Movemeback Pulse

Actionable African insight delivered to you on pulse

Pulse #2 - Africa day, internet shutdowns, CFA, China

The Data Room
Reflections on internet shutdowns between 2017 to 2019 as we head into the next wave of African elections, and the importance of maintaining connectivity during this time.
Numbers in the Spotlight

(74 bn) cubic meters of water can be held by the new Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (equivalent to 1.5 years' worth of the Blue Nile’s flow)

($2.16 bn) total estimated loss to African economies in 2019 due to social media censorship by governments 

($1 bn) of funding was approved by World Bank to Kenya to support budget gaps  

($500 mn) was announced by World Bank to fight locusts and preserve food security in Africa and the Middle East 

107,412 cases
of COVID-19 confirmed in Africa (as of last week) 

African government buildings to-date are known to have been built by The Chinese Communist Party, amidst concerns around spying

75 years
of the CFA Franc currency in West Africa comes to an end

is the price of the COVID-19 test undergoing trials in Senegal


On The Continent This Week
Exporting culture
Africa’s biggest music stars will perform at a 2 hour live streamed concert on Monday, hosted by Idris Elba, to celebrate Africa Day - a day that marks formation of the African Union, and celebrates unity among the African people. To commemorate the occasion, Billboard have dedicated their latest magazine covers to Africa, highlighting that for too long African music has been segregated from popular music under the “world music” banner. Are these artists helping reshape how “brand Africa” is being perceived by the world?

4th industrial revolution skills development

This week, increasing attention was placed on COVID-19’s impact on education, with millions locked out of school. Entrepreneurs, investors and corporates are trying to step in to fill the gap. For example in its 175th year in existence, Old Mutual launched what it labels “Africa’s biggest digital classroom”, Andela (recently plagued with bad news) partnered with Microsoft to launch ALCwithMicrosoft to enable engineers in Kenya and Nigeria to develop deep cloud skills, and Google and Ecobank announced a partnership to help SMEs embrace digital transformation.

Intra-continental connectivity, collaboration & trade
This week, 8 Francophone West Africa ditched the French currency (CFA franc) for its own (Eco) ending 75 year of post-colonial ties. Many hope that with sovereignty over its own currency will come economic benefits, including increased price competitiveness of exports, and more credit to small businesses. But will the Central Bank of West African States be able to maintain a stable currency and low inflation without France?

Scaleable energy access

Ethiopia announced that the construction of their Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is now 73% complete, and the dam’s reservoir will start to be filled from July 2020. This $5bn project is set to double Ethiopia’s power generation to give 88% of households access to electricity. However, the project has raised concerns over a “water war” in East Africa, as Egypt has objected to its construction, previously writing a letter of complaint to the UN Security Council, due to the dam’s effect on its access to fresh water via the Nile. 

Baseline healthcare & disease protection

This week Rwanda deployed 5 robots to aid the nation’s efforts to combat COVID-19 while safeguarding the lives of their health workers. This is the latest in African innovation and self-reliance in response to the crisis (including trials of a $1 test in Senegal, and herbal remedies emerging from Madagascar), that many are noting are being overlooked by the West. We have also seen more case studies on how the rest of the world can leverage specific approaches trailed in Africa.

Home-grown digital infrastructure & platforms

Reports this week, again accuse China of using its infrastructure projects in Africa as proxies for intelligence gathering and influencing Government officials. In 2018 the Chinese were accused of bugging the African Union building. Whether it’s fact or Western propaganda, Africa’s exclusive dependency on foreign entities for digital infrastructure pose massive risks and surrendering of its future autonomy. In 2019, GSMA forecast that there will be 28 million 5G connected devices in SSA by 2025 - such capacity is likely to be provided by the Chinese. With US / European sensitivity over Huawei’s involvement in building their own infrastructure, this only serves to highlight the dilemma for African nations.

End-to-end value chain capture

Food security has been high on the agenda, with the World Bank announcing $500 mn to fight locusts, preserve food security and protect livelihoods. Meanwhile, securing Africa’s food supply chain remains a priority. One example, Tomato Jos - a Nigerian-based agro-processing company focused on capturing the end-to-end value chain with local production of high-quality tomato paste - closed a Series A round of €3.9m. The Government has long seen the potential of strengthening opportunities in the tomato value chain in Nigeria - the world's 14th largest tomato producer - with a 2017 policy aimed at increasing tomato import tariffs from 5% to 50%. With 45% of harvested tomatoes going to waste, Tomato Jos hopes to increase the affordability of tomato products in Africa by increasing efficiency in processing and distribution.

Access to financial services and products

Surprisingly, there was not much to report on inclusive financial access despite its critical importance in the wake of COVID-19 community lock-downs. In Kenya, growth in mobile payments fell to a 13 year low, with inconclusive evidence of its cause. Be it due to reduced consumer spending related to COVID-19, or related to concerns that financial services are actually becoming harder to obtain for those who cannot afford access to digital tools, the direction of growth for digital finance in Africa remains to be seen. Nonetheless, tackling Africa’s ~350 million unbanked adult population is just as much about process and regulatory innovation. In South Africa Capitech decided to forgo proof of address to make their financial services more accessible. 

Baseline infrastructure, personal living-space & utilities

Africa’s local construction sector is under strain, with another casualty - South African construction firm, Esor - announcing its delisting from the JSE. At the macro level, China’s Belt and Roads Initiative is also at risk with work stalled, and African countries in the firing line for billions in structured debt. With historic projects at risk and the era of big mega-city infrastructure being called into question, could the Continent reframe and channel its resources into leading with high tech, smart cities?

Youth-driven political leadership

The Burundi government was heavily criticised after shutting down all social media during its contentious elections held this week (overriding health warnings from the WHO and the Africa CDC). Despite reports showing that internet shutdowns cost African economies $2.16 bn in 2019, there are expectations of further shutdowns as 20 African nations are set to hold national elections this year. With young people around the world using social media as a tool of communication and influence, decisions to shut down social media arguably highlight the disparity between the age of our policy makers, and the population they serve.

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Our selection of online courses, tools and offers to help you build your professional and personal repertoire.

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  2. Books and articles on Pan-Africanism
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History Class

The CFA Franc - The history of French monetary imperialism in Africa

Kwame Nkrumah - The speech to unite Africa

Did we miss anything?

Thank you for reading Movemeback Pulse, your weekly check of actionable insight. Movemeback Pulse is made up of insights that relate to 'The Continent 500 Transformation Goals' - developed to drive focus on a continent-wide business plan to create the next 500 million jobs by 2035. Want to understand more about the 'The Continent 500 Transformation Goals'? Do you have suggestions on themes / goals that are missing? Get in touch!

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