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Ashish J. Thakkar’s Mara Phones signs export deal with Angolan firm

Mara Phones is a subsidiary of Mara Group and operates in Rwanda and South Africa.

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Businessman Ashish J. Thakkar.

The first African smartphone manufacturer, Rwanda-based Mara Phones has entered into a deal with the Angolan company MISALE to export its mobile phones to the country.

According to Taarifa, the agreement was signed on Nov. 17 during a business forum organized by the Rwandan Development Board, with Rwandan and Angolan companies attending.

Owned by business mogul Ashish J. Thakkar, Mara Phones is a subsidiary of Mara Group. It operates in Rwanda and South Africa and prides itself as the producer of the continent’s first smartphone. It launched operations in October 2019 with the vision of becoming a leading brand in Africa.

Mara Phones was designed in partnership with Google as part of the Android One Program. Since its inception, it has launched about three different phone brands, including Mara Z, Mara X and Mara S. It also plans to launch a new phone in mid-2022.

Billionaires.Africa understands that the company is facing stiff competition from more established brands in terms of pricing. For example, the retail price of Mara X and Mara Z are $190 and $130, respectively. This is much higher than the cheapest Samsung phone, which sells for $54.

Mara Phones runs at 20-percent capacity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted the economy in 2020 and 2021. However, Mara Phones Managing Director Eddy Sebera told Taarifa: “Things are getting better and most countries are reopening. We have exported our phones to 76 countries (Africa and the rest of the world), as the company grows steadily. We are happy with the progress in the domestic market.”

East Africa

Controlled by Kenya’s richest families, NCBA Group eyes entry in Ethiopia, DRC, Ghana

NCBA Group is partially owned by the super-rich Kenyatta, Merali, and Ndegwa families.

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Uhuru Kenyatta.

NCBA Group, a financial services conglomerate controlled by Kenya’s wealthiest families, is preparing to launch operations in Ghana, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) through partnerships led by its mobile phone banking service, M-Shwari.

The move, which aligns with the group’s strategic expansion plans and diversification strategy through mobile and digital banking, comes just a week after NCBA CEO John Gachora announced that the lender plans to expand into eight African markets.

The group, which is one of the leading lenders in East Africa with operations in Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda, is negotiating mobile phone banking partnerships with banks and telecom operators in the three countries.

The move is consistent with Gachora’s earlier statement, in which the leading executive stated that the model in the new markets will be to collaborate with local banking and mobile partners to deliver products and services to customers while leveraging cutting-edge technology.

According to Gachora, funding the expansion will be less expensive than establishing a traditional bank. “There will be licensing costs because it’s digital, it’s a fintech, and licenses are relatively cheap,” he said. As a result, the Kenyan bank will earn commissions on deals involving the establishment of brick-and-mortar operations in Ghana, Ethiopia, and the DRC.

NCBA Group is a Nairobi-based financial services conglomerate that operates as a non-operating holding through its extensive network of subsidiaries in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and Cote d’Ivoire.

The Kenyan banking firm, established in 2019 by the merger of NIC Bank Group and Commercial Bank of Africa Group, now has 109 branches in five countries — Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Cote d’Ivoire — and is partially owned by the super-rich Kenyatta, Merali, and Ndegwa families.

The bank’s profit rose from Ksh6.52 billion ($53.3 million) to Ksh12.8 billion ($104.7 million) at the end of the first nine months of its 2022 fiscal year thanks to a double-digit increase in interest and non-interest income during the period under review.

NCBA has reaped enormous benefits from pioneering mobile phone-based lending in Kenya since partnering with telecom provider Safaricom in 2012 to launch the market-dominating service, M-Shwari.

It hopes to expand this model beyond East Africa, with large populations and a banking industry that primarily serves large corporations.

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East Africa

Led by Kenya’s richest families, NCBA Group plans expansion into eight African countries

NCBA Group is partially owned by the super-rich Kenyatta, Merali, and Ndegwa families.

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Uhuru Kenyatta.

NCBA Group, a financial services conglomerate owned by Kenya’s wealthiest families, has announced plans to expand into eight African markets as part of its diversification strategy through mobile and digital banking.

John Gachora, NCBA’s group CEO, revealed during the presentation of the bank’s third-quarter financial results that the group plans a strategic expansion into eight African markets to strengthen its reach on the continent through digital banking.

“We’re developing the technology, which should be ready fairly soon, and the plan is to roll it out in the mid-next year with our partners in Ghana and other countries on the continent,” Gachora said, revealing that NCBA is in talks with Ghanaian lenders to expand its operations in West Africa.

According to Gachora, funding the expansion will be less expensive than starting a traditional bank. “There will be licensing costs because it’s digital, it’s a fintech, and licenses are relatively cheap,” he said.

Aside from Ghana, NCBA is looking to expand into the mineral-rich Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia as the country opens up its financial industry to foreign investors.

NCBA Group is a Nairobi-based financial services conglomerate that operates as a non-operating holding through its extensive network of subsidiaries in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and Cote d’Ivoire.

The Kenyan banking firm, established in 2019 by the merger of NIC Bank Group and Commercial Bank of Africa Group, now has 109 branches in five countries — Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Ivory Coast — and is partially owned by the super-rich Kenyatta, Merali, and Ndegwa families.

The bank’s profit rose from Ksh6.52 billion ($53.3 million) to Ksh12.8 billion ($104.7 million) at the end of the first nine months of its 2022 fiscal year thanks to a double-digit increase in interest and non-interest income during the period under review.

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East Africa

Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa’s Liquid opens cybersecurity center in Nairobi

Liquid C2 is a subsidiary of Liquid Intelligent Technologies.

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Strive Masiyiwa.

Liquid C2, a subsidiary of Liquid Intelligent Technologies, a technology firm owned by Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa, has opened its Cybersecurity Fusion Center (CSFC) in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city.

The new facility, established by liquid C2 to ensure Kenyan customers have timely access to real-time intelligence-driven alerts and advisory services to mitigate potential security threats, is the first of its kind in Kenya and the second in Africa.

The cybersecurity center will be invaluable in Liquid’s efforts to provide Kenyan customers with real-time intelligence-driven alerts and advisory services, allowing them to mitigate potential threats as soon as possible.

Customers will now be able to focus on their critical business needs while managing their cybersecurity requirements in the most cost-efficient and effective way possible, according to Liquid, thanks to a slew of new cybersecurity services that will be deployed in the new center.

“Through our matrix of Fusion Centers, Liquid C2 will predict, prevent, detect, and respond to cyberattacks that target our customers,” David Behr, CEO of Liquid C2, said.

Behr went on to state that raising awareness about the critical importance of cybersecurity is not only beneficial to clients, but also a critical pillar in Kenya’s economic growth as the country continues to undergo digital transformation.

He added that Liquid C2 will continue to play a role in Kenya’s digital transformation and that with the opening of the center in Nairobi, the company will be better positioned to help customers in real-time and enable them to be proactive rather than reactive in today’s complex cybersecurity landscape.

The cybersecurity center’s opening comes nearly two weeks after Liquid, Liquid C2’s parent company, announced plans to spend more than R350 million ($19.7 million) to deliver a Software Defined Network (SDN) offering known as Dataport Across Africa, making it the first African company to do so.

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