Africa’s Top 10 Stories | September 2022
New hydrogen developments on the continent made headway over the course of Q2 as a number of projects were launched across Africa. In early July, the European Union announced a planned deal with Namibia to develop the hydrogen sector in a bid to reduce energy dependence on Russia. In parallel, hydrogen development company Hyphen also noted optimism that the implementation agreement for a planned US$10 billion project in Namibia will be signed by year’s end. In South Africa, Sibanye-Stillwater and Heraeus Precious Metals agreed to collaborate in developing novel electrolyser catalysts containing platinum group metals that are used in the production of green hydrogen. Meanwhile, Sasol and Japan’s Itochu signed an MoU to explore hydrogen and ammonia development potential in the country. India-based ReNew Power is set to develop green hydrogen projects in North Africa, while Egypt has welcomed a 3.6GW green hydrogen project in conjunction with Globeleq, an Africa-focused independent energy company.
Sources: World Economic Forum, Engineering News, Mining Weekly, International Energy Agency, Climate Champions, White Case; 2022
Digital currency regulations in South Africa came into the spotlight as the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) pledged to embrace the industry. In mid-July, SARB announced that it is making steady progress with investigations around a central bank digital currency through Project Dunbar – an initiative that involves the Reserve Bank of Australia, Central Bank of Malaysia and Monetary Authority of Singapore to create a cross-border central bank digital currency. SARB’s aim is to improve the efficiency of the local payment system by reducing costs and the time it takes to clear and settle payments. A central bank digital currency will be primarily used for cross-border payments; however, it will take several years to implement. Additionally, SARB announced it is set to introduce new regulations around the trade of cryptocurrency. The first step is to recognise cryptocurrency as a financial product and then develop a regulatory framework for the exchanges to allow for crypto listing.
Ghana’s retail logistics space has welcomed an innovative development in the month of September. Jumia Technologies, an Africa-focused e-commerce company, has joined forces with Zipline, a drone-delivery start-up, with the aim to boost delivery of household items to rural regions in Ghana. Jumia currently operates in 11 African countries and has around 30 warehouses and 3 000 drop-off and pick-up stations in its network. The new venture forms part of Jumia’s strategy to expand its customer-base across the country – rural deliveries make up around 27% of the company’s overall deliveries in Ghana. Drone deliveries have seen significant growth since the onset of Covid-19, with medical supplies and vaccines being the primary products transported. Zipline offers drone delivery of blood supply, vaccines and medical equipment in Ghana, Rwanda and Nigeria. After a successful pilot programme and testing in Ghana, Jumia and Zipline are aiming to expand into Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria.
South Africa’s construction sector received a welcome boost over the past quarter with the implementation of record-breaking innovative buildings. In July, Afrimat Hemp and Hemporium, both Cape Town-based companies, revealed that 84 Harrington Street in Cape Town is the world’s tallest building being constructed from building materials made of hemp – a botanical class of cannabis grown specifically for industrial or medicinal use. Both companies have highlighted that this project is setting the benchmark on how to build safe, carbon-neutral multi-storey buildings using hemp systems. In addition, in early August, estate agent Dogon Group confirmed that construction is set to begin on Africa’s first truly biophilic development in Cape Town. The Fynbos building will consist of 24 storeys of mixed-use space, including the city’s first urban street art gallery and an exterior draped in a 1 200m2 vertical garden. The building is set to redefine inner-city living, with sustainability at the forefront of its mission.
In September, Uber made a number of announcements that are set to continue its growth path in sub-Saharan Africa. Early in the month, the company announced the expansion of its service to four new cities in Kenya, upping its competitiveness against Bolt, which serves more than 15 cities. Additionally, Uber introduced Uber XL, which offers additional seating for up to six people and extra luggage space, and Uber ChapChap Share for a shared ride. The company is similarly expanding in Ghana, with the service now accessible in Tamale and Sunyani. It will also be launching UberX Share as a shared ride that can save customers 30%, and Uber Comfort, giving users customised options and an enhanced on-trip experience. Concurrently, Uber launched an audio recording feature in South Africa – allowing customers to record their trip in the event they feel their safety is compromised. This forms part of the company’s ongoing safety enhancement strategy.
Leading pan-African technology company Cassava Technologies continued its growth drive in Q3 2022 through direct investment and footprint expansion. In July, the company attracted US$50 million from C5 Capital, a specialist venture capital firm, aimed at boosting growth and accelerating digital connectivity and inclusivity across Africa. The company will function as the key partner for C5’s portfolio in delivering cybersecurity products, satellite and space technology, and clean energy. In August, Cassava subsidiary Liquid Technologies revealed the finalisation of its 100% acquisition of Telrad, an Israeli technology firm, which will allow it to leverage Telrad’s Research and Development programme and focus on cybersecurity solutions. In parallel, Liquid Technologies declared that it’s expanding operations in Zambia’s Central Province, introducing high-speed connectivity for the first time, while Liquid Cyber Security, another Cassava business, launched its first Cyber Security Fusion Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, aiming to bolster cybersecurity in Africa.
Africa’s nuclear energy sector received a major boost during July, as Egypt and Ghana announced plans to begin construction of new power plants. Early in the month, the Egyptian Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority licensed the construction of the first unit of Egypt’s El Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant. Egypt’s Nuclear Power Plants Authority received the permit and can now begin construction of the first of four reactors, which will be the second built on the continent – behind South Africa’s Koeberg power plant. Russia’s Rosatom will lead the construction of the project, while Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power will build the turbine islands. In parallel, in late July, the Ghanaian government announced that it will be revealing the site and vendor for the development of a nuclear power plant in due course. The proposed nuclear power plant is in line with the government’s short/medium-term targets of boosting industrialisation and dealing strategically with climate change challenges.
During the past quarter, South Africa’s Department of Communications and Digital Technologies published the Film and Publications Regulations 2022, enacting internet content laws that came into effect in March 2022. Under these new laws, the Film and Publications Board (FPB) has transitioned from being a classifications body to a regulator for digitally distributed content, with authority to issue and renew licenses or certificates, accredit distributors, and impose fines in case of non-compliance. The regulations published in September detail how the FPB will classify and regulate the sector, including which parties are exempt from the laws. Concurrently, the laws have faced criticism given the broad definition of who constitutes a ‘distributor’ of a film, game or published content, as well as the sweeping authority the regulations provide the FPB over any published content in South Africa.
Africa’s mining sector has continued on a green trajectory with the launch of a 65-tonne, zero-emission battery-electric truck. Swedish multinational engineering company, Sandvik, has unveiled the Sandvik TH665B – noted as the world’s largest capacity battery-electric truck for underground mining. The truck will enable operators to have a fleet of zero-emission vehicles with a greater workload per ton, and result in greater power on an incline, thereby boosting efficiency and capacity. Sandvik’s commercial vice-president Jakob Rutqvist indicated that Africa is likely to be the biggest market for the truck, as the continent is suited towards electrification due to rising diesel costs and is host to a myriad of deep ventilation constrained mines – the truck will also generate 85% less heat than a diesel truck. Additionally, the truck would remove around 1-2 tonnes of carbon dioxide per day, boosting a green transition in Africa’s mining sector.
Vodacom South Africa has continued to modernise local networks through major investments rivalling MTN’s Modernisation of Network South Africa (Monza) project. In early July, Vodacom injected US$27.5 million into network expansion in Limpopo province. The aim is to increase broadband coverage to meet the growing need for online access and expand quality network services to customers. In parallel, the telco announced that it plans to triple its 5G footprint across the Western Cape, pledging US$29.8 million to grow coverage reach, increase capacity and improve network uptime in urban and rural areas. In late July, Vodacom revealed US$58.2 million will be invested in KwaZulu-Natal, to boost deployment of infrastructure sites and upgrade existing networks, to increase reliable connectivity in rural areas. Simultaneously, the telco will be spending US$35.8 million in Mpumalanga, to accelerate coverage reach, improve network capacity and provide access to affordable connectivity.
Central African Republic launches Sango Coin
The Central African Republic has officially adopted cryptocurrency as a legal trade mechanism. In mid-July, the government announced that it is set to start selling cryptocurrency worth US$21 million. The Sango Coin will go on sale with a minimum investment of US$500 to be paid in cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and Ethereum. This comes among the backdrop of scepticism over the project’s feasibility in a poorly connected country.
Tanzania installs internet on Mount Kilimanjaro
Tanzania boosted its connectivity capacity in August by installing a high-speed internet line on Mount Kilimanjaro. The line was initially installed at 3 720 metres above sea level and will cover the peak at 5 895 metres by the end of the year. Tanzania Telecommunications further aims to improve the safety of porters and climbers as they ascend the mountain. Technology is gradually penetrating the mountain world, as Mount Everest recently introduced Wi-Fi access for climbers.
‘Smart bra’ device launched in Nigeria to create greater cancer awareness
Nigeria’s healthcare space has continued to innovate, as Kemisola Bolarinwa, a robotics engineer, has developed a ‘smart bra’ that can assist with detecting cancer. The device contains 14 sensors that check for lumps in the breast, which users can track through a mobile app. The device is poised to assist in raising awareness about breast cancer, where in Nigeria an estimated 17 000 women die of the disease every year.
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