Movemeback Pulse

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Pulse #51 - Threatening sovereignty: Chinese security firms in Africa, medical oxygen shortages, Netflix Africa expansion & exporting Nigerian electricity

In this week’s Pulse:
Oxygen shortage causing Covid deaths, Independence hero dies (Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda), Chinese security firms undermining Africa’s sovereignty, Nigeria prioritises electricity export over domestic demand, gamechangers for telecom industry, DRC seeks world’s largest dam, and why Netflix’s is training African film makers 
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The Data Room

China’s increasing involvement in Africa has attracted 1mn Chinese immigrants to the Continent, but Beijing’s influence is dividing opinion among ordinary Africans. While an Afrobarometer survey shows that a majority of Africans perceive China’s influence as positive, that proportion has dropped by 5 percentage points in the last 5 years. Huge declines particularly emerged in Gabon (-22 percentage points), Namibia (-18), Botswana (-17), Sierra Leone (-14), and Tunisia (-13). Analysts attribute this to the framing of Chinese financial assistance as ‘debt trap’, claims of asset seizures, abuse of African labourers on Chinese projects and narrative of Chinese colonisation of Africa.

Numbers in the Spotlight

(USD80bn) in G7 financing to be extended to Africa’s private sector to aid post-pandemic economic recovery

(USD8bn) in additional funding pledged by the World Bank for Africa’s regional integration 

(USD570mn) is the cost of constructing a regional power transmission line that will enable Nigeria export electricity, despite domestic outages

1,000,000 Chinese immigrants 
 (1mn) in Africa - where there is a proliferation of Chinese security firms

in hydroelectricity generation capacity (world record) is being sought by DRC for the Grand Inga dam

136,312 Covid deaths
in Africa (as June 18.) amid a severe shortage of medical oxygen - WHO warns Africa is in ‘full blown third wave’

940 meters
is the length of the world’s longest graffiti mural that is attracting tourists to Cotonou, Benin

40% government stake 
in Ethiopia’s Ethio Telecom is being sold off as part of industry privatisation

On The Continent This Week

Effective internal and regional security, and foreign policy

Is Africa sleepwalking into (re)colonialism as Chinese security firms expand? Chinese security firms are deploying tens of thousands of contractors to protect Beijing’s investments in Africa under the Belt and Road Initiative, which has attracted ~2,000 State-owned Enterprises (SOEs) making annual revenue of ~$40bn. There are now 1mn Chinese immigrants in Africa. With Chinese security firms owned or controlled by the state, the explosion of these foreign actors threatens African states’ stranglehold on guaranteeing the security of citizens and property, raising a critical question about whether the Continent is sleepwalking into (re)colonialism. Without a strong regulatory regime, Chinese security firms - which serve Chinese interests - pose significant risk to African interests. Can governments protect Africa's interests amidst intensifying Chinese involvement within Africa’s security structure?

End-to-end value chain capture

Ethiopia’s telecom sector privatization - is mobile money next? The government is selling off 40% of its stake in the state-owned monopoly Ethio Telecom as part of a broader move to privatize the country’s telecom sector. Ethiopia recently awarded an $850mn private operation license to a Safaricom-led consortium. Subjecting Ethio Telecom to competition and foreign investment, as well as reducing state control in it will usher in innovation, better services, lower prices and more jobs for the country’s 110mn people. For instance, the Safaricom-led consortium is expected to create ~1.5mn new jobs and invest $8.5bn over 10 years. Might Ethiopia’s nascent mobile money market be next to reap the benefits of privatization?

Essential infrastructure, personal living-space & utilities

Nigeria wants to export electricity despite 80mn people having none. Nigeria is participating in a $570mn regional power transmission project that will enable it to export surplus electricity to Togo, Burkina Faso and Niger. Nigeria boasts a 13,000MW generation capacity, but distribution inefficiencies and inadequate transmission infrastructure mean only 4,000MW is dispatched for consumption. Over 80mn Nigerians don’t have electricity and unreliable power costs the country ~$29bn a year with businesses and households compelled to fork out ~$14bn a year on generators. The boss of Nigeria’s transmission company says the project will earn the country forex and provide jobs – but are these benefits of exporting electricity larger than expanding domestic transmission infrastructure to power the slowing economy?

Home-grown digital infrastructure & platforms 

Game changer for African telecom equipment vendors. MTN will introduce open radio access network (OpenRAN) technology later this year. The standardised industry-wide mobile/wireless network enables telecom operators to buy equipment from different suppliers without compromising interoperability. It reduces dominance by the big equipment suppliers such as Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia, which wrapped proprietary equipment with software - hindering market entry for small suppliers. MTN’s move therefore eases entry for small African equipment vendors into the $468bn global telecom equipment market (2019) - projected to reach $743.8bn in 2027. For telecom operators, OpenRAN will lower costs, increase innovation and reduce reliance on few vendors. 

Exporting culture & identity

World’s longest graffiti tells Dahomey history. Africa’s latest tourist attraction is the 940-meter World’s longest graffiti mural in Cotonou, Benin. The ‘Heritage Wall’ is an open-air museum that takes visitors on a journey into the four-century history of the Kingdom of Dahomey, which flourished during the Atlantic Slave Trade as a major market. The mural made by 40 graffiti artists should boost tourism and help the economy of 12mn people diversify from agriculture and trade with Nigeria (~$20% of GDP). In 2014, Benin earned $197mn from tourism (the country’s leading forex earner after cotton), which also accounted for 2.6% of GDP and 5.6% of all jobs. But, the country can earn more from tourism, especially as the birthplace of voodoo.

Intra-continental connectivity, collaboration & trade 

World Bank increases funding for Africa’s integration. The World Bank has identified transport, energy and digital infrastructure as vital areas for deepening Africa's regional integration, pledging to increase funding for the process from the existing $19bn by over $8bn in the next three years. This will help remove barriers to the implementation of AfCFTA which seeks to bring together a market of 1.2bn people and a combined GDP of $3.4trn. Poor transport infrastructure, inadequate power supply and lack of enabling digital infrastructure are delaying Africa’s integration. The World Bank support is commendable but governments and African intergovernmental institutions need to take the lead in removing barriers to regional integration.

Scaleable energy access

DRC identifies developer for world’s largest dam. Kinshasa has selected Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group to develop 6 more dams under the Grand Inga project to expand their installed capacity from 1,800MW to over 40,000MW - twice the current world record. With 645mn Africans stuck in energy poverty and businesses suffering outages, the Grand Inga dams would foster industrialisation and economic growth. Fortescue plans to use energy from the $80bn Inga project for manufacturing hydrogen, but DRC will export some of the electricity across Africa. Africa reached 168,000MW of installed capacity in 2016, but the Continent will need to increase investment into generation to extend electricity to the remaining 57% of its population still lacking access. 

Baseline healthcare & disease protection

Covid patients ‘dying from lack of oxygen’ in Africa. A severe shortage of medical oxygen is contributing to preventable deaths across Africa. It undermines efforts of African health systems to treat patients with pneumonia and hypoxaemia (a low blood oxygen level), found to be the top cause of mortality among Covid-19 patients. Many African countries didn’t expand oxygen manufacturing capabilities despite the WHO earlier warning that ~20% of Covid patients would need the gas. The situation has been compounded by a shortage of  gas cylinders. ~50% of the Covid-deaths in 64 hospitals in 10 African countries were attributed to lack of oxygen, a study published in the Lancet shows. The short-term solution is to convert industrial cylinders to medical ones.

Access to financial services and products 

$80bn G7 injection into African private sector. Leading development banks have pledged to extend $80bn to the private sector in Africa in the next 5 years. The injection will help speed up Africa’s post-Covid economic recovery. IMF says Africa’s economy shrunk by 3.1% in 2020, condemning the Continent to its first recession in 25 years. UNCTAD attributes much of the meltdown to a 17% reduction in merchandise exports and 5% loss in government tax revenue, hindering public spending. As IMF estimates that Africa will require ~$425bn between now and 2025 for economic recovery, domestic sources will have to cover that financing gap. Most African governments have announced non-health stimulus below 2% of GDP, compared to over 10% in Germany.

Proportional representation in politics, business and community leadership

10,000 girls get tech training in Lagos. The Eko Innovation Centre in Lagos has launched a series of tech boot camps to train 10,000 girls in the next five years. The ‘Girl-in-Tech’ programme will facilitate the inclusion of girls in the booming male-dominated tech industry. The training programme is focusing on artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, web development, UI/UX, and agile - some of the most sought after tech skills. The tech sector in Africa’s largest economy contributes 10% to economic output, and it’s expected to create 3mn jobs and generate $94bn in revenue by 2021. It’s vital to prepare girls to compete for these jobs and the wealth.

High value skills development and talent repatriation 

Netflix trains African filmmakers. The American streaming service is training 12 African filmmakers in series content writing through a 3-month incubation programme. It paves the way for trainees to pitch their incubated stories and develop series for Netflix - improving the quality of African storytelling amidst a decline in film budgets due to Covid-19. Writers also get the chance to tell Africa’s story from an African perspective to the 208mn subscribers of Netflix. However, the growing Netflix monopoly needs to be checked to maintain healthy competition with local streaming services such as Showmax, NollyLand and IrokoTv. Of the 3.9mn streaming subscribers in Africa in 2019, 2mn belonged to Netflix.

Upgrade Your Life

Our selection of online content, courses, tools and offers to help you build your personal repertoire.
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  7. Work-life balance and the impact of remote working - Free online course

History Class

Remembering Kenneth Kaunda - Zambia's first President
China's private security companies go overseas | FT World

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