Hi, Quartz Africa readers!
One should never draw any significant conclusions from sentiment shared on social media, but sometimes a response is so overwhelming you can get some sense of how people might be feeling. That was the case with the news Nigeria is planning to allow all African passport holders to apply for a visa on arrival at a Nigerian port rather than go through the days, weeks or even longer it might take to apply ahead of travel at a Nigerian embassy.
There was much delight and praise for the plan, as much from Nigerians themselves as there was from other Africans. Nigerian passport holders, like other Africans, are quite familiar with the difficulty of cumbersome paperwork and passports getting stuck at embassies observing their own national holidays while you’re trying to apply for a visa in a hurry.
Nigeria is not first to do this, countries including Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda already have a visa-on-arrival scheme in place. It’s part of a wider ambition by the African Union to make it easier for Africans to be able to cross borders in their own continent.
We’ve all read many times how much easier it is for a European, US or Canadian passport holder to travel in Africa than it is for Africans. Visitors from those countries rarely need visas ahead of travel and often don’t need any visa at all for short stays.
Nigeria is just one African country, but it’s obviously a large one—and thereby an influential one. So it becomes more likely other countries may follow suit.
Of course, the devil will be in the detail of how these plans are rolled out. Our Lagos correspondent Yomi Kazeem writes there was a bit of confusion and no details around the initial Nigeria announcement.
Ultimately, if it’s going to cost an unreasonably high fee just to end up waiting in line for hours to get your visa after landing at an airport then it’s probably not worth the trouble. But if the balance between affordable and operationally efficient is achieved in most countries that go this route it could be a game changer for African travel and African economies.
The idea of one unified African passport, while not to be dismissed altogether, had always seemed fanciful to expect in a reasonable time frame. It might still happen, perhaps as some sort of “elites only” diplomat style passport. Encouraging visas on arrival seems a more pragmatic approach.
— Yinka Adegoke, Quartz Africa editor
Stories from this week
Kenya’s new “Uber” tax on digital businesses could spark US trade retaliation. Back in November, Kenya’s president signed a new act into law to help recoup tax income from digital services, with a likely example being ride-hailing services such as Uber. But if experiences elsewhere are anything to go by, Kenya’s move could put it on a collision path with Western governments and multinationals.
Photos: Victoria Falls is drying up from one of the worst droughts in a century. Water levels in Victoria Falls have dropped to unprecedented levels over the past few weeks due to a persistent drought hampering southern Africa. As well as being a reminder of the impact of climate change, these photos of the dried up falls could also hurt the tourism sectors in Zimbabwe and Zambia, Farai Shawn Matiashe reports from Harare.
The problem with economists using randomized trials in developing countries. The rise of randomized trials as a way for economists to test development-related theories peaked with this year’s Nobel Prize for economics awarded to three scholars who use the method. But as Seán Mfundza Muller, Grieve Chelwa and Nimi Hoffman explain, the methods often have a trail of methodical and ethical problems particularly when used in poorer communities.
Entrepreneurs in Africa have a crucial role to play in combating bad governance. The role of innovation and entrepreneurship as a potential substitute for good governance in Africa is often the subject of debate. For his part, Efosa Ojomo argues that while innovation and entrepreneurship will not solely solve challenges of weak governance and deliver societal transformation, it remains the best vehicle to help combat it.
Africa’s medical scientists are struggling to get funding to back their research. Even as African researchers in the health sciences work hard to take on some of the continent’s biggest challenges they find the lack of systematic and economic support for their work means many of their findings end up never making to market. In Addis Ababa, Amindeh Blaise Atabong met scientists trying to encourage more support for African research.
What Cardi B’s Lagos and Accra visits say about travel and media representations of Africa. New York rapper Cardi B was the star attraction at two major shows in Lagos and Accra last week. Saratu Abiola highlights how much of an impression Cardi B made off-stage, especially because of her nuanced yet unfiltered representation and depiction of her time in both cities.
Classifieds platform Jiji raised $21 million in funding (pdf) led by Dubai-based Knuru Capital. It follows a Series C funding round in 2018 and brings the total funding raised since 2014 to $50 million with the list of investors including Digital Spring Ventures, Horizon Capital, Redseed, Genesis, TA Ventures and others. Jiji bought Naspers-owned OLX, a key competitor, in April…Turaco, a Kenyan insurance tech startup, raised $1.2 million in seed funding from GAN Ventures, Mercy Corps Ventures and Musha Ventures as well as a group of angel investors. Turaco’s business model focuses on providing affordable medical cover to underserved communities in Kenya and Uganda…Adzily, an Egyptian indoor advertising startup, raised $12.2 million from Al-Tharawat Private Investment Holding, a Saudi investment firm. The company plans to grow its reach with digital ad screens in restaurants and cafes across Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Chart of the Week
African consumers are buying more Chinese brand phones than you think even as Samsung makes a comeback. While all eyes are on Transsion, the Shenzhen, China phone maker dominating market share in Africa, it turns out several other lesser known Chinese brands are bringing the lessons of “shanzhai” (cheap imitations) to Africa finds Alexandria Williams in Nairobi. However, it’s not all over for South Korea’s Samsung, which lost market share to Transsion, but is now making a comeback in dollar terms.
Other things we liked
We need innovation from Africa and the rest of the Global South to develop the world. In his new TED talk, Quartz 2015 Africa Innovator, Bright Simons explains how his long-time work building innovation to counter supply chain fraud around drugs and food has often been well-received but not always scaled globally. He argues there is often a marginalization of ideas from the developing world which leads to prejudice and neglect of local solutions however well-suited they are to the target global problems.
How Africa’s megacities will adapt to a climate crisis. “By the end of the century, scientists project Lagos will have the most people exposed to extreme heat of any city in Africa. Climate change will make heatwaves in Lagos longer, stronger and more common.” Reporters from Deutsche Welle visited four African cities for this multimedia report on Lagos’ scorching heatwaves, Kampala’s rising waste, Cairo’s potentially looming drought and Dar es Salaam’ choking traffic.
Exploring the history of the written word in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although it is often overlooked, writing in Sub Saharan Africa has been found dating back to between the 9th and 7th Century BC with the oldest inscriptions of the ancient South Arabian script, writes Isaac Samuel for Uncensored. The writings featured include scripts from across the sub-region.
The Africa Oxford Initiative Visiting Fellows Program. The program supports mid-career African researchers for two-month long fellowships at the University of Oxford.
International Finance Corporation intern program. Selected interns will be hired for between four and ten weeks between May and September in Washington DC. (Jan. 20)
*This brief was produced while listening to Smile by Les Amazones d’Afrique feat. Niariu & Ami Yerewolo (Mali). [Spotify]
Our best wishes for a productive and ideas-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, ideas, tickets to Nigeria and any of Cardi B’s “patriotic” outfits to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.
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