Nairobi-headquartered Safaricom, the largest telecoms company in east and central Africa, this week reported a net income of $336 million, from sales of $1.72 billion.
Twenty per cent of those sales came from its globally recognised mobile money service M-Pesa, translating to $344 million. This figure from the cash transfer service is more than the nominal Gross Domestic Product of the island of Sao Tome and Principe, half that of the Comoros, and nearly a third that of Guinea Bissau and The Gambia.
The world’s 2.5 billion adults who don’t have a bank account are taking notice.
MTN, Africa’s biggest telecoms provider, earned $12.2 billion last year, nearly a third of this in Nigeria alone, and a figure that is more than the individual GDPs of all but 28 African countries.
The amount that would be added in GDP if 12 key aviation markets were liberalised, accounting for an extra 155,000 jobs, according to the International Air Transport Association.
The industry currently accounts for seven million jobs and at least $800 billion in African GDP. Given Africa’s extended family networks, the dependents run into the tens of millions.
This week, the Aviation Africa 2015 conference will explore how to build this even further. It is critical—the intra-Africa market accounts for less than 1% of total revenue passenger-kilometres (one fare-paying passenger flown one kilometre), and less than 5% of the global market. But growth is strong: In 2012 some 63 million passengers were carried by regional airlines, from 40 million in 2004.
And a ticket on an African airline is expensive—insurance premiums are 40% higher, fuel costs 50% higher, air navigation fees 100% more and lease rates up to 30% more, and this is compared to South America.
The installed capacity of Sub-Sahara Africa, or equivalent to that of Spain; and half of it is in South Africa. The region is the world’s most energy-scare continent—the continent is home to 13% of the world’s population, but accounts for only 4% of global energy demand.
While several projects to redress this are underway, it is clean energy that may be a game changer. Last week, California-based tech company Tesla announced the launch of a line of batteries for homes, businesses and utilities that will store solar and wind power for much longer than was possible so far.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk had Africa in mind when as he launched the Powerwal, and while the initial price is high, economies of scale should change this. It is possible: Africa receives 325 days per year of sunlight and is using less than 7% of its hydroelectric potential, and less than 2% of its geothermal capacity. Hail power.
With Liberia the first of the three hardest-hit countries by Ebola to be declared free of the terrifying virus, the damage to its economy and that of Sierra Leone and Guinea has been immense.
The World Bank projects that the three countries will lose 12% of their combined Gross Domestic Product this year.
But it is in Sierra Leone the damage hit hardest—its GDP is estimated to have shrunk 23.5% in under two years, highlighting just how much underinvestment in the health sector can cost Africa, in addition to a dependence on commodity exports, many of which are taking a beating on global markets.
Nigeria, which last week admitted it is surviving on borrowed cash following a plunge in oil revenue, would identify, as would Angola, by far the richest country among African countries that have the highest child mortality.
Countries, IDP situations
With Burundi teetering on the edge, nearly 40,000 of its citizens have already fled to neighbouring Rwanda. The potential addition to Africa’s refugee burden already has the region on edge, adding to the situations in Somalia, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
The UNHCR projects that the numbers of “people of concern” in Africa this year is expected to be 14.9 million, but as the Burundi situation shows, this could easily balloon, showing the cost of conflict in the region.
But refugees make headlines when they cross international borders—but the vast majority are those displaced internally within a country. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre has just released a new report that shows that 77% of the world’s 38 million people internally displaced people live in just ten countries, five of them in Africa.
In sub-Saharan Africa these totalled 11.4 million IDPs across 22 countries, with Sudan (3.1 million), DRC (2.8million), South Sudan (1.5 million), Somalia with 1.1 million and Nigeria with just under one million leading.
The projected imports of maize into Africa, 500,000 tonnes higher than last season, as drought conditions ravage the continent.
Virtually all countries in the region are expected to register a contraction in output, after 2014 bumper levels, the Food and Agriculture Organisation says in its latest edition of its biannual food outlook report.
In Zimbabwe, maize production went down 49% in the last season. In Malawi, floods displaced more than 200,000.
The continent will however increase rice output to 18.5 million tonnes for the sixth year running, while also increasing production of sugar.
The weather has played havoc, with floods, late rains, early retrievals playing the role in highlighting the role of climate change.