Gabon’s expensive forest, Chinese vloggers, African tourism’s rise

Hi, Quartz Africa readers!

Generating smog

In Lagos, the culture of noisy back-up generators is so ingrained there’s unspoken etiquette about showing consideration for neighbors about how long you leave yours on late into the night. Of course, noise is just one of many of the drawbacks of using generators, especially when the electricity supply is such that the tag “back-up” is something of a misnomer.

Nigeria is one of many developing countries where electricity is unreliable and the impact of using generators to supplement (or essentially replace) grid-based supply is what the International Finance Corporation explores in a study titled The Dirty Footprint of the Broken Grid.

The fleet of generators in the 167 developing countries modeled (excluding China) is estimated to have a total capacity of 350–500 gigawatts which is the equivalent of 700–1,000 large coal-fired power plants spread across 20 million to 30 million individual sites. These generators deliver an estimated 100–170 terawatt per hour of electricity every year which is a substantial portion of electricity service in some regions. For example in western Africa, private generators provide the equivalent of 40% of what’s generated by the grid.

And this isn’t cheap for the home owners and local businesses forced to rely on generators. Spending on diesel and petrol for generators is a whopping $30 billion to $50 billion a year. This comes with an average use cost of 30 cents per kWh for fuel alone which is around double the average cost of grid electricity. Overall, the full cost of using generators is estimated to be between 40 cents to several dollars per kWh particularly for those in the most remote locations due to logistics and transport expenses.

This past week at the United Nations General Assembly there was a lot of serious deliberation about our global climate crisis. One of the common themes was how Africa is responsible for a tiny percentage climate change causes but will face a disproportionate impact. One of the harsh realities for African countries with poor electricity supply and heavy generator use is that these petrol and diesel machines are “substantial contributors to environmental and health burdens”—as we’ve written before about the impact of their emissions.

There are also major safety issues particularly for low-income residential areas in cities where owners have small, inflammable petrol generators in proximity to their apartments or shared living spaces.

There is some hope from the IFC researchers that as developing countries economies improve and grow distributed solar and storage technologies can offer a superior and effective alternative to the back-up generators. Fingers crossed.

Yinka Adegoke, Quartz Africa editor

Stories from this week

The story of a seminal movie about apartheid and Hollywood’s first black female director. There was so much buzz around the production of A Dry White Season in 1988-89 director Euzhan Palcy had to say no to Hollywood legend Paul Newman five times for his interest in the lead role. She had Marlo Brando come out of retirement, Susan Sarandon and South Africa’s John Kani (Black Panther) all take part in the first Hollywood movie with a black female director.

The young Chinese vloggers showing middle class China a different view of Africa. Air travel between China and Africa has grown dramatically over the past two decades, yet concerns about “safety and disease in Africa” continue to persist among Chinese travelers. Ciku Kimeria reports on the Chinese video bloggers determined to change this worldview among their fans back home.

Gabon will be paid by Norway to fight deforestation. Forests cover almost 90% of Gabon which is also home to around 12% of the Congo Basin forest. As part of a new effort to preserve rainforests and mitigate the effects of climate change, Norway will pay Gabon $150 million, reports Abdi Latif Dahir.

The probe of a Swedish caller ID app for privacy breaches will expose flaws in Nigeria’s data laws. Controversial caller ID app Truecaller has come under fire in Nigeria, its second largest African market, for potential breach of privacy rights. But the bid to bring the Swedish company to book will likely expose the limits of Nigeria’s data privacy regulations.

Nigeria’s military is in a battle with humanitarian NGOs in the country’s troubled northeast. Nigeria’s army recently shut down offices of two prominent international NGOs operating in the country’s northeast amid a brutal insurgency led by Boko Haram. As Yomi Kazeem explains, the situation reflects the army’s checkered relationship with NGOs especially in a region where humanitarian aid remains essential for millions of displaced people.

Africa’s tourism is now the second fastest-growing in the world. Improving visa openness, better airports and other travel infrastructure and rising numbers of Chinese visitors are among some of the factors that have helped expand Africa’s tourism numbers. Ethiopia is one of the countries leading the way with a 50% jump in visitors.

Chart of the Week

Jumia, the Amazon of Africa, really isn’t a “unicorn” anymore. It seemed like just yesterday Jumia’s shares were rocketing up the New York Stock Exchange—in fact, it was May when the e-tailer’s market capitalization peaked at just short of $4 billion. But after a couple of months of a major fraud revelation, lawsuit threats and a short investor campaign, the stock tumbled to an all-time low this week leaving its market cap at one point hovering just above $600 million—a far cry from its heady “unicorn” days.

The Dealmaker

Algerian ride-hailing startup TemTem raised $4 million in a Series A funding round led by Tell Venture Automotive. The five-year old startup offers both car and bike hailing services and is operational in three Algerian cities across which it claims to have over 4,000 drivers…In Egypt, MaxAB, the e-commerce marketplace, raised $6.2 million in what’s regarded as one of the largest seed funding rounds across North African tech ecosystems. The company says it will channel the funding to expand its model of connecting Egyptian food and grocery retailers with suppliers…South African Edtech startup Snapplify raised $1.9 million from Knife Capital. The “expansion capital” will fund  Snapplify’s planned launch in international markets offering its digital learning solutions.

Other Things We Liked

One man’s mission to bring Zimbabwe’s streets to the world. Since its launch in 2007, Google’s Street View application has collected panoramic images from 87 countries across the world including some in Africa. But that still leaves over 100 nations off the platform. For NPR, Chloee Weiner talks to Tawanda Kanhema, a Zimbabwean crisscrossing his country so as to put it on the map.

The hypocrisy of the Western aid regime. The new book  Aid and Authoritarianism: Development without Democracy, by Tobias Hagmann and Filip Reyntjens tries to explain “why Western governments that supposedly promote human rights have been so keen to support authoritarian leaders around the world.” In this piece for Democracy in Africa the authors share the key lessons from the book.

Beyoncé and the heart of darkness. For Africa’s a Country, Boluwatife Akinro and Joshua Segun-Lean reference Beyoncé’s The Gift soundtrack for the new Lion King movie to make the case that few US-based black thinkers and creatives want to deal with the implications of their own Americo-centrism in relation to Africa. “In the global marketplace for culture, from the colonial-era on through today, Africa has been a perennial source for exotic cultural products and opportunities for self-aggrandizement,” they write.


African Union humanitarian innovation challenge. The continental body’s department of political affairs is looking for five tech-enabled ideas to tackle challenges including forced displacement and man-made or natural disasters in Africa. (Oct. 18)

Facebook accelerator for African entrepreneurs. The 12-week program supports the most impactful technology startups, especially those with a mission to expand digital connectivity. (Oct. 18)

Keep Your Eye On

Cameroon peace talks (Sept. 30). The government will host a national “dialogue” conference two years after separatists in Anglophone regions declared independence from the majority French-speaking nation. The armed conflict has displaced hundreds of thousands and led to the reported death of over 2,000 people.

Royal tour continues in Africa (Oct. 1-2). Britain’s Prince Harry will visit Malawi and meet president Peter Mutharika before rejoining his family in South Africa and meeting with president Cyril Ramaphosa.

1-54 contemporary African art fair (Oct. 3-6). The leading international fair, founded by Touria El Glaoui, a 2019 Quartz Africa Innovator, and which is dedicated to contemporary African art, will hold its annual London edition.

*This brief was produced while listening to Don’t Lead Me On by Tbwoy & T Sean (Zambia). [Spotify]

Our best wishes for a productive and ideas-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, ideas, your best anti-apartheid movies and predictions on when to go long 📈 on Jumia again to You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.

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