Movemeback Pulse

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Pulse #48 - Address inequalities: $1.2bn Africa vaccine hubs, Twitter scraps race-biased algorithm, NBA expands to Africa, and Adidas cultural appropriation

In this week’s Pulse:
The $1.2bn EU backing for Africa vaccine manufacturing, slow Covid-19 vaccination hinders econ recovery, another coup in Mali threatens regional stability, volcano destruction in DRC, Adidas and Timbuktu embroiled in cultural appropriation row, Twitter step toward racial equality, first mobile money in Ethiopia, NBA expands to Africa and more
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The Data Room

Covid-related factors, including limited access to global vaccine supplies, logistical challenges, and resurgence in infections, are working against a rapid economic recovery in Africa in 2021. But the pace of recovery will vary across the Continent. Libya and Guinea can expect the fastest recovery on the back of relative political stability and the revival of mining respectively. Equatorial Guinea, Angola & Zambia will have the slowest recovery due to dependence on natural resources susceptible to price volatilities. The slow rollout of vaccines could cost Africa an estimated $14bn a month in economic output. However, the pledge by the EU to invest $1.2bn in building regional vaccine manufacturing hubs in Africa could help prepare the Continent better for future pandemics.  

Numbers in the Spotlight

 (USD16bn) is the size of the South African electricity contract threatened by legal wrangle
 (USD14bn) is the monthly cost of slow Covid-19 vaccine rollout to Africa 
 (USD3bn) deep-water port of Lamu in Kenya receives first ships
 (USD1.2bn) pledged by the EU for building vaccine manufacturing hubs in Africa
 (USD1bn) is the enterprise value of NBA Africa
 signed up for country’s first mobile money service within a week of launch
 destroyed by lava following volcanic eruption in Goma, DRC
is the how much Nigeria has devalued the Naira by

On The Continent This Week

End-to-end value chain capture

EU’s $1.2bn plan for African vaccine manufacturing hubs. The EU has pledged to invest €1bn ($1.2bn) to build regional vaccine manufacturing hubs as well as provide expertise, to help Africa develop its own pharmaceutical, biotech and medtech industries. This would not only make Africa more independent in vaccine production, but it would also incentivize and de-risk investment into local pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Africa currently imports 99% of its vaccines and 94% of its medicines. Achieving Continent-wide impact will require the hubs to establish strong linkages with domestic pharmaceutical industries. But to capture the full value of such an investment, Governments need to create an enabling environment through skills training, reliable infrastructure, political & economic stability, effective regulation and access to finance.  

Access to financial services and products

Can Naira devaluation fix Nigeria’s budget deficit? The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has adopted the market-determined NAFEX rate as the government’s official exchange rate for the Naira, effectively devaluing the currency by 7.6%. Embracing the NAFEX for conversion of dollar inflows and outflows will be ‘net positive’ for the government and help boost revenue. About 90% of Nigeria’s forex earnings come from oil export. The sale of Nigerian crude is done in USD and the revenue is converted to Naira, for local use. Should such USD inflows be converted using a weaker NAFEX, it means the government would have more money to fix its budget deficit, which currently stands at $15bn. The adoption of a free-floating Naira could help increase government spending, facilitating economic recovery in Africa’s largest economy.

Baseline healthcare & disease protection

Slow Covid-19 inoculation costing Africa $14bn a month. The slow rollout of Covid-19 vaccines could cost Africa $14bn a month in economic output, thereby derailing the Continent’s efforts to return to economic growth after a year in recession. Recovery may take longer than initially anticipated as shortages in available vaccine doses continue to grow due to an export ban in India, which supplies most of Africa’s doses through the COVAX facility. Less than 0.5% of Africa's roughly 1.3bn people are fully immunized. Reliance on the increasingly inefficient COVAX facility, despite its supply guarantees, could prove more costly to Africa’s health systems and economies. Diversification of supply sources and local production is needed.

Home-grown digital infrastructure & platforms

Ethiopia’s first mobile money service promises financial inclusions for millions. More than 1mn Ethiopians have registered for the country’s first mobile money service named Telebirr, less than a week after its launch by state-controlled Ethio Telecom. The advent of mobile money gives Ethiopia’s 66% unbanked adult population a chance at financial inclusion. Ethiopia, which has a population of 155mn people, ranks among the lowest countries in the use of digital financial services. Quickening the opening up of the mobile money and telecom industry to the private sector could spur innovation and make prices competitive. At long last, “one of Africa’s sleeping mobile money giants”, as described by GSM, is waking up to millions of people.

Effective internal and regional security, and foreign policy

Second Mali coup in 9 months threatens regional stability. Mali's former junta leader, Col Assimi Goïta, has declared himself the country's transitional president, days after overthrowing the civilian government he helped install following a previous coup. The tense situation could sink Mali deeper into political flux, economic ruin and insecurity. It could also undermine multilateral efforts to contain armed groups in Mali, threaten regional stability and security, and fuel migration. In the last decade, Mali has become a launchpad for al-Qaeda and ISIL-linked groups to attack neighbouring countries and destabilize West Africa and the Sahel region. A speedy regional response could help prevent jihadists from exploiting the instability in Mali to gain more ground. 

High value skills development and talent repatriation

NBA Africa to develop basketball on the Continent. The NBA has announced the formation of NBA Africa, which will oversee all league business in Africa. This includes the Basketball Africa League, whose first season is being concluded in Kigali, Rwanda. Placing African basketball and the NBA under the same umbrella body will give the Continent’s talent more exposure and enable them to more easily transfer to the world’s most popular league. Basketball is already the second-most popular sport (after soccer) in much of Africa. By investing in better facilities and training, NBA Africa (currently worth nearly $1bn) has huge potential to increase the value of the sport in Africa, and increase the number African-born players in the NBA from the current 13. Africa should pay close attention to ensure benefits from the international success of its players are captured onshore.

Essential infrastructure, personal living-space & utilities

Better warning systems can prevent further damage by DRC seismic activity. An earthquake on the border of DRC and Rwanda razed buildings in the city of Goma on Tuesday and stoked fears a nearby volcano would erupt again, three days after dozens of people were killed and 17 villages were destroyed by lava. The proportion of the destruction caused by the eruption raises serious concerns about the effectiveness of the local warning system that would have provided timely and optimal preparedness and response to reduce the likelihood of injury, death and destruction. African countries need to invest in reliable warning systems that can reduce vulnerability and mortality caused by disasters and enhance the resilience of communities. Man-made disasters and natural hazards cost Africa $15bn in 2002.

Exporting culture

Adidas and Timbuktu embroiled in cultural appropriation row. Adidas has not made its new Xhosa-themed sneaker available in South Africa, despite branding them with the word uluntu (roughly, and perhaps incorrectly translated as “community”). While this is a common distribution strategy in the sneaker business, it mirrors the exploitative cultural appropriation by global corporations. For instance, British clothing retailer Timbuktu has come under fire for trademarking the word Yoruba - the ethnic group in West Africa. Turning a cultural group’s heritage into a business without consulting it or sharing the resulting product/profit with them is exploitative. African need to take decisive steps to protect their culture. E.g. The Maasai have set the precedent by preventing companies from using their distinctive patterns without a licensing agreement. 

Intra-continental connectivity, collaboration & trade

Kenya’s new $3bn port to boom regional trade. A new $3bn deep-water port at the Kenyan island of Lamu has welcomed its first ships. The lynchpin of an ambitious $23bn multi-state regional transport corridor, the new port creates alternative access to the sea for the landlocked countries of Ethiopia and South Sudan. The new port also eases congestion at Mombasa, East Africa’s busiest port further south in Kenya, that has been experiencing delays in clearing containers. As Africa works to increase intra-continental trade through the AfCFTA, large transportation infrastructure projects such as Lamu will help penetrate previously inaccessible markets in the hinterland.

Scaleable energy access

South Africa’s power cuts to continue. A legal wrangle over a power supply contract worth an estimated $16bn could derail the South African government’s attempts to eliminate electricity shortages by 2022. DNG Energy has filed a case to be named as a preferred bidder to provide about 1,220MW of electricity by August 2022 in place of Turkey’s Karpowership that won the contract, but the High Court won’t hear the matter until mid-July at the earliest. This means South Africa could continue experiencing periodic power cuts, which cost the economy up to $8.3bn in 2019. But the case also gives authorities a second chance to weigh-up the benefits of fossil fuels under Karpowership vs. securing long-term clean energy solutions that utilise local firms. Karpowership’s bid locks South Africa into using natural gas, a fossil fuel, for two decades.

Proportional representation in politics, business and community leadership

Twitter abandons race-biased image-cropping algorithm. Twitter is scrapping its image-cropping algorithm after several users complained the tool is biased against Black people and instead favours white faces and women. In a user test with photos of Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell separated by a wide white space, the algorithm twice picked the Senate Minority Leader’s face for an image preview. While it’s too soon to say if Twitter’s decision spells real progress toward racial equality online, it’s a reasonable step forward, particularly at a time when social media platforms are being weaponized for racial abuse. The decision also coincides with calls by investors that company bosses do more than just condemn racism, shaming them into releasing previously unseen data on workforce diversity. A diverse workforce can help develop more racially equal products.

Upgrade Your Life


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

  1. Africa Day concert 2021 hosted by Idris Elba
  2. What farmers need to be modern, climate-friendly and profitable -TED Talk
  3. Communication and interpersonal skills at work - Free online course
  4. A feminist reimagining of Kenya's public transport - TED Talk
  5. The essentials: Negotiating strategically
  6. Watch the entries of the first African edition of the Mobile Film Festival
  7. Diploma in applied psychology of consumer behaviour - Free online course

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