Hi, Quartz Africa readers!
The last decade has been a trying time in journalism, particularly for those in the business of keeping media publications up and running. Media houses, large and small, have faced the existential threat of a shifting business model as traditional print and broadcast models got upended by various forms of digital distribution.
This challenge is a global one and African media houses face many of the same challenges. Though print still has plenty of life left in some African countries, their businesses are vulnerable to government influence and economic headwinds. As we have seen at Quartz, digital offers us an opportunity to be nimble and innovative but no one pretends they have all the answers in such a fast-changing environment.
Over the last two years, an additional distraction has come into view in the form of “fake news”. Again, the term went mainstream in the United States and soon traveled globally, including across many African countries. A study this month by University of Cape Town highlights the scale of the problem in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa and compared it with a Pew Research poll in the US. It found people in those African countries believed they were more frequently exposed to “fake news” than the Americans did.
It’s worth noting “fake news” in itself is not new in Africa. In the recent past disinformation might have been spread by politically-motivated powerful press barons. What has changed is digital media has made it much more efficient for the dissemination of false information, by almost anyone, particularly on social media.
While much of the focus in the United States has been on Facebook, in Africa and other developing regions of the world, its WhatsApp platform is the much bigger problem, as we’ve noted before. On a panel this week at Bloomberg’s Africa Business Media Innovators forum in Livingstone, Zambia, Facebook’s strategic media partnerships lead Jocelyne Muhutu-Remy was clear that even with the social behemoth’s many other challenges WhatsApp is on the agenda: “At Facebook, we talk about this everyday.” She explained, “What makes it so compelling, [end to end encryption], is also its key weakness. We don’t have access to the content at all. We have not fully found a way to crack that problem.”
As elections approach in the first half of 2019 for some of the developing world’s biggest democracies, Nigeria, South Africa and India—all big WhatsApp usage countries—there’ll likely be a spike in the sharing of disinformation and misinformation. Cracking that problem will become more pressing.
— Yinka Adegoke, Quartz Africa editor
Stories from this week
African nations are disrupting internet connectivity more than any region globally. Social media blocks or total internet shutdowns are becoming an increasingly regular act across the world. Yet governments in Africa are imposing more sophisticated and longer cut-offs than in most other regions, reports Abdi Latif Dahir.
Nigeria’s Central Bank could hamstring local fintech startups with costly new regulation. Fintech startups creating solutions across payments, access to credit, savings and digital banking have been the biggest stars of Nigeria’s growing tech ecosystem. But proposed regulation by Nigeria’s apex bank could make it a lot more expensive for fintech companies to operate.
What do African strongmen do after they get kicked out of office? Mass protests, social media activism, electoral defeats and even an old-fashioned coup have resulted in some of Africa’s long-serving leaders kicked out of office in recent years. As Zimbabwe marked a year since Robert Mugabe—president for 37 years—was ousted, Yomi Kazeem looks into the fortunes of African strongmen after they lose their hold on power.
There’s new evidence giving cash to the poor is more effective than we thought. Research collected from eight African countries over a decade dispels some common misperceptions about unconditional cash transfers in Africa. The research shows people generally make more considered decisions than previously assumed.
The first Somali-American Muslim in the US Congress is already facing an alt-right disinformation campaign. Ilhan Omar is yet to be sworn into office and just arrived in Washington DC to take her freshman orientation. But the congresswoman-elect is facing a fake news campaign that’s gone viral on social media.
These designers are forcing the world to rethink what African furniture should look like. Culturally, Africa is having a global moment and furniture is the latest arena of creativity. At the Salon Art + Design showcase in New York, African designers tapped into their unique narratives to challenge the expectations of what you think a couch should look like writes Lynsey Chutel.
Chart of the Week
Two of Africa’s largest phone operators are collaborating to dominate mobile money. MTN and Orange have launched a continent-wide mobile money interoperability joint venture which allows users send money between mobile money accounts across different providers.
Quartz Africa partner announcement
Africa 2018 (Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt Dec. 8-9). The forum is a business-to-business and government-to-business platform, bringing together policy makers, financiers, industrialists and entrepreneurs. Featuring world-renown keynote speakers and interactive panel discussions, this year’s Forum will focus on developing intra-African investments and the effort to create the world’s largest trading bloc of 1.2 billion people. Register here.
Other Things We Liked
Africa holds both the world’s greatest promise and its biggest threat. In this in-depth essay for Project Syndicate, author Dambisa Moyo tackles the missed opportunity of Africa’s future by its own leaders and global powers (“with the notable exception of China”). The perceived threats posed by disease, terrorism, and migration will each be intensified by climate change, she writes. What is needed is constructive engagement that requires Africa to be treated as a “full-fledged, grown-up region of the world.”
In African classrooms, high-tech solutions play a new role. Across Africa, there have been numerous experiments and projects which have placed education technology at the center of a drive to help address many of the shortcomings of the education sector in many countries. But as Christopher Clark finds out for Bright magazine, the technology, from laptops and tablets to mobile phone-based software, often can’t overcome long-term structural weaknesses.
The Eiffel excellence scholarship program. Students undertaking master’s or doctorate level education in law, economics, engineering, and political sciences are funded to study in French higher education institutions. (Jan. 11)
Funding Africa’s creative sector. Ten winning projects in web creation, virtual reality, video games, digital music, and animation will receive cash prizes and incubation to develop their projects. (Jan. 13)
Keep an eye on
US top Africa diplomat visits four countries (Nov. 27-Dec. 8). US assistant secretary for African affairs Tibor P. Nagy will travel to Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Kenya to discuss strengthening US-Africa trade and security relations.
Google Developer Day (Nov. 28). The tech giant will host apps and games developers from sub-Saharan Africa in Cape Town to instruct them on how to grow successful businesses on Android and Google Play.
Angel Fair Africa (Nov. 29-30). Investors, entrepreneurs, and startups from around Africa will gather in Maputo, Mozambique with the aim of pitching and facilitating deals.
TEDxEuston (Dec. 1). The official TEDx representing the pan-African diaspora will gather in London to feature African ideas worth spreading.
*This brief was produced while listening to Tonton by Salif Keita (Mali)
**Rest in peace, Tosyn Bucknor
Our best wishes for a productive and thought-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, interoperable mobile money and high-end African designer furniture to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.
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