Hi, Quartz Africa readers!
The idea that technology and innovation can have a meaningful impact on African countries is something that is often championed in many of the stories you’ll read on Quartz Africa. We regularly see ingenuity across the continent as various communities and groups try to get round daily challenges and overcome long-term infrastructural deficits in some countries.
For example, in Somalia, pastoralists have the challenge of increasingly regular droughts leading to the loss of parts of their valuable herds of goats and sheep. So a tech company founded by a Sweden-based Somali former goat herder has focused on creating a digital livestock market that is open all year round. The idea is to get investors to purchase livestock from locals, injecting much-needed cash into the market.
Over in South Africa, a rural community in Eastern Cape, where few people have electricity, has set up its own ISP. The innovation here is not necessarily the technology (though it is a solar-powered wireless network ) but instead the community-owned non-profit model that brings affordable voice and internet services to rural locals in a remote area. It would have been less likely for a commercial business to set up shop there anytime soon.
A research paper, from French business school Insead, emphasizes the point about how innovation is not just in the devices and infrastructure but also about figuring out how to deliver the best service with the most impact. The research looked at why some of the world’s poorest rural dwellers, who live without grid-electricity, can still prefer kerosene lamps to provide light even when cheaper rechargeable light bulbs are available.
The very short answer is that some consumers, particularly those at the “bottom of the pyramid” show a preference for the flexibility of kerosene in terms of its availability which they gauge against the “inconvenience costs and high blackout costs” of other new lighting technology.
In other words, a low-income rural dweller in Africa or Asia has to decide whether to fully charge their rechargeable bulb for it to work for 18 hours versus buying a small quantity of kerosene for a couple of nights. Kerosene, despite its higher energy cost and the pollution externality, might feel like a better bet—even if it’s not.
Insead’s researchers suggest several modeling options to help off-grid energy businesses adapt better for their market place. But a universal rule applies. For innovation to truly have impact it will be needed throughout the system not just in the technology labs.
— Yinka Adegoke, Quartz Africa editor
Stories from this week
Young Nigerians are demanding the dissolution of a special police unit. The Nigerian Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has been accused of extortion, beatings, torture, and even killings. Reflecting on his own traumatic encounter with the brutal unit, Yomi Kazeem explains why young Nigerians started the #EndSARS campaign.
Ghana’s president is a viral hit after saying Africa needs to end its aid dependency. In a joint press conference with the French president Emmanuel Macron, Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo questioned the continent’s dependency on foreign aid. As Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu writes, Akufo-Addo’s frankness has helped make the video a viral hit with young Africans.
Chinese manufacturing won’t be moving to Africa anytime soon. From Ethiopia to South Africa, Chinese factories have relocated and set base across the continent in recent years and some have predicted Africa could the world’s next factory. But as Lily Kuo points out, rising wages in China are not pushing out that many factories to leave China as more turn instead to automation.
How the Arab Spring inspired Egypt’s nascent tech boom. Since the 2011 revolution, homegrown startups have sprung across Egypt, providing solutions and much-need employment opportunities. Abdi Latif Dahir reports from Cairo on how despite violence and political instability, the tech scene remains a bright spot for the country.
A battle for power in Turkey faces resistance in Senegal. After an attempted coup in 2016, president Recep Erdogan accused cleric Fethullah Gülen of orchestrating it and ordered the closure of schools affiliated with him around the world. Reporting from Dakar, Stéphanie Fillion documents how the shutting down of the schools in Senegal has dealt a blow to the country’s education options.
Europe’s paranoia about African migrants enabled the Libyan slave market. The video of slave auctions of African migrants in Libya shocked the world and pushed many governments to take swift actions to deter this in the future. But as Simon McMahon argues, the outrage from European officials belied the fact that they knew and downplayed the matter just to keep African migrants off their shores.
Chart of the week
How one of South Africa’s wealthiest men lost his billionaire status to an accounting scandal. German authorities announced this week they were investigating the furniture retailer Steinhoff for fraud and inflating its balance sheets. As Lynsey Chutel explains, the news led to the company’s market value plunging and meant that, on paper at least, interim CEO and key South African shareholder, Christo Wiese is now a mere multi-millionaire.
Other Things We Liked
Why Norwegian stockfish is loved in Nigeria. The unique taste of the stockfish exported from Norway is a delicacy enjoyed all over Nigeria. For the BBC, Penny Dale and Victoria Uwonkunda find out why a type of fish associated with humanitarian emergencies became a key part of Nigerian culinary.
The game of musical chairs unfolding in Angola. After coming to power this year, Angola’s president João Lourenço fired government and party officials including former president dos Santos’ daughter. But all the optimism and superficial changes don’t constitute much in a country that still needs systemic overhaul, Cláudio Silva writes for Africa is a Country.
The unravelling of Nigeria’s security establishment. In this deep dive for The Republic, Chris Ngwodo examines the numerous security threats across Nigeria, from Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen to Niger Delta militants and Biafra secessionists and many others in between. Ngwodo argues these have become existential threats for a country whose political establishment and security forces are ill-equipped to overcome the challenges.
Watch: A conversation about the myths and realities of fake news and misinformation in Africa. Quartz Africa editor Yinka Adegoke joined CSIS’ Africa director Jennifer Cooke as well as journalists and digital consultants from Ghana, Kenya and South Africa at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC to discuss the scourge of “fake news”. Watch/listen here.
Keep an eye on
Kenya’s opposition leader swearing-in (Dec. 12) Barely two weeks after president Uhuru Kenyatta’s inauguration, the opposition coalition says it will swear in Raila Odinga as president—risking further polarization and volatility.
G5 Sahel Force Meeting in Paris (Dec. 13) The regional military force from five African countries as well as the African Union and the European Union will meet in Paris to talk about how to boost the fight against terrorism in West Africa.
ANC elects a successor to Zuma (Dec. 16-20) South Africa’s ruling African National Congress will hold its 54th National Conference in Johannesburg to choose who will succeed president Jacob Zuma as party leader.
Our best wishes for a productive and thought-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, names of South African forensic auditors and bowls of Nigerian stockfish stew to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.
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