Can the Seychelles become a global trade hub?
Despite being dwarfed by other African countries, the Seychelles archipelago in the western Indian Ocean is aiming to become a hub for trade between African nations, emulating small countries such as Singapore which acts as an Asian hub for the global commodities trade.
Speaking at the island’s ‘African Prosperity conference’ the Chairman of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry, (SCCI) Marco Francis said: "I have travelled to many parts of Africa. Africa has some very good structures to do business. African businessmen have the same vision as we do, they want to do business and they want to expand. Let’s partner together.”
In an effort to boost trade, leaders from 26 African countries met earlier this year to sign a declaration to this end in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt which will establish a free-trade zone spanning almost the entire eastern half of the continent.
The Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA) incorporates member countries from the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It therefore stretches from the southernmost tip of the continent to Egypt, which is the continent’s most northern nation.
Although Seychelles’ regional imports to these nations totalled as much as $214 million in 2012, this was offset by weak reciprocal exports of $3.8 million, which indicates that, if nothing else, much more still can be achieved in this area.
Francis said: “We need to remove barriers…air access, vessel infrastructure to transport containers. These are what we need to develop to make it easier to import within Africa instead of other countries.”
Another barrier identified as being an impediment to cross-border trade are prohibitive visa rules and air links that often restrict the movement of businessmen to establish partnerships in neighbouring states. South Africa recently faced criticism for its controversial VISA rules.
The president of the Tanzanian Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, Peter Chisawillo, said: “I see great business opportunities in Seychelles, for example tourism. In my country people do not recognise Seychelles as tourism destination.”
Participants of the conference also include organisations such as the PTA Bank, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), and regional organisations such as the African Union Commission.
Alongside these efforts, the Seychelles recently became accredited as an Offshore Financial Centre (OFC) and was ranked as the seventh most competitive economy in sub-Saharan Africa in our August Issue.
SOURCE: [Seychelles News Agency]
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.