Movemeback Pulse

Actionable African insight delivered to you on pulse

Pulse #65 - New Frontiers: Expanding African genetic collection, Chinese banks eye Nigeria, African fintech for churches, black female makes Emmy history

In this week’s Pulse:
Islamic State’s Africa strategy suffers major blow, increasing genetic data to boost precision medicine in Africa, Nigeria-born designer opens Milan Fashion Week, Michaela Coel lands Emmy with ‘I May Destroy You’, Nigeria reviving its palm oil industry, 5,000 African Americans move to Ghana, Alphabet launches new high-speed internet tech in the Congo Basin, and is Nigeria more accommodating to China than its own fintech entrepreneurs?
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The Data Room

The growth in violent incidents linked to militant Islamist groups in Africa is declining. Although the number is projected to reach a record 5,110 in 2021 (a 3% rise from 2020), this reflects a dramatic deceleration from the 43% surge between 2019 and 2020, and the 20% average recorded from 2016 to 2019. Some experts attribute the slowing trend to growing resistance from national armies and the recent killing of Boko Haram’s long-time leader Abubakar Shekau. Whilst Somalia remains the deadliest hotspot in Africa, the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin have registered a consistent uptick in violent activity in the last seven years. Read below for more on efforts to eliminate militants from Africa.

Numbers in the Spotlight

 (USD25bn) in turnover reached by African-Turkish trade in 2020

 (USD70mn) AfDB grant for Burkina Faso to connect ~1.5mn people to electricity

 (USD25mn) raised by Lagos-based healthtech startup 54gene to expand its African genetic biobank

18,000,000 million residents
 (18mn) of Kinshasa and Brazzavile could access high-speed internet beamed across the Congo River using light from Alphabet’s Taara technology

 (USD5mn) US government bounty had been placed on the head the leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara - killed by France last week

 (USD1mn) Netflix offer for ‘I May Destroy You’ series was rejected by Emmy-winner Michaela Coel, for being denied copyright

~5,000 Black Americans
 have re-settled in Ghana since the ‘Year of Return’ (2019)

30 times more jobs
could be created by investment in renewable energy systems vs. fossil fuels (Rockefeller Foundation, 2021)

On The Continent This Week

Baseline healthcare & disease protection

African genomics startup raises $25mn. Lagos-based healthtech startup 54gene has raised $25mn in a Series B round to expand its bank of African genetic data for drug development. The company plans to augment its biobank capacity from the current 300,000 samples to 500,000 in the next few years. Growing the representation of African genetic material used in global pharmaceutical research past the current <3% magnifies prospects for medical discoveries specifically targeted to the Continent’s 1.2bn people and the African diaspora. Africa embodies a virgin market for precision medicine, which tailors treatment to a patient's unique genes. SSA’s pharma market is just ~$14bn vs. ~$120bn in China and $19bn in India (McKinsey, 2019).

Access to financial services and products

Chinese banks eye Nigeria for branches. Sino-Nigerian discussions to enable Chinese-owned banks to set up shop in Nigeria are on-going, with Chinese banks currently undertaking feasibility studies to open branches in Africa's largest economy. But as the state holds a significant stake in many Chinese banks, these financial institutions could become a tool for the Chinese government to muster huge sway over Nigeria's economy through lending. Nigeria already owes China $3.4bn in debt (March, 2021). With Nigeria’s government ignoring calls for talks with local fintech players and cracking down on startup activity, these conversations with China ignite a crucial question - is Nigeria being more accommodating to China than to its own entrepreneurs?

Proportional representation in politics, business and community leadership

African designer opens Milan Fashion Week. Nigeria-born designer Joy Meribe opened Milan Fashion Week with her debut runway collection. It follows the commercial success of her inaugural collection for the ‘We are Made in Italy’ initiative last year. Vividly painting African life, Meribe’s colourful Spring Summer 2022 collection features bright yellow against aqua blue accentuated with tropic prints like thatched cottages and flourishing banana trees. The success of her collection highlights the contribution of Black creatives to the world-famous Italian fashion industry. Visibility of creatives of colour in Italy is increasing following movements such as ‘Do Black Lives Matter in Italian Fashion?’, which aims to promote diversity in Italian fashion, and #BlackLivesMatter.

Scaleable energy

Investment in renewables better for job creation. Investment in renewable energy systems creates 30 times more jobs vs. fossil fuels, according to a new study by the Rockefeller Foundation. Investing in renewables, the study argued, could end energy poverty and produce 25mn direct jobs in the power sector in Africa and Asia by 2030. Energy poverty remains a stumbling block to quality life in Africa with >600mn people lacking access to electricity and 792mn forced to cook with traditional biomass on unimproved cookstoves, which are blamed for causing an estimated 600,000 deaths annually in SSA (Oxfam, 2017). While the SSA accounts for 70% of people world-wide living in high energy-deficit countries, the region received less than 20% of the $43.6bn in electricity financing to so-called high impact countries in 2018 (Sustaining Energy for All).
High value skills development and talent repatriation 

5,000 African Americans move to Ghana. About 5,000 Black Americans have re-settled in Ghana since 2019, when President Nana Akufo-Addo launched the ‘Year of Return’ - an invitation to people of African descent to visit the country. The initiative commemorated 400 years since the first African slaves arrived in the US - prompting an influx of Black Americans to Ghana. Whilst the initiative led to record tourism to Ghana, Accra-based NGO Diaspora African Forum says at least 300 people a day inquired about how they could relocate to the West African country following the murder of George Floyd last year. An estimated 3-4mn Ghanaians live abroad (vs. the country’s population of ~30mn) - most of whom are highly educated. Ghana presents a great case study for how the Continent can facilitate the repatriation of African diasporans offering differing skills and insights to address domestic shortages. 

Home-grown digital infrastructure & platforms

Kenya’s church-focused fintech startup secures funding. Nairobi-based Jumuisha - which helps churches and NGOs receive donations, make payments and manage events - has raised undisclosed seed funding. The funding will enable the startup, which currently serves 138 churches, to target a bigger share of Kenya’s 4,000 registered churches. Having processed >100,000 transactions and >500,000 bookings, Jumuisha has enabled churches to adapt to Covid-19 and associated restrictions. With the number of Christians and Muslims in Africa expected to more than double by 2060, and more than 4-in-10 Christians expected to live in SSA by the year (Pew Research, 2015), is religion the next startup frontier in Africa? Whilst the economic value of religion in Africa remains unquantified, its ~$1.2trn annual contribution to the US economy would make it the world’s 15th-largest economy (Weforum, 2017).

End-to-end value chain capture

Nigeria reviving palm oil industry. Nigerian agritech startup, Releaf, has raised $4.2mn to build factories for processing palm oil within smallholder farming communities - enabling the startup to tackle challenges of poor post-harvest handling, transportation costs, and inaccessibility to markets. Releaf embodies the revival of Nigeria’s palm oil industry after decades of stagnation that pushed the country from first to fourth in global production. Nigeria’s government is implementing tariff and non-tariff measures to stimulate $500mn in investment to increase annual production from ~600,000 tons in 2019 to 5mn tons by 2027. The palm industry is projected to reach $57.2bn globally by 2026 - presenting huge potential for Nigeria, which spent ~$500mn on palm oil imports in 2018.
Exporting culture and identity

Michaela Coel makes history. The British actress of Ghanaian heritage has become the first black woman to win an Emmy for writing for a limited series. She won with her ‘I May Destroy You’ hit series that she starred in, wrote and co-directed - drawing on her personal experience with sexual assault. The award is the crowning honour of Coel’s decision to earlier walk away from a $1mn offer from Netflix, which declined her pleas to retain some percentage of the copyright. The creator later ended her contract with US agents, Creative Artists Agency, after it tried to push her to take the Netflix deal because they would earn an undisclosed amount from the series. She eventually pitched to the BBC, which agreed to give her a say in the production, full creative control and the rights to the work. Coel is a great example of how African innovators can maintain ownership and creativity control over their work.

Essential infrastructure, personal living-space & utilities

~220,000 households in Burkina Faso to get electricity through $70mn AfDB grant. The AfDB has approved a €59mn (~$70mn) grant to connect new per-urban and rural locations to the national electricity grid, and construct four solar power plants with a combined peak capacity of 51MW in Burkina Faso. The project aims to extend electricity to ~220,000 households, representing ~1.5mn people. With high connection costs discouraging millions of Africans from joining the national grid, the AfDB project eases the burden on Burkinabès by enabling them to pay connection fees (~€137.20 - €332.33) in monthly instalments starting with just €4.55, spread over three years. Burkina Faso, which means ‘land of honest men’, hopes to increase electrification from the current 22.5% to 60% by 2027 on the back of these projects.

Effective internal and regional security, and foreign policy

France “neutralises” Islamic State leader in Greater Sahara. President Emmanuel Macron says French forces have killed Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the founder and leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). The ISGS is notorious for deadly attacks along the tri-border of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. The death of al-Sahrawi (who had a $5mn US bounty on his head) is a major blow to Islamic State’s new strategy to turn its focus to Africa following defeats elsewhere. But with France scaling down its 5,100-man Barkhane operation, pressure mounts on African countries to step up military activities and ensure that the vacuum left by al-Sahrawi doesn’t birth another terrorist group with a strength comparable to the ISGS. 

Intra-continental connectivity, collaboration & trade

Alphabet project to bridge internet between Kinshasa and Brazzaville. A project by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, aims to bring two African cities closer - Brazzaville (in the Republic of the Congo) and Kinshasa (DRC) - by connecting them with high-speed internet beamed across the Congo River (the world’s deepest river). Although just 3 miles apart, connecting the cities (with combined population of ~18mn) across the river, has been tricky, making broadband prices 5x more expensive. Named Taara, the technology transmits internet in light beamed through the air between two points with the help of receiving devices attached to structures, without the need for fibre or cables. By providing ~700TB of data -‘the equivalent of watching a FIFA World Cup match in HD 270,000 times’ - Taara has the potential to increase collaboration between the neighbouring countries, and enhance digitalisation, startup growth and e-commerce in the Congo River basin.

Upgrade Your Life


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

  1. How ‘I May Destroy You’ changed our lives - The Guardian
  2. Squaring the ledger: Britain’s rule in Nigeria - FT review of two books that bring much-needed African viewpoints to Nigeria’s colonial history
  3. John Nkengasong, of the Africa CDC, Will Lead PEPFAR
  4. List of fashion courses on Coursera - Including free and discounted
  5. How to build a transparent relationship with your suppliers
  6. Explore Joy Meribe’s fashion collection - Free shipping within Italy

History Class

Algeria's former president Bouteflika dies aged 84
Year of Return: The African Americans moving to Ghana - BBC Africa

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