What Happens When the Software for Our Technology-Dependent Lives Breaks?

I opened up my Pocket to develop my latest “Reads” post a few minutes ago, and got the message you see in the image. For five seconds, I felt like my world had fallen apart. That’s not good.

There are so many different ways I can access the news, but have built the majority of my news consumption around Pocket. It has been invaluable as I come across interesting articles over the course of a day, but do not yet have time to read them. When I get a few minutes, I can go to my Pocket app and read an article or two.

Andreessen-Horowitz, a major venture capital firm, operates under a thesis that software is eating the world. Do we really want that? What do we do when the software breaks?

I don’t know. I’m going to bed.

The African Development Bank Welcomes its New President Today

The African Development Bank (AfDB) will be receiving the swagger Dr. Akinwumi Adesina brought to Nigeria’s agriculture sector, as he begins his term as president today. He takes the helm in times that are significantly different from when his predecessor, Dr. Donald Kaberuka got his start, and present their own set of challenges and opportunities, some of which I will cover here.

The Bank is Operating in a Different World

For six of the ten years President Kaberuka served as AfDB president, the US Federal Reserve was implementing its policy of quantitative easing. During QE, we saw investors’ risk appetite and willingness to place money in developing markets increase, creating an environment for several African countries to dip into the debt markets to finance infrastructure development and address deficits.

Now that QE is over, there is concern we could see a reversal depending on how aggressively the Fed hikes interest rates and to what extent emerging market growth slows. The Institute for International Finance projects that 2015 private capital inflows to Sub-Saharan Africa should still increase, though slightly.

If this proves accurate over the next several months, it would have been a cause for relief for countries like Ghana that have dipped into the debt markets, but are experiencing significant fiscal struggles and have been trying to figure out how to maintain investor confidence.

The Bank is Different 

The AfDB is a much different bank than it was 10 years ago. The AfDB was issuing about $400M in lines of credit when President Kaberuka began his first term. Now, it issues more than $3 billion. Over the course of his tenure, the AfDB has approved $28 billion in infrastructure projects, $10 billion more than the bank had approved between the bank’s creation in 1964 and 2004. 

Further, the AfDB worked on incorporating the private sector into its business model, increasing the number of public private partnerships it involved itself with, and a large reason for the growth in the bank’s lending portfolio.

These two developments, along with a concerted focus on integrating African countries at a regional level serve as significant opportunity areas for driving the continent’s growth further.

Back in 2009, the World Bank came out with data that about $93 billion annually over ten years was needed to bring Africa’s infrastructure up to a competitive level. It would be interesting to see what progress has been made against this figure. If the $93 billion need holds true, there will be plenty of room for the AfDB to engage new project development around energy, transportation, and agriculture, which will require private sector participation and often planning at a regional level. 

Developing Country Development Banks Are On The Rise

The World Bank missed an opportunity to reshape the global power structure between developing and developed countries with the election of Jim Kim to be its president in 2012, rather than candidates from developing countries like Nigeria or Mexico. The following year, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa formed the BRICS bank, now known as the New Development Bank. 

China is also setting up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), whose primary focus is Asian countries, but could expand to African countries. The more the merrier according to President Kaberuka, per his recent remarks at the Brookings Institution, suggesting that the AIIB would do well to invest in Africa. We will have to see how China’s continued economic right sizing impacts ventures like the AIIB. 

What Dr. Adesina Will Be Working On

Dr. Adesina has stated several times that he will be building on the already strong work President Kaberuka had done over the past ten years.  A lot of his focus areas echo those sentiments. For example, he has talked about developing regional centers of excellence to help support natural resource development capacity, and complement the Africa Legal Support Facility’s efforts to help African countries negotiate better deals in the extractives industry. 

Building on the scale the AfDB has reached in its infrastructure investments, Dr. Adesina campaigned on building “integrated smart infrastructure,” to ensure the bank can measure its impact. This will complement the work of the Africa50 fund, another legacy of President Kaberuka. The $3 billion fund is focused on accelerating infrastructure investments across the continent to close Africa’s aforementioned $930 billion infrastructure gap with the rest of the world. 

This focus area should also feed into other parts of his vision for the AfDB’s work, including the development of resilient cities and building the continent’s agriculture value chains.

Potential Risks on the Horizon

The continent’s two largest economies – South Africa and Nigeria – have faced challenges with energy and fiscal matters. The Nigerian government continues to deal with falling oil oil prices, among other challenges, all while President Muhammad Buhari has just begun to announce his cabinet after several months in office. South Africa is continuing to deal with the fallout of rolling blackouts, though it too should continue to see a rise in capital inflows. 

As the AfDB pushes for regional integration, the ripple effects of challenges in individual African economies will grow. The Greek debt situation has not been pretty to watch and something like that happening to an African country would be really frustrating. 

Further, it is difficult to see how the country can break from a cycle of loan repayments. The cautionary rAfrican countries will approach each step in integrating their economies with caution.

The importance of African countries communicating their growth strategies is paramount, especially now that the QE program is over. This is especially true for fragile countries as the AfDB pushes for more inclusive growth on the continent. 

Keep Your Eye on the Bow Tie

Dr. Adesina delivered impressive results in Nigeria’s agriculture sector by closing loopholes for corruption in the country’s seed market, setting up a $100 million private equity fund, and boosting rice production, as a few examples. I look forward to seeing where he takes the AfDB. 

Mrs. Jones

The woman pictured above changed my life. Mrs. Jones was my 7th grade social studies teacher. My class was slightly rowdy, yet she always remained in control of the room. 

I started off underperforming in her class, more concerned with my pursuit of coolness. She pulled me aside one day and told me she knew I could do better. I’ll never forget the new feeling of wanting to prove her right. 

Thankfully, Mrs. Jones and her husband were home when I stopped by yesterday. It was great catching up and discussing their progress in launching a grocery co-op in the neighborhood I grew up in. The co-op has raised nearly $2million to begin operations. I’m excited about becoming a member and visiting the store whenever I’m in town. 

Since leaving middle school, I had tried to visit Mrs. Jones at least once a year, but hadn’t done so since college. To see her and her husband in such great health while leading the empowerment of my childhood community was a real treat. 

Thank you, Mrs. Jones. 

Christian Taylor Almost Set the Triple Jump World Record!

What a jump! That last phase looks like it hurt, but was so worth it! The world record in the triple jump is 60′. So close! That is the third time Taylor has jumped beyond 18m, equaling the number of times Jonathan Edwards – the world record holder – jumped beyond the 18m mark. He is making a strong case for nipping at Edwards’ heels as the greatest triple jumper in history. Check out these stats on the furthest jumps in triple jump history.

Here’s Christian Taylor speaking before the IAAF World Championships about switching his takeoff legs. He has jumped 58’9″ inches with his left leg, and 59’7″ with his right leg. Beast.

Another story from the championships is Kenya expanding beyond its dominance of the distance events. Nicholas Bett won the 400m hurdles in 47.79 from lane 9, while taking 13 steps between each hurdle for the entire race. Typically, you see athletes go 14-15 steps over the last 5 or so hurdles. Andre Phillips almost ran sub-47 seconds in the 400m hurdles going 13 steps. Kevin Young, the world record holder went down to 12 steps before finishing up with 13 steps!

Could we see Bett take the lead in pushing the event to the 47-second edge? With more work on his speed and technique, in particular, getting that lead leg down, perhaps! Check out his race below.

Julius Yego, another Kenyan, won the Javelin with 304’2″ – the furthest distance thrown in the event in 14 years. What a great throw!

Yego already had the world’s top throw of the year with a 299’8″ performance. I hope he has what it takes to push towards Jan Jelezny’s world record of 323′. Considering that Yego learned the sport through YouTube, while Jelezny grew up in the javelin-chucking center of the world, he is progressing quite nicely. Take a look at Yego’s progression, compared to Jelezny’s,

5 Tuesday PM Reads and Views

  1. Alice Walker wrote a beautiful poem about Julian Bond.
  2. Nas continues to make waves with the launch of the Opportunity Fund, a General Assembly scholarship program focused on getting more women, veterans, African-Americans, and Latinos into programming and engineering.
  3. Here’s an interview with Justin Gatlin after he won silver at this year’s World Track and Field Championships. Notice the emotion. After serving a four-year ban for steroids that he maintains he did not take knowingly, nearly the entire track and field world has berated him constantly in the three or four years he has been back in the sport. It’s sickening to be honest. A BBC commentator said that Usain Bolt may have saved the sport after winning the 100m dash. Come off it.
  4. Teju Cole wrote an intriguing essay, I assume based on a carving he saw at a museum. He does a beautiful job weaving past and present together. 
  5. Great Jeune Afrique piece on Aliko Dangote and his business empire.(Translate to English) 

3 Tuesday AM Views

1. After highlighting how problematic it is being labeled the first black woman head of South Africa’s Insurance Institute, Delphine Maidu, CEO of Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty for Africa, discussed women leadership styles, what the insurance industry could do to better serve customers, and the low insured rates in South Africa. 

2. Ushahidi executive director Juliana Rotich highlights the importance of building an ecosystem for entrepreneurs across Africa to get traction with their innovations. 

3. Tryphosa Ramano, CFO of PPC (South Africa’s largest cement company) gave her insights on the importance of women landing board seats and pushing for policies that support the development of women leadership in South Africa’s corporate world. 

I’m constantly looking for black women leaders I can reference as my daughter gets older. Leave names of others who come to mind in the comment section below. 

The Next Wave

Julian Bond died last night.

I can’t shake this image of a wave of folks fighting for equal rights in this country. Every year, key fighters pass on. Every year, new fighters emerge.

The photo above is of W.E.B DuBois on the left holding 2-year old Julian Bond’s hand.

Bree Newsome

Clint Smith

Phillip Agnew

There are so many I could list.

Johnetta Elzie

Deray McKesson

Stacey Abrams

Who are some folks who come to mind as part of this next wave?