Movemeback Pulse

Actionable African insight delivered to you on pulse

Pulse #68 - Challenge status quo: African Covid experts leave, South Africa rejects Russian vaccine, Egypt’s 100 female judges, too much democracy in Sudan

In this week’s Pulse:
Two African Covid experts leave to enhance the Continent’s pandemic response, South Africa rejects Russian Covid vaccine over HIV fears, Italian craving lifts Uganda’s coffee exports to 30-year high, Nigerian proptech ‘Rent Small Small’ disrupts Lagos’ rental market, Netflix funding to empower Black creatives in South Africa, Credit Suisse to cancel $200mn Mozambican debt, Egypt mass appoints female judges for first time, and is ‘too much democracy’ making Sudan unstable?
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The Data Room

Africa’s music industry is roaring, and some musicians are getting rich - but this is concentrated in just a handful of countries. Recent research shows that the 10 richest musicians hail from Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa - possibly the biggest music markets in Africa. Senegalese Youssou N'Dour and Akon, and South Africa’s DJ Black Coffee sit in the top spots - but the remaining musicians in top 10 are Nigerian. In 2014, The Rolling Stone magazine named N’Dour “perhaps the most famous singer alive” in Senegal and much of Africa.

Numbers in the Spotlight

 (USD27bn) is Zambia’s total public debt to foreign and local lenders - ~140% of the country’s GDP

 (USD4.5bn) is needed to remove plastic waste from Ghana’s oceans

 (USD200mn) Mozambican debt to be written off by Credit Suisse over financial crime in arranging $1.3bn of loans

(USD115mn) deal signed between Eswatini and Australia's Frazium Energy for construction of a 75,000 solar panel wind farm

118,000,000 poor Africans
(118mn) face risk of floods, drought, displacement, and extreme heat by 2030

 (USD5.4mn) scholarship fund established by Netflix in honor of Chadwick Boseman at his alma mater Howard University

98 female judges
 appointed to Egypt’s State Council for the first time

21% year-on-year rise
 in Ugandan coffee bean exports, enabling the country achieve a 30-year record

On The Continent This Week

High value skills development and talent repatriation 

Brain drain or strategic deployments for Africa? Cameroonian Dr. John Nkengasong is leaving Africa CDC to head PEPFAR (US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) while Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu is swapping Nigeria’s CDC to lead the Berlin-based WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence. Having spent $100bn to date, PEPFAR is the largest financial commitment against HIV by any nation, while the newly-established $100mn WHO body assembles experts from various disciplines to explore data for rapid response to health risks worldwide. Nkengasong and Ihekweazu join fellow Africans Tedros Ghebreyesus of WHO and Winnie Byanyima of UNAIDS in leading some of the world’s key health institutions. So do these senior appointments present a case of medical brain drain or strategic positioning to better serve Africa’s pandemic response?

Baseline healthcare & disease protection

South Africa rejects Russian-made vaccine. South Africa’s drugs regulator has declined to approve Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine over concerns that it could increase the risk of HIV infection. Sputnik V contains a modified form of adenovirus, which South African officials say was also used in an HIV vaccine that failed in research studies because it actually increased the chance of being infected with HIV among vaccinated men. The reported failure of Sputnik V’s manufacturers to consider the safety of their drug for a country with high HIV prevalence highlights the need for African involvement in drug development. Currently, the Continent imports >80% of its pharmaceutical products and contributes only 2% of the genetic material used for the world’s medical research.

Home-grown digital infrastructure & platforms 

The startup fixing Lagos’ rental chaos. Nigerian proptech ‘Rent Small Small’ joins the Techstars Toronto Accelerator Programme on the back of their pay-as-you-stay rental model for a market where landlords typically ask for 1-2 years’ rent in advance. The startup insures against rent default and connects homeowners directly to renters to avoid legal and agent fees. So far it has helped renters save $1.3mn in fees and arranged >12,000 monthly stays in Lagos - whose complex and expensive property market ties young professionals to longer stays with relations, deters long-stay business travelling, and complicates repatriation of skills as candidates often seek housing allowances upfront. Platforms like Rent Small Small are helping to disrupt Africa’s rental market, and increase access to property.

End-to-end value chain capture

Italian craving lifts Uganda’s coffee exports to 30-year high. Italians are getting high on Ugandan coffee - lifting Uganda’s coffee bean exports to a 30-year record. With Italy taking a third of all Ugandan coffee shipments in the year to September 2021, Kampala’s beans exports grew by 21% to 390mn KGs in that period. Uganda (Africa’s leading coffee bean exporter) doubled down on production and promotion when global leaders Brazil and Vietnam suffered shipping disruptions amidst Covid-19. Having overtaken Vietnam as the second-largest supplier of coffee to Italy this year, Uganda (considered the origin of Robusta coffee), illustrates how African countries can exploit occasional disruptions to global supply chains to expand their share of the market. 

Intra-continental connectivity, collaboration & trade

African banks using blockchain-based payment systems. Nigerian fintech services provider Appzone has launched a blockchain-based payments platform to enable a transition of African banks from centralised systems. Appzone’s Zone Switch payment system is currently being used by ten Nigerian banks for processing domestic transactions. These banks are yet to utilise the system for cross-border payments, but it enables faster and cheaper payment processing than under a centralized regime. Currently, cross-border payments are settled with the dollar/Euro using a platform like SWIFT, requiring days to reflect. Zone Switch makes instantaneous payments using a stablecoin based on a basket of African currencies proofed against inflation in one currency - complementing the Pan-African Payments and Settlement System, which is expected to save Africa >$5bn annually in transaction costs through instant cross-border payments in local currency.

Exporting culture and identity

Netflix strategy for Black content. The streaming giant is giving $300,000 in scholarships for South Africa’s Black creatives to study film and TV, and an extra $100,000 for their association, the Black TV & Film Collective. Rising Netflix spending in South Africa is arming the country’s film industry to unchain from decades of financing that prioritised stories catering to the White minority - enabling post-apartheid Black creatives to elevate their voice and narratives onscreen. ~14,000kms away in the US, Netflix has also unveiled a $5.4mn bursary scheme in honor of Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman at his alma mater Howard University. With streaming in Africa projected to hit ~13mn subscriptions by 2025 - up 5X from 2019 (Digital TV Research, 2020), the quality of Black content will settle the battle for market size.

Access to financial services and products

Credit Suisse ordered to cancel Mozambican debt. Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority has directed the investment bank to cancel $200mn in Mozambican debt over corruption in arranging loans worth $1.3bn for Maputo. This is a case of a successful international multi-stakeholder collaboration to remedy financial loss and illicit flows from Africa - giving a cue for African watchdogs to cast an eye on more deals. Credit Suisse reportedly “failed to properly manage the risk of financial crime” when its deals team took ~$50mn in kickbacks between 2012 and 2016 - a period in which Mozambican officials also allegedly pocketed at least $137mn in bribes. The undisclosed state debts were originally intended for buying trawlers and military patrol boats to modernise Mozambique’s tuna industry.  Each year, illicit financial flows rob Africa of $88.6bn (UNCTAD, 2020).

Effective internal and regional security, and foreign policy

Too much democracy in Sudan? Sudan’s bid to engender consensus on its political direction is stirring a problem some experts have called ‘too much democracy’. Earlier in the week, supporters of the country’s transitional government took to the streets of Khartoum in response to rival demonstrations encouraging the military to assume full responsibility. These protests, which have multiplied in recent weeks, reflect deep division in Sudanese society - threatening to ruin democratic transition. 80-100 political parties currently seek to influence Sudan’s future - presenting an archetypical case of how political fragmentation is impeding decision-making and democratic governance across Africa. Regional expert Alex de Waal believes the best solution for Sudan at the moment is for local actors to “agree to disagree in words not action” and continue talking to prevent violence.

Proportional representation in politics, business and community leadership

Egypt swears in nearly 100 women judges. Egypt has appointed the first 98 female judges to its State Council - one of the country’s main judicial bodies. It’s a huge milestone for women in the Arab country where until now, the State Council has been exclusively male and actively rejected women candidates since its inception in 1946. Egypt’s move reflects Africa’s renewed drive to empower women through appointments to the judiciary - Sudan, Ethiopia, Seychelles, Zambia and Lesotho also recently appointed their first female heads of judiciary. Addressing gender inequality can accelerate socio-economic progress in Africa. Across 39 African countries, South Africa has the best gender parity index of 0.76 (out of 1) for women, with Niger posting the worst score of 0.45 (McKinsey, 2019). If all nations matched South Africa’s score by 2025, Africa’s economy would swell by 10% or $316bn - but at the current speed, full gender parity would be reached in 142 years.

Scaleable energy

Eswatini gets $115mn solar energy deal. Far from the pro-democracy noises on the streets of Eswatini, the country’s government has signed a 40-year deal with Australian renewable power producer Frazium Energy, allowing the company to invest €100mn (~$115mn) in solar energy generation. The company will build a wind farm of 75,000 solar panels capable of generating 100MW - enough to power 65,000 average homes (Eskom calculations, 2015). The addition to the national grid will aid Africa’s last absolute monarchy in cutting the five-percentage point gap in electricity access between urban and rural areas (World Bank, 2019), fuelling energy-intensive indoor  cultivation for its booming marijuana industry, and slashing its energy import bill. Eswatini relies on neighbours South Africa and Mozambique for ~75% of its energy needs.

Essential infrastructure, personal living-space & utilities

Nearly 120mn Africans face severe consequences of climate change. A new report by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has warned that 118mn poor Africans will be at the risk of floods, drought, displacement, and extreme heat by 2030 due to climate change. The warning speaks to the urgency required to support the Continent in adapting to and mitigating the consequences of climate change. Unless Africa invests ~$50bn (~2-3% of GDP) annually in coping with the rising threat of climate change, the Continent’s remaining glaciers could also vanish by the 2040s, according to the report. Africa is warming faster than the rest of the world despite having contributed just 4% of the planet’s greenhouse emissions. Between 1970 and 2019, climate change caused 1,695 disasters, $38.5bn in economic loss, and 731,747 deaths in Africa (WMO, 2021). 

Upgrade Your Life


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

  1. Digital skills: Reimagine your career - Free online course by Accenture
  2. How do I get through my mid-career crisis? - Harvard Business Review
  3. The ancient African queens inspiring young people - BBC Africa
  4. Khaby Lame: What is the secret to success for the Senegal-born TikToker? BBC Africa
  5. Cambridge college to be first in UK to return looted Benin bronze
  6. Six things to do if you’re travelling on your own
  7. What makes a friendship last? TEDTalk
  8. A private equity CEO with $1.2bn to spend thinks Africa is ready for its close-up
  9. Google eyes TaskMate global launch after Kenya rollout

History Class

Will #EndSARS protesters in Nigeria see justice? | Al Jazeera’s The Stream

How to end Sudan's political crisis? Al Jazeera’s Inside Story


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