Movemeback Pulse

Actionable African insight delivered to you on pulse

Pulse #60 - Youth potential: Youth-inspired presidential victory in Zambia, Senagalese TikTok star reaches 100m followers, decolonising sciences, & more

In this week’s Pulse:
Nigeria’s tech startup clampdown continues, exporting Africa-made Covid-19 vaccines illogical, translating scientific terms to African languages can improve learning, recognising TikTok’s Black creatives, Facebook to expand Africa undersea internet cables, and is Uganda a paradise for refugees?
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The Data Room

The more contagious delta variant of Covid-19 is fuelling the third wave of infections across much of Africa. Meanwhile, vaccine hoarding by wealthy countries has severely limited supplies for the Continent - contributing to just 1.1% of Africans being fully vaccinated, and ~2.5% having received at least one dose. Only Seychelles has reached the minimum vaccination level for herd immunity. Whilst localisation of production was mooted as one solution to increase Africa’s supplies, read below for how J&J is exporting South African made vaccines out of the Continent.

Numbers in the Spotlight


(USD2.5bn) sought by Egypt for 17 desalination plants to address water scarcity

(USD1.1bn) raised by African tech startups so far in 2021 - 69% more than last year

 (USD1bn) is the cost of Facebook’s 2Africa undersea internet infrastructure, set to be expanded to Seychelles, Comoros & Angola

100,000,000 TikTok followers
(100mn) achieved by Senegalese Khaby Lame, the second person to reach the milestone

~30,000,000 doses
(30mn) of J&J's Covid-19 vaccines ordered by South Africa yet to be delivered, whilst it exports supplies out of the Continent

(USD13mn) of crude lost every day to theft and vandalism in Nigeria, as the country gets a new law to overhaul oil and gas sector

2,000 Afghan refugees
to be hosted by Uganda

180 scientific papers
to be translated to 6 African languages in a bid to decolonise sciences

1% pre-tax levy
 on profits for tech companies making >$243,000 annually proposed in Nigerian bill


On The Continent This Week

Home-grown digital infrastructure & platforms

Nigeria’s startup clampdown continues. Nigeria’s Central Bank has frozen the accounts of four fintech platforms, on grounds that they’re operating without asset management license and weakening the Naira by facilitating trading in foreign digital assets. It’s the latest in a series of government interventions disrupting Nigeria’s startups. An amendment bill also seeks to empower Nigeria’s tech regulator to ‘test and approve’ any technology before use (disregarding the experimental startup spirit), and impose a 1% pre-tax levy on profits of companies making >$243,000 annually. This follows suspending operations for bike-hailing companies in Lagos in early 2020, a ban on transacting in cryptos through banks in March 2021, and a ban on Twitter in June 2021. 

End-to-end value chain capture

Africa-produced Covid-19 vaccines shipped to Europe despite local shortages. Johnson & Johnson is sending its Covid-19 vaccines made in South Africa overseas, before fulfilling delivery contracts with African countries. This includes ~30mn doses for South Africa charged at $10 per vaccine - matching the price paid by the US, but more than the $8.5 paid by the EU. With just ~2% of Africa’s population vaccinated, health activists have slammed the exports and called for a full disclosure of the agreement between J&J and South Africa. The agreement contradicts the logic behind localising vaccine production, exacerbates the sluggishness in the Continent’s vaccination programme, and highlights a need to explore the power imbalance between big pharma and African countries.

Proportional representation in politics, business and community leadership

Youth inspired presidential election victory in Zambia. Zambia’s long-time opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has secured a landslide victory in an election where more than half of the 7mn registered voters were youth. Accused of failing to deliver on his previous campaign promises such as fewer taxes, higher incomes and more jobs, the result is a rebuke to outgoing president Edgar Lungu. Lungu presided over a period of economic decline, soaring debt, and allegations of corruption that has seen 1 in 5 Zambian youth unemployed. The result demonstrates how Africa’s burgeoning youth population, which is expected to double by 2050, can turn their numbers into a mighty tool for political change for pro-youth policies that will help the Continent reap a demographic dividend. 

Baseline healthcare & disease protection

Polio resurgence in Africa. Uganda’s Health Ministry has confirmed a Polio outbreak, a year after the Continent was declared free of wild strains of the disease. The resurgence, fuelled by the spread of vaccine-derived poliovirus among under-immunised communities, has been attributed to a reduction in routine immunisation during the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst African countries are deploying most public health resources towards mitigating Covid-19, relaxing the delivery of other essential health services could transform vaccine-preventable diseases like Polio into a Continental public health crisis. Africa’s commendable Polio eradication programmes have prevented ~1.8mn children from life-long paralysis and saved ~180,000 lives since 1996.

Exporting culture and identity

Senegalese TikTok star Khaby Lame crosses 100mn followers. Khaby Lame, known for his funny facial expressions and barely saying a word, has become only the second person to cross 100mn followers on TikTok. Lame’s feat recognises the influence of TikTok’s Black creatives, whose catchy content has often been appropriated by White creators to boost their following. E.g. last year, Black teenager Jalaiah Harmon created the Renegade dance trend (one of the biggest dance phenomena ever on TikTok), but Charli D’Amelio (TikTok’s most followed user) and others, who initially didn’t credit the original creator, popularised it. Last year, TikTok’s Black creators went on strike against unfair treatment amidst accusations of censorship and content suppression.

Effective internal and regional security, and foreign policy

Uganda to take 2,000 Afghan refugees. Uganda will take 2,000 Afghan refugees on the request of the US, after the Taliban shot its way back to power in Afghanistan. Uganda’s swift response to an overseas humanitarian crisis has been praised by international actors - reinforcing the country’s reputation as a safe haven for people fleeing persecution. Before they were dislodged from power 20 years ago, the Taliban instituted sharia law characterised by abuse of human rights, banning of women from schools and public spaces, and intolerance of religious and political diversity. Uganda has a progressive refugee policy - granting refugees equal access to jobs, public services, freedom of mobility, and land for agriculture in rural settlements. The arrival of Afghans will take the number of refugees in Uganda to 1.5mn, Africa’s largest and third biggest in the world. 

Scaleable energy access

Nigeria's new oil law could be a game changer. President Buhari has signed a bill to overhaul every aspect of the oil and gas sector. Nearly 20 years in the making, the Petroleum Industry Act aims to bring more investment, efficiency, security and earnings to the sector. Nigeria, which relies on oil for ~90% of forex and more than half of government revenue, loses 200,000 barrels of crude worth ~13mn a day to theft and vandalism. Among other things, the Act replaces the state-owned oil company with an independent firm, and enables host communities to claim 3% (up from 2.5%) of oil wealth generated. The news has however been overshadowed by Wednesday’s killing of 7 people, including a policeman and six oil workers at a Shell facility in the southeast. Whether the Act can help reduce attacks on oil facilities and address energy shortage in Africa’s largest economy remains to be seen.

Intra-continental connectivity, collaboration & trade

Facebook & telecoms to expand undersea internet infrastructure. A consortium of companies including Facebook, China Mobile, MTN Group STC, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC plan to build a wider-than-earlier-planned undersea cable in Africa. Named 2Africa, the $1bn project will now extend connectivity to Seychelles, Comoros and Angola - increasing the number of connection-landings to 35 in 26 countries (up from 23). The project will be completed in 2023 or early 2024, interconnecting African countries, businesses and people at a time when Africa is rolling out a Continental Free Trade Area, bringing together 1.3bn people. Offering more than the total combined capacity of all undersea cables in Africa today, 2Africa will deliver internet capacity and reliability to drive Africa’s digitalisation.

Essential infrastructure, personal living-space & utilities

Can desalination quench Egypt’s thirst? Egypt is seeking partners to invest in a $2.5bn initiative to construct 17 renewable energy-powered desalination plants by 2025. Desalination could enable Egypt to guarantee its water security, as the flow of the Nile River (Egypt’s main source of fresh water) may be interrupted by Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam being built upstream. But even before Ethiopia’s dam was conceived, with under 600 cubic metres of water per person annually, Egypt was experiencing water poverty (defined by the UN as less than 1,000 cubic metres per person). With a population expected to increase from 100mn to 175mn in the next 30 years, addressing water scarcity will become increasingly crucial to Egypt's national agenda. 

Access to financial services and products

Ethiopia suspends loans using asset-based collateral. Ethiopia’s central bank has ordered all commercial banks to temporarily suspend lending backed by collateral, such as land and buildings. With government officials arguing that money on the ‘Black Market’ is facilitating economic sabotage, experts believe the move may be aimed at stopping asset owners from quickly converting their assets to cash through bank loans, and increasing government’s access to domestic funds to sustain the military campaign in the north. Downgrading by credit rating agencies Moody’s, Fitch and S&P Global Ratings has already hampered foreign borrowing for Ethiopia. The conflict has also aggravated the economic impact of Covid-19 on Ethiopia, with the IMF forecasting a 0% real GDP growth in 2021.

High value skills development and talent repatriation 

Translating scientific terms to African languages. In an effort to decolonise sciences, a research project plans to translate 180 scientific papers into 6 African languages spoken by 98mn people. With countless scientific terminologies like bacteria, virus, dinosaur, algebra missing in many African languages, the research project will significantly improve learning outcomes, which has been shown to be limited by language barriers. E.g. South Africa’s education authorities report that the use of English as the main language of instruction in schools, despite it being spoken by less than 10% of the national population, could be hindering the learning of science and maths. According to the AfDB, less than 25% of African higher education students are in STEM fields, with the majority reading social sciences and humanities.

Upgrade Your Life


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

  1. ‘We need to stop talking about jollof rice’: Lagos chef aims to ‘conjure pride’ in Nigerian food
  2. Hakainde Hichilema: The Zambian 'cattle boy' who became President
  3. South Sudan designers showcase homespun fashion 
  4. 15 free online learning sites every entrepreneur should visit
  5. How living abroad helps you develop a clearer sense of self
  6. State aesthetics and meanings of political architecture in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire

History Class

Remembering Kofi Annan - in his own words
Is Uganda a paradise for refugees? | The (Al Jazeera) Stream

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