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.)

No. 42 – 3AMReads: What Will Ford’s New CEO Do About Africa?

Apologies for missing yesterday’s post. My body is making it clear I need to sleep more.

The big market news yesterday was Ford CEO Mark Fields retiring, making room for Jim Hackett to take over at the home of America’s best selling vehicle. The news was surprising because Fields had done a pretty good job at Ford. Large profit margins. Revamping the technology behind vehicles like the Ford F-150. Further, he had only been there three years – not very long.

Ford Chairman Bill Ford cited the company’s need for a transformational leader as the reason for the change in leadership in light of the rapidly changing technology landscape as the specter of autonomous vehicles comes into clearer view. So far, it appears Ford has been behind the curve on that. Fields acknowledged himself that he didn’t move as quickly as he needed to. Jim Hackett oversaw Ford’s Smart Mobility division and has a reputation for moving quickly and as a blunt-talking visionary.

One could argue that Bill Ford should have seen the need for this transformational leader before giving Mark Fields the job. Ford gave a TED talk on the vision he had for the future of vehicle transportation well before hiring Fields. Regardless, Hackett is the man now. What does that mean for the company’s business in Africa?

I should start with the reality that Ford’s Africa business is tiny. Across the Middle East and Africa, Ford employs 3,000, compared to the 96,000 in the US alone. The company’s MEA business struggled last, though the company pins that on distribution issues in the Middle East.

Considering the amount of work Ford has to do to catch up in the mobility race, I don’t know that one could make the business case for investing resources in the company’s Africa business.

Further, Hackett doesn’t have the international purview Mark Fields did. Fields spent decades leading Ford’s business around the world. As CEO, Fields oversaw the  creation of Ford’s MEA business unit in order to dedicate resources to the region in 2014. A year later, Ford announced that it would assemble Ford Rangers in Nigeria.  Then the company announced a $170M investment in its South Africa business last year.  As far as I can tell, Hackett’s entire career has been in the Midwest – Steelcase, University of Michigan, Ford, etc. So, who knows how much attention Hackett would pay to a small operation like what Ford has in Africa.

So, take this context, combine it with last week’s news of GM selling its South Africa business, take a couple leaps in logic and you arrive at my concern that Ford could pull out its Africa bu

No. 41 – 3AMReads: Azure in Africa |Facebook Invests in Fiber Optic | Volvo Takes to Kenya

Microsoft Announces First Public Cloud in Africa

Microsoft announced today that it was going to stand up two data centers in South Africa, the first public data centers on the continent. Let that sit with you for a bit. Hopefully, this is the beginning of public clouds proliferating across the continent. The benefits of this reach from public sector revenue generation to auto mobility technologies I was fretting over yesterday. GM, come back, maybe?

Facebook Invests in Fiber Optic in Uganda

I missed the news earlier this year that Uganda was investing $170M in a fiber optic project in Uganda. East Africa landing $270M in fiber optic investments over the past couple months, including Google investing $100M in Csquared, is definitely a good look. Keep it coming!

Volvo Expanding Truck-Building to Kenya

Volvo announced yesterday that it was opening its third truck assembly plant on the African continent, this time in Kenya. I look forward to seeing how this operation performs considering the work the East African Community has done to ensure cross border trade is as strong as possible.

No. 40 – 3AMReads: AFC Head Makes Case for Infrastructure | GM Sells South Africa Operation 

Africa Finance Corporation CEO Makes Case for Infrastructure Investment

Andrew Alli is one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter. He is witty and always provides forthright analysis. During the celebration of the Africa Finance Corporation’s 10 years in business, Alli shared some observations on the importance of infrastructure in Africa. His admonishment to focus on working with companies that can scale and fixing the currency situation so that deals aren’t be done on US currency which is more risky. 

GM Sells Off South Africa Operations 

The auto industry is going to be really interesting to watch across the continent over the next several years. As global automakers fight for market share in a pending environment where ridesharing, autonomous driving, etc will be royalty, African countries still tangling with blackouts/brownouts just isn’t acceptable for a player like GM. The company can take its investment in a market like South Africa and drill down a bit further in a market like China where the path to seizing on huge growth potential is more visible. 

News like this crystallizes Andrew Alli’s statements about the critical role infrastructure investment plays in unlocking wealth on the continent. Foundational infrastructure combined with a wealthier consumer makes a more attractive investment for a GM. 

This piece also just brings back thoughts of where we’re going with technologies like artificial intelligence. Africa has to get the infrastructure right to be able to play in these spaces.

No. 39 – 3AMReads: Yaba Looks to Remain Lagos’ Startup Epicenter | $100M for Fiber Optic Company | Giant Nigerian Oil Trader Tells Origin Story

CcHub Pushes to Keep Yaba’s Startups Clustered Together
I struggled to parse out whether there’s really cause for concern for Yaba’s future as Lagos’ tech hub, or whether this piece was a veiled branding for CcHub. Perhaps, it was some of both. All the same, it’s cool to see CcHub making plans for the long-term in creating an environment for startups to thrive in a central location. 

I’m definitely on board with Bosun and other stakeholders trying to take advantage of economies of scale on pushing for broadband and better power supply. While Andela is a big fish in Lagos’ startup scene, I think their leaving the neighborhood is more something to pay attention to, while stakeholders continue thinking long term in creating the right environment to keep these type startups. Yaba isn’t fighting to maintain relevancy after two startups leave. 

Fiber-Optic Company Csquared Secures $100M Investment
Not that long ago, the big news for broadband across the continent were the undersea cables bringing broadband to Africa’s shores. The big question then was how to ensure the terrestrial reach of this newfound connectivity. 

A number of companies have been working on this, including global players like Google. Csquared, a spin-out of Google’s Project Link, landing this $100M is huge and I look forward to seeing more of this type deal activity. I’m sure iRoko CEO Jason Njoku would appreciate Csquared rolling out some fiber in Lagos to get his data costs down!

Commodities Trader Ighe Sanomi Tells Taleveras’ Origin Story
Oil traders in Nigeria make big bucks, and Ighe Sanomi is near the top of that list. This is an interesting piece that maps out Sanomi’s beginnings in the oil industry all the way to now where he is restructuring the companyafter a couple challenging years for his company.

For some time now, I’ve been thinking about how commodity dependent countries like Nigeria can diversify their economies while taking advantage of their core competencies. Oil is that for Nigeria and I think traders like Sanomi would do well to allocate some of their balance sheets to investing in R&D in various parts of the oil and gas value chain – new models for swaps contracts, oil exploration technologies, etc. 

I could just be naive since oil is definitely not my core competency, but I think there could be discoveries there that could lead to new revenue streams in the long term.