Movemeback Pulse

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Pulse #49 - Capturing value: The new fintech unicorn, on-ground Covid vaccine manufacturing, Nigeria bans twitter, & policing women’s trousers in parliament

In this week’s Pulse:
Nigeria’s Twitter ban threatens freedom of expression, $3.2bn donor support to quicken Covid-19 vaccination, Chipper Cash becomes Africa’s latest unicorn with more Jeff Bezos backing, dynastic political successions, Tanzanian parliament in misogyny row over ‘tight trousers’, and more
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The Data Room

An increasing phenomenon of evading democratic principles - such as peaceful transfer of power through free and fair elections, political competition, and presidential term limits - seems to be taking hold in Africa with huge implications for governance, security, and development on the Continent. In the last 5 years, 13 leaders have fiddled with term limits, often attempting dynastic successions. Notably, there are no term limits in 9 of the 10 African countries embroiled in civil conflicts, and 8 of the 10 largest contributors to Africa’s 29mn refugees and IDPs.

Numbers in the Spotlight


(USD9.5bn) is required by SSA to purchase enough Covid-19 vaccines to achieve herd immunity

(USD3.2bn) pledged by donors for more Covid-19 vaccines to less wealthy countries

(USD1bn) is the size of Mozambique’s new power plant and transmission project

(USD100mn) in series C investment closed by fintech Chipper Cash

10-year increase in production of fishmeal and fish oil in West Africa, largely for export

decline in remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa between 2019 and 2020

French winner of the International Booker Prize is French-Senegalese writer David Diop

On The Continent This Week

End-to-end value chain capture

Can Africa’s largest pharma company plug vaccine shortages? Durban-based Aspen Pharmacare plans to expand its manufacturing capabilities in anticipation of patent waivers for Covid-19 vaccines. This would enable Aspen to capture some of the $9.5bn SSA requires to purchase enough vaccines to achieve herd immunity (70% coverage). The Continent currently imports all of its supplies. While Aspen already fills and finishes the J&J Covid-19 vaccine at its new $240mn plant, it possibly earns just a fraction from the deal. Patent waivers would allow Aspen and African pharma to manufacture the vaccines as generics, and help the Continent to retain more end-to-end value through job creation, tax revenue, supply-chain linkages and skills development. 

Effective internal and regional security, and foreign policy

Dynastic political succession threatens stability in Africa. Congo-Brazzaville's President Denis Sassou-Nguesso has appointed his son, Denis-Christel, as a cabinet minister - reviving speculation that he could be planning a dynastic succession, an increasingly prevalent pattern in Central Africa, where mineral revenues are deployed to establish and maintain complex webs of political patronage. E.g. Gabon’s Ali Bongo replaced his father, as did DRC’s Joseph Kabila and Chad’s Mahamat Déby. Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang overthrew his uncle before installing his son as Vice-President; while Cameroon’s Franck Biya is reportedly being groomed to succeed his father. This nepotistic transfer of power undermines democratisation and political stability, both domestically and internationally. 

Access to financial services and products

Chipper Cash becomes Africa’s 6th unicorn. The three-year old, cross-border, mobile-based, no-fee, P2P payment service, has closed a $100mn Series C round in which Bezos Expeditions, Jeff Bezos’s personal VC fund, participated (having also participated in the last round). Currently operating in Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya, this latest funding will enable further geographical expansion, including to the UK. With increased participation from the World’s second richest person likely to rally further international interest in African fintech, should the Continent be concerned about the source of funding for its financial products?

High value skills development and talent repatriation

Africa’s biggest incubation centre launches. A new 6-storey tech-preneurship hub, described as Africa’s biggest, has opened in Lagos. The facility, built by Unicorn Group, seeks to address challenges preventing young entrepreneurs from succeeding such as insufficient education, poor training, inadequate mentorship, scanty infrastructure, and access to capital. Unicorn Group already runs successful hubs in Accra, Johannesburg and Nairobi. Whilst the facility promises to help one million young people build competitive companies in the next ten years, much more intervention is required to plug Nigeria’s youth unemployment hole. ~14mn people aged 15-24 are unemployed.

Home-grown digital infrastructure & platforms 

Nigeria Twitter ban risks stifling youth voice. Nigeria’s government has indefinitely banned Twitter from operating in the country - just days after a tweet by President Buhari was removed for violating the platform’s rules. The ban puts Nigeria on the terrifying path of eroding freedom of expression. In recent years Twitter has provided Nigerian youth with a voice to seek accountability from authorities and question the socio-economic ills blighting the country. The platform was particularly pivotal in helping Nigerian youth organise and sustain last year’s #EndSars protests against police brutality. Buhari ought to match his youth empowerment rhetoric with action by reversing the ban.

Exporting culture

First French winner of International Booker Prize is African. French-Senegalese writer David Diop has become the first French writer to win the International Booker Prize, awarded annually for a book translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. Diop’s winning entry, ‘At Night All Blood is Black’, relays the experience of Senegalese soldiers who fought for France in World War One. The win helps attract attention to the contribution of African soldiers and the tremendous impact of the war on millions of Africans, which is mostly overlooked. Diop’s victory also demonstrates that authentic African stories have a place on the global stage.

Essential infrastructure, personal living-space & utilities

Nigeria electricity transmission reform. Authorities in Nigeria are considering selling off the country’s state-owned electricity transmission network - the Transmission Company. Years of lack of investment and deteriorating infrastructure has led to regular country-wide power outages, costing the country $28bn or 2% of national GDP annually. While Nigeria’s installed capacity stands at 13,000MW, transmission inefficiencies mean just about 4,500MW is fed into the grid that connects 40% of the country’s population of about 200mn. To ensure the best firm is secured for the country’s transmission infrastructure, a transparent procurement process shielded from corruption is required. 

Proportional representation in politics, business and community leadership

Tanzanian parliament in misogyny row. Female MPs in Tanzania are seeking an apology for an MP who was ordered to leave parliament for wearing ‘tight trousers’. The decision of Parliament Speaker, Job Ndugai, to order female MP Condester Sichwale to leave the house after a male legislator complained that her trousers were tight, has also incensed social media users, with one declaring it a “misogynistic power trip”. While the Speaker’s decision seemed to have been informed by a parliamentary rule on the tightness of female parliamentarians’ trousers, such vague provisions can be exploited to limit the participation of women in legislative activity. These rules need to be revised to enable women to have proportional performance in political duty.

Scaleable energy access

Mozambique launches $1bn power infrastructure projects. Mozambique has launched the $1bn construction of an electricity plant in the south and a transmission line, which will add 450MW to the national grid and deliver electricity to 10mn people respectively. Domestic electricity consumption is significantly lower than the installed capacity of 2,827MW. However, only 32.7% of the 29.5mn total population has electricity access, due to limited transmission lines. In fact, just a single transmission line takes electricity to North-eastern Mozambique. However, with rising insecurity leading to the suspension of a $20bn LNG project in the north, Mozambique will want to ensure that jihadists insurgents at her borders do not derail this plan.

Intra-continental connectivity, collaboration & trade

Egypt-Sudan military drill risks escalating regional tensions. Egypt and Sudan completed six days of military drills dubbed ‘Guardians of the Nile’, against a backdrop of increasing tension with Ethiopia over the use of the Nile. Egypt and Sudan haven’t ruled out military intervention to destroy Ethiopia’s 6,000MW Renaissance Dam on grounds that if opened, the facility will reduce their share of the Nile waters and severely damage their economies. But Ethiopia is not keen to surrender unilateral control over Africa’s largest dam. With previous talks stalling, the AU and other regional bodies need to prioritise bringing the rival parties to the negotiating table, before tensions escalate into regional conflict.

Baseline healthcare & disease protection

$3.2bn more funding for COVAX Covid vaccines & delivery The EU, Japan, Belgium, Denmark, Spain and Sweden are among donors that have pledged $3.2bn for purchasing and delivering Covid-19 vaccines to 92 low & middle-income countries under COVAX’s Advance Market Commitment (AMC). They also pledged to share 54mn more vaccine doses. With half of the AMC countries coming from Africa, fulfilment of the pledges would help increase the Continent’s inoculation reach from the current 2%. COVAX is struggling to reach its $6.8bn fundraising target, derailing vaccine supplies. Continued reliance on COVAX could cost Africa more lives - alternative supply arrangements such as localisation of manufacturing and direct purchases may provide a solution.

Upgrade Your Life


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

  1. Forbes Africa #30Under30 list
  2. How to deal with the anxiety of being stereotyped - TEDtalk
  3. 5 myths about flexible work
  4. Lessons on resilience for small and midsize businesses
  5. US woman finds out she's a princess in Sierra Leone
  6. Healthy cooking made easy with BBC Good Food - Free online course

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