Hi, Q-MHI Africa readers!
FIXING SUPPLY CHAINS
This week I came across a short blog from April about logistics and the odds of freshly harvested tomatoes making it to markets in southern Nigeria from the northern farming region. It got me thinking about supply chains and their ongoing global disruption in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic which has shuttered airports, seaports and hampered the movement of people around the world.
Naturally, a lot of the early focus on supply chain disruption was on China as the world’s manufacturing center and the first venue of the Covid-19 breakout. That concern quickly shifted from day-to-day widgets to worries about the global pharmaceutical supply chain, China and India alone supply 90% of the finished product or raw material of many small molecule drugs to the United States, Europe and Africa.
With Africa much of the focus is on supply chains around health and agriculture including food security. The issue might be less about major disruption on continent but more about the over-reliance on underdeveloped supply chains which easily collapse in the face of any challenge much less an unprecedented global crisis.
That’s why a $15 million award by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support a training center in supply chain management in Ghana is worth noting. The new Center for Applied Research and Innovation in Supply Chain-Africa (CARISCA) will be established at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in partnership with Arizona State University.
The center is set to “train researchers and practitioners, produce new research, and translate and apply state-of-the-art research from around the world to improve local supply-chains, particularly in health care and agriculture.”
“It’s important we start addressing the broken and inefficient supply chains which have stunted Africa’s economic growth and the place to start is by training people to better manage the supply chains that currently exist,” says Brian Aoeah, a Ghanaian-American investor, whose venture capital firm Refashioned, specializes in backing supply chain startups. “There’s much work to be done, but this is a good start.”
Aoeah often points out the global economy is dependent on the efficiencies of the various interlinked supply chain and even a 1% improvement to a $90 trillion economy could be huge. Africa, of course, could see much bigger savings than 1%.
Transformation of supply chains is expected around the world in a post-Covid world and for Africa there’s plenty of hope being placed in the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement as an opportunity to create larger markets and make regional manufacturing economically more feasible, says Prashant Yadav, a senior fellow with the Center for Global Development in Washington DC.
Building—rather than fixing—Africa’s domestic and intra-regional supply chains were always of vital importance and undoubtedly more so after the pandemic subsides. It’ll be great for more of those tomatoes to make it to Lagos and hopefully for a much lower marginal cost.
— Yinka Adegoke, Q-MHI Africa editor
FIVE STORIES FROM THIS WEEK
Rising migration restrictions are driving African refugees into the hands of smugglers in Latin America.
Following Europe’s crackdown on migration, more African migrants are traveling through Latin America to try and reach the US and Canada. Chidinma Irene Nwoye writes on a global investigation into the Trump administration’s asylum restrictions which have left many migrants at the mercy of human smugglers and cartels.
According to the OCCRP/CLIP investigation, rising migration restrictions along the route, particularly in countries like the US—which slashed its refugee admissions quota from 110,000 when president Barack Obama left office in 2016 to 18,000 currently, under president Donald Trump— are making migrants more desperate.
“The pressure of people going into smuggling and secret routes and more dangerous routes has completely skyrocketed because there’s less and less ways to get in legally,” said Maria Teresa Ronderos, co-founder of the Latin American Center for Investigative Journalism, who helped coordinate the investigation. “This pushes them into the hands of traffickers.”
“That is exactly at the heart of what we found everywhere,” she said.
Law enforcement sources told the reporters that they were seeing a rise in the use of forged documents like visas and passports. In July 2019, US Border Patrol apprehended more than 66,000 migrants at the southern border, setting a record then for the highest total in a single month in almost a decade. Some of these migrants get to their destination through deals with traffickers affiliated with criminal organizations such as drug cartels and even, as suspected in Ahmed’s case, terrorist groups.
This growing reliance on smugglers has made their operations sizably profitable. It is estimated that these sprawling smuggling networks in Latin America generate between $150 million to $350 million a year, excluding payments to corrupt police officers, lawyers, local agents known as “coyotes,” and embassy and immigration officials. One particular operation in Guatemala made $4 million between 2009 and 2016; smugglers charged African and Asian migrants between $7,000 and $25,000 each.
While some operations help the migrants get to their destinations up north, others exploit them and put them at great risk. Migrants have been robbed, kidnapped, raped and forced to traffic drugs.
Zimbabwe is squeezing its top mobile money platform for users’ data.
In Zimbabwe, EcoCash, the biggest mobile money platform, is battling government efforts forcing it to hand over subscribers and transactions data as the authorities also go after journalists in a bid to clamp down on civil society. Legal experts and campaigners tell Tawanda Karombo in Harare the move by the government violates data privacy rights.
The July 17 raid has forced Econet, the mobile operator which holds the EcoCash subscribers, to challenge the government’s search and seize warrant in Harare courts, where it has argued that the warrant be set aside. In a country where people are sensitive about private information falling into the wrong hands, ordinary Zimbabweans, opposition activists and data privacy campaigners are against the latest move by the government and the Harare High Court now has to determine on government having access to such personal data. Econet argued in its court filing on Monday that the directive by the government for it to hand over sensitive subscriber and transaction data was “unlawful” and constituted “a violation of the applicant’s right to privacy and also the right of privacy” of its subscribers.
“Full subscriber details of each user means they have your name, cellphone number, address and all EcoCash records. This is a far reaching breach of privacy. Imagine what Zimbabwe police can do in this authoritarian environment with such extensive data,” says Fadzai Mahere, law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe and spokeswoman for the main opposition MDC Alliance party.
The political temperatures are boiling over in Zimbabwe ahead of opposition backed anti-government protests scheduled for July 31. The pressure around this has seen Zimbabwean authorities arrest the lead organizer of the protests, Jacob Ngarivhume and prominent journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono who is also an anti-corruption whistleblower on social media. Zimbabwean police said the two had been arrested for “incitement to participate in public violence”.
Even as health workers protested this month on over economic hardship during coronavirus, Mnangagwa’s administration says any future protests and demonstrations should be put on hold as coronavirus cases have been spiking, with local infections also rising and bringing total number of infected to nearly 2000 amid more than 25 deaths.
“The arrests of Chin’ono and Ngarivhume are designed to intimidate and send sending a chilling message to journalists, whistleblowers and activists who draw attention to matters of public interest in Zimbabwe,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International director for East and Southern Africa.
Nigerian schools are being forced to rethink their digital limits and education models in a pandemic.
Despite the easing of stiff coronavirus lockdown measures, Nigeria’s enduring ban on large public gatherings means schools remain shuttered. In Lagos, Yomi Kazeem explains, it’s a reality that’s forcing private and government schools into a hasty overhaul of their age-old processes.
The internet is back on in Ethiopia but there’s every chance it’ll be off again soon.
After a three-week hiatus in the wake of protests against the shooting of a local musician, Ethiopians finally have internet access again. But the restored access is likely only temporary given the government’s penchant for shuttering connectivity despite clear detrimental economic effect, Samuel Getachew reports from Addis Ababa.
How an art icon wants to revitalize Nigeria’s creative ecosystem with a residency for artists.
Nigeria’s contemporary art scene is increasingly gaining global recognition as more opportunities for commercialization open up. Now, as Adaora Oramah writes, British-Nigerian art icon Yinka Shonibare is doing the important work of building creative residencies for artists to ensure African talent have access to vital education and support tools.
“I liked the layers of identity of those fabrics,” Shonibare says. “The fabrics became a metaphor for the contemporary African”. Known for his visual explorations on post-colonialism, globalization and identity, Shonibare’s work examines the transnational mobility and fluidity of African identities and explores the multiplicity of cosmopolitanism.
Understanding the wider cultural significance of Shonibare’s works is imperative to understanding how he aims to redefine Nigeria’s cultural and creative landscape. His political views, themes and explorations are somewhat integrated into the mission and vision of his latest philanthropic initiative, Guest Artists Space (G.A.S) Foundation. Scheduled to launch in 2021 in Nigeria , Shonibare is building an artist residency space in Lagos, Lekki and a farm in Ijebu about two and a half hours from Lagos to provide opportunities for creative and cultural exchange for African and international artists.
The growing global popularity of Nigerian musicians, actors and fine artists, has positioned the nation as the continental hub for creativity and talent. But this is not new. Nigeria has long fostered fine art spaces since the early 20th century. During the 1950s, schools of art such as the Zaria Rebels, Osogbo School and Nsukka School, all challenged and subverted European modernist styles and conventions, by adopting visual cues rooted in Igbo and Yoruba traditions.Kenyan ride-hailing company Little received $3 million in additional investment from parent company, Craft Silicon. The company which has operated in Kenya in partnership with telecoms giant Safaricom is now planning a West Africa expansion, starting in Accra, Ghana.VALR, the largest bitcoin exchange by trading volume in South Africa, raised $3.4 million in a Series A round led 100x Ventures, investment arm of 100x Group, with participation from 4Di Capital as well as existing investors Bittrex and Montegray Capital.
VALR raises R57-million to advance cryptocurrency adoption
VALR, the largest bitcoin exchange by trading volume in South Africa, raised $3.4 million in a Series A round led 100x Ventures, investment arm of 100x Group, with participation from 4Di Capital as well as existing investors Bittrex and Montegray Capital.
Farzam Ehsani, VALR CEO and co-founder comments on the funds raised.
“I am very grateful that despite the challenging global COVID-19 pandemic that has adversely affected many businesses around the world, VALR has been able to grow at a phenomenal pace and we’ve been able to raise funds and partner with a set of world-class investors, adding to our already distinguished group of shareholders,” he said.
Craft Silicon Pumps Over 300 Million to Little For Expansion in Africa
Kenyan ride-hailing company Little received $3 million in additional investment from parent company, Craft Silicon. The company which has operated in Kenya in partnership with telecoms giant Safaricom is now planning a West Africa expansion, starting in Accra, Ghana.
“We have already started testing the product in Accra. Since travel may be an issue, we are taking an approach of opening a new city without visiting there. We would recruit drivers online, provide training online,” Craft Silicon and Little CEO, Kamal Budhabatti said. “West Africa is a large market, and if Little have to be a key player in Africa, we need to be present there in addition to East Africa. Hence the march towards West Africa.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current travel restrictions, the company said they will run the pilot, training and recruitment of drivers virtually.
“Accra being a big city like Nairobi, having fully virtual operations is not recommended. So we would be recruiting some staff there, and interviews are underway. But we are going to try and make as much as possible to operate virtually keeping in mind the new normal,” he said.
CHART OF THE WEEK
Kenya is doubling down on regulating mobile loan apps to combat predatory lending.
Kenya’s central bank is proposing new regulation to curtail loan interest rates charged by digital loan apps. The move comes in the wake of mounting concern about the scale of predatory lending given the proliferation of startups offering mobile phone-based, collateral-free loans in Kenya,Digital lending companies operating in Kenya are set up for a shake-up.
The country’s central bank is proposing new laws to regulate monthly interest rates levied on loans by digital lenders in a bid to stamp out what it deems predatory practices. If approved, digital lenders will require approval from the central bank to increase lending rates or launch new products.
The move comes in the wake of mounting concern about the scale of predatory lending given the proliferation of startups offering online, collateral-free loans in Kenya. Unlike traditional banks which require a paperwork-intensive process and collateral, digital lending apps dispense quick loans, often within minutes, and determine creditworthiness by scouring smartphone data including SMS, call logs, bank balance messages and bill payment receipts. It’s an offering that’s predictably gained traction among middle-class and lower income earners who typically found access to credit through traditional banks out of reach.
The richest people in the US are increasingly living longer than the poorest ones.
New research finds that high-income Americans added over 1.5 years more to their lifespans from 2001 to 2014 than low-income ones, explains Q-MHI data editor Dan Kopf. Deaths caused by smoking and obesity hit poor, older Americans particularly hard. In Europe, the disparity in lifespan growth between the rich appears to have been much smaller.
Life expectancy got much higher for most everyone in rich countries over the last several decades. But in the US, the rich are adding years to their life faster than the poor—and probably faster than the rich in other countries.
For example, take a look at the differences between the US and Denmark. A new study looking at life expectancy in both countries shows the lifetimes of high-income Americans grew 140% faster than those of their low-income counterparts from 2001 to 2014. In Denmark, the rich outpaced the poor by less than 20%. The research, conducted by economists at the University of California, San Diego and the University of Copenhagen, also found the situation in Denmark appears to be illustrative of what is happening across many European countries.
OTHER THINGS WE LIKED
The unsung Nigerian football executive who called the shots in the English Premier League.
The lack of diversity in the upper ranks of the English Premier League has been newly challenged by Michael Emenalo, the only longstanding black technical director in the league’s history. In an interview with Donald McRae of The Guardian, Emenalo, the former Nigerian international with a nomadic career, explains the complexities of his journey to becoming one of the most powerful men at English soccer club, Chelsea.
His intelligence and eloquence are evident again during a riveting interview that stretches across three hours. I have interviewed visionaries such as Johan Cruyff, Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola and time with Emenalo is just as illuminating. It also feels more important because we begin by remembering how the murder of George Floyd forced the world to watch a black man being suffocated to death by a white policeman’s knee.
“I couldn’t watch the footage at first,” Emenalo says. “There have been so many over the years that it’s like a tape recorder running through your head. You see all the ones that happened before.
“When I eventually made myself watch it was destructive to see George Floyd calling out for his mum while another human being puts his knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
“This person feels entitled to commit a slow murder – because of the colour of his skin and because other people have not been held accountable for their actions. The precedent entitles you to do what you do. That thought chills me.”
There has been widespread support for the way players have taken the knee before games and worn Black Lives Matter on their shirts since football resumed. Marcus Rashford has shown more compassion and clarity than most politicians. Raheem Sterling spoke powerfully on Newsnight about the dearth of black managers.
How Chinese tech billionaire Yahui Zhou calls the shots at Nigeria’s “chaotic” OPay.
OPay, the super-app which “blitzscaled” its way through Nigeria and Kenya a year ago, has been going through a “chaotic” few months as it shuts down its non-fintech businesses. TechCabal’s Abubakar Idris reports on how its owner Chinese tech billionaire Yahui Zhou has been making key and unexpected decisions.
Since 2018, Yahui Zhou, OPay’s chairman has been instrumental to the company’s growth plans. Described as “a darling of the Chinese tech world,” he has set ambitious growth targets and committed serious finances to achieve his vision. With a net worth of $1.1 billion, company insiders say Yahui’s grand plan is to list OPay on the stock market.
He has pulled this off twice in the last six years. In 2015, he led Beijing Kunlun Tech Co, a Chinese video game company to the Shenzen Stock Exchange in China. The company raised $214 million when it went public 31 January 2015, turning Yahui into a billionaire with a net worth of $1.7 billion according to Bloomberg.
In 2016, Beijing Kunlun acquired Norwegian browser company, Opera for $1.23 billion. Two years later, Yahui listed Opera on the NASDAQ with an IPO that raised $115 million.
He attempted a similar plan with US dating app, Grindr. Beijing Kunlun bought a majority stake in Grindr for $93 million in 2016. But following pressure from the powerful Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) over possible Chinese access to sensitive health data on Americans, Yahui was forced to sell the dating app. He made another glorious exit when he sold Grindr in March 2020 for $608 million. “My investments are early, and we aren’t afraid of failures,” Yahui told Forbes in 2016.
“Failures are just a cost companies have to pay for.” He has the same IPO vision for Nigeria-based OPay.From the onset, there had been questions around the sustainability of his aggressive strategy in Nigeria. Burning cash in this manner is sometimes a recipe for failure, or at least makes it hard for a company to become profitable over the short term.
In October 2019, TechCabal questioned OPay’s growth and agent figures, enough to force its investors to send a team to tour Nigeria and investigate the claim. The company also moved quickly to introduce a new geolocation feature to find nearby agents.
Regardless of the sustainability question, OPay’s cash burning route worked, allowing it to grow from around 100,000 monthly active users in April 2019 to 5 million a year later. After raising $170 million in 2019, the company allegedly raised extra funding in Q1 2020 and offered equity to important employees.
Tackling discrimination and prejudice in development.
“Prejudice in the development business does not only come from outside. There is also entrenched self-doubt, self-hatred, and various forms of sociopolitical ills from within the continent,” writes Célestin Monga, visiting professor of Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Monga discusses his experiences as a development economist at the World Bank and beyond and examines the problem of preconceptions about race and capability.
Prejudice and racism are still too common across Africa—often within the same ethnic groups Superficial differences in physical appearances or cultural background are too often exploited by cynical political entrepreneurs to build constituencies, create conflicts among poor communities, position themselves for rents and state capture, and generate what I have called in my work negative social capital. The weaponization of ethnicity in particular carries heavy implications for economic transformation and the collective quest for prosperity and social peace. Addressing these issues would improve the quality of public policies, and foster growth and social inclusion.
How John Lewis first met Malcolm X in Kenya.
John Lewis, the American civil rights leader and US Congressman who died on July 17 at 80, cut his teeth as a student leader in 1960s. In October 1964 he was in Kenya on a quest to raise awareness with African students of what the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was doing in the ongoing war against white supremacy. On that trip he met with Malcolm X for the first time, writes A. Peter Bailey in the Richmond Free Press.
This brief was produced while listening to Mapulani by Namadingo (Malawi).
Patience Namadingo is a Malawian gospel singer-composer and songwriter (born 28 May,1989) signed to Ndefeyo Gospel (a sub-label under Nde’feyo Entertainment). The first born in a family of three, he hails from Kapalamula Village, T/A Nsamala in Balaka district.
Growing up as a kid, Patience did his first years of primary school in Lilongwe, before his parents moved to the northern city of Mzuzu, where he spent part of his childhood, before the family relocated to Lilongwe where he did his secondary education at Chipasula Secondary School and later went to South Africa where he studied music and arts at National School of the Arts inJohannesburg.
Patience’s music career has a humble and spirit-filled beginning because unlike many gospel musicians, he did not attend any music lessons as a child, neither did he participate in any choir or singing group. As a youngster, he had passion for soccer which led him to training at a church football pitch where before training, the kidsattended music practice, which led him to develop his group of six boys and named it the Salvation Zone.
He discovered he had a sturdy passion for music than soccer and the decision to follow his heart, led him to recording his first album in 2007 titled Goseni, which was funded by his mother who did two songs on the album, released the same year on 27 December. The album did not do well and he moderately gave up “because it was hopeless”. He spent his time practicing and composing, until 2009-2010 when his career took a serious turn as he started learning the basics of a piano.
Brought up in the way of the Lord, under parents who strongly believe in the existence of God, Patience has been a young man who has at all times had faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his faith has always played a vital role in his compositions, which saw him releasing the 2010 album Tiri ndi Yesu that had the chart topping song Mtendere and made it one of the best selling gospel albums between 2010-2012.
Before signing to Ndefeyo Gospel in November, 2012, Patience was about to release a new album titled Lero, with some of the singles titled Jesus in me, Kanyimbo, Tapeza, Sindidzasowa kanthu and Bwenzi, already playing on radio. Sindidzasowa kanthu and Bwenzi videos are also on television.
Namadingo is popular now from his mash ups with Legends in the music industry for instance Lucius Banda,Billy Kaunda and The Black Missionaries.