We are proud to announce that we have podcasted the full investor analyst presentation of AICO Africa Limited. AICO Africa Limited is our 22nd listed company client and the 5th in the agricultural sector. To cater for slow internet links we have published a low resolution and a hi resolution version.

AICO is Zimbabwe’s leading diversified agro-industrial conglomerate (with a market capitalization of approximately US$96m) and owns dominant brands in the seed, cotton, FMCG industries in Zimbabwe and surrounding regions, and is the holding company of Seed Co Limited (market capitalization +/-US$252 million), Olivine Industries and the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe Limited.

AICO is the second company in Zimbabwe to professionally podcast their analyst presentation and is one of the few listed companies in Zimbabwe that is actively disseminating information on its long term investment story as its businesses emerge stronger from the hyper-inflation that ended in March 2009 when the Zimbabwe economy dollarised.

AICO’s new website and communications tools are designed to push information to investors and stakeholders as soon as it is released. AICO also actively solicits feedback of the recipient of their email alerts and the company has invited investors and stakeholders to register and communicate with AICO – you will be assured of a response.

You will also be interested to note that so far my survey on online investor relations practices in Africa reveals that 54% of respondents think that regulators should take the lead in using the internet to disseminate listed company information. Only 26% feel that listed companies should lead the way. AICO is a company that is leading the way –as their online investor relations practices are among the most progressive in sub-Saharan Africa and set a leading example for its peers.





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Interesting developments are brewing in Nigeria’s beer market, according to an update for the benefit of international investors from Imara, the Pan-African financial services group.

Imara’s team of investment researchers stay close to developments in the West African nation as a dedicated Nigerian equities portfolio features strongly in the group’s suite of internationally marketed sub-Saharan investment funds.

Jonathan Chew, manager of the Imara Nigeria Fund, reports that SABMiller is about to disturb “what was a cosy duopoly” by entering a Nigerian brewing industry that has been dominated for years by Guinness and Nigerian Breweries.Figures from the Imara researchers indicate the market growth potential for successful players in the country’s non-oil sector.

The Nigerian economy grew by an annualised 7.4% in the first quarter. The non-oil economy was the major driver, growing by 8.5% versus the 2.9% contribution from the oil economy. Recent profit figures from the brewing industry suggest Nigeria’s beer-baron’s share fully in the non-oil upsurge.

Imara analysts say first quarter sales at Nigerian Breweries are up 30% while net profits have risen by 22.7%. For the three months to the end of March, Guinness announced sales growth of 11.4% and a rise in net profit of 32%.The beer market is “growing by around 7% in volume terms a year”. Yet consumption per capita remains low in comparison to many international markets, suggesting continued growth is in prospect.SABMiller recently decided to enter this growth market by building a greenfields brewery.

Imara notes: “Their current plans are small in relation to the potential size of the market and to the existing capacity of the two incumbents.“Both Guinness and Nigerian Breweries are also expanding capacity, the former by adding new capacity.”Imara suggests that the market could be big enough for all players: “The capital cycle in brewing is still in a very early phase with supply well short of potential demand.”

Imara is an independent, Botswana-listed investment banking group that prides itself on objective decisionmaking in the service of its clients. The company is mid-sized and hasoffices in Angola, Botswana, South Africa and the UK and associate offices in Malawi, Mauritius, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Imara has also partnered with Chapel Hill Denham in Nigeria, NIC Capital in Kenya, Namibia Equity Brokers and Mac Capital in Dubai.The Group is an active participant in Africa’s financial markets and maintains an extensive research coverage of regional equities. Funds under management exceed US$450m and assets under administration exceed US$1.77 billion.Imara provides a range of specialised financial products and services that can be broadly categorised as: Asset management (institutional and private client)

 Corporate finance and advisory services

 Securities

 Trust and administration servicesImara Group subsidiaries are regulated by: NBFIRA in Botswana, the FSA (UK), the FSB, JSE, SAFEX (South Africa), SEC, ZSE and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the FSC (Mauritius) and the Reserve Bank of Malawi.



IMARA CONTACT: Jonathan ChewMobile: UAE +971 566 019 024 /UK +44 776 8903 759E-mail: jon.chew@imara.co

CONSULTANCY CONTACT: Carol DundasTel: +27 11 444 0650Mobile: +27 83 447 6648

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African Information Solutions (“AIC”) is pleased to announce the online investor relations initiative of Seed Co Limited.

Seed Co Limited is AIC’s 23rd launched listed company client and the 6th in the agricultural sector, which clients have an aggregate market capitalization of US$2.1bn. Seed Co is the leading producer and marketer of certified crop seeds in Southern Africa and is a subsidiary of the AICO Africa Limited Group.

Seed Co Limited, listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (market capitalization US$252 million) has 6 dedicated research stations and operations in 15 countries. Seed Co is Africa’s largest proprietary seed breeding, production, processing and distribution group. Seedco’s website is content rich with full information on its seed varieties online accessible by crop or by country.

David Amira, an equities analyst at Lynton Edwards Securities, a registered stockbroker said this of Seedco’s marketing and investor relations initiatives online:-

“Seedco’s business model is tried and tested, and the group has successfully launched forays into foreign markets, making it a truly African seed company. A focus on research and development produces top quality brands, something which not only provides Seed Co with a competitive advantage, but furthers the fight for food security in Africa.”

Morgan Nzwere, Seedco’s Group CEO provided key insights in Seedco’s online strategy:-

“As the leading producer and marketer of certified crop seeds in Southern Africa, we recognize our stakeholders’ requirement for regular and timely, agricultural, business and investor information. Accordingly, our interactive communication tools on our new website will be used as a key communications tool in our stakeholder outreach initiatives in future”

View Seedco’s online investor presentation here.

View Seed Co’s website here.
Listen to the full podcast of the analyst presentation here




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African listed company executives generally want nothing to do with smaller shareholders. Dealing with smaller shareholders who are ignorant and poor is costly and a “waste of time”. There’s another slant however. An innovative view that should be considered by any listed company given the way the Internet is changing this world. Please see the interesting article below on how to engage your shareholder base in a respectful manner.

These shareholders that are “irrelevant” and a “waste of time”  are human. They have feelings, emotions and can communicate with other humans about the way companies and brands treat them. This communication is enhanced by the new technological era to the extent that this communication can go global in seconds. In short companies cannot categorise shareholders as shareholders, they are people with many interests in the listed company in which they are a shareholder. Call them “stakeholders” people that are:-

  • Interested that the company is acting responsibly in the community – this is more important in Africa where the degree of difference in wealth is very high
  • Interested in the services and products offered by the company – Africa’s markets are competitive
  • Interested in their dividend – African retail shareholders are almost singly focused on their dividends
  • Interested in companies paying taxes and employing people – this is related to the first point above

The article below, on how listed companies in the USA use a free Google open forum to solicit questions from shareholders at the AGM is an innovative tool that could be used by listed companies in Africa to communicate with shareholders (stakeholders) responsibly. But there are some key questions on how to structure this interaction effectively. There are three key issues that a listed company executive needs to consider when structuring an initiative like this:-

  • Is the forum public or private?
  • Are forum participants identified or anonymous?
  • Is the forum limited to shareholders or anyone?

Here are the answers to how to structure your online shareholder forum (a summary of what Dominic Jones says below):-

  • The forum should be public
  • The forum participants should be identified
  • The forum should be open to anyone – shareholders are not identified as such, they are identified has humans interested in your company. Unclassified or tainted by perception.

Here are extracts of insight from Dominic Jones, world leader in online IR from the article below:-

“Small shareholders have no incentive to participate in the forum because they will perceive that anything they say will not be taken seriously. This is because everyone is classified by the size of their shareholding. They’re not people, they’re just a holding size. …………. it reflects their worldview where everyone is just an account. Social media, of which shareholder forums are one form, is about people interacting with people.”

How about anonymity?

“ anonymity is not conducive to serious discussion on forums. Usually, people who are anonymous have something to hide and are less accountable for what they say. It would have been much better not to show holding ranges and instead allow users to create a profile and identify themselves, if that is what they wanted. Anyone who chose to be anonymous would not be taken seriously by other participants

Check out Google moderator here. This is an excellent tool for African listed companies to combat the apathy in dealing with their shareholders. Think out the box, do something different and innovative that will double up as some seriously good PR.

But why should a listed company executive bother with an initiative of this nature?

  • Humans are human. They will hold the listed company in high regard – their corporate reputation improves, shareholders products and spread the word.
  • Foreign investors will appreciate this – they get to be heard – and get an excellent feel for what’s being said about the company. It is more than likely that they as foreigners have not had interaction with management and this may be a welcome channel to communicate
  • Its good corporate governance and will result in some good PR
  • The feedback that you receive might actually help corporate strategy

If you are in anyway skeptical about the foundation upon which this article is written then ask yourself why listed companies and corporates worldwide are engaging stakeholders directly with Facebook and Twitter etc.

Here is Dominic’s article below:-

Attributed to Dominic JonesIR Web Report‘s founder and an online investor relations consultant.

A GROWING number of companies are using the web to give their shareholders opportunities to pose questions to directors and executives at their annual meetings.

Since many shareholders are unable to attend meetings in person, the move by companies to use the web could help to reengage apathetic retail stockholders in the annual meeting process. At many U.S. company meetings last yearless than 5% of retail shareholder accounts participated.

Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) recently opened a forum for stockholders to submit questions and vote for other shareholders’ submissions. The most popular questions will be put to the board and management at the company’s annual meeting on May 7.

To filter the questions, the Internet giant is using Google Moderator, a free application that it has long used for internal meetings. The White House used the same application for a Town Hall with President Obama last month.

Google's shareholder meeting question forum uses Google Moderator
Anyone with a Google account is able to submit and vote on questions for the company’s annual meeting.

One of the least tech savvy companies, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BKR.A, BKR.B), broke with tradition this year to include an Internet component for its May 2 annual meeting. The company asked shareholders to email questions to leading journalists, who will choose which questions to ask at the meeting. A draw will also be held for shareholders in attendance who want to ask questions.

In the UK, Barclays plc (NYSE: BCS) included a form in its online annual report for investors to submit questions to the company. They are alsoinvited to email questions to be asked at the meeting. Similarly, UK-based insurer Aviva plc (LON:AV) provides an online form for shareholders to submit questions for its upcoming meeting.

For several years, International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) has invited shareholders to submit annual meeting questions online and thenpublished answers after the meeting. It is doing the same thing for its 2009 meeting on April 28Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) has followed a similar process for the past two years, but does not post answers to questions online.

Barclays plc has integrated shareholder feedback into its annual report
`”Your View” is a main section in Barclays’ online annual report.

As we were first to report, this year Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC) will become the first company to permit live voting at its annual meeting via the web. Shareholders will also be able to ask questions online during the meeting.

Last week, Intel launched a closed shareholder forum, which is built on the Investor Network platform of Broadridge Financial Solutions (NYSE: BR). I suspect Intel’s forum will be a flop because it is not public, because it demeans retail shareholders, and because it’s not clear what investors are signing up for.

Of all the approaches companies are taking, I like Google’s the most. It’s open, transparent and relies on the crowd to determine which are the most important questions. Best of all, any company can use the same approach for free.

Finally, let me just place on record that inviting questions from shareholders who are unable to attend the annual meeting is not new. Australian companies such as BHP Billiton and Commonwealth Bank have long included a printed question card with their meeting materials for shareholders to mail back to the company.

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In many strange ways our managed corporate website and investor relations services, already is consistent with leading online IR practices of the First World. See below. Our stock exchanges in Africa are inefficient in distributing information online for free and widely. Our listed companies do not use newswire services and our brokers (too many of them) are starved of market liquidity (to generate commissions) and under-resourced.

So really its corporate Africa that’s driving its own future (or should be). This is good news and an opportunity for listed companies to build direct influence and grow brand directly – and not rely on others.

The article below, by Dominic Jones, shows how corporate websites in the First World are becoming more and more effective relative to traditional newswire and regulatory news services. African websites (that we manage) are already at that stage (relatively) because of the stage of the development of our markets (undeveloped) and because we have leap-frogged technology to use the best and most efficient tools DIRECTLY for the benefit of our clients. The only significant challenge in Africa is the absence of awareness of the grey haired CEOs that are in control of the decisions. This will change over time.

Herewith Dominic’s article which makes interesting reading. If you are interested in leading-edge online thinking then I do recommend that you sign up to his website email alerts. Dominic’s approach taking on the established monoliths in the media world is very refreshing.

Attributed to Dominic JonesIR Web Report‘s founder and an online investor relations consultant.

STATISTICS from trackable links in company press releases suggest that even small companies’ websites are the most heavily used sources for financial disclosure information and that dissemination via PR wire services is mostly ignored by investors.

The public statistics bust the widely held misconception among investor relations professionals and securities lawyers that PR wire services are the most effective way for companies to achieve broad disclosure. They show that while PR wires distribute company releases to hundreds of different intermediaries such as a financial portals, there is little or no evidence that investors use PR wire releases.


The statistics also explode the myth that only large, widely followed companies’ websites can be used for disclosure under the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) 2008 Regulation FD guidance, which states that postings on company websites can meet fair disclosure requirements if they meet certain standards, including that investors actually use the sites. The statistics indicate that even at small-cap companies, websites, email lists and social media accounts are the primary channels through which investors now receive investor relations information.

Disclosure dissemination practices fall behind

In the three years since the SEC issued its guidance on the use of company websites and blogs for disclosure, only a handful of companies have changed their disclosure practices to use their websites and SEC filings rather than PR wire services as the primary channel for their disclosures to investors. Those that have made changes include Google Inc., which no longer uses PR wires for its earnings releases, and small-cap BGC Partners, which uses an advisory release method to alert investors to full-text disclosures on its website.

The lack of progress towards so-called web disclosure is likely due to several contributing factors. US Stock exchanges still favor PR wire services in their rules and discourage companies from pursuing web disclosure, even though their rules do not expressly prohibit it. Nasdaq OMX owns PR wire service GlobeNewswire while NYSE Euronext offers subsidized press release services to its listed companies.

Another limiting factor is a general lack of awareness of new real-time web technologies among companies, their advisers and some web service providers. PR wire services have exploited this lack of awareness as they seek to preserve their lucrative disclosure dissemination franchises by sowing misinformation and creating doubt among cautious companies.

However, the biggest barrier to the adoption of web and social media channels for disclosure has been the widespread misconception in the industry that PR wire services are both the most effective means of disseminating disclosure information and that they meet companies’ disclosure obligations under Reg FD. Consequently, companies continue to collectively spend many millions annually on PR wire services even though SEC filings provide more certainty of compliance and many companies are in a position to replace PR wire distribution with website postings under the SEC’s 2008 guidance.

Click stats show where investors interact with company news

Now, publicly available information about investors’ use of links in news releases calls into question the effectiveness of PR wire service distribution and suggests that investors mostly access disclosure information directly from company websites, email alerts, RSS feeds and real-time messages on social media platforms.

The statistics are provided publicly by URL shortening services such as Bit.ly and Goo.gl. They enable anyone to view where investors are when they access and click on shortened links in press releases. The statistics these services provide are more reliable than the statistics that PR wire services offer to their clients because they are not affected by investors’ browser settings, non-human activity such as search bots, or by the format choices of the PR wires’ distribution sites.

Some companies use services like Bit.ly to shorten long links to webcasts and other information in their press releases so that the links don’t break when the releases are distributed in emails or posted on some websites. When investors click on these links the short link is decoded into the original long URL and a click is recorded by the shortening service. Anyone can access the click statistics for these shortened links by appending a + sign to the end of the URL.

Information recorded by the link shortening services includes referrer information, which is the location where investors viewed the release and clicked on the links. When the links are clicked on a public website such as Yahoo! Finance, the shortening service can easily track and record this information. However, if the link is clicked via a user’s email program, in one of a number of social media clients such as Tweet Deck, or if a user pastes or types the link directly into their browser, the referrer cannot be tracked and the click is recorded as a “direct” click.

For more than a year, we have been monitoring PR wire services for public company releases that contain links that have been shorted using the Bit.ly service. Unfortunately, very few companies shorten the URLs in disclosure releases using Bit.ly so examples are few and far between. However, in every case that we have looked at, few if any of the clicks can be tracked back to PR wire service distribution points, while company websites and direct access clicks from emails and the like are typically the most common referrers.

The finding that company controlled channels account for more click activity than PR wire service distribution holds true regardless of company size. This is an important point because it suggests that many more companies could be using web disclosure than was previously thought.

Below we provide information from three public company releases that included trackable Bit.ly links. Two are from small, lesser known companies and one involves Dow Jones Industrials constituent The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA)

Example 1:  State Auto Financial Corp

On April 28, 2011, State Auto Financial Corp (NASDAQ: STFC) issued a news released via Business Wire announcing a webcast of its upcoming annual meeting. The second paragraph of the release included a link to the webcast registration page that was shortened using Bit.ly.

According to a Google search, Business Wire distributed the release to scores of websites including the most visited finance portals such as Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money, MarketWatch, Barron’s, Reuters, Bloomberg and Morningstar.

State Auto Financial release April 28, 2011

According to Bit.ly, of the 116 clicks on the short link in STFC’s release only 3 clicks can be attributed to Business Wire distribution points, namely Yahoo! Finance (1 click), StreetInsider (1 click) and SNL.com (1 click).

STFC’s own investor relations website, which is hosted by IR website provider InvestQuest.com, generated 10 times as many clicks (34 clicks), while clicks from direct sources such as email, Twitter clients and manual browser entries generated 75 clicks, or 65% of the total. STFC provides an email alert utility on its IR website for news releases and SEC filings.

These figures appear to show that distribution of STFC’s release via Business Wire was largely a waste of time and effort and that up to 94% of the audience reacted to information received from the company’s own website or email alerts.

This suggests that STFC, which has a market-cap of $650m, is well placed to use its website and SEC filings to comply with Reg FD and to communicate its essential information to investors.

Bit.ly referrer stats for STFC
Bit.ly’s referrer statistics for STFC’s April 28 news release

Example 2: Sonus Networks, Inc.

On June 1, 2011, Sonus Networks (NASDAQ: SONS) issued a news release via PR Newswire announcing the date for its upcoming investor day in New York City. The release advised investors that they need to pre-register to attend the event and provided a Bit.ly link to a page on the company’s website where they can do that.

According to Google, PR Newswire distributed the release to about 144 finance and news websites, including Yahoo! Finance, Reuters, Business Insider, Barron’s and dozens of smaller news outlets.

Sonus uses a website from Shareholder.com that offers an email alert utility that distributes the full-text of releases to subscribers. The company also issued a message containing the bit.ly link on Twitter, where it currently has 487 followers.



According to Bit.ly’s click stats, the short link to the investo day registration page was clicked a total of 21 times, of which only 2 clicks can be attributed to PR Newswire partner Yahoo! Finance. More than 90% of the clicks appear to be from the company’s own web channels, including 15 clicks from email alerts and Twitter messages viewed in client software, 3 clicks from the company’s IR website and 1 click from the Twitter website.

Here again, there is negligible evidence that PR wire distribution is effective, with only one of PR Newswire’s distribution points registering clicks. The company’s own web channels appear to the primary way that investors get information from Sonus.

Bit.ly’s referrer stats for Sonus’ June 1 news release

Example 3: The Boeing Company

On December 20, 2010, The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA) announced that it was increasing production of its 777 aircraft. The release, which was distributed via PR Newswire, included a Bit.ly shortened link to a video about the 777 program. As the only link in the widely distributed release, it was very prominent.

Boeing posted the release on its website and also distributed the full-text to its email list subscribers.


According to Bit.ly, the release generated a lot of interest with a total of 1,757 clicks. Boeing’s own websites generated by far the most clicks, with a combined 917 clicks across three sites, or 52% of the total. Email and the like generated a total of 610 clicks or 35%.

PR Newswire’s own website accounted for 32 clicks or 2% while Yahoo! Finance accounted for 15 clicks or less than 1%. The bulk of the remaining clicks were made up of traffic from industry publications.

Overall, the click statistics suggest that up to 87% of people who are interested in Boeing receive their information directly from the company rather than from PR wire distribution sources.

Bit.ly referrer stats for Sonus
Bit.ly’s referrer stats for Boeing’s news release

Summary and limitations

These click statistics and others that we have reviewed provide strong evidence that PR wire distribution is not as effective or as well used as companies’ own website channels.

This has potentially important compliance implications for how companies and their legal counsel approach their disclosure dissemination practices. Reg FD places the onus on companies to ensure that any alternative channels to SEC filings they choose to use are in fact reasonably designed to result in broad, non-exclusionary distribution.

Of course, there are limitations to using click statistics. By definition they track only those instances where people actually click on a link. They cannot tell us how many times releases are read but people don’t click on the links. Nonetheless, on a relative basis it is clear that company channels are likely being read much more often than releases distributed by PR wires.

Another limitation is that it is impossible to know the source of the emails and other direct sources of clicks. In addition to company email alert utilities, PR wire services also may have subscribers who received these releases via email. However, the relatively poor showing of the PR wires’ own websites in the click statistic suggests that their own channels are not widely used for company disclosure information.

Finally, while they are consistent with a number of other companies we have reviewed, these results are for a limited number of companies and may not hold true in all cases.

Next steps for companies

To comply with their regulatory obligations and best serve the information needs of their investors, companies should seek to understand what channels their investors are using.

Shortening URLs in releases using Bit.ly is the best way to do this because Bit.ly has invested heavily in systems and technologies to provide accurate statistics. PR wires’ own statistics are not reliable and are unable to track all clicks. Additionally, PR wires may be overstating traffic because they are less effective at stripping out non-human web activity, such as search bots.

Once companies have better insights into how and where investors are using their information, they can make informed judgments about moving to a web and social media disclosure dissemination system coupled with SEC filings.

This may include adopting new procedures such as relying on SEC filings for compliance, and using company owned web channels and new real-time technologies to effectively communicate information to investors in the formats they prefer and through the channels they actually use.

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Zimbabwe has 74 listed companies and a well established printing industry and many design professionals that are well versed in designing annual reports. Another plus is there are a few individuals well versed in writing your annual report and project managing the whole process.

Costs of printing in Malawi or Zambia or Botswana can be extraordinarily high and there appears to be a cheaper option to get your annual report printed in Zimbabwe. But there are pitfalls. This blog provides a brief overview of the issues that you need to consider if you do want to get your annual report printed in Zimbabwe. My references to Malawi below may also refer to Botswana and Zambia as the case may be.

  • Obviously you need the foreign exchange to pay the printers and designers and approval to pay. Generally printers will charge 30% up front and then require payment upon shipment. This latter point has another side to it and that’s that RBM (Reserve Bank of Malawi) needs proof of the goods coming into the country before the bank is able to pay. So don’t think about cheating on any of the forms about quantities and values and ensure that the Zimbabwean printing company gives you credit.
  • Navigating your way around the customs duties gets more and more complicated the more people you speak to. So don’t speak to many people. Annual reports are “printed” material, “not for resale” and have “no commercial value” and so putting them on the airplane or truck from Harare to Lilongwe is hassle free, so long as this is repeated often. Ensure that the boxes are labelled “annual reports” “for shareholders”, “not for resale” and have “no commercial value”. If anyone tells you otherwise, ignore them.
  • Air Malawi charges about US$1.5 per kg air freight and 1000 average length annual reports including boxes will weight about 80kg. At National Handling Services,at the Harare International Airport, incredibly friendly staff (George) will use a typewriter, yes a typewriter, to type out your waybill accurately after you complete the Shippers Instructions for Despatch of Goods form. The latter form must state that the goods are not for resale and have no commercial value (repeated again). So your annual reports can be shipped as unaccompanied cargo to Lilongwe or Blantyre direct. One small snag is that you will need the shipment and the invoice stamped by the Malawian customs people for RBM purposes.
  • The Zimbabwe Government revenue authorities will charge VAT on the printing even though it’s for export. Because they can. Apparently it is possible to claim this back but I suspect that many barriers will be put in place to ensure that you can’t. If I find out any more about this I will update the blog.
  • Using DHL or a similar service to ship you annual reports to Malawi is also an option. BUT I strongly recommend striking up a relationship with an individual in DHL to explain what is happening. Both ways. You explain to them the latest with what’s happening at the printers and collection info – and they explain to you when, where and how they will get the reports to Malawi. They work over the weekends and have a number of options available to them. That said, my experience indicates that someone outside of DHL or your printer MUST project manage the courier and despatch process on a minutiae basis, because unless you see the bigger picture, the smallest detail can de-rail the process.DHL, whilst being a reliable courier service may not be in the loop regarding the last minute issues that are flying around between the printer and the company or the agent project managing the printing process.
  • It’s important to ask DHL whether the shipment is going on a commercial Ndege or DHL Ndege. The former has the risk of the Captain removing the load if the plane is too heavy – at his full discretion i.e there is never 100% assurance of delivery on a commercial flight.
  • The advantage of using Zimbabwe is that it is a days drive away from Malawi and there are a few Air Malawi flights a week, albeit unreliable ones. My point is that many plans can be made to get the annual reports to Malawi if things go wrong. So long as you stick to your timetable.
  • A warning about not sticking to your printing timetable. As you well know printers are at the end of YOUR chaotic timetable and project management process (if you can call it that) and so they take all the flak. They will likely add 20% onto the bill to compensate them for the hassle of you missing your timetabled printing time. Bear this in mind when doing your budget.
  • How much do Zimbabwean printers charge? You know, it’s kind of irrelevant. For a listed company its reliability and quality of print that is key. Your annual report is your company’s bible so don’t skimp. Nevertheless, for a good quality annual report 1,000 copies may cost anywhere between US$10,000 and US$14,000 and take 2 – 3 days to produce.
  • If these annual reports are to be posted to shareholders in Malawi or distributed in different areas, then I strongly recommend that the sorting into batches to be posted overseas, or regionally, by postal code, happens at the printers. You do not want the hassle of resorting all of the annual reports in your administration office as soon as they arrive. By then your timetable is so blasted out of the water anyway that you can’t afford the hassle.
  • So my key piece of advice is to provide plenty of time to get the annual reports to Malawi because each successive deadline that falls by the way side and each successive redundancy initiative that collapses, needs to be backed up by another one. If you know, or suspect, that your company will not stick to the timetable and project management associated with finalising your annual report, then use an outside consultant because they are not distracted by day to day management issues and they can shout at you when you are distracted.

Is it worth it? A few pointers:-

  1. - if you are a Malawian company already printing in South Africa – its probably worth it
  2. - if you are not happy with the quality of design work or the quality of printing its probably worth it
  3. - if you need assistance in writing your annual report then its probably worth it
  4. - if foreign exchange is not sacred to you then its probably worth it

I have written another blog about the pitfalls of writing your annual report which you may find interesting and entertaining.

African Is Cool offers annual report writing and annual report project management services. Our online annual report service is a highly professional alternative method to delivering annual reports in hardcopy as reports are delivered on mini CD. Here are 3500 annual reports that appear in electronic format – this same format can be published onto CD.

We also design, host and manage corporate websites on an ongoing basis . Here are our clients.

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An article in the Zimbabwe press today (01 June 2011) announces Board changes to the ZSE listed Afre Corporation. Afre is significantly financially exposed and the problem appears to be related to bad corporate governance in related party transactions.  This is what the Afre 2008 annual report said about their commitment to corporate governance:-

“The group is committee to the principles of good corporate governance based on the King II report. The Directors recognise the need to conduct business of the Group with integrity and in accordance with generally accepted corporate practices in order to safeguard stakeholder interests”.

This is  part of the wording relating to the announcement of the corporate governance restructure (director changes were also announced):-

As part of the Board’s undertaking to ensure that corporate governance matters relating to the Group are reviewed and enhanced as necessary, the Board has set up a Related Party Transactions Committee consisting of independent non-executive directors…….This initiative is part of various measures taken by the Board to uphold shareholder and policy interests in all of the Group’s related business activities. The Board acknowledges its appreciation to all stakeholder for the support received to date.

I am a strong proponent of the IODSA’s online corporate governance appraisal tool for listed companies. This tool enables directors to check the substance and form of their corporate governance conformance to the King III Code on Corporate Governance in South Africa. The programme can be used by companies outside of SA as an immediate checklist and what is and what is not happening and provide a basis for directors to decide what they should do with regard to their corporate governance. The ZSE should make it mandatory for all listed companies to complete this and negotiate a bulk discount with the IODSA. But the ZSE has its own isssues at the moment…..so its up to listed company directors to decide……

In the post-dollarisation Zimbabwe economy listed company directors should be thinking seriously about providing substance to support the cliche commitments to corporate governance in their annual reports. Give shareholders facts. The wording in annual reports to describe corporate governance activities is passive, non-committal and vague. With so many Zimbabwe companies being in such a flimsy state financially don’t be surprised to hear of more instances where corporate governance fails investors. This at a time when Zimbabwe needs foreign investors. This at a time when corporate governance is added to other uncertainties such as indigenisation legislation etc. These things are simple and low cost and all they need is a decision from the Chairman of the Board.


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