Hi, Quartz Africa readers!
African decision-makers gathered this weekend in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia for the high-level Tana Forum on security in Africa. The theme this year is about how the African Union could better finance its own security agenda in order to reduce the continent’s dependence on donors and hence, keep foreign intervention at bay.
Africa is the region with the smallest military expenditure globally, allocating $39.2 billion in 2016 for its more than 1.2 billion population. This is despite the fact that the continent faces some of the key security challenges of our time including terrorism, violent extremism, ongoing wars, besides clashes between herdsmen and farmers precipitated by the effects of climate change.
Currently, much of the budget to address these issues come from external funding. In fact, much of the AU’s budget comes from international donors, with 30 out of the 55 member states defaulting either partially or completely on their contributions. In 2017, 73% of the AU’s $782 million budget came from international partners, with member states contributing $212 million, or a total of 27%.
To increase self-reliance and support peace operations, the AU has suggested a 0.2% import levy on eligible goods, which officials hope, will raise up to $400 million by 2020.
By owning and shaping its financial agenda, the continental body aims to not only improve its performance and governance structure but also assert its political legitimacy and credibility. The security reform agenda follows the passing of two signature AU decisions this year aimed at opening up the continent’s skies through a single air market and the establishment of a continental free trade agreement—the largest in the world since the creation of the World Trade Organization.
Beyond the rhetoric and promises, the bigger challenge of attaining a secured future begins now. The pressing question will be how to sustain long-term financing, strengthen the institutions that drive integration while bearing in mind how previous efforts floundered due to lack of implementation. The AU will also have to recognize security reform is not just about governments and institutions but about people who deal with the dire consequences of policymaking every day.
But achieving fiscal autonomy is indeed a crucial first step in realizing “African solutions to African problems.” As AU chairman Moussa Faki says, “Without its independence, Africa is nothing at all. With its independence, it can be everything.”
— Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz Nairobi correspondent
Blockchain’s cultural stumbling block is an opportunity for Africans to make it their own. Quartz Africa Innovator Bright Simons argues debates around blockchain’s potential are somewhat naïve because they fail to recognize the technology’s inherent ideological baggage, specifically around trust. In African cultures, where trust holds a different currency to the West, could there be even more uses for blockchain?
African athletes keep going missing at global sporting events and it’s only going to get worse. At this year’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, at least 13 African athletes absconded from their team camps. As Yomi Kazeem explains, even as top professional athletes competing at an international event, their reasons are like those of any prospective migrant—the search for a better life.
CNN’s show about women and love went to Ghana and sparked a national outrage. Ghana hasn’t suddenly become an ultra-puritanical society, but locals were furious that the views of one woman and her “sugar daddy” lifestyle seemed to speak for all Ghanaian women in an interview with Christiane Amanpour. It was especially at odds, as Pamela Ofori-Boateng points out, for a country that has seen increasing economic and professional opportunities for women.
Scientists are putting their ears to the ground to uncover Africa’s history and future riches. Using recordings from ground vibrations, sensors create an image of the continent’s interior, as computational seismologist, Tolulope Olugboji demonstrates. Without digging up the earth, the sensors can uncover the history of the continent’s land mass and water resources and map the distribution of Africa’s undiscovered underground resources.
African cities are battling escalating noise pollution—but religion won’t cooperate. Whether it’s the call to prayer or the sound of a sermon on a loudspeaker, authorities are struggling to curb the noise levels of the religious practices that many Africans rank as a “very important” component in their lives. But it’s also an increasing health hazard in urban living and one that is a contentious issue to navigate, never mind legislate.
Big businesses in Africa need to start corporate venture arms to fund startups and secure their own future growth. African companies are expanding beyond the continent but in order to keep up with international competitors they need cutting-edge technology. Local African startups are the best places to find this technology, writes Aubrey Hruby, which is why companies like MTN and Dangote need to start thinking about themselves as venture capitalists too.
Tunisia shows other African countries how to legistlate success in the tech sector. When startups have succeeded in Africa, it’s usually in spite of governments and their regulations. Now, Tunisia wants to kickstart its tech ecosystem through a “Startup Act.” The legislation will support entrepreneurs as they grow their fledgling businesses and ultimately stem the talent exodus from the north African country.
How Mandela’s political heirs grow rich off corruption. South Africa has been gripped by corruption scandals in recent years, but often the headlines lose sight of the people worst affected—the very people who suffered the worst under apartheid. For a report in the New York Times, Norimitsu Onishi and Selam Gebrekidan travelled to a dairy farm that was meant to benefit poor black farmers, but instead become a symbol of post-apartheid South Africa’s failings.
The first long-term study of ivory poaching dispels many myths. The University of Antwerp’s Kristof Titeca collected data on poaching in Uganda for five years and found that poaching and the illegal international ivory trade are far more complex crimes. In this summary in the Washington Post of his published research, Titeca argues that there is no single solution.
Senegal’s defiant and inspiring bass guitarist. While people with albinism still face discrimination and violence, Maah Keita (no relation to Salif) faced her fears by going on stage and playing music that people loved. The Senegalese bass guitarist started a band, opening for local and international acts. As this video on Ozy shows, rather than hide, Keita and her band plan to make the most of the spotlight.
The Internet Freedom Forum (Apr. 24-26) Abuja, Nigeria. The forum brings together tech companies, civil society and governments to debate internet rights, especially in Africa. Quartz Africa’s Abdi Latif Dahir will moderate a panel titled “Stop press: Media and government overreach in the digital age.”
The Goldman Environmental Prize (April 25).The annual prize is the world’s largest award honoring grassroots environmental activists. In the past it has honored African trailblazers like the late Wangari Maathai.
The Mo Ibrahim governance weekend (Apr. 27-29). Held in Kigali this year, the event focuses on improving Africa’s public service and creating a trustworthy contract between citizens and governments.
*This brief was produced while listening to Hallelujah by Diamond Platnumz ft. Morgan Heritage (Tanzania/USA).
Our best wishes for a productive and thought-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, startup strategies and noise-canceling headphones to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day. This newsletter was compiled by Lynsey Chutel and edited by Yinka Adegoke.