Mobile internet adoption in Africa is taking place at almost double the global rate, a trend that has sparked debate among development and tech enthusiasts as to whether this marks a radical shift in the way the internet of the future will be used and accessed. Has the range of innovative services currently available on mobile devices come about purely as a result of necessity, or through a deliberate decision to focus on the mobile solution by forward looking African companies and entrepreneurs?
Some recent examples of the level of digital sophistication evident in Nigeria, and in Africa’s technology industry as a whole, can shed some light on this. In February this year, the BBC website announced with fanfare that RBS and Natwest, two UK banks, would be pioneering the use of Touch ID on the iPhone as a security enhancement for their mobile banking applications. What the BBC didn’t know was that Touch ID was already going live across mobile banking networks, with some Nigerian banks incorporating the feature before their UK counterparts. Read more
From hairdressers to film companies, the vast majority of companies in Nigeria are micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). They account for the livelihoods of most of the country’s 173m people, and are engines of diversification for a country long reliant on oil.
But so little is known about this universe of entrepreneurs: the enablers helping them grow, or the obstacles holding them back. To address this knowledge gap, this month the Economist Intelligence Unit is publishing a new report, commissioned by IHS Towers, that shines a light on this all-important segment of Nigeria, now the largest economy in Africa. Read more
In 1986 The Economist magazine famously created its Big Mac Index, a guide to the fair value of a currency based on the principle of purchasing-power parity, which states that exchange rates should adjust to bring prices of identical goods into line across national boundaries.
But Big Macs are not sold everywhere. Seeking a similar mechanism applicable to countries in Africa, we have created our Milk Index, based on the price of a gallon of milk. Read more
On the African continent, peaceful transitions of power through free and fair elections are a true rarity. Despite the odds, General Muhammadu Buhari delivered an impressive victory over incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan in last month’s presidential election in Nigeria and is set to take office next month.
While Buhari’s coalition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), won a majority of the seats in the National Assembly, last month’s elections are certainly not the final word in Nigeria’s electoral process.
On Saturday, April 11, Nigerians returned to the polls to vote for both State governors and State Houses of Assembly. These were local elections, and the saying that “all politics is local” certainly holds true in Nigeria. During the country’s local elections, the APC once again defied the odds, and gained control of a majority of the country’s governorships. Read more
The All Progressives Congress (APC), led by former military leader General Muhammadu Buhari, has won Nigeria’s presidential election, unseating the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that has dominated the country since its 1999 transition to civilian rule.
The election symbolises the institutional change that made the PDP’s election upset possible. Against considerable odds, INEC, Nigeria’s independent electoral commission, played a key role in delivering credible elections. The implications run deep. This glimpse of institutional strength speaks powerfully about Nigeria’s future as the African economic powerhouse that might yet emerge with continued, sustained reforms. Read more
By Kevin Daly, Aberdeen Asset Management
If you are a young Nigerian, life was already hard enough before the price of oil collapsed and Boko Haram established themselves as a real threat to Africa’s largest oil producer. The country’s now delayed elections are unlikely to improve their lot or that of weary investors.
For years Nigeria’s 170m people have laboured to overcome endemic power shortages, a lack of jobs, crippling corruption and institutions which have persistently failed to serve them. Nigeria’s own statistics agency found that 61 per cent of Nigerians lived on less than a dollar a day in 2010.
Electricity consumption per head of population is around 149 kw-hour (Mexico’s, by comparison, is over 2,000 kw-hours). Former central bank Governor Lamido Sanussi was sacked last year after exposing a multi-billion dollar subsidy racket involving the state oil company. Read more
By Peter Leger, Coronation Fund Managers
So you thought a six-month break on a desert island looked appealing and spent long hours in silent meditation, reflecting on self-actualisation, harmony and humanity’s ceaseless race to consume the planet. Now you’ve just made the return journey to find that the oil price collapsed from over $110/barrel to less than $50. Peak theorists having turned into piqued theorists. You didn’t see that coming. And, frankly, neither did we. Nor did we expect to see the Swiss franc jump 28 per cent in a single day – as it did recently.
The lesson being that extreme volatility has to be an assumption when building portfolios, and doubly so when investing in frontier markets, where volatility is often amplified. Read more
“They’re coming up every morning, just like churches,” Peter Kari, a father of two living in Nairobi’s Kawangware slum, says of the private schools mushrooming in his neighbourhood. “They die as they’re being born. You can wake up one morning and see a tin shack. The other night it was a pub. Today, it’s a school.”
A ride down one of the main roads in Kawangware offers evidence for Kari’s claim. Within five kilometres, there are at least fifteen visible signs for private schools, with names like ‘Brightest Star,’ ‘Top Shine,’ ‘Springs of Wisdom,’ and one (see photo) unfortunately misspelt ‘Havard.’ Read more
It’s a few minutes into Marion Akinyi Onginjo’s social studies lesson at Bridge International Academy Gicagi in Nairobi and the class 4 teacher is being drowned out by loud cheers next door.
Bridge International Academy Gicagi, Nairobi. Photo: Tosin Sulaiman
Class 4 finally gets its chance to make some noise when one student, Margaret, correctly answers a question about subsistence crops. After Onginjo tells the class, “let’s give Margaret the cowboy cheer,” they stand up, spin imaginary lassoes in the girl’s direction and yell, “One, two, three, four, five, yee-hah.” Read more
At the entrance to Shomaa Impressive School, a compound of 11 classrooms built from thin wooden boards in the Lagos slum of Makoko, prospective parents are greeted with a banner showing four children in graduation gowns and the motto “Raising future professionals”. Just as the message is crafted to appeal to the aspirational market traders and fish sellers who send their children to the nursery and primary school, the daily tuition fees averaging less than $1 a day are also tailored to their modest budgets.
Schools like Shomaa, which has around 100 students, are contributing to a boom in private education in Lagos and other cities in Africa.
A pupil at Shomaa Impressive School, Makoko, Lagos. Photo: Tosin Sulaiman
After enduring 13 days of straight losses, Nigerian stocks have the questionable honour of being the world’s worst performing this year. Yet the man in charge of the stock market is not worried about a full-blown crisis. “I’m not expecting to see a sell-off, and indeed we haven’t seen a sell-off” said Oscar Onyema, chief executive of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, in an interview with beyondbrics. Rather, he says “the Nigerian stock market has adjusted downward, as you would expect in an OPEC country.” Read more
Source: Thomson Reuters
Nigeria’s central bank on Friday tried to drawn a line under the naira – but the market continues to increasingly bet on a devaluation after the elections set for early 2015. Read more
By Henry S. D’Auria and Christine Phillpotts, AllianceBernstein
Nigeria is Africa’s biggest economy and one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers. Resolving its electricity generation gaps could significantly boost the country’s economic growth and provide opportunities for equity investors.
Most global investors pay insufficient attention to Nigeria, which is not included in traditional emerging market equity indices. Yet in this country of 174m people, a policy-driven change to infrastructure could transform the economy and create new opportunities for equity investors. Read more
By Timi Soleye of CRYO Gas
Seated on the dais at an investment conference in one of Lagos’s posher hotels are the luminaries of the Nigerian power sector: the minister of power, the head of the national electricity regulator, the chairman of the presidential task-force on power and chief executives of the newly privatised electricity generation companies and distribution companies. They are desperate for the money of the reluctant foreign private equity managers and local investors who mill about the room.
It is a tough call. On November 1 a year will have passed since the effective privatisation of electricity generation and distribution in Nigeria and it must now be acknowledged that the privatisation is on the brink of collapse. Yet this is a good thing for Nigerians and for future investors. Read more
African dollar bonds are increasingly gaining mainstream acceptance as the continent’s brisk economic growth and low interest rates in the developed world help buoy demand for high-yielding debt.
The size of Africa’s dollar-denominated debt market, not including South Africa, is now more than $20bn, accounting for 6 per cent of JP Morgan’s EMBI index. In sub-Saharan Africa, issuance of international sovereign bonds hit a record $6.9bn this year, with offerings from Kenya, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Ghana, Zambia and South Africa.
But amid the excitement over Africa’s growing role in international capital markets, some are beginning to question just how healthy the dollar borrowing spree is. Read more
Nigeria has become the first country to completely stop selling oil to the US due to the impact of the shale revolution – an astounding reversal as the African nation was only four years ago one of the top-5 oil suppliers to America.
According to the US Department of Energy, Nigeria did not export a single barrel of crude to US-based refiners in July for the first time since records start in 1973. Preliminary data suggest the trend continued in August and September. Read more
Kenya’s big twin deficits will become a heavier burden when higher US interest rates push up borrowing costs, Renaissance Capital warned on Monday. That would batter an economy already damaged by falling tea prices and tourism revenues.
In a note, Who’s hot and who’s not? in sub-Saharan Africa, RenCap predicted that
an increasing interest rate cycle in the US from 2015 will slow the flow of debt to Kenya, particularly the flow of external debt that finances the CA deficit and half of the budget deficit. Partly because of a higher cost of external borrowing, and fall in global appetite for EM and FM assets, as yields on US debt improves. Kenya’s capital inflows are likely to slow at a time when the CA is being undermined by insecurity, which is dampening tourism revenue.
The number of middle class households in 11 key sub-Saharan African countries – excluding South Africa – are set to triple to 22m by 2030, creating a burgeoning consumer market for items such as vehicles, insurance policies, property and health products, according to a Standard Bank research report.
Simon Freemantle, senior political economist at Standard Bank and author of the report, said the prospective boom in middle class households – those earning between US$8,500 and US$42,000 a year – is also likely to be complemented by a swelling in the number of lower middle class households that earn between US$5,500 and US$8,500 annually. Read more
Late at night during a power blackout in Ghana’s capital Accra is neither the time nor the place you’d expect pop diva Celine Dion to come to your rescue. But when a rider from restaurant delivery service Hellofood Ghana lost his bearings with a customer’s dinner on the back of his motorbike, he turned to Celine for help.
Unable to find his customer’s home in the gloom, he arranged for the client to come onto the street playing “My heart will go on” on her phone. The driver, also a Dion fan, played the same music on his phone, allowing the two of them to locate each other by siren song.
“Luckily, he still had a mobile phone signal so he could phone the client,” says Yolanda Lee, a 26 year-old Canadian who runs Hellofood Ghana, a subsidiary of Hellofood Africa which manages a meal delivery service in 10 countries and 14 cities in West, East and North Africa. Read more