Movemeback Pulse

Actionable African insight delivered to you on pulse


Pulse #40 - Transcend boundaries: African e-commerce goes global, Nigeria's Grammy wins, Libya’s multi-actor government, RIP Tanzania's Magufuli

In this week's Pulse...
377mn new global customers for African ecommerce, multi-actor interim government in Libya, Africa’s new medicines agency and fake drugs, Rwanda putting humans over identity to vaccinate refugees, Nigerian bus-booking platform Plentywaka to show America how it's done, and does African music need Americanisation to achieve global recognition?
The Data Room
Whilst Africa suffered its worst recession in more than 50 years in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism-dependent countries such as Mauritius (-15%), Seychelles (-12%), and Cape Verde (-8.9%) were hardest hit. But these economies are also expected to rebound the fastest in 2021 to achieve a growth of 6.8%, as international travel increases amidst vaccination programmes across the world. Overall, the Continent's GDP is expected to grow by 3.4% in 2021.
Numbers in the Spotlight
 (USD530mn) from AfDB to build transmission line for exporting surplus Angolan electricity to Southern Africa

(USD182mn) worth of five-year domestic bonds issued by DRC to help repay debt and fund development projects

(377mn) PayPal customers are now accessible to African businesses following Flutterwave deal

20,000 foreign fighters
 including Syrians, Turks, Sudanese and Russians in Libya

61 years
is the age at which Tanzania’s president John Pombe Magufuli has died

3.4% growth
to be registered by African economies in 2021, says AfDB

is the contribution of African authors to Covid-19 research on the Continent

2 Grammys
 won by Africans at the 2021 Awards
On The Continent This Week

Effective internal and regional security, and foreign policy

Will foreign powers stop meddling in Libya? A transitional government has assumed power in Tripoli, initiating a short UN-designed democratisation process poised to end with elections later this year. The success of the outsider-led process that has largely side-lined African actors could hinge on whether foreign players stop meddling in oil-rich Libya. Since 2011 when Libya was plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled long-time ruler Muammar Gadhafi, the warring factions there have used earnings from oil fields under their control to enlist over 20,000 mercenaries - further escalating insecurity. Additionally, UAE, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria and the US all continue pursuing unilateral interests in Libya. If and when the foreign players go, the AU needs to fill the power vacuum by regaining its diplomatic clout in Libya and start influencing what was once one of its leading financiers and supporters.

Access to financial services and products

African businesses gain access to 377mn customers worldwide. Businesses in Africa can now sell their products to 377mn users of global payments platform PayPal, thanks to a partnership between the American company and African fintech unicorn, Flutterwave. The deal is expected to boost e-commerce in Africa, especially as PayPal’s users in over 200 countries transacted $936bn in payment volume in 2020, a market that African merchants can now tap into. In 2017, Africa generated $16.5bn in e-commerce revenue, projected to rise to $29bn by 2022. Increasing access to international customers could further extend growth in the sector and support a post-Covid recovery.

Exporting culture & identity

Is the Americanisation of African music driving its global recognition? At this year’s Grammy Awards, Burna Boy, won the ‘Best Global Music Album’ category with his ‘Twice as Tall’ while Wizkid won the Best Music Video for his song ‘Brown Skin Girl’. But the Nigerian artists had significant help from American music icons. ‘Twice As Tall’ was executive produced by legendary music mogul Sean “Diddy'' Combs, who brought in the likes of rappers Anderson Paak and Timbaland to work on the album, providing drums and production for tracks ‘Alarm Clock’ and ‘Wetin Dey Sup' respectively. Wizkid’s ‘Brown Skin Girl’ heavily features Beyoncé, SAINt JHN, and Blue Ivy. Does it mean that African artists have to Americanise their products to pique the interest of Western consumers and judges? Attention should be paid to ensure that Americanisation does not distort the global perception of African entertainment culture.

Scaleable energy access

Addressing electricity imbalance in Africa. The AfDB is financing the construction of a 343km transmission line worth $530mn that will connect the north and south grids in Angola. The north of Angola has a surplus of more than 1,000MW, whereas the south experiences deficits. The intra-Angola line is the first phase of a larger project aimed at supplying Luanda’s electricity to the Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP). The new transmission line will become the backbone for the distribution of power to Southern Africa, and will enable further power trading there. The SAPP has a power deficit of 2,154MW. The project presents a case study for how surplus electricity producers in Africa, can provide power to others that suffer deficits. 

End-to-end value chain capture

Can a billionaire help Africa capture the value of its football? Having being selected as the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), South African mining magnate Patrice Motsepe, now faces the greatest challenge of his illustrious career in attempting to make African football profitable, rid the game of corruption, fight the trafficking of African footballers abroad, poor pay for players, restore confidence in the Continental governing body, and cultivate managerial efficiency. But Motsepe’s credentials might make him the right candidate for the job. With a net worth of $2.9bn, he is expected to leverage his business connections to attract investment to African football. Owning a successful football club in Mamelodi Sundowns, the record winners of the South African league, Motsepe understands profitable football management. However, having assumed the position through a FIFA-brokered deal, Motsepe ought to be wary of potential external influence and focus on African interests.

Intra-continental connectivity, collaboration & trade

Will an African medicines agency improve drug production and efficacy? The creation of the African Medicines Agency (AMA) is in high gear, as Covid-19 validates the need for the Continent to have its own body tasked with improving the production and harmonisation of pharmaceutical products. Sound regulatory systems are critical for protecting public health against use of medical products, which do not meet international standards of quality, safety and efficacy. As such, AMA would enable African companies to tap into the global pharmaceutical market, whose revenue totalled 1.25trn in 2019. Ultimately, it would also help control counterfeit medicines. Globally, the trade in counterfeit pharmaceuticals is worth up to $200bn annually, with Africa among the most affected regions. About 42% of all fake medicines reported to the WHO between 2013 and 2017 were from Africa. The quicker the AMA is operationalised, the better for the health of Africans.

Essential infrastructure, personal living-space & utilities

Humanity over identity. Rwanda vaccinates refugees and asylum-seekers against Covid-19. Across the world, social infrastructures instrumentalise identity to discriminate against foreigners in the consumption of emergency public goods. Not in Rwanda. Whilst many countries are prioritising nationals over non-nationals in Covid-19 inoculation programmes, Rwanda is vaccinating refugees and asylum-seekers too, becoming the first African nation to do so. The refugees received the vaccine on the basis of their vulnerability to the virus, just like nationals. They were among high-risk groups such as health workers, teachers, elderly people with chronic health issues, those aged over 65 years, and other frontline workers. To beat the virus, other countries may want to consider impartially for vaccination, irrespective of nationality and other social statuses.

High value skills development and talent repatriation

Is animation enough to increase children’s uptake in STEAM careers? Kenyan Hollywood star Lupita Nyong’o is part of the voice cast for a new YouTube Originals animated series titled ‘Super Sema’, which follows the futuristic adventures and discoveries of a 10-year-old Kenyan girl whose superpowers are fuelled by STEAM – and no, not water vapour, but science, tech, engineering, arts and math - to save her village from a robot villain. Produced by female-led, Nairobi-based production company ‘Kukua’, ‘Super Sema’ is expected to empower and inspire the next generation of children to change the world through curiosity, creativity, and STEAM. But with Africa facing the most expensive data costs in the world, support is needed to ensure poor children can access such inspiring online content.

Baseline healthcare & disease protection

Decolonising African research. African authors accounted for just 3% of 1,130 research articles exploring Covid-19 in Africa published between November 2019 and August 2020. If and when Africans don’t publish their own research on Covid-19 on the Continent, it hampers the creation of locally relevant knowledge to address the pandemic; especially as just 4% of scientific research published on Covid-19 in the study period was relevant to Africa, and 66.1% of authors on African papers were not from Africa. The stats revive the uncomfortable debate around the historical under-representation of African scientists in research, and the need to decolonise global health research, which in its current form perpetuates existing power imbalances. But for Africans to start controlling the Continent’s public health narrative, African financiers will need to up their funding to domestic research.

Home-grown digital infrastructure & platforms

Nigerian bus-booking platform expanding to solve a global challenge. After facilitating 300,000 rides in just over a year since launch, Lagos-based bus-booking start-up Plentywaka, is looking to scale its operations across Africa and North America, starting with the Canadian city of Toronto in late 2021. In doing so, it provides another example of how an African solution can be applied across the world. Plentywaka, which operates an “Uber-for-buses'' model connecting commuters with buses via an app, is a timely intervention in Africa’s inefficient and obsolete public transportation system. By acting as an aggregator, it enables commuters to explore options of various transport companies, compare fares and make a competitive booking. But as private sector players like Plentywaka are trying to fix Africa’s transportation, governments need to facilitate the creation of enabling backbone infrastructure.

Proportional representation in politics, business and community leadership

The legacy of Tanzania’s president Magufuli. The death of Tanzania’s president John Magufuli has been attributed to a long-standing heart condition, but many will still suspect that he succumbed to Covid-19. He was hailed for his anti-corruption stance, championing austerity, and hands-on style that endeared him to a population that had given up on the idea of a visionary like Julius Nyerere, who stood up to foreign powers. He was a patriot who cancelled foreign trips for public servants, slimmed the cabinet, renegotiated extractive mining contracts with foreign firms, insisted on his wife receiving treatment in a local public hospital, cleaned the public payroll, rejected expensive Chinese loans, cancelled independence day celebrations over costs, constructed more roads than all his predecessors combined, skipped UN general assemblies to save money, did not travel beyond East Africa, and made impromptu visits to public facilities. He has also been credited for transitioning Tanzania to a lower middle-income country. Whilst the West may remember him as a Covid-19 sceptic, at home and in East Africa, he is celebrated as a patriot who stood up to imperialism.

Upgrade Your Life

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

  1. The future of work in Africa - video from LSE in partnership with Movemeback
  2. To understand the #FreeSenegal movement, look to its music
  3. How digital tools can help transform African agri-food system - Podcast from McKinsey 
  4. 5 Methods to survive price wars and not risk your business future
  5. How to have constructive conversations - TEDTalk
  6. What can the faces on its currency tell us about a country?
History Class
Understanding former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
Fall of Africa’s greatest empire - Mali
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