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Africa’s Top 10 Stories

December 2021

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November heralded the announcement of several promising developments for Zimbabwe, which could see the economy begin to move in a positive direction. Early in the month, it was announced that preliminary construction works on the 2400MW Batoka Gorge hydroelectric dam, which will be developed in collaboration with the government of Zambia, have begun. This cross-border hydroelectric project is expected to generate 10,215GWh of electricity a year to be shared between both countries. In the mining space Bravura Holdings, owned by Nigerian billionaire Benedict Peters, has noted plans to develop a platinum mine in Zimbabwe. The country has the world’s third-largest platinum group metals reserve and further investment into the mining sector could ignite its stagnant economy. In parallel to this in the hydrocarbon space, Invictus Energy, an Australian oil and gas exploration company, has commenced field operations in the Muzarabani prospect in preparation for the drilling of two test wells. Zimbabwe has high prospects for oil and gas discoveries as an additional economic driver of development.

Sources: Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines, International Hydropower Association, 2020

An Imperial Logistics truck transporting goods. Lori Systems Kenya have partnered with Imperial Logistics in order to expand and offer its services across Africa. Image courtesy: Trevor Plackett/Flickr

Several water developments took place in Morocco during November, relating to new desalination plants. The North African country announced the construction of the largest seawater desalination plant in Africa, in Casablanca. The project will have a budget of US$1.1 billion and is set to function with a capacity of over 300 million cubic meters. Concurrently, the Moroccan government has received a US$5.9 million loan from Spain for the construction of two seawater desalination plants in the towns of Assa-Zag and Moulay Brahim. These new desalination plants form part of Morocco’s ongoing strategy to curb water scarcity in the country. In 2020, Morocco’s water reservoirs have taken significant deficits due to various reasons, including the impact of climate change, which have positioned desalination plants as a strategic solution to future water scarcity challenges. Desalination would provide accessible water to the country’s population as well as water for use in agricultural irrigation.

As digitalisation has proliferated over the course of this year off the back of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the emphasis on establishing strong infrastructure for digital transformation has grown considerably, especially in the context of data management facilities. In November, Telecom Egypt announced the construction of the country’s largest international data centre facility, to be commissioned in early 2021. The project is in line with Egypt’s efforts to develop its IT infrastructure and digital services, as well as contribute to the regional digital transformation. On the southern tip of the continent in South Africa, Teraco, a carrier and cloud data centre provider, announced construction of a new hyperscale data centre, known as JB4. The centre will enable global cloud clients to service and reach sub-Saharan markets and is expected to be the largest data centre in Africa. Alongside these developments, data centres in Kenya and Uganda have received the Uptime Institute’s Tier III certification confirming that their data centres are operating at the global standards.

In a positive holistic move for the horn of Africa both Somaliland and Somalia are set to welcome investments to port infrastructure. The breakaway state of Somaliland has secured a partnership with Trafigura, a Swiss commodities trader, to supply hydrocarbons and upgrade the Berbera port. This adds to the investment in 2018 by DP World, an Emirati port operator, who conducted a US$442 million expansion of the Berbera port. Trafigura’s investment will go towards infrastructure modernisation to increase storage capacity and allow for larger ships at the Berbera Oil Terminal as a way to improve the quality and reliability of refined petroleum product supply into Somaliland. The port investment could see an uptick in regional and international trade thus providing a boost to the country’s weak economy. Likewise, in Somalia a new port will be constructed in the town of Hobyo. The Hobyo Port will have geostrategic interest because of its proximity to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a vital sea crossing, thus benefiting the local population with trade.

Sources: AfDB, 2014; Tralac, 2019; World Bank, 2018

South Africa and Egypt’s entertainment industries are primed for a new look with the launch of new mobile streaming services. Telkom, a South African telecommunications provider, has partnered with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to launch a new streaming channel, TelkomONE, which will house the SABC’s local television and radio offerings on one online platform. TelkomOne’s aim is to promote universal access to SABC content, giving users ease of access on its mobile service in an affordable manner. In similar moves further north, Intrigal, an Egyptian provider of IP video products, Telecom Egypt and TPay Mobile, a digital mobile payments platform, have joined forces to launch the Jawwy TV app. The app is expected to offer a new digital entertainment platform, presenting viewers with popular content titles through 50 free-to-air channels. These mobile streaming services will provide users with another option in a competitive over-the-top media service market.

A state-of-the-art Tissue Culture Facility (TCF) has been established outside Paarl in South Africa’s Western Cape province. The facility is planned to supply plant material and root stock to the local wine grape, table grape raisin, pome, and stone fruit industries. Plans are also being put in place to eventually assist with other commodities as well. The tissue culture process involves taking a single disease-free plant gamete through heat treatment, and then breeding that same plant sample into hundreds or even thousands of disease-free daughter plants, which can then be supplied to local agriculturalists. The Western Cape produces 55% of the country’s agricultural export and is a key hub for both the global fruit and wine industries. The development of the facility to global phytosanitary standards will propel the country further up the wine value chain.

The small yet highly progressive East African state of Rwanda has made its first concrete steps towards entering the nuclear industry in November. The Rwandan Presidency announced that the country has officially ascended to three key treaties that relate to codes of conduct surrounding nuclear accidents, fuel management and physical protection of nuclear material. The moves indicate Kigali’s commitment to its 2019 announcement that it would partner with Rosatom in the construction of the region’s first nuclear power plant to be finalised in 2023. Beyond the opportunities which this presents in nuclear energy, the development would also allow for the country to eventually become active in the manufacture of radiological tools for the medical and security industries. As one of several longer-term solutions to Africa’s energy crisis, the continent is poised to engage with the nuclear industry as an avenue of exports for its substantial deposits of chromium, uranium and thorium.

The Kazungula Bridge over the Zambezi River under construction. On 10 October it was announced that the bridge construction has been completed. It aims to link markets in eight African countries, and enhance trade, integration and spur global competitiveness in the region. Image courtesy: John Chandler/Flickr

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