Hi, Quartz Africa readers!
Former Burkinabe leader Thomas Sankara is much loved by many Africans who see him as one of the last great visionary thinkers on the continent. Given he died in 1987, his ideology is rarely associated with the mass consumer take-up of technology which took off in the mid-1990s. Yet, his philosophy for radical change and breaching old boundaries is as relevant today for tearing Africa from its rising/reeling narrative and acknowledging the role technology and innovation can play. Here’s a truncated version of the original title quote translated from a 1985 interview.
“You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from non-conformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future…We must dare to invent the future.”
Daring to invent the future is what many of the tech entrepreneurs across Africa do everyday, against all odds. Their many challenges include unreliable electricity, expensive bandwidth and limited capital markets. Those who build the ecosystems for these entrepreneurs are doing an equally important job. This week we learned of an entrepreneur in Nigeria’s northern city of Kaduna who’s set up a tech hub to help bring together a disparate tech community in a part of the country which has in recent years been too readily associated with the insurgent troubles of the northeast. “The goal is to get all these people and more on the same wavelength and let them naturally grow into a force,” says Ismaila Sanusi, founder of CoLab.
As noted this summer, the number of tech hubs in Africa have more than doubled in the last year with 314 as of July and no doubt with new ones like CoLab popping up elsewhere. Some of the bigger ones like iHub in Nairobi, CCHub in Lagos and Bandwidth Barn in Cape Town have been responsible for scores of influential African startups coming of age across the continent. Tech entrepreneurship and hubs are not an end in themselves but they’re an important fixture in the toolset for inventing our future.
Sankara would probably be pleased to know that young Burkinabes are working together at local tech hubs in Ouagadougou to do just that.
Yinka Adegoke, Quartz Africa editor
Africa wasn’t “rising” before and it’s not “reeling” now. For the past decade, Africans have watched the phrase “Africa rising” bandied about by Western media outlets and think tanks. But the continent is not so much as rising or reeling as it is growing unevenly and gradually writes Lily Kuo.
Don’t bring SexyBack. A video of missionaries in Uganda dancing to “I’m bringing missions back” to the tune of the Justin Timberlake hit is the latest in the misguided ‘white savior’ genre. Ugandans and other Africans on social media pushed back strongly. Here’s what happened when they did.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o deserves his Nobel now. Bob Dylan won this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature but the award should have gone to Ngũgĩ. The Kenyan writer’s literary and social activism has done more for literature and language than Dylan ever did while also making Africa and the world a better place, argues Abdi Latif Dahir.
Africa’s presidents are struggling to beat corruption. After years of paying lip-service to dealing with corruption, African presidents like Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari are faltering in their fight against graft. The sheer scale of the corruption scandals in both those countries and several others have seen presidents pronounce their helplessness in beating endemic corruption, writes Joshua Masinde.
Don’t quit the ICC, stay and fix it. This month, South Africa, Burundi and Gambia became the first African countries to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. But despite the perceived bias and criticism leveled against the ICC, Lynsey Chutel writes that African leaders shouldn’t just leave but rather stay help fix the institution designed to fight for the world’s most vulnerable people.
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Nigeria isn’t open for business just yet. The reality for businesses and investors in Nigeria over the past year has been particularly difficult. Low oil prices and reduced government earnings have triggered a currency crisis and led to the country’s first recession in decades. As Yomi Kazeem notes, the country also ranked low in all the categories of the World Bank’s 2017 survey on the ease of doing business.
Facebook’s Free Basics is an African dictator’s dream. Free Basics provides access to a low-data version of Facebook and other pre-selected websites to hundreds of millions of people in Africa. But the service has the potential to do more harm than good—giving governments a version of the internet they can influence, if not totally control, writes Nanjala Nyabola for Foreign Policy.
Small-scale solar power is surging ahead in Africa. Chronic power shortages in Africa trim about two percentage points from Africa’s annual economic growth, according to the World Bank. But across the continent, the Economist says, off-grid solar power is spreading at a rapid speed, allowing them to access power at a fraction of the cost of traditional sources of energy.
Unemployment data in South Africa (Nov. 1): The government of South Africa will release the unemployment data for the third quarter of the year.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (Nov. 7–18): The 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) is scheduled to take place in Marrakech city in Morocco. The meeting comes as a record 76 countries ratified the Paris Agreement aimed at fighting global warming.
Outcome of Côte D’Ivore’s constitutional vote (Oct. 30). Ivorians will vote today on adopting a new draft constitution unveiled less than a month ago. The hope is that the new document will finally help the country turn the page on years of crisis and bloodshed.
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