WhatsApp clone apps are a hacker’s dream

Plus: Kenya’s GMO conundrum
WhatsApp clone apps are a hacker’s dream

Hi Quartz Africa readers,

When WhatsApp clone apps such YoWhatsApp (YoWa), WhatsAppGB and FMWhatsapp came into the market, they wowed millions in Africa and beyond with their expanded privacy features, custom fonts, bulk messaging, and the ability to transfer files of up to 700MBs.

Now though, there seems to be an additional feature that users should be very concerned about. Moscow-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky has warned that a Trojan Horse by the name Triada, can penetrate into private messaging and take control of all smartphone services if the user is not using the legitimate WhatsApp app. Within the Middle east and Africa region, the firm says 27% of those affected are from African countries.

To be specific, a version of YoWhatsApp infected with Triada, has been advertised on SnapTube—a top app for downloading videos from YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram—meaning you’ll now see more ads but with a huge caveat: There is malware silently stealing your private data and using it to sign you up for paid content without your consent. FMWhatsapp was infected last year. Google’s Playstore has banned such modifications of the original app, but in the illegitimate clone of Playstore, Vidmate, cyber criminals have published a version of YoWhatsApp called Whatsapp Plus with more attack vectors.

Even more worrying, this Trojan is stealing the keys required for WhatsApp to operate, hijacking users’ accounts and using login information to wipe out bank or mobile money balances through the various payments apps installed on the smartphone, while also distributing the same malware to WhatsApp contacts and extracting money from them, too.

Apps downloaded only from official app stores will not guarantee you the same choices of custom features, but they minimize the possibility of waking up tomorrow morning to find all your account balances have been reduced to zero and that you have to repay loans you did not apply for. —Faustine Ngila, east Africa correspondent

What to watch for in the Quartz Africa member brief

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By the digits

54%: Fintech’s share of the venture funding of more than $4 billion raised by African startups in 2021

$330 billion: The financing gap for small and medium-size enterprises in Africa

73%: The proportion of adults in Egypt who are unbanked

60%: The proportion of utility bills paid by cash in Egypt

2/3: The proportion of adults in Africa who lack access to formal financial services

2.78%: The insurance penetration rate in Africa

Learn more about MNT-Halan, an Egyptian Super App, in this past week’s edition of the Quartz Africa Member Brief. To get the Member Brief directly in your inbox (and save 40%), become a member today!

Stories this week

The Africa CDC boss was not immune to visa struggles. Ahmed Ogwell Ouma says he almost missed a global health summit after immigration personnel at Frankfurt airport “mistreated” him. As Annalisa Merelli explains, it’s a common struggle for African attendees of high-level conferences in Europe and North America.

Ghana’s traders are closing shop to protest inflation. With inflation at 37.2% in Ghana, traders in the crisis-hit country say higher prices, exchange and interest rates are eroding their business capital, Alexander Onukwue reports.

Will censoring Al Shabaab press coverage tame terrorism in Somalia? The Somali government has banned journalists from writing about the terrorist group, which has responded by sending journalists a chilling message. Faustine Ngila reports on this new media war.

Nigeria’s floods have displaced a million people. Heavy rains and the release of excess water from a dam in Cameroon have caused Nigeria’s worst floods in a decade, leaving many homes under water and over 600 people dead, writes Alexander Onukwue.

It’s politicians vs scientists in the GMO conundrum in Kenya. A lift of the ban on GMOs is causing jitters in Kenya over safety and human health. Faustine Ngila details the genesis of the issue and why GMO is a polarizing topic in Kenya.

Charting Uganda’s rise as a financial star in eastern Africa

A chart showing select eastern African countries, their financial market scores and stock market capitalization.

Kampala could soon dislodge Nairobi from its status as the financial capital of eastern Africa if Uganda continues with measures that have seen it rise to become the regions’ most developed financial sector. That’s the forecast ofthe sixth edition of the 2022 Absa Africa Financial Markets Index (pdf) released by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), a London-based banking think tank and Absa Bank, one of Africa’s leading banks. Faustine Ngila reports on the findings.


Egyptian e-commerce company MaxAB raised $40 million. The company which supplies groceries to retailers raised $55 million last year. Investors in the startup’s new round include British International Investment (BII), and Silver Lake, the American private equity firm.

Nigerian e-commerce company Bumpa raised $4 million in a seed round. Bumpa’s services include an app for small businesses to manage inventory and payments, including a recent integration with Meta for easier online sales. The startup’s investors include Base10 Partners, Plug & Play Ventures, DFS Labs, and FirstCheck Africa among others.

Quartz Gems

“Make in India” has a long way to go

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has pushed his “Make in India” initiative for the past eight years, trying to wean the country off its dependence on China-made goods. But even after billions of rupees in investments, Modi’s hard sought self-reliance has failed to materialize as China’s trade surplus with India has now exceeded $1 trillion.

India is still a long way off from its target, which seems to only be moving farther away.

30%: Increase in India’s imports from China in the past five years

$125.6 billion: Bilateral trade in 2021, which crossed the $100 billion threshold for the first time

$97.5 billion: Portion of 2021 bilateral trade that constituted India’s imports from China

What’s your salary?

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Illustration: Jo Minor

Near the top of the list of Conversations to Avoid this Holiday Season™️ is how much money you make. But maybe you’re among a growing group of professionals that know how much your friends make, and even how much your boss makes—and you might be happier for it.

Pay transparency can make our workplaces a whole lot more equitable. But being privy to that personal information can also be a double-edged sword. If salaries are openly shared, companies need a justification to pay one person more than another. There’s even a company where employees can vote on each others’ salaries. It’s an extreme end of the pay transparency spectrum, to be sure—but is it a great idea, or a terrible one?

🎧 We’re getting honest about pay in this week’s episode of the Work Reconsidered podcast. Listen on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google | Stitcher

Other things we liked

The discovery of a second mass grave in Malawi led to dozens of arrests. BBC’s Peter Jegwa reveals 72 Ethiopians hiding in Karonga and 10 Malawians were arrested after 25 bodies were found in a mass grave in Mzimba.

About 50 people died in Chad during anti-government protests. For Reuters, Mahamat Ramadane reports on the casualties resulting from demonstrations demanding democratic leadership.

Namibia now wants to create a CBDC. Tech Cabal’s Ephraim Modise explains why the central bank of Namibia thinks it’s time to create the Namibia Dollar Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

Coconut prices hit the roof in Zanzibar. For The Citizen, Mohammed Issa explores the cause of rising coconut prices and how they’re causing distress in the kitchen and furniture yards.

Egypt freed 35 detainees. Egypt Today writes on the joy by families after the latest release of pre-trial detainees, adding to hundreds of inmates who have been set free since president Sisi called for the release of young prisoners in April.


Apply for Forbes Africa 30 Under 30. Are you an African entrepreneur running an innovative business over the last two years and aged under 29? Well, here is an early chance to be listed in next years’ Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 in various sectors. (Mar. 31, 2023)

Win $20,000 at the World Innovation Summit Awards. Applications to the 2023 WISE awards are now open. The prizes identify, celebrate, and promote six innovative projects for their positive contribution to education and society. (Dec. 1)

🎵 This brief was produced while listening to ‘Ololufe’ by Flavour feat Chidihma (Nigeria).

This week’s brief took you to 🇰🇪, 🇳🇬, 🇪🇬, 🇸🇴, 🇬🇭, 🇲🇼, 🇪🇹, 🇹🇩, 🇳🇦, 🇹🇿 and 🇺🇬

Our best wishes for a productive and ideas-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, ideas, visa-free travel, and Super Apps to africa@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.

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