers is by providing them with credit facilities. This, unfortunately, is one area where Nigerian banks fail to deliver.

However, can one really blame them? Due to the lack of a structured credit system in Nigeria, granting loans is a high-risk business. Asides landed property collaterals, many Nigerian banks do not have a system for sizing up the creditworthiness of a loan recipient.

There is also the lack of a unified database of Nigerians that could provide financial institutions with information on customers, alongside their Bank Verification Numbers (BVN).

Nonetheless, Nigerian banks are doing the bare minimum with the data they do have. In 2017, iROKO founder Jason Njoku narrated his experience with applying for a mortgage with iROKO’s primary Nigerian bank back in 2014.

Despite the fact that the bank had access to the company’s day to day transactions, it still could not use that data to offer Jason a loan with reasonable terms.

One might argue that the fate of having a structured credit system is beginning to change with the emergence of several online lending platforms who have put systems in place to efficiently determine the creditworthiness of loan applicants. Nevertheless, there is still a pressing need to synchronize the data they have with those of other lenders.

This way, more Nigerians would be able to build a credit history that can help them access loans from any financial institution in the country.

In a bid to facilitate information sharing between credit bureaus and other financial institutions in Nigeria, while he was Acting President in 2017, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo signed the Credit Reporting Act as well as the Collateral Registry Act.

Though the Collateral Registry Act is yet to be implemented, execution of the Credit Reporting Act seems to have taken off.

“A data sharing platform actually exists,” says a Lagos-based Nigerian lender. “We (lenders), including banks submit our data to the credit bureau every month. But it’s not done in real time.”

Since the system does not work in real time, borrowers can get loans from multiple platforms and get away with it.

“This gives room for fraud because as long as a borrower can request for loans across platforms in less than 30 days, they can get away with it without consequences.”

It goes without saying that until the credit system is centralized and structured to minimize risks, Nigerians will continue to be underbanked and financially underserved.


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Reaping benefits from Open Government Initiative

The federal government of Nigeria launched the open government website ( in early 2018. Publication of government data which was hitherto reserved in silos is the desideratum of open government initiative. The aims and objectives of the Open Government initiative of the government are to enhance transparency and accountability of the government. Besides, it is anticipated that with the re-use of datasets published by the government, different stakeholder groups would derive the value of the same and this would result in innovation in public services as well.   

In this vein, the Edo State Open Data portal merits a revisitation in terms of the quality of datasets published by the government. The datasets are published by entities like the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Budget, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, etc. In all, there are 252 datasets as of now. This is suggestive of the fact that the government entities must gear up efforts on the publication of more qualitatively superior datasets via the main web portal. There is a provision of suggesting a dataset by the users. Datasets may be downloaded in formats like XLSX, RDF or JSON, etc. While the datasets have their metadata in place, the datasets are not quantitatively or qualitatively advanced. Therefore, in order to encourage users to re-use the datasets, it is important that the datasets be published on a continuous and regular manner. This would further value generation by the different stakeholders (citizens, businessmen, entrepreneurs, public servants, software developers, and the like). 

Open government initiatives are known to spearhead economic growth of a country. In this respect, the government of Nigeria must further efforts at providing datasets on a real-time basis. This would require sophisticated technological edifice and training. The transition of the developing country into a developed one may be furthered under the aegis of the sustainable Open Government initiative of the government.  

Stuti Saxena is a contributor on Blueprintafric,

Stuti is a follower of Open Government Data (OGD) as a research theme. Stuti is a research scholar at the Central University of Haryana in the Political Science Department. Hitherto, Stuti has been associated with the National Innovation Foundation, Ahmedabad, Indian Institutes of Management, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Indore, and ICFAI, Hyderabad in diverse roles. Stuti holds an MPhil degree in Public Administration from Lucknow University. 

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At a United Nations debate in New York, Isabel Dos Santos, who is currently the richest woman in Africa, spoke of the economic empowerment of African women as a key to transforming society.

This and many of her other hopeful and encouraging messages have inspired many citizens in African countries, mainly young women, to pursue their ambitions in business.

Dos Santos believes that some of the most promising and successful business people in the world have been African because of the continent’s entrepreneurial spirit.

This spirit, however, has been weighed down by the stigmatization of women in the workplace.

This has robbed the economy of valuable innovators and has barred women from achieving their ambitions. But by ensuring that young women can access the same education, job opportunities, and potential for growth as men, Dos Santos believes that she can change this attitude and instill a national confidence in women.

This type of thinking falls in line with her more general philosophy of reform: “First the seed, then the future.”

This dictum seems to urge against immediate change and, instead, encourages slow and steady growth.

The seeds that Isabel Dos Santos thinks ought to be planted are also tied up in the economic freedom of women – by creating jobs, providing training, and breaking sexist stigmas, she believes that women can experience increased financial stability while giving their home countries more influence in the international economy.

Isabel Dos Santos has spent a lot of time planting these seeds in Africa, focusing her efforts in her home country of Angola where she meets with young people and speaks with them about the power of entrepreneurship. Sometimes, she visits them in small, personable rooms at universities and other institutions, other times in much larger ones during her speeches and debates. Most tellingly, she refers to famous African entrepreneurs as a “great family” and invites everyone with the motivation to work hard and come join them.

She often encourages young women to leverage the world’s increased reliance on technology and artificial intelligence, which she refers to as “digitization”. She believes working toward innovations in technology is key to increasing Africa’s presence in the international economy while flooding the continent with unique employment opportunities. With just a computer and internet connection, unemployed or underpaid citizens can find more work, sometimes with the higher wages that are more commonplace in developed countries, to support their families and stimulate their local economies.

During a conversation with students at the University of Warwick interested in developing Africa, dos Santos tells a young woman who is eager to accomplish her ambitions “now” that she has to be patient and have not just a goal but a string of sub-goals to reach it. She goes on to encourages the student to involve herself as deeply as she can in the decision processes that influence that goal, and also to understand that sometimes it’s important to just focus on school, other times on a career or starting a business. This type of advice for strategic hesitance can be found in many of her speeches.

Isabel dos Santos is the daughter of Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Angola’s long-time former president. Much of her wealth came from her investments and her previous position as the chairwoman of an oil company owned by the state called Sonangol. Dos Santos considers herself an independent businesswoman and investor and has become Africa’s first females billionaire. Forbes ranks her as the 9th wealthiest billionaire in Africa for 2018.

For young businesswomen in various African countries, her success story has been a beacon of hope. But dos Santos has told various reporters that her rise to riches was marred by the sexism she had to endure in a male-dominated African business world. She has no shortage of stories concerning prejudice and discrimination based on her gender, such as during business meetings where the people she’s negotiating with would look to her male assistant, advisor, or lawyer for validation though she already stated her offer. She is also frequently asked what business her husband is in when her wealth is made clear.

Despite her tribulations in the business world, Isabel Dos Santos has maintained a charitable and hopeful perspective on life and takes on many projects geared toward improving small communities and local economies. One of these projects was in Humpata, in the province of Huila, where dos Santos helped establish a strawberry field, “planting the seed” to empower citizens. This project gave 120 women a place to work and a new income. On her website, dos Santos says:

“Creating opportunities and employment for women means betting on the progress of the communities themselves. When they thrive, women invest their income in the family, health, and education. I value this as a sense of duty, commitment, and dedication. The impact that women create around them is powerful and transformative.”

She calls on other African entrepreneurs to give back to their countries by investing in similar projects. Though they seem small-scale, she believes that with enough support, this type of philanthropic work can create a value chain large enough to impact the national economy. As a result, smaller communities will have more prosperous citizens and influence. Should those new entrepreneurs be African women, then dos Santos hopes that their success will help chip away at the stigma that women are less competent than men.

This is all part of one of Isabel dos Santos’ larger goals to increase the prosperity of African countries as a whole. She plans to accomplish this by working from the ground up, focusing on the individual, such as the promising young men and woman of various African countries. By empowering them, she is, in turn, empowering their communities. This creates value within towns that have historically not had the chance to prosper, and by strengthening local economies, the national economy itself is bolstered.

“This is the true transformation of a country,” she says. It starts with a little hope and promise, with planting the “seeds”, and then, through the hard work of a community’s individuals, a brighter future can be earned.”


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