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Regulatory Sandboxes in Africa

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Regulatory Sandboxes in Africa

By: Leah Ngari

In a rapidly evolving world, regulatory bodies often have trouble keeping up with the pace of business and technology innovation – especially when it comes to fintech. To allow for innovation while protecting potential customers, governments across the globe – and across Africa – have designed “regulatory sandboxes.” Read on to learn more about regulatory sandboxes and find out about the regulatory sandbox program in seven African countries. 

What is a Regulatory Sandbox?

The financial products and services sector is highly regulated almost everywhere in the world, because governments want to make sure that their citizens’ money is safe and protected. But although financial regulation is critical to protecting customers, it can also hamper innovation by raising the barriers to entry into the sector so high that they keep new players out. 

A regulatory sandbox is a controlled environment that allows entrepreneurs, regulators, and other players in the fintech industry to test out new financial products or services without being too constrained by inappropriate regulations. Since its inception in the United Kingdom, the regulatory sandbox has spread all over the world, with Asia and the Pacific regions taking the lead.

Number of Sandboxes by Worldbank Regions

Number of Sandboxes by Worldbank Regions. Image from the Worldbank Group

Why are Regulatory Sandboxes Important? 

The Worldbank Group has identified key areas that regulatory sandboxes can assist in:

  1. Facilitate partnerships between fintech startups and already existing traditional financial companies. For instance, regulatory sandboxes enable the banking sector to find ways to incorporate blockchain technologies into their model without breaking rules that should not necessarily apply in this instance.  
  2. Encourage innovation by creating a platform for firms to be innovative in the fintech world without cumbersome regulations stifling their creativity. 
  3. Inform regulators and keep them up to date on innovative solutions and technologies. Regulatory sandboxes increase interaction between regulators and innovative firms while enabling the regulators to make form informed choices, creating more inclusive regulation. Regulatory sandboxes provide an evidence-based approach to regulation.
  4. Protect consumer rights in a fast-changing world. Consumers’ rights remain protected in a regulatory sandbox framework, since regulators keep a watchful eye on the process, conducting rigorous testing to ensure that products launched into the market are consumer-friendly and beneficial.
  5. Enable market growth by facilitating the introduction of new solutions. With rigorous testing, fintech firms get to identify and develop new opportunities, new market segments to sell a product or service to.

African Countries with Regulatory Sandboxes


1. Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone’s Sandbox Regulatory Framework was launched in 2018. The process was started by the Bank of Sierra Leone with the help of the Financial Sector Deepening Africa (FSDA) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), as part of the country’s Fintech Initiative. To be eligible to participate in Sierra Leone’s regulatory sandbox, the company must be registered with Sierra Leone, and a Sierra Leonean citizen needs to own at least 10% of the firm. The regulatory sandbox is limited to fintech companies, and has a focus on financial inclusion in the solutions they admit into the program.

2. Kenya

Kenya’s regulatory sandbox is under the Capital Markets Authority of Kenya (CMA). It was approved in March 2019 when the CMA started to accept applications for admissions into the regulatory sandbox. Interested companies or individuals are expected to apply to be considered, following a list of requirements outlined in the Regulatory Sandbox Policy Guidance Note. The document outlines the steps needed to apply for the regulatory sandboxes and the eligibility criteria used. For instance, it is only open for companies incorporated in Kenya or those licensed by as securities market regulator in an equivalent jurisdiction

Once admitted, the company gets a 12-month period to run tests on the product or service, sending interim reports on the progress to the CMA. After the 12-month period, the company may either be granted permission to operate fully in the market or be denied permission based on the findings from their testing period. Before applying for the sandbox, the companies will need to have developed the idea to the level of operational testing according to the former CMA Chief Executive, Mr. Paul Muthaura. The CMA is currently accepting applications to the regulatory sandbox. Currently, at least 4 fintech companies that were admitted into the regulatory sandbox of Kenya.

3. Rwanda

Rwanda’s government initiative to promote digital financial services led to its adoption of the regulatory sandbox in 2018. Since then, it has embarked on creating guidelines for the regulatory sandbox under the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), which are still at the draft stage. The first company to be granted the regulatory sandbox license was the Riha Payment System, a firm that received 6-month approval to test its mobile wallet solution in the Rwandan market.

A company or individual that wishes to apply for this regulatory sandbox needs to have a ground-breaking innovation which is new, or products or services significantly different from products which comply with all relevant regulatory requirements

Rwanda is also clear on the kind of products or services that would be allowed under these regulations, as the product or service has to be new to the Rwandan market and commercially unavailable in other markets. Academics and researchers who want to test out new technologies may also apply for the regulatory sandbox according to the draft guidelines.

4. Mauritius

In Mauritius, companies apply for a Regulatory Sandbox License, giving them permission to conduct business where there is no legal framework guiding the activities to be conducted. This License is provided by the Economic Development Board to eligible companies that are willing to invest in innovative projects. Mauritius permits both fin-tech and non-fintech companies to apply for the licenses, providing guidelines for each category. Fintech projects are chosen by the National Regulatory Sandbox Committee, which consists of members of the EDB and the Financial Services Commission (FSC). Licenses in non-fintech are issued by the Board of Investment under the EDB.

Mauritius provides a great example of the impact of regulatory sandboxes on regulators in the area of Peer to Peer (P2P) lending. P2P lending startup Fundkiss wanted to launch a P2P lending service in Mauritius, but there was no legal framework allowing such services, so the company worked with regulators to draft P2P rules. Today, however, P2P companies have graduated from the regulatory sandbox license to more specific Peer to Peer lending regulations. The Mauritian regulatory body has shown great progress in the regulatory environment allowing for innovation and learning from it. 

5. Mozambique

Mozambique is still in its infancy stage when it comes to fintech solutions. In 2018, the Central Bank of Mozambique together with the Financial Sector Deepening Mozambique created the country’s regulatory sandbox. The regulatory sandbox is under the Financial Inclusion Strategy that focuses on achieving financial inclusion in Mozambique. The regulatory sandbox took on the approach of an accelerator, admitting startups to try their ideas in a regulated environment. Some startups they picked include:

  • Quickepaye, which provides an online payment aggregator solution, allowing people to pay different bills online.
  • Mukuru, a South African remittance company that was permitted to try out their solution in Mozambique. Mukuru enables people to send and receive money within Africa and in some parts of Asia through their platform.

Both companies and others in the regulatory sandbox have now been granted the go-ahead to operate in Mozambique. Mukuru currently has a branch in Maputo, Mozambique.

5. Ghana

The Bank of Ghana in collaboration with Emtech Service LLC recently launched a regulatory sandbox pilot program. In a press release dated February 2021, the Bank of Ghana announced the launch of its pilot program, mentioning the industries they would focus on. The program is geared towards financial service providers, with preference given to blockchain technology solutions, electronic KYC, remittances and crowdfunding. The regulatory sandbox will be committed to addressing the needs of the unbanked and underserved persons and businesses.

6. Nigeria

The Central Bank of Nigeria released Nigeria’s regulatory sandbox framework in January 2021. It targets fintech and telecom solutions and will start to approve solution providers who apply for it on a cohort by cohort basis. The framework includes requirements, eligibility criteria and length of time, as well as other guidelines.

Fintech Opportunities in Africa 

Regulatory sandboxes have been able to bridge the gap between the private sector and regulators, enabling an environment where they work together for the development of the country. The growth of regulatory sandboxes across Africa is a testament to the work being done by governments to encourage new technology development on the continent and remove barriers to entry for fintech entrepreneurs. 

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Driving Business in Africa Virtual Event – The Power of Energy

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Driving Business in Africa Virtual Event – The Power of Energy

March 24, 2021

Online Event

Empower Africa hosted a virtual Event entitled “Driving Business in Africa Virtual Event – The Power of Energy”.  Below are the recordings from the event.

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Israel – Africa: Extraordinary Women, Extraordinary Entrepreneurs Virtual Event

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Israel - Africa: Extraordinary Women, Extraordinary Entrepreneurs

March 22, 2021

Online Event

As we marked International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, Empower Africa hosted a virtual event entitled “Israel – Africa: Extraordinary Women, Extraordinary Entrepreneurs”. On this event we highlighted inspiring women entrepreneurs. View the sessions below.

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Agriculture in Africa – A Land of Opportunities

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Agriculture in Africa – The Land of Opportunities

March 16, 2021

Online Event

Empower Africa hosted a virtual Event entitled “Agriculture in Africa – the Land of Opportunities”.  The event delved into the value-based business practices underlying sustainable and robust agriculture development in Africa. Below are the recordings from the event.

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Why you should invest in Aquaculture in West Africa

artisanal floating aquaculture cages located in Kolda region, on the Casamance river, southern Senegal, West Africa

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Why You Should Invest in Aquaculture in West Africa 

By: Shira Petrack

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 

Aquaculture in West Africa can increase food production, preserve the marine ecosystem, and restore wildlife populations. 

What is Aquaculture?

Think of aquaculture as agriculture is for water-based organisms: “Agri” comes from the Latin word “ager,” which means field, and “aqua” is the Latin word for water. More technically, aquaculture refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish and other organisms in three types of water environments – freshwater, brackish water, and saltwater. Aquaculture can involve big cages in existing bodies of fresh or saltwater and land-based tanks that rely on water filtration and recirculation systems. 

Sustainable aquaculture practices can increase the global supply of fish, shellfish, seaweeds, algae, sea vegetables, and fish eggs while preserving marine diversity. 

Why invest in Aquaculture? 

The expanding global population brings with it a growing appetite for animal protein, which could strain our planet’s already weakened ecosystems. According to the FAO, global per capita fish consumption increased 3.1% every year from 1961 to 2017, almost doubling the population growth rate of 1.6%. Since 2013, fish production from aquaculture has outpaced capture fish production – some experts believe that by 2030, almost ⅔ of all seafood produced for human consumption will come from aquaculture. Investing in aquaculture is the only way to obtain more seafood for human consumption without contributing to overfishing or ecological destruction. 

In many ways, farming fish is much more environmentally friendly than raising land animals such as cows, chickens, or pigs. Fish is the most efficient animal protein to produce in terms of feed to pound ratio: – it takes only around one pound of feed to produce one pound of fish. In contrast, it takes almost two pounds of feed to make one pound of chicken, nearly three pounds of feed for one pound of pork, and close to seven pounds of feed for one pound of beef. Meeting the increased demand for animal protein through fish rather than land animals can free up hundreds of millions of hectares of grazing land globally. 

And while some aquaculture methods create pollution and weaken wild fish stocks, aquaculture done right can help replenish our lakes and oceans. Since the 70s, unsustainable fishing practices have lead to the decline of global fish stocks. Sustainable aquaculture farms can also cultivate complementary species of marine animals and plants to increase profits while maintaining viable self-cleaning ecosystems.

Why West Africa? 

Currently, Fisheries in the West African Marine Ecoregion (WAMER) generate around $400 million every year. A large portion of this income goes to foreign corporations who engage in destructive and unsustainable fishing practices that drain the region’s natural fish populations. Most fish populations in West Africa are already fully or overexploited, putting coastal communities’ livelihoods and food security at risk and inhibiting sustainable and scalable economic growth. The recent expansion of fishmeal and fish oil factories in the area is putting even more pressure on the already depleted waters. 

Aquaculture was first introduced in Africa in the 1950s, but has yet to produce meaningful food quantities on the continent. Currently, most of the fish harvested by European or Asian commercial operations get shipped abroad: In 2018, aquaculture accounted for less than 10% of the region’s seafood consumption. The lack of trained aquaculture fish farmers, stunted fish seed, poor aquatic health management, and high post-harvest losses due to underdeveloped cold-chain infrastructure have kept the sector from achieving its potential.  

At the same time, food insecurity remains a daily reality for many West Africans. Investments in sustainable aquaculture in West Africa could allow local communities to establish economically and ecologically viable fisheries that produce food and income. With the right technologies and know-how, West African fish farmers can produce enough seafood to feed their communities and export the surplus abroad. 

Small Scale Aquaculture in West Africa Can be Profitable

Aquaculture does not need to be conducted on a massive scale to be profitable. Perhaps surprisingly, research shows that small reservoirs in West Africa tend to be more productive than larger ones. Investing in building locally owned and/or managed aquaculture production operations 

Companies such as SkyFox Ltd have had success empowering locals to become aquaculture fish farmers. SkyFox helps fish farmers build artificial ponds that serve as the heart of an integrated aquaculture and crop-production solution. Once the fish farms are up and running, SkyFox connects the fish farmers with fish distributors to sell their products quickly and reduce post-harvest losses. 

Israeli company Palgey Maim has worked in Nigeria to build a fish production operation on an island in the middle of a lake. The fish farm draws the water from the surrounding lake, uses it to feel the fish pond, and treats it before pumping it back into the lake.  

How to Invest in Aquaculture in West Africa 

Empower Africa Agriculture Consulting Services can help you bring your aquaculture expertise to West African farmers and communities. Whether you specialize in monocultures, polycultures, onshore operations, open net systems, or aquaculture support activities such as fish distribution and processing, you can help develop sustainable aquaculture in West Africa. 

Contact us to for help in finding the right partners and optimizing your business model to increase income, profits, and food security in West Africa. 

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Hillel’s Tech Corner: Empower Africa

Israeli firm launches business network in Rwanda:

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Tel Aviv, Israel – OCTOBER 29, 2020:

A team of entrepreneurs and business people under Israel based Empower Africa this week launched its business network platform in Kigali.

The aim, they say, is to collaborate with their Rwandan counterparts in different business sectors to drive economic growth and transformation in Africa.

Empower Africa, founded by Ezi Rapaport, the son of Israel-based businessman Martin Rapaport, facilitates investment and trade in Africa.

“I thank the government of Rwanda for keeping the country open for business by allowing people to visit the country,” Caleb Zipperstein, one of the members said during a business networking event in Kigali.

Zipperstein described Empower Africa as a “trusted business community that seeks to collaborate with Rwandans and Africans across the continent” to forge partnerships for business.

At glance, the organization announced it was partnering with the Israel Embassy in Rwanda to launch an innovation hub.

“The innovation hub will bring together Israel and Rwandan entrepreneurs to build lasting companies with innovative solutions that will help the rest of the world,” Zipperstein noted.

Israel is globally renowned as being the “start-up nation” and is the world leader for number of start-ups per capita.

The country has at least 6,000 active startups and an economy dominated by industrial high-tech and entrepreneurship, according to Deloitte, a global accounting firm.

The world’s leading multinational companies have all chosen Israel: Microsoft, Motorola, Google, Apple, Facebook, Berkshire-Hathaway, Intel, HP, Siemens, GE, IBM, Philips, Lucent, Cisco, Applied Materials, IBM, J&J, and Toshiba are just some of the names in a long list of over 200 multinationals who realized that Israel is their ideal investment opportunity.

Many multinational corporations such as Tata, Kodak, and Citi Bank have established innovation centers in Israel.

Ron Adam, Israel Ambassador in Rwanda said they want to bring their experience to Rwanda. “Very soon we are going to open an innovation hub. The main idea is to bring Israel entrepreneurs and companies to do a proof of concept.”

Adam highlighted that the ultimate goal is to do business and empower local innovators, insisting that Rwanda is a good place to do business.

He however emphasised the need to let people fail if the country wants to create a pool innovative minds.

“There is a need to let people dare, let them fail. Don’t ask them to do something in one year, and if they don’t achieve it you think they are doomed,” he argued.

That is exactly how Israel was able to become a base for disruptive innovations, according to the ambassador.

“The vision (in Rwanda) is already there but we should let people try their hands and think outside the box. That’s a foundation of innovation,” he noted.

Rwanda is already home to Israel companies such as Motorola,

Businessman Emery Rubagenga believes partnerships with countries like Israel are key to driving business sector in Rwanda.

“Strategic partnerships are key, I believe and a country like Israel is unbelievably a role model when it comes to innovation,” he said during the event.

Rubagenga emphasised that Rwanda has an opportunity to work with Israel because the two have a lot in common.

“We have a lot in common – the history and philosophy, which is the entrepreneurial mindset,” he noted.

When President Paul Kagame visited Israel in July 2017 he invited Israeli investors and firms looking to enter the Rwandan market, saying the country was ripe for investments.

Media Contact:
info@empowerafrica.com

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Israeli firm launches business network in Rwanda

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Israeli firm launches business network in Rwanda:

Tel Aviv, Israel – OCTOBER 29, 2020:

A team of entrepreneurs and business people under Israel based Empower Africa this week launched its business network platform in Kigali.

The aim, they say, is to collaborate with their Rwandan counterparts in different business sectors to drive economic growth and transformation in Africa.

Empower Africa, founded by Ezi Rapaport, the son of Israel-based businessman Martin Rapaport, facilitates investment and trade in Africa.

“I thank the government of Rwanda for keeping the country open for business by allowing people to visit the country,” Caleb Zipperstein, one of the members said during a business networking event in Kigali.

Zipperstein described Empower Africa as a “trusted business community that seeks to collaborate with Rwandans and Africans across the continent” to forge partnerships for business.

At glance, the organization announced it was partnering with the Israel Embassy in Rwanda to launch an innovation hub.

“The innovation hub will bring together Israel and Rwandan entrepreneurs to build lasting companies with innovative solutions that will help the rest of the world,” Zipperstein noted.

Israel is globally renowned as being the “start-up nation” and is the world leader for number of start-ups per capita.

The country has at least 6,000 active startups and an economy dominated by industrial high-tech and entrepreneurship, according to Deloitte, a global accounting firm.

The world’s leading multinational companies have all chosen Israel: Microsoft, Motorola, Google, Apple, Facebook, Berkshire-Hathaway, Intel, HP, Siemens, GE, IBM, Philips, Lucent, Cisco, Applied Materials, IBM, J&J, and Toshiba are just some of the names in a long list of over 200 multinationals who realized that Israel is their ideal investment opportunity.

Many multinational corporations such as Tata, Kodak, and Citi Bank have established innovation centers in Israel.

Ron Adam, Israel Ambassador in Rwanda said they want to bring their experience to Rwanda. “Very soon we are going to open an innovation hub. The main idea is to bring Israel entrepreneurs and companies to do a proof of concept.”

Adam highlighted that the ultimate goal is to do business and empower local innovators, insisting that Rwanda is a good place to do business.

He however emphasised the need to let people fail if the country wants to create a pool innovative minds.

“There is a need to let people dare, let them fail. Don’t ask them to do something in one year, and if they don’t achieve it you think they are doomed,” he argued.

That is exactly how Israel was able to become a base for disruptive innovations, according to the ambassador.

“The vision (in Rwanda) is already there but we should let people try their hands and think outside the box. That’s a foundation of innovation,” he noted.

Rwanda is already home to Israel companies such as Motorola,

Businessman Emery Rubagenga believes partnerships with countries like Israel are key to driving business sector in Rwanda.

“Strategic partnerships are key, I believe and a country like Israel is unbelievably a role model when it comes to innovation,” he said during the event.

Rubagenga emphasised that Rwanda has an opportunity to work with Israel because the two have a lot in common.

“We have a lot in common – the history and philosophy, which is the entrepreneurial mindset,” he noted.

When President Paul Kagame visited Israel in July 2017 he invited Israeli investors and firms looking to enter the Rwandan market, saying the country was ripe for investments.

Media Contact:
info@empowerafrica.com

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Public Private Partnerships Driving Cold Chain Innovation for COVID Vaccine Transport in Africa

African woman giving man a vaccine

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Public Private Partnerships Driving Cold Chain Innovation for COVID Vaccine Transport in Africa

By: Leah Ngari 

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes 

According to the World Health Organization, Africa is far from ready for the continent’s largest immunization drive. Data collected by the WHO on immunization readiness from 40 countries revealed only a 33% readiness to roll out the vaccines, a figure that is well below the recommended 80%. In many of the continent’s countries, the complex task of acquiring, distributing, and administering the vaccines is made more difficult by the lack of infrastructure, including electricity and good road networks.

Despite increasing urbanization, more than half the population on the continent lives in rural areas. Governments alone do not have the tools or resources needed to transport, store, or track the vaccines during their journey to remote villages and once they arrive at off-grid clinics. Getting the currently available COVID vaccines to Africa’s rural populations will require cooperation between the public and private sectors.

Ideal Transportation of the Vaccine

Most currently available vaccines require maintaining a cold chain during transportation and storage. The Pfitzer vaccine needs to be stored at -70°C, while the Moderna Vaccine needs to be stored at -20 °C. Regular refrigerators, however, do not typically cool below 2°C. The two vaccines would be viable for a much shorter time at that temperature, which risks causing massive wastage from the lack of proper infrastructure to keep them viable enough time until they reach their destination. 

infographic showing the transport of vaccines

What’s working for the continent?

While the Covid vaccine rollout has highlighted the need for effective cold-chain infrastructure on the continent, establishing cold storage and transport solutions across the continent will have a lasting positive impact on food security, farmer income, and public health beyond the current crisis

Below are some of the private-public collaborations working on mapping out and implementing cold-chain logistics in the upcoming vaccination drive:

The Africa Center of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold chain (ACES)

Operating out of the University of Rwanda, the ACES is a new project to establish and maintain a suitable cold-chain that will link the continent’s logistics providers and farmers with experts and investors. ACES aims to minimize post-harvest food loss and medicine wastage on the continent, improve urban diets, and increase food exports. Researchers are currently identifying Rwanda and Africa’s cold needs to understand how to design the most efficient cold chain solutions.

Arktek Cold Storage Device

The current pandemic is not the first time the continent required cold storage for a vaccine. During the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak, a vaccine developed by Merck also needed to be stored at around -70°C. The Arktek Cold Storage Device was introduced to Sierra Leone in 2014 and helped transport vaccines that immunized hundreds of thousands of Africans. 

Global Good, now part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, developed the device in partnership with Acuma, a Chinese refrigeration company. The device acts like a super-thermos that can maintain temperatures of up to -80°C without using any batteries, electricity, or solar panels. Arktek’s devices are small enough to transport easily and strong enough to withstand harsh transit conditions, making them ideal for transporting vaccines to hard-to-reach places on vehicles, motorbikes, and boats. Countries could use the device to deliver Covid vaccines to people in remote areas without equipped hospitals. 

Use of Solar Technology for Transportation

Electricity on the continent is not widespread, but sunlight in most Sub-Saharan African countries is abundant and cheap. As a result, public bodies and startups have started working together to develop a solar-powered refrigeration device to keep the vaccines cold during storage and transport.

PEG Africa, a for-profit solar energy company operating in West Africa, builds solar-powered off-grid solutions for the rural West African market. Some of its products include and pay-as-you-go solar-powered freezers for fishermen and women and solar-powered water pumps for small-holder farmers. Now, the company is collaborating with Power Africa, a public-private partnership facilitated by USAID, to provide solar-powered systems to off-grid clinics in Africa

Another company driving cold-storage innovation on the continent is Gricd, a Nigerian startup that has designed solar-powered smart cold boxes. Gricd’s goal is to minimize waste of food, medicine, and medical supplies such as blood and plasma and solve the “last mile” problem in rural and remote areas. Since Covid started, the company has been helping transport Coronavirus test samples from remote locations, and its cold boxes are in the process of acquiring PQS certification from the WHO

Private-public partnerships driving innovation in cold-chain infrastructure  

Private-public partnerships are leading the way for cold-chain innovation on the continent. These types of partnerships will grow as African countries continue their race against time to deliver vaccines to their populations. The cold storage solutions designed for Covid vaccine transport will continue to serve the continent long after the pandemic is managed. 

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The European Investment Bank (EIB) and Bank of Kigali have joined forces to provide a €100 million financing package for agroecological projects in Rwanda.
US-based clean energy companies Astra Energy and Powertron Global have joined forces to establish a joint venture focused on waste-to-energy projects across Africa.
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