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Quartz Weekly Africa Brief: African superheroes, pay-as-you-go for solar, expensive soccer

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Quartz africa

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Five stories from this week

A comics startup in Nigeria is creating African superheroes. The characters have familiar backstories for local and international comic fans writes Lily Kuo. The startup is part of a renaissance of made-in-Africa music, literature, and art that resonate beyond the continent.

Here are the six elections in Africa this year you should be watching. After several important elections in 2015, several African countries took crucial democratic steps forward. But 2016 could be a real test how much progress has really been made on the continent explains Omar Mohammed.

The popularity of English Premier League soccer across Africa has seen viewing figures rocket year after year. This is, in part, thanks to a growing number of African stars who have taken the league by storm. But African TV rights costs are rising in tandem, explains Yomi Kazeem.

Nonstop direct flights between Kenya and the United States could begin as early as May. Kenyan officials say east Africa’s largest economy has cleared almost all aviation audit issues. There have not been direct flights between the US and Kenya since the late 1980s.

Entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the improved cost structure of solar to expand electricity availability in rural Africa. In Tanzania, the pay-as-you-go model popularized by mobile phones, is being used to bring solar power to rural communities for the first time.

Chart of the week

Africa’s leading oil producers Algeria, Angola and Nigeria have started the year the same way they ended the last one. Their economies continue to be battered by tumbling global oil prices. For all three, their currencies have struggled against the dollar, explains Melvin Backman.

Other things we liked

Kenyan authorities are being accused of killing ethnic Somalis. A growing number of Kenyans of Somali heritage have been disappearing or turning up dead. Authorities say the militant group al-Shabaab is responsible but human right groups allege security forces are behind the deaths, writes Ariel Zirulnick from northeast Kenya for the Washington Post.

East Africa is emerging as an important hub for the narcotics trade in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2014, an Australian warship intercepted a boat off the coast of Kenya carrying drugs worth over $200 million. The incident was just one example of how weak institutions and porous borders on the continent are failing to contain a growing drug trade that in some cases destabilizing entire countries, reports Tom Woods for Foreign Affairs.

Africa’s economies face “stronger headwinds”. African Confidential forecasts tough times in several countries in 2016. “Lower revenues together with mounting debts and budget deficits are pushing African governments to make some hard choices”. All this even as political waters get murkier in some countries thanks to the expanding ‘third-term club’ of presidents who can’t bear to leave power.

This week, keep an eye on

On Sunday (Jan.10) it’s the 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards. African interest will be in whether Idris Elba picks up a best supporting actor award. He was nominated for his role as a war lord in the Netflix movie Beasts of No Nation about child soldiers in a West African country.

This week South Africa will announce some important economic indicators. Economists will be hoping the numbers shine some light on how the struggling economy is coping. On Tuesday (Jan. 12) Statistics South Africa will release November manufacturing: production and sales numbers and follow up on Thursday (Jan. 14) with November’s mining data.

On Friday (Jan.15) we’ll be keeping an eye on southern Africa. Statistics agencies in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe are all due to release inflation data.

Our best wishes for a productive week ahead. Please send any news, comments, classic African comic books and SuperSport subscriptions art to africa@qz.com. You can follow us @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.

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