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DIGITAL AMBITIONS

Late last year, the World Bank Group, in partnership with the African Union and International Telecommunications Union, launched an initiative called “A Digital Infrastructure Moonshot for Africa” with an ambitious target to get universal and affordable digital access to all Africans by 2030. In time for the Spring Meetings in Washington DC earlier this month, the World Bank Pulse report focused on how digital technologies might transform Africa’s economies and ultimately help alleviate poverty.

By taking a step back and looking at how digital already impacts African countries, the World Bank reminds us plenty of what we’re familiar with but draws links to what should be possible particularly for African economies. For example, if you’re reading (or writing) about Africa’s tech hubs and startups every day, it’s easy to forget that still only 27% of Africa’s population had access to the internet in 2018. Also, few Africans have digital IDs, which places all kinds of limits on online businesses or services. That said, far too few African businesses have been quick to add digital services while very few African governments invest strategically in developing digital infrastructure, services and skills or support entrepreneurship. These would need to change.

The report argues that if Africa as a continent was to reach the “moonshot” target of universal digital access by 2030, this would increase economic growth per capita by 1.5 percentage points per year and reduce the poverty headcount ratio by 0.7 percentage points per year. The effects would be higher in Sub-Saharan Africa than in North Africa.

To support that it points to the positive correlation between mobile active broadband penetration with a country’s income per capita, with most of Africa’s countries today featuring both among lower levels of income per capita and lower penetration of mobile subscriptions.

It’s a similar positive correlation between the population penetration of internet services and GDP per capita. Most African countries have a rate of population penetration below 60%, which is underperforming relative to the international norm.

The World Bank says policymakers will have a key role to play in developing policy that sees digital completely integrated into the future. “Africa’s digital revolution is not just a matter of connectivity and access, it is about implementing meaningful policies that allow the public and private sectors to participate in the new economy.”

— Yinka AdegokeQuartz Africa editor

STORIES FROM THIS WEEK

Zimbabwe’s plan to compensate white farmers is facing a backlash from all sides. President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has yet to mobilize the money needed to make good on the pay-out to formerly evicted white farmers, while Zanu-PF members are divided on a reversal of party policy. Now white farmers are threatening to pull out of the deal, saying it does not address land bought after independence, reports Farai Shawn Matiashe’s from Harare.

Jumia’s co-founder addresses the “African” identity controversy. After a remarkable fortnight which saw Jumia make tech history by listing on the New York Stock Exchange, Quartz Africa interviewed Sacha Poignonnec, co-founder of Jumia. He discussed the company’s operations across African markets, the possible impact of its landmark initial public offering and the controversy over the company’s identity.

Africa’s innovators are in an arms race to beat a fake medicine scourge.  All across Africa, there’s a growing challenge with fake drugs making their way from places like China and India on to shelves of local pharmacies and street markets. Amindeh Blaise Atabong spoke to some of the innovators making strides in countering this problem.

Scientists are not certain why Lake Chad is shrinking. The effects of the shrinking of Lake Chad, an economic and cultural resource which borders four countries, has been a subject of attention over the past few decades. But despite a number of commissioned studies, scientists are left with a number of theories on the precise root causes of the lake’s dramatic changes.

China wants to leverage foreign media to dispel Belt and Road debt risk talk. Beijing’s trillion-dollar-plus infrastructure project has increasingly come under criticism that it’s a way to entrap sovereign states in debt. To allay those fears, president Xi Jinping has launched a news network comprising media outlets in the nations involved in the BRI to favorably cover the project’s ambitions. But while the BRI is positioned to boost commerce, Abdi Latif Dahir explains why mineral-rich African countries are increasingly reliant on Beijing for more and more of their export dollars.

Angel investors are bridging the widening funding gap between Anglophone and Francophone Africa. Startups in Francophone Africa have typically historically seen much less inflow of investment dollars amid the tech boom of the last decade. Yomi Kazeem finds that angel investor networks are finally aiming to shore up the deficit.

The new malaria vaccine for African children is promising but limited. There’s been a lot of excitement and optimism around a new malaria vaccine which is starting to be administered to hundreds of thousands of infants in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. But as Paul Adepoju reports, the GSK vaccine, developed over 30 years, has plenty of potential but is still far from the comprehensive vaccine some seem to have suggested it could be.

CHART OF THE WEEK

There’s a growing chorus across Africa to regulate and tax Airbnb. The accommodation-sharing site is fast becoming a popular outlet among local and international travelers exploring the continent’s cities and towns. In Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya, and beyond, there’s a growing call now from both established hotels and government officials to regulate and impose levies on the platform.

OTHER THINGS WE LIKED

Nipsey Hussle’s death rattled Los Angeles’ tight-knit Eritrean community. The death last month of Los Angeles rapper, entrepreneur and community activist Nipsey Hussle shook up the city’s community of Eritrean immigrants but also reinforced their determination to defend their country and culture, writes Leslie Berestein Rojas for LAist. “I always tell my children that they are Americans outside, but inside the house, they are Eritreans,” says one interviewee.

Gold smugglers are taking billions of dollars out of African nations. Most Western companies won’t buy African gold directly from small-scale prospectors for fear that the mining involved human rights abuses or helped fund conflicts. The United Arab Emirates, however, is happy to do so. A Reuters investigation shows how billions of dollars worth of African gold ends up in Dubai—a gateway to the US, Europe, and beyond. Much of it goes unrecorded, with no taxes being paid to the country of origin.

KEEP AN EYE ON

The Goldman Environmental Prize (Apr. 29) The Goldman prizehonors grassroots environmental activists and its African winners have included South Africa’s Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid in 2018 and Kenya’s Phyllis Omido in 2015.

World Press Freedom Day (May 1-3). The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization will commemoratethe 26th edition of the event in Addis Ababa under the theme “Media for democracy: Journalism and elections in times of disinformation.”

Tana Forum (May 4-5). The annual high-level forum on African security will convene in the northern Ethiopian city of Bahir Dar to discuss how to nurture the emerging peace trends in the Horn of Africa. 

*This brief was produced while listening to Killin Dem by Zlatan and Burna Boy (Nigeria)

Our best wishes for a productive and thought-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, malaria vaccines and Airbnb discounts to africa@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.

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