Movemeback Pulse

Actionable African insight delivered to you on pulse

Pulse #70 - Global recognition: Africans cover Vogue France & GQ Germany, a French literary prize, remembering Africans in WW1, & another fintech unicorn

In this week’s Pulse:
Mali-born singer Aya Nakamura covers Vogue France, Senegalese Novelist Mohamed Mbougar Sarr becomes first Sub-Saharan African to win 154-year-old French literary prize, ‘Lupin’ actor Omar Sy to star in new movie memorialising African World War soldiers, a repo market to slash lending costs for African countries, Chipper Cash doubles valuation within half a year, Bezos pledges $2bn for restoring African land, building Africa’s own genetic library, and is ethnic federalism behind the violence in Ethiopia?
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The Data Room

As world leaders assemble at COP26 (The UN Climate Change Conference), it should be acknowledged that Africa accounts for <3% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. But ~four fifths of the Continent’s manufacturing emissions come from just four countries - South Africa (37%), Egypt (20%), Algeria (10%), and Nigeria (7%). Disaggregation of data by industry reveals that nearly a third of Africa’s emissions originate from cement and 13% is produced by South Africa’s coal-to-fuel plants. To achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, McKinsey estimates that Africa will need investment worth $2trn in manufacturing and power.

Numbers in the Spotlight

(USD11bn) will be saved by African countries in annual borrowing costs via a new repo market

 (USD8.5bn) pledged by Western countries for South Africa to end reliance on coal

 (USD2bn) valuation achieved by fintech Chipper Cash after closing a $150mn Series C extension round

 (USD2bn) pledged by Jeff Bezos for land restoration in Africa

 (USD250mn) continental investment fund established in Rwanda

3,000,000 Africans
 (3mn) targeted for a new South Africa-based genome sequencing project

(USD2.9mn) spent to construct Sierra Leone’s first cocoa processing factory

~2,000 Mozambican naval and special forces
 to be trained by the EU

 French literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, won by Senegalese novelist Mohamed Mbougar Sarr - the first Sub-Saharan African to do so

On The Continent This Week

Exporting culture and identity

Senegalese writer wins 150-year old French literary prize. Dakar-born Mohamed Mbougar Sarr is the first Sub-Saharan African to win France’s oldest and most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, which dates back to 1867. Victory for the 31-year old, who moved to France for post-secondary education, is a celebration of his identity amid a culture war that is setting the political rhythm for next year’s French presidential elections. E.g. Éric Zemmour, a far-right provocateur who is expected to run for presidency, is advocating for a ban on “non-French” names such as Muhammad. The Prix Goncourt is worth just €10, but increased global media coverage is likely to follow. Elsewhere, Bamako-born French-Malian singer Aya Nakamura covers Vogue France.

Access to financial services and products
UN establishes repo market for Africa. Under the short-term lending market, one player can sell securities to another and agree to repurchase them later at a higher fee. Most repos mature overnight (but some can be longer) - quickening and cheapening borrowing, whilst creating an opportunity for players with large spare cash such as banks to earn a small profit with relatively low risk, as securities work as collateral. The UN facility is expected to reach $30bn in size and save African countries $11bn in annual interest costs over the next five years (UNECA, 2021). With repos constituting just 1% of the total bond market across Africa and the Middle East, the UN intervention is a timely effort to enhance Africa’s liquidity for financing recovery from Covid-19. 

End-to-end value chain capture
Sierra Leone gets first cocoa factory. Sierra Leone has opened its first cocoa processing plant with capacity to process about a quarter of the country’s annual output. By turning cocoa beans into unsweetened cocoa liquor or cocoa mass (used to manufacture chocolate), the factory is expected to increase the value of Sierra Leone’s cocoa exports by 20% vs. unprocessed cocoa beans. Plans to upgrade the factory for making chocolate may further increase value earned by manufacturers, exporters and farmers. Sierra Leone, the world’s 17th largest cocoa bean exporter, bolsters Africa’s renewed efforts to capture more than the current ~6% from the $130bn global chocolate industry (Weforum, 2020).
Essential infrastructure, personal living-space & utilities

Jeff Bezos pledges $2bn for restoring African land. The world’s second wealthiest person has pledged money to restore land in Africa through the Great Green Wall initiative. This funding could be a major lift for the initiate that has only achieved 15% of its goal to plant 8,000kms of trees across the Sahel by 2030 to counter the spread of the Sahara Desert southwards. Bezos told the COP26 summit that his pledge was motivated by the sight of a vulnerable planet “so finite and so fragile” with “thin atmosphere” during his recent trip to space – resparking the debate about whether wealthier people like him should pay more to avert the climate crisis. The world’s wealthiest 1%, most of whom live outside Africa, produce twice the combined carbon emissions of the poorest 50%, most of whom are in Africa and South Asia (UN, 2021). Yet the effects of climate change hardest hit Africa.

Baseline healthcare & disease protection

Building Africa’s own genetic library. Cape Town University’s professor Ambroise Wonkam wants to create a library housing genetic information of 3mn Africans. If accomplished, this will considerably expand genetic data about Africans - enhancing the development of diagnostics, drugs and treatment tailored to the Continent. <2% of the genomes sequenced globally are of African people, despite Africa holding more genetic diversity than any other Continent (Nature journal, 2021). Characterizing more genetic variation and less intermixing with other, non-African people, Africa’s population makes it easier to discover variants likely to contribute to specific conditions – an opportunity for pharma to develop new products. Wonkam also seeks collaboration with industry players like Lagos-based genetic startup 54gene, which aims to map the genomes of 100,000 Nigerians.

High value skills development and talent repatriation 

A movie to retell the World War heroics of African soldiers. Omar Sy, the actor of Senegalese descent famous for starring in Netflix series Lupin, will play the lead in ‘Father & Soldier’, an action drama that retraces the contribution of African soldiers in World War I. The $14mn movie that is being shot in France and Senegal, will shine a light on the mistreatment and disremembering of Africans who fought in European wars. ~4.5mn African soldiers and military labourers were mobilized during World Wars I and II, but little commemorates their role (Oxford Research Encyclopaedias, 2019). The UK recently apologised for failure to properly commemorate tens of thousands of black and Asian soldiers who died fighting for the British empire. Omar Sy is also a 2021 GQ man of the year - he covers GQ (magazine) Germany.
Home-grown digital infrastructure & platforms 

Chipper Cash’s valuation doubles within months. African cross-border payments startup, Chipper Cash, has raised $150mn in a Series C extension round barely months after closing its first Series C round of $100mn. The latest valuation of $2bn confirms Chipper’s unicorn status, which had been debated in the previous round. Remittances, recorded to be $42bn in 2020, are a larger funding source for SSA than foreign direct investment. Fintechs such as Chipper Cash are credited for creating a cheaper, easier and faster remittance alternative to the conventional banking system, which is characterised by high transfer rates, processing delays and regulatory hassles. By incorporating mobile money into Africa’s remittance ecosystem, fintechs are also fuelling financial inclusion. 

Proportional representation in politics, business and community leadership

Africa’s first appointee to tackle rising temperature is a woman. Africa’s first Chief Heat Officer, Eugenia Kargbo, has been appointed in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Her appointment is part of an international donor-funded initiative to help communities cope with climate extremes. Grassroots coordination of climate response can generate new context-specific resilience mechanisms that may be more effective than generalised top-down interventions. Freetown’s weather has changed dramatically over the past decade, with temperatures rising and the rainy season becoming shorter but more intense, triggering flooding that caused landslides killing >1,000 people in 2017. Kargbo is already promoting local anti-heat initiatives like tree planting, training unemployed youth to start businesses collecting waste, and transforming dump sites into community gardens.

Effective internal and regional security, and foreign policy

Ethiopia’s fragility. The security situation in Ethiopia is rapidly deteriorating, with the government declaring a state of emergency and urging residents to defend Addis Ababa after the rebels captured two towns along a road to the capital. While the rebels say their goal is to end the siege on Tigray, analysts blame the violence on Ethiopia’s ethno-national federal system, which allows bigger ethnic groups to self-govern within their respective states. Columbia University’s Mahmoud Mamdani warned in 2019 that ethnic federalism would push Ethiopia “toward an interethnic conflict”, while others envisaged the possibility of a Yugoslavia-like breakup. With Ethiopia hosting the African Union, some also question the extent of the AU’s influence, as it has failed to negotiate an end to the conflict.

Intra-continental connectivity, collaboration & trade

Eswatini to hold national talks over crisis. Africa’s last absolute monarch, King Mswati of Eswatini, has agreed with South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa to establish a national forum to end protests in the kingdom. Dialogue could restore normalcy following months of pro-democracy demonstrations that have brought life in Eswatini to a halt, and facilitate the charting of a more inclusive future for the country. Whilst African nations have been sending envoys to Eswatini to help stop unrest, none of them holds as much sway over the kingdom as South Africa does. The kingdom is landlocked within South Africa - its leading trading partner, source of remittances, provider of energy, and basic commodities. Can South Africa sway King Mswati III to usher in democracy?

Upgrade Your Life


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

  1. The African soldiers dragged into Europe's war 
  2. Aya Nakamura covers the first issue of Vogue France
  3. South Africa’s Damon Galgut wins Booker Prize with 'tour de force' novel The Promise
  4. Belgium hands over Rwanda's colonial-era songs
  5. How the rich are driving climate change - BBC Carbon Cost
  6. The trouble with Ethiopia’s ethnic federalism - The New York Times
  7. The creative power of your intuition - TEDTalk
  8. Make learning a part of your daily routine - Harvard Business Review
  9. Improve your English with African folk tales - Free online course
  10. Why we gloss over great ideas – and invest in bad ones - BBC Worklife

History Class

Alt History: White-washing black soldiers from WW1 - BBC Stories
Why is Ethiopia still at war with itself? - BBC Africa

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