No. 50 – 3AMReads: Moody’s Downgrades Eskom | DRC Asks for Joint Bid | Ghana President Wants More Parliament

Moody’s downgrades South Africa’s power utility Eskom

South Africa continues to face challenges as bad news continues to emerge from week to week. On Monday, Eskom’s chairman resigned. On Tuesday, Moody’s downgrades the power utility’s credit rating.

The question in my mind is what is the path forward for South Africa. President Zuma, who has played a central role much of these recent issues, will be stepping down as leader of the ANC next year, hopefully. He is then to step down as President in 2019. Who will fill that void?

The ANC is still pretty firmly in Zuma’s control, evinced by the ANC voting not to remove him from the presidency a few weeks ago. Who within the ANC could step up? The party’s Youth League has put its weight behind Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, but she is also backed by President Zuma. Who outside the ANC could step up? One of the most high profile political leaders in the country, Helen Zille, just apologized for a problematic tweet about colonialism being good for Africa. I think it’s pretty safe to bet she won’t be getting a ton of votes.

South Africa needs leadership to right the ship over the next several years and it’s not apparent that folks are in position to take on that mantle. Hopefully, someone emerges over these next couple years.

Congo tells consortia to form joint bid for Inga 3 hydro project

The Inga 3 dam has been under development for what seems like forever, something like 14 or 15 years. The Democratic Republic of Congo just asked two massive companies from China and Spain to work together on a joint bid, and it seems like a pretty strange request. Let’s see what more information comes out about this.

Ghana Leader Favors Constitutional Change to Boost Finances

President Nana Akufo-Addo wants parliament to have more oversight of the country’s public finances, which would require constitutional changes. Ghana already has a central audit agency structure. I think a nice addition would be to create an agency similar to the Government Accountability Office, an independent agency that works for Congress and investigates how the government spends public dollars. GAO has already done with staff at Ghana Internal Audit Agency, and I’m sure would be more than happy to help establish a similar organization that works for Ghana’s parliamentary structure.

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. 37 – 3AMReads: Upside in African Financial Services | Lonmin Moves Ops to Marikana | China Pledges $100B

Investor Highlights African Financial Services Opportunity Despite Headwinds

Kurt Davis surveys the financial services industry across Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cote d’Ivoire as ones where investors will find an upside though the current state of the industry isn’t the prettiest to look at. His projection of Cote d’Ivoire becoming the centerpiece of regional financial services action in West Africa is a really interesting that makes sense given the countries growth trajectory so far. Before that happens, I’m going to need the military to improve its operations, find money to pay soldiers, and decrease the specter of mutiny.

Lonmin Moves to Marikana

My mind immediately went to the Marikana Massacre a few years ago when I saw the news that Lonmin was moving it’s Johannesburg office to Marikana where dozens of Lonmin workers were killed by South African police during a wildcat strike. A couple years after that, the company along with the rest of South Africa’s platinum miners went through a very long strike that really put a dent in South Africa’s already struggling growth rate. Lonmin CEO Ben Magara got his start working in the mines and says that he wants to be closer to the company’s operation. Relations between the company and its employees aren’t getting any better with workers protesting last week. Hopefully this move helps improve relations.

China Pledges $100B to Finance Projects Globally

Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted several global leaders for China’s One Belt, One Road Forum. A year or so ago, China launched this effort as part of its aims to connect 60+ countries through a vast transport and logistics network to drive trade. Kenya and Ethiopia’s presidents were in attendance, and both have already seen hundreds of millions of dollars in investment as part of this effort. China’s trade with African countries is already sizeable at $39B for Q1 2017, and we can expect that number to grow significantly in the coming years if China is able to execute the projects it targets and gets paid back. If not, there could be a lot of debt floating around the world. African countries, particularly the ones that have issued large bonds in recent years, would do well to really ensure they have revenue streams to cover more debt should they pursue it.

No. 33 – Three AM Reads: MTN Keeps Eye on Iran | Senegal’s Got Gas| Taxing Entertainers and Athletes

MTN Signs Non-Binding Agreement to Invest in Iranian Net

South Africa-based MTN Group continues to set its sights on participating in Iran’s fast growing telecoms industry, with this preliminary move to place nearl $40M in Iranian Net for a 49.5% stake in the company. MTN has growing stakes in Iran, with its minority ownership of Irancell, though MTN had slowed its expansion efforts in Iran due to US sanctions preventing the company from repatriating around $1B in revenue from its stake in Iran’s telecoms space. Now that those sanctions have lifted, we can expect to see more such deals in Iran.

BP and Kosmos Discover Large Gas Well Off Coast of Senegal

BP must feel good about committing $1B to exploring for gas off the coasts of Senegal and Mauritania. The two companies found a well estimated to contain around 15 trillion cubic square feet of gas. Needless to say, the two companies will keep looking for more gas.

Deloitte Outlines Nigeria’s Tax Policy for Entertainers and Athletes 

I’m sure non-resident Nigerians who go back to Nigeria to perform were not happy to hear about this case Deloitte makes for Nigeria to figure out its taxation policy for non-resident Nigerians in order to take advantage of another potential revenue stream for the country.

No. 31 – Three AM Reads: South Africa’s Junk Status a Quick Fix? | Another Innovators List | Chevy Volt Designer Goes Home to Nigeria

South Africa Central Bank Governor Says Junk Status Can be Addressed Quickly

During the World Economic Forum held in Durban this week, South African Central Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago said that South African can quickly deal with the concerns ratings agencies have raised in cutting the country’s credit rating to junk status or putting its rating on review for a downgrade. I’m curious what path he sees for that to happen. The ratings cuts happened after President Zuma flipped his entire cabinet in the wee hours of the night last month. The political uncertainty driven by the President is the primary issue and I don’t see how that changes unless he’s no longer in office.

Quartz Releases 2017 Africa Innovators List

Yesterday, I highlighted a list of women innovators across Africa. Today, Quartz released its list of innovators across the continent, and it’s a good one as well. Kudos to Karim Sy for making the list!

Chevy Volt Designer Leading Development of Nigeria’s Automotive Industry

So, I definitely missed this in the news cycle several weeks ago. Jelani Aliyu, the designer of the Chevy Volt, has been tapped to lead Nigeria’s National Automotive Design and Development Council. That’s really cool. More vim to him in contributing to the country building up industries outside of the energy space.

No. 27 – Three AM Reads: Cars45 gets $5m | Ethos Makes a Sugar Play | Ghana’s Illegal Mining Problem

Cars45 Gets $5M to Streamline Nigerian Used Auto Sales

Jake Bright reports that Cars45 raised a nice Series A round from Frontier Car Group that has backing from some serious names in the venture capital space – Balderton Capital, EchoVC, TPG Growth, and Maryland-based NEA. Seeing that Cars45 raised its round from this one group got me curious. Two of Frontier Car Group’s directors are on the founding team of Cars45. What is more interesting is that the Spring, Texas-registered Frontier Car Group has raised nearly $22M from 28 investors. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to invest a quarter of your fund in one company. Perhaps the group is raising a larger fund? Late last year, the Group filed that it had raised $18M. The $22M size of the fund was filed as an amendment in mid-April. Very interesting. Look out for more here.

Ethos Takes Controlling Stake in South African Beverage Company

According to Africa Capital Digest, Ethos Private Equity has taken a controlling stake in Little Green Beverages, a South African beverage company. This is interesting timing for the close of this deal considering South Africa’s sugar tax is slated for implementation at some point this year.  We’ll see what Michael Benjamin, former General Manager at SABMiller, can do to navigate that while improving the company’s products.

Illegal Mining a Sore Spot for Ghana-China Relations

Ghana has been trying to figure out what to do about illegal gold mining for quite some time now, but apparently hasn’t made much headway. This Financial Times piece outlines the issue as the Akufo-Addo Administration tries to take a broad stance against illegal mining, while others point the finger directly at Chinese driving of illegal mining. China’s response has been to remind Ghanaian officials of all the money China could pull out of Ghana if it doesn’t get it’s media to be “objective” about its coverage of illegal mining in the country. Illegal mining is going to continue to be a thorn in Ghana’s side with its terrible child labor issues and environmental impact, on top of navigating relations with a world power. Nonetheless, Ghana must keep trying to pull the thorn out.

No. 7: 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.