No. 63: AI Bias + Data | Y-Combinates US + Nigeria | Russia + Africa Nuclear

Notes on AI Bias

Machine learning is much better at doing certain things than people, just as a dog is much better at finding drugs than people, but you wouldn’t convict someone on a dog’s evidence. And dogs are much more intelligent than any machine learning.

The problem with this statement is that we have convicted people on a dog’s evidence and later found that evidence to be faulty.

Outside of this issue, Benedict Evans provides a simple definition of artificial intelligence bias, scenarios of the potential bad effects of AI bias, and how we can mitigate those effects. Evans’ central point is a good one to keep in mind:

ML finds patterns in data – what patterns depends on the data, and the data is up to us, and what we do with it is up to us.

Paystack x Lambda School Partnership

This is an interesting partnership probably arising from both startups being Y-Combinator alums. Paystack has gotten quite a lot of traction in Nigeria providing a payment platform similar to Stripe. Lambda provides software development training free of charge until folks get a job making at least $50k. After this, they’ll have to pay 17% of their salary for tuition over two years.

I’ve seen a lot of VCs pointing to Lambda as the chosen one to lead us into a new model for education based on this model. First – their not the only education business doing this, African Leadership University uses a similar model. Second, I worry that folks could still find themselves stuck with collectors hands in their pockets. I’d be curious to see what the income threshold will be for this Paystack partnership.

Ethiopia and Russia sign three-year nuclear power plan

Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation has been aggressive about pushing nuclear development across Africa. Over the past five years, the company has been at various stages of talks with South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, and Ethiopia. It’ll be at least a decade before we see how all this plays out but it’s quite interesting.

No. 62: Nigerian Investment | Twittanic | AI Workforce

Nigeria to Negotiate Future International Investment Agreements…. To Use New Model

This is a strong quote from Yewande Sadiku, head of Nigeria’s Investment Promotion Commission, at a recent event honoring the late Professor Michael Ayo Ajomo:

“it is true that Nigeria has challenges, but when we are going into a negotiation that is not the toga that we wear, the toga that we wear is the toga of a country that is the 26th largest economy in the world and is estimated by 2050 to be the 14th largest; the toga of a country that is the 7th most populous country in the world and is estimated that by 2050 would become the 3rd most populous country.”

I don’t know anything about Professor Ajomo and look forward to learning about him. As for the quote, direct investment in the country during the Buhari administration peaked at nearly $4.5B in 2017. It will be interesting to see how investment in the country shifts once the refinery Dangote Industries is developing comes online in 2020. Dangote expects the refinery to meet all local demand and position the country to export finished oil products. This could change things for how oil investors think about the competitive landscape in the country moving forward.

Jack Dorsey is Captain of the Twittanic at TED 2019

I have been a Twitter user since February 2009. The platform has played a key role in expanding my world view and connecting me to now friends and mentors. It’s played a key role globally shaping the relationship between citizens and their governments.

The platform has also been quite harmful. The levels to which folks face harassment on the platform is quite alarming. For those who have been on the receiving end of that harassment – terrifying, I have to believe.

I’ve watched and listened to numerous interviews Jack Dorsey has given over the past couple years and there seems to be this disconnect in how quickly he plans to address the issue. Apparently, this was the case during his TED interview yesterday. I look forward to watching the video once it comes out.

Andrew Ng on Building an AI Workforce

This is a good interview with Andrew Ng, one of the foremost experts on the development of artificial intelligence from an operator and academic perspective. He makes the case here for folks to layer their expertise in various disciplines with an understanding of AI considering the impacts the technology is having across industries.

Ng also makes the case for conditional basic income rather than universal basic income for fear that folks will get trapped in certain jobs, namely gig economy jobs. I share this concern.

The one thing that frustrates me in conversations with AI experts is their positioning of certain AI developments being so far down the road that we shouldn’t spend a lot of time worrying about them. I worry how that gives space for the development of bad habits in AI technology that lead us to points of regret along this path we’re on.

No. 52 – 3AMReads: So. Tired. Need. Sleep.

Ecobank Research: Barclays brand’s exit from Africa could trigger loyalty separation

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TechCabal’s African Tech Roundup: Africa-Focused Insights From IoT World Forum 2017

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IMF: Tayo Oviosu: Technology Draws More Nigerians Into Banking Fold

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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. 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. 

No. 36 – 3AMReads: Nigeria’s BOI Incentivizes Entrepreneurship | Cars45 CEO Speaks Out | China-Africa Trade Keeps Growing

Nigeria’s Bank of Industry Provides Interest-Free Loans to National Youth Service Members

Nigeria’s Bank of Industry has developed a Graduate Entrepreneurship Fund in partnership with the country’s National Youth Service Corps. The program provides NYSC members with loans they can use to further establish their businesses, and it seems like a nice program. Nigeria requires recent college graduates to participate in the NYSC, completing a year of national service in another part of the country. The program came about after the Biafra War in order to foster national pride and encourage understanding between the various parts of the country. This year, the BoI has distributed about $834,000 to 177 Corps members, an average of $4700 per member. Over the two years of the Fund, the BoI has distributed about $1.8M. I look forward to seeing how the program grows.

Video: Cars45 Explains Online Used Car Marketplace

Last week, I posted about Cars45 raising $5M for it’s online used car platform. Here’s an interview CNBC Africa did with Etop Ikpe, CEO of the company, this morning.

 

China’s Trade With Africa Keeps Growing

China’s commerce ministry says that the country’s trade with African countries totaled nearly $39B in Q1 2017, driven by a steep increase in agricultural imports. For comparison, the US did about $37B in trade with African countries over the whole of 2015. There’s been much discussion about US-China competition across the African continent. In terms of sheer volume, China continues to win out, while US stakeholders hang their hats on the quality of US-Africa partnerships. The difference in scale of trade levels is just incredible though. I look forward to seeing how China’s trade data takes shape over the course of the year and what stories come out about this sharp increase in demand for agricultural imports.

No. 34 – 3AMReads: Cheap Black Market Naira | Kana TV’s Winning Ethiopia | Safaricom’s Not About That Breakup Life

Black Market Naira Trading Cheaper Than Official Naira

Nigeria’s currency situation has been a mess of late, and I’m blaming it on Billions (read my thoughts in Issue No. 24). Sure enough, hedge funds are sniffing around for a deal. This week has felt like something of a perfect storm for Nigeria with telecoms having to cut back on their broadband coverage due to forex restrictions on equipment imports to go along with a particularly rough decline in power generation. And President Buhari is out of the country for who knows how long. Sheesh.

Kana TV Has Ethiopians Watching More TV
Kana TV is gaining market share in Ethiopia, bringing hip entertainment content to a media landscape that heretofore had been relatively drab. As Ethiopia eases restrictions over various sectors it will be interesting to see how brands like Kana innovate and push the boundaries in appealing to their customers. 

Safaricom Doesn’t Plan on Letting Regulators Split Up Company 

Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore has committed the company to fighting any efforts by Kenyan regulators to break up the country’s largest company by market value, separating the mammoth Mpesa business from the rest of the company. That would mess with the company’s future plans to develop an e-commerce platform and content distribution business. Mpesa would play a huge role in monetizing such offerings. Definitely stay tuned to what happens here.