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No, Equiano is not the name of an music genre or an overpriced bottled water brand. It’s the name of Google’s undersea internet cable.
Named after prolific writer Olaudah Equiano, Google announced earlier in the year that it’s laying pipes for a subsea cable that will run all the way from Portugal to South Africa.
In March, Equiano landed in Togo where it’s projected to increase bandwidth by 20 x, and create 37,000 new jobs.
If you’re wondering what this long, winding conversation cable means, it means faster internet speeds and less latency. Ninety-nine per cent of the data transmitted on the internet is possible through these cables. It’s how we can binge YouTube videos, or even attend those incredibly long Zoom meetings.
Equiano is Google’s first subsea cable in Africa but it’s not the only one. Thirty-eight African countries have at least 1 subsea cable connected and this number is only growing.
Meta is also bringing its first African subsea cable—named “2Africa” to the continent—and Meta’s will be the longest subsea internet cable in the world.
In today’s edition
Quick Fire 🔥
Egypt is imprisoning TikTokers
Wave gets e-money license in Senegal
TC Insights: Funding Tracker
Event: Ecobank Breakfast Fintech Series
* Data as of 10:00 PM WAT, April 20, 2022.
QUICK FIRE 🔥 WITH JANIS KOUASSI
Janis Kouassi is Content Manager and Curation Specialist for ANKA, an all-in-one SaaS to sell from anywhere, ship worldwide and get paid faster on international and African payment methods. She started her career in communications as a Project Manager in a corporate advertising agency and has excelled in the field for the last 5 years.
Explain your job to a five-year-old
My job is to promote made-in-Africa products. I do it by selecting items that are posted on Facebook or Instagram. These items are made by our sellers and can be fashion, food, decoration, beauty products and the list goes on.
What’s something you wish you knew earlier in your career/life?
Life does not necessarily go as planned. I thought I would be a fashion designer or even an interpreter at some point in my life but I am now a Content Manager. The important thing to remember is that one can always combine what one is passionate about with its actual career path. Communication, language and fashion have always been strong interests of mine and I am happy to say that I was able to integrate them into my career plan.
What’s the most promising thing about tech in Africa?
One of the most promising things about tech in Africa is that Africans no longer limit themselves. We are making cars, smartphones, and medicine delivery by drones. The sky is the limit, honestly (or maybe money is)! Africa is also building the infrastructure to simplify entrepreneurs’ journeys, especially in Ivory Coast where I’m from which also encourages a stronger ecosystem. I am very proud when I see start-ups like ANKA who chose to think outside the box by focusing on exporting Africa instead of trying to sell things to Africans.
What’s one misconception people have about content creation and management?
Content creation and management are not just about creativity and blog writing! One also has to accept to do the dirty job such as replying to angry comments or customer service assistance. Overall, it is important to understand that on social media especially, one becomes an ambassador to the company they are working for. YOU are the first impression. Your reaction and how you tackle an issue presented to you by a follower will leave a lasting mark on them and it better be positive! One way to do it is to use empathy, and your listening skills (funny, right?) and be solution-oriented in order to solve their issue and deliver the best experience possible to anyone who interacts with your page.
Should all startups or companies have a content department or team?
I believe they all should! Not very objective, is it? However, it can come further in the life of the start-up depending on its goals. For example, an e-commerce business definitely needs one early on as such a team will help spread awareness of the business and promote products. A business can build loyalty through content creation and regular updates which will lead to more sales or sales opportunities in new markets. Amazon is the best example that comes to mind.
What (singular) achievement are you most proud of?
One of my greatest achievements in terms of content creation with ANKA would be our Instagram Stories Project for the Afrikrea marketplace, one of our ANKA Services. I was in charge of building from scratch daily content to spark interest in our marketplace products and attract more followers to our Instagram page. It was exciting and scary at the same time but I got to use my creativity with no constraint at all which was liberating. Within a year, we had posted more than 1,900 stories, reached 2,500,000 accounts and gained more than a thousand organic views on average per story.
What’s something you love doing that you’re terrible at. What’s something you really do not like doing that you’re great at.
Generally speaking, I have always been terrible at everything I love doing (even when I wasn’t) because in my opinion, practice makes perfect. One has to practice to draw better designs or write compelling articles but it is the love you have for it that will prevent you from quitting.
I used to think I did not like calling sellers because I am nervous when I have to reach out to them but past the few first seconds of a phone call with a stranger, I manage to transform into an investigative journalist. I realized I genuinely care for what they have to say because I want to learn more about how they built their business and what is preventing them from growing even more.
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In 2020, an Egyptian social media influencer named Haneen Hossam was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment for “violating family values and principles”.
What’s Hossam’s crime?
Simply put, using TikTok, and inviting other people—especially women—to join the platform and earn with their videos.
Hossam, who at the time had gained over 900,000 followers on TikTok, would be earning about $700 per post she made.
Egypt, however, has strict laws that aim to preserve its society’s conservative culture and values.
Under Article 25 of Egypt’s Cybercrime law, Egyptians are forbidden to use technology to “infringe on any family principles or values in Egyptian society,” and dissidents risk severe penalties including 6 months in prison, and a fine of 50,000 –100,000EGP (~ $3,100–$6,200).
The Egyptian government views the internet as a border that requires “full deterrence and protection” to address “a phenomenon abused by forces of evil” seeking to “destroy our society, demolish its values and principles and steal its innocence and purity…to push its youth and adults to the brink of destruction”.
Since the passing of its Cybercrime law in 2018, social media users across the region have been fined or/and imprisoned.
Bellydancer Samar El-Masry was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment and fined 300,000EGP ($16,000) for posting her videos on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Anas Hassan was handed a similar sentence for being the community manager for the Egyptian Atheists’ Facebook page, and “insulting religion and misusing social media”.
Many other Egyptians have also been handed similar charges because they used social media in ways that contradict Egypt’s moral values.
Egypt is also not the first African country to extend its claws of morality to social media users. Tanzania, Ethiopia, and even Nigeria all have open cases where governments have jailed people for using social media “immorally”.
However, the prosecutor then brought the charge of human trafficking against Hossam, claiming that she was “using girls in acts contrary to the principles and values of Egyptian society with the aim of gaining material benefits”.
In June 2021, she was sentenced to 10 years for human trafficking, a charge she also appealed. The retrial ended on a sour note this month as the appeal court handed her a 3-year sentence and fined her 200,000 EGP ($10,800).
Zoom out: It’s understandable to see how conservative [or even autocratic] governments can feel threatened by social media. It’s nonetheless unfair where questionable charges are passed in order to stifle those charges. What it appears is that the Egyptian, much like its Nigerian counterpart, is looking to reap the benefits of tech without adhering to the civil obligations that come with it.
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Wave Digital Finance, a Senegal-based fintech unicorn, has been granted an e-money license by the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), a central bank serving the 8 francophone West African countries, to operate e-money in Senegal.
What does it mean for Wave?
According to the company statement, the license will allow Wave to offer a wider variety of financial services like merchant payments, savings, credit, and remittances in collaboration with other partners in the WAEMU financial ecosystem.
Since 2018, Wave has had to rely on third-party banks like the United Bank of Africa (UBA) and Ecobank to power its mobile money business model. But with this e-money license, the company can now independently and directly offer its current suite of financial products to customers without the support of third party banks.
The license only covers Wave’s Senegal’s operation for now. General Manager Coura Sène, however, noted that Wave is working to extend the license to other countries.
What does it mean for the Senegalese?
While Wave license gives it more leeway, it isn’t a traditional bank yet. The e-money license does allow it to do more including:
Accept customer funds and change them into e-money. The fintech cannot hold and manage customer funds yet.
Customers can use their e-money accounts as digital wallets, but they can’t earn interest on them or go overdrawn.
Wave can offer debit cards, account-to-account transfers, standing orders, and direct debits, but not lending as a standalone product.
Wave can offer some digital financial services products, such as foreign currency exchange.
This week, Zambian fintech Union54 raised $12 million in a seed extension round led by Tiger Global. Other participating investors in this round include existing ones such as Vibe VC and new investors such as Earl Grey Capital and Packy Mccormick’s Not Boring Capital.
Here are the other deals for the week:
The Food Lab, an Egyptian cloud kitchen platform, raised a $4.5 million pre-seed round to help it expand across Egypt and into new markets. The round was co-led by Nuwa Capital, Shorooq Partners, and 4DX Ventures, and also saw the participation of Saudi Arabia-based Al Faisaliah Group as well as Abdul Majeed Al Hokair, Japan’s Samurai Incubate and other angel investors.
Nigerian insurtech startup ETAP, secured $1.5 million in pre-seed funding in a round led by Mobility 54, the venture capital arm of Toyota Tsusho and CFAO Group, with participation from Tangerine Insurance, Graph Ventures, Newmont, and other angel investors.
Elloe, a conversational e-commerce startup based in Kenya, raised $1 million in pre-seed capital from Philippines-based Mad Ventures.
Nigerian startup, Rise.ng secured a $150,000 pre-seed round as it is set to launch its business operations in the country.
Egyptian electric mobility startup Shift EV raised an undisclosed Series A round led by Union Square Ventures, Algebra Ventures, and Wamda. Oman Technology Fund (OTF) also participated in the funding round.
Egyptian e-health startup Rology, closed an undisclosed pre-Series A round to help it expand across the Middle East and Africa. Investors include Egypt Ventures and Sequence Ventures from Egypt, Waseel, Tawaref from Saudi Arabia, and Viktoria Ventures from Kenya.
What comes to mind when you read about partnerships between fintechs and banks?
At first, you may be surprised considering that both parties are competitors. There should be a winner and a loser. But it doesn’t always work that way – sometimes both parties can be winners. So the question is, how can fintech and banks strike and sustain strategic partnerships?
Join us today, the 22nd of April at 8:30 AM (WAT), as Ecobank hosts the inaugural edition of its Fintech Breakfast series in partnership with TechCabal.
This edition is focused on addressing how fintechs can find and nurture partnerships with banks, and how they can leverage these partnerships to grow and expand across the continent.