No. 49 – 3AMReads: Kenya Finds Trump Connect | Trump’s OPIC Pick… | Nigerian Oil Company Wins Oil Block

Politico: SPG Signs Kenya

Trump-connected Stanton Park Group signed a $1.2M contract to represent the country’s interests in the US. I look forward to seeing what they accomplish.

White House: Seventeen Nominations Sent to the Senate Today

President Trump has nominated Texas real estate tycoon Ray Washburne to be President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. After digging into his background I’m curious to find out which emerging markets he has traveled to, if at all.

It is encouraging to know that he is influential in President Trump’s circle, considering that he was part of President Trump’s transition team. The signs have been pointing to OPIC shutting down, but perhaps he can be influential in making a case for the agency to remain operational.

Fortunately, the nominee for Executive Vice President of the Corporation is David Bohigian who has significant experience negotiating trade agreements for the US. While looking into him, I found this interesting Cordell Hull quote he shared during a 2005 testimony he gave while being vetted for a position at the Department of Commerce:

I have never faltered, and I will never falter, in my belief that enduring peace and the welfare of nations are indissolubly connected with friendships, fairness, equality and the maximum practicable degree of freedom in international trade.

Todd Moss and Jared Kalow at the Center for Global Development provide some helpful recommendations to the two nominees here.

Forbes: Nigerian Energy Group Taleveras And ExxonMobil Win Oil Blocks In Equatorial Guinea

This article caught my eye because I couldn’t recall hearing of many African-owned oil company winning oil blocks, so I checked with a friend who confirmed that only a few firms have won oil blocks like this. I look forward to seeing more of this. It would definitely help to have African-owned oil companies exploring these blocks to have more data to draw from for the R&D labs they will be investing. (Remember my saying I’m going to keep bringing up these R&D labs?)

No. 48 – 3AMReads: $1B Cobalt project | South Africa’s Radical Economic Transformation | What is US-Africa Policy?

Bloomberg: Owner of $1 Billion Cobalt Project Says Rally Is Far From Over

Eurasian Resources Group has a pretty massive cobalt mining project in the works in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The company stands to realize a nice return on investment at the rate cobalt prices are skyrocketing. They jumped 71% last year and are expected to increase by 60% this year. Rising demand for electric vehicles and limited cobalt supply is driving these prices.

What concerns me about this project is the supply chain.  Cobalt mining has come under scrutiny due to the health hazards associated with extracting the mineral. Even more concerning is the reality that evidence has been found of children participating in cobalt mining in DRC. Take a look through ERG’s website, and you’ll see it is fairly light on sustainable development and occupational safety.

Chinese cobalt miners have caught the spotlight in terms of not managing their cobalt sourcing well. ERG should get the same level of attention to be sure it keeps things on the up and up.

Fin24: Recession shock knocks volatile rand

Radical economic transformation. Debate over what this means for South Africa reached fever pitch after President Zuma sacked Pravin Gordhan, probably the most respected high-ranking government official at the time. The midnight firing led to two credit agencies giving South Africa junk bond status. Yesterday, the country went into recession. Radical economic transformation. SMH.

Video: Senator Chris Coons Speaks at Council on Foreign Relations

Senator Chris Coons spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday, discussing US policy in Africa. Best line from the conversation, “On some level, I don’t want it to be a higher priority for the Trump administration.” Agreed.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fsenatorchriscoons%2Fvideos%2F1616437811702819%2F&show_text=0&width=560

No. 47 – 3AMReads: Akon Going Public | Robots Mess Up Development Formula | Don’t Sleep on Halal Tourism

Bloomberg: Star Rapper Akon Mulls IPO of Chinese-Funded African Solar Unit

I was surprised to see this news. Akon’s Lighting Africa project has gotten a good bit of media attention over the past several years. Perhaps, as time goes by, more information about the company’s financials will come out. I think a lot of people are curious to see them.

Axios: Robots could hobble developing countries

I’ve mentioned a few times my nervousness about the technological advancements society is making right now. I fear a sort of point-of-no-return where artificial intelligence, in particular, puts a wide gap between the developed and developing world. So, when I see pieces like this, my chest gets tight.

Perhaps alternatives to low-cost manufacturing serving as the path to development will emerge. The work startups like Andela are doing, for example, is quite interesting – developing technical talent and prepping them to work for global companies. The cost of hiring software engineers trained by Andela is much lower than hiring one in Silicon Valley. The problem is that as technology continues to advance, you need fewer and fewer engineers to reach scale with products. Andela just launched in its second country, Uganda, a few weeks ago. So, they are very much a wait and see case study.

How do you think African countries should navigate technological advancements like robots and artificial intelligence?

Quartz: The new growth industry in Africa is Muslim tourism

Several years ago, I traveled to a number of African countries with a group of Muslim entrepreneurs. It was a fascinating experience. The level of attention they paid to whether things were halal, making time for prayer, and other considerations was informative to be part of, and I could see how the tourism industry catering to Muslims could be lucrative.

 

No. 46 – 3AMReads: MTN Shareholders Aren’t Happy With Exec Pay | Nigeria Has Its Own Data Centers | Cape Town Has Virtually No Water

Kudos to Kenya on launching its new passenger rail connecting Nairobi to Mombasa earlier today. Would be nice to have something like this connecting Atlanta and Savannah!

Tech Central: MTN Slammed Over Bosses’ Millions

A significant portion of MTN’s shareholders expressed their displeasure with the telecom giant’s executive pay packages in light of the company’s declining performance. The only executive receiving a bonus is Executive Chairman Phuthuma Nhleko who returned to the company after a long career at the company when the CEO who succeeded him abruptly resigned.

One of the big sighs of relief for the company was Nhleko leading the company through reducing a massive $5B fine the Nigerian government levied against the company to $1.7B for failing to disconnect well over 5 million people who weren’t subscribed to the company. Former US Attorney General Eric Holder negotiated the deal, which is interesting to write about today, as later today he will be delivering a report to Uber’s board of directors on the spate of sexual harassment allegations the company has been dealing with.

Anyway, Nhleko was the only executive to receive a bonus – nearly $3M, in addition to his $2M salary. I think that is well deserved even if he was being rated just for reducing the company’s fine.

IT News Africa: Rack Centre MD Believes in Nigeria’s Growth Potential

Last week, I wrote about Microsoft announcing that it was constructing two data centers in South Africa. Here’s a nice interview with Ayotunde Coker, Managing Director of Rack Centre, a Nigeria-based data center company that sounds like it’s pulling its weight in the cloud space. Let’s see how they compete with Microsoft Azure!

Engineering News: Cape Town Mayor Warns of ‘Catastrophic Crisis’ if Water Runs Out

Earlier today, Patricia de Lille, Cape Town’s Mayor spoke before the City Council providing a clear picture of how little water the city has available to use. What’s frustrating about this situation is the number of companies that have tried to find solutions to the water challenge in Cape Town and other parts of South Africa, in particular, using desalination techniques. The city has been dealing with low water levels for over a decade. Let’s hope the city figures out a solution sooner than later. It would be great to see desalination companies be able to scale in the country. I wonder how much engagement city has had with Israel and the U.A.E.

No. 45 – 3AMReads: African Leaders Spend Time with Trump 

Towards the end of last week’s G7 meetings, participating countries joined a session focused on how to invest in Africa’s development in order to stem the wave of immigration from North Africa to Europe, often through extremely dangerous leans that prove fatal. 

At that meeting, the African leaders in attendance took the top photo with President Trump, and African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina captioned them with optimistic words.  

Some friends have written pieces about the opportunities that could rise for Africa, particularly in the white space available to create an Africa strategy for the Trump Administration. Let’s hope that’s the case and that the right people step in to fill that white space. 
 

No. 44 – 3AMReads: Concerned about Cote d’Ivoire | US National Security Interests in Africa | Step Your Outfit Game Up

Cote d’Ivoire’s Military Situation Continues to Concern 

We continue to hear more and more about the cracks widening within Cote d’Ivoire’s Military. The military is a combination of trained career soldiers and rebel fighters who helped President Alassane Outtara oust Laurent Gbagbo when he refused to relinquish the presidency back in 2010/2011. Since that time there have been at least three mutinies, the latest occuring just a couple weeks ago. 

Elections are coming up in a few years and I really hope the government figures out a solution to this problem well in advance. Further, investors have maintained relative excitement about the country with its high growth rates driven by economic reforms. You can’t expect that to continue should this military issue continue. 

Former Obama Official Weighs in On US National Security Interests in Africa 
Karen Attiah, the Global Opinions Editor at the Washington Post, did a nice interview with Grant Harris, former senior director for African Affairs in the Obama administration. 

The main theme is that the US has to invest resources into the continent in order to maintain its engagement with countries as it keeps a pulse on threats around the world. Harris wrote a report on the topic and I look forward to checking it out. 

UBA Group Enjoyed Africa Day
Yesterday was Africa Day and Nigeria’s UBA Group put on a royal affair where everyone wore their best traditional attire to work. Check out who won best-dressed for the men. Per usual, Nigerians never carry last.

No. 43 – 3AMReads: Tastemakers Africa 10-Year Plan | Safaricom Invests Nearly $2M in R&D Lab | Nigeria’s Petrol Corporation Moves Digital

Tastemakers Africa CEO Cherae Robinson Gives Us A Sneak Peak On Her 10-Year Plan and I’m Here For It

Marketplaces are powerful and have a track record of disrupting industries and building. See eBay and Airbnb. Look out for what Safaricom could build on its Mpesa platform if regulators don’t make the two break up.

Anyway, I’m really excited about what Cherae Robinson is building at Tastemakers Africa. She’s got a really cool vision for building a global experience marketplace driven by cultures around the world.

Cherae’s got the juice to make it happen and I’m excited about her changing the travel game around the world. I need to get my coins together so I can get on that cap table!

Safaricom Invests Nearly $2M in R&D Lab – Oil and Gas Players Should Take Notes

The prospect of Safaricom moving beyond importing telecom technologies and equipment to developing it’s own is really exciting! More of this sort of investment will create opportunities for innovation and connecting corporations with startups.

I mentioned in my blurb (3rd link) about Ighe Sanomi how I think oil and gas players should make these sorts of investments. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes.

Nigeria’s National Petroleum Corporation Receives Dozens of Bids to Digitize Records

The NNPC has been hounded for years by corruption claims. Billions of dollars have just gone missing upon hitting it’s coffers. Former Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi lost his job in efforts to uncover these missing billions (He became the Emir of Kano afterwards, and posts some boss Instagram photos).

Digitizing the Corporation’s record should go a long way in improving its accounting records – hopefully. Maybe. We’ll see. SMH. Further, I think this could be really helpful for R&D efforts (I’m going to keep bringing this up, FYI.)