Technology, Africa and Public Policy

A blog that examines the overlap between all three, we'll be happy with at least two - but we've settled for less.


Thursday, 14 November 2013

off the wall

High Rise Buildings in Africa 

"In one township south of Soweto, custom has it that people need to be able to touch the ground in order to stay close to their ancestors -- something impossible from anything other than the bottom floor. Multi-story apartment buildings remain the exception rather than the rule in South Africa and low-cost government housing projects are almost always single-story developments."

Rebels go into the oil business in Libya.  On one hand they may now have a greater stake in stability, in any territory they control/intend to control at least, but it also may be an attempt to gain a source of cash.  Collier's greed v grievance debate comes to mind.

Finally some stability in East DRC?  

"Significantly, it has been pressure from the US, and in particular from the military, where the Rwandans have cultivated many contacts and friends, that has forced Rwanda to stop supporting M23 and stay out. The US even supplied drones to the UN force to patrol the porous border. At the same time the UN peacekeepers have been given a stronger mandate and the training and weapons to go on the offensive. So has the Congolese army, which for years has acted more like just another gang of looters and rapists. Their coordinated attacks on M23 have defeated it."

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

off the wall

Global trends in resource rich economies.

Samsung hopes to double smartphone sales in Africa

Financing difficulties in tech startups.  Still a small scene, with a lot of obstacles that are not always fully profiled in the glitzy news articles showing off novel African startups.

Glitzy article on African tech startups.

“Africa lags behind in basic infrastructure and it is basic infrastructure that is needed for these services,” the senior VP said. “It is a public private partnership that is needed.”

“It is so uphill in Africa because there are people who do not have clean water. We can’t really go to people and tell them about cars that stop automatically or do need to ever stop at a intersection because they are connected.”  Africa will always lag behind


Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Kenyans are the largest immigrant group from Africa to the US

Global flight paths

Africa still has a long way to go.  Properly implementing the Yamoussoukro Decision and liberalising the industry will go a long way to promoting low cost carriers and boosting traffic.  Some interesting things from the Open Skies for Africa World Bank report:

  • The case of Mozambique is an example of the protection of a national carrier resulting in high airfares, in effect hindering the development of tourism. Airfares between Johannesburg and Maputo, Mozambique, were 163 percent more expensive in 2006 than the fares for the same distance flown within South Africa (the example examined was Johannesburg –Darwin).
  • The Nairobi–Johannesburg route was initially liberalized in 2000 by agreeing to multiple designations of carriers and increasing daily flights from 4 to 14. The route was then fully liberalized in 2003. Following liberalization, the effect was a 69-fold increase in passenger volumes.
Overall, a study of the SADC region concluded:

"It analyzed price changes on 56 routes within SADC by running various regression analyses. The analyses concluded that air fares on liberalized routes declined by an average of 18 percent. In cases where a low-cost carrier entered the market, air fares were generally 40 percent lower than before liberalization. The overall conclusions of the study, taking the findings of the case studies into account and consolidating the results of all the regressions, was that full liberalization throughout the SADC region would increase passenger volumes by 20 percent."

Fun Fact:  Cape Town - Johannesburg is the busiest route in Africa, and the 10th busiest in the world.  

Assorted Bonds

An amateur, if not impressive stunt worthy of a James Bond film.  Krejčíř, Radovan Krejčíř doesn't role off the tongue as easily as the hero he happily compares himself to (Fleming purposefully chose monosyllabic names for James for this purpose).  Nor does he seem to exude James' charm or moral code.

Investec launches Africa bond fund.  There are some world class African banks, especially in South Africa and Nigeria and it is good to see them linking African bonds to world markets.  Baby steps towards generating a larger secondary bond market for African bonds, vital for financial market development.

Nigerians and Kenyans will find it easier to visit London with the new £3000 visitor bond.  The FT focuses mostly on lost revenue to high end British retailers.  There will be wider reputational damage to Britain too, perhaps more costly in the long run.  It's a pain enough to apply for visa's to the UK and Europe already, this rightly pisses people off and they remember.  Go shopping in Paris instead, it's already beating London for this very reason among the Chinese.       

Thursday, 18 July 2013

off the wall

Shenzhen Energy to help build coal plant in Ghana with Ghanian IPP, burning South African coal.  700MW, could be an interesting comparison with Obama's plan over the coming years.

South African defense project.

On China and Russian financing models in Africa.  

Dams in Africa on the rise.  The plan for the Grand Inga Dam seems to be moving, but we'll see.  A lot of attention is given to small scale generation, but Africa is urbanising fast and will need large scale, centrally distributed power, in addition to off grid, or smaller scale schemes that may be more appropriate for rural areas.  People will be displaced, and no doubt there will be some environmental damage, but an economy cannot grow without power (nor is power alone sufficient for growth).
"Their primary beneficiaries are mining companies and aluminium smelters, while Africa's poor have been left high and dry."
Africa needs to beneficiate minerals, and not just export them.  Done right, this creates jobs and potentially has spillover effects that may help boost manufacturing, crucial to sustained growth and moving Africa up the value chain.  Dams provide clean, potentially cheap energy that allows this to happen.          


Tuesday, 9 July 2013

African Literature and African Visa's

If someone didn't say literature granted access to a lifetime of human wisdom, they should have, and hopefully done so more eloquently than me.  Visa's also grant access, perhaps to the more mundane*, so here is a post on both.  

(*not always - shameless earthporn from Namibia and Madagascar.)

Tope Folarin wins Caine prize for African writing.  Perhaps more for (African) writers identity is important/relevant to who they are given their business, but a piece that reflects more broadly on African identity.  I wonder if there is a greater expectation, especially by those outside Africa, that African writers reflect their 'Africanness' in some way in their works, as a theme, setting, or in their characters and if such a link is not there the work is somehow not as capable of saying something wider about the human condition.  I actually know very little about literature, African or other sadly, but I am reminded of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who said, perhaps unfairly targeting Americans:

"Americans think African writers will write about the exotic, about wildlife, poverty, maybe Aids. They come to Africa and African books with certain expectations. I was told by a professor at Johns Hopkins University that he didn't believe my first book because it was too familiar to him. In other words, I was writing about middle-class Africans who had cars and who weren't starving to death, and therefore to him it wasn't authentically African."

Visa's in Africa

It's bad enough getting a visa for the US, UK or Europe but there are too many visa's need for travel around Africa.  It hampers growth and inhibits much needed regional integration.   
"On average, African citizens require visas to visit 60 per cent of African countries – ranging from a high of 84 per cent for Somalia to a low of 41 per cent for The Gambia."
Meanwhile, it is very easy for a Brit to come to Africa, slightly trickier for an American though at under 50% visa free or VOA.  It should be easy for anyone to come to Africa and move around.  The planned new single visa for Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda should be welcomed and hopefully can demonstrate the benefits of a more streamlined system.