Hi, Q-MHI Africa readers!
YOUTH OPTIMISM VS YOUTH BULGE
Over the next 30 years, half of the world’s population growth will happen here in Africa. Inevitably, that impending reality prompts questions about whether governments across the continent can cater to the infrastructural and policy needs that the population spurt will demand.
Africa will account for the highest population spurt with an additional 1.3 billion people on the continent, a new UN population report shows.
Much of Africa’s population boom will come from Nigeria, currently the world’s 7th most populous country. By 2050, the report predicts, Nigeria will become the world’s third largest country by population, becoming one of the six nations projected to have a population of over 300 million.
UN’s report echoes similar sentiments. Across 47 countries (33 of which are in Africa) which are designated by the United Nations as the least developed countries, population is expected to nearly double from 1 billion in 2017 to 1.9 billion by 2050. The population growth, UN argues, will make it “harder” for governments in these countries which are already struggling with reducing poverty and hunger as well as improve access to standard health and education systems.
But evidence suggests very few are prepared. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has already been labeled the world’s poverty capital and human capital spending across several countries on the continent still falls significantly short. Overall, things may look grim but youth across Africa remain bullish about their own prospects says the recently published African Youth Survey 2020.
Largest of its kind Youth Survey reveals rising Afro-Optimism and Afro-Capability driven by entrepreneurship, post-colonial mindset, digital technologies and shared African identity
- 48% choose stable governments over democracy
- 75% feel they positively change their communities through their work
- 79% believe that Wi-Fi access should be a fundamental human right
- 67% say ‘fake news’ is impacting their ability to stay informed
- Donald Trump, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are the leaders who will have the greatest impact over the next five years
Africa’s rapid population growth will occur despite expected reductions in fertility rates on the continent from 4.7 births per woman between 2010 and 2015 to 3.1 births per woman between 2045 and 2050 with countries like Kenya recording significant progress. The continued growth despite the drop in fertility rates is down to the “age structure” of the continent’s population as Africa is home to a bulk of the world’s youngest countries. Beyond 2050, Africa is expected to be the only region still experiencing “substantial population growth,” as such the continent’s share of the global population could rise from 17% at present to 40% by 2100.
The report says there is a trend of “Afro-optimism” among young people in Africa, driven by a “strong sense” of individual responsibility, entrepreneurship and confidence in an African identity. For instance, 82% of respondents believe their standard of living will improve in the next two years with 81% predicting technology will be the main driver of their changing fortunes.
Contrasted with current realities, the high levels of optimism in the survey can seem difficult to take on board. But there’s plenty of evidence technology is helping a generation of Africans leapfrog perennial challenges from education to healthcare and financial inclusion.
That’s not to say technology alone will fix all of the continent’s problems. Indeed, national governments still have to optimize public resources and also create strong political and economic institutions that foster innovation. But what’s increasingly clear is while Africa cannot “entrepreneur its way” out of its many problems as quickly as required, innovation and entrepreneurship is delivering impact that can inadvertently bring about better governance.
In the meantime, young Africans, in the face of unemployment and tough realities, are leading the innovation charge as the rapid growth of tech ecosystems across the continent show.
At a US Congress hearing on Africa’s youth bulge earlier this month, a recurring theme from witnesses was for policy makers within and outside Africa to start thinking of the ongoing rapid population growth as an opportunity rather than a problem—because that’s exactly what young people are doing. As Krystal Strong, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said during the hearing: “[African] youth are taking on the work that governments and social institutions are meant to do without adequate resources but with great creativity.”
— Yomi Kazeem, Q-MHI Lagos correspondent
FIVE STORIES FROM THIS WEEK
The world’s largest rubber company is being blamed again for pollution in a Liberian river.
Firestone Liberia, the world’s largest rubber plantation owned by global tire giant Bridgestone, is alleged to have allowed the ongoing release of waste into a river in Liberia, 15 years after it was first alleged of the same pollution problem. Uwagbale Edward-Ekpu examined a new report which accuses Firestone of corporate negligence.
In the report, which follows a March 2019 investigation, communities along Farmington River and close to the Firestone rubber processing factory have continued to complain and report contamination of their rivers, creeks and wells due to effluent discharged from Firestone’s factory.
Local fishermen have complained of the absence of fish in the river during the dry season. The locals also say there are strong ammonia smells from the river that sometimes gets so bad that it makes people’s eyes sting. These latest complaints are similar to claims lodged between 2005 and 2010 by the same communities.
Firestone regularly reports on the status of its EMP Environmental Management Plan (EMP) and the company was reported to have conducted soil and water testing, according to Mighty Earth based on its reported interactions with Liberia’s Environmental protection Agency (EPA) in March 2019.
But the report goes on to say Liberia’s EPA cleared Firestone of the allegations even though the government agency had previously acknowledged it was unable to regularly monitor Firestone activities due to a lack of funding.
Mighty Earth concluded that it is “unclear” how Firestone Liberia has dealt with addressing the environmental issues since 2010. The activist group is calling for a clean up must be carried out. “Bridgestone must urgently clean up all the insufficiently treated effluent that has been discharged into local water sources near its Firestone rubber plantation in Liberia,” says senior advisor Alex Wijeratna.
A misguided attempt by FW de Klerk to reframe apartheid’s impact damages his legacy.
He may have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Nelson Mandela, but incendiary comments by the former South African deputy president FW de Klerk threaten to undo his legacy. As Norma Young writes, de Klerk’s prominence as a leader and position as patron of the Rainbow Nation, are in question; with calls demanding #DeKlerkMustFall.
From sports to beauty pageants, South Africa has been enjoying a series of global victories; and now a political party wants to continue the trend. Except instead of winning another trophy or sash to add to the country’s tally, the opposition party Economic Freedom Front (EFF) wants a prize to be rescinded.
The EFF and others are rallying for the Nobel Peace Prize committee to revoke the 1993 award to former deputy president FW de Klerk. It had been given jointly to de Klerk and president Nelson Mandela for their work in ending apartheid. De Klerk’s inclusion was controversial then and has come under scrutiny again this month after he argued in a TV interview that the brutalities of apartheid had been misunderstood and misappropriated. The interview was commemorating the 30th anniversary of his speech which unbanned liberation movements including the ANC
As an uproar began, his foundation doubled down and released a now-deleted statement that apartheid cannot be considered a crime against humanity. Such conclusions are false, it said, and a “project initiated by the Soviets and their ANC/SACP allies “to stigmatize white South Africans by associating them with genuine crimes against humanity—which have generally included totalitarian repression and the slaughter of millions of people”.
The story of how Kenyan women are bringing P&G to task over the Always “burning pads” saga.
In early 2019, Kenyan women on social media started sharing their negative experiences using Procter & Gamble’s Always pads. The hashtag, #myalwaysexperience trended as P&G failed to accept responsibility for the issues raised. Ciku Kimeria, tells the story of the unrelenting movement to get one of the world’s largest FMCGs to address their issue.
Last February, Dr. Njoki Ngumi, a Nairobi-based physician and filmmaker, noticed a trending hashtag on her Twitter timeline. Hundreds of women were sharing horror stories of their experiences with Procter & Gamble’s flagship menstrual pads, Always, under the hashtag #myalwaysexperience.
One of the first tweets in the thread was by Kenyan activist, Scheaffer Okore, and talked about the huge & painful rashes, itching, severe burning sensation and unpleasant odor that typified her experience using Always pads.
As Ngumi scrolled through the hundreds of stories shared under the hashtag, her interest, turned from curiosity to surprise then to disbelief. “I had been using Always for more than two decades—and I assumed that these symptoms, some of which I had, were a normal part of life of using pads.”
The EU subsidies which cause overfishing in West Africa’s waters also drive illegal migration.
As fish stocks off the West African coast dwindle the WTO talks on Mar. 2 will tackle how to end harmful fisheries subsidies that fuel overfishing. Chidinma Irene Nwoye writes on the impact of these subsidies in this Q-MHI Africa/Newsy partnership, alongside a short documentary video which also highlights how overfishing is driving illegal migration to Europe.
Coronavirus hits Nigeria, Jumia but there is some cautious optimism.
The realities of coronavirus first showed up this week on the quarterly earnings call of Jumia, when the chief executive said the outbreak was already hitting its supply chain. Then the virus arrived in Nigeria in the person of an Italian business traveler. Fortunately, Nigeria has spent some time prepping for coronavirus and might just prevent a full-scale outbreak. But the biggest battle for Nigerian authorities might be how to stop misinformation on coronavirus spreading on platforms like WhatsApp. Jumia’s latest fourth quarter earnings result shows the largest e-commerce operator across Africa is not yet any closer to turning a profit.
The number of customer orders increased 49% year-on-year as active customers topped 6.1 million during the quarter driven by its popular Black Friday promotions in November. It comes after Jumia’s decision to shut down operations in Rwanda, Tanzania and Cameroon in a bid to optimize resources in markets that “present the best opportunities” to support growth.
While it still maintains operations in 11 African countries and continues to pursue customer acquisition, Jumia is still reporting million-dollar losses. In the fourth quarter, operating losses expanded by 15% to €61.1 million ($66.5 million) year-on-year while full year operating losses widened by 34% to €227.9 million ($248 million). The company attributes increased losses to higher expenses, including fulfillment costs.
The Nigerian government, through its health ministry, has confirmed the country’s first case of coronavirus. The case was confirmed on Feb. 27 as an Italian business traveler who arrived in Lagos from Milan on Feb. 25—Nigeria’s densely populated economic capital. The diagnosis was confirmed at the virology laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital.
Authorities say the patient is “clinically stable” and is being treated at a dedicated facility for infectious diseases. As part of containment efforts, the health ministry also says it has began working to identify and track down possible contacts of the country’s index case. Nigeria’s minister of health also says the country’s Centre for Disease Control has activated a national emergency operation center to respond to the confirmed case and other potential infections.
This interview with Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu last month explains the country’s preparations ahead of time.
What measures need to be put in place to contain the virus?
The novel coronavirus is ‘new’ and we’re learning more about it nearly every day. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has established a ‘coronavirus preparedness group’ that includes representatives from Port Health Services of the Federal Ministry of Health and other stakeholders. It meets daily to review the situation globally, assess the risk of spread and improve on Nigeria’s level of preparedness based on new findings and insights.
In the wake of Nigeria’s first coronavirus case, local authorities are preparing to face a test of public health systems and infrastructure.
For now, authorities say the index patient, an Italian business traveler who arrived in Lagos from Milan on Feb. 25, is “clinically stable” and is being treated at a dedicated facility for infectious diseases. But in the coming days, as work intensifies to identify possible infections and contain the disease, the government will have another fight on its hands too: tackling misinformation.
Indeed, as Q-MHI Africa was going to press, Whatsapp messages had started to spread with misleading information about the coronavirus.
•Lifestores, a Lagos-based pharma-tech startup which aims to disrupt primary healthcare, has raised its seed round to from multiple investors led by Consonance Kuramo with participation from the Flying Doctors Nigeria Group, Greentree Syndicate, Altadore Lionbear Capital, Unseen Ventures, StartUp Health Transformer Fund, K50 Ventures, Chinook Capital and Kepple Africa Ventures.
Over the past decade, Nigerian startups have popped up with solutions across several sectors from financial services to logistics and agriculture. Increasingly however, its health sector is also coming into focus as startups look to build profitable business around existing gaps in healthcare delivery while also making a lasting impact.
With a shortage of doctors, nurses and hospitals, for Nigerians, like in many other African countries, neighborhood pharmacies play an overwhelmingly key role as their primary point of contact with the local healthcare system.
Lifestores Healthcare, a Lagos-based three-year old startup, is focusing its efforts on primary healthcare delivery—by targeting thousands of local pharmacies and small-scale chemist shops by improving efficiencies in their supply chain.
•Goldman Sachs joined Odey Asset Management and Leapfrog Investments to invest $55 million in debt and equity in South African fintech player Jumo. It brings Jumo’s total funding to nearly $150 million and follows two major rounds in 2018 when the company raised $64.5 million.
Although Goldman Sachs is best known as a Wall Street fixture, it has been steadily building an impressive portfolio of African startup investments in the last few years. It has previously led an investment round in Jumo, but also e-commerce leader Jumia, Kenyan agritech startup Twiga and Kobo 360, a logistics startup in Nigeria. Last month the Wall Street stalwart acquired a banking license to operate in South Africa.
•Nairobi-based B2B retail platform Sokowatch raised $14 million in Series A funding from investors including Quona Capital, Amplo and Breyer Capital.
Nairobi startup Sokowatch, which has been developing business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce supply chains for retailers in East Africa’s informal markets, has confirmed it has closed a $14 million Series A funding round which it hopes to use to expand But SEC filings show it has received up to $18 million in equity.
Sokowatch works with large with large FMCG suppliers including Unilever and Procter & Gamble. The informal retailers can order their goods from Sokowatch’s online platform by SMS, phone or mobile app and the goods are delivered to the retailers by its fleet of three-wheeled tuktuks.
CHART OF THE WEEK
Nigeria’s economy is making a comeback—but it’s still not happening fast enough.
Nigeria’s economy had its best quarter since the 2016 recession but most Nigerians wouldn’t have noticed. The economy grew by 2.55% in the last three months of 2019 but that was well short of the government’s own ambitious targets or even more conservative IMF forecasts.
OTHER THINGS WE LIKED
Africa isn’t ready for new currency unions.
Lessons from the CFA franc zone’s own experience in West and Central Africa and from the eurozone in Europe raise serious doubts about whether the African region is prepared for the challenges a new monetary union will bring, writes Célestin Monga for Project Syndicate. Monga thinks the proposed eco zone will be a challenging, risky, and possibly painful venture for all involved.
Critics of the CFA franc zone have long focused on France’s perceived dominance, which many believe has resulted in what the late Cameroonian economist Joseph Tchundjang Pouemi called CFA Africa’s “monetary servitude.” New reforms will aim to change that by loosening ties with France, including by ending the requirement that member states deposit half of their foreign reserves there. (Previously, that rule included France’s guarantee of the convertibility of the CFA franc.)
But the real challenges facing African monetary unions have nothing to do with political sovereignty. They relate, instead, to economics.
Despite 75 years of existence, the CFA franc zone is still home to some of the world’s poorest countries (Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and the Central African Republic). Even in the richest and most advanced of the CFA franc countries (Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire), real incomes per capita in 2019 were lower than they were some four decades ago.
That is why the eco – and other regional currency projects, such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and East African Community (EAC) – represents one of the biggest economic policy challenges in Africa’s history. The continent comprises small, open economies that rely on trade as their main engine of growth. Because of their production structure and export portfolios, policymakers’ choice of exchange-rate regimes and policies directly determines growth prospects, sectoral and employment dynamics, structural transformation, and institutional development. And a monetary union of poor countries with a common currency pegged to a strong euro will jeopardize the external competitiveness that is so critical to their growth.
Equally worrying, in several crucial respects, the CFA franc countries currently do not meet the economic criteria for joining a monetary union. First and foremost, trade volumes among CFA franc members, and within the future eco zone, are too low to make a monetary union desirable. The greater the volume of trade within a group of countries, the larger the potential gains from a single currency, and the smaller the incentive for members to seek adjustments through unilateral monetary strategies and flexible exchange rates.
Pentagon’s own map of US bases in Africa contradicts its claim of a “light” footprint.
Since 9/11, the United States military has built a network of outposts in more than a dozen African countries. The Intercept‘s Nick Turse obtained US military documents and maps which show locations of these African bases in 2019. These formerly secret documents, created by the Pentagon’s Africa Command are said to offer a window into the footprint of US military operations in Africa.
During testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee late last month, Stephen Townsend, the commander of AFRICOM, echoed a line favored by his predecessors that AFRICOM maintains a “light and relatively low-cost footprint” on the continent. This “light” footprint consists of a constellation of more than two dozen outposts that stretch from one side of Africa to the other.
The 2019 planning documents provide locations for 29 bases located in 15 different countries or territories, with the highest concentrations in the Sahelian states on the west side of the continent, as well as the Horn of Africa in the east. Since the plans were created, according to AFRICOM spokesperson John Manley, two bases have been shuttered, leaving the U.S. with an archipelago of 15 “enduring locations” and 12 less-permanent “contingency locations.” The documents note, however, that AFRICOM is actively seeking to enhance its presence and is primed for expansion in the future.
|ENDURING FOOTPRINT 2019||NON-ENDURING FOOTPRINT 2019|
|Chebelley, Djibouti||Bizerte, Tunisia|
|Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti||Arlit, Niger|
|Entebbe, Uganda||Dirkou, Niger|
|Mombassa, Kenya||Diffa, Niger|
|Manda Bay, Kenya||Ouallam, Niger|
|Liberville, Gabon||Bamako, Mali|
|St. Helena, Ascension Island||Garoua, Cameroon|
|Accra, Ghana||Maroua, Cameroon|
|Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso||Misrata, Libya|
|Dakar, Senegal||Tripoli, Libya|
|Agadez, Niger||Baledogle, Somalia|
|Niamey, Niger||Bosasso, Somalia|
|N’Djamena, Chad||Galcayo, Somalia|
U.S. Africa Command’s “Enduring Footprint” and “Non-Enduring Footprint” in 2019.
Violent extremism and insecurity on the continent has increased exponentially during the very years that the U.S. has been building up its network of bases, providing billions of dollars in security assistance to local partners, conducting persistent counterterrorism operations that include commando raids, combat by U.S. Special Operations forces in at least 13 African countries between 2013 and 2017, and a record number of U.S. airstrikes in Somalia (just over one attack per week in 2019). There are now roughly 25 active militant Islamist groups operating in Africa, up from just five in 2010 — a jump of 400 percent — according to the Defense Department’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies.
Militant Islamist activity also hit record levels in 2019. There were 3,471 reported violent events linked to these groups last year, a 1,105 percent increase since 2009. Reported fatalities resulting from African militant Islamist group activity also increased by 7 percent over last year, to an estimated 10,460 deaths. The situation has become so grim that U.S. military aims in West Africa have recently been scaled back from a strategy of degrading the strength and reach of terror groups to nothing more than “containment.”
Running out of time: East Africa faces new locust threat.
As climate changes makes the Indian Ocean warmer, it means more rain, wakening dormant locust eggs and cyclones which help disperse swarms are getting both stronger and and more frequent creating a major locust threat in East Africa, find Omar Mohammed and Dawit Endeshaw for Reuters. The problem is exacerbated by a lack of expertise in pest control, pesticide and planes they write.
In Ethiopia the locusts have reached the fertile Rift Valley farmland and stripped grazing grounds in Kenya and Somalia. Swarms can travel up to 150 km (93 miles) a day and contain between 40-80 million locusts per square kilometer.
If left unchecked, the number of locusts in East Africa could explode 400-fold by June. That would devastate harvests in a region with more than 19 million hungry people, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned. Uganda has deployed the military. Kenya has trained hundreds of youth cadets to spray. Lacking pesticides, some security forces in Somalia have shot anti-aircraft guns at swarms darkening the skies.
Everyone is racing the rains expected in March: the next generation of larvae is already wriggling from the ground, just as farmers plant their seeds. “The second wave is coming,” said Cyril Ferrand, FAO’s head of resilience for Eastern Africa. “As crops are planted, locusts will eat everything.” The impact so far on agriculture, which generates about a third of East Africa’s economic output, is unknown, but FAO is using satellite images to assess the damage, he said.