Often under the radar, Japanese financiers are getting in at the very early stages of fundraising for African start-ups. The Uncovered Fund is in the midst of raising finance for new investments and hopes to attract $15m by June to invest in $50,000-$500,000 tranches for promising business ventures in e-commerce, logistics and other fields.
Conference of African finance ministers
African finance ministers sent a communiqué to the G20 to demand an extension to the Debt Service Suspension Initiative as many African governments confront the Covid-19 crisis and the burden of their debt piles: ‘With no end to the pandemic in sight, extending the duration of the DSSI at least to the end of 2021, and possibly to the end of 2022 […] is vital to preempt the larger threat of insolvency.’
Uganda’s government debt rose to nearly 50% of GDP in June from 41% in June of 2020. The government has been spending on Covid-19 relief but also on the 2021 elections and infrastructure.
The race is on to boost Nigeria’s oil refining capacity, with billionaires Aliko Dangote and Abdul Samad Rabiu in the lead and the government lagging behind. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation wants to raise billions of dollars to repair and overhaul its refineries in Warri and Kaduna. Repairs at the Port Harcourt refinery are already underway. But will this activity be too much, too late, in light of the Covid-19 crisis and green energy drive’s impact on the demand for oil?
By June the World Bank plans to roll out an additional $15bn in funding to African countries to help them deal with the impact of Covid-19. The first support package from the Bretton Woods financier was $25bn targeting the health sector, social programmes and the wider economy.
Despite the disappointments of the Nairobi to Mombasa SGR, other rail projects are going ahead. A link to the Mai Mahiu Industrial Park in Nakuru County will be followed by the rehabilitation of the railway line to the Uganda border in September.
Create, curate, narrate, educate
The African diaspora will be in the spotlight at the London Design Biennale at Somerset House from 1-27 June, with Nigerian-American architect Ini Archibong designing a pavilion for debate, spoken word and more, that he says will be “Afrofuturistic and Afro current”.
“Black creativity has impacted every corner of the world,” Archibong told the magazine Wallpaper. “Anchored in history, the pavilion aims to serve as a space to tell our stories and to envision a future where our voices are recognised and respected.”
Book: Dear Senthuran
It takes courage for a novelist to turn to memoir, revealing their naked self. In ‘Dear Senthuran’, Akwaeke Emezi uses letters to friends, family and lovers to explore transformation and the strength of relationships.
She tweeted: “As someone who’s been carefully curating their public image for years, it feels almost dangerous to write so honestly, but the final result is a text that I love, one that deeply engages with the metaphysics of Black spirit & singularly faces the Black reader.”
Ethiopia – High-pressure polls
No matter the outcome, Ethiopia’s newly delayed elections, now set to take place on 21 June, rather than 5 June, set to be a watershed moment. The country had long been ruled by a coalition of ethnicity-based parties within the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).
The Tigray minority held an outsized influence until the presidential nomination of Abiy Ahmed in April 2018. Abiy is from the Oromo ethnic group, the country’s largest, and is the first Oromo person to lead the country.
His era has been marked by several overlapping issues. He has pared back the role of the government in the economy and opened the political space to non-EPRDF parties.
The ruling party and its allies controlled all of the seats in parliament; Abiy’s attempts to reduce the influence of the Tigray elite led to the ongoing armed conflict in Tigray, as the region’s leaders challenged his authority.
Opposition leader Birtukan Medeska has the Herculean task of organising a free and fair vote in a country long controlled by political monopolies.
The powers of incumbency favour Abiy’s Prosperity Party – a single party formed from the former coalition – but regional parties are also likely to do well in places where people worry about a strong central government and the potential reform of the country’s ethnicity-based political organisation.
At the national and regional level, the path to progress is far from straight. Abiy already has his Nobel Peace Prize but many other obstacles lie ahead, from negotiating the dispute with Sudan and Egypt about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to addressing internal conflicts. The June vote will show how much backing he has to continue shaking things up.
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