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Africa’s Top 10 Stories  |  March 2023

The first quarter of 2023 was a busy period for the East African dairy sector, as markets adopted strategies to safeguard local production and supply. In early January, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture launched a four-year plan to boost annual dairy production to 10.3 billion litres per year by the end of the period. This will be achieved by reorganising and strengthening institutions that support the dairy sector, and creating an environment that allows for private sector participation. In parallel, Tanzania is set to construct its first milk processing plant, which will save the government US$270 000 per week on product imports. Over 65 000 hectares of land in the Kagera District has also been set aside for further development through a project dubbed Mwisa II. Rwanda also announced initiatives to bolster milk supply during the dry seasons in late January, including improving supporting farmers in the harvesting and storage of water, and the cultivation and storage of forage.

Data courtesy: Food Business Africa, Ministry of Agriculture (Rwanda), Dairy Development Authority (Uganda), The Conversation; 2021-2022

In February, African businesses started to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) technology, such as ChatGPT, an AI language-model chatbot, to enhance their operations and keep pace with the emerging trend. Wise Move, a South African moving services company, revealed that it will be integrating ChatGPT into its digital platform to provide human-like responses, which will transform customer satisfaction and the user experience. In parallel, the South African Agri Initiative (Saai) launched an AI platform for family farmers. Hi Saai, which is WhatsApp-based, uses billions of data points to develop a framework for providing a complete answer to a set of questions. In addition, Hack the Planet, a Dutch technology company, has developed an AI smart camera to detect animals and humans and analyse their movement and send alerts in real-time. The technology aims to prevent poaching and human-wildlife conflict, which is prevalent in Africa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa during the ceremony of Nissan South Africa’s investment of R3 billion at the Nissan Main Plant in the City of Tshwane in 2019. In January this year, Suzuki, Haval, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota announced the launch of new hybrid electric cars, which are set to boost the domestic and international markets. Image courtesy: GovernmentZA/Flickr

South Africa’s automotive sector has continued to embrace e-mobility as several car manufacturers announced developments over Q1. Aiming to boost the local market, Suzuki SA will launch its first hybrid car in the country, the Grand Vitara, later in 2023. Meanwhile, Haval SA will expand its hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) offering with the launch of the self-charging and more affordable Jolion HEV. Concurrently, Audi SA has deployed an additional 43 EV charging stations across the country in boosting charging capacity and adding to the manufacturer’s existing 70 charging stations installed in 2022. On the production front, Mercedes-Benz South Africa will add a second hybrid car to its manufacturing plant in the Eastern Cape – the C63 AMG, to meet 99% of world demand with Bremen, Germany, filling the gap. Toyota SA is additionally awaiting the green light for the production of the new-generation hybrid Hilux for export to Europe.

Africa has accelerated its efforts to close the digital divide through several fibre optic internet initiatives announced in March. Early in the month, Multichoice, a video entertainment company, joined forces with Vumatel, a fibre-to-home integrator, to diversify its offerings and enter the internet service provider market through fibre internet and digital television packages (standalone or bundled). In parallel, Microsoft partnered with Liquid Technologies, an independent fibre network service provider, to expand connectivity to 20 million people across Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) while aiming to create greater economic opportunities in both markets. In addition, the DRC received further investment as the European Investment Bank unveiled a plan to connect more than 2 million people through new fibre infrastructure and affordable high-speed internet coverage, contributing to the ongoing digitalisation of the continent.

Kenya has emerged as a leader in green energy transition on the continent, with e-mobility being considered an emerging subsector. In February, Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) continued to strengthen the country’s green energy transition through e-mobility initiatives during its inaugural e-mobility conference. Early in the month, KPLC submitted a tariff review to Kenya’s energy regulator, which if approved will increase tariffs by 70%. Homes will be paying US 28 cents/kWh, residential customers US 17 cents/kWh and the special e-mobility tariff will be US 13 cents/kWh. These tariffs are expected to significantly help upgrade ageing infrastructure and increase investment in the subsector. Additionally, KPLC plans to develop a roadmap for electric vehicles to create a consultative framework to guide the implementation of e-mobility and enhance charging infrastructure and regulations. KPLC has assured investors that the local grid is robust enough to handle the transition to green energy and revealed that the company will convert its 2 000 vehicles to electric over the next four years.

Data courtesy: Business Insider,  EE Advisory, CleanTech Africa, McKinsey, Centurion; 2021-2022

Energy regulations in South Africa and Morocco came into the spotlight as both countries seek to enhance capacity. In mid-January, South Africa’s National Energy Crisis Committee – amid the country’s ongoing power crisis, where citizens are enduring blackouts of 6-12 hours a day – is implementing interventions that include emergency legislation to allow for the faster approval and development of power plants and reduction in processing time to complete regulatory requirements. To the north, Morocco’s House of Councillors has approved a bill relating to a project for the self-production of electrical energy for individual consumption while promoting the development of renewable energy in the country. In addition, the updates will regulate the activity of self-production of electricity regardless of the source of production, nature of the network, level of voltage, or capacity of the installation used.

A Kenyan potato farmer. The Kenyan Co-operative Bank plans to boost potato yields and protect income for local farmers across its counties, through a partnership with leading agricultural entities. Image courtesy: ILRI/Flickr

Potato farming came into the spotlight in March as East African countries announced initiatives to protect local farmers and ensure food security. PepsiCo, a food and beverage multinational, and Ethiopia-based Senselet Food Processing formed a partnership with Solynta, a Dutch biotechnology company that specialises in hybrid potato breeding, in launching a hybrid true potato seeds project. The project aims to expand the country’s growing potato sector by introducing potato genetics with Solynta’s non-GMO hybrid breeding technology. Ethiopia will benefit from new seeds that have desirable traits such as pest resistance and hardiness to improve food security while ensuring a more sustainable income for local farmers. Concurrently, the co-operative Bank of Kenya with global agricultural input leaders, such as Agrico and Bayer East Africa, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with local counties to boost yields and income for potato farmers. The MoU will focus on contract farming, crop protection, and value addition on potatoes under a consortium.

Africa’s largest telco has continued its expansion drive over the first quarter of the year through major investment and partnerships. In January, MTN announced US$1 billion worth of investment in Ghana over the next five years. This comes after the Ghanaian government exempted MTN Ghana from tax claims worth US$773 million. The majority of the investment will be directed towards 5G development set to spur growth across sectors. At the end of that month, MTN South Africa similarly announced a partnership with Nokia, which is poised to make it one of Nokia’s 5G radio access network equipment providers. Under the deal, Nokia will modernise MTN’s existing 2G, 3G, and 4G radio network and expand its 5G radio network at some 2 800 sites across the country. Simultaneously, MTN joined forces with Huawei to strengthen strategic cooperation in environmental, social and governance matters to enhance rural coverage, bolster digital skills and deliver sustainable solutions across Africa.

West Africa’s nuclear energy aspirations received a welcome boost as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) pledged its support through pilot projects. In early January, the IAEA outlined that it has piloted a new training tool in Senegal in support of the country’s plan to acquire a research reactor. The IAEA Human Resource Modelling Tool for New Research Reactor Programmes is intended to assist countries in determining and developing the skilled workforce needed to implement new research reactor programmes. The tool, using modelling, will help countries address the human resources requirements of every step in such programmes, from planning research reactors to operating them. Simultaneously, Ghana has joined a pilot project run by the IAEA for the disposal of sealed radioactive sources, bringing the country a step closer to its nuclear power aspirations. The IAEA will be providing technological and engineering support for the first-of-a-kind construction of borehole disposal facilities for radioactive waste.

The South African National Treasury unveiled its National Budget 2023/24 in mid-February with the main talking points being the current energy crisis and the country’s power utility company, Eskom. Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana proposed to provide Eskom with US$13.8 billion in debt relief over the next three years to strengthen the utility’s balance sheet, enabling it to restructure and undertake investment and maintenance to support the security of electricity supply. Additionally, US$488 million in tax incentives will be allocated to support businesses and households investing in renewable energy, including rooftop solar, in a bid to offset the impact of the power cuts. Simultaneously, municipal water infrastructure projects worth US$201 million were approved to bolster water security in the country. Concurrently, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies will receive US$163 million to implement phase two of South Africa Connect to be utilised for capital equipment, fibre infrastructure and expanding ICT networks into rural areas.

Data courtesy: National Treasury, 2023

Bola Tinubu wins Nigerian presidential election

In mid-March, Nigeria voted and elected Bola Tinubu as Nigeria’s next president succeeding Muhammadu Buhari. The results have been heavily disputed as opposition parties have labelled the election a ‘sham’ and called for a cancellation of the results due to a lack of transparency. State elections have consequently been delayed, while the electoral commission has also cited technical issues with the digital voting system as another contributing factor to the delay.


Multichoice launches new streaming service with Comcast

One of South Africa’s largest media groups joined forces with Comcast NBCUniversal and Sky to create and launch a new ‘mega-streaming’ service in Africa during March. The new service will operate as Showmax with the existing Showmax service being overhauled completely. The partnership will introduce content and technology to streaming customers across MultiChoice’s 50-market footprint in sub-Saharan Africa. The service plans to build on the success of Showmax and aims to be the leading streaming service in Africa.


Egypt’s Al Dabaa nuclear power plant eyes first operating reactor

Egypt’s Al Dabaa nuclear power plant will receive the main core of the first reactor, shipped from Russia, and will be ready for operation by mid-March. Rosatom, a Russian-state nuclear corporation, has been implementing the project from inception, which consists of four units with a capacity of 1 200 megawatts and is expected to generate net revenues of US$264 billion over 60 years once completed.

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