ABN Group co-founder Rakesh Wahi gave a welcome speech at ‘The Forbes Woman Africa Leading Women Summit 2019’ gala dinner, held at the Durban ICC. Rakesh Wahi is the co-founder of the ABN Group, a media holding company for CNBC Africa and Forbes Africa.
Rakesh Wahi is the founder of the ABN Group, a media holding company for CNBC Africa and Forbes Africa. He is also the co-founder of the Trans National Academic Group, an education group that includes Murdoch University Dubai and Curtin University Dubai. Mr Wahi, 59, started his career in the Indian Army where he served with the Corps of Engineers before switching gears into the world of corporate finance and investment banking after spending a few months as part of an Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica. The entrepreneur and media baron, who divides his time between Dubai and South Africa, is married with two grown-up children.
CNBC Africa – the pan-African financial and business news channel –will be syndicating its award-winning multimedia and video clips to Newstag, an innovative ‘mobile-first’ video news service. The multi-year deal grants Newstag the right to share and distribute CNBC’s news videos on its mobile and online platforms alongside current affairs and entertainment content from other professional content producers around the world, including AP, AFP and Reuters.
CNBCAfrica.com Chief Executive, Sid Wahi said: “Newstag is to professional video news what YouTube is to amateur video clips. They are the world’s largest online network based on videos only from trusted sources. CNBC Africa is the largest and most credible source of business content from around the continent with over 35,000 videos interviews and clips available through its digital publishing channels. This partnership will extend our current reach and enhance our digital ecosystem.”
Newstag’s ‘mobile-first’ service enables users to create their own ‘tagstream’ (or personalised TV channel) in seconds, organising, consuming and sharing stories among their social networks using the latest web and mobile technologies. These stories are available from a number of different perspectives, resulting in a platform that allows converging viewpoints to be presented side by side, shedding new light on international news as it breaks.
Newstag CEO, Henrik Eklund, says: “Newstag is committed to providing global news coverage from truly distinct perspectives and we’re delighted that CNBC Africa has partnered with us to offer our users a refreshin g insight into African news through an African lens. It’s a dynamic time for Africa and in less than a decade CNBC Africa has built a solid international reputation for providing credible and impartial news, presenting an exciting picture of a continent in development from nuanced reporting on the ground. We hope that combining these strengths with Newstag’s innovative news model will amplify Africa’s voice, allowing it to reach a large international audience.”
Launched on 1 June 2007, CNBC Africa celebrates its 8th anniversary as Africa’s first and only real-time Pan Africa financial and business news network. Part of the global CNBC family, which reports around the clock from major financial centres worldwide, CNBC Africa covers business and financial markets news from across the continent, telling the story of Africa on the move.
Since the channel’s launch, CNBC Africa has been breaking ground across the African continent and amongst many successes and achievements, is the only pan-African television network to report live each day across Africa. The combined reach of CNBC Africa and its affiliated networks is 390 million viewers around the world. Its reach on the African continent has been growing by the day through its distribution partnership with MultiChoice. CNBC Africa has grown beyond all expectations since it was launched eight years ago, and everyone on the CNBC Africa team is justifiably proud of the respected media brand that they have all helped to create. Through accurate and incisive reporting and analysis, and an attractive and dynamic programme schedule, CNBC Africa has clearly positioned itself as the premier African news and information resource for CEOs and senior corporate executives, financial houses, investors and aspirational viewers across the continent.
This announcement follows Newstag’s selection as a top international start-up by Mobile World Capital Barcelona in an international contest to recognise the most innovative use of mobile technology in business. In addition to this, Newstag has recently been nominated for ‘best international news site’ by WAN-IFRA alongside Business Week and Singapore Press Holdings.
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2015 Conference Theme: Innovative Strategies For Sustainable Growth In An Evolving Market
By Rakesh Wahi
It is indeed an honor for me to be back here at the Lagos Business School; my third talk in 16 months. In fact it is more times than I have been asked to speak at my own universities. It’s a matter of pride and joy for me to come and share my experiences with all of you. Most of these experiences are not unique. Most entrepreneurs face these at some stage or the other. Perhaps it will give you a different perspective; particularly if you see it from the eyes of a foreigner who came into Africa 10 years ago.
To put some context I think it’s perhaps important to give you a quick overview of our business. Our family investments are into three industry verticals. The first is IT; we are the Microsoft partner in about 7 countries in South and SE Asia to include Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Brunei and the Philippines. We are now entering Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar.
The second is Education. We own two universities. The first is in Dubai in academic collaboration with Murdoch University from Perth and the second is in Ghana, in academic collaboration with Lancaster University from the UK. In the medium term we plan to establish 10 universities in Africa.
The third vertical and perhaps the most interesting is media. We own CNBC Africa and Forbes Africa and have a presence in 12 countries and 15 cities in Sub Sahara Africa.
The group is in 22 countries all of which are emerging economies and we employ over 1000 people. This wide portfolio has given us some valuable insights of operating and navigating businesses in emerging economies.
Before I get into our journey into Africa, I would like to share a few overriding changes that have taken place over the last decade. I have been a great believer in the science of evolution and therefore, have a fundamental belief that everything that is once on top, whether a corporate or a country will never be there in perpetuity. Market dynamics will through a process of attrition cause a realignment of economic positioning. This has seen the emergence of China and India as two global superpowers and in the context of Africa, Nigeria replaced South Africa as the largest economy. This realignment will continue over the next few decades and unless developed countries make radical changes towards their engagement with emerging markets, they will face consequences that they are currently unprepared for.
The second major marco indicator is demographics. The global population is expected to reach 8 billion over the next 30 years. It is expected that 50% of the population growth in the world over this period will come from Africa. This means that one in every fourth person on the planet will be African. One each will originate from India and China and one from the other approximately 150 countries. What is significantly interesting from this statistic is that Africa will have the largest population of youth and therefore the largest work force and consumer market in the world. This illustrates a market that will be at a scale that we cannot comprehend and therefore are not factoring or even preparing for.
On a personal note, this year, I completed 10 years in Africa. There have been significant changes during this decade. These changes are all for the better. The most distinct change of all is how the outside word is now paying attention to what’s happening on our continent. It’s not that we lacked attention before. It is now for the right reasons.
The days are gone where people discussed the negative aspects of Africa or only focused on taking resources out from the continent. Today they are lining up to be a part of an unprecedented growth story. The models of development and participation are changing.
The first message that I have is that in light of these changes we must change our methodology of engagement. Our leaders must capitalize on this by realizing that the continent is still giving away a lot more than what it gets back in return. What Governments have to look at, is this coming wave of opportunities and take bold and sometimes unpopular decisions to put in place policies and structures, so that investments are made looking into the future and not in the past; and being made for the development of the larger population and not for just for a few. Governments, companies and leaders that are able to look ahead at what is coming will be able to take advantage of the future. As I said before, the historic positioning of countries is no indication of their indefinite success. Those that do not adapt will perish to their own detriment.
It is also true that Governments cannot invest in everything. They need to increasingly look at sharing developmental responsibilities with the private sector. Those that adapt new models of inclusive growth and make their countries investor friendly will pave their way to high growth and consequently lower unemployment.
To illustrate this point, let me draw your attention to a small country in the Arabian Peninsula; the United Arab Emirates, in particular Dubai. I am sure everyone in this room has passed through this glorious country that has also been home to my family for 25 years. For a city with no money or natural resources, Dubai has become the business capital of the Middle East. It’s a case study for leadership and consistent policies. For this reason, every major corporate in the world has a base there.
One thing that I am sure of is that this can be done in Africa. Just like Dubai overtook all its powerful neighbors in the GCC, it’s only a matter of time before one of the countries in Africa will outdo others. It is not a matter of size but having the vision and the conviction to see it through.
Just as governments need to make changes, the private sector and all of you in this room should take home an important message. The opportunities today are not in the developed world. As you step out to bring your dreams to fruition, remember that the developed markets are not going to give you the returns you seek. You may get the comforts of living in London or New York, but long term value creation will only come right here in Africa. Stay here and work here.
This journey in Africa is not going to be an easy one. Operating in emerging markets has challenges that range from political volatility, currency fluctuations, lack of infrastructure, lack of adequate financing for greenfield projects, lack of a skilled workforce and many other day to day issues. Of all these challenges, the one that is most critical for long term sustainability is the development of local talent. Bringing best practices is an important consideration but there must be a planned strategy on skills development.
Within our family investment portfolio, we took a decision a long time back that we will focus on local skills development rather than bring expensive cross border expertise. As an example, while setting up CNBC Africa, there was no precedence in Africa of a server based TV station in 2007; technical and financial journalism skills were scarce. Rather than hire expatriates, we brought trainers and in some cases took our staff to Dubai and London and developed the skills we needed in the business. We established strong internship programs and continued relentlessly for 8 years to build capacity bottom up for our business. I am proud to say that almost 100% of our workforce in Africa today is Africans.
The second core value is indigenization. Importing technology and products in the long term will continue to drain resources in the continent. Once again, it critical to bring the best technology money can buy but there must be a strong emphasis on technology transfer and indigenization of production capacity as well as technical support. Let’s take for granted that Africa does not have R&D capability like many other emerging countries and will need to import technology in the foreseeable future. What we can however, ensure is that in phase one, all integration and support is provided by locally trained people and in phase 2 have a process for indigenization of manufacturing. These models have been used by countries like India and we need to follow these practices.
In my travels, people often ask me to share some of our experiences in Africa. I will share a few points that most of you are familiar with but are an important part of our journey in Africa.
The most important lesson of all is to be patient and take a look at investments and returns in the long term. It is important to do comprehensive assessments on matters relating to regulations, tax, transfer pricing and other matters that could impact business in the long term. People that are looking for quick returns or believe that legislation can be manipulated are in for a surprise. The Africa of today and of tomorrow is not for carpet baggers. Value and wealth creation will only come to those that are prepared to take the long road through building sustainable businesses. The journey in Africa is inundated with challenges but with these come great opportunities. You need to take the good and the bad. You cannot get the growth rates of emerging markets and the security or predictability of a developed market.
I took 30 months to establish CNBC Africa and 14 months to establish our university in Ghana. We hired the best consultants and advisors to get the basics right. You can either spend the resources upfront and get everything right or then make mistakes and fix them retroactively at a much higher cost.
The second most important aspect is in understanding the cultural nuances of the countries that you operate in. What are acceptable in South Africa are not the same in Nigeria and definitely not the same in Uganda. Learning to respect the local laws, traditions and practices is critical. This is not an era of colonialization and people must respect local rules if they want to be part of long term development.
The third issue is that any project you set up must have a strong commercial imperative. Business is for profit and nothing else; never forget that. The profit can be used for social good but you cannot turn the order the other way around. To the extent possible, do not ever establish businesses that rely on subsidy; these models are not sustainable and can create major problems as governments change.
The fourth point that I want to give my opinion on is the whole concept of risk. Economists and Analysts who are highly educated and well trained will give you a million reasons why not to do something. If you listen to everything they say, you are unlikely to be an entrepreneur. Business by definition has inherent risks. No one can predict changes in currency or in the macro economics of any country. So in principal you have to rely on your gut on the long term nature of your venture.
In my dictionary there are only two types of risks. Risks that are caused by human beings and then there is everything else. Risks that are caused by human beings can neither be mitigated nor avoided; they have to be managed! This is because humans by nature are fickle and therefore, change their minds, making decisions and policies unpredictable. These risks need a high level of engagement and therefore can at best be managed but cannot be mitigated. All other risks can largely be mitigated or avoided.
Risk however, also needs to be looked at in the context of luck. While this is not a scientific conversation, the element of luck has made or broken people. Some people cash their chips just before a calamity. The timing a lot of times was not of their choosing. They just made the call at what would later appear to be the right time. On a lighter note, if you are one of the kids in school that got called out every time you did something wrong, then try to surround yourself with people that have been luckier than you.
As a businessman I meet political leaders in most countries that I travel to. They often ask what we need to set up our business operations. I just have one answer. What we want from government are the two C’s of business: Continuity and Consistency. We are called businessmen because we know how to make money even in the toughest conditions. No one needs to teach us that. So give us a playing field that is predictable and with proper policy frameworks irrespective of which political party is in charge. This is perhaps what is the most critical point of differentiation between the developed world and emerging markets.
Before I end, I would like to say a few words on the theme of today’s conference. Innovation!
The word innovation has now become an integral part of business today. The concept however is not new. In the 80’s a lot of discussions were around the word Kaizen, or continuous improvement. The focus at that time was on systematic improvement of business processes to increase efficiency and productivity without increasing costs for implementing the measures. This was embraced by staff and management and many innovative methods came up to increase efficiencies.
What completely revolutionized businesses was the impact of technology and how we fundamentally started to relate to each other. The Internet was perhaps the greatest driver of this change. Since the 80’s the consumption patterns of consumers has started changing dramatically. This relates to every sector in business. The impact of disruption is so severe that the largest of corporations have started to become irrelevant because they did not change. My son, who leads our digital migration strategy often summarizes that Bankruptcy is a Kodak moment. They did not react fast enough to the onslaught and diversity of mobile devices and their businesses failed.
I was speaking with the Chief Executive of the largest advertising agency in Africa and asked him where he sees their business in 15 years. He had done a lot of introspection and said that agencies over time are going to become consulting companies like Mckinseys etc. mainly because all media related activities will be online and clients will no longer need buying or creative assistance. This radical change needs to be looked carefully because new entrants with younger talent will not carry the traditional overheads. They will be leaner and more efficient and will take out the larger players particularly that do not change their business models.
As a family, we are heavily invested in the education business and one of my greatest concerns is the way in which students are going to study in the future. Education is not about land, buildings and playgrounds anymore. It’s also going to take time before a complete online model is perfected. So the hybrid models are being investigated but universities, particularly the tier 2 and 3 universities are worried about their future. It is therefore imperative that new entrants in the business are investing in the future and not the past.
Another example not so far away from home has been the recently concluded elections in Nigeria. The element of accuracy and transparency coming with technology is absolutely refreshing. This is just the first step for increased transparency that will force governments to become more and more accountable for their decisions.
The most glaring example of all times is Microsoft. Microsoft became the default operating system and over the years a very serious sense of complacency hit the company. In the April 4th issue of Economist, there was an article that said that if anyone even remotely suggested a weakening position of Microsoft in the 80’s only earned the wrath of Bill Gates. This remained consistent through the reign of Steve Balmer. However, as soon as Satya Nadella took over last year he changed the complete strategy to build what people like. The company is now embracing open source software and last October Mr Nadella showed a slide that read “Microsoft Loves Linux”. Ballmer once called open source operating system a cancer.
This is not a case of just Microsoft but Google, Apple, Face Book and all others that are now worried about new technology platforms and are constantly acquiring other companies at significantly high valuations to protect their turf.
What’s important in this landscape is that the eco-system around these giants starts to change quickly to adapt more diverse and neutral offerings so that their businesses are not threatened in the future.
What we therefore have to recognize is that disruption now is a way of life and anyone who gets too complacent will perish to their own detriment.
While innovation, technology and resources will impact everything about business and commerce, the only thing that will remain as a global constant is the consumer and the requirement to serve his or her needs.
The advantage we have in Africa is that the market is still in a stage of infancy and young entrepreneurs must not look at traditional ways in which people are doing business or just copy existing models in the West or developed nations. You need to adapt new technologies to the local market and set up your own standards based on what the local consumers need and how they want to be served. That is what will provide you the cutting edge for the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have finished here and look forward to engaging with you over the duration of this conference. Thank you very much.
Tom Minney investigates trends in private equity in Africa, particularly those of family offices with long term horizons. Full article in Africa Investor, May 2015
Muaz Shabandri – Reporter / 2 May 2015 (First published on Khaleej Times)
Trekkers recollect Nepal horror and narrate how they left Dubai as individuals and came back as a family
Dubai — Landing at Nepal’s International Airport was the first stop for a group of trekkers from Dubai who were planning to ascend the Everest base camp. But the 7.8 magnitude earthquake jolted the group within half an hour of their landing in Nepal.
A team of students and academics from Dubai’s Murdoch University and Global Institute Middle East (GIMEL) recollected the horror of finding their way back to Dubai after being stuck in Nepal for two days.
Rakesh Wahi, Vice-Chairman and Co-Founder of GIMEL and Chris Pilgrim, Senior Vice-President, Business Development and Special Projects, GIMEL, led the team. The Everest Base Camp Trek crew consisted of four staff and three students — Hu Xiao, a Chinese student who studies Finance and Marketing; Maria D’Costa, an Indian student doing IT; and Ahmed Al Saidy, an Egyptian student doing Journalism at Murdoch University Dubai.
The first earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale hit within 30 minutes of the team’s landing in Kathmandu Airport on Saturday, April 25.
Recollecting the moment, Chris said: “The quake lasted for almost a minute which is a very long time for an earthquake to last. The entire airport infrastructure shook violently and we could see smoke bellowing from everywhere as neighbouring buildings, historical monuments and temples collapsed.”
The team immediately headed to the Tibet Guest House in two cars when the first earthquake hit. One of the drivers got a call that his family was in danger, and he immediately drove the car into a garage in a clustered village abandoning the team. Several hours later the team managed to regroup with the others at the hotel with the help of another driver.
Once the gravity of the situation was understood, the entire team worked feverishly on finding a way out, establishing reliable communication, and more importantly ensuring the safety of the team.
A strong line of communication was set up between the team and support group at the GIMEL in Dubai which was constantly keeping them posted of expected aftershocks, allowing them to be cautious and even help locals and tourists along the way.
Although food and water had become a problem in Nepal, the team survived on its own rations originally packed for the trek. They also survived on local staples like Wai Wai Noodles and a mildly spiced lentil soup served with whole-wheat bread, rather daal-roti.
The team on ground spent 48 gruelling hours working out exit strategies together with the team in Dubai.
On day two, a unanimous decision was made to trek 20 kilometres on foot to the airport through wide open paths adjacent to a river stream since roads had been badly damaged and strong aftershocks were still being felt.
“The team survived another quake measuring 6.7 during the 20-km trek and at this point we were just outside the presidential palace located midway to the airport. It was touching to see how communities came together, helping each other out. Everyone had moved outside their homes to open spaces,” said Chris.
The trekkers slept in open spaces with the team resting outside the hotel reception on the first day. Their second night was spent outside the fortified Air Traffic Control Centre of the airport.
Although the team never reached base camp they did in fact achieve their team building objective.
Rakesh Wahi said: “The GIMEL team showed character, resolve and resilience of the highest order. I am so proud of each and every one of them. We left as individuals and came back as a family.”
University to expand in September as enrolments surge
Dubai, UAE 1 June 2015: After six years of organic growth and success in delivering Australian academic excellence in the UAE, Murdoch University Dubai is set to double the size of its campus this September. Since 2008, the university has grown from strength to strength and is currently preparing to welcome over 900 students this September.
Dan Adkins, Academic Director of Murdoch University Dubai, said “The expansion of the campus is a result of the university’s strategic direction and growth plans. The January intake alone witnessed a record breaking 44 % year on year rise in enrolments”
“I am very pleased that our student enrolment and overall student load have increased sharply”, said Dr Max Sully, Dean and Academic President.
“We are also setting new standards for the academic quality and significantly enhancing the quality of campus life” he added.
The university’s student life has played a key role in the new campus that will house a generous recreation room which will give students access to all-day gaming and entertainment options as well as conference facilities and quiet study spaces.
The growth in campus size is also attributed to the university’s academic infrastructure provider, Global Institute Middle East Limited (GIMEL). Rakesh Wahi, Co-Founder for GIMEL said, “Since our inception eight years ago, we have achieved exceptional results and growth through excellence in teaching, innovation, and through excellent student experiences. I am extremely proud of our team and these achievements”.
Murdoch University Dubai was established to cater to the UAE’s growing demands in the Business, IT, Education and Media industries. The expanded campus will allow the university to accommodate up to 1800 undergraduate and postgraduate students at full capacity.
The university will soon be releasing information on the inauguration of the new campus. For more information, contact the Murdoch Dubai Press Office at 04 435 5700 or attend the Murdoch Open Night on Friday 12 June 2015 at Towers Rotana Sheikh Zayed Road from 4pm to 8pm.
About Murdoch University Dubai:
Murdoch University Dubai is a core campus of one of Australia’s leading research, learning and teaching universities. Since 2008, Murdoch’s campus at Dubai International Academic City has built its reputation through academic excellence in the field of Media, Business, Education and IT. Murdoch University is ranked 65th in the Times Higher Education ranking of the world’s top 100 universities under 50 years old. Murdoch University has also received a five star graduate employment rating by in the Good Universities Guide 2015. All programs offered are fully accredited by the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA) in Australia and certified by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), Government of Dubai.
© Press Release 2015
Closer to Africa with CNBC Africa
Mauritius improves its visibility among investors with the opening of a local bureau of CNBC Africa, part of the ABN 360 Group. The broadcaster produces programs that specialize in economic and financial news and will be broadcast on the DSTV network. Negotiations are underway for CNBC Africa to be accessible as part of a bouquet of channels on MyT (Mauritius Telecom). The partnership is between the Board of Investment and Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation and CNBC Africa. While in Mauritius, Rakesh Wahi, Chairman of CMA Investment Holdings and co-founder of CNBC Africa, said he envisages other projects in Mauritius. He cites the possibility of organizing the Forbes Africa, Person of the Year in Mauritius. “A foreign investor seeks principally political stability, the permanence of the state and consistency in macroeconomic policies. Mauritius combines these elements and is a very affordable country”, says Rakesh Wahi.
Commenting on the performance of the Mauritian economy, Rakesh Wahi qualifies growth of 3.3% annually in 2012, at a time when the global economy faltered by the waves of recession on European continent. However, Rakesh Wahi said, “Mauritius has had respectable economic performance in 2012”, albeit growth well below the average for emerging countries on the African continent. The reason is that Mauritius is primarily a service-based economy, observes Rakesh Wahi. “The economy depends mainly on tourism and financial services that come from international markets. Therefore, you are directly influenced by the overall situation. The solution in this case would be to strengthen the internal economy”. Rakesh Wahi emphasizes that the five components of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), which are considered emerging powers, are successful examples of strong internal economies. Most companies in India, for example, depend on the local market, regardless of the broader economic environment, “he argues. But Mauritius has assets that in its favour and give it an economic advantage over their African counterparts, says Rakesh Wahi. The most important thing is the progress made to towards development.
by Himanshu Marchurchand
Translation by Google Translate
CNBC Africa (DStv channel 410), opened its eighth African bureau in Zambia as it continues to widen its African reporting footprint. The bureau, a joint venture with Zambia’s national broadcaster, ZNBC, will be based in the Zambian capital, Lusaka and opened for business on 25 July.
It’s the channel’s second bureau this year following Mozambique where, the company also teamed up with the local national broadcaster, TVM. The other bureaus are in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Gabon.
“The new bureau is continuing testimony to our vision to provide comprehensive coverage of Africa’s growing markets. Zambia is one of the new groups of African economies expanding at more than 7% per anum whose story remains largely untold outside its borders,” said Godfrey Mutizwa, CNBC Africa chief editor.
The channel plans to be in Rwanda and Ethiopia in the last quarter of this year. By 2014 it plans to be in 20 African countries, making it the only media company in Africa providing complete business and economic news across the continent.
CNBC Africa’s country bureau representative Debbie Baillie comments; “CNBC Africa has been active in Zambia for the three months, conducting live interviews on Zambian markets, business and economic news. The channel, which turned five last month, has grown to become the primary and biggest source of business news in Africa since 1 June 2007”.
CNBC Africa co-founder Rakesh Wahi, who performed a bell ringing ceremony at the Lusaka stock exchange to mark the opening of the bureau, said the company’s presence in Zambia marked yet another milestone in its brief history.
“Zambia has been an integral part of our journey in Africa. With a well-diversified economy, 14 million people and a GDP of $22-billion it is one of the top economies in the continent with consistent high growth and progressive and consistent policies”, says Wahi.
“We are privileged to have been able to strike a strategic relationship with the Zambian Broadcast Corporation. Part of this will be the facilitation of having Zambia on our editorial calendar and report on all the progress being made in this great country”, he said.