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Our State of Tech in Africa report has been out for a couple of weeks now. In it, we dive deep into trends that defined Africa’s tech ecosystem in 2023. From a steady M&A incline, to a decline in VC funding, the SOTIA report will give you actionable insights into the business and human impact of African tech.
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Multichoice rejects Canal+ $2.5 billion acquisition offer
Last week, Canal+, a French broadcasting company set its sight on acquiring all outstanding shares in the pan-African broadcaster, MultiChoice, for R105 ($5.65) per share—an increase from the broadcaster’s current share price of R79 ($4.25).
In a statement to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, MultiChoice rejected the offer stating that Canal+’s offer “undervalues the Group and its future prospects”.
What’s the deal with Canal+? Canal+, owned by media conglomerate Vivendi, began acquiring MultiChoice shares in 2020, continually increasing its stake in the South African company, and has offered to buy Multichoice for $2.5 billion hinting at its global expansion ambitions. The recent offer aimed to capitalise on MultiChoice’s struggling share price, which has dipped nearly 50% in the past six months.
Currently, Canal+ owns 32.6% of MultiChoice’s shares, and South African law dictates that a shareholder exceeding a 35% stake in a company triggers a mandatory offer requirement. However, Canal+ might only be able to hold a maximum of 20% of voting rights, as the law also limits the foreign ownership of South African broadcasters to 20%.
A potential takeover battle? In October 2015, Vivendi, Canal+ parent company acquired minority stakes in gaming firms Gameloft (6.2%) and Ubisoft (6.6%), eventually increasing ownership to 10% in both. Vivendi executed a hostile takeover of Gameloft, obtaining over 30% before persuading other shareholders to sell. By June 2016, Gameloft had become a Vivendi subsidiary. Vivendi might attempt the same play with MultiChoice.
In response to Canal+’s accumulating stake, MultiChoice has also sought regulatory intervention, requesting a ruling on whether a mandatory offer must be extended to all ordinary shareholders.
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Senegal shuts down internet after delayed presidential election
Senegal’s internet shut down for the third time in nine months has left citizens feeling more disconnected than ever.
The latest shutdown follows President Macky Sall’s decision to postpone the presidential elections slated for February 25. The government has cited “hateful messages” on social media as the reason for the shutdown, following the same approach as the earlier shutdowns.
ICYMI: This isn’t Senegal’s first rodeo with internet blackouts. In June 2023, Senegal shut down its internet after an opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, was sentenced to two years in prison after a prolonged legal dispute since 2021, in a high-profile moral corruption case. In July 2023, the internet was shut down again to “prevent disturbances” after Ousmane Sonko was arrested for inciting rebellion against the government.
While residents attempt to circumvent the restrictions through WiFi, the economic impact of the shutdown is significant. Reports suggest Senegal lost $300,000 per hour during the previous internet disruption in June, and Sub-Saharan African countries incurred $1.74 billion in losses due to such shutdowns in 2023.
A concerning trend: Internet shutdowns have become a prevalent tool for African governments seeking to control information flow. In the past two years, governments in the Republic of the Congo, Niger, Uganda, and Zambia have cut off internet access during election periods.
Official narratives often justify shutdowns as measures to curb violence, maintain public order, or prevent the spread of misinformation. However, the shutdowns may be used to silence opposing voices, restrict freedom of expression and hinder transparency.
Tingo parts ways with 40 contractors
About nine months ago, Tingo made headlines after a US-based research team called the company “an exceptionally obvious scam.”
Since then, the company has made media rounds a couple of times and it’s all for the wrong reasons. Despite Hindenburg’s allegations that the company’s fintech, agritech and telecoms businesses were failing, the company declared sales of $977 million for H1 2023. Three months later, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) halted sales of its stocks to protect investors. More recently, in December, its founder, Dozy Mmuobuosi was charged with securities fraud by the same agency.
Now, it appears the company’s duplicity is also extending to its workers.
Last week, the fintech laid off 40 contractors who helped onboard new users and resolved issues on TingoPay, its digital payments app. According to the affected staff, Tingo denied December and January salary payments.
A fair fall? Tingo did not provide any reasons for the terminations, directing affected employees to its HR outsourcing firm, HR Indexx for clarification. The outsourcing HR Indexx disabled comments on their WhatsApp group, leaving employees without further explanation.
So far, neither Tingo nor HR Indexx have responded to requests for comments.
KoBold strikes copper gold in Zambia
KoBold, a California-based mining company backed by heavyweights like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, has discovered a massive copper deposit in Mingomba, Zambia.
KoBold uses artificial intelligence to identify critical mineral deposits crucial for battery metal production, including copper, lithium, nickel, and cobalt.
The mining company invested $150 million in exploring the Mingomba site for over 12 months, and their efforts paid off. They discovered huge rocks filled with copper in high amounts, indicating a potentially large underground mine. While feasibility studies are underway, KoBold is already contemplating a $2 billion facility at the Mingomba site.
Good news for electric vehicles (EVs)? Copper is a crucial ingredient in EV batteries, and demand is skyrocketing as the world shifts towards cleaner transportation. It is also a backbone for data centre infrastructure, connecting servers, storage devices, and networking equipment. Its high conductivity ensures efficient data transfer and processing.
Mingomba’s copper deposit is likened to the Kakula mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which reported 393,551 tonnes of concentrated copper production in 2023, with an expected year-on-year increase of 18%.
Zoom out: While Zambia’s copper discovery sparks hope for a greener future, ethical concerns about mining cannot be ignored. This essential battery mineral, often extracted alongside copper, is used in the production of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in EV’s, smartphones and other electronic devices.
A similar scene in Congo has seen the country suffer. Of the 255,000 Congolese citizens mining cobalt, at least 40,000 of them are children toiling in hazardous conditions for less than $2 per day. While companies like Apple moving away from small-scale cobalt mining is a step in the right direction, collaborative action is vital: crafting and enforcing global standards for ethical mining, empowering local communities to share in the benefits, and harnessing technology like blockchain for transparent supply chains is a necessary commitment to ensure a repeat of Congo doesn’t happen.
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M-Pesa gives deadline for withdrawal of funds
Last week, Safaricom, Kenya’s leading telecom blocked users from sending money to unregistered users—customers without registered accounts—on M-Pesa, its mobile money service.
M-Pesa, which previously allowed customers to send money to unregistered accounts, has now given a February 13 deadline for these users to withdraw their funds.
Previously, unregistered users received vouchers via SMS, allowing them to claim their remaining balance within seven days. The option is now discontinued as M-Pesa, yesterday, began locking out unregistered users from its platform. The mobile money platform has informed unregistered users to redeem their vouchers at M-Pesa Agent by February 13, 2024. This change makes it essential for unregistered users to register for M-Pesa as soon as possible.
Why were the users blocked? Per The Kenyan Wall Street, many mobile money fraud cases have been perpetuated by unregistered users. Scammers posing as Safaricom employees are making phone calls to trick people into revealing personal account information. This information is then used to activate a new SIM card and steal money.
Before the directive to block unregistered accounts, M-Pesa had more than 49,000 unregistered users who could receive or send money. Among the unregistered accounts were users from Telkom’s mobile money service, T-Kash and Airtel Money. Safaricom has since released directives advising users against sharing their PINs or personal information with anyone, especially those claiming to be Safaricom employees.
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- For African founders, applications are open for the Accelerate Africa accelerator for startups on the continent. Founders will receive coaching from two of Africa’s top operating founders, access to a network of 75+ investors on demo day, and Clinics and office hours for your legal, finance, and tech needs. Apply by February 16.
- Are you a young girl with a passion for technology and innovation? Apply now for the National Girls in ICT Competition 2024. The competition is an initiative that creates a platform for girls in secondary school to showcase their skills and creativity in various ICT-related domains. Apply by February 18.
- Applications are now open for the 10th cohort of the Orange Corners Nigeria Incubation Programme(40,000 Euros in funding). The programme empowers aspiring entrepreneurs to transform their dreams into thriving realities. Apply by February 18.
- Report for the World once again invites independent news organisations across the globe to join its growing network of host newsroom partners. Newsrooms will be asked to make the case for the beat they want to cover and how they will provide support and mentorship to their prospective corps members. In turn, Report for the World will fund half the salary of the reporters for up to three years. Apply by February 20.
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