Ghana’s Venice Biennale, South Africa’s reluctant young voters, Jumia’s short week

Hi, Quartz Africa readers!

Supporting the supporters

Entrepreneurship can often be a lonely career path, particularly at the start. This is particularly the case in modern tech-enabled businesses where software takes care of many admin tasks that used to require interaction with colleagues.

And yet a big part of entrepreneurship is constant learning while building relationships with partners and clients. Learning everything from being a leader and risk taker to managing minor but essential admin tasks and raising funds for your idea. One of the ways many tech entrepreneurs around the world overcome these hurdles is to join or collaborate with local tech hubs or early-stage incubator programs. There they get to meet other entrepreneurs and investors and find themselves exchanging ideas with like-minded individuals which helps to sharpen their own plans for their business.

Hubs like these have been vital to the rapid evolution of African tech ecosystems around the continent and now more attention is being paid on how to make them better and even more effective. Research by Village Capital reframes how to think about these hubs by referring to them as entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs).

The idea is for the acronym to act as a catch-all which includes everything from simple co-working spaces for solo entrepreneurs to full-fledged accelerator programs for young companies backed by major investors or partners. But as VilCap observes: “Entrepreneur support has become an industry in Africa. But deal flow remains stubbornly low, especially for early stage companies.”

The research, which was based on interviews with nearly 80 ESOs and engagement with 1,000 stakeholders, highlights key takeaways to improve ESOs such as having them specialize more rather being open to all comers, which is something we’ve discussed here before. A few other pointers include encouraging collaboration among peers, getting strong program partners for your ESO, making time for mentoring entrepreneurs and building sustainable business models for your ESO.

There is plenty of good specific advice in this 40-page report, but the point of all this is that improving the ESOs will ultimately improve local tech startup ecosystems. Improving African startup ecosystems, as Village Capital sees it, will help unlock more funds coming into these markets to back startups.

Yinka Adegoke, Quartz Africa editor

Stories from this week

Ethiopia’s garment workers make clothes for H&M, Levi’s and Tommy Hilfiger but are the world’s lowest paid. While seeking to position Ethiopia higher up the global textile supply chain, the government has not done enough to ensure conducive working conditions for its labor force. As Abdi Latif Dahir explains, despite making clothes for global brands, Ethiopian garment workers are the world’s lowest paid.

Ghana and Madagascar debut at the Venice Biennale. The 2019 biennale opened in Venice this weekend with the renowned global art exhibition welcoming the two African nations’ debut national pavilions, writes Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu. The seven month-long exhibition will also see a total of eight African countries with pavilions.

Breast ironing is a harmful practice to young girls that isn’t getting sufficient attention. Compared to widely condenmed practices like female genital mutilation and forced or child marriage, breast ironing, a practice aimed at preventing early development of a woman’s breasts at puberty, is not yet subject of global urgency.

Malawi is worried about fake news in the build-up to its elections. Despite an internet penetration rate of just 14%—lower than the sub Saharan Africa average, misinformation and fake news is flowing from the internet to the mass populace in Malawi ahead of its May 21 elections, Rabson Kondowe reports.

Zimbabwe’s mobile operators data price hikes show the true value of its RTGs dollar. Zimbabwe’s three major mobile operators hiked mobile internet prices by some 250% in the past couple of weeks in response to the tumbling value of the RTGs dollar. Farai Shawn Matiashe in Harare finds this may be a truer reflection of the young currency’s value.

South Africa’s election: reluctant young voters and a growing shift to populism. As South Africa went to polls 25 years after its first democratic election, frustrated “twenty somethings” stayed away as a mark of protest against the government. In the end president Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC won as expected and seemed to have stemmed the decline for now. But there was a rude awakening as Julius Malema’s populist EFF party gained more seats as the liberal Democratic Alliance declined.

Chart of the Week

Jumia endured a horror week on the New York Stock Exchange amid fraud claims. After a bullish run that saw its share price more than triple since launching its initial public offering on Apr. 12, Jumia endured a six-day decline on the New York Stock Exchange this week.  The stock slide comes amid claims of fraud by a US activist short seller, writes Yomi Kazeem.

Other Things We Liked

Living in translation. For African Arguments, author Nanjala Nyabola edited a series of articles by different writers looking at how Africa and Africans navigate the heritage of colonial languages, local lingua franca and vitality of creoles. The series looks at Kiswahili in South Africa, pidgin in Nigeria and Amharic in Ethiopia among others.

Skin lightening is Africa’s multibillion-dollar post-colonial hangover. Lighter skin is still perceived as superior beauty and higher economic status and the roots of this type of thinking can be traced back to colonialism, writes Wana Udobang for Bright magazine. With deeply ingrained attitudes, what will it take to get African women   to stop bleaching their skin?

The hidden worth of the global African diaspora. The importance of Africa’s diaspora population has been shown by the growing contribution of remittances to GDP since the turn of the millennium. But as Behailu Shiferaw Mihirete argues in Africa at LSE, beyond billion-dollar remittances from African diaspora, governments must also become more invested in utilizing their brain power.

How the United States became a haven for Liberian war criminals. Several victims of Liberia’s brutal civil wars remain unable to get justice after decades even while their alleged perpetrators live freely in the United States. As Annie Hylton explains in The New Republicgiven its inadequate laws, war criminals can escape punishment at home and live in the United States.


Google Indie Games Accelerator Program. Google’s Launchpad Accelerator program will offer Android-focused game startups from select emerging markets an opportunity to receive mentorship from global mobile gaming experts and is open to developers from Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Tunisia (May 19).

World Bank/Moi University scholarships. Supported by World Bank funding, Moi University is offering postgraduate scholarships for Masters and Doctorate degrees in analytical chemistry, materials and textile engineering, industrial engineering and renewable energy (May 20).

The UN Young Professionals Program.  The United Nations is seeking young professionals to start a career as an international civil servant with the UN Secretariat and is open to citizens of 12 African countries (Aug. 9).

Keep an eye on

Afrobytes Tech Conference (May 15). African tech industry leaders, entrepreneurs and investors will gather at Station F, Paris next week to discuss key industry trends at the Afrobytes conference. Entrepreneurs will connect with companies such as Paypal, Facebook, Vodafone, and Kaspersky among others.

Transform Africa (May 14-17). The fifth edition of the tech conference will take place in Kigali, Rwanda with high-ranking African government officials expected to be in attendance to discuss innovation and technology.

*This brief was produced while listening to So Beautiful by Asa (Nigeria)

Our best wishes for a productive and thought-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, tickets to Venice Biennale and Jumia put options to You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.

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