Nigerian authors shine, DR Congo’s oil kleptocrats, Zambian women’s museum

Hi, Quartz Africa readers!

School daze

Just over a year ago, a photo of Richard Appiah Akoto, a teacher in Ghana drawing the features of a Microsoft Word processing window on a blackboard, went viral. People around the world were full of admiration for his dedication and effort as a computer teacher in a school with no computers.

I was reminded of the story this week on reading how Ghana was the highest ranked African country and overall top achiever on a survey called the Worldwide Educating For the Future Index (WEFFI), which ranks economies on how well they’re doing on readying citizens aged 15 to 24 with skills for the future. The survey was commissioned by the Yidan Prize Foundation and compiled by The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Ghana, which was 25th out of 50 economies, shone because of its education policy, which is focused on future skills in national education strategy, and the assessment frameworks it’s building to support future-skills training. But it’s not as simple as just having good policy frameworks or Ghana would have been much higher at the top of the rankings, competing with Finland and Switzerland.

Instead, the West African country, which celebrated its 62nd independence anniversary this week,  was let down by other metrics, principally its teachers (apparently they’re not all super-dedicated). As the UNESCO Ghana representative says in the report: “We have done well ‘on paper’ with many of our reforms, but too often they remain just that—on paper.”

But good education policy or vision in the first place is not to be taken for granted. Take the post-election note by long-time Nigeria watcher Charles Robertson, global chief economist at Renaissance Capital. In between the expected concerns about stagnant oil prices and artificially high exchange rates this year, Robertson looked a bit further into Nigeria’s future and highlighted the need to raise adult literacy to 70%-80% from 60% by 2024 to really drive Africa’s largest (or No.2) economy through industrialization. “An adult literacy campaign could accelerate this—copying what the super poor, war-torn state of South Korea did in the 1950s.”

It might sound easier said than done, but this is way too urgent and important for all African countries not to accelerate all levels and forms of education to match and enable their fast-growing young populations.

We’re sure the admirable Mr. Akoto would agree.

Yinka Adegoke, Quartz Africa editor

Stories from this week

Breaking news: As we were going to press, news broke of an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi that crashed with 149 passengers and eight crew members. The ET 302 plane lost contact at 8.44 am local time around Bishoftu, a town southeast of the capital Addis Ababa. More details being updated here.

Nigerian women authors are bringing new narratives to this prestigious literary prize. Three writers of Nigerian descent have been named on the long list for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction. Their novels represent a diversity of experiences and genres, showing that the literary industry is finally open to more nuance.

On Ghanaian exceptionalism, generational angst, and being better than second-best. Ghana marked its 62nd independence this week with the usual pomp and circumstance. But in this essay Bright Simons, a 2015 Quartz Africa Innovator, found his fellow countrymen and women dealing with growing angst and self-doubt when it comes to Ghana’s vaunted national self-image.

British charities can’t help their White Savior Complex when it comes to Africa. Comic Relief, which is a kind of super-charity in the United Kingdom, had a Twitter spat late last month with a prominent member of parliament about its use of African children as “props” with British celebrities while raising awareness for good causes. Olu Alake explores how British charities have kept on with certain tropes even as times and perceptions change.

In South Africa, violence against women is reduced to a social media spectacle without solution. When chart-topping South African pop star Babes Wodumo aired her domestic abuse on Instagram Live, it created a national drama and much handwringing about the country’s domestic violence problem. But it really only highlighted the social dynamics that lend themselves to political sexual harassment scandals and threats targeting prominent women on social media.

Kleptocracies often plunder oil wealth, but it’s not that simple in DR Congo. The Democratic Republic of Congo should probably be Africa’s 2nd largest oil producer but it’s not even in the top 10. Patrick Edmond and Kristof Titeca explain why DR Congo’s rulers want it that way: “All DRC’s leaders need from oil is to let their chosen friends profit, which is entirely possible without new oil being discovered.”

A new museum of women’s history in Zambia is changing how the country sees itself. Colonialism not only disrupted Zambian society, but it also created a distortion of history that erased women’s experiences. Then, liberation movements perpetuated this patriarchal perspective, leaving gaps in the Zambian story. Lynsey Chutel spoke to the founders of the Museum of Women’s History on using historic archives and digital innovation to retell Zambia’s story.

Chart of the Week

This lending app startup is stepping up to become a full-service digital bank. Nigerian lending startup Paylater has secured a $5 million debt facility from Omidyar-backed Lendable, which it wants to use as part of a transition to a digital bank. Oluwatosin Adeshokan learns the rebranding and new strategy will start in April as the startup goes after Nigeria’s teeming unbanked population.

Other Things We Liked

Dancing to Somalia’s vibrant disco era. War has devastated Somalia for years now, but in the decades that followed the nation’s independence in 1960, the country had a thriving music scene that played out in theaters and nightclubs. This short documentary in The Guardian documents how the music of that golden era kept two friends alive.

The Kigali paradox: How did Rwanda’s capital become Africa’s cleanest city? The city is held up as an example of how to create a 21st-century African capital, and yet this story ignores the people swept out of the way to create this image. In the Mail & Guardian, Kristen van Schie investigated the death of a woman, killed as an illegal trader, and spoke to others like her, who are sacrificed in Kigali’s relentless development.


Wangari Maathai impact award. The award is open to individuals, teams, and organizations who are working to strengthen African machine learning and artificial intelligence. (Apr. 12)

Alibaba eFounders fellowship. Founders and co-founders of digital ventures from Botswana, Cameroon, Chad, Kenya, Rwanda, or Uganda can apply to connect with business leaders in China and gain better insights into Alibaba’s ecosystem. (Mar. 17)

Keep an eye on

UN environmental assembly (Mar. 11-15). French president Emmanuel Macron among other global leaders is set to attend the convention in Nairobi to discuss innovative solutions to tackle environmental challenges related to poverty and natural resources management.

Afrobytes Nairobi (Mar. 15). The annual, Paris-based conference dedicated to Africa’s tech industry is coming to the Kenyan capital to connect and learn from the industry’s best.

African Development Forum 2019, SOAS, London (Mar. 15-16). University of London’s Centre for African Studies will host leading keynote speakers and panelists to explore the question of “insecurity” as a condition associated with the African continent.

*This brief was produced while listening to Bégué by Pape Diouf (Senegal).

Our best wishes for a productive and thought-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, all the books by Nigerian authors on the Women’s Fiction Prize list and tickets for the Zambia’s women’s history museum to You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.

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