Africa’s fashion opportunity, Togo’s solar bet, science in local languages

Hi, Quartz Africa readers!


Europe is the world’s biggest chocolate market. That’s not just as a consumer market, Europe is also the world’s largest producer and exporter of chocolate with 70% of global exports.

As this is a newsletter about African business, you can guess where we’re going with this. Just as consumption, production and exportation of finished chocolate goods are concentrated in Europe, African countries produce and export over two-thirds of global cocoa, chocolate’s raw material. Côte d’Ivoire alone accounts for third of all cocoa produced in the world.

A white paper by Gro Intelligence, an agribusiness data company, delves into the numbers and history of the chocolate trade and it makes for sober reading from an African perspective. In many ways Europe’s hold on the chocolate trade is unsurprising given it was the innovations of European companies that turned cocoa trade into the chocolate industry in the first place. What is surprising is how little involvement Africa has had in over 200 years of the chocolate business given it has been the major source of the raw material since most of the second half of the 20th century. From 1961, when data has been available, to 2016, Africa’s share of total chocolate exports inched up by a miserly 0.9%.

In fact, Europe’s “competition” such as it is, comes from Asia, where Indonesia, in particular, has been  growing cocoa and building an industry which taps into the fast-growing middle class of China. Despite Chinese taste for chocolate growing slowly, China is already the world’s largest 11th largest chocolate market.

And yet, despite all that, Africa is still where the biggest untapped opportunity remains for production, export and consumption. Indonesia can’t expand its cocoa production much more than it has, cocoa is a labor intensive crop (at least it is today) and labor costs in Asia are rising. More importantly, as we’ve written here, local entrepreneurs and the governments of Africa’s largest producers Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, are getting serious about the opportunity to move higher up the cocoa-to-chocolate value supply chain. And as chocolate has traditionally been a fixture of middle class tastes around the world, it’s unlikely Africa’s still small, but fast-growing, middle classes will be that different. They might just enjoy their own locally-produced products.

As Gro Intelligence analysts note: “If African governments are serious about diversifying their economies and providing higher-paying manufacturing jobs to their people, chocolate production is an obvious industry to pursue. The perfect conditions exist for chocolate producers to take root.”

Yinka Adegoke, Quartz Africa editor

Stories from this week

African designers don’t need more fashion weeks or Vogue, they need paying customers. There have been high-powered calls for an African edition of Vogue and more international fashion week spots in recent months. But fledgling fashion designers and businesses across the continent say there’s more urgent priority in solving local problems such as scaling production and reaching customers.

Africa’s World Cup set back. With Senegal, Africa’s best hope of a World Cup second round place, knocked out and Nigeria’s Super Eagles losing to perennial opponents Argentina (photos), Africa’s World Cup party is over. It was the first time since 1982 that no African team got through to the second round. There’s strong hope that the younger African teams will have a good chance in four years. Not that everyone was young, Egypt’s Essam El-Hadary became the oldest man to ever play in the World Cup.

The deadly pastoral clashes in Nigeria are proving costly for lives and the economy’s future. Over 200 people were killed in attacks in Nigeria’s middle belt in just one incident last month. The spreading insecurity problem in the country’s largest food-producing region is also hurting any hopes of agribusiness helping to diversify Nigeria’s economy away from oil dependency, explains Yomi Kazeem.

 Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s one-way love affair with Africa. The Carters have never shied from drawing inspiration from Africa for tour announcements, visual albums, Grammy performances and dance routines. However, as Lynsey Chutel writes, despite frequently using Africa as an aesthetic muse, the music power couple have yet to bring the results of that inspiration to Africa on tour.

An online repository for African scientists accepts research in indigenous languages. Getting published in global journals has typically proven difficult for Africa-based scientists. To bridge that gap, AfricArXiv, a new repository, will accept preprint research, including those in indigenous languages, submitted by African scientists.

Togo’s ambitious 12-year solar-powered plan to bring millions out of the dark. To achieve universal access to electricity by 2030, Togo is looking to build 300 mini solar plants across the country and distribute solar kits to half a million households. But as Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu explains, the $1.7 billion plan will depend largely on winning investor backing and maintaining long-term political stability.

Chart of the Week

Nigeria has become the world’s poverty capital. Nigeria has overtaken the much larger India to become the country with the most people living in extreme poverty. Six other African nations also feature on the list of countries with the world’s largest extreme poverty populations.

Other Things We Liked

All is not well with Ethiopia’s fast-growing economy. Just three months in the role, Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed has been praised for bringing rapid change to the country’s political and economic environment. But David Ndii, for East African Review, points out the country’s economy had already become overheated on state-led infrastructure expansion which has in turn contributed to a difficult foreign exchange environment among other challenges.

The tiny African nation that helped Iran skirt international trade sanctions. With tight sanctions on its oil and banking sectors, Iranian businessmen turned to Comoros for passports which offer visa free travel and paperwork ease around much of the Middle East. For ReutersBozorgmehr Sharafedin and David Lewis document how over 1,000 Iranians capitalized on Comoros’ passports-for-cash regime

China’s “deal of the century” in Congo is turning out to be a major headache. A $9 billion resource-for-infrastructure deal in DR Congo is revealing a flaw of China’s international economic policy. With Chinese businesses taking on increasingly risky projects, often beyond their area of expertise, China’s eagerness to secure new markets and access to resources is starting to tell on its economy, writes David Landry for Foreign Policy.

Keep an eye on

African Union heads of state summit in Mauritania. (Jul.1-Jul.2). Heads of states of African countries will meet in Nouakchott, Mauritania. The overall theme for the ordinary session is “Winning the fight against corruption: A sustainable path to Africa’s transformation”.

President Emmanuel Macron visits Nigeria (Jul. 3). The French president will meet Nigeria’s president Buhari and visit New Afrika Shrine, the concert venue owned by the family of legendary Afrobeat star, Fela Kuti.

*This brief was produced while listening to Sesfikile by Dladla Mshunqisi & Tipcee (South Africa)

Our best wishes for a productive and thought-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, African fashion retail websites and indigenous scientific research to You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day. This newsletter was compiled by Yomi Kazeem and edited by Yinka Adegoke.

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