Movemeback Pulse

Actionable African insight delivered to you on pulse

Pulse #61 - Protecting homegrown: Africa’s new fintech unicorn, Facebook’s marketplace rollout, Congolese Rumba seeks UNESCO listing, and more

In this week’s Pulse:
Facebook’s marketplace expansion could threaten homegrown e-commerce, fintech OPay becomes Africa’s fastest unicorn, the Continent gets competition for cocoa production, the unfolding opioid crisis, Europe facilitating conflict in the Sahel, exodus of doctors, Kenya and Togo lead world in P2P crypto trading, and Congolese Rumba seeks UNESCO listing 
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The Data Room

Africa has experienced exceptional growth in ecommerce in recent years. 2021 revenue is estimated at $28bn, and projected to reach $46bn by 2025. However, the sector remains nascent, largely due to market-wide barriers to growth. UNCTAD’s Business-to-Consumer (B2C). E-commerce Index ranks Africa the lowest among world regions in terms of e-commerce readiness, with an overall score of 30% vs. 86% in developed countries. Enabling factors include connectivity, transport, logistics, legal frameworks and payments. Read on for more news and insights on Africa's digital economy.

Numbers in the Spotlight

 (USD712bn) in GDP is expected to come from the digital economy by 2050

 (USD500mn) funding from the World Bank for climate resilience in Kinshasa

 (USD400mn) raised by Nigeria’s fintech unicorn, OPay

unemployment rate in South Africa - the highest in the World

37 African countries
 get Facebook’s marketplace

4 European countries
 named as sources of weapons used by militants in the Sahel

4 African countries
in the top 10 world ranking for P2P crypto trading

On The Continent This Week

Access to financial services and products

Nigeria’s OPay raises $400mn. Nigeria-based fintech, OPay, has raised $400mn to finance expansion into new African markets and international money transfer. OPay’s $2bn valuation just three years into existence makes it Africa's fastest unicorn, and highlights investor appetite for Africa’s fintech scene, which has produced five of its six unicorns in the last two years. Despite closing its ride-hailing and logistics services in 2020 due to a ban on motorcycle-taxis in Lagos, OPay’s payment and mobile money business has registered rapid growth - monthly transaction volumes exceed $3bn. OPay’s success is perhaps a lesson to founders in pivoting quickly amidst challenges, and an opportunity for Nigeria’s government to reconsider its continued crackdown on startups that may deter investment and growth (see Pulse #60 for more).

Home-grown digital infrastructure & platforms

Facebook expansion threatens African marketplaces. Facebook has increased the coverage of its marketplace in Africa by 37 countries, up from 4. Whereas this massive expansion will enable African businesses to boost their e-commerce footprint, it poses stiff competition to homegrown digital marketplaces. Competition from a well-financed multinational like Facebook could threaten the >17% annual revenue growth rate currently enjoyed by Africa’s homegrown e-commerce marketplaces. With the IFC projecting the digital economy to contribute $712bn (8.5%) to Africa’s GDP by 2050, fair competition regulation could help ensure homegrown marketplaces share in this growth. 

End-to-end value chain capture

Africa’s cocoa countries face competition from Germany, China & Switzerland.  Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon (Africa’s largest cocoa producers) face the danger of losing millions of dollars as China, Germany and Switzerland make inroads into production. China has started growing cocoa, scientists in Switzerland have developed laboratory-grown chocolate, and a Munich-based startup (QOA) plans to mass-market cocoa-free chocolate by 2035. This is a wake-up call for Africa’s cocoa producers to facilitate the expansion of domestic value addition. E.g., whilst Ivory Coast and Ghana account for ~65% of the world’s cocoa beans, they earn just ~6% annually from the $100bn global chocolate industry.

Exporting culture and identity

Congolese Rumba seeks UNESCO heritage listing. DRC and Congo-Brazzaville are seeking the inclusion of Rumba, arguably the Congo basin’s biggest cultural export, in UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage list. Rumba - a mélange of indigenous village music and Cuban rumba - has grown to become one of the most popular entertainment forms in Africa. Recognition by UNESCO will help safeguard it against potential future appropriation, and help prevent it from going into the shadow of Cuban Rumba, which received UNESCO listing in 2016. Preserving such items of intangible cultural heritage, which facilitate a sense of identity and belonging, is will become even more crucial in an increasingly globalised world. 

Effective internal and regional security, and foreign policy

How Europe is fuelling instability in the Sahel region. Extremists in Africa’s Sahel region are using weapons from Serbia, the Czech Republic, France and Slovakia, a new study by Amnesty International has revealed. It’s an example of the paradox in international response to the instability in the Sahel – e.g. since 2014, a 5,100-strong French counter-terrorism operation has been fighting militants who carry weapons manufactured in France. UNHCR figures show that conflict in the Sahel has forced >2.7mn people to flee their homes and left >13.5mn in dire need of humanitarian assistance since 2011. With little success registered in the last decade through a military approach to the conflict, a change to a holistic approach that brings together political, security and development dimensions could be considered going forward. 

Baseline healthcare & disease protection

Opioids - a brewing public health crisis? Depression and grief are fuelling abuse of codeine in Nigeria, with problematic addiction rates also being reported in Kenya, South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Niger, and Chad. Codeine is a pain killer but also an addictive opioid that can cause schizophrenia and organ failure when taken in excess. Continued abuse of the drug could lead the Continent to follow in the steps of the USA, where President Trump declared a public health emergency in 2017. Although legal when prescribed by doctors, a 2018 BBC investigation found that top pharmaceutical firms were complicit in selling codeine-based cough syrups to young people in particular – indicating poor regulation. As additional capacity is sought within existing health structures to deal with the problem, more educational programmes are needed to sensitise the youth about the dangers of drug use.

Intra-continental connectivity, collaboration & trade

Global freight loyalty scheme could boost trade in Africa. Kenya, Ethiopia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, and Guinea have joined the World Logistics Passport (WLP) - a private sector-led initiative aimed at increasing trade between developing markets by making international logistics more efficient. By ensuring preferential treatment at border entry points for member countries, the scheme enables African countries to increase their share of intra-continental trade. ~15% of total African exports are intra-continental - although this figure is largely distorted by large commodity exports from the Continent's largest economies, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa. Regardless, increased intra-continental trade continues to provide growth potential for the Continent. Research by UNECA shows that when African countries trade among themselves, they exchange more value-added goods, experience more knowledge transfer, and create more value. 

High value skills development and talent repatriation 

Nigerian doctors’ exodus sign of a broader trend. Doctors in Nigeria are interviewing for jobs in Saudi Arabia, as medical workers in Africa’s largest economy strike over delayed payment of salaries and allowances. The phenomenon speaks to the cost of Africa’s brain brain, with the Mo Ibrahim Foundation reporting that 9 African countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe) have lost >$2bn since 2010 from training doctors who then migrated. Africa’s loss translates into a gain for the recipient countries e.g., in 2017, Nigerians were the most highly educated of all groups in the US. Addressing the root causes of Nigeria’s talent flight such as inadequate benefits and workplace challenges could help slow the exodus.

Essential infrastructure, personal living-space & utilities

Kinshasa gets $500mn for climate resilience. Kinshasa, Africa’s largest city by land size, has received $500mn from the World Bank for 2mn residents to get clean water connections, protection from flooding, and green urban spaces as part of a drive to build climate resilience. Already vulnerable to severe flooding, building climate resilience in Kinshasa will become increasingly urgent for urban policy makers, as the megacity is expected to become the world’s most populous city by 2075. With Africa projected to need as much as $200bn annually by 2070 for climate response, the Continent will need to ensure funding goes towards both adaptation and mitigating strategies. In Kinshasa’s case 27% will go towards mitigation.

Proportional representation in politics, business and community leadership

Kenya & Togo lead the world in peer-to-peer crypto trade. Kenyans and Togolese occupy the first two positions in the world for P2P trading in cryptocurrencies, according to a new survey that also places Tanzania (4) and Ghana (10) in the top 10. Cryptos enable Africans to shield their income from depreciation in domestic currencies, and they provide a cheaper and faster transaction alternative to the costly traditional financial system, which faces increasing government restriction (such as the ban on bank-facilitated crypto transactions in Nigeria). Cryptocurrencies are facilitating financial inclusion in Africa among population segments left out by traditional banking such as the youth, who have some of the highest crypto adoption rates in the world.

Upgrade Your Life


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

  1. There are many ways for youth to organise for change: Chimamanda Adichie
  2. ‘Africa has so much talent – we can’t even grasp it’: Angélique Kidjo on pop, politics and power
  3. Easy way to play Congolese Rumba  - Rhythmic guitar basis in the key of G
  4. To overcome your fear of public speaking, stop thinking about yourself
  5. How to cope with less autonomy in the office
  6. Understanding addiction - free online course
  7. Learn cryptocurrency with free online courses

History Class

Congolese Rumba documentary
West Africa's opioid crisis - (Al Jazeera’s) People and Power

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