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Which countries have rolled out 5G in Africa?

Despite progress by African nations in deploying 5G, the network will only be active in cities, locking out rural communities.

Astra metaverse
Astra metaverse
Astra metaverse
This story was published on our Quartz Africa Weekly newsletter, News and culture from around the continent.
  • Ciku Kimeria
By Ciku Kimeria

I tell African stories

Published

Hi Quartz Africa readers,

Before my recent move back home to Nairobi, I lived in Dakar, Senegal for close to six years. Right next to my house was a Belgian-style chocolatier. It was such a joy sitting in the garden as my little one ran around and I gobbled up truffles.

“Singapore is a rock in the middle of the ocean. What do they have [that African countries don’t]? Human capital,” said Patrick Achi, prime minister of Côte d’Ivoire, last week in a livestreamed session from Davos that I listened in on.

What do chocolate and human capital have to do with each other? A lot, actually.

Côte d’Ivoire is one of the world’s largest exporters of cocoa. Yet even though cocoa is a $138 billion market, Côte d’Ivoire only gets $8 billion a year from it. Human capacity constraints mean the country is mostly limited to exporting raw material. In a session called “Preparing for Africa’s Growing Global Role,” Achi estimated that if a significant portion of cocoa could be processed locally, the country’s GDP could grow by up to 70%.

According to the Atlas of Economic Complexity—a really engaging site with data visualization tools explaining global economic dynamics—half of the world’s chocolate exports come from Germany, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, and France, while 71% of the world’s cocoa beans are exported from Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon.

If Africa is to fully harness the demographic dividend of being the continent in the world that will have the most people entering the workforce by 2035, we need to invest much more in our human capital. —Ciku Kimeria, Africa editor


How to bring EVs to Africa

Name: Metro Africa Xpress (MAX)
Founded: 2015
HQ: Lagos, with a staff of 350 across eight cities in Nigeria and Ghana. Expansion is planned for east Africa and Egypt.
Founders: Adetayo Bamiduro and Chinedu Azodoh
Latest valuation: Undisclosed

MAX wasn’t founded as an EV company. Its main goal was, and is, to help professional drivers access and earn more from delivery and passenger gigs by owning their own vehicles. The company’s core product is lease-to-own vehicle financing, especially for motorcycles. But founder and CEO Adetayo Bamiduro said there was just one problem: His customers hated the bikes, which were mostly imported from China. They had short ranges and struggled with heavy loads, and manufacturers weren’t willing to make changes.

Learn more about how Africa’s EV market is being driven by two- and three-wheeled vehicles in the most recent edition of the Quartz Africa Member Brief. To get the next one sent right to your inbox, sign up for a free trial of Quartz Africa membership.


Stories this week

Blockchain millions finally land in Africa. While other technologies such as AI, Big Data, VR, 5G and even cybersecurity have seen financing over the last decade, blockchain remained unfunded in Africa. But since last year, millions of dollars have been injected into Africa’s blockchain scene, Faustine Ngila reports.

A chart showing the African countries that raised blockchain financing in 2021

Google’s Equiano to go live this year. Juliet Ehimuan, Google’s director for west Africa, has a front row seat to the process of laying the Equiano internet cable in Africa. In this QZ&A, she explains to Alexander Onukwue, what the company hopes to get out of increasing the continent’s internet bandwidth.

Pfizer’s low drug prices will benefit Africa. This past week at Davos, Pfizer announced a new program that will provide low-income countries with not-for-profit drugs. Priya Sippy explores more on the program that will include 24 African countries.

What can east Africa do to balance trade with the EU. Faustine Ngila was in Kigali, Rwanda this past week to attend talks centered on the factors limiting east Africa’s trade with the EU. He identified a number of indicators needed to improve the trade balance.

Germany turns to west Africa for gas. On his first trip to Africa as German chancellor, Olaf Scholz indicated interest in helping Senegal build out an ongoing gas development project. As Alexander Onukwue lays out, it’s just one of Germany’s efforts to find other gas suppliers not named Russia.

Monkeypox stories shouldn’t lead with Black imagery. The disease, usually endemic to west and central Africa, has been reported mainly in Europe, Canada, the US, and Australia. Yet media stories have led with decades-old images of Black people. Alexander Onukwue reports on this recurrent theme of Black bodies representing suffering.

Africa’s 5G dream will take time to be realized. Fourteen African nations are actively testing 5G networks but remain far behind targets for actual commercialization. But that leaves 41 nations that have not even started thinking about 5G. Faustine Ngila details why it could take time for the entire continent to realize its 5G dream.

A map showing the African countries that planned to roll out 5G.

Surprising discovery of interest

Image copyright: Aisha Olademeji
Space suit by Aisha Olademeji

Africa’s virtual designers are already preparing for metaverse fashion

“For me the metaverse means freedom,” says Idiat Shiole, a Nigerian virtual fashion designer, “I say that because I’m Muslim. When I worked as a fashion illustrator for most fashion houses, their first impression of me was normally ‘won’t this lady just draw Islamic dresses for us or can she even draw?’ But in the metaverse, nobody cares who you are, they only care what you can do. I just wanted to do what I love without being oppressed.”

In 2018, Idiat Shiole stumbled on a software called Marvelous Designer to help her create locomotive 3D models and fabrics. Ugonna-Ora Owoh shows how the frontier industry of metaverse fashion is budding in Africa.


Charting west Africa’s soccer scoring prowess

Mohamed Salah had another prolific season in the English Premier League. In nine months, he totaled 23 goals for Liverpool, taking his English career total to 120 in 193 games, an average of more than one goal every two games. No African player in Europe’s major soccer leagues scored as many as Salah, who also had more assists than any other player in England.

But the Egyptian is somewhat exceptional in another way: most high-scoring African soccer stars with 10 or more goals in the 2021/22 season are not from his part of the continent.

Chart of top scoring African soccer players in Europe in the 2021/2022 season.

Spotlight on a Quartz Africa 2021 Innovator

Stylized image of Quartz Africa Innovator, Regina Honu.

Regina Honu leads Soronko Academy, a technology and digital skills development center based in Accra, Ghana. Soronko equips talented young women with the technical and soft skills required to land jobs in technology as a means of reducing the gender gap in the industry.

Soronko has an interactive coding and human-centered design curriculum and works with Unicef and the Mastercard Foundation as part of a consortium of organizations in the Young Africa Works scheme in Ghana, aiming to help 2.1 million Ghanaian women find “fulfilling and dignified jobs.”

Check out Quartz Africa’s Innovators 2021 list, which showcases the pioneering work being done by Honu, and other female African innovators.


Dealmaker

Namibia-based ecommerce company JABU raised $15 million in a round led by Tiger Global, and included Box Group, Knollwood, D Global Ventures, Afore Capital, Oldslip, and FJ Labs. JABU is in the family of startups that serves informal retailers who need to order goods easily on an app without leaving their shops. This is their second raise this year, following a $3.2 million seed round in January.

Esaal, an Egyptian health consultation app, raised $1.7 million from A15, an Egyptian investment firm. In addition to booking doctors online, Esaal also connects users to nutrition counselors in a bid to battle obesity. The company says it is present in seven other countries: Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Palestine, and Iraq.

South African edtech startup Foondamate raised $2 million. The round was led by UK-based firm LocalGlobe, with participation from Emerge Education, FirstCheckAfrica, Future Africa, and LoftyInc, including a couple of angel investors. Founded in 2020, Foondamate uses a WhatsApp chatbot to provide lessons to users.


Quartz Gems

🎓 Do you speak Davos?

Perhaps you knew exactly what Satya Nadella meant when he talked about urging the cybersecurity teams at Microsoft to take a “shift-left” approach. If so, you’re bound to ace our brand new Davos jargon quiz, based on the latest, most opaque terminology heard this week at WEF. Take the quiz here.

If you missed our Need to Know: Davos email, catch up on the archive.


a perfume bottle with refracted light through it
Image copyright: Eric Helgas, styling by Alex Citrin-Safadi

What’s that smell? The simple joy of a good perfume masks the utter complexity of making one. Scents come from all over the world—flowers, forests, deer glands, whale guts—and perfumers are part chemist, part artist, part supply chain expert. That means as the world evolves, so too will the lengths we go to smell great in it. 🎧  Learn more with this week’s episode of the Quartz Obsession podcast.

Listen on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google | Stitcher


Other things we liked

The eNaira is failing to catch on. For Al Jazeera, Khadija Yusra Sanusi asked Nigerians what they thought of the digital currency launched last year. The reception has been cold.

African co-working spaces are seeing traction. For the Financial Times, David Pilling makes the case that companies are signing up for co-working spaces in African cities like Nairobi and Johannesburg as part of a larger back to work trend after the pandemic.

Tanzania’s president joins Time’s Top 100 league. When she took over after the death of John Magufuli, Samia Sulugu Hassan started to get Tanzania back on the global map, first by admitting covid existed in the country, then by speaking about democracy in global forums. She now makes it to the Time’s 100 list of most influential people in the world.

Zimdollar is on the verge of death. Economists in Zimbabwe are warning that if the government continues to pay for supplies in US dollars, the Zimdollar will be obsolete by June. Newsday’s Privilege Gumbodete reports that if the government wants to rescue the economy, the first step is prioritizing the usage of its own currency.


ICYMI

Join the global conversation. If you’re based in Africa and you have five years of experience in your line of expertise, then you can join Experts in Africa, a new online platform providing global newsmakers, event organizers, and policymakers with easy access to African expertise. (Sep. 2022)

Apply for media awards in west Africa. Print, broadcast, and online journalists who focus on governance and development should apply for West Africa Media Excellence Awards. (June 30)


🎵 This brief was produced while listening to “Fils de joie” by Stromae (Rwandese-Belgian)


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