Bramerlife Chief Executive Officer, Regina Sikalesele-Vaka
The newest life insurer in the country, Bramerlife, will soon shed any vestiges of its association with its former parent company, when it rebrands.
Under new ownership of the Botswana Public Officer’s Pension Fund, Bramerlife Chief Executive Officer, Regina Sikalesele-Vaka says the company is now owned by Batswana and brings an added advantage of responding to local clients quickly without having to seek permission from foreign based parent companies.
Bramer Life Botswana was launched in June 2014 after the Mauritian based British American Investment Corporation (BAIC) invested P40 million for an 80 per cent stake in the company with citizen investors holding the remaining 20 per cent.
Nine months after the glitzy launch, the insurance firm was rocked by a ‘ponzi scheme’ scandal that hit its sister company, Bramer Banking Corporation Limited in Mauritius, tarnishing Bramer Life Botswana in the process. The scandal was said to entail a large-scale scam in the shape of a ponzi scheme estimated at over P6.4 billion.â€¨
Following the revelations, NBFIRA (Non Bank financial Institutions Regulatory Authority) appointed Nigel Dixon-Warren of KPMG as a statutory manager in April for Bramer Life Botswana.
Sikalesele-Vaka, is upbeat about making Bramerlife the best financial services company in five years time. “We had our scandal but we are a new company now and we have new shareholders in BPOPF; the company is now owned by Batswana,” she said. “With some marketing and rebranding, we will shake off the scandal.”
Botswana Opportunity Partnership (BOP), a joint venture between Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) and Capital Management Botswana (CMB), now owns 40 percent of Bramer Life Botswana under the new ownership structure.
According to Sikalesele-Vaka, the local insurance sector, which has become very competitive in the last five years, is plagued by, among other issues, fraud, especially perpetrated by brokers, who have even gone to the extent of claiming death benefits for clients who are still alive.
However, she said that the recently passed Insurance Industry Act is more prescriptive in the way that of client-insurer relations, as well as being more punitive in cases of breaches of the law.
She said there is competition in the industry, with many underwriters entering the insurance space and putting pressure with pricing.
On the issue of client perceptions, she said that insurance, particularly life is not a tangible good and the client often feels that they are paying for nothing, whereas they appreciate the peace of mind mostly when an incident happens that the insurance pays out a claim.
With vehicle insurance, people will usually take out a policy because the banks require it, said Sikalesele-Vaka, comparing long and short term life insurance. Another challenge that the industry has to deal with is the exclusion of the ordinary person from insurance cover.
The traditional way of doing insurance, with brokers, underwriters and clients on the other end, has been greatly reshaped by the arrival of the bancassurance business model, a distribution channel for both insurance and banking products, offered at one selling point. While this is greatly convenient for the consumer and profitable for the banks and partner insurers, it has had the effect of pushing out the broker from the scene.
“The two industries (banking and insurance) are from two extremes; often the customer does not even know why they are taking out an insurance policy when they are taking a loan but it is a business evolution and only the consumer can tackle that over time, maybe in the next five years,”she said.
THE SERIAL CORPORATE
Sikalesele-Vaka loves a good challenge. “I love turning small things big,” she told BusinessPost. A lawyer by training, Sikalesele-Vaka left the chambers to become a business leader when she joined the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA) in 1998, growing its asset base up to about P750 million and turning it into an exemplar of good governance for even similar organisations in the southern African region.
She then moved to Botswana Life and spearheaded its re-engineering, from 2010 to 2014, also becoming the head of the Group. In 2014, she was at the helm of the committee that organised the African Youth Games, with “very little time and a shoestring budget”.
Quizzed on her views regarding powerful women and their contribution to the development of other women, in the context of sentiments expressed by leader of opposition in parliament, Duma Boko, last week, that women generally grow powerful and make it difficult for other women to become successful, she said that it was actually quite true looking at the situation on the ground.
For her part, Sikalesele -Vaka, said she believes she has always made it a point to empower women, citing various examples of women who she has mentored and encouraged to climb the corporate ladder.
Sikalesele -Vaka relishes the thought of going into lecturing at university level, to impart the knowledge and experiences that she has garnered over the years to future corporate leaders. Would she go into politics? Every career has its people, she says, adding that she does not have the temperament for house to house campaigns, wheeling and dealing and being the people’s person, being the introvert that she is.
Strategic partnership offers inherent benefits of global knowledge, African insights, and local expertise and commitment
Minet Group and Africa Lighthouse Capital today announced that they have received regulatory approval and fulfilled all requirements to acquire Aon’s shareholding in Aon Botswana, and consequently will begin the process to rebrand to Minet Botswana.
Minet Group is a well-known and trusted pan-African risk advisory firm and Aon’s largest Global Network Correspondent and has been rapidly expanding its African footprint since 2017 through the acquisition of operations from global professional services firm Aon in Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Minet has been delivering world class products and services across Africa for over 70 years.
Africa Lighthouse Capital (ALC) is a leading Botswana citizen-owned private equity firm focused on investing in Botswana companies and propelling them into regional champions, with over BWP 500 million in funds under management.
The new entity will be rebranded to Minet and will inherit deeply rooted respect by its clients for their innovative and locally relevant solutions, responsiveness, and efficient processes. Furthermore, it shall have the benefit of consistency in leadership and staffing, with Barnabas Mavuma, previously Managing Director of Aon Botswana, continuing to lead the business as the MD supported by the local management team.
“The addition of Minet Botswana to our growing African network affirms our belief in the great opportunities for growth that Africa offers, driven by rising consumer demand, huge investment in infrastructure and quick adoption of new technology,” says Joe Onsando, CEO at Minet Group.
“This transaction significantly adds to the diversity and skills base of our team and will have a positive impact on the range of products and services we provide. Our Correspondent agreement with Aon gives us access to global expertise and data driven insights and uniquely positions us to deliver risk advisory solutions that reduce volatility, thus driving improved performance for our clients. This is a very exciting time to be Minet in Africa.”
“The significantly increased Botswana citizen shareholding effected by this transaction gives rise to an exciting era of local market focus and growth for Minet Botswana,” says Bame Pule, Founder and CEO of Africa Lighthouse Capital. “We intend to work with Minet Botswana’s local management team to further localise the business in terms of product development, while at the same time investing in local skills development and business development. We look forward to this exciting journey, which will result in a significantly enhanced service offering for Minet Botswana’s clients.”
Consequently, and similar to the other members of the Minet Group, Minet Botswana becomes an Aon Global Network Correspondent, retaining its access to Aon’s resources, technology, and best practises, combined with the benefit of independent, local agility. This transaction furthermore significantly increases local shareholding, enabling operations to become even nimbler and better positioned to unlock new and existing growth opportunities.
Clients of Minet Botswana will experience continuity of product and service delivery standards in the short term. In the near future, they can expect an enhanced offering that combines agility with technology and product innovation, tailormade for their specific needs.
Together, Minet and ALC bring a sound understanding of local market conditions, strong governance, and an established track record in the region. These qualities, combined with Aon’s global capabilities and expertise, will bring clear benefits for clients.
This transaction vastly increases citizen ownership with shareholders who are going to be active in the business. The transfer of equity interests in Botswana to investors with local and regional expertise, presence and commitment will allow the businesses to move quickly in line with market movements, and to introduce products that are tailored to the local market.
“Minet’s commitment and drive to incessantly adapt to changing market conditions, and to innovate to meet the unique insurance demands of the African continent, while maintaining the high standards customers have come to expect – Onsando concludes – will continue to grow and give Minet a powerful competitive edge within the African market”.
French President Emmanuel Macron received 21 Heads of state and government officials from Africa during the recent summit on the Financing of African Economies that focused on Africa to take full advantage of the tectonic shifts in the global economy and the call for a joint effort for financial and vaccination support for the continent.
President Emmanuel Macron stressed that “Most regions of the world are now launching massive post-pandemic recovery plans, using their huge monetary and fiscal instruments. But most African economies suffer the lack of adequate capacities and such instruments to do the same. We cannot afford leaving the African economies behind.
We, the Leaders participating to the Summit, in the presence of international organizations, share the responsibility to act together and fight the great divergence that is happening between countries and within countries.
This requires collective action to build a very substantial financial package, to provide a much-needed economic stimulus as well as the means to invest for a better future. Our ambition is to address immediate financing needs, to strengthen the capacity of African governments to support a strong and sustainable economic recovery and to reinforce the vibrant African private sector, as a long-term growth driver for Africa.”
For her part, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva highlighted that “there is urgency to focus on financing Africa. Last year, the pandemic-caused recession shrank the GDP of the Continent by 1.9 percent – the worst performance on record. This year, we project global growth at 6 percent, but only half that 3.2 percent for Africa.” Adding that Africa needs to grow faster than the world at 7 to 10 percent to meet the aspirations of its youthful populations, and become more prosperous and more secure.
Georgieva revealed that the price tag on the shot is estimated to be “$285 billion through 2025. Of this $135 billion is for low-income countries. This is the bare minimum. To do more – to get African nations back on their previous path of catching up with wealthy countries – will cost roughly twice as much. These are large numbers. They may seem out of reach. But to quote Nelson Mandela: impossible until it is done.”
The main areas of interest to achieve this include; first, end the pandemic everywhere, 40 percent of the population of all countries is targeted to get vaccinated by the end of 2021, and at least 60 percent by mid-2022.
Second, bilateral and multilateral developmentfinancing grants and concessional loans ought to go up. Over the last year, the IMF have swiftly ramped their financing for the Continent, including providing 13 timestheir average annual lending to sub-Saharan Africa. And are working to do much more. The IMF has also received support to increase access limits so they can scale up their zero-interest lending capacity through the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust.
The IMF has also devised exceptional measures. Their membership backs an unprecedented new allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) of $650 billion, by far the largest in their history.Once approved, which is intended to be achieved by the end of August, it will directly and immediately make about $33 billionavailable to African members. It will boost their reserves and liquidity, without adding to their debt burden.
Over the course of the last year, the IMF has built experience in facilitating the on lending of SDRs – thus managing to triple their concessional lending capacity as a result.
The Third being, actions at home. According to Georgieva “a crisis is an opportunity for transformational domestic reforms that increase domestic revenue, improve public services, and strengthen governance. For instance, digitalization can improve tax administration and revenue collection, and the quality of public spending. And with radical transparency, Africa can tap into new sources of finance – such as carbon offsets.
There is ample scope for countries to encourage private investment, including in social and physical infrastructure. New IMF research, published today, highlights that domestic and international investors could provide at least 3 percent of GDP per yearof additional financing by the end of this decade.”
Reforms of international taxation can also support Africa’s growth. For a long time, the IMF has been in favor of minimum corporate tax rates to reduce the race to the bottom and tax avoidance. And they strongly support an international agreement on digital tax, something France has been a leading voice for. It is important to secure fair distribution of tax revenues, so they can contribute to closing Africa’s financial gap.
Georgieva called on to each and every one to step up. Reminding the attendees that from history they are all familiar with what a shock of this magnitude can do if not countered forcefully and effectively.
De Beers’ Group, the world’s number one diamond producer by value, this week attributed the downfall of its sales for the fourth cycle week to the second wave of the Covid-19 variant (B.1.617.2) which was first discovered in India.
Diamond trading conditions have been hit by the Covid-19 crisis in India which is a major cutting and polishing centre for the world’s diamond trade.
The outbreak of the new variant has led to a humanitarian crisis with 280, 284 fatalities of the disease reported.
The London headquartered company said the sales in its fourth cycle fell to $380m (about P4.1 billion) down from $450m (about P4.8 billion) in the third cycle though it was higher than the fifth cycles of last year when the group shifted only $56m (P600 million).
De Beers emphasized that they continued to implement a more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the fourth sales cycle of 2021, with the Sight event extended beyond its normal week-long duration.
The De Beers group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bruce Cleaver said the company continues to see robust demand for diamond jewellery in the key US and China consumer markets.
“However, the scale of the second wave of Covid-19 in India, where the majority of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished, has led to reduced midstream capacity and subsequently lower rough diamond demand, during what is already a seasonally slower time of year for midstream purchases,” said Cleaver.
Meanwhile Botswana health officials have confirmed the new Covid-19 variant in Botswana. The Ministry of Health and Wellness -through a press statement- informed members of the public that the variant (B.1.617), was confirmed in Botswana on 13th May 2021.
According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.
Moreover the World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting that the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.
The India variant (B.1.617.2) – is one of four mutated versions of the coronavirus which has been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.
Nevertheless when speaking at Bank of America Global Metals and Mining conference, Anglo American Chief Executive Officer, Mark Cutifani said the company portfolio is increasingly tilted towards future enabling products and those that need to decarbonise energy and transport in order to meet consumers’ needs – from home appliances, electronics and infrastructure, to food and luxury goods.
“We see material opportunity for Anglo American to continue to set itself apart in terms of the performance of our diversified business, further enhanced through sector-leading 25% volume growth over the next four years, led by copper and the platinum group metals,” said Cutifani.
“Most importantly, as the supplier of such critical materials, it is the duty of our industry to ensure that in everything we do, we act responsibly and deliver enduring value for our full breadth of stakeholders, including our planet.”