Hi Quartz Africa readers,
In April, Equity Group—East Africa’s largest bank in assets and deposits—and the Kenyan government organized a trade delegation to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to mark the country’s entrance into the East Africa Community. With a population of 90 million people, the DRC became the bloc’s largest member, raising the EAC’s collective GDP from $193 billion to $240 billion. The 26 Kenyan companies that were part of the trade mission committed KES 185 billion ($1.6 billion) in investment in the DRC.
The private sector’s involvement in the discussion of regional integration marks a symbolic expansion from a realm usually dominated by politics. Sérgio Pimenta, the regional vice president for Africa at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), one of the early investors in Equity Bank and also a supporter of the recent DRC trade delegation, underlined that point in a recent interview: “Africa’s integration isn’t just a political discussion. It’s a private sector discussion too. The private sector is aware that for Africa’s full potential to be unlocked, it has to be done at a regional level.”
Our siloed thinking of borders and nation states has limited the continent’s ability to harness its full potential. African companies recognizing the value of investing in other African countries has the potential to unlock economic opportunities for the whole continent.
—Ciku Kimeria, Africa editor
What to watch for in the Quartz Africa Member Brief
The case study
Name: Eshi Express
HQ: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Founders: Tigabu Haile, Haben Gebre
With a registered capital of 2.45 million birr ($46,000), Eshi Express was co-founded by Tigabu Haile, a law graduate, and Haben Gebre, an entrepreneur and investor. Haile was working in the non-profit sector when he noticed the demand for a reliable, affordable, and efficient courier service. It always took him days to send out invitations, and he also had to wait for gatherings to distribute published material to members.
Eshi began operating five years ago, offering three models of delivery: express (within 90 minutes), same day, and next-day delivery. All products are offered for less than two dollars. So far, the company has completed 140,000 deliveries and operates a fleet of 20 vans and 60 motorcycles. It is now piloting a delivery scheme in which people deliver goods such as letters and documents by foot. 35 young people were recruited in the pilot so far.
Learn more about Eshi in this coming Wednesday’s edition of the Quartz Africa Member Brief. To get the Member Brief directly in your inbox (and save 40%), become a member today!
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Stories this week
A Tunisian-French VC fund is ready for Africa. Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund (CAIF) unveiled a $112 million fund to invest in African startups. Alexander Onukwue looks into CAIF’s priorities, given the current cash crunch in global venture capital.
Meta is under fire for gagging a South African whistleblower. Faustine Ngila reports on a global campaign demanding that Meta stops silencing Daniel Motaung after he sued the company in Kenya for inhumane treatment and union busting.
East African English is leaving its mark. About 200 words from varieties of the English language spoken in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda were added to the Oxford English Dictionary, Priya Sippy writes.
African Mastercard virtual cards were disabled. Alexander Onukwue explains why some African fintech startups had to pull the plug temporarily.
AfCFTA can boost Africa’s cultural economy. It is not only industries such as transport and manufacturing, that will stand to benefit from The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA,) Meron Demisse & Lincoln Ajoku write.
Funding Africa’s infrastructure gap has gotten trickier. New estimates show Africa needs up to $108 billion every year to keep its infrastructure sustainable, Faustine Ngila reports from Africa 50’s general shareholders meeting in Morocco.
Namibia’s cheetahs will return to India. After years of delay, India can finally host eight of the world’s fastest animals at its Kuno wildlife sanctuary. Niharika Sharma explains what took so long.
The wave that birthed a unicorn
“Every startup in Africa needs to take a leaf out of Wave’s book.” —Stanislas Akueson, economic research analyst at University of Lome in Togo
Wave, the payments and money transfer company launched in 2018, upended west Africa’s finance app market in less than four years. It is now home to half of the mobile money accounts in Senegal and it’s quickly expanding in markets nearby. It achieved this largely by undercutting the incumbents on fees—Wave charges a 1% flat fee for sending funds, and no fees for the settling of utility bills. Rival Orange Money had to lower its fees by 80% just to stay competitive.
But co-founders Drew Durbin and Lincoln Quirk didn’t just have pricing prowess on their side. While other companies have customers dial USSD codes into their mobile phones to transfer and receive funds, Wave instead relies on QR codes—on cards and in apps—which are simply scanned by an agent to complete a transaction. The technology was a game-changer in the markets where Wave operates.
Kingsley Kobo reports on how it grew to own large shares of the market against strong incumbents and become a unicorn in the process.
Naivas, Kenya’s largest supermarket chain, received a $31.5 million investment from Proparco, the French development finance institution. The deal is part of a collaboration between Proparco, IBL Group, and DEG to acquire a 40% stake in Naivas, which has 84 stores in Kenya.
Bloom, a Sudanese digital banking startup, raised $6.5 million from Y Combinator, Global Founders Capital, and Visa. In March, it became the first Sudanese startup to join Y Combinator’s accelerator program. Visa’s investment coincides with Bloom’s participation in the card network’s Fintech Fast Track Program. Bloom’s app currently offers a savings account to users.
In April, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its global growth forecast to 3.6% for this year and next, warning that the global economic outlook could get worse from there. Now, the IMF is looking to make another cut later this month for both 2022 and 2023.
The outlook has “darkened significantly,” wrote Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the IMF, in a blog published July 13. She did not provide specific figures.
So why is the IMF reconsidering its growth prediction? Global events like the Russia-Ukraine war and the covid pandemic continue to hurt supply chains, driving up prices and boosting inflation. The resulting economic uncertainty is putting the world at greater risk for a recession.
Other things we liked
Legalizing polygamy in Côte d’Ivoire. For Al Jazeera, Hannane Ferdjani details how a bill in Côte d’Ivoire to legalize polygamy has stirred resistance and support, including from people who say monogamy is “hypocritical.”
Africa still intrigues investors. For Rest of World, Yinka Adegoke explores the continued appeal of African startups to venture capitalists in the middle of the current global downturn.
Mane is Africa’s player of the year. For the second consecutive year, Senegal and Bayern Munich attacker Sadio Mane is the continent’s best player. BBC’s Piers Edwards explains why no other player can outclass Mane on the pitch at the moment.
Migrants who tried to cross the Moroccan border to Spain were jailed. The 33 migrants who clashed with police at the Melilla border last month will spend 11 months in prison, writes Aida Alami of the New York Times.
Methanol killed teenagers in South Africa. The Guardian’s Jason Burke reports that investigators have found methanol in all the 21 teenagers who died at the Enyobeni tavern in the city of East London last month.
Join Orange’s cybersecurity academy. Ready to start a career in cybersecurity in South Africa? Get paid when you join the Orange Cyberdefense Sensepost Academy for 2023 and learn how to keep cyber criminals at bay. (All year)
‘Hack the Mara.’ Mara Foundation has announced a week-long last mile payment tracking hackathon for developers, designers, and entrepreneurs from across Africa to create solutions for the continent. Participants stand a chance to win $100,000 in cash prize and additional funding from Mara and its partners. (Aug. 5)
🎵 This brief was produced while listening to “Moyo” by Mbosso Ft Costa Titch & Phantom Steeze (Tanzania and South Africa)
Our best wishes for a productive and ideas-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, ideas, east African greetings, and infrastructure bonds to email@example.com. You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.
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