No. 154: 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. 

No. 42: Nigerian Fashion Makes a Statement: This Week in African Markets

From LinkedIn.

ECONOMIC PAIN CONTINUES – Moody’s downgraded South Africa’s five largest banks, nine of its municipalities, its two development finance institutions, following the firm’s downgrading of the government’s debt ratingand Eskom’s bond rating last week. While the outlook remains stable for the banks and one of the development institutions – the Industrial Development Corporation – the South African government continues to take hits. COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) voted to expel NUMSA (National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa) over the weekend, potentially further weakening the African National Congress as elections loom and the party continues to experience fissures. Labor strikes have hit the mining industry and broader economy hard over the past year. What will it take for South Africa to hit an upward swing? Thegovernment expects its GDP to rise 1.4 percent, revised down from the already low 2.4 percent. Send any interesting articles my way covering what the country needs to do to get out of this rut.

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FIGHT NIGHT – The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Finance Minister and Industry Minister almost lost their jobs Monday. Members of parliament came close to losing a couple teeth. Sixty-three assembly members signed on to a motion for a vote of no confidence on both ministers, arguing that they are mismanaging the country. The motion did not succeed due to 18 MPs withdrawing their support. Here’s a placeholder for side-eye. Last year, Last year, Prime Minister Matata Ponyo survived a no-confidence vote with similar charges. Similarly, several MPs withdrew their support for the no-confidence vote. President Joseph Kabila, since winning a controversial election in 2011, has faced pretty heavy political pressure from opposition groups. Recently, there has been debate on whether he would try tochange the constitution and make another run for the presidency, and what impact recent events in Burkina Faso would have on his decision. I suppose we’ll know soon enough.

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DOROBUCCI – The beautiful people came out in full force at Lagos Fashion & Design Week last week. Founded by @OmoyemiAkerele, the show was hosted by@GTBank and organized by Ms. Akerele’s Style House Files. The show was one of the higher profile events to take place in Lagos since the World Health Organization announced the end of the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria, and highlighted the growing significance of Lagos as a global fashion destination. @DAdjaye, lead designer of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, is designing a concept store for Reni Folayiwo’s Alara, which will house luxury designs from across Africa and the West. As Ms. Akerele and Ms. Folayiwo attract more attention to Nigeria’s fashion opportunity, the hope is that wealthy Nigerians will do more of their shopping at home, as opposed to shopping in Europe. The demand is certainly there.

Have insight on this week’s news, like President Jonathan officially announcing his candidacy for next year’s elections? Post them in the comments section.

No. 35: What I’m Reading Today

Davidson profiled Muna Musiitwa on her work in Africa. Great nuggets on key questions for mapping the way forward on the continent – [http://buff.ly/1ojta8X]

Jason Njoku does some nice analysis on property values in Lagos in parallel with tech investments – [http://buff.ly/1ojtfsY]

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has paid a good bit of attention to Africa, including a $10M initiative to support the development of financial journalism – [http://buff.ly/1ojtkgt]

Ben Leo, Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, provides six key things the Millenium Challenge Corporation should focus on – [http://buff.ly/1n4f3Vb]

My Nigerian brother, Odini Nwakuche, is making waves with his clothing venture – [http://buff.ly/1n4f8Iv]

No. 14: Rail and Tram Networks Establish Collaboration Space

I left a 10-day vacation in Switzerland last month in awe of the country’s rail infrastructure. One can live in a small village hours away from a major city like Zurich or Geneva, yet work in the city without a car. This would be tough to do in Atlanta.

In Switzerland, trams are an indispensable ingredient of a convenient commute. Street-level light rail in Geneva enabled me to easily jump on a train and get off when I saw my stop. I watched hundreds of people do the same during a day trip to Zurich.

Traveling regionally, I took express trains that didn’t stop on the way to our destination, making for very efficient trips. My wife and I only had one late train on our entire trip. I took several naps in my clean, cushioned seat during one-and-a-half-hour train rides from the Alps to Zurich. I awakened to at least one nightmare upon realizing that I spend the same amount of time driving from Decatur to the University of Georgia in Athens twice a week.

Returning home, I couldn’t help but think about how metro Atlanta could benefit from Zurich’s expertise in establishing a tram network that encourages commuters to use rail within the city.

Rapid transit has been a major discussion point in metro Atlanta due to the city’s stifling car traffic and the lack of access to the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority’s (MARTA) rail lines in certain areas.

A series of projects in the pipeline could combat these challenges. The Atlanta Beltline includes a 22-mile rail line that will connect the majority of Atlanta’s neighborhoods. And last year, the City of Atlanta won a $47.6 million federal grant to construct a streetcar connecting King Memorial and Centennial Olympic Park. Atlanta won this funding after falling short in securing nearly $300 million in funding for a streetcar that would run along the Peachtree Street corridor between Downtown and Midtown.

In researching these efforts, I learned that Atlanta officials have already engaged Swiss leaders to learn more about the country’s transit model and its lessons for Atlanta.
Councilman Kwanza Hall traveled to Switzerland to participate in an intensive study of the country’s transit system. Atlanta’s Swiss consulate general also has hosted multiple sustainable transportation conferences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

One of Atlanta’s African sister cities would do well to join Atlanta in learning from Zurich’s experience. Lagos, Nigeria, with its 15 million people, is the country’s most populous city and the second most populous city on the African continent. Its government has committed 70 billion naira (about $452 million) to install a light rail system that would improve the ability of Nigerians to move within a city projected to be Africa’s largest by 2015, according to a United Nations HABITAT report. By establishing links with Zurich’s Public Transport Authority (ZVV), Lagos could ensure that it reduces car traffic as much as possible.

The completion of the Lagos light rail project could also increase the ease of travel between Atlanta and Lagos, which are already linked by a nonstop Delta Air Lines flight. The light rail line will connect Murtala Muhammed Airport to the rest of Lagos, enabling foreign businesspeople to more easily travel throughout the city. This convenient change would be a small but significant contribution to the growth of business engagement between Lagos and Atlanta.

Zurich provides a light-rail model for Lagos and Atlanta, one from which I hope they partner in learning. It would be great to see Lagos and Atlanta residents and visitors utilizing their rail lines as admirably as Switzerland, for the long-term benefit of both cities.