Hi, Q-MHI Africa readers!
CHINA’S AFRICA PROJECT
In early 2015 when we discussed plans to launch a standalone Q-MHI edition focused on Africa, there were two things we were clear about. The first was that innovation and innovators would be key to how we covered the continent. The second was that we needed to consistently tell the story of what was happening with China’s expanding role across Africa.
To achieve this aim we launched our China in Africa obsession through which we framed a lot of our stories around the major day-to-day business deals, economic partnerships, trade alliances as well as political and cultural influences among many topics that were not getting regular coverage by local or international press.
While Sino-African relations has been a fast-growing area of scholarship particularly in the last decade for media the coverage tended to be dominated by relatively simplistic neocolonial narratives about Chinese plans for Africa. That has since translated into stories and commentary on Africa’s growing debt-trap with Beijing a view that’s more recently been supported by the Trump White House.
As regular readers of Q-MHI Africa know, the modern role of the Chinese in African countries is multifaceted, nuanced and yes, complicated. It’s not all government-to-government and billion-dollar infrastructure contracts. There are Chinese entrepreneurs, African traders, skilled laborers, academics and more all working together and competing to create many different narratives.
But at some point it becomes important to help our readers catch up and contextualize some of what you’ve been reading from us and elsewhere over the last couple of years as we all try to get our heads around understanding what China’s role in Africa today means.
We’re launching our team’s first comprehensive field guide into what we’ve called China’s Africa project exclusively for Q-MHI Africa members. It’s a deep dive led by our Nairobi reporter Abdi Latif Dahir over several articles, charts, photography and a comprehensive tool kit of material to help you understand everything you need to know about one of the most important geopolitical and economic influences of our age. We find that China’s importance to Africa’s future is easier to address on the ground but what is often less discussed is the vital role of Africa to China’s own future.
— Yinka Adegoke, Q-MHI Africa editor
STORIES FROM THIS WEEK
There is increasing evidence Africans are being unfairly denied UK visas.
A UK parliamentary group has confirmed what many Africans have long suspected: African applicants are more than twice as likely to be refused a UK visa than applicants from other parts of the world. The basis for the denials range from inconsistent decision making by consular officers to unjustifiable discrimination.
Ultimately, the findings appeared to confirm long-held suspicions by Africans as it showed applicants from the continent are denied visas for reasons ranging from discrimination on account of applicants’ income (even in cases where an inviting third party is paying the costs of the trip) to logistical barriers like having to visit another country before applying for a visa. As part of evidence for the report, Mauritania’s embassy noted that all UK visa applications from the country require visiting a visa application center in Morocco. That translates to 4,000-kilometer round trips and an added barrier of first obtaining a Moroccan visa before a Mauritania national can apply for a UK visa.
Visa applications were also found to have been rejected based on inconsistent decision making and “lack of procedural fairness” which often saw different decisions taken in “effectively identical” applications or identical re-applications. The effect, the report notes, is reduced trust in the process and increased frustration for applicants who cannot contest application decisions.As part of a cache of solutions to prevent applications being “unjustifiably refused,” the report recommended offering clearer information to applicants on visa application processes and requirements as well siting more visa application centers in countries currently without one.
It’s unclear how much progress will be made on these fronts in the coming years as the United Kingdom moves towards a post-Brexit reality. By itself, the campaign to leave the European Union was hinged on strong anti-immigration rhetoric and sentiments with the implied message being that the country’s immigration laws will toughen in the aftermath of its European divorce. Before her tenure concluded however, former prime minister Theresa May presented a post-Brexit immigration regime focused on prioritizing skilled migrants.
The real-life implications of difficult visa processes for Africans range from being unable to visit family members abroad to scuttling higher education plans. But with increasing awareness of these difficulties and the limitations they represent, some organizations are finding workarounds: organizers of the International Conference on Learning Representations, a major summit focused on artificial intelligence which was previously only hosted in Europe and North America has now been moved to Addis Ababa next year with organizers admitting it will prove too difficult for African researchers to obtain foreign visas to attend it elsewhere.
Ghana’s pact with China for bauxite mining threatens to ravage a biodiverse forest.
A memorandum Ghana signed with China to explore valuable deposits of bauxite will come at cost. As botanist Alfred Oteng-Yeboah explains, some of China’s search will be trained on Atewa forest, one of the country’s remaining intact forest habitats and home to a major collection of its biodiversity.
The Atewa forest landscape is remote and pristine, providing the habitat for a major collection of Ghana’s biodiversity. It has been named as one of Ghana’s 30 globally significant biodiversity areas.
But the forest is under threat. Last year Ghana signed a memorandum with China to explore Ghana’s deposits of bauxite—the primary ore in aluminum. The deposits are found in two locations—Awaso with very high deposits in the moist semi-deciduous forest zone of western region of Ghana, and Atewa, with minimum deposits and located in the Upland Evergreen forests in the Eastern Region of Ghana.
Under the memorandum Ghana will cede 5% of its bauxite resources to the Chinese. In turn, Beijing will finance $2 billion worth of infrastructure projects that include rails, roads and bridge networks. The Ghanaian Parliament has passed the Ghana Bauxite Integrated Aluminum Industry Act which would provide a legal framework to exploit country’s bauxite deposits.
Yet the government says it still has to validate the true worth of the bauxite deposit in the forest.
As a botanist I view the Atewa landscape as a scientific gold mine. A recent impact assessment by the US Forest Service corroborates the concerns of several conservation groups about the potential damage that mining would cause.
I believe strongly that Atewa is not for mining and that it must be preserved. Firstly, it needs to be preserved as a living natural history laboratory. Secondly, it should be protected because it provides a vital resource – water. Thirdly, it is a precious gift whose value cannot be quantified, but which must be lived, felt and appreciated. Finally it is a naturally bequeathed heritage that must be protected for future generations to enjoy.
Jumia is struggling with fraud, lawsuits and mounting losses which could hurt its plans for a spin-off.
Jumia, Africa’s largest e-commerce operator, revealed it uncovered an $18 million internal fraud going back a year and is subject to several lawsuits even as its second-quarter losses widened, reports Yomi Kazeem. Its shares fell as much as 20% during the week. As Jumia seeks higher revenues in a bid to stem losses company executives revealed plans to spin-off Jumia Pay, its in-house payments solution, as a standalone fintech business.
The company has disclosed it recently uncovered instances of improper orders placed and subsequently cancelled on its marketplace platform wrongly inflating its order volume. Some of the improper sales practices, the company said, were carried out by its own personnel in “Jumia Force,” its network of commissioned agents Cumulatively, the improper orders generated around €16 million ($17.5 million) in gross merchandise volume (GMV) value between the last quarter of 2018 and the first two quarters of 2019, the report shows. GMV is a metric used by e-commerce companies to highlight the total value of merchandise sold through the site.
Jumia claimed the fraudulent orders had had no impact on its financial statements even though it acknowledged the reported GMV figure for Q2 2018 had been adjusted in light of the improper transactions. Jumia management also revealed the employees involved have since been suspended pending a review.
That detail will do little to assuage the negative speculation the company’s stock has endured over the past few weeks. Indeed, the earnings call came amid an extended slump in Jumia’s share price which saw it fall below its IPO price of $14.50 earlier this month. Despite an initial bullish run on the New York Stock Exchange which saw its share price peak at $49.77 after its landmark IPO, Jumia’s stock has remained subject of speculation of impending lawsuits and investigations amid previous claims of fraud by a short seller analyst.
Jumia has now confirmed that “several class action lawsuits have been filed” against the company and its officers in New York over “alleged misstatements and omissions” in its IPO prospectus. It also noted that the lawsuits “remain in their preliminary stages.”
How Jollof rice became West Africa’s iconic dish and a source of banter between Africans.
There’s no subject more debated among West Africans on social media than the origins—and quality—of their local Jollof dishes. Haleluya Hadero explores the regional differences of how the spicy rice dish is prepared and enjoyed, and how it has grown in cultural significance.
Jollof rice is a spiced dish, simmered in reduced tomatoes, onions, peppers, and different seasonings depending on where it’s made. It’s an iconic dish, with massive regional significance across West Africa and a staple in celebratory social gatherings, including at Lagos parties in Nigeria. The dark-orange spicy rice dish can be eaten by itself, but also be enjoyed along with side dishes, including fried plantains.
The FBI’s Nigerian email scam ring bust shows how the billion-dollar global fraud has evolved.
A 252-count federal grand jury indictment named 80 Nigerian defendants charged with defrauding victims of up to $10 million in one of the “largest cases of its kind in US history.” Details of the indictment show the evolving tactics of online fraudsters which has seen them employ business email compromise scams and use unwitting romance scam victims as money mules.
Series of arrests by the Federal Bureau of Investigations in the US has nabbed one of the “most prolific” rings of Nigerian fraudsters operating in the country.
CHART OF THE WEEK
The path to the next billion internet users is through feature phones.
It’s long been assumed that with the majority of the African users gaining access to the internet via their mobile phones, smartphones would be a big driver of internet access on the continent. But Paul Adepoju finds newer, more advancedbut affordable feature phones will play a crucial role in driving penetration even as smartphone growth continues to rise.
Despite a US-China trade war barring Google from licensing its Android mobile operating system for Huawei phones, Android will have little problem continuing to dominate the mobile ecosystem. It accounts for over 75% of mobile web traffic followed by Apple’s iOS 22%. Other mobile OS combined accounted for a mere 2.3%.
Android’s winning strategy was Google’s decision to make the platform open source and free for phone manufacturers and developers to use. But the US White House’s belligerence as focused minds particularly in China. Huawei has been working on its own operating system called Harmony OS and it’s expected to make a dent in Android’s market dominance in a market of 1.4 billion people at home but not so much outside China.
However there is a bigger opportunity that’s developing rapidly and seeing growth year-on-year, it is in the advanced feature phones market and is on track to be the channel for the next billion internet users.
In spite of the dominance of Android, about half of the world’s population (around 3 billion people) is still offline and any player that targets this category of people could control the communication landscape in the future.
South Africa’s Naspers received enough votes from its shareholders to list its $124 billion stake in Chinese internet behemoth Tencent Holdings and other assets, as a standalone entity called Prosus on the Euronext Amsterdam. The spin-off is expected to take place on Sep.
11…Co-Creation Hub, a pioneer startup hub and incubator in Nigeria, is leading 10 African startups on a “pitch drive” to investors across China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Japan…Accra, Ghana-based MEST has announced its largest-ever funding round for a graduating class, investing $1.1 million in the11 startups from its 2019 cohort.
OTHER THINGS WE LIKED
In DR Congo, even Ebola can’t stop lovers from dancing.
“Rumba is good, even through war, through Ebola. Rumba is still there, and Congolese keep living.” NPR’s Eyder Peralta visited Goma, in eastern DRC, to see how ordinary people are coping in the country’s worst outbreak of the viral disease and finds out they still have some fun even through the restrictions of a difficult period.
Goma, a sprawling border city of 2 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is trying to keep at bay what has become the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history. Since August 2018, the virus has infected more than 2,700 people. And in July, the World Health Organization designated the epidemic in Congo as a public health emergency of international concern.
Health authorities have set up isolation centers, and nurses and doctors dressed in protective suits take people’s temperatures at checkpoints across the city. But as night falls, Congolese rumba fills the air, and people dance.
Media Joice Kashamba Emmanuela and her boyfriend, Espoir Kitumaini, get up from their tables and begin to sway. The way the Congolese dance rumba is so intimate. They do it in the spaces between tables, the beat fast but the hips slow.
Kenyans are struggling to repay loans obtained through mobile apps.
While fintech companies have provided Kenyans with speedy access to credit, the Boston Review’s Kevin Donavan and Emma Park report the same companies are targeting people who need loans to meet their everyday expenses, and creating a ballooning debt problem.
400 years later, a deep dive into how slave trade’s legacy shaped America.
Whether Americans wish to admit it or not, the US continues to be shaped by the legacy of its slave trade, which began in 1619 when Africans were brought to Virginia. In a special issue, the New York Times Magazine challenges readers to reframe their understanding of history by considering that year the start of the nation. The project sheds light on today’s most pressing issues, among them education and health care.