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Africa stands to benefit from $1 trillion of investment into solar energy

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 A partnership between the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and Bloomberg Philanthropies to mobilize over $1 trillion worth of investment into the solar sector could see the continent – home to 40% of the world’s solar potential – become a global leader in green energy.

International Solar Alliance and Bloomberg Philanthropies working together

A partnership between the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and Bloomberg Philanthropies was announced at the end of October 2021. The goal of this partnership is to mobilize over $1 trillion worth of investment into the solar sector to scale up solar energy production across the 80 member countries. Across the world, solar power capacity stands at about 788GW. $1 trillion in investment would see roughly an additional 1.6 TW of capacity added by 2030. Africa stands to benefit heavily from this investment – most of the ISA member countries are in Africa and much of the continent sits in the world’s ‘sunshine zone’ near the equator, the prime location for solar power generation.

Launched recently, the ISA aims to reduce global dependence on fossil fuels

The International Solar Alliance was launched in 2016, set-up by the current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi alongside former French President François Hollande with the goal of realizing a massive deployment of solar energy across the world. This would also help pave the way for future technologies. Since its inception, over 80 countries have signed and ratified the ISA Framework Agreement – a majority of them being African countries – making it the largest grouping of states world-wide after the United Nations.

Bloomberg NEF analytical backing paints Africa as the perfect place to start

The recent BNEF report titled Scaling up Solar in ISA Member Countries Report, paints a positive picture for investment in African solar power.

Global electricity demand is set to double in the next 30 years, however among the 80 nations that make up the ISA’s ‘beneficiary’ classification – low income countries with solar markets of less than 100MW annually – demand is set to triple.

At the same time, cost of photovoltaic modules and lithium-ion batteries have fallen rapidly. In 1976 crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules cost around $77/W when adjusted for inflation, while in 2021 the cost stood at only $0.24/W. The BNEF report predicts that the price will fall further still as manufacturers tweak the technology for higher efficiency and reduced amount of material waste.

Many of the ISA’s beneficiary countries are in Africa where strong sunlight, coupled with a lack of infrastructure to create energy from fossil fuels make these markets perfect for development. Unfortunately the report notes that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, investment in solar projects in 2020 fell below 2019 levels by 44%.

Solar power promises huge benefits for the African continent

Developing solar power on the continent has the potential to lift at least a billion people out of energy poverty. Along with that, strong investment in solar power on the continent would be a significant driver of Africa’s shift towards renewables. Right now, Africa is home to 40% of the world’s solar potential, but is home to only 1% of the world’s solar panels. This means Africa has the potential to become a global leader in creating a low or zero-carbon energy grid if solar power is developed heavily.

Along with lifting the region out of energy poverty and creating a new, green direction for power supply in Africa there would be economic benefits for the continent. If the One Sun, One World, One Grid Declaration (OSOWOG) released at Cop 26 achieves its goal of creating a worldwide grid where clean energy can be transmitted anywhere and anytime then a solar-rich region like Africa can sell the excess power generated across the world.

No small number of challenges still to be met

While the region certainly has potential, there are many challenges to overcome in order to turn the goal of $1 trillion into actual, on-the-ground investment. In a continent as large as Africa with thousands of languages and cultures across over fifty different countries, potential investors must deal with multiple governments, regulatory bodies, legal restrictions, and of course, cultural differences.

As of yet, how the money will be materialized, by who, and in what capacity remains a mystery. For those beneficiary countries that signed the ISA Framework, the only thing to do now is wait patiently for the ISA and Bloomberg NEF to release their upcoming Solar Investment Roadmap for 2022, which will shine a light on what the next steps will be to turn the goal into reality.

Sources: theafricareport.com – financialexpress.com

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African Nations Descend on Dubai’s Expo 2020

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After being postponed for a year due to pandemic, Expo 2020 is finally set to begin in Dubai, with nearly every country on the African continent represented both individually and through a dedicated pavilion for the African Union.

No expenses spared to make Dubai’s Expo 2020 a success

After being postponed for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Expo 2020 is finally set to begin on the 1st of October 2021, with Dubai hosting the Universal Exhibition. For the first time in the 170 year history of World Expos, nearly every country on the African continent will be represented, both individually and through a dedicated pavilion for the African Union. Architecturally alone the event will be spectacular, with Morocco’s pavilion being a vertical earthen village that offers views of the whole event from it’s rooftop. With an estimated allocated budget of $8.7 billion, it is not a cheap event to host, but if successful it has been expected to generate up to US$17.7 billion in revenue for Dubai. Aside from the potential economic benefit, for the United Arab Emirates hosting the expo is a way to position themselves as a country of influence on the international scene, and further their political and economic presence on the continent of Africa.

A unified Africa presents a new image of the continent

For the continent too the exposition is an opportunity, as a myriad of countries wish to deepen their ties with Africa. With it’s Agenda 2063 – a 50-year plan to see an “integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens” – the African Union is ready to use the expo to show that the continent represents a dynamic force in the international arena. Aspiring to an Africa with no borders, whose people see themselves as Africans first, united in common heritage, culture and values the African Union pavilion will highlight Africa’s potential and ambitions, showing a new face of the continent that is exciting, young and modern.

The highlights of the continent on display

Within each carefully curated pavilion, over 40 countries on the continent will showcase to the world what they can offer:

Investment Opportunities

Some countries, like the Democratic Republic of the Congo will showcase the resources of the country. To attract investors the Congolese pavilion will highlight the country’s 80 million hectares of arable land, and the energy-production potential of the Congo River. Likewise Zimbabwe’s pavilion will showcase a destination filled with mining, construction and agriculture opportunities. In the Ethiopian pavilion conveyor belts will display locally-made products, while Nigeria’s ‘Opportunity City’ will put the country’s booming creative and technology sectors at the forefront for visitors to see.

Tourism

For many countries the Expo offers a chance to sell the country as a tourism destination. With the recent rehabilitation of Benin’s cultural sites, the country wants to revitalize its tourism industry. In fact, standing out as a tourism destination will be the challenge at Expo 2020. Heavyweights in tourism like Egypt will deploy pyramids, hieroglyphic signs and genuine antique pharaoh statues, while Nigeria will show visitors around it’s untouched destinations on a virtual reality Eco-tour.

Culture

Along with highlighting the economic opportunities, African countries will be reminding the world of the wealth of culture on the continent. Entering the Ethiopian pavilion will see visitors coming face to face with a replica of ‘Lucy,’ the world’s oldest human fossil, while in the Nigerian pavilion the ‘Nollywood’ film scene will be highlighted. Meanwhile in the Kenyan pavilion is the opportunity to meet the 44 different tribes that make up the country, and visitors can leave with a Kenyan name and digital copy of their own Kenyan passport.

Enticing investment into the continent remains a challenge

Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, Africa as a continent had seen 25 years of continuous economic growth. Despite this, the bottom half of the global Human Development Index is dominated by African countries, and the continent’s lack of infrastructure remains a barrier to international trade. This makes international investors wary, further holding the continent back. This is acknowledged by Eugene Manga Manga, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s General Commissioner for Expo 2020. He has stated that, “The continent has a lot of difficulties, but it has also started to develop.” With rich natural resources and a youthful, entrepreneurial population, the continent does indeed have a lot to offer, and Expo 2020 may be the perfect chance to remind the rest of the world of this fact.

Photos : expo2020dubai.com/

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Ory Okolloh’s Fascinating Career from Activist Blogger to Manager at Google

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Ory Okolloh Mwangi might be one of the most well-known women on the internet, at least across Africa, gaining recognition for her creation of online platforms to monitor Kenyan politicians and map violence.

Activist, Lawyer, Blogger, Manager

Ory Okolloh Mwangi might be one of the most well-known women on the internet, at least across Africa. Born in Kenya in 1977, she studied Political Science as an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh, and also gained a degree from Harvard Law School. She rose to fame for her role in creating a public website to monitor Kenya’s parliament. Two years later she created another monitoring utility aimed at reporting violence during the tumultuous elections, and she later worked as Policy Manager for Africa at Google. Okolloh has earned a spot on Forbes’ top 20 Power Women in Africa, as well as TIME’s 100 most influential women.

Keeping politicians accountable in the public eye

Okolloh first came to prominence with the launch of Mzalendo, a non-Governmental, non-partisan Parliamentary monitoring website in Kenya. With many details of MPs missing from the official parliament websites, and finding constituencies and boundaries difficult or impossible, Mzalendo was launched as a way of systematically recording speeches, bills, attendance of MPs and their voting record. The name comes from the Swahili word for patriot, and the goal was to increase public participation in politics and to hold MPs to account. In 2010 the site received funding from Omidyar Network which allowed for a relaunch. Users of Mzalendo can now see ‘scorecards’ for each Member of Parliament that assesses their attendance, contactability and spending performance.

Testimony to violence 

Okolloh, who was living in Johannesburg at the time, returned to Kenya to vote in the now-infamous 2007 elections. After a contentious election where the results were called into question, riots and looting swept the country. During a period of limited news and few official statements, Okolloh used her blog to give updates from political parties, journalists and sources within parliament. She reached out for help, and soon like-minded people had set up a new site with a link to Google Earth, allowing Okolloh to add the information to the map – where violence was taking place and what and where peace efforts were active.

This was the tumultuous birth of Ushahidi, a phrase that means ‘testimony’ in Swahili. It has since evolved into a platform that can be used by anyone around the world to gather and map reports to create a crowdsourced archive of events with geographic and time-date information.

From crowd-sourced activism to google to beer?

In 2010 Okolloh caused a shock by joining Google as Policy and Strategy Manager for Africa. When asked why she left her position at Ushahidi she stated, “It is a huge opportunity to bring Google’s resources to bear as far as the growth and development of the internet in Africa (and hopefully a reminder of why I went to law school in the first place!).” Google’s operation in Africa at the time already included Gmail and Chrome in Amharic and Swahili, YouTube South Africa, University Access Programs, Google SMS and Google Trader.

In 2013 she moved to Omidyar Network as a director of investments, staying with the company until January 2020. While Okolloh maintains her blog and is prevalent on Twitter, her latest job is something of a departure from her previous roles and she is currently Independent Non-Executive Director of East Africa Breweries.

Photos sources : ifex.org – alchetron.com –

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Music Streaming Service Anghami gets listed and moves to the UAE

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Anghami is now the first Middle East Tech Company to be listed on NASDAQ, following its acquisition by a SPAC and pending relocation the United Arab Emirates

The Middle East’s Top Music Streaming Platform

In 2012, Anghami revolutionized the way music was consumed in the Middle East by launching the first legal music streaming company in the Arab World. Now, it becomes the first Middle Eastern tech company to list on NASDAQ after merging with a special acquisition company (SPAC), Vistas Media Acquisition. With a music catalog including Arab labels such as Melody, Mazzika and Platinum Records alongside international labels like Sony and Warner, Anghami quickly grew in popularity. Initially launched in Lebanon, the company is relocating its headquarters to the United Arab Emirates with the support of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office’s (ADIO) Innovation Program. Anghami co-founder Elie Habib has been quick to make sure people know that they will “continue to have offices and teams and [they] are still recruiting in Beirut.”

Where Spotify goes Solo, Anghami goes Social

Anghami faced tough competition when it initially launched, with French company Deezer pouring $130 million into a regional expansion in the same year. Since then competition has only increased, with Spotify, Apple Music, and of course YouTube having a global reach, and significantly more resources at their disposal. Despite this, Anghami has managed to grow to have more than 70 million registered users, with over 1 billion streams every month.

Despite the crowded space, Habib was never worried about competition from these other providers as he felt the product was fundamentally different. He has stated that “We aren’t exactly tit for tat with Spotify – we have our own roadmap and differentiators that we focus on…we noticed, for instance, that most users were sharing music with others on WhatsApp, and a lot of our incoming traffic [also] happens via WhatsApp. If users use WhatsApp to send music, this means that they want to share.”

It is sharing that has been key to Anghami’s success. Habib’s theory is that music was meant to be social, not consumed alone, so the service makes it easy to connect with people and bond over music choices. Deep-learning and machine learning algorithms are used to match listeners with profiles that choose similar music, which led to people following more playlists from their matched users.

Anghami has continued with this focus, launching a live radio that features real-time text chat and voice chat to let any user, including artists and DJs talk to each other while playing songs and podcasts from Anghami’s library.

Another Tech Company in Abu Dhabi

The Government of the United Arab Emirates has been trying to entice innovative tech companies for some time, with the goal of turning the country from a consumer of technology to a producer of technology. Its Hub71 incentive program offers subsidized housing, office space and health insurance for companies in the seed and emergent phase, and while Anghami might be beyond that, Habib has stated that the city will invest in both the team and their research in the years to come. Part of the merger agreement is a $40 million commitment from UAE financial firm Shuaa Capital.

Capitalizing on the Extra Capital

Anghami will continue to operate under its own name after the merger with Vistas Media Acquisition. The pro-forma enterprise value is listed at $220 million, and it has been speculated that the company could be valued at close to $300 million following the deal. It is the first time a Middle East Tech Startup has made it on to NASDAQ and speaks volumes to the success of the company. Habib has said that they want to have “deeper penetration into high-growth, high revenue markets.” The newly raised funds are expected to be used to expand further in both Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Photos : Voicebot.ai – oerlive.com

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Pure Harvest Aims to Change the Face of Fresh Food

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Having secured $60 million in funding, Pure Harvest Smart Farms is looking to expand its operations into Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, using advanced technology to bring food security to the arid Middle Eastern climate.

Year-round Local Fresh Food

Pure Harvest is a farming startup using hi-tech, fully climate-controlled greenhouses and a coconut shaving hydroponic solution. Their aim is to provide year-round fresh food in a region where nearly 90% of food is imported. Having secured $60 million in funding, with a further $100 million earmarked by Kuwait’s International Investment Company (Wafra), Pure Harvest Smart Farms is looking to expand its operations into Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, using advanced technology to bring food security to the arid Middle Eastern climate. CEO and co-founder Sky Kurtz described their pilot project in Abu Dhabi as showing promising results with the “potential for year-round local production at very high quality and at a very good cost structure.”

Taming the Desert with High Tech Solutions

Farming consumes huge amounts of water, leading to water scarcity even in temperate regions such as Europe and America. In the arid, dry desert wasting even a drop of water is inconceivable, and Pure Harvest Smart Farms claims their self-contained greenhouses offer a level of efficiency 30 times greater than traditional field farms.

This model of controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) uses greenhouses that go far beyond glass walls to isolate plants. A climate chamber removes heat and humidity from the outside air; this humidity is condensed and fed to the plants inside. There is no soil as plants are grown inside a nutrient rich solution and monitored by sensors to keep the plants healthy. Triple-paned smart glass windows and over-pressurized airflow help manage temperatures to within a 1 degree Celsius margin and carbon dioxide is added to optimize plant growth. 

Kurtz claims that Pure Harvest is expecting a yield of six to eight times more food per meter than other greenhouse farms, while using only one-seventh the amount of water. It will produce 17 to 23 times more food per meter than a traditional field farm.

A Large Market but Pure Harvest struggles to Gain Funding

Despite the success of the pilot, Pure Harvest has a long way to go. According to Kurtz, once they are producing at a scale of 30,000 square meters the produce should be 20-40% cheaper than imported fresh food giving them a very promising market.

But even with the investment of $60 million, and the $100 million soon to follow, Pure Harvest has struggled to secure the funding to expand. The industry is extremely capital intensive, and the Middle East venture capital market is less developed than in other countries. The company has managed to raise $50 million through bonds known as “Sukuk,” Shariah law compliant Islamic bonds, with a further $10 million investment from a January fundraising round led by Sancta Capital.

With the additional $100 million from Wafra, the total sum might appear to be significant, but compared to comparable ventures it is low. Recently a vertical farming firm in the U.S., Plenty, raised more than $500 million in funding.

A Promising Future for Local Food

With global supply chains heavily disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and further shaken by the blockage of the Suez Canal by the Ever Given in March 2021, the UAE region has become increasingly concerned about securing a food supply. If Pure Harvest can deliver on their promises, they stand to benefit handsomely. At the moment there is no reason to suspect otherwise as the company moves forward with expansion plans. Already the Pure Harvest has reached a $35 million agreement with The Sultan Centre in Kuwait to build a farm stretching across 80,000 square meters that can produce millions of kilograms of fresh fruit and vegetables, well past the size that Kurtz marks for profitability.

Photos : findwonder.abudhabi / agfstorage.blob.core.windows.net

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David Adjaye unveils his latest work, the Princeton University Museum of Art

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In late 2020 David Adjaye unveiled the face of the future Museum of Art at Princeton University in New Jersey.

David Adjaye unveils his latest work, the Princeton University Museum of Art

In late 2020 David Adjaye unveiled the face of the future Museum of Art at Princeton University in New Jersey. This is just the latest in a series of high profile buildings that the award-winning dual Ghanaian-British architect has been involved with. Sir David Adjaye, OBE is known for his community-driven projects, his ethos and his imaginative use of materials. The bespoke designs he has shown the world have marked him apart as one of the leading architects of the generation. From private houses to exhibitions and temporary pavilions all the way to major arts centers, is there anything he can’t do?

Early Years of Impermanence on the Continent

Adjaye’s early life was one of frequent moves. Born in Tanzania to a Ghanaian diplomat, he lived in Egypt, Yemen and Lebanon all before the age of nine when he moved to Britain. He was able to see much of the continent, visiting places such as Kampala, Nairobi, Accra and Jeddah by joining his father’s travels. This history of travel would later be showcased in Adjaye’s project, ‘African Architecture: A Photographic Survey of Metropolitan Architecture’ that documented the urban history of fifty four major African cities.

Adjaye states that a formative moment in his childhood was when he realized the difficulties his partially paralyzed brother had to face when going to school. Adjaye noted that the run-down and degrading facility was very inefficient and during his university education he began to think about design solutions that would provide better care for those with less mobility. He describes this as the moment he understood how architecture melds with egalitarianism.

From Houses to Exhibitions, Adjaye’s Career is certainly not boring

Adjaye graduated in 1993 from the Royal College of Art in London, and in the same year won his first bronze medal award from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). His early works included residential projects, such as the house of his future-best man, Chris Ofili. He also designed Lorna Simpson’s studio-home, and the Dirty House studio. Adjaye’s architecture firm would have its first solo exhibition in 2006 at the Whitechapel Gallery called ‘David Adjaye: Making Public Buildings.’

Things picked up quickly for Adjaye when he was selected to design the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver that opened in 2007. It was his first museum commission, and was designed in such a way as to minimize the boundaries between the exterior spaces of the city and the interior galleries of the museum. Adjaye was later selected as lead architect for the design of the $540 million National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. When the museum opened in 2016 it was named the cultural event of the year by the New York Times, and Adjaye’s signature touches included a crown motif from the West African Yoruba Kingdom.

His grandest work yet, the upcoming Princeton Museum of Art

In 2018 David Adjaye won the competition to create the new art museum in the heart of the Princeton University campus and he has just revealed new images of how the building will look. As a former guest professor at the university, Adjaye knows the institution well and his proposal is nothing if not ambitious.

The museum will be open to all and inclusive. Materials such as stone, bronze and glass will intertwine and the project will double the area offered by the original museum. The upcoming space has been described as a campus within the campus. It will have three levels with seven interlocking pavilions connected with intimate spaces. Spread across this impressive area will be nearly 110,000 works of art, with pieces dating back to antiquity standing alongside more recent works. Estimated to be completed in 2024, the building will be one of David Adjaye’s most important personal achievements, along with being one of the most important university museums in the world.

Sources: africatopsuccess.com – stirworld.com

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Innovation and flexibility allowed MENA startups to raise over $1 billion in 2020

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Innovation and flexibility allowed North African and Middle Eastern startups to raise over $1 billion in 2020

Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, investors continued to believe in the potential of North African and Middle Eastern tech start-ups. The growth in venture capital investments in MENA countries in the latter portion of 2020 speaks volumes about the expected high returns in the coming years. While the total number of investment transactions in 2020 decreased 13% overall from numbers in 2019, a record breaking first half of 2020 and a rebound in late Q3 led to a year that, despite a global pandemic, shattered expectations for investment numbers.

The sectors benefiting most from high investment

While the total number of deals may have dropped, several key industries have experienced major growth throughout 2020:

  • Fintech, or financial tech did very well. Despite losing 19% of the number of deals, total funding for this industry shot up to $162 million.
  • eCommerce was a sector that lost 23% in deals but managed to come out with 24% more funding than the sector received in 2019.
  • Healthcare and Healthtech was an obvious winner given the public health crisis, and investment in Healthcare start-ups soared by 280% compared to 2019 for a total of $72 million in funding

Big winners of the year included the digital healthcare agency Vezeeta, securing a staggering $40 million in series D funding in early 2020, shortly after moving their headquarters to Dubai, and Dubai-based used car marketplace, Sellanycar.com that raised $35 million to expand the number of branches across the country.

United Arab Emirates takes the lion’s share of investment funding

The UAE maintained its powerful lead in total funding, taking 56% of the total of venture capital funding raised within the Middle East and North Africa for the year of 2020. Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia follow with 17% and 15% of the total funding, respectively. As a percentage of the deal share, very little changed compared to 2019. Most changes were only 1 or 2% of the deal share, with the exception of Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia increased the share of the number of deals by 6%, likely because of the large shift towards ecommerce and Fintech within Sauda Arabia during 2020.

Seed rounds and series A receiving the biggest boost in funding

Despite the increase in funding overall, the investment landscape does seem to have been altered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Pre-seed and early stage venture funding decreased in 2020, while Seed funding and Series A investments exploded, potentially reaching up to $3 million of funding. While exact numbers are still being confirmed, it suggests investors are less willing to expose themselves to risk on companies that are yet to bring a product to market, and instead focused on those with a promising outlook for rapid growth. Given the impact the global economy has seen from Covid-19 and the many countries facing a harsh recession, this change of tactics could be seen as a more cautious approach from investors.

A promising outlook for tech start-ups in the Middle East and North Africa

Although Covid-19 is far from over and many of the long-term economic impacts are still to hit home, raising over $1 billion of funding in 2020 is an incredible achievement for MENA start-ups. Chief Operating Officer at 500 Startups Courtney Powell, among others, have said that the outlook for 2021 is positive, and if the Fintech, eCommerce and Healthtech industries can innovate and succeed through the challenging year of 2020, then there is every reason to expect they will succeed in 2021.

Sources: ventureburn.com – gccbusinessnews.com

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Who are the three African champions highlighted in the BCG Tech Challengers report?

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Only three African technology companies have been identified in the Boston Consulting Group’s Tech Challengers report: the e-commerce giant Jumia, Kenyan mobile money star M-Pesa and South African e-commerce platform Takealot.

Who are the three African champions highlighted in the BCG Tech Challengers report?

Only three African technology companies have been identified in the Boston Consulting Group’s Tech Challengers report: the e-commerce giant Jumia, Kenyan mobile money star M-Pesa and South African e-commerce platform Takealot. This may not look flattering for the African continent, given the large market share taken by China and other Southeast Asian companies, but it should be noted that African challengers are growing at 11 times faster than S&P 500 companies. Most companies identified in the BCG report are growing at only 6 times faster. Technological companies are also being created in Africa at a rate of 2.5 times more than in the United States. The landscape is changing, and these three champions may only be the first of many African Tech Challengers.

Jumia – The ‘Amazon’ of Africa?

Launched in Lagos, Nigeria in 2012, Jumia has expanded from simply offering e-commerce, and has built Jumia Travel for hotel bookings, and Jumia Food for door to door food delivery. It is estimated that over 78% of online purchases in Africa have been placed through Jumia, making the company a truly successful enterprise. On top of e-commerce, Jumia acts as a logistics service, enabling shipments from seller to consumer. By partnering with over 300 couriers and using proprietary technology to track delivery routes they appear to have overcome the continent’s infrastructure issues, and have since opened the logistics to non-Jumia orders. To help facilitate the take-up of e-commerce in Africa, Jumia Pay was launched to process payments and this integrated approach has given the e-commerce giant a way of accessing markets outside of the major cities.

M-Pesa – Mobile Money from the East Coast

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Launched in 2007 by the multinational mobile company Vodafone in collaboration with local provider Safaricom, M-Pesa is an app-based mobile phone fintech service from Kenya. M-Pesa allows users to transfer money and pay for goods and services using just a mobile phone. A network of agents across the continent include airtime resellers and retail outlets acting as banking agents for cash withdrawals and deposits. M-Pesa currently has around 41.5 million users across the continent, with nearly 99% market share in Kenya. Offering microfinance and short-term loans, M-Pesa has offered easily accessible banking services to many in a continent with remarkably low access to traditional banking providers. Much has been written about how apps like M-Pesa can help lift people out of poverty while also making a profit.

Takealot.com – Black Friday sales come to Africa

As an e-commerce platform competing against Jumia and Amazon, Takealot offers a service that is not likely to be called unique. Nonetheless, with over 2,500 third-party businesses using the Takealot marketplace to sell to over 1.8 million shoppers in South Africa, their success is very real. While the core of the business is an e-commerce platform connecting shoppers and vendors, they have since expanded, acquiring multi-restaurant delivery service Mr. D Food and opening distribution centers across the Western Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng. Notably, they were the first African e-commerce platform to take part in the ‘Black Friday Sales’ that are notorious in other parts of the world. 

While tech companies from Africa have yet to reach the global scale that Amazon or Alibaba have managed, tech challengers on the continent prove that success in emerging markets is not due to the ability to copy existing technology, but to develop new products specifically designed to solve the unique problems found in the emerging African markets – from a lack of infrastructure to low access to banking services, to simply connecting buyers and vendors. These three companies are just the first African tech challengers we can expect to see get global recognition.

Photos : Teknolojia-news.com – bcg.com

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The Internet Economy in Africa – Key takeaways of a $180 Billion Industry

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The e-Conomy Africa 2020 report, a unique collaboration between the IFC and Google, sheds light on the great potential of Africa’s Internet economy, the promising tech entrepreneurs driving innovation, and the growing tech talent across the continent.

The e-Conomy Africa 2020 report, a unique collaboration between the IFC and Google, sheds light on the great potential of Africa’s Internet economy, the promising tech entrepreneurs driving innovation, and the growing tech talent across the continent. Of the top 20 fastest-growing countries in the world, nineteen are located in Africa. Driven by greater access to the internet as well as having an increasingly young and well-educated workforce, the IFC and Google predict an internet economy on the African continent worth $180 billion by the year 2025. This could reach $712 billion by 2050 and despite the impact of Covid-19, this ‘e-conomy’ is expected to be more resilient to the pandemic. This offers several promising avenues for investment on the continent.

Sectors Driving the Growth of the Internet Economy in Africa

Thanks in large part to easier access to mobile internet, several key sectors have been able to flourish in recent years:

  • Fintech, or financial technology, enjoys an average of 120% growth in funding year-on-year, and is the most heavily funded sector in Africa. With large amounts of the population unbanked, startups allow people to leapfrog from physical retail banking to online banking by offering services like payment processing, personal finance, insurance and microloans. Companies like M-PESA in Kenya, Fawry in Egypt and Paystack-62 in Nigeria lead the way in, with some companies growing at more than 100% annually.
  • Healthtech received $189 million in 2019, and the healthcare market in Africa is expected to reach over $100 billion by 2030. Companies like Zipline have been operating medical supply drone deliveries to rural areas, while Helium Health has been providing technological solutions for healthcare providers.
  • Media and Entertainment has seen a rapid increase in demand, thanks in part due to lockdowns and social distancing measures put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Content specifically created in Africa can be found on globally-available streaming platforms, such as Netflix’s “Made in Africa” collection, and African-made content is expected to expand quickly.
  • E-Mobility and Food Delivery has been hard hit by the pandemic, as ride-hailing saw a decrease in demand due to work-from-home and lockdown measures. It is expected to rebound quickly however, as Africa has one of the lowest car to person ratios in the world. In some areas taxis and moto-taxis make up nearly 80% of motorized trips. Global ride-hailing companies like Uber and Bolt have entered the market in the past seven years, in addition to local startups, such as Little, Gokada, Gozem, MaxNG, Safeboda and Yassir. Startups within the e-mobility sector in Africa raised $62 million in 2019. Many of these startups have branched into food and grocery delivery to alleviate the impact of Covid-19.
  • E-Logistics platforms are helping informal retailers with companies such as Kobo360, Lori Systems, Sendy, and Truckr reducing the cost of cargo and local transportation.

Young Tech Talent in Africa Drives the Growth and Consumption of Online Services

Africa has the world’s youngest and fastest-growing workforce, one that is increasingly urbanized. Tech talent in Africa is at a historical high with nearly 700,000 professional developers across Africa, a number that is still rising. Women comprise one in five of the total developer population in Africa, higher than the United States, creating new opportunities for women, especially in Egypt, Morocco and South Africa. A skills gap still exists, with self-taught developers making up the same number of as those that are university-trained. Helping to bridge this gap will help encourage the growth of the internet economy in Africa.

With support and regulation from regional governments, the internet economy in Africa looks set to boom in the coming years, thanks to the hard work and entrepreneurship of local startups on the continent.

Photos : ifc.org – bp.blogspot.com – miro.medium.com

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Controversy and Challenged for the African Development Bank

Comments (0) Featured, Politics

In recent years, many African countries and organizations have worked hard to move away from the veil of corruption that has shrouded the continent for decades. Exploitative systems left in place by former colonial governments have often been marked by nepotism and misuse of power. 

The most recent ‘scandal’ has just resulted in Dr Akinwumi Adesina being cleared of all allegations and also re-elected as President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) for a new five-year term.

Who is Akinwumi Adesina?

Dr Akinwumi “Akin” Adesina is a 60-year-old Nigerian who previously served as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development from 2010 until 2015. Prior to that, he was Vice President of Policy and Partnerships for AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa).

From a farming family, Adesina was educated in Nigeria (where he was the first student at his university to be awarded a First Class Honours) and then at Purdue University in Indiana, USA, where he won an award for his PhD thesis. 

He then went on to work as a senior economist at WARDA (West African Rice Development Association) as well as continuing to work for the Rockefeller Foundation who he had joined in 1988. He served as the foundation’s representative for the southern African region from 1999 until 2003 and then as associate director for food security from 2003 to 2008. 

Adesina has been recognized for the work he has done in agriculture on several occasions. He was named Forbes’ African man of the Year in 2013 for his work in reforming the Nigerian agricultural sector. And in 2010, then UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, appointed him as one of 17 leaders to spearhead the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

His record at the AfDB has been impressive. It is the only African financial institution with a Triple-A credit rating, and in October of 2019, they raised $115 billion in fresh capital, an achievement many ascribed to Adesina. 

Controversy

The corruption came from AfDB staff who alleged that Adesina had committed multiple breaches of trust and of abusing his position as well as breaching the bank’s own code of ethics. An initial 15-page report accused him of embezzlement, nepotism towards fellow Nigerians, awarding lucrative contracts to friends and families, and promoting people who were suspected of fraudulent activities. 

An internal inquiry cleared him of all allegations but this was rejected by the U.S.A., who are one of the AfDB’s 27 non-regional members as well as being the second largest shareholder in the bank behind Nigeria. 

This prompted the bank’s Bureau of Governors to set up a three-person review panel, headed by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland. They were given a short four-week window to investigate and deliver their findings so as not to interfere with the approaching election for President of AfDB, an election Adesina had been expected to win unopposed until these allegations surfaced.

The review panel agreed with the original internal inquiry’s findings, stating: “…concurs with the (Ethics) Committee in its findings in respect of all the allegations against the President and finds that they were properly considered and dismissed by the Committee.”

Moving Forward

On 27th August, 2020, Adesina was re-elected for another five –year term as president of AfDB with 100% of the votes from both regional and non-regional members. 

The challenge for Adesina now is to put this controversy behind him and focus on the challenges facing the AfDB, especially in the current uncertainty of Covid 19. His first term focused on what the bank called their ‘High 5s’ priorities: Powering Africa, Feeding Africa, Industrializing Africa, Integrating Africa, and Improving the lives of Africans. 

That first term saw a lot of success which included 18 million receiving electricity supplies, 141 million benefiting from better agricultural technology, and 60 million getting access to better water supplies and sanitation. The bank has also seen its general capital reach its highest level ever, growing to $208 billion from $93 billion. 

With the independent panel exonerating him, and with the unanimous vote for his re-election, Dr Adesina can hopefully put these allegations to bed and continue to improve the lives of millions of Africans, 

Photos : Foreignpolicy.com / Afdb.org / africanleadershipmagazine.co.uk/ ft.com

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