By Funmi Dele-Giwa, General Counsel & Head, GRC at MFS Africa
If you’re reading this, there’s a very good chance you’re already familiar with the acronym ESG. Standing for “environmental”, “social”, and “governance”, it’s a constantly evolving standard that emphasises the importance of doing business in a way that positively impacts the environment, society and stakeholders.
In essence, it’s the idea that companies can grow and profit while doing good and it encourages businesses to be more transparent about how they add to or create value for their society, community and/or stakeholders.
While ESG has its critics (on both sides of the aisle), its philosophy has gained near-universal acceptance in investor circles. In fact, a 2022 study by asset management firm Capital Group found that 89% of investors consider ESG issues in their investment approaches. Additionally, there are around US$2.5 trillion in ESG assets under fund management. And with rising interest rates putting a dampener on investment (including in Africa), scoring well on those metrics may become more important than ever.
But for African fintechs the case for ESG goes beyond becoming investable. Implemented properly, the principles behind ESG make a great deal of business sense. As an illustration of how much of a boost it can be to a business, a study by accounting firm Moore Global found that companies with strong ESG principles saw their profits grow 9.1% in the three years between 2019 and 2022. In other words, the fintechs that get ESG right won’t just have an easier time attracting investment, they’ll also be better poised for growth, sustainability and profitability.
Why ESG works
Before looking into how African fintechs can put together the kind of ESG frameworks that encourage growth and investment, it’s worth taking a deeper look at why it makes good business sense (outside of the already strong investment case) to invest in ESG.
One of the most powerful is the African environmental context. According to the Africa Development Bank, for example, Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change. Any fintech that understands this and works to ensure that its operations are sustainable isn’t just helping mitigate the effects of climate change on the planet, it’s also helping ensure a future environment in which it’s more likely to survive and thrive.
Of course, ESG isn’t just about the environment. Its second social pillar has an equally important role to play. For fintechs this can look like ensuring that they hire diversely, support MSMEs, and contribute positively to employment in areas where it’s needed most. But perhaps even more importantly, it also includes financial inclusion.
Choosing to hire diversely has obvious societal benefits: for example it means that previously marginalised groups are able to participate in the economy at much higher levels. But it also comes with significant business benefits. And the higher up the organisation those hires climb, the greater the accrued benefits are. According to the Boston Consulting Group, companies with above average diversity in their management team report 19% higher innovation revenues than those with lower diversity.
Supporting micro, small, and medium-sized businesses also benefits fintechs. For starters, they make up a large customer base (particularly for B2B-focused fintechs) on the continent. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are approximately 44 million SMEs. These enterprises not only serve as the engine of many economies across the African continent, but they also represent a segment historically ignored and under-served by the more traditional financial services players. By providing products and services which speak directly to the pain points of micro and small enterprises, fintechs can not only tap into a fast growing and profitable segment, but can have a positive impact on the overall economic development and prosperity in the country in which they operate.
Growing financial inclusion in the region, meanwhile, is absolutely critical. At present, just 43% of people in sub-Saharan Africa have a formal bank account. That makes it difficult to access things like vehicle, home, and business loans that can be used to grow income. It also means that any savings the unbanked have can’t be used for wealth generating investments. Across the region, fintechs are helping people overcome those barriers by expanding financial services such as digital banking, microfinancing, and digital payments to people who wouldn’t previously have access to them.
The final pillar within the ESG framework, focuses on governance and this is often an overlooked and misunderstood pillar. I am an avid advocate and loud champion of strong corporate governance workings, but I am often asked how strong governance arrangements actually help an organisation thrive and grow.
Many people equate good governance with rigid structures and bureaucratic processes, but I respectfully disagree with these assertions. The truth is that a solid corporate governance foundation, coupled with the right corporate culture, has exactly the opposite effect. It frees an organisation from confusion and unnecessary work. It allows for decisions to be made more freely by people who have been empowered to take decisions. It ensures that key decisions are placed with and taken by the most appropriate individuals within an organisation. And it allows for a dynamic, organised, and agile organisation.
Examples of good governance practices every fintech should have in place include transparent decision-making processes, ethical behaviour, and accountability to stakeholders. This, in turn, helps build trust with customers, investors, and (increasingly stringent) regulators; fostering long-term sustainability and growth.
Building the right frameworks
Of course, claiming to be ESG compliant and having an effective ESG framework are two different things. While there are a variety of approaches that can be taken in doing so, at MFS Africa we take a three-pillared approach that focuses on “setting”, “measuring”, and “reporting” the impact we have in local communities and across the Africa continent.
During the “setting” phase, we outline the parameters which will guide the organisation in its ambition to build a strong impact-driven organisation with a clear ESG approach. Having done that, we measure against those parameters and then report transparently on those measurements.
While each organisation should tailor its ESG framework according to its individual needs and context, we’ve found this model to be the one best suited to us. It’s helped us grow to be the kind of organisation that can connect more than 500 million mobile money wallets across 40 African countries, supporting over 300,000 agents and providing access to financial services for millions of Africans.
A policy worth getting right
Ultimately, despite dire predictions from the extremes of the political landscape, it’s unlikely that ESG will go away soon. Even if the label disappears, it’s now so entrenched in the way that investors do business, that it’ll remain an important consideration. And that’s because the companies that do ESG well share many of the hallmarks of good, investable companies. As the African fintech sector continues to grow, its participants should ensure they’re taking a proactive and positive approach to ESG. This will transform the sector beyond “doing” good to “being” good – good for the economy, good for society and good for stakeholders.
Premier League Agrees Record-Breaking £6.7Bn Deal with Sky Sports
Sky Sports will air a minimum of 215 Premier League matches a season as part of a new domestic rights agreement which is worth a record £6.7billion.
The broadcaster secured four of the five packages on offer in the Premier League’s latest domestic rights tender which will start in 2025-26, with TNT Sports netting the other package of 52 games.
PA News Agency understands Amazon – who show 20 matches per season under the league’s current deal, elected not to bid for any of the new packages – which run through to the end of the 2028-29 season.
The Premier League said the value of the agreements being announced, which also cover non-live rights, was £6.7billion, the largest sports media rights deal in UK history.
The current live TV deal, which runs through to 2024-25, has been reported to be worth £5billion over the three-year cycle.
Sky’s deal means it will screen up to 100 matches a season more than it currently does, the broadcaster said.
It keeps hold of the key Super Sunday 4.30pm slot and will broadcast all 10 final-day matches for the first time.
TNT’s deal means it retains the 12.30pm Saturday slot and full coverage of two midweek match rounds.
For the first time, all matches outside of those scheduled for 3pm Saturday will be screened live. A debate is ongoing about whether the blackout of TV coverage in the 3pm slot should be lifted for the women’s game.
Match of the Day remains the home for highlights of all 380 Premier League matches for the four seasons of the new cycle.
The Premier League’s chief executive Richard Masters said: “We are delighted to announce new deals with Sky Sports and TNT Sports that will extend our partnership for a further four years and see more Premier League matches than ever before shown live from 2025/26 onwards.
“As long-standing and valued partners, Sky Sports and TNT Sports are renowned for consistently delivering world-class coverage and programming.
“We have enjoyed record audiences and attendances in recent seasons, and we know that their continued innovation will drive more people to watch and follow the Premier League.
“We are also extremely pleased to extend our partnership with BBC Sport, which will continue to bring weekly highlights of all Premier League matches to the widest possible audience in the UK.
“Match of the Day has been an institution for generations of football fans in this country and remains incredibly popular with fans of all ages.
“The outcome of this process underlines the strength of the Premier League and is testament to our clubs, players and managers who continue to deliver the world’s most competitive football in full stadiums, and to supporters, who create an unrivalled atmosphere every week.”
TNT Sports have secured Package A, which includes 52 matches with the primary kick-off time being 12.30pm. Within that, they get 18 second picks of matches, 14 fourth picks and all 20 of the fourth and fifth midweek rounds in the season.
Sky has secured B, C, D and E, with Package D being the one featuring the Sunday 4.30pm kick-offs and 18 first picks, along with the final-day action live.
Four packages was the maximum any single broadcaster could buy, and despite the number of live games increasing from 200 to circa 270, the matches were split between fewer packages compared to the previous rights cycle.
It is understood that the make-up of the packages, and the difficulty in exploiting a premium, high-volume model within their Prime subscription service, was the reason for Amazon’s decision not to bid.
AstraZeneca Set to Use AI to optimise Reforestation Programme in Africa
AI deep learning model to monitor tree health, long-term survival and carbon sequestration; Commitment to plant and maintain up to six million trees in Kenya in support of climate action, human health and community resilience.
As part of its flagship AZ Forest programme, AstraZeneca has made a pledge to plant up to six million trees in western Kenya. The new project, announced at COP28, builds on the company’s recently expanded African reforestation initiatives in Ghana and Rwanda. AZ Forest Africa is part of AstraZeneca’s broader commitment to plant and maintain more than 200 million trees across six continents by 2030, in recognition of the strong connection between human and planetary health.
The reforestation in Kenya will span six counties in the west of the country, adjacent to the Rift Valley, covering more than 3,500 hectares of land. The project will be amongst the first to use an advanced AI deep learning model to analyse drone footage and satellite imagery to monitor tree growth and health, while also quantifying levels of carbon sequestration.
Designed using a science-based approach and harnessing new technological innovations, the programme aims to promote long-term tree health, increase biodiversity of flora and fauna, and generate an economic boost for local communities.
The role nature-based solutions can play in addressing the climate-health crisis is a top agenda item at COP28, with the climate summit placing a focus on the progress made since the Glasgow Declaration of COP26 to end deforestation.[4,5] New research has underlined the impact that reforestation and the protection of existing trees can have in tackling climate change, potentially sequestering up to 226 gigatonnes of carbon.
Juliette White, Vice President Global Sustainability, AstraZeneca, said: “The link between planetary and human health is clear.
“Investing in our natural world through tree planting and conservation, and limiting deforestation, are some of the most effective preventative health steps we can take.
“By expanding AZ Forest to Kenya, we are progressing our commitment to deliver reforestation at scale, with a science-led approach that benefits both the environment and local communities.”
AstraZeneca is working with world-leading experts to design and deliver its AZ Forest programme including with Earthbanc and the Green Planet Initiative 2050 Foundation (GPI2050) for its Kenya project. Indigenous and productive tree species will improve soil health and local crop yields, while produce including leaves and honey will benefit the local agroeconomy.
More than 5,000 local farmers and local community members will be engaged in the project, which also aims to support a groundbreaking reforestation ambition from the Kenyan government.
Her Excellency Rachel Ruto First Lady of the Republic of Kenya, said: “Climate change affects us all and tackling it requires concerted action from governments, individuals, and business.
“We welcome AstraZeneca’s approach to reforestation: working with local communities to ensure economic benefits for people that match the positive impact on the planet. This initiative will contribute towards Kenya’s goal to plant 15 billion trees over the next decade.”
Tom Duncan, CEO, Earthbanc, said: “This land regeneration project in Kenya is a very exciting opportunity that we are pleased to support in collaboration with our partners. Earthbanc is committed to bringing private sector climate finance to accelerate and scale reforestation to meet the challenge of climate change.
“The AZ Forest initiative brings significant co-benefits with its focus on circular bioeconomy, sustainable communities, ecosystem health and sustainable markets.
“We are looking forward to this project launch and demonstrating that we can all play a part in the global effort towards planetary regeneration.”
Aside from Kenya, AZ Forest’s global programme which aims to span 100,000 hectares worldwide continues apace. In Ghana, almost three million trees have been planted this year taking the total to over four million since the project began in 2021. The project has engaged 1,200 farmers across 23 communities.
While in Rwanda, 6,000 farming households are signed up to the project, with 16 community nurseries established to grow a range of indigenous and fruit tree species. Planting is set to start in the coming months with a target to plant around 5.8 million trees across 21,000 hectares, in what is one of the largest forest restoration initiatives in Rwanda.
Unveil Your Audio Odyssey With Spotify’s Wrapped Personalized User Experience
It’s that time of the year again when music enthusiasts get to lean on Spotify to dive in and get a revelation of their top listening moments of the year. Spotify Wrapped 2023 is upon us and individuals are ready to embark on their sonic adventure.
This year, Spotify Wrapped introduces listeners to an overview of their music preferences through an access to their personalized 2023 Wrapped experience. Spotify users will be able to exclusively unveil their listening journey on the Spotify mobile app on iOS and Android and also via web view on mobile or Desktop on Spotify.com/Wrapped.
Please make sure your Spotify app is updated to the latest version to access. The experience started rolling out to users globally on November 29 at 2PM WAT/ 3PM SAST/ 4PM EAT.
As you check the receipts on your year in review, only your Wrapped results can reveal what you were really feeling in 2023. Here’s what to look out for:
New data stories bringing you to the heart of their listening: In addition to your top artists, genres, songs, podcasts and minutes listened, we’re adding a few new features to look out for.
Me in 2023 celebrates a streaming habit that defined your listening this year. The experience will reveal one of 12 listening characters that best describes the way you listened on Spotify this year – examples include the Shapeshifter (you’re quick to move from one artist to the next), the Luminary (you play light, upbeat music more than others), or the Alchemist (you create your own playlists more than others do).
Sound Town matches you to a city based on your listening and shared artist affinity. Listening habits are shared in surprising ways across communities around the world, and 2023 Wrapped celebrates that.
Wrapped fan-favorites appear in a refreshed way users haven’t seen before:
Top 5 Genres story shows you how your top five music genres stacked up with a new sandwich-inspired design.
Top 5 Artists lets you see the month your listening peaked for each artist – painting a fuller picture of your entire year and all the moments that made it.
You will also get to hear from one of your top artists directly within your personalized Wrapped via Your Artist Messages. You can then visit the Wrapped feed for video messages from more than 40,000 artists including Taylor Swift, Burna Boy, Bad Bunny, SZA, Dolly Parton and more. See HERE for a video compilation of the artist’s messages.
Wrapped Feed: Right on your Spotify Home screen, the Wrapped feed is the one-stop shop for all things Wrapped, including the best of editorial playlists, merch from your top artists, concerts near you, and more.
Spotify’s AI DJ will guide listeners through their personalized Wrapped – serving up the music you loved this year and sharing commentary about some of your favorite artists, genres, songs and more. The experience will be available for the first week after Wrapped launches.
This year, you can invite your friends to create a Blend and tap the ‘2023 Wrapped Top Songs’ filter to combine all of your top songs from this year into one shared playlist. 2023 Wrapped Integrations
Wrapped on the Pitch with FC Barcelona: As a part of the continued partnership between Spotify and FC Barcelona, fans can find videos from some of their favorite players, including Robert Lewandowski, Alexia Putella and Pedri, guessing each other’s Wrapped. Additionally, 2023 Wrapped will be featured on the LED screens at upcoming matches for the men’s team December 3rd and the women’s team on December 10.
Wrapped themed integrations: Easily access Your Top Songs 2023 by asking Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. You can also find Wrapped stickers on social platforms like WhatsApp and anywhere GIPHY Stickers are integrated.
Additionally, Spotify has also launched its Wrapped creator experience for podcasters and artists. With access to their own individualized Wrapped microsite experience, creators can dive into all the ways in which their fans listened this year.
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