Movemeback Pulse

Actionable African insight delivered to you on pulse


Pulse #41 - Return our art: Germany to return Benin bronzes, Tanzania's first female president, Egypt capital switch, & game change for Africa's gig economy

In this week's Pulse...
Germany and UK regional museums lead the return of stolen African artefacts, the world’s first wildlife bond presents a new model for conservation, a class-action lawsuit jeopardises the gig economy, Egypt new administrative capital raises questions over Cairo's future, new fund for Black farmers in South Africa, Tanzania's first female president faces difficult decisions, and more.
The Data Room

In an effort to predict the pandemic’s economic impact, McKinsey developed 9 global macroeconomic scenarios for Africa. 2 were considered the most likely - (A1) a recurrence of the virus and muted recovery (resulting in -8% real-GDP growth in 2020), and (A3) a contained virus with global growth returning in 2021 (-3% real-GDP growth in 2020). Despite the pandemic continuing to rage on, most of Africa has fared better than expected, with GDP declining 6% in 2020, thanks to government fiscal and non-fiscal support and lockdown easing. McKinsey now expects Africa to make a recovery to pre-crisis growth levels within 3 years.

Numbers in the Spotlight
(USD218bn) climate change risk faced by African banks

 (USD25bn) is the estimated cost of the first stage of building a new administrative capital in Egypt

$400,000,000 an hour
 (USD400mn) is the cost to global trade of the blockage of Egypt’s Suez canal by a container ship

(USD340mn) is the size of a new fund to support Black farmers in South Africa

 (USD45mn) is the value of the world’s first wildlife conservation bond, designed to support endangered black rhinos in South Africa

410,000 refugees
 in Kenya face an uncertain future after the government orders the closure of camps  

10 African start-ups
 in this year’s Y-Combinator winter cohort
On The Continent This Week

Exporting culture & identity

Germany returning Benin bronzes - will others follow? Germany is negotiating to return more than 500 Benin bronzes which were gradually acquired from Britain, having originally been looted in the 1897 invasion of the Kingdom of Benin, Nigeria. Analysts say Berlin’s move “will put pressure on museums in Britain'', which hold the largest collection of Benin bronzes, to also return artefacts looted from the former West African Empire. With regional museums across the UK now pondering the same, whether the UK government will fully return stolen African artefacts, a move recommended by French President Emmanuel Macron, remains unclear. In the interim, African authorities ought to start preparing to better protect returned art and artefacts, as several works have previously been stolen from poorly-secured African museums.

Baseline healthcare & disease protection

Is Kenya using diplomats as guinea pigs? While Kenya has courted criticism for offering free Covid-19 vaccines to all diplomats, including thousands of UN staff, before completing inoculation of its own priority population, some commentators argue that the move is an effort to show the local population that vaccines are safe. Kenya’s health workers have been reluctant to receive Covid-19 jabs due to scepticism about their safety. Such scepticism remains rife across Africa, with concerns not abated by two French doctors previously suggesting a Covid vaccine could be tested in Africa. Despite Kenya now facing new lockdowns amid its third wave, convincing the public that vaccines are safe may continue to be an uphill climb.

Proportional representation in politics, business and community leadership

Samia Suluhu - Tanzania’s first female president. On being sworn into office as the new President of Tanzania following the death of John Magufuli, Samia Suluhu has made history by achieving many Firsts. She’s the first female president in Tanzania, and the first female Muslim president in sub-Saharan Africa. The implications for Tanzania remain to be seen - will she maintain her predecessor’s legacy of nationalism, anti-corruption, and Covid-19 scepticism, or chart her own course by restoring deeper international interaction and a scientific approach to the pandemic? With Tanzania having stopped releasing Covid data in May 2020, and with fears that without a reversal, Tanzania is putting lives and a speedy economic recovery at risk, how she treats the pandemic is likely to set a tone for her presidency.

High value skills development and talent repatriation

Can a $340mn fund address skills shortage among Black farmers in South Africa? South Africa has established a $340mn fund to ease funding constraints and entry barriers to commercial agriculture facing Black farmers. However it is unclear if this will enable the acquisition of skills necessary for Black farmers to play a bigger role in an industry traditionally dominated by whites. In South Africa, 72% of arable land is still in the hands of whites, who account for less than 10% of the total population. While the fund will assist Black producers and investors in developing, expanding and acquiring farming operations, inadequate skills could limit the effectiveness of such empowerment efforts. Lessons can be learnt from neighbouring Zimbabwe, where the transfer of farms from whites to Blacks left farms underutilised, partly due to inadequate training. 

Home-grown digital infrastructure & platforms

Nigerian e-hailing drivers want workers status: Implications for gig economy. Taxi-hailing drivers in Nigeria are working on a class-action lawsuit against Uber and Bolt, in a bid to access benefits like holiday pay, pension and a guaranteed minimum wage. With 85.8% of employment in Africa considered informal, a successful suit could have great impact for job creation. Africa needs to create more than 18mn new jobs each year to accommodate its youthful entrants into the labour market. Currently, the gig economy absorbs much of this - e.g. in Kenya, gig workers accounted for 91% of new jobs in 2019. However, with informal workers (especially women) being hardest hit by job loss due to Covid, the need for better protection of informal workers cannot be ignored. A solution that both supports the trend, combined with interventions that protects informal workers is needed. 
End-to-end value chain capture

The cost of the Suez Canal obstruction to global trade. This week’s blockage of Egypt's Suez Canal by a giant skyscraper-sized container ship continues to cause a traffic jam in the Red Sea. The cost of the blockage of the 193km canal, which facilitates about 12% of global trade, has been estimated at $400mn per hour. Last year around 19,000 ships (~50 a day) passed through the canal, bringing in almost $6bn in fees for Egypt. If not quickly reopened, the  blockage could see an increase in the price of everything from fuel to consumer goods. As 1.74mn bpd of crude and ~9% of global refined oil products flowed through the canal last year, oil prices have already increased amid concerns over global supply. With so much of global trade dependent on one means of transportation, perhaps now is the time to invest in alternative modes of mobility, such as inter-continental bullet trains.

Effective internal and regional security, and foreign policy

Kenya closing refugee camps holding mostly SomalisKenya has ordered the UNHCR to close the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps that host 410,000 largely Somali people, over alleged infiltration by terrorists. The move could deepen the diplomatic tiff between Nairobi and Mogadishu. If the UNHCR fails to execute the order, Kenya, which has left no room for talks, plans to relocate the camps to the Somali border. The already strained relationship between the two countries has seen Mogadishu cut diplomatic ties with Nairobi over alleged interference in its internal affairs, in addition to banning Kenyan imports of khat. Regardless of their diplomatic differences, Kenya and Somalia need a negotiated solution that can ensure the continued protection of displaced and persecuted persons.

Scaleable energy access

Russia’s energy play for soft power in Africa. Russia and Africa have created a joint energy committee aimed at facilitating the transfer of advanced technology, money and expertise. The committee is tasked with facilitating energy deals between Russian energy companies and African countries. Vladimir Putin has been clear that Africa is one of Russia’s foreign policy priorities, and previously announced plans to increase its role in African energy through oil, gas and nuclear projects. It has clear economic motives for doing so - whilst it can offer energy sector expertise, it also faces a shortage of minerals such as manganese, bauxite and chromium, all of which are important for industry. While Russia’s interest in Africa offers the Continent yet another approach to guide its development towards a more sustainable and diversified energy mix, her leaders ought to guard against being used as a pawn in a great power game.

Intra-continental connectivity, collaboration & trade

Can carrier partnerships increase intra-Africa flights? EgyptAir is looking to expand across Africa by developing a new Ghanaian carrier and striking a joint venture with a Sudanese airline. Intra-Africa commercial flights remain infrequent, expensive, and circuitous (a trend which existed pre-Covid trend), due to a combination of protectionist legal barriers and regulatory hurdles, mixed with inadequate infrastructure, high taxes, and stubborn nationalism. Bilateral partnerships between carriers could encourage the opening up of the Continent’s skies via allowing other African countries' carriers to use their airports, which already exists for carriers from other continents. The end result would be a boost to collective GDP and the attraction of new travellers. E.g. When Europe created a single aviation zone in 1993, annual traffic doubled over the next decade.

Essential infrastructure, personal living-space & utilities

Egypt starts move to new capital. What will happen to Cairo? To reduce congestion in Cairo, one of Africa’s most populous cities, the Egyptian government is moving the country’s administrative capital 40kms east. Set to receive the first civil servants later this year, the city is expected to eventually house at least 6mn people. The move mirrors a growing trend to construct new cities to solve urbanisation challenges across Africa. While the new administrative capital represents a fresh start for the government, research shows that on top of failing to provide adequate housing and infrastructure, new city projects are expensive, emphasise physical development, exacerbate social exclusion, disrupt informal settlements and businesses, and lack public involvement. What will be done with the network of empty buildings left in Cairo also remains to be seen.

Access to financial services and products

The world’s first wildlife bond. The world’s first wildlife bond will start trading later this year, Sold by the World Bank, the 5-year $45mn bond is designed to raise funds to grow the numbers of endangered black rhinos in South Africa; its yield will be determined by the rate of population growth of the animals. With Africa facing a $1bn conservation deficit, the bond may provide a new model to finance the replenishment of other endangered wildlife species such as lions, tigers, gorillas and orang-utans. As wildlife is a key attraction for Africa’s tourism industry (generating $29bn a year and employing 3.6mn people pre-Covid), the bond also has the potential to boost Africa’s post-Covid recovery.

Upgrade Your Life

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

  1. A guide to Africa's looted treasures
  2. Five ways AI can democratise African healthcare
  3. ‘Not a noisy gun’: The women peacebuilders of Liberia
  4. What is your organisation’s long-term remote work strategy?
  5. Professional resilience: Building skills to thrive at work
  6. Bill Gates: The innovations we need to avoid a climate disaster - TEDTalk
  7. Virtual tour of South Africa's cradle of humankind
  8. Namibia’s digital independence museum
History Class
Why some Namibians aren’t in the mood to celebrate their independence
Benin City, the mighty medieval capital now lost without trace
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