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Shein’s $15 million pledge won’t stop the flow of fashion waste to Ghana, June

Chinese fast fashion retailer Shein can't donate its way out of the waste its products create in west Africa.

Panelists speak at The Africa CEO Forum
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,

Today I’m reflecting on “sneakers and suits” as CEOs of large African companies met with startups founders.

For the first time this year, African startup founders were included in the program of the Africa CEO Forum, the continent’s largest gathering of private sector leaders. The 30 founders who joined the event’s “Disrupters Club” have collectively raised $1 billion since their companies’ inception and included the likes of Uche Ogboi of e-logistics platform Lori Systems, Karim Beguir of Tunisian AI firm Instadeep, which recently raised $100 million, and Ikenna Nzewi of Releaf and Alloysius Attah of Farmerline, respectively Nigeria-founded and Ghana-founded agtech firms.

The continent’s innovators seemingly assimilated smoothly into the crowd of legacy business leaders. One startup founder whispered to me, “I think I’m the only one here in sneakers.” Looking at the sea of mostly black suits and ties, I started to think about how the business world in the continent will change in the future. Formality, strict hierarchy, and bureaucracy are part of the work culture in most large African companies. This is the antithesis of startup culture everywhere in Africa, which values results above all, with less emphasis on how one gets there.

The future will see increased partnerships between larger legacy firms trying to tap into the benefits of digitization and innovation and startups trying to grow their customer base. The jeans and t-shirts, work-from-home, work-from-coffee-shop, brainstorming culture is about to be confronted with the suit and tie, 8-5, “the oga at the top knows best” mentality. It will be interesting to see how this potential clash in working cultures plays out as disruptors and more established corporations meet as equals. —Ciku Kimeria, Africa editor

Cheat sheet

Image copyright: Quartz

💡  The opportunity: Rising internet and smartphone penetration across Africa is giving rise to increased reliance on social media for communication and networking. This presents an opportunity for a fast-rising group of social commerce companies.

🌍  The roadmap: Social commerce startups across African markets are tapping into social media agents to reach larger circles through platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, WhatsApp, and Twitter. These agents take goods straight to interested end-users.

🤔  The challenge: Organizing Africa’s informal retail distribution platforms into formal channels is a key opportunity that social commerce and e-commerce companies are pursuing. Expensive and poor connectivity is also a challenge on a continent that has a sizable portion of its population in poorly serviced rural areas.

💰  The stakeholders: Social media sales agents, e-commerce and social media startups, digital businesses, development financiers, international finance institutions, fintech firms, and consumers.

Learn more about Brimore, an Egyptian social commerce startup that almost exclusively works with women resellers to sell products through social media on behalf of manufacturers, in the most recent edition of the Quartz Africa Member Brief. To get the Member Brief directly in your inbox, become a member for less than $1 a week.

Stories this week

Kenyan hackers are hiding stolen money in bitcoin. Four university students were arrested for stealing money from credit card owners and using it to buy bitcoin. Faustine Ngila reports on how Kenya is becoming a cybercrime hotspot in east Africa. 

Tanzania wants people to ditch cash for good. The government cut an unpopular levy on mobile money transfers and withdrawals by 43%. It may not be enough to jumpstart the country’s mobile economy, according to Faustine Ngila.

Shein’s donation won’t fix Ghana’s fashion waste problem. The Chinese fast fashion retailer pledged $15 million towards managing the west African country’s textile waste. Alexander Onukwue explains why this isn’t the big step Shein thinks it is.

A dark horse joined Kenya’s presidential two-horse race. Roots party leader Prof. George Wajackoyah keeps gaining followers, promising to lift families out of poverty by legalizing cannabis and farming snakes. Faustine Ngila looks into how the unconventional candidate might cause a re-run in upcoming presidential elections.

South Africa is becoming Europe’s coal darling. Starting from mid-August, Europe will stop importing coal from Russia. South Africa is already filling the gap, writes Alexander Onukwue.

Charting attractiveness of countries as investment destinations

Deloitte's Africa CEO results

Côte d’Ivoire is reclaiming its reputation as a top investment destination in Francophone Africa, and in the continent as a whole. This is according to the 2022 CEO Barometer Survey that was recently released at the Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan, the largest annual gathering of Africa’s private sector.

Political stability, favorable business climate reforms and a strong economy are the key factors in the west African country’s renewed prominence, Ciku Kimeria reports.

Dealmaker

Pan-African payments company MFS Africa raised $100 million in an extension of its series C round, bringing the total funding to $200 million—a mix of debt and equity investments, led by Admaius Capital Partners.

Khazenly, a one-year-old Egyptian startup connecting online sellers to warehousing, raised $2.5 million in a seed round led by Arzan Venture Capital, and Shorooq Partners. Camel Ventures and Averroes Ventures also invested.

Jumba, a Kenyan B2B construction technology platform that launched in April, raised $1 million in a pre-seed round led by Enza Capital with participation from Seedstars International Ventures, Chandaria Capital, Future Africa, Logos Ventures, First Check Africa, and angel investors.

Quartz Gems

Expensive gasoline is prompting drivers to give electric vehicles (EVs) a go. Gasoline prices in the US crossed the $5 per gallon threshold last week. While not the highest price ever, it’s still the highest in recent memory.

No wonder interest in alternatives to gas-guzzling engines has spiked, too. Since the start of May, US Google searches for “electric car” are up by half and searches for “EV” are up by a third.

A line graph showing the change in US gas prices versus Google searches for EV and electric car. They have held steady until March of 2022, when interest started to grow in EVs.

Increased awareness in EVs may not translate into sales. Like the broader auto market, EVs have been affected by supply chain problems, including disruptions in China. EVs are also generally more expensive than fossil fuel-powered vehicles, although they tend to be cheaper to own once you factor in tax incentives and the lifetime cost of fuel and maintenance. Luckily for those who’ve googled EVs but balked at the price tag, more affordable models are set to launch next year.

Other things we liked

Police shut down a “baby factory” in Nigeria. The operation freed 35 teenagers who had been abducted and kept in a secret house in Anambra state where they give birth to babies for sale. BBC’s Ishaq Khalid explains how criminal gangs run these facilities.

Uganda’s veteran opposition leader was jailed just a few days after his release. Kizza Besigye was charged with offenses related to leading an anti-inflation protest in Kampala. Elias Biryabarema of Reuters reports.

End the violence against Tanzania’s nomadic community. Human rights groups accused police of forcibly removing pastoralist Maasai communities from their ancestral land in Ngorongoro district, according to Al Jazeera.

Kenyans sold into slavery in Middle East are coming home in body bags. The Elephant’s Eliud Kibii questions the Kenyan government’s silence over the killing and abuse of Kenyans who take up domestic work in the Gulf countries.

A new book documents the sex lives of African women. Ghanaian author Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah boldly opens a conversation in a continent where talking about sex is still considered a taboo. Abdi Latif Dahir of the New York Times reviews it.

ICYMI

Get trained and certified by Google on e-commerce. Owners of small and medium businesses in Kenya can be trained by Google on the latest e-commerce skills and leverage on emerging trends. (June 21)

Apply for climate change travel fellowships. The Earth Journalism Network is sponsoring a fellowship for African journalists to cover the UN climate negotiations, Nov. 7-18, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (July 4)

🎵 This brief was produced while listening to “Royaume Kunga” by Ferre Gola (DRC)

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