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Senegal’s strong prospects, Uganda’s digital tax, Kenya 🤝Iran, Africa’s workers of the future͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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July 13, 2023


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Yinka Adegoke
Yinka Adegoke

Hi from Gaborone, Botswana, where I’ve been all week attending the U.S.-Africa Business Summit.

Botswana is probably best known these days for producing some of the world’s biggest diamonds but also for being one of Africa’s great success stories when it comes to economic development boosted by the sale of its primary commodity. And in recent weeks it’s won admiration from around the continent for its handling of its long-running relationship with De Beers, its South African mining partner. Botswana negotiated a more favorable agreement so the diamond giant now has to hand over a larger share of the gems produced in the country.

The debate about the need for African governments to exert more control of the value extracted from their countries is nowhere more pressing than in the fast-growing ‘green energy’ minerals sector. Investment in these critical minerals rose 30% in 2022 with more than $40 billion spent on finding and producing metals vital to electric vehicles and renewable energy, such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel, according to the International Energy Agency.

Zambia’s minister for commerce Chipoka Mulenga reiterated this point on two panels where I heard him speak on Wednesday. He emphasized the importance of African countries moving up the value chain by retaining more of the processing and development in the countries where the minerals are extracted, rather than simply exporting raw materials. “We’ve done the trading part for many years…we need value addition, it will help stop the capital flight that’s costing jobs.”

Scott Nathan, chief executive of the US Development Finance Corporation, who was on the same panel, was quick to agree. “The countries that control the resources should capture more of the benefit.”

We’re going to be keeping a close eye on how this plays out across the continent so keep reading Semafor Africa.

Need To Know
Reuters handout/Iran’s presidency/WANA

🇰🇪 Kenya’s President William Ruto held bilateral talks with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday. It marked the start of Raisi’s three-country African tour aimed at boosting trade. The pair signed agreements in a number of areas including agriculture, livestock, and housing. Ruto said his government was “working closely with Tehran to facilitate the export of more tea, meat and other agricultural products to Iran, which will also act as a key entry point to central Asian countries.” Iran has said it intends to set up a motor vehicle assembly plant in Mombasa.

🇪🇹 Emirates Telecommunications Group, the e&, and France’s Orange are exploring opportunities to secure a 45% stake in Ethiopia’s state-owned telecom operator, reports Bloomberg. The Ethiopian government has for years been looking to sell a stake in Ethio Telecom, which boasts over 70 million subscribers. It invited bids last November. Orange operates in 18 countries across Africa and the Middle East and e&, previously known as Etisalat, is in 15 markets across Africa and the Middle East.

🇿🇼 A Zimbabwean high court judge ruled that Saviour Kasukuwere, an ally of former president Robert Mugabe, was ineligible to run in the August 23 election. The ruling overturned an earlier decision by the nominations court that had accepted his candidature. The high court said that Kasukuwere, 53 — who fled into exile in South Africa in 2017 after the coup that toppled Robert Mugabe — did not qualify to run for president because he did not reside in Zimbabwe. Kasukuwere’s camp immediately said it would appeal the verdict.

🇿🇦 The European Court of Human Rights ruled that double Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya could challenge the World Athletics regulations requiring her to lower her testosterone levels to compete in women’s events. Semenya, 32, has a medical condition known as hyperandrogenism which is characterized by higher than usual levels of testosterone. The South African athlete approached Europe’s top human rights court in 2021 after losing an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the Swiss Federal Tribunal.


The cost of new railway cars that will run on a new line between the northern state of Kano in Nigeria and Maradi, the second largest city in neighboring Niger. Mota-Engil, a Portuguese firm supplying the vehicles, is building the 176 mile railway line. It was awarded that deal in 2021 by Nigeria’s transportation ministry at the cost of $2 billion. The firm says it has 88 construction projects across a dozen African countries on its roster, including a new $800 million airport in Rwanda and a $570 million motorway renovation in Ghana. But the Rwandan airport, awarded in 2016 and due two years later, remains under construction with 2026 as the new expected completion date.

Yinka Adegoke

African trade ministers want an urgent revamp of the U.S. AGOA trade act


Michael Sheehan/picture alliance via Getty Images

GABORONE, Botswana — African trade ministers are urging the United States to overhaul the sweeping trade deal that has opened the US market to African products and renew it this year rather than waiting until the duty-free pact expires in 2025.

Renewing the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) immediately would remove uncertainty about the future of the pact and allow for suppliers and partners to better plan and maintain investments in African economies, ministers said during this week’s U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Botswana.

“We are speaking with the same voice that AGOA should be extended,” said Botswana’s trade minister Mmusi Kgafela at a summit panel on Wednesday. He said he and other African ministers want “an indefinite period” for the act. This would do away with the uncertainty involved around the current 10-year renewal cycle.

“There is a compelling case to reauthorize the AGOA now,” wrote Daniel F. Runde and Thomas Bryja for the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in a new paper on calling for AGOA to be renewed.

Atlantic Council fellow Frannie Léautier, who launched an AGOA report on Wednesday said the act “should be renewed by the US Congress for at least a ten-year period as soon as possible.”

There was also a call by ministers yesterday for the AGOA rules to be streamlined and made less cumbersome in order for more countries to be able to benefit more from the program.


The uncertainty around the future of AGOA has a real world impact on the decisions made by businesses and economies trying to take advantage of its preferential terms to gain entry to the world’s largest economy. Africa’s share of global textile manufacturing has doubled under AGOA — but producers plan two years in advance, and could shift production to Southeast Asia if the treaty’s future is in doubt, CSIS’s Runde and Bryja point out.

This week South Africa’s opposition party Democratic Alliance made news by saying it has “started a process to lobby” for the country’s continued inclusion in AGOA in a bid to save the country’s ailing economy. The DA claims the ANC-led government’s non-aligned position on the Russia-Ukraine war could see the collapse of the car manufacturing sector in South Africa if the U.S. excludes it from AGOA as punishment.

While the DA might have been grandstanding to put pressure on the frantic government of President Cyril Ramaphosa, they are pressing the right buttons. As Africa’s most advanced economy, South Africa has been the biggest beneficiary of the 23-year old AGOA act in monetary terms, largely thanks to the car sector. The South African media has also reported that Ramaphosa sent senior members of his cabinet to Washington this week to discuss the future of AGOA.

Even Botswana will be nervous. It works closely with South Africa under the AGOA act to supply components for U.S. cars. “Their success is our success,” said Botswana’s trade minister Kgafela.

After all is said and done, the final decision on AGOA’s renewal will be up to U.S. Congress for approval. On the one hand, African matters are one of the few topic areas where there is almost always bipartisan support. On the other, African matters are often not a priority which could mean we’re still here in September 2025 waiting for renewal.


Zambia’s trade and commerce minister, Chipoka Mulenga, said his country had benefited from the trade agreement but remained “at the bottom of the benefits of the AGOA platform” due to a lack of the industrialization needed to produce more “value-added products” rather than merely exporting raw materials such as minerals or agricultural produce.

“If they [U.S. government] want to see AGOA succeed in Africa, they must support African countries to industrialize to give value addition.”


Mokhethi Shilele, trade minister from Lesotho cautioned against a complete revamp of AGOA for fear of delaying the act’s renewal. “There is a sentiment that AGOA should be reformed or changed but I’m indifferent to that because if we push for that how are we going to get it renewed this year?”

Read more on this story here.


Senegal’s economy is projected to grow by up to 5.3% this year boosted by its emerging oil and gas sector, said the International Monetary Fund this week. Despite facing challenges including “spillovers from the war in Ukraine, tighter financing conditions, and increased political instability in the region,” Senegal is still expected to be one of the fastest growing economies on the continent. Growth is forecast to accelerate to 10.6% in 2024 and 7.4% in 2025. However, non-hydrocarbon growth is expected to reach around 6% with prudent economic management.

Tech Talk

Uganda wants Big Tech to pay digital taxes


Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Uganda’s parliament passed a 5% tax on the incomes of global digital services providers operating in the country, joining a growing list of African countries seeking a share of revenue generated locally by technology companies. A post on the government’s Twitter account indicated the tax was requested by Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni.

If signed into law, the tax will capture notable U.S. companies like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Netflix in its net. But African government taxes on U.S. tech companies are not unique to Uganda. Kenya has a 1.5% digital service tax on gross transaction value “payable on income derived or accrued in Kenya from services offered through a digital marketplace.” Nigeria intends to tax digital non-resident companies at 6% of turnover.


Uganda said the levy is “not a social media tax,” a notable disclaimer considering the country’s history with social media blocks and internet regulation. Social media has provided a platform for citizens and opposition groups to organize campaigns and express dissent against the 37-year long Museveni regime.

A big unknown is the amount Uganda can expect to make from this tax. Social media users in Uganda are estimated to total just over 2 million. Facebook’s average revenue per user outside North America, Europe, and Asia is estimated to be around $3, and Uganda’s average will likely be below that. Moreso, there is no playbook to use as a benchmark as digital services taxes are pretty novel around the world. For the last decade, the European Union and the U.S. have been split on whether and how to charge such taxes without triggering a trade war. New negotiations involving tax officials from 143 jurisdictions failed this week in Paris.

Uganda doesn’t want to wait for a global pact. “For Uber, the money goes to California; the man derives income, but pays no taxes,” Henry Musasizi, the government’s minister of state for finance, said in parliament. “Now we are saying, can we have a mechanism of having the taxes?”

Read full story here

Alexander Onukwue

Work It
Kristoffer Tripplaar/Semafor

African countries have the world’s youngest populations, setting them up to provide the workforce of the future. That was the central idea of a session we led earlier this week in the Semafor World at Work Summit, hosted in Washington in partnership with Gallup.

Lydiah Kemunto Bosire, founder and CEO, of 8B Education Investments rejected the idea that artificial intelligence threatens to take the jobs that will open up in the Global North over the coming decades as aging members of society leave the workforce. Instead, Bosire, whose, company provides loans to African students seeking to study overseas, said AI provides an opportunity for “African input” whereby the continent can help to train AI models as a result.”

Sam Moorhouse, CEO of Turntable, a Ghana-headquartered company that provides software developers to work for companies overseas, said improved telecoms and internet connectivity continue to create opportunities for remote work. Click here to watch the event.

Alexis Akwagyiram

Royal Academy of Engineering

The creators of a digital neighborhood watch service, and a portable diagnostic device for women’s reproductive health were jointly awarded this year’s Africa Prize for engineering innovation by the UK’s Royal Academy for Engineering. Anatoli Kirigwajjo, a Ugandan electrical engineer, received the honor for Yunga which is described as a “local digital security network.” It enables communication between neighbors of up to 30 households per community and the police within a 20-kilometer radius. South African biomedical engineer Edmund Wessels shared the prize for creating FlexiGyn, a light and cheap battery-powered device that allows gynecologists to diagnose and treat women’s uterine problems. Both innovators received £25,000 ($32,000) for the award now in its 9th edition.

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— Yinka, Alexis, Marché Arends, Alexander Onukwue, and Muchira Gachenge

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