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BROADBAND DREAMS

One of the lessons of working with remote teams on the African continent or traveling around Africa is that the internet is not the internet everywhere you go. Sure, everyone has Google, Facebook and WhatsApp, but the quality and cost of connections varies widely depending on which city you live or visit. And, if you happen live or work in some rural areas then you’re probably not reading this till you get to an urban area.

To close these gaps and provide universal internet coverage for Africa’s fast-growing young population by 2030, the telecoms industry, governments, multilateral institutions, investors and development finance partners are going to have to invest a total of $100 billion over the next 10 years, according to a report by the Broadband for all Working Group.

The group believes that for a short term target of doubling broadband connectivity by 2021 some 220 million Africans must come online for the first time—but only after investments of around $9 billion have been made. And it’s not just about expanding networks for new users since part of the challenge is to get more ordinary people to take advantage of existing broadband services by increasing awareness and improving affordability.

The bulk of the $100 billion sum will see network operations and maintenance taking just over a half of expenses over the next 10 years, while the other big two are capital expenditure on infrastructure will account for $29.5 billion and $18 billion on ICT skills and content.

Today, mobile internet connectivity reaches around 70% of the population. But even when urban areas are reached around 100 million people in rural areas will still need to be connected via a range of alternative means including satellite.

And yet, perhaps the most influential investment recommended would be the smallest. This was $2.4 billion to be spent over the next decade developing policies and regulations for governments to enable market conditions that support the development of the technology ecosystem and overall broadband affordability.

However it’s worth reiterating that the affordability and quality of service issue is a pain point that effects ordinary consumers and entrepreneurs alike across Africa.

Quartz Africa Innovator 2019 honoree, Odunayo Eweniyi, co-founder of PiggyVest, a Lagos-based fintech startup, emphasized the huge gap between what ordinary Africans earn and the relative cost of internet access when she spoke at the launch of the report during the World Bank fall meetings in Washington D.C. this week. Eweniyi was also concerned with the poor connection speeds and overall inconsistent quality. “I do enjoy the numbers quoted, 30% of Africans are online—but are we though?”

Yinka Adegoke, Quartz Africa editor

STORIES FROM THIS WEEK

Migration from African countries to the United States is the fastest-rising—in spite of Trump. New Quartz analysis of US Census data found Africans are the fastest-growing immigrant group in the United States. Chidinma Irene Nwoye and Dan Kopf examined the data and looked into the various routes Africans are migrating to the US and how it conflicts with the narrative from president Trump’s White House.

Governments need to fix their problematic relationship with data in African countries. “Wars are lost on information and it’s the same for our economies—having reliable data is like having your own army.” As Yomi Kazeem explains, years of under-funding for national statistics agencies while pushing back against unflattering data-based reports from international organizations has left several governments on the continent making policy decisions blind.

African scientists are at the forefront of innovation and research on black skin and hair. With the rise of niche brands focusing on black skin and hair, and increased social media visibility on options for the savvy customer, global brands are working with African scientists to innovate products to help them tap into this over $11 billion market, writes Ciku Kimeria.

A recently found Ben Enwonwu painting has sold at seven times its valuation. After a Texas family discovered a painting of their matriarch they had little idea it would was by legendary Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu or that it would be valued as much as $200,000. This week, London auction house Sotheby’s sold it for $1.4 million.

Nollywood is one step closer to its first major animated cinema production. A recently released animation short based on the life of Queen Amina, a 16th century ruler in northern Nigeria aims to fill a key genre gap in Nigeria’s Nollywood industry. The film comes amid Nollywood’s shift to quality over quantity, increased box office returns for local films as well as an avid—and growing—comics and animations fan base, Yomi Kazeem notes.

The fight against Nigeria’s northeast terrorism is also a battle against climate change. While much of the effort against Boko Haram has naturally focused on stopping violence and rescuing kidnapped victims, Alicia Prager and Simpa Samson found inMaiduguri, Nigeria the ravages of climate change was an even bigger challenge. “This is a fight that will keep us busy much longer than the one against Boko Haram.”

CHART OF THE WEEK

Global investors are hoping to cash in on the infrastructure of Africa’s mobile revolution. Helios Towers, one of the biggest telecoms tower leasing companies operating in Africa raised $364 million after listing on the London Stock Exchange this week. And, as telecoms operators across Africa continue seeking to expand networks and boost reach, it will serve as a boon for tower leasing companies with thousands of new tower projects already planned.

THE DEALMAKER

Aruwa Capital Management, a female founded and led private equity firm has launched a $20 million investment fund to provide growth capital to fast growing companies. The firm is focused on Nigeria and Ghana, and is expecting to make up to five investment bets in the coming 24 months…US-based Enygma Ventures, has launched a $6.8 million fund with which it will look to back selected female entrepreneurs across Southern Africa through ticket sizes of around $135,000 as well as technical support programs…Pay-as-you-go solar company PEG Africa, which serves over 400,000 daily users in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal has received a $4 million debt facility led by the British government’s CDC Group. The debt will used to expand operations in Senegal.

OTHER THINGS WE LIKED

The poverty of poor economics. Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer , this year’s recipients of the Nobel Prize in economics, received plaudits from Swedish Academy of Sciences for “their experimental approach” to solving global poverty. But, for Africa is a Country, Grieve Chelwa and Seán Muller highlight the grave ethical questions around the trio’s randomized controlled trial approach to development “experiments” on Africa’s poorest people.

ICYMI

Africa Media Freedom Fellowship. The inaugural fellowship will be an eight-week residential course at the University of Westminster, London, from May to July 2020. Applicants will be drawn from 11 African countries, and expected to be involved in “in setting and pushing” boundaries of trust, standards, and freedom in media. (Dec. 9)

Africa Development Bank Young Professionals Program. The program is seeking highly qualified young professionals with to join the bank via a three-year leadership training scheme. Applicants must be 32 or younger by May 1, 2020. (Nov. 13)

KEEP AN EYE ON

Botswana election (Oct. 23). After winning every election since Botswana’s independence in 1966, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), the country’s ruling party is facing dicey elections. Influential former president Ian Khama, and onetime BDP chieftain, is backing an opposition party after a public fallout with his former party.

Russia-Africa Summit, Sochi (Oct. 23-24). The first-ever Russia-Africa summit, to be chaired by president Vladimir Putin, will be held in Sochi, Russia with over 50 heads of state invited. The summit is a culmination of several diplomatic, economic and military moves by Russia as it looks to establish itself as a dominant player in Africa.

Heineken Lagos Fashion Week (Oct. 23-26). Lagos Fashion Week will take place at the Balmoral Convention Centre, Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos from Oct. 23-26. The theme this year is Beyond creativity: Shaping fashion’s future. The week will feature pan-African star designers including Quartz Africa Innovator 2017 honoree, Selly Rabe Kane (Senegal), Meite Awa (Mali), Katungulu Mwendwa (Kenya) and Rick Dusi (Nigeria).

Aké Arts and Book Festival, Lagos (Oct. 24-27). The seventh edition of the Aké festival, an annual literary, cultural and arts exhibition and conference, will be held in Ikoyi, Lagos. This year’s edition will explore “specific phenomena such as scarification, body image, tattoos, stereotyping, gender nonconformity and colorism.”

*This brief was produced while listening to Things Fall Apart by Kofi Kinaata (Ghana). [Spotify]

Our best wishes for a productive and ideas-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, ideas, skin creams researched by African scientists and any other recently discovered Ben Enwonwu sketches to africa@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.

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