Hi Quartz Africa reader,
“If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades,” said Bill Gates in a 2015 TED Talk, “it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war.”
At the time, West Africa was battling a devastating Ebola outbreak that killed more than 11,000 people. Now, more than two years after it began to infect humans, covid-19 is thought to have taken the lives of millions globally.
This past week, I was part of a small group of African journalists that had a virtual roundtable with Bill Gates discussing highlights from his upcoming book, How to Prevent the Next Pandemic. Now is the time to begin planning for the next pandemic, he said, even as most countries are suffering from pandemic fatigue and eager to move on. His major rallying cry is that the world needs to be focused on pandemics, even when we are not in the midst of one.
The key to preparing for future pandemics, according to Gates, is the creation of a Global Epidemic Response and Mobilization team, aptly abbreviated as GERM. He described the team as being akin to firefighters, who prepare for emergencies before they have happened. While the GERM team focuses on disease monitoring, research, and development, countries must get on with the much-needed work of improving health systems.
For Africa, the benefits of increased disaster preparedness would be deeply felt given its comparatively weak health systems, lower budgets to fight health crises, and limited social and economic safety nets. If there is one lesson the continent learned from the pandemic, it’s that the inequalities that divide the world only became starker in the face of crisis.
When the West prioritized vaccines for itself, or the continent was punished with whiplash travel bans when South African scientists notified the world about omicron, it was a reminder that even in disaster, the wealthy prevail. —Ciku Kimeria, Africa editor
The case study
Founder: Nghombombong Minuifuong
Latest valuation: Undisclosed
Bongalo was founded as a way to book and pay for travel accommodations using mobile money, which is increasingly popular on the continent. In many African countries, getting paid on other major platforms is far from straightforward.
“For an average host on Airbnb in Africa, they [have] one way to get paid out, which is Payoneer Prepaid Debit Card,” explains Bongalo founder Nghombombong Minuifuong. “They need to buy a Payoneer card, which gets shipped to them, and they attach it to their Airbnb account. Each time there is a booking, they get a deposit on that card and they need to go to an ATM, slot the card, and withdraw the money in local currency, which gets exchanged in the foreign currency. They pay at least three fees to get their money—exchange fee, card fee, and Airbnb charge. [That’s part of] what we are trying to stop.”
Bongalo is meant for both guests, who can book their preferred accommodation on the platform, and hosts, who can list their rental properties. The platform allows for secure transactions that avoid multiple fees using mobile money wallets and USSD confirmation codes. Minuifuong calls it “Africa’s Airbnb.”
Bongalo is currently made up of a nine-person team of developers, travel specialists, and marketers, and in 2020 pegged its valuation at around $2 million. It has so far listed over 6,000 properties in Cameroon and Rwanda, where it has operations, and has processed 2,000 transactions. The company says reservations have grown by an average annual rate of 60% over the past three years, a number that jumps to 80% for listings.
For now, Bongalo’s only funding is through Google’s Black Founders Fund Africa, but Minuifuong is keen to expand the startup’s reach to Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Kenya, Ghana, and Uganda.
👆 That was from our latest Quartz Africa Member Brief. To have it delivered right to your own inbox, sign up for a free trial of Quartz Africa membership.
Stories this week
Nigeria’s telcos become banks. The Central Bank of Nigeria is now issuing big mobile network operators with banking licensing in a bid to liberalize the financial services sector. Alexander Onukwue explains why this matters.
Africa’s fourth industrial revolution hinges on internet connectivity. Cassava Technologies is creating infrastructure for fast, reliable, and affordable internet in the continent. In this Q&A with the CEO, Hardy Pemhiwa, Carlos Mureithi explores why Africa’s future depends on internet access.
Africa still rules mobile money. The continent that was a forerunner in the adoption of mobile money now accounts for 70% of the $1 trillion global mobile money market. Seth Onyango reports on the dynamics behind these GSMA survey findings.
Uganda’s pain of doing business. In mid-2021, the Ugandan government implemented tax reforms to reduce imports, boost local production, and create jobs. Apophia Agiresaasi tells how some of these reforms are eating into the profits of business owners who rely on imports.
There are now over 500 African players in Euro leagues. Seth Onyango dives into the rising demand for African footballers and interesting geographic trends it implies.
Spotlight on a Quartz Africa 2021 Innovator
DIARRABLU is a brand that lies at the intersection of mathematics and fashion design. The brand’s design process is the result of innovative creative mathematics, using graphs and geometric transformations to create iconic prints. This innovation is inspired by the founder Diarra Bousso’s background as a mathematician.
The brand’s operational structure allows the company to generate thousands of print iterations with algorithms and only produce what’s needed based on customer polling and engagement prior to production. Through this process, it is able to produce what’s wanted and reduce textile waste by 60%.
Sustainable through their waste minimization policy, the brand’s design process is also characterized by colorful prints, and clean style lines. In 2020 the company was able to grow its revenues by 900%, and reach 10,000 customers in 40 countries. It also became a top 10 finalist out of 54,000 applicants for Jack Ma’s Africa Business Heroes competition.
Check out Quartz Africa’s Innovators 2021 list, which showcases the pioneering work being done by Bousso, and other female African innovators.
Norebase, a Nigerian startup aiming to ease the challenge of business incorporation in Africa, raised $1 million in a round led by Samurai Incubate, and Consonance Investment. Nigeria-based VC firms Future Africa, Ventures Platform, Microtraction, Boleh Venture, and Voltron Capital participated in the round. Norebase started operations in late 2021.
New boss, who dis?
With rumors circulating that Elon Musk already has someone in mind to lead Twitter that isn’t Parag Agrawal, Musk would do well to remember that the social media company’s bosses don’t last long. In fact, Twitter may be one of the hardest tech companies to run, as evidenced by the high turnover among its chief executives.
A little penne goes a long way
Why is pasta so popular all over the world? In part because Italy spent centuries perfecting the shapes, the production, and the preparation—while also exporting an aspirational idea of Mediterranean life that is still associated with perfect pasta today. 🎧 Learn more with this week’s episode of the Quartz Obsession podcast.
Listen on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google | Stitcher
Other things we liked
Elon Musk, misinformation, and white-privilege in apartheid South Africa. For the New York Times, John Eligon and Lynsey Chutel rewind to the late 1980s, an era of anti-black propaganda and apartheid in which Elon Musk grew up, to contextualize his free speech worldview and imminent Twitter takeover.
Meta slows down hiring. Facebook parent company Meta will now slow down the employment of new mid- to senior-level staff in a bid to cut costs. Bloomberg’s Kurt Wagner explains why.
Somali-French art dealer celebrates Black art in Paris. Mariane Ibrahim is one of the few Black gallerists in Paris. Jacqui Palumbo reports for CNN on her recently opened gallery dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and the diaspora.
Getting to heaven costs less than a lot of phones do. Nigerian pastor Ade Abraham is under fire for claiming that he can show people a gate leading to heaven from the south-western Nigeria town of Araromi-Ugbeshi in Ekiti state. BBC’s Yetunde Olugbenga reports on this $700 offer.
Press freedom in Nigeria? For The Republic, Todah Opeyemi assesses the dangers inherent in being a journalist in Nigeria through the lens of individuals who have nearly been harmed in the line of duty.
Reality show seeks African startups. Startups from Africa stand a chance of winning $1 million from American venture capitalist Tim Draper and a chance to pitch at the Vatican. (May 10)
Boost your business through AfCFTA. Africa’s SMEs and startups in the product manufacturing space and creatives are invited by AfCFTA to participate in a continental brand competition aimed at boosting their businesses. (May 10)
🎵 This brief was produced while listening to “Nani” by Gaz Mawete (DRC)
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