14 SEPTEMBER, 2021


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Good morning ☀️ ️

Looks like the party is over for Houseparty, a video chat app that surged in popularity when lockdowns were first imposed last year. 

Yesterday its owner, Epic Games, announced that Houseparty will be shutting down in October because the company can no longer “give the app or community the attention that it deserves.”

In today’s edition:

  • Africell is leaving Uganda
  • CBN won’t seize dollar accounts
  • Debating the Nairobi Expressway 
  • What do you expect from Apple’s event today?

Africell says Goodbye to Uganda

Uganda’s number three operator, Africell, is leaving the country after seven years.

This doesn’t sound good

It’s not. In a letter to its employees, the company said it will cease operations on 7 October, although staff employment will end on 30 November. Within this period, it won’t be accepting new customers, allowing existing customers (~2.3 million) to migrate to other networks.


Stiff competition from the local competitors like MTN and Bharti Airtel and a ton of debt.

UK-based Africell Group entered the Ugandan market in 2014 by acquiring Orange Uganda. In 2019, Africell Uganda was reported to be in debt to the tune of 250 billion shillings (about $70.7 million), a debt that may partly have been inherited from Orange. In the same year, it made a loss of more than 1.5 trillion shillings (about $424 million). 

What’s next?

Africell, which has operations in other African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, and Sierra Leone, is planning to launch operations in Angola by the end of this year.

Zoom out: Last month, another Ugandan operator, Smart Telecom, announced it was leaving Uganda due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite these two recent exits, the Uganda Communications Commission has said that the telecoms sector is pretty resilient. It said the number of customers in the country had grown from “27.7 million in December 2020 to 28.3 million accounts at the end of March 2021”, of which 21.5 million were broadband cellular subscriptions and 20.3 million active mobile money accounts.

CBN won’t seize dollar accounts

The Central Bank of Nigeria’s actions over the past year can be summed up in one word: unpredictable.

But even this has its limits. 

Nigeria’s apex bank has said it has no plans to convert dollars, pounds, or any other foreign currencies in Nigerians’ bank accounts to naira.

Backstory: Rumors have been circulating that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) plans to convert forex in domiciliary accounts of bank customers to naira as a way of checking the shortage of USD in the country. 

However, in a statement dated September 11, the bank said it “has not contemplated, and will never contemplate, any such line of action. The speculation is a completely false narrative aimed at triggering panic in the foreign exchange market.”

The bigger picture: The clarification from the banking regulator comes as the local currency, naira, continues to weaken due to rising dollar demand. The depreciation has especially been significant in the parallel/black market, where forex is traded unofficially. While the official exchange rate remains at around N410/$1, the price on the black market has risen from less than N500 mid-July to N550 in Lagos today, per data from AbokiFX.


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Debating the Nairobi Expressway

How does cutting down traffic delay time from 2 hours to 15 mins sound?


You bet! That’s what Kenya’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) $550m, 27km expressway in Nairobi is all about.

When all is said and done, the new, semi-platformed roadway will provide a new passageway for 85% of all cargo and commuter traffic. The project broke ground in October 2019, and Kenyans are already asking hard questions on Twitter. 

Hmm, what are they saying?

Well, they’re not so thrilled about recent updates indicating that the new infrastructure may cost more than planned, and that toll fees for the highway will be collected by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), the MOTs partner in this public-private partnership.

When do we get to try this new expressway?

Soon. The highway is only 58.3% complete. It was initially slated to take three years from start to finish. But now, the MOT is promising a December 2022 delivery date. 

Hmm, that’s fast.

Well, Nairobi’smotorists are tired! In August, thousands of drivers were stuck on one of Kenya’s main highways until the wee hours of the morning, amid a 10 PM – 4 AM curfew. The Ministry of Transportation (MOT) is now urging motorists to use commuter trains to avoid traffic. Bet you didn’t know that Nairobi had a commuter rail!

Oh cool…so it’ll be free!

….who said that? You’ll pay an estimated $0.10 per kilometer in toll fees depending on the size of your vehicle.

Why then?

Nairobi’s population is growing at a rate of 4% annually. This project, among others, is meant to promote development outside of the capital as a part of Kenya’s Vision 2030 plan. Still, some believe that there were alternatives, like BRT systems and cycle tracks, with the potential to promote more transportation equality.

On the bright side, the controversial roadway comes with some benefits! 

A newspaper clipping for Nairobi Expressway has been circulating on the twitter-sphere calling for 35 toll attendants & 2 account clerks. Interested?


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What do you expect from Apple’s event today?

A bigger iPhone battery that lasts longer. No more notch. One terabyte of storage.

These are some of the rumours that have been circulating in the build-up to Apple’s announcement of its new iPhone today.

What do you expect to be announced today?

Side-bar: This event matters because the iPhone continues to be a major revenue driver for Apple. In April, Apple reported quarterly iPhone sales of nearly $48 billion, a massive 65% increase from the year prior, fueled by demand for its 5G-capable iPhone 12. 


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What else we’re reading

  • Next Wave: Wave is Francophone Africa’s first unicorn


Written by – Daniel Adeyemi, Michael Ajifowoke and Alexandria Williams

Edited by – Timi Odueso


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