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Mr Eazi: renaissance man, A Chinese EV for SA, Uganda’s rolex, Guinea Bissau elections͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
snowstorm Accra
snowstorm Kampala
sunny Bissau
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June 4, 2023


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Yinka Adegoke
Yinka Adegoke

Hi! Welcome to Semafor Africa Weekend, where we always strive to inform, engage, and delight you ahead of the coming week.

This is a special welcome this week as many of the former Quartz Africa weekly readers have come on board the Semafor Africa train. It’s been such a delight to hear from so many of the ‘new’ readership who are keen to keep getting great insights and updates of Africa’s most important stories.

We do cover geopolitics, economics, and business stories, but — as you’ll see in our weekend edition — we’re just as fascinated with the economics of culture as well. We’re drilling down on intersecting obsessions developed at Quartz Africa such as the fast-growing African tech sector and China-Africa relations. And we explore newer trends including the push by African countries to own a more lucrative part of the green energy minerals value chain and the impact of Africa’s soft power.

We’re always keen to hear your ideas and suggestions — Africa is a big place and we can’t be everywhere at once, even though we will try to be!

Thanks again for keeping us in your inbox, whichever route you came to us.

🟡 If this newsletter was forwarded to you, just click here once and you’ll be subscribed automatically to receive the Africa newsletter direct to your inbox three times a week.

Semafor’s Week

This week Semafor Security editor Jay Solomon had a stunning scoop on proposal for a joint U.S.-Saudi nuclear energy project. The project — referred to as “nuclear Aramco” — is designed to bolster Saudi Arabia’s ambitions to produce, and potentially export, atomic energy. In Nigeria, Alexander Onukwue, dug into the likely contenders for the key influential jobs in new President Bola Tinubu’s leadership team. Many are long-time loyalists going back to his time as governor of Lagos state. Semafor Business editor Liz Hoffman broke news on legendary corporate activist hunter-turned-prey Carl Icahn and his attempts to reorganize Icahn Enterprises before a short-seller published a report critical of the company earlier this month.

And a different type of activist in the climate space needs to go back to the drawing board if they’re to have the impact they hope. Net Zero editor Tim McDowell explains why there’s been an overwhelming rejection of shareholder proposals urging oil majors to better report and reduce their carbon emissions.

Creative Thinking
Michael Oliver Love

Mr Eazi, aka Oluwatosin Ajibade, is best known as the Nigerian Afrobeats star behind hits like “Skin Tight “ and “Leg Over.” He’s worked with global superstars including Beyoncé and J Balvin and his songs have been streamed more than 4 billion times. More recently, he has been reinventing himself as a serial entrepreneur and tech investor with talent incubator program emPawa Africa, which he launched in 2018, and Zagadat Capital, the venture capital fund he set up in 2021. The 31-year-old returned to the studio this year to make new music with Kenyan-born BBC radio personality DJ Edu as a ‘super group’ called ChopLife Soundsystem whose sound blends Amapiano and Afrobeats styles.

💡 Why did you want to go the super group path with DJ Edu?

DJ Edu is not just one of the best and longest-serving DJs from Africa but he is by far one of the best DJs in the world. People don’t know he is also a producer and A&R and we’ve been working together since 2017. He actually leaked “Leg Over” after selecting it as a single, and I thought it wasn’t. So it’s a combination of experience and vibes.

💡 Africa is dancing to Amapiano though it doesn’t yet have a breakout global superstar unlike Afrobeats, does it need one?

Amapiano is a dance music genre, so it’s not just about the single superstar but also about DJs/ producers and the clubbing experience. House music and techno started in underground clubs and became the most popular music genres in the world for a long time without necessarily being driven by one single superstar. It was only with the advent of the celebrity DJ and the re-branding of dance music as EDM where that changed. I think we should stop obsessing about breakout global blah blah blah, and just enjoy the music. There are lots of South African superstar DJs and producers already killing it, not just in South Africa but also around Africa and already playing shows everywhere, even in Asia.

💡 Has Afrobeats peaked?

No way! I think it’s really on its own trajectory and we will see some amazing growth in the next three years. The Afrobeats sound of today is not the Afrobeats of 2015 or 2016. It keeps evolving.

💡 Should African artists sell their catalogs like their US/European counterparts have been doing recently?

I love what’s happening with catalog sales because it cements music IP [intellectual property]  as a valid asset class. There is so much opportunity for music from the 50s, 60s, from all over Africa. I’m even trying to buy catalogs.

💡 How are you thinking about integrating language learning AI into your music-making process?

To be honest, I think it would be super cool to use AI to write the next ChopLife album. That would be sick! I’m all about embracing new tech.

💡 What sector of tech investment are you most excited about in terms of its impact in African markets?

Through my VC fund, Zagadat Capital, I recently invested in Decagon, a company that trains engineers in Nigeria and pairs them with jobs worldwide. You have over 10 million smart, young Africans getting out of university each year in need of jobs. And, as such, Africa has the prospect to become the highest net exporter of technology talent.

💡 What non-music TikTok are you addicted to?

Food! You know how many recipes you can find on TikTok?!

— Yinka

Read and share this interview here.

One Big Idea
Courtesy: BYD

BYD, China’s largest electric vehicle maker, says its cars are “coming soon” to South Africa beginning with a model called the Atto 3.

The car’s entry into South Africa, where constant load shedding means irregular electricity supply, seems counterintuitive as the Atto 3 consumes 15.6kWh of energy per 100km. But its introduction would be a follow-up to the launch of two models of BYD’s electric buses in Cape Town in 2021. A particular feature of the Atto 3 makes it appealing for consumers with power needs: its vehicle-to-load feature. Simply put, the V2L capability means the car, when charged, can act as a battery capable of charging other appliances in the home.

While this feature was not made specifically with the South African market in mind, it speaks to a knack Chinese companies have had in developing products that anticipate or adapt to local needs in African markets. The prime example of the past decade is Transsion, the Shenzhen-based manufacturer with the largest market share for smartphones and feature phones in Africa. Its brands, Tecno and Infinix successfully dominate Apple and Samsung by offering affordable modern devices.

— Alexander Onukwue

Musée de l'Homme

Complex geometric shapes with fractional dimensional properties called fractals are most popularly known as swirling patterns in the fields of mathematics and IT. Over the last three decades, these patterns have also become important modeling tools in other fields, including biology and geology. But American scientist Ron Eglash argues that fractals have existed long before the birth of computers, and have been observed by anthropologists in indigenous African societies. In his book, African Fractals: Modern Computing and indigenous design, Eglash provides evidence of fractals in indigenous African societies, showing that fractals in these societies are neither accidental nor intuitive. As ArchDaily’s Paul Yakubu notes, Eglash has  previously highlighted the Royal Insignia, which is the palace for the king of Logone-Birni in northern Cameroon (pictured). “The spatial pattern reveals lobbies as rectangular spirals where, as one moves further into the enclosure, he is required to become more polite.”

Street Foods
Musinguzi Blanshe

Walking through the streets of Kampala, one can easily spot vendors selling rolex, a popular Ugandan fast food made from chapati and fried eggs. Warm water, onions, carrots, salt, and wheat flour are mixed to make dough, which is rolled into circular shaped flatbread and fried to make chapatis. Eggs are then mixed with chopped onions, tomatoes, cabbage and sometimes sausage, depending on the customer’s order.

Costing as little as 1500 Ugandan shillings (40 cents), rolex is an affordable meal that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The name comes from its method of preparation, with the chapati and the eggs rolled together. Customers watch these “rolled eggs” being made in real time on street corners across the country.

Originating in the 1990s around the Wandegeya area next to Makerere University, rolex was a hit with students who needed a quick, cheap meal. Uganda’s favorite fast food is gaining traction beyond the country’s borders, though, and can be found in restaurants in Rwanda and Kenya as well.

There’s now an annual rolex festival held in Kampala which is part of the government’s culinary tourism initiative and promotes the food as one of Uganda’s national meals.

Musinguzi Blanshe in Kampala, Uganda

Weekend Reads

🌍 Between 1200 and 1400 AD, Africans were transported to west and south-west India by Islamic invaders and Portuguese colonizers to be used as palace guards, army chiefs, harem keepers, spiritual leaders, Sufi singers, dancers and treasurers. Years later, their interaction with Indians brought to rise the Siddi population, Afro-Indians with a creolized culture. The food, music, dance performance, and spiritual practices of the Siddi people, emerged as “a resistance to colonization, racialisation and victimization in postcolonial India,” writes Sayan Dey for The Conversation. “They preserved and practiced their African ancestral, sociocultural traditions – and also adopted local Indian traditions,” he says.

🇿🇲 Eight years after the World Bank’s Scaling Solar program launched in Zambia with the aim of helping low income countries build solar power capacity, experts say the process has not achieved its goals. Zambia sought the assistance of the Bank’s International Finance Corporation to address the country’s 2015 energy crisis. The Scaling Solar project was sold as a “one-stop-shop” offering advisory services to help prepare and structure projects, introduce competitive bidding processes, standardize the relevant documents, and offer de-risking tools to make projects bankable, according to a Devex report. But critics of the project say it has lacked transparency and has been plagued by inaccurate messaging that made it impossible to scale.

🇹🇿 The Maasai people of Tanzania are being pushed off their ancestral land in Ololosokwan, a village adjacent to the Serengeti National Park in the north of the country. This comes following the tourism ministry’s decision to convert 1,500 square kilometers around Ololosokwan from a “game-controlled area,” where residents are permitted to live, farm and graze livestock, to a “game reserve” devoted exclusively to wildlife habitat, safari tourism and, with the right license, hunting, reports Bloomberg. The move has created conflict that resulted in the eruption of violence last June, involving the Maasai, the Tanzanian government and a company called Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC). The UN says OBC operates hunting trips in the area for royals from the Emirates.

Week Ahead
  • Guinea Bissau will hold parliamentary elections on Monday during which 100 members will be directly elected while two members will be elected from two single-seat overseas constituencies (Africa and Europe). The election follows the dissolution of the National People’s Assembly (NPA) by President Umaro Sissoco Embalo in May 2022. (June 4)
  • The political situation in Senegal will be monitored by officials at the African Union and West Africa’s regional bloc Ecowas. Both bodies urged calm after clashes between supporters of convicted opposition leader Ousmane Sonko and police that have left at least 15 dead.
  • Africa CEO Forum will take place in Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire. The two-day forum, organized in partnership with the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation, aims to highlight the driving role of the private sector. (June 5-6)
  • American cellist Yo Yo Ma will be rounding up his five-year, 36-city tour at the Kenya National Theatre in Nairobi. (June 7)
  • The inaugural Tourism Investment Forum Africa (TIFA) will be hosted in Upington, South Africa. The focus will be on how to encourage innovative thinking for tourism investment on the continent. (June 7-9)
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— Yinka, Alexis Akwagyiram, Marché Arends, Alexander Onukwue, and Muchira Gachenge