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HERE COMES THE SUN
The number of people in Africa without access to electricity remain staggering and unchanging with every report—around 640 million people don’t have access to a grid. And even when some of people do have access the electricity supply is unreliable and unstable.It’s a problem across the continent. The most consistent and promising approach to tackling this huge obstacle to development has come with the off-grid pay-as-you-go solar power model, now called PayGo. The sector started out in East Africa built around combining the improving and increasingly cost-effective solar technology with the region’s mobile money advantage, thanks to the successful reach of Safaricom’s M-Pesa in Kenya.Companies like Nairobi-based M-Kopa, who I spoke with recently at the Collision conference in Toronto, have signed up 750,000 homes in the region on the back of that payment platform which has been key for also enabling users to obtain credit and manage their payments. “The energy is kind of the easy part,” acknowledged chief executive Jesse Moore.Also on the panel with Moore and I in Toronto was the musician Akon, who has famously been building a solar power business for a few years in several African countries. His latest initiative to to develop a crypto-currency to get round the difficulties with payments and boosting financial inclusion.PayGo solar isn’t just reliant on classic mobile money solutions. In some countries it’s being used with local bank partnerships such as in Nigeria or with credit bureaus in India, for example.The rise and challenges of PayGo are covered in the World Bank-backed Lighting Global report which analyzes the market attractiveness of the model around the developing world. Globally, the sales volume of PayGo products grew by 30% last year with revenues growing even faster at 50% driven by customers upgrading to solar home systems beyond basic products like solar lamps. According to the global off-grid solar market report, PayGo companies represented just 24% of the sales volume in the last six months of 2018, but accounted for 62% of revenues.The two strongest markets for PayGo are Indonesia and Kenya, according to Lighting Global’s index, which looks at 71 factors across demand, supply and enabling environment. On that basis Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Angola were the weakest markets for PayGo.When it comes to demand Kenya and Uganda score high particularly when it comes to users’ “willingness to pay”, while Kenya also does well on the supply side along with Indonesia, driven by the availability of finance to support the sector.While the report covers 24 countries across sub Saharan Africa and Asia, it’s clear East Africa is the star of the show with more than 70% of the global PayGo market’s revenues.— Yinka Adegoke, Quartz Africa editorSTORIES FROM THIS WEEKMore African migrants are trying to enter the US through the Mexican border. While the southwest border is a well-known entry point into the United States for migrants from Latin American countries, Africans from certain countres are increasingly taking the route too. As Lekan Oguntoyinbo explains, these migrants are braving months-long and treacherous journeys through several countries, jungles and rivers through South America and Mexico to enter the US.Why Ethiopia’s attempted coup threatens its liberal democratic transition. Ethiopia was rocked by a thwarted coup attempt spanning the northern Amhara region and the capital Addis Ababa last weekend, which puts prime minister Abiy’s democratic plans under pressure. The tension also brings to fore the fragility of Ethiopia’s federated government structure and the battle over resources. Player protests and visa struggles mar Africa’s biggest football competition. The African Cup of Nations has seen a sadly familiar ritual play out for different national teams, writes Yomi Kazeem. There have been protests over unpaid bonuses and, in some cases, threats to boycott matches. And with fans and journalists finding it difficult to obtain visas to get to Egypt in the first place, the competition is a reminder of how hard it is for Africans to travel the continent.The British suffragette who was decorated an “honorary” Ethiopian. The Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa is home to the graves of former government leaders, emperors, anti-colonial forces, and a previous prime minister. It’s also the burial ground of a British activist, an anti-colonial crusader, and gadfly who devoted her life in service to the Horn of Africa nation writes Abdi Latif Dahir from Addis Ababa. The uncertain return of the Zimbabwean dollar. Zimbabwe re-instituted the Zimbabwean dollar as the official currency of the country with a government decree issued this week outlawing the use of all foreign currency for local transactions. Chris Muronzi reports from Harare on how the currency’s high level of inflation and economic downturn have raised questions over the sustainability of the new currency.The fishing village protesting a Chinese factory in the Gambia.Protests over pollution and overfishing by a Chinese fishmeal factory has created tense environmental and social disputes at the Gambian fishing village of Gunjur. The protests magnify wider concerns on the nature of Chinese and foreign investment in Gambia, and across Africa.CHART OF THE WEEKLagos is one of Airbnb’s fastest-growing markets. Unlike several African cities, Lagos is known more for being Nigeria’s ever-busy business district more than for any picturesque tourism hot spots. Yet, the mega-city, home to 21 million people, is one of the fastest-growing markets globally for Airbnb driven by a few unusual factors.OTHER THINGS WE LIKEDThe future of AI research is in Africa. Machine learning communities across Africa are introducing innovative models of reporting cancer data, improving natural-language understanding, and diagnosing crop disease. For MIT Technology Review, Karen Hao examines the continent’s distinct challenges in different sectors, such as health and agriculture.Aparthied’s impact on Johannesburg’s cycling culture. While cycling lost status across the western world from the 1950s, it happened quicker and more intensely in South Africa. In The Guardian, Njogu Morgan writes how high levels of car ownership among white people, and the violent evictions of black workers to distant areas, accelerated the demise of Johannesburg’s cycling culture.Somalia has an enduring love affair with Bollywood. Somalia is enchanted by the drama and the romance of Indian cinema and has been for decades. Since independence and through its civil war till today’s uneven road to stability, Bollywood has been one of the country’s enduring sub-cultures, finds Samira Sawlani for Mail & Guardian.Making the US greater than China in Africa. This month, the Trump Administration launched Prosper Africa, an initiative that aims to boost trade and investment between the U.S. and African countries. In The Brookings Institution blog, Landry Signé and Eric Olander provide recommendations for US lawmakers, including increases in infrastructure investment and support of AfCFTA, to forge stronger Africa ties and counterbalance China’s influence in the region.ICYMICalling all women interested in computing. African women enrolled in a computer science or a related degree program can apply to Microsoft’s Windows Insider Women in Computing Award for a week of professional development and networking with Microsoft professionals in the United States. (July 10)Innovation in African education. The African Union’s annual Innovating Education in Africa Expo will take place this August in Gaborone, Botswana. Stakeholders across the continent are encouraged to apply and showcase practical innovation and research in education.Addressing Africa’s Environmental Issues. African environmental researchers and conservation leaders looking to tackle relevant African issues can submit their research proposals for a $150,000 Jennifer Ward Openheimer Research Grant. (July 22)KEEP AN EYE ONSmart Cities Africa Summit (July 3-4). Business and tech leaders will convene in Johannesburg to discuss best-practices and high-tech solutions to address urbanization and build efficient African cities.African Continental Free Trade Agreement launch (July 3-7). Delegates, business leaders, and civil society organizations will gather in Niamey, Niger to discuss strategies for the implementation of the AfCFTA and celebrate the market launch of the trade agreement on July 7. Niger’s president Mahamadou Issoufou will be joined at the AfCFTA Business Forum 2019 by Kenya’s president Kenyatta, South Africa’s president Ramaphosa, president Sall of Senegal, and Ghana’s president Akufo-Addo.*This brief was produced while listening to Abusey Junction by Kokoroko (UK).Our best wishes for a productive and ideas-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, Egyptian visas and recommendations for discount Lagos Airbnbs to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.If you received this email from a friend or colleague, you can sign up here to receive the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief in your inbox every week. You can also follow Quartz Africa on Facebook.