We speak to a Congolese chef who’s making African-fusion food the thing to try right now. Interview by Christopher Clark.

The latest business news from across Africa, including Kenya's push for low-emissions public transport and Amazon's HQ woes in Cape Town.

NAIROBI

Kenya Power has commenced talks with five electric vehicle companies as part of plans to clean up Nairobi’s polluted air.

The energy supplier told the firms it has the capacity to charge 50,000 buses and two million motorcycles during off-peak hours.

Acting Chief Executive Officer Rosemary Oduor told KBC the move will diversify Kenya Power’s revenue streams by making use of otherwise-idle power during off-peak hours.

According to Oduor, the country has an off-peak load of 1,200 megawatts (MW), enough to support the entire e-mobility infrastructure system, including charging stations for domestic and business use.

‘To support the growth of electrified motorisation in the country, Kenya Power has established a liaison office which will act as our one-stop shop to champion the company’s e-mobility business,’ said Oduor during the flag-off of BasiGo, Kenya’s first public service electric transport firm.

‘We will work with other stakeholders to support the development of the e-mobility eco-system, which will include the identification of sites for potential charging stations, as well as requisite geo-mapping software to enable users locate the nearest charging station.’

Oduor added: ‘From our initial computations on the size of business opportunity, an average minibus, operating within Nairobi, covers approximately 200kms per day and consumes 120 kilowatts per hour [per vehicle]. A thousand minibuses, operating within the city, would therefore consume approximately 120 MW per hour per day.’

In February, BasiGo secured $4.2 million in funding to construct an assembly plant and boost production capacity of electric buses.

Kenya Power is banking on its partnership with BasiGo and others after a turbulent few years of business.

The utility giant bounced back to profitability in 2021, recording net profits of $33.2 million between July and December.

 

HARARE

Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa received a pre-election campaign boost on March 9, after Kenya signed seven bilateral agreements with Zimbabwe designed to boost trade between the two nations.

The meeting between the two leaders at the State House in Nairobi saw agreements on political and diplomatic consultations, tourism and wildlife conservation, and civil aircraft accidents and serious incidents investigations, amongst others.

President Kenyatta also urged Western countries to scrap the restrictions against Zimbabwe during a joint press briefing with President Mnangagwa, and the two countries renewed their bid to deepen trade and investment.

In February, the European Union (EU) renewed its two-decades-old sanctions against Zimbabwe, citing 'continued human rights violations and closure of the democratic space'.

Zimbabwe has been under EU targeted sanctions since 2002 after a violent election saw former president Robert Mugabe hold on to power.

After Mugabe was toppled in a military coup in 2017, his successor Mnangagwa pushed for the normalisation of ties with the West, but this is yet to bear fruit.

Last year, the US extended sanctions against 141 entities and individuals in Zimbabwe, including its president. The UK also has targeted sanctions against its former colony.

The African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) have campaigned for the removal of these curbs without success.

Zimbabweans go to the polls in by-elections on March 26.

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CAIRO

The Egyptian capital (pictured above) has been named the top business city in Africa by a new research report.

The Statista Global Business Cities Report ranks 200 cities from across the globe based on the most relevant data for business decision-makers, such as GDP, local infrastructure, the education of its workforce, ease of business, and the cleanliness and attractiveness of the city for would-be visitors.

Cairo pipped Algiers and Johannesburg to the top spot in Africa, while Casablanca, Nairobi, Cape Town, Accra and Lagos were all reviewed by the report.

The report cited Cairo's position as one of the biggest cities in the Middle East for its high ranking, while also crediting its ancient tourist attractions and modern amenities.

PRETORIA

South Africa's state power company Eskom has escalated its power rationing system - known as 'load shedding'.

The decision, which was announced on March 9, will see businesses and households across the country hit by managed power outages as the country moves to 'Stage 4' load shedding.

Under Stage 4 load shedding, up to 4,000 megawatts (MW) of capacity has to be shed by the utility giant in order to prevent rolling blackouts. This is achieved by briefly turning off the power in different areas of the country to stop the system overloading. Consumers will either have their power cut up to 12 times over a four-day period for two hours at a time, or 12 times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time. Dates and times of local blackouts are usually released in advance so businesses and households can prepare.

Eksom appealed to South Africans to help it limit the impact of load shedding by voluntarily reducing their electricity usage by switching off all non-essential items.

A statement by the company apologised for the rationing and said it would 'continuously review the situation and act appropriately as circumstances change'.

Egypt business news

Chinese ride-hailing giant DiDi Chuxing has launched operations in Egypt.

The company will operate its ‘Wasalny’ or ‘Wasalny+’ services in the Alexandria governorate, in a move that rivals competitor Uber.

Operating across 17 countries globally, Egypt is DiDi’s second African launch after its earlier entry into South Africa. DiDi’s head of government relations in North Africa and the Middle East, Moanis Amin, confirmed the limited entry in Alexandria is part of a wider plan to conquer the Egyptian market.

Felipe Contreras, the head of international expansion communications and PR at DiDi, has revealed the firm, which was founded in 2012, plans to rent electric bikes in Alexandria going forwards and said DiDi also has plans to offer electric cars manufactured by BYD.

 

Congo business news
Congo’s state cobalt buyer and China’s biggest cobalt refiner are in talks to ease international concerns about human-rights abuses in the country’s mining sector.

State-backed Entreprise Generale du Cobalt (EGC) earlier this year earmarked the Kasulo mine, in Congo’s Lualaba province, for its first purchases of cobalt – used in car batteries and other electronics – as it works to overhaul conditions at informal mining sites, where child labour and deadly accidents are all too common.

But EGC’s plans to start buying cobalt from the mine this month have been disrupted by Chinese refinery giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt.

Its subsidiary, Congo Dongfang International Mining SARL (CDM), is based at Kasulo and the refiner told Reuters it has a contract giving it the right to stay until the deposit is exhausted.

‘We’re working on resolving the situation created by the continuous presence of CDM on this site, and we are hopeful a solution is in sight,’ EGC Director-General Jean-Dominique Takis told the news agency.

Bryce Lee, the head of corporate social responsibility at Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, said the company was in ‘friendly negotiations’ with EGC over Kasulo.

Geneva-based commodity trader Trafigura is helping to finance EGC in return for a supply of 45,000 tonnes of hand-mined cobalt, valued at around $2.4 billion at current prices.

Takis said the EGC had aimed to source 7,000 tonnes of cobalt in hydroxide from Kasulo this year, followed by 15,000 tonnes in 2022 and 20,000 tonnes in 2023.

Trafigura declined to comment on the discussions, which have not previously been reported.

The dispute highlights the problems faced by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as it tries to secure a greater share of the profits from its mineral wealth.

Southern Congo sits atop an estimated 3.4 million metric tons of cobalt, almost half the world’s known supply.

It is mined by hand at unregulated sites, often using child labour. Conditions at the mines can be hazardous for workers.

Deterred by human-rights abuses in the supply chain, electric car makers, including Volkswagen and Tesla, are seeking to reduce their use of cobalt.

EGC was given the exclusive right to buy hand-mined cobalt in 2019 but implementing its mandate to ensure the metal is mined ethically requires a lengthy process, including renovating mines to make them safer.

EGC’s responsible cobalt standard, set out in March, bans tunnelling on its sites and says pits must not exceed 10 metres in depth.

That means Kasulo will have to be remodelled before EGC can source from it.

An anonymous source told Reuters it would take around two months from when EGC takes over the site for cobalt purchases to begin.

Minister of Mines for Lualaba Province Jean-Marie Tshizainga wrote to CDM telling it to cede Kasulo to the EGC, according to a letter shown to Reuters.

Huayou Cobalt’s Lee said that letter ‘did not align with the formal agreement that is in place’.

Reuters could not determine whether the government decree establishing EGC's monopoly rights voids CDM’s contract with the Lualaba ministry.

In 2020, CDM’s parent company Huayou Cobalt said it would stop sourcing cobalt from unregulated mining sites in the DRC until the international community decides on a responsible-sourcing standard.

Lee claimed that since April 2020 no hand-mined cobalt from Kasulo has entered CDM’s treatment units, and instead CDM has facilitated the sale of cobalt from Kasulo to local traders to ensure miners have an income.

 

Mauritius business news

Mauritius is looking to attract international homebuyers to offset the drop in tourist revenues caused by Covid-19 travel restrictions.

According to Ken Poonoosamy, CEO of the Mauritius Economic Development Board, the island has been courting international property buyers since the early 2000s, when the country launched its Integrated Resort Scheme (IRS), which paved the way for foreign investors to legally buy property and land on the island.

Since then, he said the policies have brought around $3 billion worth of investment to the island.

Recent updates to the legislation have opened up the types of properties that can be developed and sold.

As a result, international luxury resorts like One&Only and other development groups — including Mauritian sugar-cane conglomerates looking to diversify — have begun construction in anticipation of an influx of interest.

Controversially, however, the island is only currently allowing entry to international visitors who have had two Covid-19 jabs, restricting likely uptake as well as tourism to the island. 

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Africa's latest business and investment news, including details on the fate of South Africa's embattled Mango Airlines, Uganda's dairy dispute with Kenya and Tanzania and Gabon's newest Unesco-listed reserve.