Pulse #25 - Patience is a virtue: Could Biden revive hopes of Africa’s first WTO head, Sudan steps towards peace, Ethiopia urged to avoid civil war
The Data Room
With digital literacy widely considered as the fourth pillar of education (alongside reading, writing and maths), experts fear that many Africans are not learning the skills they need for 21st-century jobs. Across sub-Saharan African countries, there are significant differences in the prevalence of different types of digital skills. Additionally, countries with the most diversified digital skill sets also have higher overall digital skills penetration. As African countries consider their approach to digital skills development, they might consider focusing on the specific skills deficit experienced at home.
Numbers in the Spotlight
($1.5bn) is the size of Afreximbank’s collaborative Covid-19 Pandemic Response Facility
($67mn) is the cost of Malawi’s new solar plant, supported by a ‘Regional Liquidity Support Facility’
($40mn) is how much the UK’s development finance institution, CDC, has newly invested in Africa’s biggest provider of data centre services, Liquid Telecom
Sudan and South Sudan have signed a joint military cooperation agreement, aimed at providing armed training, peace and development. Joined together until South Sudan’s independence in 2011 following decades of civil war, much of the 2,000km border between the countries has been closed. The deal will see 10 entry points open along the border, and the launch of a free trade zone in Sudan. It raises hopes for South Sudan’s oil sector, as the landlocked country’s oil exports rely almost exclusively on a pipeline running through Sudan. With Africa’s 3rd largest oil reserve, much of South Sudan’s oil infrastructure was damaged during the conflict, leading to oil production standing at half its pre-war level of up to 400,000 bpd.
Proportional representation in politics, business and community leadership
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment as first African director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) could be back on the cards following the confirmation of Joe Biden as the next president of the USA. The Trump Administration blocked her appointment, backing South Korea's Trade Minister Ms. Yoo Myung-hee, saying the WTO “must be led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field”. Although the body usually chooses its new leader by consensus, America has just one vote, meaning that they should not (in theory) be able to wield disproportionate influence. If her appointment can be blocked by one country, will the interests of African nations really be better represented by her appointment (as is hoped by many)?
Johannesburg and Cape Town plan to diversify away from the electricity produced mainly from coal by state-owned Eskom Holdings, to more sustainable sources such as solar and power generated from landfill gas. It comes as the energy ministry approved letting the cities reduce dependency on Eskom, that has subjected them to outages for the past 13 years, at a cost of up to 120bn rand ($8bn) to South Africa’s economy in 2019 alone. The move will hopefully not only reduce South Africa’s green-house emissions (Eskom accounts for ~40% of South Africa’s total), but also support the country in taking control of its economy.
Essential infrastructure, personal living-space & utilities
Malawi’s power sector will experience a face lift, via a new $67mn solar plant, supported by a ‘Regional Liquidity Support Facility’ (RLSF). The facility is designed to support renewable energy projects in member countries, by guaranteeing Independent Power Producers against the risk of late payment by publicly-owned power utilities. With electricity access at just 11%, Malawi, a landlocked country, currently relies on hydropower for ~90% of its power, making it vulnerable to power cuts in times of drought. The project is Malawi’s first competitive tender in the power sector, and may serve as a case study for a new model of private investment into Africa’s solar market.
Exporting culture & identity
Comic Relief, the UK based charity tackling global poverty, will stop using images of starving children and sending celebrities to Africa after criticism about "white saviours". With its biennial ‘Red Nose Day’ telethon event, Comic Relief has raised over $1.4bn since its inception. Whilst their fundraising efforts are applauded, many criticise the sending of stars, which are mostly white, to Africa as perpetuating a distorted, colonial image of The Continent. Some stars have hit back at the criticism saying they are raising awareness - but a better balance can be struck, that goes beyond the African victim narrative.
Upgrade Your Life
Our selection of online courses, tools, offers and ideas to boost your professional and personal repertoire.