15 Jun

Taxify, Uber’s biggest rival in Africa, is now worth $1 billion

Taxify battle to win the ride-hailing market in Africa and Europe has received a major shot in the arm.

The five-year old Estonian startup has raised $175 million in a funding round which values it at more than $1 billion—the coveted unicorn status. The round is led by German car giant Daimler, Europe-based Korelya Capital, and Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder of fintech company TransferWise. The round also saw participation from Didi Chuxing, the ride-hailing giant in China known for backing Uber’s rivals around the globe.

The investment is Daimler’s latest foray into the ride-hailing transport business after prior investments in European car transport companies, including Flinc, the German carpooling startup. As part of the deal, Daimler will join Taxify’s board and could also offer it access to Moovel, its transport-booking app, with a user base of 2.5 million.

Taxify currently operates in 40 cities—11 of which are in Africa—and is expected to use the new funding to power an expansion into more cities. Its expansion strategy will likely target only cities where the ride-hailing business has been “proven,” as CEO Markus Villing told Bloomberg last year.

Read more: Quartz Africa

14 Jun

Barclays Africa to join the Nigerian Stock Exchange as a broker

Barclays Africa plans to join the Nigerian Stock Exchange as a broker in July and is exploring opportunities in three other African countries, in a move to create access for foreign investors looking to tap into markets on the continent.

Garth Klintworth, head of markets for Barclays Africa Group, on Thursday said its subsidiary Absa Nigeria had acquired a securities licence in Nigeria, part of a wider plan to increase it presence in west Africa’s biggest economy.

Nigeria’s stock exchange, the third largest in Africa, has in the last few years said it was reviewing applications from leading global investment banks to join its trading floor to increase foreign investment in one of the world’s least tapped emerging markets.

Read more: Reuters

12 Jun

Ethiopia’s tech startups are confident change is coming

Word that Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed is looking to loosen his country’s tight grip on strategic assets like its fast-growing airline and its long-term telecom monopoly has sparked interest from international investors and regional corporations.

It’s easy to see why: Ethiopia, with a population of 100 million, has had one of the world’s fastest-growing economies for the past decade. It’s also had a successful top-down implementation of various infrastructure initiatives in transportation and construction.

Still, Ethiopia’s also been called a “sleeping giant” because of its closed markets. Decades after last socialist government, it still has a heavily regulated business environment. Things were changing even before Abiy’s appointment and as the country’s tense politics led to a state of emergency after ethnic-led protests and fatal clashes with security forces.

At the Afrobytes tech conference in Paris, an Ethiopian delegation of 12 local startups attended to show off some the not-often-seen initiatives. Zekarias Amsalu, founder of investment advisory firm Ibex Frontier, who led the startup group, says he coined the moniker “Sheba Valley” to describe one of Addis Ababa main startup hubs.

Amsalu has long been a champion for Ethiopia’s potential, saying it’s not about “emotion, but logic.” The accountant, who splits his time between London, Washington DC and Addis, explains: “We just want our story to be told.

We have 250,000 university graduates every year, about 70% of them are in STEM subjects, there’s so much potential.” Sheba Valley is now recognized as a leading hub for AI technology on the continent led by Icog Labs, the Addis research team.

“You have to be smarter than the machines than you’re using,” says Betelhem Dessie, who at 18 is already a project manager for Icog, while still a student at the University of Addis Ababa.

There are several other hubs, including Ice Addis and Bluemoon and more established tech-led ventures including Gebeya, an online marketplace for talent.

To read the full article, click here.

12 Jun

The way history is taught in South Africa is deeply problematic

History may soon be a compulsory school subject until Grade 12 in South Africa. A task team established by the country’s minister of basic education made this bold recommendation in a report released in early June.

The task team credits history education with three grand tasks. The first is developing critical thinking skills, particularly those relating to “evidence” and the unique concepts necessary to becoming an academic historian.

The second is to develop identity, with a focus on pan-Africanism and nation building. The third is about social cohesion: the ability to transcend racial, class and ethnic barriers by recognising the problem of prejudice and the issues facing a multi-cultural society.

If history is taught correctly, the report argues, school-leavers should become capable of dealing with educational, social and political problems.

The task team isn’t unique in its position. It draws on decades of post-conflict literature which has argued that history education is important for memory and identity formation.

Since history education equals social cohesion, the logic follows that more history education will equal more social cohesion.

The problem is that history education as it’s currently delivered may not achieve the desired outcomes. My ongoing fieldwork involves observing four racially diverse Grade 9 history classes in Cape Town, with learners who represent a range of social and economic statuses.

The observations are taking place over the course of the academic year, interspersed by longitudinal interviews with the teachers and learners.

The findings suggest that even when students are knowledgeable about historical events, they struggle to explain how these events shape contemporary society.

History education needs a more explicit focus on historical consciousness if students are to become capable of dealing with South Africa’s social problems. This focus would help students to construct a relationship between past events and present-day reality so they can understand why we are the way we are.

To read the full article, click here.

11 Jun

‘Stay out of politics,’ Zimbabwe army told ahead of crucial elections

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has questioned the Zimbabwe National Army’s ability to explicitly stay clear of the southern African country’s forthcoming election –  regardless of its outcome.

In an interview with News24, Senior researcher at ISS, Derek Matyszak said that there was need for the Zimbabwean military to stay clear of politics if the country was to hold a credible election.

“It is important that the military publicly announces its pledge to stay clear of politics regardless of the election results. They have often been meddling in politics in the past and have just recently done that when they stepped in last year,” said Matyszak.

The Zimbabwean army played an important role in getting President Emmerson Mnangagwa into power last year, as they launched a brief take over from then president Robert Mugabe.

The military temporarily took control of the country on November 15 when internal feuding escalated in the ruling Zanu-PF party over then president Mugabe’s succession.

The takeover, which the army said was targeting Mugabe’s corrupt allies came days after the 94-year-old leader had fired then deputy Mnangagwa who had strong military ties and was widely tipped as the likely successor.

Mugabe’s wife Grace had indicated interest in succeeding her husband. The army’s intervention was followed by mass street protests against Mugabe and a motion to impeach the veteran ruler who resigned in a letter to parliament as proceedings to recall him began.

“The military’s involvement in politics is a worrisome issue because they have been meddling with the country’s politics for the past decades.

In 2008 they made it clear that they were not going to back any leader without any liberation credentials.

And they have also made it clear in the past seven months that they are the final arbiters in the country’s politics. So their announcement to stay clear of the election will be important,” said Matyszak.

To read the full article, click here.

11 Jun

A Chinese coal plant on a UNESCO-protected island in Kenya

Environmental activists in Kenya are determined to show that coal has no place in the country’s energy future. This week, dozens of activists descended on the capital in what campaigners described as the “first anti-coal demonstration in Nairobi.”

The coalition of advocacy groups is protesting the building of a coal-fired energy plant on the island of Lamu, a major tourist attraction, and a UNESCO heritage site, besides coal mining in the Mui Basin in Kitu county in eastern Kenya.

The over 1,000-megawatt coal plant in Lamu is part of an ambitious project aimed at generating electricity to help boost the region’s socio-economic landscape.

Built through a joint Kenyan-Chinese venture, the plant will initially rely on combustible imports from South Africa—a move environmentalists say will damage natural and marine resources, and destroy fishermen and farmers’ livelihoods.

Carrying signs that read “Coalition of death,” “Clean coal is a lie,” and “Don’t be fooled by fossil fool. Coal is not cool,” marchers said the government should put the lives of “Kenyans before coal.”

The protests followed an unsuccessful legal battle to try and stop the plant’s opening, with activists arguing that the threat of climate change has made renewable sources of energy like wind and solar more attractive across the world.

Officials insist they have carried out due diligence, and that the plant will start production to help meet future power demands. The Kenyan-Chinese partnership, however, underlies another effort Beijing is undertaking globally to expand its coal-fired power capacity.

As China’s investment in renewable energy projects at home have dramatically increased, Chinese corporations have also been building hundreds of coal plants abroad, some in countries that today burn little or no coal. This include in Africa, where the promise of subsidized development is pushing many nations to invite the Chinese.

Energy experts say these coal plants run against global emission-cutting drives proclaimed in the Paris Agreement, would harm significant steps taken toward establishing green economies, while the waste and toxins would hurt local communities.

To read the full article, click here.

08 Jun

A new investigation shows the scale of illicit financial flows out of West Africa

A questionable web of shell companies and tax-evasion schemes have cost West African countries millions of dollars in revenue, a new investigation shows.

West Africa Leaks, an investigative project by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in collaboration with West African journalists, has uncovered how these practices take money out the region. ICIJ says its findings were drawn from a pool of 30 million documents, including leaked financial records.

But with Mauritius’ notoriety as a tax haven, SNC-Lavalin managed to avoid $8.9 million in taxes altogether. It set up a shell company in Mauritius “for the specific purpose of helping the engineering giant avoid tax payments,” ICIJ reports.

Documents also showed Marcel Tchifteyan, a businessman with close ties to the government in Benin Republic, has routed some earnings for his Erevan superstore in Cotonoucommissioned by then president Thomas Boni Yayi in 2009through a company in Panama to a Monaco bank account for years, avoiding possible taxes.

In Niger Republic, a $31.8-million contract to build a refrigerated slaughterhouse was signed by a “little-known” operator two months after he set up offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands in 2009. A coup d’etat in 2010 halted operations but ICIJ says it’s unclear “whether any of the earnings were ever taxed.”

Aside from the revelations from the ICIJ investigation, other high-profile incidents of illicit financial flows have come to light in recent months. Last July, a lawsuit by the US Justice Department sought to recover $144 million in assets, including a $50-million New York condo and an $80-million yacht believed to have been procured with proceeds from bribes paid for lucrative Nigerian oil contracts.

For countries typically dealing with plugging wide gaps in funding for infrastructure and capital projects, illicit flows due to corruption and tax evasion schemes have a significant effect. And it’s not just a regional problem: Last year, a report by Global Financial Integrity showed Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most vulnerable region, losing up to $69 billion in 2014 alone.

To read the full article, click here.

07 Jun

Ethiopia’s unexpected step towards peace with long-time enemy Eritrea

Ethiopia’s premier just made the surprise announcement that it’s going to make peace with its enemy Eritrea.

In a statement made last night (June 5), the ruling coalition declared that it will fully accept the terms of an agreement signed in 2000, which ended the war between the two nations over a disputed border.

Recognizing the deal is a huge step forward in bringing about a peaceful conclusion to the political fight that has rattled on for decades.

From 1962 to 1993, Eritrea was ruled as a province of Ethiopia, and the two nations amicably separated after a vote in 1993. But that decision left Ethiopia landlocked, which kick started a bitter rivalry and raised questions over national pride, and regional dominance.

The unrest helped catalyze a war in 1998, which erupted over the town of Badme, which both sides claimed as their own. The brutal battle killed around 70,000 people.

However, after the war ended, a boundary commission awarded the contested town to Eritrea, a decision Ethiopia refused to accept. Since then, diplomatic attempts to get both sides talking have faltered, leading to years of no-war, no-peace stalemate.

Seeking to reverse all this, Addis Ababa appealed to the cultural and historic ties between the two countries.

“The suffering on both sides is unspeakable because the peace process is deadlocked,” Fitsum Arega, chief of staff to prime minister Abiy’s office, said on Twitter. “This must change for the sake of our common good.”

The contention between the two nations hasn’t been helped by the authoritarian stance that both countries took over the last few years.

Eritrea, led by president Isaias Afwerki since independence, grew to be a reclusive state. The country’s human rights track record remained abysmal, as it regularly subjected citizens to arbitrary arrests and harsh treatment.

The one-party state also promoted a national conscription service that drafted citizens for an indefinite period of time, forcing them into “slave labor” conditions.

And because of the repression, many Eritreans fled to neighboring countries, Europe, and Israel, making them one of the top refugee contributing nations in the world.

To read the full article, click here.

06 Jun

Zanu-PF supporters to march for President Mnangagwa

Supporters of Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party are reportedly expected to march in the capital Harare on Wednesday, in solidarity with President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

According to NewsDay, Harare provincial chairperson, Godwin Gomwe, said that everything was set for the march.

“We are going ahead as planned, nothing has changed in terms of the message for the solidarity march…,” Gomwe was quoted a saying.

This comes a day after the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance held its hugely-attended peaceful march demanding the implementation of electoral reforms.

The opposition are demanding the publication of the full voter roll, independent audits of ballot papers as well as guarantees of safety for non-government candidates.

Zimbabwe’s next polls – on July 30 – will be the first since the fall of long-time ruler Robert Mugabe who was forced to step down following a brief military takeover in November.

Mugabe who had been in power since Zimbabwe’s independence from British colonial rule in 1980 was replaced by his former deputy, Mnangagwa.

Previous elections in Zimbabwe were marred by violence which peaked in 2008 when then-opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai boycotted a presidential run-off because of a spate of deadly attacks on his supporters.

Mnangagwa has pledged “free, fair and credible elections” as he seeks to end Zimbabwe’s isolation and mend fences with the West.

He will face-off against Nelson Chamisa who became leader of the MDC following Tsvangirai’s death from colon cancer in February.

Source: https://www.news24.com/Africa/Zimbabwe/zanu-pf-supporters-to-march-for-president-mnangagwa-report-20180606

05 Jun

Chamisa writes to Mnangagwa, ahead of election

Zimbabwean leader Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba, has said that interaction between the president and opposition figures “will only be a fixture of post-election Zimbabwe and not before”.

According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, Charamba said this as he revealed that Chamisa recently wrote to the president asking for an inclusion in a government of national unit similar to that of Kenya.

In March, President Uhuru Kenyatta and former prime minister Raila Odinga said they had launched a new initiative to unify the country that was largely divided between tribes that supported the rival leaders, raising fears of violence.

Said Charamba: “Indeed, he (Chamisa) wrote asking for inclusion in a government of national unity, which is why he has given an example of Kenya — President Uhuru and Mr Odinga.”

Charamba, however, said that Mnangagwa would only likely consider making such an offer after the plebiscite.

He described Chamisa’s proposal as an attempt to “violate the democratic will of Zimbabweans in honour of a bilateral arrangement, more so when that arrangement stems from a fear of elections”.

This came after Mnangagwa reportedly declared that his ruling Zanu-PF party would still be in power after the July elections.

According to New Zimbabwe.com, Mnangagwa also described the opposition parties as “barking puppies” who would not mount any significant challenge to Zanu-PF.

“Zanu-PF is in power. Let it be known that nothing will change in this country even if we go for elections because people will vote for our party. Elections on July 30 belong to Zanu-PF. We dictate what happens in this country. We already have an upper hand and the elections have been won already by us. Let those who want to argue do so, but just vote for Zanu-PF,” Mnangagwa was quoted as saying.

Source: https://www.news24.com/Africa/Zimbabwe/mdc-leader-chamisa-writes-to-mnangagwa-asks-for-inclusion-in-unity-govt-ahead-of-election-aide-20180605