We have noted with utmost concern, continued and unsubstantiated allegations from sections of the media since 2016. The latest case was the recent article relating to the supposed ex-miners of KCM Pension Trust Fund Plc, the allegations therein and reactions by some sections of the media implicating us in this matter. Further reference is made to the press statement by the trustees of Saturnia Regna Pension Fund (Saturnia) which provided the facts in dispute of the allegations by the supposed ex-miners.
If one takes a timeline of the stories relating to Aflife, and despite public statements we have made to refute all allegations as baseless in fact and at law, a consistent pattern of allegations and narratives begins to emerge:
- The shareholding of Aflife being narrated as shadowy and irregular
- Conflict of interest in the fund management and fund administration of Saturnia
- Alleged governance issues relating to Saturnia, which place the service providers at the heart of the alleged irregularities
- Conflation of the 1990’s privatisation programme and Aflife’s emergence as a pre-eminent service provider
- Failure to honour pension obligations thus depriving pensioners of their hard-earned money
Because we are a highly regulated business which thrives on transparency and trust, we wish to refute the allegations and narratives by adequately providing context and facts to these matters:
Shareholding of Aflife
Aflife has its roots steeped in the operations of Anglo-American Corporation (Anglo) in Zambia, when in 1992 a division was created to manage the pensions of Anglo’s subsidiaries under a pooled fund called Saturnia Regna Pension Fund.
- With time the division became a subsidiary, ACCA Management Services Limited (AMSL) under the Financial Services division of Anglo.
- In furtherance of its business objectives AMSL grew its client base, first by admitting other non-Anglo companies into Saturnia and secondly by acquiring other clients independent of Saturnia (segregated funds).
- In 2000, as Anglo was preparing to exit Zambia, 50% of AMSL was sold to African Life Assurance of South Africa, through their Botswana subsidiary, Botswana Insurance Fund Managers (BIFM). The name was subsequently changed to Aflife.
- In 2004, Anglo exited Aflife and BIFM increased its stake to 70% while Menel Management Services (Menel), a consortium of local Zambians backed the senior management of Aflife and acquired a 30% stake.
- Due to changes in the Pension Scheme Regulation Act, which required pension fund service providers to be majority Zambian-owned, the local consortium increased its stake to 51% and BIFM diluted to 49%.
- BIFM is 100% owned by BIHL, which is listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange and is majority owned by the Sanlam Group, itself being the largest insurance and investment group in South Africa and is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
So as it stands currently, Aflife is majority owned by Zambians and in addition to Saturnia, its client base cuts across all sectors of the Zambian economy and has established itself through the years as the leading fund manager with a significant share of the pension fund management market. This is testament to its promise to deliver value to its clients, in pursuit of their objectives of a secured retirement through a pension. The law as it currently stands only requires that the majority of shares in pension service providers should be Zambian entities or citizens; it therefore does not preclude any Zambian from owning shares.
Pension Fund Management and Pension Fund Administration in Zambia
As it emerged out of Anglo and AMSL, Aflife had capabilities and was set up to manage both the investment of pension fund assets and the administration of pension records (a composite mandate). This continued until a strategic decision was taken in 2012 to separate the business into two companies; Benefits Consulting Services (BenCon) to focus on pension administration while Aflife focused on investment management. The two companies, while they have maintained identical shareholders in line with the 51%/49% shareholding required by law, are run by different management teams and are also overseen by different boards of directors.
- It is very important to mention that the Pension Scheme Regulation Act provides for the appointment of a fund manager and a fund administrator for a pension fund. It does not prescribe that the service providers should separate as Aflife and BenCon have done.
- The Pensions and Insurance Authority (PIA), the regulator of pensions in Zambia, recently issued guidelines (which will take effect on 1 January 2021) which will require separate management teams and systems in situations where a service provider is registered to provide both fund management and fund administration. As alluded above, Aflife and BenCon are already in compliance with that directive; not only do they have separate management teams and systems, there have separate boards of directors. There is no requirement for independent shareholding in the service providers.
- For both BenCon and Aflife, although they have common clients in the normal course of business, there are cases where trustees have made different choices of service providers (Aflife paired with other administrators and BenCon paired with other investment managers). Ultimately it is the trustees who make the decision to hire or disengage service providers, after taking into account a variety of factors including the capability and capacity to help them to meet their objectives on behalf of their members.
Therefore, in fact and in practice, a single entity can apply for both licences and manage both the administration and investments of a pension fund. Where the industry is at with regards to this issue reflects its evolution from an initial position of composite mandates. Stakeholders and the public at large are encouraged to visit the website of the PIA, where the names of approved service providers for both pension administration and fund management are listed so that they can draw their own conclusions.
Alleged Governance Issues Relating to Saturnia and the Role of Service Providers
We thank the Trustees of Saturnia who responded timely to the allegations by the supposed ex-miners of KCM; their statement does not need qualification as it was very clear and it dealt with the facts in disputing the allegations made. As alluded in the past and above, we are proud to be associated with Saturnia and its growth over the years to become the largest and most diversified multi-employer pension fund in Zambia. Its record of governance, which predates the enactment of pension legislation and despite the unwarranted attacks from some sections of the media, stands as a model for other pensions funds to emulate. As the fund’s service providers, we can attest that the fund has met all its statutory obligations and is in good standing with its regulators. In the business of a pension fund, the primary stakeholders are its members and the trustees whom they elect to preside over the affairs of the fund. Matters of the fund – its financial position, risks that it faces, relationship with third party service providers among others – are deliberated upon and where necessary resolutions are passed during annual general meetings (AGM). It is in this context that matters like the KPMG audit that was commissioned by the then Minister of Finance in 2017 were deliberated and closed. Information relating to the activities of any pension fund is available to its stakeholders as well as through the statutory bodies to which they are accountable by law.
Conflation of the 1990s Privatisation and the Pre-eminence of Aflife as a Service Provider
As has been demonstrated, the history of Aflife predates the privatisation era. Its evolution into the largest private pension fund manager in Zambia was not an overnight phenomenon, but a trajectory of calculated steps of building capacity, competence and relationships. As we have articulated in our engagements with our stakeholders, our leadership of the market is not something we have taken for granted. We are grateful to all our clients, our international partners and our regulators for the roles they have played in our growth. Through these partnerships Aflife continues to provide best in class service and innovative products relevant to both our retail and institutional clients. This growth cannot be linked to a particular ‘era’ but has been cumulative in line with the growth in the Zambian economy.
Failure to Honour Obligations Due to Pensioners
Our obligations to our clients and to the administrators who represent our clients are governed by service level agreements (SLAs) which stipulate the expectation of our clients on key deliverables including providing funding to meet claims by members. Our planning and subsequent investment choices take into account the needs of our clients to withdraw their funds when the need arises. We can confirm that we have not failed to honour client obligations at any given time.
We are however aware that there have been allegations that we did not honour or that we withheld payments – this arises from would be claimants not understanding the role of the fund manager in the claims settlement cycle. We as fund managers do not manage the records of members – we only provide funding when we are requested to do so by the various administrators we work with, who in turn settle the claims.
As already confirmed, Aflife operates in a highly regulated environment, and therefore a narrative of an organisation which operates outside the law or makes its own law cannot be sustained in such an environment. The business of pensions, as with any other business where an obligation is placed on one party to act in trust, thrives only on that one commodity – trust. In an industry which is still very nascent relative to its regional peers, it is important that for the sake of the industry, we build this trust among stakeholders rather than continuously peddle unsubstantiated claims. In a regulated environment governed by statutes it is very easy to have access to information so that the keen researcher and reporter can inform their readers based on facts and not hearsay. On the part of Aflife, the facts are as we have articulated in this statement – we hope that this will clarify and give context to the allegations that have been recycled over the years. We would like to thank our clients and other stakeholders, whom we will continue to engage, for their patience.
We use this Press Statement to reassure the public that we have been and will continue to be a law-abiding corporate citizen anchored on a solid relationship with all and every well-meaning stakeholder including pension fund members, the Trustees and sponsoring employers. With this statement we will take any further unfounded negative press articles as unwarranted harassment for which we reserve our right to seek legal recourse.
Ministry of Finance launches media campaign to enhance financial inclusion during and post the COVID-19 Pandemic
THE Ministry of Finance has today launched an innovative multi-media campaign that is aimed at further enhancing financial inclusion in Zambia. The campaign, dubbed ‘Better Finances for a Better Today and Tomorrow’ follows Government’s efforts to deepen financial inclusion in the country without leaving anyone behind. This is part of the implementation of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) which was launched in 2017.
For the campaign, the Ministry of Finance is working in partnership with cooperating partner Financial Sector Deepening Zambia (FSD Zambia) as well as other financial sector players comprising the Bankers Association of Zambia (BAZ), Pensions and Insurance Authority (PIA), Bank of Zambia (BOZ), Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The campaign follows the development of the Communication Strategy for the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (CSNFIS) which was designed to foster increased awareness of financial services, usage and benefits targeting vulnerable groups across the country.
Today, the context has changed drastically with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers and would-be consumers of financial products and services are even more vulnerable to the effects of a lack of affordable and quality financial services. Many have found their economic situations severely affected and are in need now, more than ever, of reliable and simple financial information as they look to survive in the current and post-pandemic period.
Commenting on the launch of the campaign, Minister of Finance Dr Bwalya Ng’andu said:
“Government recognised the need for a comprehensive National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) to accelerate progress toward an inclusive, stable, and competitive financial sector development in Zambia. The NFIS provides a roadmap to further accelerate our financial inclusion journey in Zambia.
Enhanced financial inclusion in various countries has been proven to contribute to wealth creation, economic growth, and sustainable development.
In light of this, Government is focused in putting up measures towards achieving an overall increase in financial inclusion (formal and informal) from 59 to 80 percent and an increase in formal financial inclusion from 38 to 70 percent by 2022 as set out in NFIS. The media campaign is one of the measures put in place by the Government to enhance financial inclusion during and post COVID-19 Pandemic”.
Meanwhile, FSD Zambia CEO Betty Wilkinson said:
“FSD Zambia is most pleased to be supporting the Government in its efforts to increase financial inclusion. The NFIS enables access to sustainable and client-centric financial services for all families, particularly for women, smallholder farmers, youth, microenterprises, and other vulnerable persons. The broad range of communications about available services will enable households to enjoy an inclusive economy, access to basic services, and a sustainable future”.
The media campaign is expected to run for an initial period of 3 months, during which intense multi-media activities have been planned. The communications mix will include but not be limited to radio (community radio stations) social media, newspaper and mix-use video content. The campaign will employ innovative approaches to reach vulnerable groups that are hardest hit by the effects of financial exclusion.
FSD Zambia Communications Manager, Eneyah Phiri said:
“This campaign comes at a defining movement in world history. In Zambia, many families and their businesses have been heavily harmed by the pandemic. At FSD Zambia, we are working to understand the challenges and help microenterprises and smaller businesses remain resilient during these difficult times. Our team is piloting interventions that address constraints to business such as access to working capital. We believe that an awareness campaign like this one will augment our efforts and those of the Government and others in the financial market on the road to economic recovery post pandemic.”
In its Vision 2030, Zambia has set out an ambitious goal to become a prosperous middle-income nation by 2030. Further, Vision 2030 aims to create a new Zambia defined as a “strong and dynamic middle-income industrial nation that provides opportunities for improving the well-being of all, embodying values of socio-economic justice. It comprises three priority sectors:
- Economic growth and wealth creation
- Social investment and human development
- Creating an enabling environment for sustainable social economic development.
The achievement of these priorities is primarily dependent on the equitable distribution of income and ultimately, wealth creation in all corners of the economy, including those that are underserved, the vulnerable groups. The media campaign has been launched towards the achievement of this goal.
MultiChoice Group continues its support of global UN Pause campaign
AS the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic continues, MultiChoice Group (MCG) has reaffirmed its commitment to the United Nations’ (UN’s) efforts to conquer the virus that has wreaked havoc around the globe and will continue to support the global organisation’s Pause campaign in celebration of UN Day on 24 October 2020.
Through its broadcast and digital platforms, MCG has been the official African media supporter of the Pause Campaign since its launch in June 2020. The campaign, which aims to reach one billion people by the end of December 2020, intends to prevent the spread of damaging misinformation about the pandemic and encourages people to only share trusted and accurate science-based social media content.
“As a pan-African organisation, we are proud to be able to reach a mass audience and use our reach into 19.5 million African households to raise awareness on key issues relevant to the continent,” says Calvo Mawela, Chief Executive Officer: MultiChoice Group. “Supporting initiatives such as the Pause campaign as well as airing relevant and compelling educational and news content on our platforms aligns to our commitment to making an impact in the communities in which we operate.”
MCG continues its support in phase two, which is set to roll-out from 21 October. As part of the second phase, students from the MultiChoice Talent Factory, the group’s development initiative that identifies and upskills Africa’s young storytellers, will create a 60-second advert encouraging viewers to #PledgetoPause before they share online or digital content.
On October 21, throughout the day, online influencers and global voices will make their own #PledgetoPause and call on their supporters to do the same.
“With Covid-19, the wrong information can kill. It is increasingly clear that we cannot successfully tackle the pandemic without also addressing online misinformation,” said Melissa Fleming, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications. “With the Pause campaign, we are trying to recreate a new social norm about how we share information. Each one of us can help break the chain of misinformation by pausing before we share. Pledge to Pause today.”
The consequences of the global pandemic have been vast and deep, and Covid-19 has again reminded us of the need for urgent and determined action to achieve the world’s Sustainable Development Goals. The UN has collaborated with Project Everyone – a not-for-profit agency – to develop a documentary which puts the power of communications behind these global developmental goals, to accelerate progress towards a world where, within the next decade, extreme poverty has been eradicated, climate change is properly addressed, and injustice and inequality are unacceptable. As part of phase two, MCG will broadcast this thought-provoking internationally acclaimed documentary on its platforms.
“Through the transformative power of the media, and using our extensive platforms, we can envision the world we want to see in ten years’ time and enable the key conversations that will drive behaviour change to achieve those goals,” concludes Mawela.
World Bank gives $25 Million to Zambia with to help address COVID-19
THE World Bank has approved $25 million to support Zambia’s response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Of this amount, $20 million will come from the International Development Association’s Crisis Response Window, while $5 million is grant funding from the Global Financing Facility. The funds will be channeled through the Zambia COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project.
The Zambia COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project will provide support to the Zambian government to prevent, control, detect and respond to the threat posed by COVID-19 and strengthen national systems for public health preparedness. The emergency funding will support disease surveillance and strengthen screening at points of entry, risk communication and community engagement, as well as strengthen governance and accountability in implementation of the national COVID-19 response plan. It will also support COVID-19 case management, infection prevention and control, and interventions to maintain essential health services.
“While Zambia has seen a reduction in new cases of COVID-19 in the last two months, it is important that prevention, detection and response measures are scaled up to prevent further spread of the disease,” said Sahr Kpundeh, World Bank Country Manager for Zambia.
“Rapid response is crucial in addressing COVID-19 and to reduce its negative impact on health systems, social services and economic activities.”
The project will be implemented nationwide and is expected to benefit the entire population of Zambia, asCOVID-19 poses a risk to everyone. The primary beneficiaries will be suspected and confirmed COVID19 cases, and populations at risk such as the elderly, people with co-morbidities, medical and emergency personnel, port of entry officials and truck drivers.
“Considering that many of the COVID-19 cases in Zambia have come from outside the country, the project will help strengthen screening at Zambia’s entry points”, said Rosemary Sunkutu, Senior Health Nutrition and Population Specialist and Task Team Leader of the project. “This component of the project is especially important given that Zambia is a landlocked country surrounded by eight countries, which predisposes the country to risks of importation of diseases from neighboring countries and beyond.”
This funding is part of a broader package of support by the World Bank Group to help Zambia manage and responds to the COVID-19 crisis. The World Bank mobilized $2.72 million from existing health operations and financing mechanisms to support the Government’s COVID-19 response. World Bank Group COVID-19 Response.