Joburg vs Cape Town bars, UNGA week, Russia’s false Africa promises͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
snowstorm Kano
sunny Cape Town
sunny New York
rotating globe
September 17, 2023


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Yinka Adegoke
Yinka Adegoke

Hi! Welcome to Semafor Africa Weekend, where we’re getting ready for a busy week of vital meetings, high-powered panel discussions, and being stuck in midtown New York traffic.

I am, of course, talking about the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) week. Semafor Africa will be on the ground trying to somehow be in several places at the same time, taking part in our own side events as well as partner events all week.

We look forward to seeing some of you while you’re in town and wish you a productive week wherever you are.

Cooked Design Studio

Who has the fanciest restaurants and bars in South Africa — Johannesburg or Cape Town? That seems to be the question the global Restaurants and Bar Design Awards 2023 was asking since the only entries from sub-Saharan Africa were from those two cities. To be fair, all six entries look very impressive.

One of our favorites is the Susu Bubble Tea bar (pictured above) in Cape Town’s affluent Greenpoint suburb designed by Cooked Design Studio, which is also based in the city. The bright colors are supposed to “create a new fantasy world for the colorful clientele,” say the designers.

The other was the luxury wine lounge and restaurant QBar Johannesburg in the Rosebank neighborhood (pictured below). It was designed by architect and interior designer Yuliya Gaiduk. QBar, Sonny and Irene in Cape Town, and Nando’s pop-up #PEriTricks store in Braamfontein in Johannesburg all made the final global shortlist for the competition.

Hamza Ibrahim

Northern Nigeria’s Kannywood film industry says it’s being politically targeted

Hamza Ibrahim/Semafor

→ What’s Kannywood? Kannywood refers to the movie industry in northern Nigeria which mainly distributes films via DVD and downloads. It’s a subset of Nollywood, the much better known Nigerian movie industry which produces thousands of films and TV shows every year.

The local film sector reflects the specific cultural, linguistic and religious practices of northern Nigeria. Hausa, which is widely spoken across that part of the country, is the dominant language of Kannywood unlike Nollywood, where English is spoken in a large proportion of films.

Kannywood takes its name from Kano, northern Nigeria’s economic and cultural hub. Northern Nigeria is predominantly Muslim and the industry operates against the backdrop of a more conservative religious and social backdrop than in southern states.

→ What’s happening? Kannywood filmmakers have been struggling to continue producing movies in recent months after its industry regulator, the Kano State Censorship Board, in July revoked all operational licenses of all actors, actresses, directors and producers.

The head of the board said the move was taken to ensure everyone in the industry has “proper documentation,” adding that all licenses had to be renewed.

→Why does it matter? Critics of the sudden move said it was politically motivated, arguing that it was rolled out to punish celebrities who campaigned against New Nigeria People Party (NNPP), the political party that won March’s state governorship election ahead of the All Progressives Congress, the party of President Bola Tinubu. Kannywood was split along political lines during the election.

→ What’s the movie industry saying? Abba El-Mustapha, executive secretary of the Kano State Film Censorship Board, told Semafor Africa the regulator is in the process of registering film practitioners. However, filmmakers that spoke to Semafor Africa criticized the registration process and continued to allege that the process was being wielded as a political weapon.

“We are a creative industry and therefore shouldn’t allow ourselves to be destroyed by politicians because of allegiance or our interest in them,” said Ahmad Bifa, a producer and director. He said his business has suffered because he has been unable to upload content for three weeks. “I have lost money and my channel stands to lose its audience,” he said.

Muhammad Salisu, executive director of Timeline Multimedia Film Production Limited, said the push to force registration in a fixed time period for a fee of 20,000 naira ($26) made it difficult for many in the industry who would struggle to afford the process.

Bifa said he hoped the administrative change “is not meant to extort us and generate revenue without improving operations of the industry.”

→ What are politicians saying? Kano state’s information commissioner, Baba Halilu Dantiye, denied accusations that the administrative overhaul was politically motivated.

“The cancellation of the licenses is not meant to go after anyone,” he told Semafor Africa. “Kannywood is a big industry serving good purpose and promoting culture, therefore the exercise is meant to ensure good content.”

Hamza Ibrahim in Kano, Nigeria

Weekend Reads
Alexander Ryumin/TASS Host Photo Agency via Reuters

🌍 There has been much hype about Russia possibly replacing the West as a strategic major power ally for African states. However, evidence on trade volume, military cooperation, and bilateral relations between Moscow and African nations shows that African-Russia relationships are, at best, transactional, writes Georgetown University political scientist Ken Opalo. He notes African states are pursuing specific interests that occasionally converge with Moscow’s, such as arms and grain to Egypt and Ethiopia and trade-related interests with South Africa. Some like Burkina Faso (photo) and Mali, have engaged out of “desperation in the face of armed insurgents and sanctions” that limit access to arms on the global open market.

🇿🇦 Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer, is making a renewed bet on Africa after a string of disappointments over the last decade, reports the Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Wexler. Walmart acquired a controlling stake in South Africa’s Massmart as an entry into the African market in 2010. More than a decade later, the company is counting losses following the commodities crash in 2014, the global pandemic, and the war in Ukraine that disrupted the world’s economy. Massmart has also closed its stores in other African countries, including Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, and Uganda.

🇨🇲 Cameroon is ranked 114th globally in internet affordability with only 21% of the population able to afford regular access, despite the presence of some of Africa’s biggest internet service providers including MTN and Orange. The state of the internet in Cameroon was discussed on The Africa Hour Podcast which was hosted by Olumide Abimbola and featured, Kenyan lawyer Judith Murungi, Cameroonian journalist Amindeh Blaise Atabong, and digital rights campaigner Kathleen Ndongmo.

🇸🇳 The movie Io Capitano caught the attention of Venice Film Festival judges this year with its odyssey-like depiction of the difficult topic of risky migration by young West Africans across the Mediterranean. For CNN, Thomas Page explains the deeper meaning of the movie by delving into what starts out as an adventure for the young Senegalese lead characters but “descends into extortion, exploitation and death as they make their way north through Niger and Libya to the fringes of the Mediterranean.”

Week Ahead

🗓️ The U.S. Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo was expected to land in Lagos, Nigeria, today. The Nigerian-born U.S. official will highlight both countries’ economic and cultural ties and discuss business and investment opportunities. (Sep. 17-19)

🗓️ Leaders from around the world will gather in New York for the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 78). This year’s theme is “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and the sustainability for all.” African presidents, including Nigeria’s Bola Tinubu, Kenya’s President William Ruto, South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, and Mozambique’s Filipe Nyusi are expected to address the gathering and various side events. (Sep. 18-26)

🗓️ PowerTech Africa 2023 will bring together renewable energy leaders from both public and private sectors in Addis Ababa to identify and discuss the potential of renewable sources in the sub-Saharan African region. (Sep. 18)

🗓️ The Seamless Africa conference will take place at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg. Bringing together innovators, disruptors, business leaders, and entrepreneurs. (Sep. 19-20)

🗓️ The third Congolese Diaspora Impact Summit will take place in New York City. It will feature entrepreneurs and a fireside chat with Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi. (Sep. 22-23)

Hot on Semafor
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— Yinka, Alexis Akwagyiram, Alexander Onukwue, and Muchira Gachenge.

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