Pulse #30 - Enable the future: Leaders commit to halve internet costs, PayPal & MFS target underbanked, renewable powered data centers & a Sickle Cell cure?
The Data Room
As African leaders commit to reduce internet cost by 50% (more below), we look at the cost of 1GB of mobile data. 4 of the 5 countries with the most expensive mobile data are in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This is driven by lack of infrastructure and lack of market competition - as countries with multiple competing networks, such as Nigeria, tend to pay less. As a result, the Continent has some way to go before achieving the goal of making internet access affordable.
Numbers in the Spotlight
(USD4.5bn) is the cost of the new Batoka Gorge hydroelectric project that will soon begin construction along the Zambia-Zimbabwe border
(USD1bn) of drones and precision-guided weapons will be sold by US to Morocco, following US’s recognition of Morocco’s claim over the Western Sahara region
(more than 12mn) in Africa suffer from Sickle Cell Disease - scientists have a made big steps towards finding a new cure
Global online payments system, PayPal, is partnering with Africa’s largest mobile money hub, MFS Africa, to expand its money transfer service, Xoom, into underbanked segments of Africa. Remittances to Africa are more expensive than to anywhere in the world - averaging 9% in the last quarter of 2019 (based on the cost of sending $200) vs. the global average of 6.8%, and well above the Sustainable Development Goal 10 target of 3%. The partnership will allow customers in the US, UK, Canada and Europe to send money to mobile wallets across the Continent, reducing the average remittance fee in some regions to 2-4% (according to Xoom). With SSA registering $48bn in remittances in 2019, but expecting a 23% decline in 2020, reducing the cost of remittances could help support a post-Covid economic recovery.
Exporting culture & identity
Disney Animation and pan-African entertainment company Kugali, have partnered to create a new science-fiction series launching on DisneyPlus in 2022 called Iwaju (roughly translated as “The Future” in the Yoruba language). Iwaju is adapted from Kugali’s comic book collection of the same name, and appears to be set in a Wakanda-like futuristic Lagos. Kugali was created by three friends from Nigeria and Uganda, apparently fed up with non-Africans telling African stories. This watershed moment marks the first time Disney has partnered with a comic studio outside of Marvel. With Disney announcing they will not recast Chadwick Boseman’s role as T'Challa in Black Panther 2, it seems the search for new authentic African heroes and stories has started.
Scientists have seen promising results from studies using gene editing to cure Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). 10 participants who were given the one-time treatment several months ago have since not needed hospitalisation or blood transfusions, and are crisis-free (intermittent extreme body pain). Currently disease management is the most likely option for sufferers, as the only known cure is a bone marrow transplant from a closely matched donor without the disease (e.g. a sibling), which most people don’t have. With 20-25mn people globally suffering from SCD, 12-15mn of which live in Africa, and 50–80% of the infants born with SCD in Africa dying before the age of 5 years, the result of a planned wider study could be considerable for the Continent, and sufferers globally.