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Tanzanian company sees opportunity in waste management

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Tanzania-based Phenix Recycling is a bespoke waste management and recycling service for businesses in eastern and southern Africa. Athina Kyriakopoulou, founder and CEO, spoke with Justin Probyn, author of this report.

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

Businesses across the East Africa region are struggling with the issue of how to responsibly manage their waste. At the same time, local innovative startups using waste as a resource are lacking reliable and predictable access to their waste. Phenix Recycling is connecting the two, creating an “uninterrupted power supply” for waste and enabling a circular economy across geographies, industries and sectors.

2. How did you finance your startup?

To date, Phenix has been funded solely by founder capital of around US$50,000. This gave us a two-year runway in which we piloted three versions of our business model, and successfully serviced clients across two countries and two industries.

3. If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?

That investment would be spent on purchasing new equipment and setting up long-term hubs in two of our main locations. This includes machinery and items that would allow us to work more efficiently and reduce the upstream cost of our services by making our processed material more valuable downstream.

Read also: Tanzania, Uganda deepen economic ties with deal for supply of gas

4. What risks does your business face?

Phenix is one of the first of its kind therefore at the forefront of a new formal industry. This means that we are competing with informal sectors while trying to build the awareness around the need for our services. Navigating the regulatory environment is also a challenge as we have an innovative businesses model that is not fully regulated yet.

5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

By far the best form of marketing is word of mouth through business networks. As a new company and trying to build a new industry, happy and satisfied business customers are the key to acquiring new customers. Particularly in established industries like tourism, where businesses tend to follow the pack. Once you have your foot in the door by satisfying a few key leaders in their field, the rest will follow and it won’t be long until its “industry standard”.

6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

When I received my first revenue. Running a B2B business is drastically different from B2C, in that clients take a lot longer to acquire, sometimes over eight months; particularly your first clients. So when I had my first paying client, it was a huge success and milestone.

7. Tell us about your biggest mistake, and what have you’ve learnt from it?

I think my biggest mistake was making operational investments into teams and facilities before having the customers signed and sealed. No matter how promising a customer is, they aren’t a customer until pen touches paper. Also, during the validation phase, a customer who signs up with a huge discount, does not validate willingness nor the ability to pay for the service. You need customers who pay full price to prove your model.

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Binance in talks with Nigerian govt over executive’s detention

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Following the arrest of Binance’s head of financial crime compliance by Nigerian authorities last month, the company’s CEO said Thursday that the company was working very closely with Nigerian officials.

The trial against Tigran Gambaryan, the executive, and another Binance employee, who are accused of moving more than $35 million, had been put off until May 2 in Nigeria, the country’s anti-corruption body said on April 8.

“What I can say is we are working very closely with the Nigerian authorities to try to resolve the matter,” CEO Richard Teng said, speaking about Gambaryan’s case during the Token2049 crypto conference in Dubai.

Former executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British Kenyan who works as a regional manager for Africa, escaped detention in Nigeria last month. While in Nigeria, Anjarwalla and Gambaryan were arrested by the country’s anti-corruption body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), after arriving on February 26, after which the country banned several websites that traded cryptocurrencies.

Before they were arrested, the head of Nigeria’s central bank said that Binance was being investigated in Nigeria because of “suspicious flows” of cash through Binance Nigeria in 2023. The Securities and Trade Commission of the United States and other government agencies have susbsisting restrictions on bitcoin trade.

Besides the case brought by the EFCC, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigeria’s tax office, has also charged Binance and the executives with tax evasion.

Sacheendran declined to comment on the charges against the company but stressed that “This was a one-off. It’s never happened to us before”. The Binance head of regional markets told Reuters on the sidelines of the Dubai conference when asked about the detentions.

Additionally, Binance revealed on Thursday that it had obtained a license from VARA, Dubai’s regulatory body. This will enable the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange to target regular people in addition to qualified and institutional ones.

Bloomberg reported earlier Thursday, citing sources, that parts of VARA’s process to give the license included Changpeng Zhao, the founder and former CEO of Binance, giving up vote control of the Dubai unit.

“That’s pure speculation. Again, we don’t comment on media speculation… Our relationship, our dealings with regulators are confidential,” Teng told journalists.

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IMF says South Africa needs to do more to cut spending, lower debt-to-GDP ratio

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A top official from the International Monetary Fund has revealed that South Africa needs to do more to cut spending and lower its debt-to-gross domestic product ratio. The multilateral body stressed that the ratio is expected to rise from 74% in 2022 to almost 86% by 2029.

Era Dabla-Norris, deputy head of Fiscal Affairs, said that the government could cut back on transfers to state-owned businesses, make cuts to subsidies that don’t help specific companies, and make big changes to the way the economy works to boost growth.

She told a news conference that South Africa’s energy and logistics problems had to be fixed right away.

A Statista study shows that between 2023 and 2028, the South African national debt was expected to keep going up by a total of 163.3 billion U.S. dollars, or 59.99%.

The national debt is expected to hit a new high point of 435.46 billion U.S. dollars in 2028, after going up for ten years in a row. Notably, the national debt has steadily risen over the past few years.

The IMF says that the general government’s gross debt is made up of all its debts that need to be paid back with interest and/or capital at some point in the future.

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