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UP NORTH

One unintended outcome of the “sub-Saharan Africa” classification of African countries is that North Africa is typically excluded from conversations about Africa’s tech startup landscape. This often means we’re sharing an incomplete picture of progress being made in tech ecosystems on the continent especially given landmark events recorded in North Africa in recent years.

Bus-hailing firm Swvl raised $42 million in the largest funding round for an Egyptian startup while Careem, the Dubai-headquartered ride-hailing startup with vast operations in North Africa was acquired by Uber for $3.1 billion. MaxAB, an Egyptian e-commerce marketplace raised $6.2 million in what’s regarded as one of the largest seed funding rounds across the region while five year-old ride-hailing startup TemTem raised $4 million in Algeria’s largest Series A round. There’s also enough budding local talent to sustain the growth in these ecosystems: Morocco and Egypt are ranked among the five fastest growing developer communities on the continent over the past year.

By virtue of being regionally categorized alongside the Middle East (as MENA i.e Middle East and North Africa), North African startups do enjoy a geographical advantage as they can access significant funding pools solely dedicated to the region and can expand to and operate in Middle East markets more easily than startups in other African regions. Indeed, within the last two months alone, Mubadala, the United Arab Emirates’ sovereign wealth fund, has launched a $250 million fund for MENA startups just as BECO Capital, the Dubai-based venture capital firm, raised a $100 million fund to back startups in the region.

But North African startups are now looking southwards for integration into other African tech markets too: Swvl expanded into Kenya and Nigeria this year and plans to launch in more markets next year, Mostafa Kandil, the company’s chief executive, tells Quartz. “We see that the problem [we are solving] is very evident in Africa and there’s unique product-market fit. We are going to double-down on Africa.”

As the African Union continues to push for more integration on the continent, a good place to start for tech industry stakeholders is to include every region in conversations and tell a more complete story.

— Yomi KazeemQuartz Lagos correspondent

STORIES FROM THIS WEEK

Starbucks has failed in South Africa but is set for a do over. A globally recognized brand name hasn’t proved enough for a Starbucks franchisee to win over the South African coffee drinkers. Three years after the first store launched in Johannesburg, franchisee Taste Holdings is selling off the brand in the face of intense competition from local rivals.

Netflix’s first Nollywood original film was disqualified from Oscars consideration. Netflix’s first ever original Nollywood film, Lionheart was disqualified from consideration for the Academy Awards’ international feature film category because of its dominant English dialogue. As Yomi Kazeem explains, the disqualification could alter the approach to future big budget Nollywood productions.

The indigenous African community that will finally get a share of the rooibos tea business. After nearly a decade of negotiations, members of the indigenous Khoisan community in South Africa will finally be compensated for their contribution to the commercialization of rooibos tea. Khoisan descendants will now receive annual payments.

Why the US, UK, France and Norway are taking sides in Kenya’s maritime row with Somalia. A 100,000 square kilometer territory in the Indian Ocean with prospects of vast oil and gas deposits is at the center of a major diplomatic spat between Kenya and Somalia. It’s also drawing attention far beyond East Africa with the US and European countries all taking sides based on their vested interests.

How Nigeria got so good at competitive Scrabble. Despite dwindling support from government, Nigeria has morphed into a global Scrabble powerhouse, winning three world championships in the last five years. Oluwatosin Adeshokan looked into the model of establishing tiny Scrabble clubs across the country that has fueled Nigeria’s meteoric rise in the game.

The small African kingdom that’s perfect for growing cannabis, but maybe not for regulating it. Some of the world’s biggest cannabis companies from the US and Canada have invested in Lesotho’s fledgling cannabis industry. But as Emma Vickers found in Maseru, commercializing cannabis may hold a lot of promise for transforming the tiny economy but it could backfire without meaningful regulation.

THE DEALMAKER

Vantage Capital, the largest mezzanine fund manager in Africa has made its first investment in Morocco by backing Equity Invest, the holding company for six Moroccan technology companies, with $8.8 million of mezzanine fundingInterswitch, a Nigerian online payments pioneer, has acquired e-Clat Healthcare, a Nigeria-focused health-tech company by purchasing a 60% stake for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition is a boon for the local health-tech sector as more startups attempt to innovate solutions to fix Nigeria’s broken healthcare system…As part of an agreement with the South Africa’s Department of Trade and IndustryAmazon Web Services (AWS) will invest $25 million to incubate and provide support for 100 black-owned ICT businesses in South Africa…DOB Equity, a Dutch family-backed impact investor in East Africa, has invested in Moringa School, the Nairobi-based technology learning accelerator, to help it build capacity to provide digital and professional training to students.

CHART OF THE WEEK

Africa is the world’s fastest-growing continent for software engineers. Over the past year, Africa recorded higher growth than any other continent on global software engineering marketplace, GitHub. Notably, the growth has also been fueled by increased activity outside countries renowned for their large developer communities.

OTHER THINGS WE LIKED

Why Africa’s future will determine the rest of the world’s. The rapid expansion of Africa’s population is a topic that lends itself to lots of fear-mongering and racism as well as disinterest and neglect, none of which the world can afford, writes Howard French in World Politics Review. Professor French notes that as soon as 2100 nearly a third of the world’s population will be African and explains why this is much more more to the world outside of Africa than policymakers care to acknowledge.

Chinese firms are being hit with bribery and tax evasion claims as some African countries crack down on corruption. Chinese firms are facing anti-graft and tax evasion crackdowns at home but now in some African countries they’re facing the same types of challenges, writes Jevans Nyabiage in South China Morning Post. In countries including Kenya and Uganda, Chinese companies have been accused of various kinds of misdemeanors such as bribery and creating false invoices.

ICYMI

Thomson Reuters Journalism Training Program. Journalism graduates and early-stage reporters can apply to participate in a nine-month training scheme in London. (Dec 15)

Africa-UK Female Tech Founders 2020 Program. The program will select 15 development-focused women entrepreneurs from Nigeria, Kenya or South Africa to participate in a three-day program in January (Nov. 21)

KEEP AN EYE ON

Africa Investment Forum, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg (Nov. 11-13). Presidents including Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Felix Tshisekedi of DR Congo will be alongside business leaders including Masai Ujiri, general manager of the Toronto Raptors and Rob Shuter, chief executive of MTN at this year’s Africa Investment Forum. It is convened by the African Development Bank along with its partners.

AfricArena Summit, Cape Town (Nov. 11-12). The annual conference will see African startups and innovators showcase to local and international investors in Cape Town.

Jumia third quarter earnings (Nov. 12). Jumia, the Africa-focused e-commerce company, will hold its third quarter earnings call on Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 8.30am ET. Investors will be hoping the e-tailer has had a better quarter after one which was overshadowed by revelations of fraud at its warehouse.

Africa Early Stage Investor Summit, Cape Town (Nov. 13-15). The sixth edition of the Africa Early Stage Investor Summit will take place in Cape Town with investors across the continent exchanging insights.

*This brief was produce while listening to Nós Morna by Ildo Lobo (Cape Verde). [Spotify]

Our best wishes for a productive and ideas-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, ideas, rooibos tea (but hold the Starbucks Lattés) and Basotho’s finest to africa@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.

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