Pulse #37 - Count the cost: AU bankrolling infrastructure, IFC's first African CEO, price to retire in Africa, Tanzania accepts Covid too late?
In this week's Pulse...
The politicisation of pandemic response in Tanzania, IFC's first African CEO, the AU's new infrastructure fund, the consequences of climate change, inefficiencies of state-owned oil firms, and more
The Data Room
Are you contemplating retiring to sunny Africa and wondering how much it might cost? Well, you’re in luck - a new report estimates just how much you need. But the price of a comfortable retirement varies across the Continent. For instance, Ethiopia, the most expensive destination, will set you back $458,986 (although still cheaper than USA and UK at $601,490 and $515,742 respectively). Meanwhile Uganda (the cheapest) will cost less than half of that at $213,498.
Private vs. state: What is the best approach to locally refining Africa’s crude? Africa produces more crude than it can refine and it consumes more oil products than it manufactures. As the world’s fastest-growing oil consumer, Africa consumed 4.5mn bbl/d by 2018, but its total refinery throughput hovered around 2.1mn bbl/d. Consequently, a raft of African countries are now increasing their refining capacity. The latest is Congo Brazzaville, which recently launched the construction of a $600mn refinery. As national oil companies (NOCs) dominate Africa’s oil refining, it remains to be seen how sustainable this approach is, especially when oil prices are plummeting. While NOCs accelerate domestic refinery development, inefficiencies have rendered many of them unprofitable and obsolete. Yet private ownership has proved successful and poses an alternative to the state-owned model. State or private ownership, every country needs to establish their own functional balance of output to refinement.
Scaleable energy access
Solar-powered telephone masts to connect rural communities to the world. Leading players in the telephone industry have partnered to build 2,000 solar-powered communication masts in DRC. The masts will be erected across the DRC countryside, particularly in communities with around 5,000 people. For greater impact, multiple mobile operators will be able to use the masts. Project partners Canadian tech firm NuRAN and French telecom giants Orange say up to 10mn people or 11.5% of the DRC population “that currently have to travel just to make a phone call” will benefit. Such projects help overcome geographical barriers and investment rigidities hampering modern communications in rural Africa. While a similar project was successful in Cameroon, authorities in conflict-ridden DRC ought to protect the masts.
Exporting culture & identity
Is Naomi Campbell a suitable ambassador for Kenya’s tourism? That’s the million-follower question on the lips, or should I say fingers of Kenyans online. When Kenya announced supermodel Naomi Campbell as its international ambassador for tourism, the news courted instant outrage from some Kenyans online, who argued that natives like actress Lupita Nyong'o as well as models Ajuma Nasenyana and Debra Sanaipei were better placed for the role. While Campbell seemed unfazed by the online debate, she’s yet to fully grasp the socio-cultural dynamics involving the role. Weeks after her appointment, she stirred controversy by sharing a video to her 10mn followers on Instagram but used the song ‘My Maserati’ by Nigerian artist Olakira as the soundtrack. But ultimately, Kenyans could focus more on Campbell’s capabilities to market their country’s tourism sector to the world rather than her nationality. Can she get the job done? That’s what they ought to ask!
Essential infrastructure, personal living-space & utilities
Benefits of data centre competition in Africa. As smartphone usage and adoption of business software soars in Africa, data-storage companies are competing to profit from the cloud-computing boom on the Continent. Teraco Data Environments, Africa’s largest data centre provider - which is considering expanding to Nigeria and Kenya - is the latest company to tap into the growing market. More data centres will translate to faster internet connectivity and cheaper data storage. But the localisation of data centres also renders them vulnerable to state control. Governments ought to see data centres as tools for facilitating business and growth rather than weapons for controlling populations as witnessed in Uganda. Africa accounts for less than 1% of total global data centre capacity, despite having 17% of the population.
High value skills development and talent repatriation