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Finance (458)

Speke Apartments Writes To US Embassy Over Don Zella, Fake Dollars

Speke Apartments, through their parent company Speke Hotel (U) Ltd, has written to the United States of America (US) Embassy in Uganda and the European Union (EU) in Uganda notifying them of a potential international racket involving socialite Don Zella, real names Sheila Nadege, dealing in counterfeit US dollars and other European currencies.

 The letter written by Bongo Ahmed, the head of security at Speke Apartments is also copied to Uganda Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) so that they can pick interest in the matter. The FIA monitors, investigates and prevents money laundering in Uganda.

"There is a recent matter reported at Jinja Road Police Station vide reference SDRE 15/25/12/2020 where a reknown socialite one Sheila Nadege also known as Don Zella had complained of a break into a hotel apartment at Speke Apartments where she allegedly lost up to United States Dollars Ninety Thousand (USD90, 000).

"As you will see on your own investigations, she did not seem eager to follow up with the police on this matter and never asked on the state of the said American currency, parts of the letter signed off by Bongo Ahmed, the head of security at Ruparelia Group, the conglomerate owning the apartments through Speke Hotel read.

“As CCTV footage exits and can be availed pointing to likely connivance between the said Nadege Sheilla and the principal suspect in the CCTV footage, police effected an arrest of the principal suspect in the CCTV footage,” Bongo further writes in the two paged letter already received by the US embassy, EU in Uganda and FIA.

Bongo adds: “One arrest, the suspect was found with up to USD80, 000 (United States Dollars Eighty Thousand) in counterfeit American currency and other European currencies. The exhibits are still at Jinja road police and Sheila is still at large with the indication that she will likely leave the country soon.

It appears evident that there is an international racket inclusive of the arrested suspect and the said Don Zella dealing in counterfeit USD and EU currencies,”

Bongo says the purpose for writing the letter to the recipients is to bring the matter to their attention, implore them to interest themselves in the prospect of an international racket dealing in counterfeit American currency and other European currencies and to pursue the matter to a logical conclusion as per their nation's laws. He also attaches a series of pictorial evidence.

Don Zella recently sued Speke Apartments seeking damages worth $125,000 (about Shs461 million) after a thief allegedly broke into her room and stole her properties and cash. She was staying at the Apartments with her family, sisters and close associates.

In the lawsuit filed before the High Court Civil Division, Don Zella states that on December 6, 2020, she rented two apartment rooms number 107 and 512 operated by Speke Apartments.

However, on December 25 while she and her family members were away, a thief or thieves at around 4 pm, broke into her apartment room 107 and stole her properties worth Shs460 million. It turned out that the suspect was Jeremiah Ojok, a close associate of Don Zella.

Investigations by police led to the arrest of Ojok in Arua with counterfeit currencies of the US dollars and various European currencies. Ojok is currently being held at Jinja Rd police station in Kampala. It is here that Speke Apartments have written to the US embassy and the EU in Uganda.

SCAM: Don Zella’s Colleague Arrested With Fake Dollars

A close associate of socialite Sheila Don Zella, real name Sheila Nadege, Jeremiah Ojok has been arrested by police with fake US Dollars and is under custody, Kampala Metropolitan Police Deputy Spokesperson Luke Owoyesigyire said in a statement on Wednesday.

This comes hours after the socialite claimed that she was robbed of property and cash in foreign currency worth Shs461m from her rented apartment at Speke Apartments Wampewo. CCTV cameras however captured the two indulging at the posh apartment, with each taking time to visit the other’s room.

Don Zella instead of taking care of the mess accused and dragged Speke Apartment to court for negligence and demanded through the suit that she is paid Shs462 as compensation. No investigations have led to the arrest of her friend.

“Police at Jinja Road is holding a one Adome Jeremy/Ojok Jeremiah, 36, for allegedly stealing 80,000 USD (over Shs300m) from Room number 107 at Speke Apartments, Wampewo, police said in a statement.

“The money was allegedly stolen belonged to socialite Sheila Don Zella alias Sheila Nandege, 36, who had booked the apartment for 30 days on the December 5th, 2020.

Don Zella’s Plan To Defraud Speke Apartment Fails

Kampala city socialite Sheila Nadege popularly known as Don Zella recently sued Speke Apartments seeking damages worth $125,000 (about Shs 461 million). In the lawsuit filed before the High Court Civil Division, Don Zella states that on December 6, 2020, she rented two apartment rooms number 107 and 512 operated by Speke Apartments.

However, on December 25 while she and her family members were away, a thief or thieves at around 4 pm, broke into her apartment room 107 and stole her properties worth Shs460 million.

Don Zella insists that the said property were left in the locked apartment and also in the safe which the thief or thieves allegedly unscrewed and stole.

In the suit, Don Zella says she lost eight passports (7 USA and 1 Ugandan passport) requiring $2,000 (about Shs7 million) for replacement, two laptops (H/P ProBook and Macbook, a hard drive worth $3,000 (about Shs11 million), jewellery worth $15,000 (about Shs55 million).

Other properties included; four phones worth $4,800 (about Shs18 million), two kids’ tablets worth $600 (about 2 million), a Nikon D850 camera worth $4,000 (14 million), cash of $90,000 (about Shs 332 million) and Shs30m.

However, CCTV footage indicates that Don Zella and the suspect, a one Jeremiah Ojok, were known to each other. In fact, at one time, Don Zella is seen leading Ojok (who also had rented a room at the Apartments) to her room (107). The same footage also shows Don Zella heading to Ojok’s booked room number 110 on Christmas Eve.

Other videos show the two and friends lounging in the corridors having a good time. With this close interaction, there is a possibility that the money was taken by people known to Don Zella and her going to court is an attempt to defraud Speke Apartment, a thing that has failed with the emergence of the new video evidence.

 

Ruparelia Calls For Extension Of COVID19 Credit Relief, Tax Measures Into 2021, 2022

The founder and chairman of the Ruparelia Group Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia in his New Year’s message to Ugandans has called on the government to extend the credit relief and tax administration measures it had put in place at the peak of the first wave of COVID19, to aid quicker economic recovery in the country.

The businessman wants the government interventions to extend into the years 2021 and 2022 following a challenging 2020. Like many businesses, Sudhir said Ruparelia Group suffered heavily including losing thousands of employees as the Group tried to survive the first wave of the virus.

Regardless, we took it all in good measure, because we knew it was the right thing to do and we knew the rest of Uganda and the world, had to make these little sacrifices for us to be able to manage the ravaging effects of the Covid-19 disease, the businessman said.

Ruparelia Group has business interest in the education sector, hospitality industry, finance and real estate, all that suffered the brunt of coronavirus. Sudhir says to survive they had to become more innovative. In the education sector, they took on online learning, put in place extra health and safety standards at our buildings and hotels and adopted home working for some of the non-essential staff.

“We would also like to thank the government, for the various initiatives such as the credit relief measures announced in April 2020, the tax administration measures announced by Uganda Revenue Authority etc. that eased some pain for the private sector,” Sudhir said in a statement.

And now that a second wave of the virus is beckoning, Sudhir wants the government to extend these subsidies well into the years ahead. “It is also my prayer, that government, extends, into 2021 and possibly 2022, many of the credit relief and tax administration measures it had put in place at the peak of the first wave, to aid quicker economic recovery,”

He called on members of the public to continue cooperating with the government by observing SoPs and health guidelines. “Observing SoPs is also essential for the reopening of the economy almost fully, saving jobs and raising the necessary tax revenue to keep many of the government programmes running,” he said.

Equity Becomes First Bank In Eastern & Central Africa To Achieve Trillion-Shilling Balance Sheet Milestone

Equity Group has crossed the Ksh1, 000, 000, 000, 000 (approximately $9.2bn) thereby becoming the first bank in Eastern and Central Africa to cross this mark. The milestone was achieved upon the successful migration of BCDC to Equity’s Finacle core banking platform.

The one trillion mark by Equity lifts the visibility of the financial sector in Eastern Africa significantly to compete favorably with financial institutions in South Africa, West Africa and North Africa for project and development finance.

Speaking when announcing this milestone from Kinshasa Congo where he was witnessing the migration of BCDC to Equity’s core banking platform, Dr. Mwangi said the milestone has shattered the psychological barrier of a trillion-shilling balance sheet.“The benefits to our customers will be immense,” he said.

“The bank is also the most capitalized in East and Central Africa with over Ksh. 142 billion giving it a single lending obligor of Ksh. 35 billion.  Equity banking subsidiaries will now be in a position to leverage the Group’s strength to extend large corporate loans across all the countries where Equity operates, he added.

Dr. Mwangi said BCDC brings to the Group 112 years of corporate banking experience and will be instrumental in strengthening Equity’s supreme banking experience. In return, BCDC will benefit from the agility of a dynamic and disruptive business model.

The two brands will create a formidable financial institution in DRC with a tested and trusted BCDC brand that has proven itself for 112 years and the global reputation of Equity Bank, its capitalization, advanced technology allowing digital, online banking and sophisticated security systems.

Speaking during the migration of BCDC to Equity’s Finacle platform, Yves Cuypers, BCDC’s Managing Director said, “We are excited at the possibilities that Equity Group Holdings brings to our BCDC customers. By becoming part of a large international financial services Group, our customers will enjoy a wider choice of products and services and most importantly, they will immediately be able to access modern technologically driven banking, including a versatile mobile banking experience, international card payment options and merchants, access to a wide range of payment outlets and a broad digital banking footprint.”

ICEA's Simba Motor Policy Most Innovative Non Life Product

By Michael Kanaabi Dollar

ICEA General Insurance emerged as the most innovative insurer in the General Insurance category at the inaugural Insurance Innovation awards held recently at the Kampala Serena Hotel.

Through the company’s motor comprehensive product dubbed Simba motor comprehensive, the insurer has been able to give clients a much better offering beyond other ordinary motor comprehensive products on the market offer.

“ Firstly this product does not have a consideration for ‘excess' a term used in the insurance business wherein case one's insured item in this case the vehicle is to be replaced, the insurer only parts with 90% of the value while the 10% has to be covered by the client,” says Daniel Kairu ICEA's head Marketing and Business Development.

On top of paying one's full amount when the claim is due, the process of getting one's claim when your car is damaged or destroyed under this policy has been simplified.

“All you need to do is produce your driving permit, logbook, photos of the damaged vehicle (accident) and based on the valuation of the vehicle at the time the insurance policy was taken out, the insurer will settle the claim,” Kairu says.

Other benefits of the award-winning policy include the fact that when your car is being worked on in the garage in case of an accident, you are given an alternative car to use in the meantime or the man you spend hiring a private taxi like Uber is refunded until your vehicle is returned.

With just a little extra 0.25% on top of the 4% of the vehicle’s value, you would pay for a conventional comprehensive insurance policy, you will get additional cover for personal accident, replacement of property like phones snatched while on the road.

In case you are far away from home when you get an accident emergency accommodation and transportation for you is also reimbursed and finally, this policy also entitled you to a tank of high-quality fuel from Shell whenever it is renewed.

It is as a result of this product innovation embedded with the benefits that the Simba Motor policy took home the accolade for the most innovative non-life product at the recently concluded insurance innovation awards.

Equity Uganda Unveils New Brand Identity

Equity Uganda, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Equity Group Holdings has unveiled a new identity in line with Equity Group Holdings’ ongoing transformation journey. The new identity is aimed at creating a sustainable growth path and service delivery in today’s dynamic financial services environment.

Going forward, Equity Uganda will present itself as a unified brand, with one basket of products and services under one roof. From an identity perspective, the new logo now features “Equity” without an entity name such as Bank to signify a one-stop-shop and a consolidated business model for its inclusive range of financial services.

Managing Director Equity Uganda Samuel Kirubi said that the new look is symbolic of Equity’s next phase of transformation to a unified brand offering integrated financial services in line with its vision of championing the socio-economic prosperity of the people of Africa.

Kirubi added that the new look signals Equity’s commitment to an enhanced customer experience “We are constantly innovating to make the customer journey simpler and easier and to ensure that our offerings are constantly relevant to the evolving needs and aspirations of our customers.

These improvements will continue to be progressively rolled out supported by customer education. We have witnessed how Equiduuka, our agency infrastructure has broadened financial access and deepened financial inclusion while at the same time earning them an extra revenue stream and creating jobs in rural and urban centres.”

Equity Group Holdings Plc CEO and Managing Director Dr James Mwangi noted that the operating environment has changed, with the most dramatic shift being customers changing needs and aspirations in line with changing lifestyle brought about by technological advancements.

“Additionally, the market demographics are embracing youth-targeted products and services and becoming more mobile and digital. As a result, customers are increasingly showing a preference for self-service banking, making banking something you do, and not somewhere you go. As a result, Equity will continue to innovate and disrupt its offerings to meet the current and future needs of customers.”

Local Currency Financing For Off-Grid Energy Solutions In Africa Limited, AfDB Report

Although advantageous, local currency financing for off-grid renewables projects and businesses in Africa is still limited, according to a new report released by the African Development Bank.

The report, Exploring the Role of Guarantee Products in Supporting Local Currency Financing of Sustainable Off-Grid Energy Projects in Africa, summarized findings of an in-depth study of documents on the off-grid energy and local currency financing sector, as well as interviews of energy stakeholders in the commercial and industrial and mini-grid sectors in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

Companies that invest in off-grid renewable energy solutions in Africa grapple with limited access to credit as a result of risk profiling that is of concern to providers of local debt financing. Where credits are offered, the interest rates can be extremely high.

There are potential advantages in using local currency debt financing for off-grid renewables projects and businesses to mitigate foreign exchange (FX) risks in the African continent. With the emergence of leasing and solar-as-a-service providers, there is the need for credit enhancement products to assess the availability of local currency finance for sustainable energy projects in Africa and the obstacles developers face in tapping into local financial and capital markets.

"Engaging with local currency markets to provide access to long-term local currency funding will allow borrowers to reduce currency and interest rate risks," Dr. Daniel Schroth, Acting Director for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, said in opening remarks made at the virtual launch of the report on 25 November.

Countries are facing the dual objective of increasing the availability of energy to households and businesses while decreasing the dependency on fossil fuels by adopting renewable or low carbon technologies. However, local currency finance providers have limited appetite for investing in the commercial and industrial sector, other than through traditional on-balance sheet corporate lending to established players, the report reveals.

The African Development Bank through the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA), actively searches for solutions that can help to catalyse investments in Africa to scale-up the deployment of decentralized energy access solutions.

Wale Shonibare, Director, Energy Financial Solutions, Policy and Regulations, at the African Development Bank said, "the participation of local banks and capital markets in Africa's off-grid sector is still extremely limited. Therefore, mobilizing local capital into Africa's energy sector is important for developers deploying off-grid solutions."

One approach to stimulating local currency lending is through credit enhancement products that provide risk mitigation for local currency lenders and institutional investors.

Alastair Smith, Co-founder & Head of Nigeria Operation of Power Gen Renewable Energy, argued that interest rates on local currency debt financing is extremely high in countries that PowerGen operates. "If we are able to use local currency, it will be preferable for us, but we are unable to get local currency support that is affordable in most countries."

While there are challenges, the panellists also highlighted there has been progress with developing and launching more innovative structured solutions. Eric Mboma, Director of Subsidiaries and Affiliates at the Africa Guarantee Fund indicated that that through their Green Guarantee Portfolio, they provide a risk sharing offer for financial institutions, "taking up to 55% of risk in the sector to incentivise financial institutions to lend."

Per Van Swaay, Director at the TCX Fund, said that they have supported local currency financing in a number of off-grid renewable energy projects across Africa. This intervention ensures successful implementation of off-grid energy projects.

For Chinua Azubike, CEO, InfraCredit, "The ability to mobilise local currency financing is possible. We have provided local currency guarantee for energy projects, estimated at about 134MW capacity. This has increased from $50 million to $146 million today."

Anshul Rai, the Founder & CEO of the Nigeria Infrastructure Debt Fund also made a strong case for local currency financing and limited guarantee products in the African continent. "Guarantee products can play a role, but we don't see it as a replacement for undertaking proper financing scheme."

Clemens Calice, the Co-CEO of Lion's Head, highlighted that through the Facility for Energy Inclusion, they provide US dollar and local currency debt financing. He emphasised the importance of having a structured insurance and guarantee program alongside to support local debt financing.

Exploring the Role of Guarantee Products in Supporting Local Currency Financing of Sustainable Off-Grid Energy Projects in Africa aims to provide information, analysis, and insights on local currency opportunities for off-grid energy businesses and projects, with the objective of stimulating private-sector initiatives in the off-grid space.

African Development Bank Leads Drive To Deliver Electricity To All

Kindergarten teacher Fatima Zahera Hagou recalls that just a generation ago, when the sun went down over the Moroccon countryside, her rural village of Dar Laain ground to a halt and locals bedded down for the night.

Nowadays, Dar Laain, about 25km southwest of Marrakech, booms with life after dark, thanks to the expansion of the electricity grid. Residents have benefited from youth clubs, a communal bathhouse and a busy women's farming collective.

"I cannot imagine life in the village without electricity," said Hagou. "It brings us hope."

Given its importance to economic activity, quality of life and service delivery, energy is a cornerstone of the African Development Bank's development strategy for the continent through its Light Up and Power Africa High-5 priority.

With other development finance institutions, the Bank plays a critical role in financing electricity projects.

Bank operations helped to install 291 MW of new power capacity in 2019, 60% of which was renewable, according to the institution's Annual Development Effectiveness Review (ADER) 2020, published on November 19. The Bank also installed or improved 435 km of power distribution lines and supplied 468,000 people with new electricity connections.

One of those people is Araya Hizkias, the owner of a water bottling company in South Sudan's capital Juba. He used to rely on a diesel generator to keep his business going, which gobbled into his profits each month.

In November 2019 the city's new power grid was partially commissioned under the Bank's $38 million Juba Power Distribution System Rehabilitation and Expansion Project, which aims to boost security and economic activity in a city still recovering from conflict.

"We don't experience random damage to our machines anymore and things are working easier. We are making more savings and expanding production," Hizkias said.

Despite these positive strides, access to electricity on the continent is still low, at 45%. The Covid-19 pandemic may further constrain the pace of expanding electricity access to millions of Africans not connected.

A key element of the Bank's work to address energy shortages includes expanding investments in renewable energy. The Bank recently approved a new solar project in Sudan and new hydropower projects in Liberia and Madagascar.

In Chad, a Bank loan approved last year kickstarted the first phase of the 32 MW Djermaya solar project. The loan also covered a Partial Risk Guarantee, key to unlocking investment in the Central African country, which has enormous solar potential but currently depends heavily on polluting wood fuels.

The guarantee is an example of the Bank's efforts to bridge the financing gap and leverage public and private sector investment to meet the continent's energy demand. The International Energy Agency estimates that achieving reliable electricity supply in Africa would require a quadrupling of investments to around $120 billion annually through 2040 (http://bit.ly/37TlIfS).

Achieving this will require innovation and partnerships that allow energy sector players to move faster to assure sustainable energy access even in remote or rural parts of Africa.

One solution is to decentralise energy networks. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the African Development Bank Board last year approved a loan of $20 million to support renewable-based, mini-grid solutions in the off-grid cities of Isiro, Bumba and Genema.

Someday, DRC and many other countries could be like Morocco, where the power grid now reaches most citizens, with some 40,000 new villages hooked up in the last two decades.

"Since I've had access to electricity, my business has grown. I can now afford to work on my art and expand my clientele," said Mohamed Dakni, a 32-year-old welder in the village of Douar Bou Azza near Marrakech.

"I used to make small objects that I sold for a cheap price at the market. Today I can develop my business, my creativity, and make a better living."

Ruparelia Group Unveils Fancy Tagore Living Apartments

Meera Investments Ltd, the real estate and property arm of the Ruparelia Group of Companies Saturday officially opened Tagore Living, the Group’s first built-to-sell residential condominium project located along Kira Road.

Jyostna Ruparelia, a director at Ruparelia Group, said that Tagore Living offer buyers a unique one-off opportunity to invest in development – either as a long term rentable investment or to live in.

“Tagore Living is aimed at creating an opportunity for both Ugandans and foreigners to invest and own property in Uganda, for either residential or investment purposes,” Jyostna said, adding: “It is a residential project with luxurious and elegant living experience.”

Jyostna revealed that the project has 28 apartments. “We started selling these apartments off-plan,” she said, adding that each apartment is well priced, giving anyone any opportunity to own the apartment with flexible payment plans.

She said land is becoming very expensive, making it difficult for people to build houses. “That’s why we have come up with build- to sell apartments. It makes financial sense; you have a property instantly. You can move in and use it as collateral instead of building slowly,” Jyostna said.

She noted that the apartments are state of the art. “They are built in a way to avoid as much maintenance as possible,” she said, adding that security, water and electricity are all guaranteed. The apartments have 2-3 bedrooms.

Asked about the costs of the apartments, Jyostna said: “We have apartments starting from US$210,000 (Shs772.7m), but we have flexible payment terms to ease cash flows and make it affordable for everyone.”

SOURCE: Business Focus

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