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The last decade and a half has been a period of very strong growth in mobile phone shipments across Africa. As telecoms networks were built out across the continent many operators and phone resellers expanded rapidly to meet demand.
African mobile telecoms’ growth wasn’t that different to elsewhere in the world except for the fact that for many millions on the continent their mobile handset was their first phone, given the low penetration of landlines per capita.
It means expansion has been taken as a given even as millions more young Africans get their first phone and millions of others have upgraded quickly from 2G to 3G and more recently to 4G smartphones where the networks are available. This is why it was significant news this week that total shipments of phones to Africa are being hurt by economic slow down in the continent’s biggest economies, Nigeria and South Africa. Unit sales of smartphones to Nigeria fell by 12% in the first quarter compared with a year ago while total unit sales to South Africa fell by 4%.
To be clear, shipments of phones to Africa overall rose by 5.6% year over year in the first quarter, according to IDC which collates the data. But that increase doesn’t tell the whole story say the analysts.
IDC forecasts a contraction of mobile phone shipments in the second quarter by around 5.3% across the continent year-on-year due to broad macroeconomic challenges but also due to the impact of global trade tensions triggered mostly by the United States and China.
These concerns should be taken seriously especially if you’re plugging in mobile shipments as one of your data points for measuring Africa-wide consumer prosperity—but they are also not the whole story.
IDC also points out that 4G LTE networks continue to be expanded rapidly across the continent with shipments of 4G LTE devices rising 15.1% in the first quarter from a year ago. That’s being driven by lower prices for entry-level 4G phones as well as data plan promotions.
There might well be a slow down in the first half of the year, but Africa’s young, fast-growing population combined with expanding 4G networks and cheaper smartphones made by the likes of market leader Transsion of China, means there’s little chance any slowdown will last very long.
— Yinka Adegoke, Quartz Africa editor
STORIES FROM THIS WEEK
China’s aid favors political leaders’ home regions. Beijing’s foreign assistance to African countries has grown over the years, hitting the $15 billion mark in 2018. But, as Abdi Latif Dahir finds, new research shows assistance usually favors the home regions of incumbent presidents during their time in power.
The Lagos entrepreneurs championing recycling as a way of life. Africa’s largest city is home to 21 million people and, by extension, relentlessly growing heaps of waste which clog drains and public roads. Where the state government has failed however, Shayera Dark meets social enterprises stepping in to promote a culture of recycling.
Africans need a bill of data rights to be protected online. One of the byproducts of the age of mobile internet connectivity is increasingly sharing personal information to access online services from financial inclusion to social media apps. But with Africans doing so amid very little data protection, Ory Okolloh & Sharon Wekwete explain why improved data security for citizens should be a priority for governments on the continent.
The problem with WHO’s reluctance to declare an international emergency on DR Congo’s Ebola outbreak. Even as the Ebola outbreak in DR Congo spread this week across the border to Uganda where it has claimed two lives, the World Health Organization has held back from declaring a “public health emergency of international concern.” B. David Zarley asks if the global health body has left it too late as many experts have suggested.
Africa’s starring role in Toronto Raptors’ historic NBA championship win. Cameroon’s Pascal Siakam alongside Congo Brazzaville veteran Serge Ibaka played pivotal roles in taking the Toronto Raptors to the NBA’s first ever non-US champion. But the team’s biggest African star might have been off-court with Nigerian-Kenyan general manager Masai Ujiri who is now being coveted by other NBA teams.
Luxury safaris appeal to the 21st century client by getting green and dropping colonial clichés. For many people a luxury safari is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but that doesn’t mean they want to be transferred to a world idealized by colonial-era “Out of Africa” tropes, explains Lee Middleton. Leaders of the sector are modernizing with electric game vehicles and other modern features to reach western millennials and Africa’s own rising middle classes.
CHART OF THE WEEK
African brands are losing their appeal across the continent. African homegrown brands, from Dangote to MTN, seem to losing their luster with African consumers, according to a pan-African brand awareness survey, writes Yomi Kazeem. They continue to lose out to more established global players like Nike and Adidas. South Africa—the continent’s most advanced economy—is home to the highest number on admired African brands.
OTHER THINGS WE LIKED
An Ethiopian writer revisits the home country he never knew. Dinaw Mengestu’s family migrated to the United States from Ethiopia when he was just two years old. In this essay in The New Yorker, he retells the story of getting lost in Addis Ababa and finding something about himself, family, and culture.
Côte d’Ivoire’s bid to take back control of African wax fabric. European and Chinese players have long dominated Africa’s wax print fabrics market through heavy investment and tight control on design.But, for France24, Frank Hersey explains how Ivorian designers are increasingly tapping into traditional designs and textiles to stand out.
Documenting Africa’s lost kingdoms. The representation and perception of Africa’s past and present across media, academia and even entertainment has long been subject to criticism. In The New York Review of Books, Howard French reviews five new books that dig into the Africa’s history of the Middle Ages and provide well-researched details of precolonial kingdoms, ancient riches and the early-day nuances of the Transatlantic slave trade.
West African Afrobeats tracks are being embraced at Caribbean Carnival celebrations. In Jamaica and Trinidad, where traditional musical styles like Dancehall and Soca, have dominated the carnival scene, Noel Cymone Walker finds for OkayAfrica the worldwide popularity of West Africa’s modern Afrobeats’ sound is softening cultural restrictions on carnival music and showing up on parades.
KAS Media Africa Journalism Scholarship. Two promising, young sub-Saharan African journalists will be selected for full-time scholarships for honors or Masters Degrees at the University of Witwatersrand’s Journalism program in Johannesburg in 2020. Applicants must be younger than 30. (July 8)
The 2020-21 Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program. Dedicated to international exchange, the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program offers five-month fellowships to leading democracy activists, journalists, civil society leaders, and scholars from around the world. (Oct.1)
KEEP AN EYE ON
Mauritanian presidential election (June 22). Mauritanians will elect a new president on June 22 as incumbent Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz steps down after his second and final term in office. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the first round, a runoff will be held on July 6.
Africa Internet Summit (June 9 – 21). The an annual information and communications technology conference is taking place in Kampala, Uganda with stakeholders discussing, among other things, how internet infrastructure can be improved to ensure low cost and secure access for Africans.
Sudan’s continuing mass protests. Despite the ouster of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s future remains contested as protesters continue to demand civilian rule with the military still in charge. The army’s admission of ordering a brutal clampdown on demonstrators which left over 100 killed is likely to see protests intensify.
*This brief was produced while listening to Osef by Kiff No Beat feat. Kaaris (Côte d’Ivoire).
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